Trump Decoded

Posted: 2016/03/04 in Politics

Mystery solved???

Like many a politics gawker, and like those who delusionally believe they control the Republican Party, I have been mystified, befuddled, and alarmed by the rise of Donald Trump, who appears poised to become the GOP’s candidate for the U.S. presidency. Much of the analysis in the news media focuses on the angry disillusionment of the Republican “base” with dysfunction in our federal government. People are mad and they are acting on their anger to protest against the so-called “establishment.” While this is a factor, it does not explain how a badly behaved, prejudice rich, policy poor, fact-challenged braggard has become as popular as he is.

I have a different theory, which may help to illuminate this bizarre and murky situation. Put briefly, Donald Trump behaves as the sexy beast, the enfant terrible, we keep buried within, yet secretly wish we could let out. And many find this enormously attractive.

A frequent reason given by Trump’s supporters for their support is that “he speaks what’s on his mind,” and “says what needs saying but no one else is saying it.” In other words, his supporters are turned on by his unfiltered candor, or put another way, he boldly says what we may want to blurt out at our most emotional moments but do not for fear of violating long-established social conventions. He regularly speaks in ways the rest of us only fantasize about. For many, this is very sexy indeed!

If Trump were simply attractive because he plays a middle-aged version of the ultra-cool bad boy from high school, then his abrasiveness and detail bereft big-promises might soon grow tiresome. What is cool today will be replaced with the new cool of tomorrow. But Trump is not growing tiresome to his supporters.

I believe that Trump’s continuing attraction to his growing crowd of supporters is down to two factors:

(1) He is hugely self-confident, giving no hint that there is anything he cannot do or that anything can get in his way. And, for everyone who is not a male between the ages of 12-34 (and for many who are), confidence is the most sexy attribute a person can have.

(2) His outrageous speech and behavior affirm and legitimize the speech and behavior many of us secretly wish we could indulge in but do not dare. His behavior gives us permission to indulge our frustrations, anger, dissatisfaction, disillusionment, and anxieties in ways that most of us have always believed to be immature, inappropriate, and sometimes reprehensible. This is seriously sexy (in a forbidden fruit way)!

We can blame anger born of dysfunction in Washington D.C for the continuing rise of Donald Trump, but until we begin to look inward and honestly confess and own and deal with the badly behaved schoolyard bully within each of us that he taps into and gives us permission to let out, his provocations will continue unchallenged.

Lord, have mercy!

Questions for the Candidates

Posted: 2016/02/22 in Politics

Talk is cheap, and campaign talk is the cheapest of all.  Large, abstract, nebulous promises (such as Trump’s “Make America Great Again”).  Vows to do things that have not political or practical possibility (such as Sander’s vow to have the Citizens United ruling overturned and then banned by a constitutional amendment, or Trump’s ban on Muslims entry into the U.S.).

I very much want to ask this year’s candidates for president the following questions:

  • What will you do following the next successful terrorist attack on American soil?
  • How will you lead our nation though the next economic crisis?
  • How will you deal with the complex and potentially explosive Middle-East?
  • What will you do the next time a mass shooting occurs in America?
  • What will you do to deal with poverty in America?
  • Can and will you be the president for all Americans, not just for those who reflect your ideology and demographic?

Why do I ask?  Because I do not want to base my vote on soundbites and the warning that the world will end if the other person is elected.

By the way:  If you choose not to vote when given the opportunity, then you deserve the government you let others pick for you.

Leading by Loud (a Fable)

Posted: 2016/01/29 in Politics

Imagine for a moment. . .

North Korea has just annihilated Seoul, South Korea with a nuclear weapon.  Led by Germany, Europe, still struggling with a tidal wave of Syrian refugees, throws up its collective hands and demands the United States do something.  China, paralyzed, is silent.  Russia’s Vladamir Putin wags a finger at North Korea while blaming the U.S. for driving North Korea to desperate violence.  As the radioactive dust begins to clear, the world can now see that a large section of Seoul is in ruins and 500,000 people are dead or dying.

Across the United States, all eyes turn to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC for a word of encouragement and leadership from the “leader of the free world.”  President Donald Trump, perfectly coiffed, steps behind the podium and without hesitation begins a bellicose address —

“Can you believe it?!?  Now those Koreans are killing each other!  But don’t worry, that’s over there and we’re over here. I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do, though, make them pay for the cleanup of any fallout the drifts this way.”

A hand is raised within the mass of reporters gathered in the White House press room.

Trump:  “Okay… where are you from?”

Reporter:  “National Public Radio.  What is . . . ”

Trump:  “Oh, no!  I don’t take questions from your kind of so-called journalist. You liberals twist everything I say.  Next!. . .”

Another reporter:  “Clearly, this attack on South Korea is a challenge to America by North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jung-un, who . . . ”

Trump (interrupting): “No it’s not! They can’t touch us. hat Kim-guy is just a fat, funny-looking, moron. I won’t talk to him. I won’t talk about him. Next . . . What’s your question?”

Third reporter: “What will be the United State’s strategic response to North Korea’s unprecedented use of nuclear arms against our long-time ally, South Korea?”

Trump: “We don’t need to respond—Not our problem! They’d just better keep it over there and not mess with us or I’ll fire them permanently! Besides, this is good for us. Those Koreans are no longer economic competition. This ought to make the tree-huggers happy, too. No Korean factory production—no pollution. Next. . . ”

In the War Room, a hastily convened Joint Chiefs of Staff are mostly silent exrept for a murmur at one end of the room—“Well . . . He speaks his mind.”

The ones I am speaking of are those enshrined by our founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. These are the same that are apparently fungible for presidential candidate Donald Trump.

As CNN reported today about an incident at a Trump campaign rally in Rock Hill, SC —

“Rose Hamid [a Muslim wearing a hijab], a 56-year-old flight attendant sitting in the stands directly behind Trump, stood up Friday during Trump’s speech when the Republican front-runner suggested that Syrian refugees fleeing war in Syria were affiliated with ISIS.”

Her protest was silent. No yelling. No insults. Just silence.

She was then escorted out of the building; forced to leave by local law enforcement.

“Major Steven Thompson of the Rock Hill Police Department told CNN Hamid was kicked out of the event because the campaign told him beforehand that “anybody who made any kind of disturbance” should be escorted out.”

Really?!? Standing silently was a disturbance?!? According to the report, the ruckus that arose after Hamid took to her feet were Trump supporters behaving badly. In contrast to the silent Hamid, they remained welcome.

While I understand that a candidate’s campaign rally is not a place a candidate and his/her supporters want to face opposition or protest, but this incident makes we wonder how Trump would deal with dissent if elected president. Would he contrive some executive action silencing such dissent in direct violation of the 1st Amendment? Would the most strident critics find themselves accused of sedition or treason?

Just as concerning, because I believe character matters in leadership, is the implication that Trump has no tolerance for dissenting opinion. Instead of engaging with the politely protesting Hamid, he had her removed, in effect saying, “I will not listen to you; I cannot be your president!”

I suspect that five minutes into a discussion about the ethics and social conscience of Jesus Christ, he would have me thrown out too.

By the way, why were local police complicit in abetting his 1st Amendment violation? . . . hmm . . . (another rabbit hole to explore another time)

Jesus&ChinoWe’re not talkin’ ’bout pants here . . .

CHINOCHristian In Name Only — someone who calls themself a Christian but whose daily guiding beliefs and behavior are set against God and God’s purposes as seen in the life, teaching, and commandments of Jesus Christ.

While Christianity is not a faith measured strictly by performance of good works and holiness, it is far more than lip-service given to the idea of Jesus Christ as God’s Son, and our Lord and Savior. Talk is cheap and God wants more than talk from us. Remember, the first thing Jesus does when he begins his ministry is to proclaim, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” (Mark1.14-15, see also Matthew 4.17) In Luke’s Gospel, his opening proclamation is a quote from Isaiah—“He has sent me to preach good news to the poor. . .” In other words, Jesus does not begin with “believe in me and be saved” but with “be transformed and do good.”

Note also that eschatological judgment does not consist of a filtering the saved from the damned by virtue of their claims of belief, but, as recorded in Matthew 25.31-46, whether we have attended to the needs of “the least of these,”: the hungry, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned (as a representative list).

And if we want to distill this down to a few guiding principles, Jesus offers those as well, in fact, he offers three.

(1)  The Great Commandment – “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all  your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22.37-39) In other words, Love God and Love Others, period!

(2) The New Love Commandment – “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” (John 13:34-35)

(3) The Great Commission – “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you.” (Matt 28.19-20)

Sure, belief in Jesus and who he says he is, is a necessity, but without attending to those things that Jesus wants from us (nos. 1-3 above), that belief is so shallow it may likely be aspirational rather than real. Put another way, one may claim to be a Christian but ignoring Jesus’ commands makes one CHINO.

Now… before anyone throws a fit about how we are not saved by works but saved by faith, consider this question: If the faith you claim has no outward expression that reflects the ministry, teaching, and commandments of Jesus Christ, then is your faith anything more than words?

Coming next—Is America a CHINO nation?

Regardless of the politics, an observation —


Interesting variety, from forest to dunes to beach . . .