Dzień Dobry, i wiłam z Poleski,
I am not sure there is a reasonable translation for what I wanted the title of this blog to be in Polish, but what I am trying to get across is “things that give me pause,” or things that seem so counter intuitive to common sense that I can only wonder something along the text acronym world, a sort of inappropriate and nonetheless necessary, WTF? This startling exclamation has become a rather daily mantra as I walk the streets of Poland 🇵🇱, but try to understand the brokenness that seems to characterize the country from where or which I come, a country that has been a beacon of hope (and in spite of all, somehow remains so), a country whose government of checks-and-balances has been the hallmark of regulating ourselves when common sense seems to disappear. Each day as I am here in Europe I take the time to check the news and see what is happening at home, but I am at the point that it so frightens me, I am not sure I want to know. The daily, seemingly-never-ending, shit-show we call our national Capitol becomes more embarrassing by the day. The latest fight between “the Squad” and the President continuing to stoop lower than I imagined possible only furthers my concern. As I am six hours ahead of you, I am finishing a day, but not see that the President wants to assert that he was not supportive of the chants at his North Carolina rally. What did he expect to hear as a response to what he said? Does no one see the irony in what is happening. He argues that the Squad, and please know I do not agree with everything they say or do either, but the point is: when they say something that be believes problematic, he says they need to go back from where they came (and all the problems with that statement are a post in an of itself). So if they say something from their place in Congress or wherever, it is inappropriate, but as he wraps himself in the flag (which he has literally done) and tries to argue patriotism, he said because he is being patriotic and supporting the country he cannot be racist, regardless what he says. That is his basic argument. I do not think he has used that specific logic, but I am not sure he is the most logical President we have had in the oval office. Now we argues because he tried to speak, he was cutting off the chant. His rallies from the previous election cycle are certainly demonstrative of his using incendiary language and even supporting some of the violence at his events. Now he wants to feign that he would not do such things. Incredible.
What needs to happen is the Congress (and note I did not denote party) needs to do the work they have been elected to do and serve the American people and let the chips fall where they will. Those running for the Democratic Party nomination need to explain what they will do to better serve the American people and the world should they be elected president. If you get in the mud puddle with the pig, you are going to get dirty and pigs love the mud. They are used to it. That is my strategy of dealing with the hush-money paying, genital grabbing, bully, with a 4th grade rhetorical level, the one, whom we somehow elected in 2016. He is arguing the economy is humming and certainly the stock market has been hitting records, but about 50 percent of people, who have the money to invest in the market do not (2016 Gallup Poll). That doe not count the people who do not have the disposable income to begin with. Therefore, for whom is the economy humming? If it is only the Dow and S&P, which is what is being touted by the White House, there is an issue. Second, in a typical example of supposedly fiscal responsibility, Senator Rand Paul objected to a unanimous consensus vote to fund the 9/11 Fund, something that Senator McConnell noted to the recently deceased NYPD detective he would have done. The Kentucky Senator noted that the 10+ million dollars this would cost should be offset by other spending. This is the same Senator who voted for the Tax Reform Bill that has added a trillion dollars to our national deficit. I am not an economist, and math is not my strong suit (and it seems that Polish is not either the last few days), but give me about a 99% break . . . because 10,000,000.00 is one percent of 1,000,000,000.00. I think more than your ribs must have been broken by your neighbor, Senator Paul. I think Speaker Pelosi has so much more on the ball than many think. While I am supportive of much of what AOC and other freshman Representatives are questioning, I do believe there is a way to manage both sides.
My rhetorical background comes into play. While the President speaks of a 4th grade rhetorical level, his rhetorical strategy is more acute and calculating that many believe. This is where some of you might find what I write difficult, but there are two things to remember before you judge. First, I was a history major in college and second I wrote my dissertation about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was the German Lutheran pastor involved in the plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler. After watching what Hitler had done in Germany from his appointment as chancellor in 1933, those involved in the plot to remove him turned to their pastor and co-conspirator, hoping he might provide some absolution for their deeds. However, he did any thing but. He wrote to them: “We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds: we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretence; . . .” While I do not believe the American public has been silent, the silence of the Republican party on so many actions or words, which are below the Office of the President, is shocking. The disregard for the judicial system, the intelligence community, the DOJ pre-Attorney General Barr, the granting of security clearances in a nepotistic manner (against the advice of those who had the right to advise), and the list could go on is again beyond words. I know some will ask if I am arguing that our President is evil? For me that is an honestly difficult question. Is bullying evil? I believe it can be to those being bullied. Is arrogance evil? When the consequence of that arrogance is to create discord, mistrust, and fear, which I do believe is a fundamental strategy of Mr. Trump, I think one can argue for some sense of evil in that. Certainly, I believe the Republican Party and those who have fallen somewhat lock-step (and the similarity of that term with a military is not unnoticed) with him can certainly be called equivocation. Particularly when those who have not supported him are called out, ostracized, and called more vile things that the deplorable term ever indicated. The President’s response this past week for former Speaker Ryan is a good case in point. I think Ryan’s rather pathetic argument for what he tried to do to “manage” the President is another example of equivocation and pretense.
Bonhoeffer would go on to write: ” . . . experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical.” To say we have become suspicious of others in a profound understatement in our present national climate. We have come to the point that if I disagree with someone, they are automatically regarded as the enemy. There is no democracy in that. There is no freedom in that. We unfriend people; we no longer speak with them; we have become afraid to question or stand up for what we believe because it is termed unpatriotic, socialist, and something worse. Sending someone home or arguing they should go back to their shithole country is how our President finds it reasonable to speak about those with whom he disagrees or they disagree with him. He argues for constitutional rights, but is willing to side-step the SCOTUS (though at the last minute someone must have gotten through to him). He argues the Bill of Rights and yet in his own actions he will block people with whom he disagrees again (which the Federal Appeals Court just told him that is not okay). Certainly I do believe we are worn down from going on three years of continual fighting and bad-mouthing. Again, I do not believe this is a one-sided issue; it a national issue and it is a serious one. Certainly there is a cynicism that has become part of who we are. It is my hope, again as noted above, that someone or some-ones will step up and demonstrate they can argue for policy and country and not get into the garbage slinging that is something the President does not seem able to do. Can we return to substantive talk about the country and the things that matter versus becoming a continual us again them? That is where the cynicism is most apparent. I am not sure anyone believes we can.
This past weekend, I ended up in more back and forth that I am usually comfortable doing about immigration, health care, and a few other things that are central to our public debate. What astounds me is how so many really good people, and those who call themselves Christians can support this person who has equivocated himself arguing for the sanctity of life, but can disrespect almost everything and everyone, particularly women. Behind this Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate has flooded our judiciary with judges who will rule again woman, immigrants, those who identify as LGBTQA, or anyone who does not seem to believe as they do. As I have noted in many of my previous blogs, I did not grow up in a particularly diverse area, but I did learn about respect for the other. Certainly my entry into the Marine Corps taught me things about people and the world that NW Iowa could not. Certainly my work beyond as a pastor and eventually as a professor has reminded me of how fortunate we are to have the diversity of opinion that I find in my classes (and that is something I try to foster). Contrary to what some accused me of this past weekend (not personally, but as they argued again the left-wing liberal conspiracy of the academy) of indoctrinating my students. As I have told my students every semester and every year when I ask me what I want, my response is the same: I want to you think; I want to you to analyze; I want you to be able to make the connections of synthesize the things you learn with the world in which you live. As that former pastor, I am just enough of a smart ass to say, I believe God gave you a brain to do more than hold your ears apart. So the question becomes as Bonhoeffer noted so importantly: “Are we still of any use?” Behind this Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate has flooded our judiciary with judges who will rule again woman, immigrants, and those who identify as LGBTQA. As I have noted in other blogs, I know what this discrimination does to people; I know what it did to my sister. There is a long way to November 2020, but there is a lot of national soul searching that needs to happen. We need to as a people stand up against all forms of discrimination and speak out when our government does thing that are not true to the morals and principles that promote respect and dignity. Discourse is important; disagreement and the ability to do so in a civil manner is as important now as ever. When people are bullied into silence; when people are rounded up and treated as subhuman; when those we elect cannot conduct themselves in a manner that is befitting of those elected, we have a problem and a serious one. Are we of any use? Yes, and hell, yes. It is time to read; it is time to listen and research the issues; it is time to consider who we are and how we want to conduct ourselves as individuals and as a nation. The image at the outset of this blog is of Flossenburg, the camp in which Bonhoeffer was hanged and cremated shortly before its liberation. He was hanged in April 1945. It is not again unrealized to me that I am only kilometers away from Auschwitz, perhaps the most notorious of the death camps in the Second World War.
Thank you as always for reading.