Firing the One Who Threatens You

I have no doubt that FBI Director Comey made a mess of things last summer and fall because of his handling of the Clinton emails. It may even be that he has deserved to be fired for that.

But of this I am sure: The incredible hypocrisy involved when a Trump fires a Comey is completely unacceptable in  a democracy. Trump loved what Comey did, told the American people he loved Wiki-leaks, and generally offered strong support for the anti-Clinton bias being shown at the time. It takes immeasurable gall to pretend to care so much about justice that now, on this day, Comey must be fired. Trump ought to be brought to justice for his advocacy of injustice.

It is impossible for me to believe that Trump is not actively and crudely involved in a wise-spread coverup of his own behavior and of his predilection for anything favoring Russia. Firing Comey has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with Trump trying to save his own hide. He is an absolute fraud and an enemy of the United States of America.

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America Is Not a Beginner, but . . .

It took a special breed of folk to come to the New World in the 17th century. The vast majority of the earliest European settlers died very soon after arriving yet they were always replaced quickly. The flow increased year by year despite the near-certainty that the results would be fatal.

Even after relatively stable settlements were established, life was tough and for those not living in the few towns, a great deal of independence was essential. The myth of the American as a “rugged individualist” wasn’t really a myth at all. They really were rugged.

At the time of our founding, we had developed a very thoughtful class of well-read individuals, especially in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. They were a small minority, however, and were always mindful that the great majority of Americans were skeptical of the gentlemen’s arts, preferring instead a tested pragmatism to political and social theories.

This rugged individualism, though somewhat domesticated on the East Coast once we had formed ourselves into a nation, remained a prominent characteristic of the American style until that great watershed in American history, the Civil War. Perhaps in large part because the War required a degree of cooperation unknown in America since the Revolution, we emerged a more mutually interdependent people than any had even wanted up ’til then.

We continued to think of ourselves as rugged individualists for another century. John Wayne built a whole movie career on being the stereotypical American hero. In fact, however, our self-image had more to do with nostalgia than with reality. The rugged individualist was more of a misfit than a hero, more of an outcast than a creator of the American character.

We truly are ready for a new image of what it means to be an American. The problem is that we are such a complex culture now that one image may not be conceivable. Are we typified by Wall Street tycoons, scientists in their labs, young adventurers bungee jumping, or. . . ?

We don’t know who we are as a people. We are, it seems, a truly bewildered people, lacking a unifying vision. In the South, many want us to return to the antebellum days when government was minimal and the strong were permitted to impose racism and slavery on others. Others think the most important thing is for government to get out of the way by reducing the regulation of business and finance. Still others believe we’ve got to evolve into a society in which government takes on more and more of the tasks that have now grown too big for private interests, such as caring for the weak and needy.

What most of the varying views have in common, I notice, is that the question is the role of government. My sense is that as long as we keep the debate at that level, we will make little progress. Government is important but it is not the key to the American character. Character is a matter of personal qualities and values. Government can threaten or it can guard character but it cannot create character.

From the time we humans first put a handprint on the wall of a cave, a great many thousands of years ago, until today, the human heart has changed little if at all. We still need to be individuals — “That’s my handprint!” — and we still need one another. We still need to respect and be respected, to cherish and be cherished, to encourage and be encouraged, to love and be loved.

Our American Founding Fathers knew what we have recently tried to deny, that human rights have been established by our Creator, not by government or mutual consent or mere chance. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. . . That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . .”

The loss of the theological convictions underlying the Declaration of Independence has done immeasurable harm to the American spirit. There is no longer any consensus, any mutually accepted foundation by which we can say the government or any other major institution exists by the consent of the governed.

It is no accident that we now have a president who stands against the fundamental American values. Character — whether we think in terms of integrity, simply honesty, compassion, kindness, respect or whatever — is completely lacking in our president and the team he has gathered around himself. He flaunts our laws, admires tyrants, coddles Russia, tries to dominate the checks-and-balances kind of government we have, seeks to discredit the free press, and makes no pretense of using his position for anything other than personal gain. We’ve got what we’ve deserved.

Now the question is whether the shock of seeing our lack of character mirrored in our president will awaken in us a hunger to find again the fundamental realities of the human spirit as a reflection of the image of our Creator. It remains an open question.

America is not a beginner. We’ve laid a good foundation but we certainly don’t know what comes next.

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Multiplied Mistakes Suggest Addiction

Alcoholics are famous for their apologies. Some spouses have heard “I’m sorry”  hundreds of times. An apology without a repentance is not worth much, since it tends to be an addicts way of simply clearing the way for more offenses.

In China, folks connected with Jared Kushner’s family business last week promised that, for a half-million dollar investment in the business, they could help Chinese businessmen get American visas. The incredibly blatant violation of ethics is just another of a series of evidences that everyone even vaguely connected with Trump is out to take advantage of people in every way possible. As I keep writing, there simply is no moral dimension to Trump or his family or his team. they are addicted to greed.

And they are the leaders of the Executive branch American government. What shame Trump has brought to our nation.

But there is some good news in the world: France chose a centrist over a Trump-like candidate in national elections yesterday. Maybe, having seen the moral slime that covers Trump, the West is at a turnaround point and will regain some sanity.

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Losing Track of the Pharisees

The loss of biblical literacy in America has resulted in — among much else — a loss of many of the cultural lessons we have learned over the centuries. The Bible permeated Western civilization for a great many centuries and was a major contributor to the humanization of the culture. What we meant by the West until very recently was in fact a confluence of the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian understandings of human nature and human society. Due in large part to the rapid rate of change in our day ( a sign of luxury!), we have tended to lose track of our yesterdays. As a result, in many ways we are wandering aimlessly, not remembering where we have been and therefore unable to assess where we are.

One specific loss is that we have no understanding any longer of that Jewish sect from two millennia ago, the Pharisees. They are remarkable and important to the West for two reasons.

One is that after the Fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, the Pharisees, though always a small party within Judaism, became almost the foundation of the rabbinic Judaism which emerged from the tragedy. They were strong, educated, capable leaders who shaped the new Temple-less Judaism and thus are rightly to be considered heroic figures in Jewish history. The foundations they laid reflected a maturity which, so far as we know, they did not have in Jesus’ day. They rose to the occasion and served their fellow Jews wonderfully.

Second and more commonly known, the Pharisees tangled badly with Jesus and so became something of a foil in the Gospel stories of Jesus and his ministry. The spirit of anti-Semitism has often driven us to think the problem was that the Pharisees were simply bad people. That isn’t the case at all. The conflict — if you’ll pardon a bit of over-simplification — was caused by the fact that both the Pharisees and Jesus cared very deeply about personal righteousness but conceived of it very differently. Jesus saw personal righteousness as the fruit of forgiveness and grace while the Pharisees tended to think of it as precise adherence to religious law. Jesus would have thought a good law is one which expresses love, respect, integrity, which the Pharisees of his day thought of personal goodness as defined by law and established by obedience. That is, Jesus saw goodness in personal terms which the law must respect, while the Pharisees thought the law is what made a deed either good or bad.

As I write these words, my mind goes to the famous observation of Solzhenitsyn that western morality is marked by loopholes. Especially in our public dimensions, such as business and law, we tend to think that everything is okay if it is legal. This leads us to be searching always for loopholes in the law that allow us to get away with as much as possible. This is a Pharisaic legalism in our thinking: conceiving of personal righteousness as whatever falls within bounds, rather than as justice, as going the extra mile, sacrificing for others, and other related Christian principles.

Why is it important for us to learn about and from the Pharisees? Because we have a president who has much in common with the Pharisees of the New Testament. (Too bad he is not more like the later Pharisees.) His business career was built in large measure on manipulating and cheating, though he usually found ways to make it all seem legal. He has no moral dimension to his character at all. Were we still able to remember the mistake of the early Pharisees, we would all see right through Trump and would never have paid him the slightest attention. We would recognize the threat he poses to western culture. He is, in fact, a barbarian, devoid of the marks of a civilized person.

How sad for America . . . .

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Deceit about Healthcare

I’ve listened to a number of members of the Trump team talk about the healthcare bill passed by the House. This afternoon I’ve listened to two interviews of Tom Price, recorded this morning. Of this I am sure: The defenders of the healthcare bill have no intention of being honest about the bill. They don’t even try. They simply deflect, usually talking about what they want to be the results, not at all about what the bill actually says or how it will accomplish their supposed goals. What few specifics we’ve been able to learn suggest that the bill does quite the opposite of what they claim.

One of the interesting observations, it seems to me, is the claim that the bill will increase competition and therefore decrease costs. Two problems: First, they have said absolutely nothing about what in the bill might increase competition. Second, are they unaware that the problem we have been trying for 20 to solve was created by a healthcare system in which there were no particular limits on competition?

If they aren’t being dishonest about all this, then the only alternative seems to be that they are simply not very bright. Frankly, I believe the issue is integrity. Trump has none and draws no people to his side who have any.

My conclusion is that the healthcare bill is actually not intended to improve American healthcare at all. It is just a windfall for the wealthy, deceitfully disguised.

Meanwhile, if Trump would stay in the White House most weekends, he alone could save the taxpayers enough money to pay for a lot of insurance for the rest of us. He has enjoying having conned his way into the presidency for his own benefit.

It is my genuine prayer that he not fulfill his term as president. He is a serious threat to America and to democracy. He is just a plain, old-fashioned — but effective — crook.

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The Marketers Have Defeated the Truth

I get so tired, so very tired of listening to Washington’s spin doctors. People like Sean Spicer can stand before the nation’s press and say the president is fighting for the strongest health care coverage for every American, knowing full well that is a bald-faced lie. I do not believe there is a single honest American who thinks the health care bill the House is passing on to the Senate is even intended to improve American health care. They certainly cannot believe there is a single part of the package that is an improvement. Trump and the Republicans are simply lying and they don’t even seem bothered about the transparency of their lies.

Since WW II, the business world has increasingly dominated our culture. Instead of the truth, we have come to care about the proverbial “bottom line.” Instead of pursuing high ideals, we’ve been reduced to Clint Eastwood’s famous line, “It works for me.” As long as a product is sold for a profit, the seller does not seem to care what is being sold, good or bad, wise or foolish, true or false.

And our political leaders are among the most amoral marketers in the country. Reform has to come from the grass roots. It has to be effected in the voting booth. We’ve got to be reminded that character counts.

I cannot measure my disappointment that my fellow evangelicals so strongly supported Trump, a person so incredibly unlike the character, example, and teachings of Jesus Christ. They care about a couple of issues and forget about Jesus’ call to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. Along comes a Trump and they forget Jesus, choosing instead a man who is a perfect example of loving himself instead of others.  What shame they bring to the name of Christ!

I have no particular respect for the Democrats as a party but I do recognize that people like Amy Klobuchar are persons of integrity. That matters to me very deeply, especially when I compare her to someone like a Ted Cruz. Yes, I do see some integrity among Republicans — Kasich and McCain come to mind. Unfortunately, they are sidelined in their party and no longer have a voice that is heeded.

Who can lead the way for the grass roots to learn again to send to Washington people of high moral character, clear intelligence, and a concern for making America once again a land of the free, home of the brave, and a welcoming beacon for hope for the huddled masses yearning to breathe free?

 

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Jimmy Kimmel’s Plea for Health Care

The other  night Jimmy Kimmel, one of the several late night hosts, spoke of his newborn son, born with a severe heart problem that was fixed by surgery on the third day of his life. Needless to say, it was an extremely expensive bit of medical work. Kimmel was thankful for the success of the procedure but also was keenly aware that many in America could not afford such surgery and have no insurance to cover it.

Most people have been deeply touched by Kimmel’s words, knowing they were deeply heartfelt and factually accurate, not just about the surgery but about its expense.

 

Conservative reaction has been interesting. Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary, said the President is pushing for repeal and replacement of Obamacare because he agrees with Kimmel. What Spicer did not mention is that because of Obamacare millions of American families are already covered, though they would not have been before Obamacare. Nor did Spicer say just how Trumpcare would help people without Kimmel’s resources. We really have little idea of what’s in the new proposal because it keeps changing form day to day and hasn’t yet been evaluating by the Congressional Budget Office. What little we do know suggests that many millions will lose insurance, not gain it.

Republican Joe Walsh (of “You Lie!” infamy) wrote, “Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s health care. Got no problem with @jimmykimmel tearing up & getting political. Got a big problem with: ‘We need gov-run healthcare cuz of my sad story.'”

Sunch ignorance! Such hard-hearted ignorance! As a member of Congress, Joe Walsh is part of a health insurance plan. Does he not understand what insurance is? Apparently not. Health insurance is a financial plan whereby a company makes a profit off the healthy people who enroll and uses that profit to pay the bills of those who are not so healthy and to pocket the excess for themselves and their shareholders. Buying insurance is not primarily making an investment which we hope provides enough money for us when we get sick. Rather, buying insurance is a matter of hoping our money goes to someone else, since we don’t want to be sick ourselves. So Walsh’s comment shows both selfish cruelty and inexcusable ignorance.

CNN reported that “Washington Times columnist Charles Hurt echoed the frustration over Kimmel politicizing his personal life. ‘I mean, really, Jimmy, does your newborn child not mean more to you than petty politics?’ Hurt wrote. ‘How do you look at the miracle of your child and think — partisan politics?'” And what in the world would cause a man to think that a plea to save baby’s lives is petty politics?

I am stunned at the hypocrisy of these conservatives. Can an honest, decent person watch that video and question whether Kimmel values his son more than politics? It takes a truly twisted mind to be so mean-spirited. It is impossible for an honest person to listen to what Kimmel is saying and fail to recognize that his “political” comments were a natural extension of his love for his son. That love expanded into a love for all families. Only the hard-hearted could fail to realize that they were listening to love, not politics. It is love, not politics, when a man says, “If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.”

This is America and we are — some say — making America great again. The problem, however, is that those who wear the red hats seem to be trying very hard to oppose everything that has made America great. Their shame is awful. Their enmity toward America is dangerous. And their leader is inexcusable.

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