The storm that blew through the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday has not passed. What America will be and who we will be in the midst of the storm are always the questions on Martin Luther King Day, but this year the choice will be clearer.
Thunder and Lightning on MLK Weekend
If intelligence reports come to pass, the Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois, Aryan Brotherhood, and other well-armed White nationalist groups will again storm through the nation’s Capitol to “liberate” their country, as did the Wolverine Watchmen who gathered in Lansing, burst into the Michigan Capitol, and would have kidnapped, tried, and executed Governor Gretchen Whitmer had the FBI not foiled the plot with advance intelligence.
Freedom and the Covenant of Mutual Responsibility
Will we be a people preoccupied by the pernicious insistence on unaccountable individual freedom? “You can’t make me wear a mask!” Will we confuse liberty with freedom from restraint, or will we place freedom where it belongs — within the context of a social covenant, a Constitutional republic — that holds the indivisible tension between freedom and responsibility for our neighbors?
The Blue Note Gospel and the Storm Passing Over
The Black church in America lives out that tension of freedom and covenant, individual liberty and community. It has a history and tradition few others share. The descendants of slavery can teach us about living in the storm while the storm passes over. They neither deny the storm nor succumb to it. As Otis Moss III describes it, the Black church preaches “the Blue-Note gospel” born of the cross of Jesus and can “Shouts the Gospel shout” because it knows the blues.
This morning, we share the soulful sound of resilience in the midst of the storm.
Martin Luther King and the Storm
This Martin Luther King Weekend the storm of America’s original sin will sweep through, and the resilience of the Blue-Note Gospel will carry us through.
Donald Trump’s long-time lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen reminded Congress during the first impeachment hearings that his old boss doesn’t talk like us.
“That’s not how he talks. He talks in code.”
The Code of Insurrection
President Trump’s silence in the wake of the cyber attack on America national security seemed to speak as loud as words. He stayed silent, as he had after George Floyd’s murder until clearing a lawful protest from Lafayette Park to hold up and Bible and proclaim himself our law-and-order president. The Capitol on January 6 was not protected, raising the question of how that happened.
“The plan was a failure,” by every account. Was it? The appearance of white supremacist thugs on January 6 was not an accident. It happened by the president’s invitation. It was the president who then told them to march up to the Capitol during the normally ceremonial Congressional vote to approve the Electoral College’s certification. It was Roy Cohn’s apprentice and Michael Cohen’s old boss who spoke by silence when his supporters breached the security of the building where the Constitution is meant to be preserved and protected. The president failed to defend it. He and his closest advisors watched the attack on television, smiling and laughing like guys at a frat beer party.
What was the plan? Was it a failure? Or had “the plan” been a rousing success? Why was the security presence so much less than it was the day the Administration violated the First Amendment-protected peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration in Lafayette Park? Who refused Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s offer of the National Guard to help secure the Capitol, and why was it refused in the midst of a national crisis? Why did some Capitol Police Officers seem to enjoy taking selfies with insurrectionists? Why was there no word from the White House or anyone in the Trump Administration while MAGA marauders rampaged through the Capitol?
Where were the Homeland Security special forces without identification that had mysteriously descended on a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Portland, Oregon? Why did Homeland Security wait until the shards were being swept from the Capitol floor to show up?
A Page from an Old Playbook
“Whether he realizes it or not,” wrote Jeffery C. Billman (Orlando Weekly, September 9, 2020), “Trump has borrowed a page from the fascist playbook.
This is the truth: Whether he realizes it or not, Trump has borrowed a page from the fascist playbook. I’m not referring to his well-documented authoritarianism or even his willingness to steal the election if he can’t win it legitimately. Nor am I suggesting that Trump is planning a genocide. I’m talking specifically about inciting violence against leftist protesters. That’s how fascists claimed power in the 1920s and ’30s. The Nazis sent Brownshirts to left-wing gatherings to provoke street fights and instigate chaos, most famously the Red Wedding rally in 1927, in which more than 100 people were injured. They then portrayed themselves as victims of leftist anarchy. Sound familiar?
Like Jeffery Billman, Views from the Edge has called attention to the borrowed playbooks, Mein Kampf and The Speeches of Hitler, perhaps too often. But I’m old. I remember. I am still in part the three-year old sitting around the dinner table with my mother and grandparents, listening to the evening radio broadcast. I was my grandson Elijah’s age, fearing my father would not make it home from his air base n the South Pacific. My grandparents were conservative Republicans. They didn’t like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but he was their one and only President pledged to defend the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke complete sentences and paragraphs from his wheelchair. He didn’t give instructions by code and silence. It would not have occurred to them that the president they didn’t like could be Domestic Enemy Number One.
By reason of Insanity and by reason of cowardice
Between now and January 2021 a man who belongs in the hospital for the criminally insane remains the only human being on the planet sworn to defend the U.S. Constitution against himself. More than 100 Members of the House of Representatives and six Senators who cannot plead “Not guilty by reason of insanity” will plead innocent return to their seats in the Capitol they have failed to preserve and protect. Given the opportunity to take action to remove their party’s leader, they will fail again to keep their oaths of office.
January 17, 2021
If January 6, 2021 was unprecedented and horrifying, January 17 may be worse.January 17 is the day the Proud Boys and Trump supporting comrades will return to the nation’s Capitol. The social chaos produced by ramped-up mob attack will become the president’s public reason to save the nation by invoking Marshall Law.
Cabinet Invokes 25th Amendment
What happens next is anybody’s guess. What might have happened appeared in a June, 2018 Views from the Edge commentary. Click Trump Cabinet Invokes 25th Amendment for a tongue-in-cheek description that was, in fact, fake news.
Today Martin Luther King Jr’s successor was elected to the U.S. Senate. It was also the day Senators and Representatives wore gas masks in their chambers of the nation’s Capitol. Yesterday’s elections of Rafael Warlock and Jon Ossof in Georgia is an historic moment never to be forgotten by historians. Whether it will become a footnote depends in part on the Trump far-right occupation of the Capitol where the work of representative democracy tales place.
“We’re still fighting, and you’re going to see what’s going to happen.”
Donald J. Trump to rally in Dalton, GA, Monday, January 4, 2021.
Today we saw what was going to happen
“Liberate Michigan,” “Stay back and stand by (Proud Boys)”, and get ready for “trial by combat” (Rudy Giuliani today) beg for answers. How and why was the U.S. Capitol security left so insecure?
The President was silent until a tepid text and video that stoked the fire he lit. Where was Homeland Security? Where was the U.S. Attorney General? Where were the federal agents who cleared Lafayette Park so the president could hold up a Bible the book in front of the Saint James Episcopal Church, and return to declare himself “your law-and-order President”?
The violent insurrection that invaded the U.S Capitol today is an act of domestic terrorism orchestrated by domestic enemy #1 and supported by 12 cowardly senators and 100-plus representatives who broke their oaths of office.
Stopping it now
May Congress re-convene tonight to finish its constitutional responsibility of approving the Electoral College certification of the 2020 election. But do not stop there. Ask how and why the Capitol was so unprotected, and move now to remove the president before he does worse in the two weeks he will remain at the desk of the Oval Office: Declare Marshal Law as the guardian of law-and-order, a military attack on Iran’s nuclear research sites, and who knows what else.
Who needs foreign enemies when you have a law-and-order domestic terrorist inciting a coup d’etat in the homeland? Do it now. Before it’s too late. Do it, members of the House and Senate, before America becomes the cuckoo’s nest. Impeach him and send the men in white coats before the country loses its soul to Mein Kampf.
Georgia voters today render a verdict on Rafael Warnock. Verdicts are more familiar to Rev. Warnock than they are to most of us. Some verdicts leave a person standing. Others verdicts end a life by state execution.
Troy Davis was one of the latter. The eve before his execution by the state of Georgia, Minnesota Public Radio’s All Things Considered aired this personal reflection on capitol punishment.CLICK HEREto open the MPR site; then click the AUDIO to listen to the commentary on Troy Davis in light of Innocent Project pro bono appeals attorney Joe Margulies who represented Betty Beets.
The pastor on Georgia’s death row
Nine years later, reading his guest article on mercy in an alumni journal, I leaned the name of the pastor who became the death row pastor to Troy Davis. Rafael Warnock is not a showman. No matter whether in the public eye as the latest successor of Martin Luther King, Jr., the home church of the late Hon. John Lewis, or out of sight standing by a condemned man on death row, Rafael Warnock has the heart of a pastor.
Georgia verdict today
Today the people of Georgia are rendering a verdict on his candidacy for U.S. Senate. Tomorrow, Jan. 6, as the Proud Boys “stand by” a treasonous defeated president on the streets of Washington, D.C. with guns drawn, another verdict on who we are, and who we will stand by in America will be debated on the floor of the U.S. Congress.
L.K. Hanson’s cartoon “YOU DON’T SAY” arrived just in time. Had I not seen it, I would have trashed this commentary on beating a dead horse.
Beating a Dead Horse
“You can’t beat a dead horse.” But some dead horses, and those who have bet on them, don’t recognize they’re dead. The neighing continues weeks after the vet has filed their death certificates. Only the horse’s faithful admirers hear the neighs that come into my inbox two or three times a day. Somehow, some way, the dead horse’s fan base mistook me for one of them.
You Can’t Silence a Dead Horse
Before the mistaken identity solicitations began arriving, I did my best to refrain from name-calling. Insulting each other is not what friends do, if we want to preserve the friendship, and it is a bad practice that jeopardizes the mutual forbearance essential to a civil society and a democratic republic. Name-calling is even less acceptable spiritually and morally.
Then the email solicitations confusing me as one of the faithful gave me repeated peeks inside the stable of the dead horse. Because the substance and tone of the email solicitations are unknown to those of us who move in other circles and because the half-billion dollars they have raised stuns me to disbelief, Views from the Edge shares two emails.
Beating the hoaxes we play on ourselves
“When to be informed is to be knowledgeable about pseudo-events, the line between knowledge and ignorance is blurred as never before.”
Few people recognize John Harington, which seems a bit odd at the end of a year we’d like to leave behind us. Harington invented the first toilet. Just as few remember Charles Thompson, the Secretary of the Continental Congress whose Minutes and correspondence are preserved in the U.S. National Archives. But everyone remembers Ben Franklin.
Charles Thomson’s letter to his revolutionary colleague Ben Franklin leaps from the National as though he written it to us on New Year’s Day 2020.
When I look back . . . and view the present heartburnings, Jealousies, gloom and despair, I am ready to ask, with the poet, “Are there not some chosen thunders in the stores of heaven armed with uncommon wrath to blast those Men,” who by their cursed schemes of policy are dragging friends and brothers into the horrors of civil War and involving their country in ruin?
“The poet” from whose work Thomson drew was English poet, author and playwright Joseph Addison, whose “Cato, a Tragedy” was widely read among the colonial leaders as they moved toward the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Thomson changed Addison’s text from singular (“the Man”) to plural “(those Men”), perhaps inadvertently — memory will do that — or intentionally to fit the circumstances at hand, i.e., the English Parliament’s violations of the American colonists’ rights and freedoms under British law. Addison’s reference is singular.
Oh Portius, is there not some chosen curse, Some hidden thunder in the stores of heaven, Red with uncommon wrath, to blast the Man Who owes his greatness to his country’s ruin?
Joseph Addison, Cato, a Tragedy 1:1:21–4
Dealing with Madness — Singular and Plural
Both singular and plural fit our circumstances on New Year’s Day 2021.The post-monarchical Constitutional people’s republic of Ben Franklin and Charles Thomson teeters “on the very edge of the precipice.” Some of us wonder whether there a hidden thunder of wrath that will blast the Man who owes his greatness to his country’s ruin and when it will blast the Men who refuse to recognize the certified election results of every state and and the District of Columbia, and the certification of the Electoral College.
Clearing Our Eyes
Act V of Addison’s play raises the question the heirs of the American revolution have nearly forgotten to ask. But this tumultuous in-between time of transition of power puts this most important question to us, the heirs of Franklin and Thomas:
The honors of this world, what are they But puff, and emptiness, and peril of falling?
Joseph Addison, Cato, Act IV, scene IV
New Year’s 2021 — Hope on the Edge of the Precipice
Thomson’s letter to Franklin ends with a realistic warning and a hope.
“Even yet,” he wrote, “the wounds may yet be healed and peace and love restored; But we are on the very edge of the precipice.”
Two Ways of Being Human; Two Kind of National Character
Looking into the precipice of national ruin, we face two alternate ways of being a nation and two ways of being human: compassionate/heartless; arrogant/modest; honest/scheming; caring/uncaring; vulnerable/invulnerable; phony/authentic; realistic//illusionary; serving others/serving oneself — seem clearer than when things were “normal.” The precipice is real. So is Thomson’s adaptation of Cato’s quote from singular to plural. Treason can never prosper unless we, the people, accept treason.
A Hope and a Prayer from 1774 for 2021
Even yet the wounds may be healed and peace and love be restored.
Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congresses, Letter to Benjamin Franklin, Nov. 1, 1774.
This commentary has been in process for days. It hasn’t been posted here because I find it impossible to keep up with the news –anything I might say is already passé — or because sources like Heather Richardson’s daily Letters from an American do what I attempt to do better. But this period of social turmoil has led to me to see what should have been obvious. I write from a faith perspective that seeks to writeI from a faith perspective but not to a faith perspective. I write as a public theologian; write for anyone who cares to listen.
Encountering the Diabolical
You don’t have to believe in a Devil with horns and a pitchfork to recognize the diabolical. The Greek word in the New Testament is diabolos. The diabolical is “characteristic of the Devil, or so evil as to be suggestive of a Devil” (Oxford online dictionary). Synonyms include fiendish, heinous, hellish, vicious, vile, cruel, wicked (Thesaurus.com). Like the calls to action from Conservative Direct that confused me for a friend.
December 10, 8:42 A.M.
We will not bend.
We will not break.
We will not yield.
We will never give in.
We will never give up.
We will never back down.
We will NEVER, ever surrender!
We are Americans, and our hearts bleed RED, WHITE, AND BLUE.
The Left is trying to TAKE the White House from YOUR President, and, for the sake of our Country’s future, I need YOU to step up and help us SECURE THE SENATE!
THE LEFT WILL TRY TO STEAL THE ELECTION!
PRESIDENT TRUMP NEEDS YOU TO FIGHT BACK
[photo of angry DJT]
Please contribute ANY AMOUNT IMMEDIATELY to FIGHT FOR AMERICA and to PROTECT the Senate from the Radical Left.
Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
Unsubscribe from messages sponsored by Trump Make America Great Again Committee.
To Unsubscribe by email, please reply to this message with Unsubscribe as the Subject Line. Unsubscribe from all communications.
The gift of Mistaken Identity
I don’t know how Conservative Direct put me on its email list, but I’m glad they did. Now I know. The emails to Donald Trump’s “Friends” and “BEST Supporters” provide a look inside a narrative that helps explain how good people get caught swept up in what the Bible calls the demonic, the diabolical, the satanic twisting that turns goodness into evil.
I meet diabolos every day. in heinous tweets and news clips. The list of the diabolical speech and action is long and endless. (“It’s a hoax. The coronavirus is a Democrat hoax,” he says to the American public while telling Robert Woodward he knew but didn’t want the American people to panic. “I don’t know the woman. I’ve never met the woman. You’ll have to ask Michael.” “I don’t know anything about that. Ask Rudy.” “There’s no quid pro quo.” “I won the election! It was stolen.” Iconic Civil Rights leaders Elijah Cummings and John Lewis go unacknowledged while the First Lady drapes the medal over Rush Limbaugh to loud applause from the Right side and the silence of disbelief from the other. And that’s doesn’t begin to tell the story.
Echoes from Narcissus and Joe McCarthy
The Conservative Direct emails call conscientious patriots to fight against Leftists — people like me — while echoing the desperate cry of a thirsty Narcissus in the snarly tone of Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn whose early ’50s campaign saw Communists like Pete Seeger hiding in the entertainment industry, the U.S. military, and government offices until Army defense counsel Joseph Welch stood up to McCarthy with the rebuke that rang out across the American public in Edward R. Murrow’s nightly news broadcast.
Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild … Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator; you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
Joseph Welch to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, June 9, 1954.
Earlier that same day, Welch had challenged Roy Cohn, McCarthy’s staff attorney, to give the FBI and Department of Defense McCarthy’s list of 130 alleged subversives “before the sun goes down.” McCarthy fired back, claiming that Fred Fisher, a young member of Welch’s law firm, had Communist ties. Welch called out McCarthy in words that many American citizens wish we could say to the President and elected representatives of the GOP who fear being on Mr. Trump’s hit list:
“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. … I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think I am a gentle man but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me.”
Joseph Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy after McCarthy sullied the character of Fred Fisher.
Roy Cohn later tutored a young Donald Trump and signed on in the capacity later held by Michael Cohn. Like Michael, Roy was thrown under the bus when he was no longer useful.
Diabolos and Democracy
A week ago the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear arguments in the frivolous lawsuit alleging fraud in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 2020 election. The Court’s unanimous decision without comment was a sharp rebuke by all nine Justices, included Mr. Trump’s three appointments to the Court. Yet the public relations legal charade did not end there. The narrative continued with the Texas Attorney General’s suit against the States of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia. Seventeen other GOP State attorneys general filed amicus briefs and 106 GOP Congressional Representatives put their names on the Trump support list knowing full well that no state has legal standing to challenge another state’s election process, let alone void other States elections.
Tonight the Supreme Court put an end to it. The U.S. Supreme Court — six Justices appointed by Republican presidents and three by Democratic presidents — did its job. They exercised their oath to maintain the rule of law in faithfulness under the U.S. Constitution.
The president refuses to acknowledge his defeat. He is delusional. So is his party. Every member of the U.S. Congress — every Senator and Representative — owes it to the American people to fulfill their oaths to uphold the Constitution — not to seditious Commander-in-Chief or his party. To stay silent while the president eviscerates the institutions on which democracy depends, firing competent public servants and replacing them with incompetent sycophants loyal to him is to be guilty of aiding and abetting treason.
A Leech and a Wrecking Ball
Every day that passes is another day we hear the clanging of the wrecking ball. Every day we wonder whether you, the members of Congress, hear it too. We hope against hope that you stand up for us, for democracy, and for yourselves, that you have the courage to remove Diabolos, the leech that is sucking America dry. That you will do what the president has failed or refused to do: “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies foreign and domestic.” You will be on the list, but you will stand tall as a patriot. No foreign country has the power to incite violence on American soil or to invoke Marshall Law to restore law and order to void an election. Only a domestic enemy can do that.
It’s not over til it’s over
The Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois, Wolverine Watchman, Aryan Brotherhood, other well-armed white supremacist, and, God forbid it should become so, Blackwater Xi, the private for-hire mercenary “security” operation whose employees former U.S. special forces personnel — click here for Views from the Edge’s previous Minnpost commentary on Blackwater Xi — are staying back and standing down, waiting for the whistle to take the streets.
Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, author of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (Wipf and Stock, 2017) and host of Views from the Edge.
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Campaigns in the 2000s have a way of repeating themselves. So do sermons, like this one from the week before the 2012 election that draws on a Jewish legend about Satan’s sense of loss after being expelled from heaven. What he missed the most was the sound of the trumpet in the morning.
This moment in American history is like no other. We are living under the cloud of the diabolical. The New Testament word “diabolos” gets translated as “the devil.” I’m not into the Devil but I encounter the diabolical reading the news every morning. I find hope listening for the sound of the trumpet (the shofar).
Words do not come easily to old preachers in the aftermath of the 2020 election. When we are dumbfounded, some of us have the blessing, or curse, of finding our voice in recorded sermons.
This video begins with the reading from the Gospel of Luke (printed below) and a brief story. To go straight to the substance of the sermon, move the cursor to the six minute mark.
“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:
father against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law,
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
“And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”
--Gospel according to Luke 12:51- 59 NRSV
In the last seconds of the eighth round of his championship fight with “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Roberto Durán turned his back to Leonard, and quit. The referee quoted Durán. “No más” (No more)! It’s time for you to do the same for the sake of the American people and the foundations of democracy, as well as for your legacy.
“No más. No más!”
No more tweets. No more denials of reality. No more claims that you won. No more frivolous law suits. No more rallies. No more “Stole the Election” demonstrations on the streets. No more congregating your fans with no masks or social distancing. No more emails like the ones you’ve been broadcasting three or four times a day since your defeat. No more assumptions that I am your best friend. No more emails like the ones your campaign, National Republican Committee, and Conservative Direct, like this one with the subject line about telling the truth.
HERE"S THE TRUTH
You've always been one of my strongest supporters, which is why I'm coming to you now with an urgent request.
I've activated the Official Election Defense Fund and I need EVERY PATRIOT, including YOU, to step up and make sure we have enough resources to PROTECT THE INTEGRITY OF OUR ELECTION.
(Insert request for money)
I need YOUR HELP to STOP the Left-wing MOB from undermining our Election.
I'm counting on you right now, Friend.
Only YOU can save America from the Radical Left. Don't let your Country down.
Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
I feel obliged to tell you the truth about my response to your emails. 1) The subject line — “HERE’S THE TRUTH” — is propaganda. 2) I have never been “one of [your] strongest supporters.” 3) You confuse patriotic duty with support for you. I see patriotism differently. The U.S.A. is bigger than any occupant of the Oval Office. 4) Patriotism is love of country. I love America. I love the Constitution. I love democracy. I love the constitutionally protected right and duty to engage in an on-going a lover’s quarrel. 5) I wince when any of us confuses America with what serves one’s own self-interests. 6) I turn red when a president makes groundless claims that undermine public trust in the electoral process. I respect losers who do what parents teach our children to do: accept defeat gracefully as part of life.
Grateful for the Mistake
Finally, I am grateful for the mistake. Had I not seen your pleas to “STOP the Left-wing MOB from undermining our election” and “to save America from the Radical Left,” I would be less privy to how you speak to your base and deceive your supporters to see people like me as the great threat to America.
Roberto Durán was tenacious. He was a World Champion. He also knew when it was time to admit defeat. He knew when to walk away. There’s wisdom there. For the sake of the country and a smooth transition to a new administration, I hope and pray you will do the same. Tell the Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois, and Wolverine Watchmen to go home and put away their rifles. Tell them this is America.
No más. Please, no more.
Gordon C. Stewart
Gordon C. Stewart, author of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (2017 Wipf and Stock), Chaska, MN, November 16, 2020.