General Pershing and the Commander-in-Chief

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These Letters to the Editor (August 19) responding to President Trump’s tweet that invoked a debunked legend about Gen. John J. Pershing subduing Muslim rebels in the Philippines with bullets dipped in pig blood deserve an audience beyond the readership of the Star Tribune.

I won’t stand for fake news about my cousin, Gen. John Pershing

“I don’t usually express my political opinions in public, which may or may not be a good thing. But now it’s personal. When a sitting president tries to spread fake news about my relative, Gen. John J. Pershing, I take it personally. (“Under siege, Trump turns fire on GOP,” front page, Aug. 18).

“Cousin John was an exemplary general, most notably because of the humane and respectful way he treated the African-American soldiers under his command. To even suggest that the general displayed hateful behavior is, at best, ill-informed or, at worst, vicious and ignorant.

“In this case, President Donald Trump is propagating fake facts to make a fine, upstanding historical figure look like a white supremacist. Totally not true, as historian after historian has repeatedly said. The events that the president is using to make a point simply did not happen.

“This is just another example of the bullying behavior Trump has shown over and over. If he can’t get his way, he finds someone else to put down or uses fake news to make his point — even if the point has no merit.

“Melania Trump has said she wants to fight bullying while she is First Lady. I suggest that she start at home.”

  • Susan Wiesler Dean, Northfield, MN [fourth cousin of Gen. John J. Pershing]

220px-General_John_Joseph_Pershing_head_on_shouldersThis Letter to the Editor followed.

“Long story short.

“Trump has defamed and slandered the good name of Gen. John ‘Black Jack’ Pershing.

“Short story longer.

“He and George Washington are the only two people to be named General of the Armies. As a young man, Pershing taught at an all-black school. He was given the nickname ‘Black Jack’ as a pejorative because he treated the black students fairly, and he works the ‘insult’ proudly. When he arrived in the Philippines, he gave a copy of the Qur’an to the local leaders and offered to assist in building mosques. During World War I, he had the command of the segregated 369th and was respected and admired by the black troops.

“While Pershing was apolitical, the treatment that blacks received from him and their fellow French troops gave hope to the civil rights struggle of returning black vets between the wars. He was never an Islamaphobe.”

  • Ernie Neve, Minneapolis

The same day the Star Tribune published the letters, the president waved to his departing chief strategist, Steve Bannon, as a warrior against fake news:

“Steve Bannon will be a tough and smart new voice at @BreitbartNews…maybe even better than ever before. Fake News needs the competition!” – Donald J. Trump.

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Killing Evil?

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White Supremacy Rally

White supremacy, America’s original sin, is demonic. Always has been. Always will be.

Rarely does evil show up as visibly as it did last week in Charlottesville, Virginia and in the days that have followed.

What does one do in the face of evil?

Banishing evil

In the fight of good with evil the first impulse is to kill it. Get rid of it. Banish it from from existence itself.

The snake’s aside in the biblical story of the Garden of Eden whispers anew its eternal invitation to self-deception: “You will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

You cannot kill a demon. If you try to kill it, you end up killing your brother, your sister, your neighbor as your enemy.

Killing the Memory

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Dismantling of Saddam Hussein statue, Baghdad, 2003

Statues like the one of Robert E. Lee on the public squares of the former Confederacy bear witness to the unfinished business of America’s Civil War, or, as it is known in the South, The War Between the States.

Should they all come down? Does right-mindedness — a new public consciousness beyond the evil of white supremacy — demand we do the same with them the people of Iraq and our troops did with the statue of Saddam Hussein to celebrate the end of the reign of terror: take them down?

Knowing how near the serpent of deception is, Dom Sebastian Moore, O.S.B, invites a more ambiguous response in The Crucified Jesus Is No Stanger:

“We have to think of a God closer to our evil than we ever dare to be. We have to think of [God] not as standing at the end of  we way take when we run away from our evil in the search for good, but as taking hold of us in our evil, at the sore point which the whole idealistic thrust of man is concerned to avoid.”

Preserving Memory

Pulling down the statues from their pedestals feels like a catharsis to many of us. To others it feels like an assault. But we do ourselves no favor by framing the issue as one of anti-racist versus racist, pitting the righteous against the sinners.

Historians, spiritual guides, and social psychologists know that societies and individuals that bury their pasts are doomed to repeat them in one form or another. The demons never disappear.  You cannot kill a demon. It always come back to haunt you — all the mores when you think you’ve killed it.

Channel Markers: not becoming what we hate

The statues serve as channel markers that keep us on the way to a consciousness beyond the America’s original sin of white supremacy instead of symbols of our reverence for what we have come to despise.

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Rev. Dr. Andrew Young and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is in this spirit that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s colleague Andrew Young takes the unexpected view that the statues should remain.

“I grew up in New Orleans, La., 50 yards from the headquarters of the Nazi party. Before I went to kindergarten, I was having to look in the window on Saturdays, and watch all these folks [shout] “Heil, Hitler!”

“In 1936.

“And my daddy said, those are sick people. They’re white supremacists, and white supremacy is a sickness. You don’t get mad, you get smart. You never get angry with sick people, because you’ll catch their sickness. That’s what I worry about with our young people. Anger and this emotional militancy will give you ulcers, give you heart attacks.

“Don’t get mad, get smart. Your brain is the most important thing you have.”

You cannot kill a demon. It’s always whispering in the shadows of our flight from the evil that lies so close. Don’t get mad, get smart.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 18, 2017.

 

No More Silence

JohnMBuchananPastor Emeritus of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and former publisher of The Christian Century John M. Buchanan shares his inner struggle following events in Charlottesville.

Other religious leaders’ reflections will follow here on Views from the Edge.

Hold to the Good

At first I thought that David Brooks was on to something in his New York Times editorial, August 8, 2017: “Getting Trump Out of My Brain.” I nodded in sympathy with Brooks’ observation: “For the past two years Trump has taken up an amazing amount of my brain space. My brain has apparently decided that it is not interested in devoting neurons to that guy. There’s nothing more to be learned about Trump’s mixture of ignorance, insecurity and narcissism. Every second spent on his bluster is degrading rather than informative.” I’ve abided by that sentiment for a while. I have been so overwhelmed by what I have seen happen to my country and its institutions that I simply haven’t known what to say. But I remembered whose I am and who I follow, and my own Christian saints and mentors, and I cannot remain silent.

After the violence and murder…

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The President’s hand

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Listening includes watching. Do the words match the body language? If they’re different, what does the body language tell us that the words do not?

I’ve been watching the president’s hands lately. He’s doing something different with them. With palm facing the rest of the world, his fingers are spread apart, as when one pushes someone or something away. Other times they seem to be waving something away.

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There are fewer closed circles with pointed fingers, although they still appear at moments that are just as telling as his facial expressions.

Every one of us is a community of voices from the past — the community of DNA and family culture — and it is not unusual for the voice of a father to shout in a son’s ear even at the age of 71.

 

FredTrumpArrestWhen one grew up in the shadow of a father who had been arrested and discharged, rightly or wrongly alleged to have marched with the KKK, and years later had been investigated by a U.S. Senate committee for wartime profiteering and by the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for civil rights violations, what is the son to say and do following the nation’s focus on Charlottesville, Virginia?

Publicly slap his father, give him the back of his hand? Defend him by feuding again with the “faux media” that wrongfully accused his innocent father of being a KKK marcher and white supremacist? Push the rest of the world away from the family whose patriarch’s reputation as a tenant landlord drew the scornful attention of Woody Guthrie?

Only Donald or members of his closest family can tell us. But, like most families, this one knows how to keep its secrets.

For the nation’s sake and for his, one might pray and hope that those within Mr. Trump’s closest circle — not the circle of his public persona of closed certainty, but the intimate circle of those who him best and love him — will take the President’s hand the way a mother takes the hand of a frightened child and walk him to Trump Tower . . . or to a hospital where he can get the care he needs.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 17, 2017.

 

Sinner, do you have my groceries?

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I’d never thought about groceries back in Broomall. We’d drive to the Acme, fill the grocery cart, and bring the bags home. It was just part of daily life. Or so I thought.

groceriesI was 17 the day I learned about groceries in America.

Tony and I had become friends at Pennington Island, the church camp in the Delaware River, after meeting each other on the Saturday several years before when the junior-high youth groups from Marple Presbyterian Church and Berean Presbyterian Church had met during a service project at the Green Street Settlement House.

NLIOn Pennington Island the kids from Philadelphia and the Philadelphia suburbs spent nights together in the same cabins, rose early for “morning watch”, played games, ate the same food at the same tables in the mess hall, swam in the same swimming pool, and sang hymns and spirituals like Jacob’s Ladder. We were living in the same economy while climbing somewhere together.

After the week or two on Pennington Island, the members of his ideal economy would say good-bye and return to the disparate circumstances whose differences we preferred not to know.

Ignorance was bliss. Until the day Tony visited our home in Broomall, 15 miles west of Philadelphia, and watched my mother pull into the driveway with the groceries. My mother spoke of it years later as one of those moments that opened her eyes.

7769907-1955-buick-special-std-cAs we began to unload the groceries from the ’55 Buick, Tony’s eyes grew bigger. There was more than one bag. Never had he seen multiple grocery bags. When the Lewises had a little money, they’d bring home what they needed for the day…or maybe two, on a good day. There were never five, six, seven bags of groceries.

“Sinner, do you love my Jesus,” we had sung in the egalitarian economy of Pennington Island where we were climbing higher together. But unloading the grocery bags that day in Broomall, the difference in groceries seemed more like a symptom of sin – the gulf of separation between two worlds. One home was much “higher” than the other — one white, one black; one privileged, one not — in a black and white economy.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 14, 2017.

 

 

 

Into a dense fog: Sinner, do you love my Jesus?

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The descent from my suburban home in Broomall to serve the “less fortunate” on Green Street sent me home looking into a dense fog.

The Wanderer

Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog –  Caspar David Friedrich, c.1818

I had given up a Saturday as a youthful answer to the song I learned has a child. “If you love him, why not serve him?”  Serving Jesus meant serving those who were less fortunate than we, as we used to describe the difference.

The kids from Marple Presbyterian Church in Broomall were aware that Jacob’s Ladder and the other spirituals we sang rose from the slave fields of the white Southern plantations, but the plantations were in the south. We were northerners. We were the abolitionists. We were part of the solution, not the problem.

The day on Green Street knocked me off my ladder. Those few hours on the calendar time of Chronos were a pivotal Kairos moment that placed me before a dense fog searching for answers to how and why life was so different for the two junior high youth groups from Marple Presbyterian Church in Broomall and Berean Presbyterian Church in north Philadelphia.

How and why was it that Tony was born into poverty while I was born into relative economic wellbeing in a suburb became a daunting question. I was looking into a dense fog.

Prior to the plunge to Green Street I hadn’t paid much attention to the first word of the stanza about loving Jesus: “Sinner… do you love my Jesus?” Although I knew myself to be a sinner — I had told a lie or two and not been kind to my younger brothers — I was no Judas! I was a soldier of the cross. “If you love him, why not serve him, soldier of the cross?”

Suddenly, the fog was not just outside of me. It was inside me, a jarring sense that I and “my people” were self-deceived sinners.

But what is sin and what is a sinner? Institutional slavery was sinful.  The slaveowners were sinners. I knew that. The slaveowners were white. The slaves were black. I knew that. The slaveowners were Christians. I knew that. The slaves were Christians. I knew that — or thought I knew it.

I didn’t learn until much later that the slaves were forced into the Christian faith no less than they had been herded like cattle onto slave ships, or that the difference in the churches was as different as it had been on the slave ships. The difference was that on board the slave ships, the slaves were chained together in the hold while the slave traders were up above; in the churches, the slaves were up above in the rear balcony, looking down on the sea of whiteness on the main floor. Until Richard Allen led the revolt from the balcony to form the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

But the kids from Berean Presbyterian Church were not African Methodist Episcopalians. They were Presbyterians in the theological tradition of the Protestant Reformation, John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, and the doctrine of predestination.

Was Tony predestined to poverty in north Philadelphia? Was I predestined to white privilege in Broomall? Or was predestination a hoax, the idea of sinners washing their hands like Pilate that had nothing to do with the will of God?

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Frau am Fenster
Caspar David Friedrich, 1818–1822
Öl auf Leinwand
44,0 × 37,0 cm
Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin

I was no longer standing on the heights of innocence overlooking the landscape. I was a child of privilege, confined and alone, looking through a very small window at the world beyond what had belonged to “my Jesus”. I was pondering the ships of past and future and the dense fog that went on as far as my eye could see. It has lasted my whole lifetime.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 11, 2017.

 

GOP Leaders MUST Convince the President to Resign

“The Resignation of Donald J. Trump,” Part 3 by John M. Miller.

Trump-fantasies

GOP Leaders MUST Convince the President to Resign

Donald J. Trump is an extreme narcissist. As such, he is in the highest possible position to do the greatest amount of damage to the United States of America. Already he has thrown American government and politics into an unprecedented quandry.

The President must leave the presidency at the earliest possible date. More and more people in the news media, in Congress, and in the American public are stating this with undisguised candor and concern.

Neither an impeachment trial in Congress nor congressional action utilizing Amendment XXV can occur nearly quickly enough to evade the increasing and inevitable  chaos which awaits our nation and the world should the President continues in office for another three-plus years. America cannot afford to wait until the election of 2020 to resolve this crisis at the ballot box. It must be firmly addressed and terminated soon.

Mr. Trump is clearly so mentally debilitated that his continuation in office inevitably nourishes a rapidly-growing malignancy on the presidency. Our democracy simply shall not survive in its present form, because Mr. Trump is dismantling it far too quickly. His erratic behavior is undermining political structures that have taken decades or centuries to erect. For the healthy future of America, the President must resign, and as soon as possible.

But how can such a monumental step be arranged? Because of the nature of his mental condition, the President will not voluntarily resign unless he is subjected to such extreme pressure he realizes he has no other option. And there are no publicized concerted measures being taken to insure that herculean option shall occur anytime soon.

The Singular Historical Precedent and the Current Situation

Within a few days and weeks of his assuming the presidency, a few news pundits and others began comparing the Watergate scandal to the avalanche of Trump alleged illegal or unwise actions. Months ago, however, most students of political history said President Trump’s activities were of quite a different character from those of President Nixon, and the Watergate analogy was widely dismissed.

6401745-nixon-cover-upThe Watergate scandal is the only such abuse of presidential power in the nation’s history that forced the resignation of an American President. But as the Trump presidency has rapidly plummeted, it is painfully instructive to compare 2016-17 to 1972-74.

The full breadth of Watergate could not be evident when the July, 1972 break-in occurred at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office building in Washington. What was described by President Nixon as a third-rate burglary actually seemed like a third-rate burglary at the time, a failed caper of an inept gang who couldn’t shoot straight. But then the story slowly began to grow.

Before the election of 2016, there were isolated rumblings about a dubious Russian connection in the Trump campaign. After Mr. Trump’s election, the rumblings grew louder. Investigative reporters in the news media kept bringing up stories that appeared to validate the suspicions of Russian skullduggery in the 2016 election, possibly encouraged by candidate Trump himself.

In a televised speech in August of 1973, President Nixon denied any White House involvement in Watergate. Most Americans believed him.

In a string of speeches and tweets since early 2017, President Trump has denied any Russian irregularities or illegalities. Initially, many American believed him, but many others were viscerally unwilling to believe anything he said. As personalities, Nixon and Trump are mentally and temperamentally more unalike than alike, even though there are many similarities.

In the fall of 1972 Nixon ordered the CIA to impede the FBI’s investigation. In the meantime, seven Watergate conspirators were indicted. Five pled guilty to avoid a trial, and two were convicted at trial in January of 1973.

In mid-2017 President Trump ordered FBI Director James Comey to stop the FBI investigation into the Russia connection and other potential irregularities or illegalities. When Comey refused, he was fired. A new FBI director was eventually approved. In the meantime, Congress appointed a Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, to begin an investigation of President Trump. The President has threatened to fire Mueller, but on the very strong advice of many White House and congressional counselors he has refrained thus far from doing so.

In the fall of 1972, the Senate formed its own committee to investigate Watergate. Judge John Sirica, who presided at the trial of the Watergate conspirators, began to demand more information as the trial proceeded.

In the spring of 2017 the Senate and the House Intelligence Committees began their own investigations into allegations regarding Russia and other potential improprieties in the Trump administration.

John Dean, President Nixon’s White House attorney, revealed under oath that President Nixon secretly taped every White House conversation he ever had with anyone. Judge Sirica demanded that the tapes be turned over. In the summer and early fall of 1973, Mr. Nixon postulated that executive privilege allowed him to refuse to do so. Archibald Cox, the Special Prosecutor who had been named, Judge Sirica, and the Senate Investigating Committee again demanded the turnover of the tapes.

In the summer of 2017, many people have asked whether all presidential conversations in the White House are taped. To date Mr. Trump has declared there are no such tapes, and even if there were, he said executive privilege would protect them from outside investigation.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAuMAAAAJGNlNzQ2NGEyLWI4YjMtNGJhZC04MzYwLTgwYzQyMDhlMWVmMAOctober 23, 1973 was the date of the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre.” In it Richard Nixon fired Archibald Cox. Several high-ranking Republicans in the Justice Department resigned in protest.

Since he took office, Donald Trump has fired several key members of his administration. Regularly he hints at firing even more.

On March 1, 1974, after much legal wrangling, President Nixon finally turned over most, but not all, of the White House tapes. A grand jury also indicted seven White House aides, referring to the President “an un-named co-conspirator.”

In July of 1974 the Supreme Court ordered all the White House audio tapes to be released. Mr. Nixon resisted the order, and the House of Representatives initiated an impeachment trial against him.

On August 5, 1974 Mr. Nixon at last relinquished all the tapes. They proved his part in the Watergate cover-up beyond any doubt. On August 8, after consultation with his closest associates, the President resigned.

The English political philosopher Edmund Burke made a statement which has rung true ever since he said it almost three centuries ago: “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

The Relationship of Donald Trump to the GOP

When there were seventeen people vying for the Republican nomination for the presidency, sixteen of those candidates declared in varying ways and with varying words that Donald Trump was not really a Republican. His behavior during the campaign and since his election has sometimes, but not always, proven them correct. Mr. Trump’s appeal is based on populism, not on traditional Republican principles, although many of his decisions in office certainly do reflect a time-honored conservative philosophy.

The Wall Street Journal has probably been a Republican-leaning newspaper as long as it has existed. During the primary campaign, their opposition to Mr. Trump was very obvious. Since his election, their support of his policy decisions has been squeamishly tepid at best.

Recently, WSJ published a story about the President’s remarks to a group of law enforcement officers in which he urged them, “Don’t be too nice” when arresting “thugs.” Other law enforcement officials took strong issue with the President’s get-tough remarks. The Journal article seemed to side with the more irenic observations of the executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association than with the President.

  Another WSJ story had the headline, “Trump Deepens GOP Divide.” It cited how the President’s attacks on the attorney-general, the collapse of the GOP health bill, the demand to bar transgender people from the military, and the White House staff shake-ups have caused serious fissures in the Republican Party. It quoted former Rep. John Jolly, a Republican from Florida, who said, “Particularly among some of my former colleagues in the House, there is a frustration and lament about opportunities squandered in what should be a prime time for the Republican legislative agenda.”

A recent USA Today story was entitled “War with his own party risks isolating Trump.” The writer, Susan Page, wrote, “(The President’s) ability to reach voters drawn by his personal appeal rather than his party affiliation has been a source of his political strength and possibility in a nation where allegiance to Republicans and Democrats has eroded.”

Therein lies a major factor in the unique political dilemma Donald Trump represents. He is as strong as ever with his base. But his base cannot be equated to the traditional Republican base. Instead it is solely the Trump base of support and not the wider Republican base.

Daily he tweets to his base. When under severe attack, he immediately stages a rally of his supporters to cheer him up and cheer him on, as he did recently in West Virginia. His tweet that transgender people should not be allowed into the military appealed to many of his most ardent followers. But because it was simply a tweet, and not an official presidential order, the military has very noticeably done nothing and apparently intends to do nothing to implement the mercurial twitter.

Mr. Trump’s erratic actions are enormously disruptive. They often represent no carefully-considered or official policies. Instead, they represent only the momentary mental meanderings of an unstable mind.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in PhoenixDonald Trump is a bully. Every objective biography of the man chronicles that he has been a lifelong bully. Narcissists usually exhibit that behavior. Typically, bullies are defeated only when confronted by the employment of overwhelming force or by the threat of overwhelming force. Before tanks surround the White House, there is a logical and increasingly obvious means of resolving the Trump Dilemma.

Donald Trump cannot be faulted for being an irremediable narcissist. No one with any mental disorder would ever choose it. But it is inadvisable, unpredictable, and unacceptable for any government, especially a democratic one, to enable someone who is mentally unstable to remain in its highest office.

No one knows Donald Trump’s long-range intentions, including Donald Trump. Probably he is mentally too flighty to have any long-range political plans. But his day-to-day decisions are so damaging that for the sake of American stability, he must quickly be removed from the presidency.

Very soon, a sizable coalition of Congressional Republican leaders plus some of the highest members of the Trump administration must confront the President, demanding his resignation. The nation cannot afford the lengthy time it would take to go through an impeachment trial or an Amendment XXV congressional hearing. And we certainly cannot risk waiting forty-plus months to vote Mr. Trump out of the White House.

Whether Donald Trump is a genuine Republican is, and always will be, debatable. But he ran for the presidency as a Republican, he won as a Republican, and, at least for the present, he has not disavowed the Republican Party.

Therefore it is only Republican leaders who can bully the bully into resignation. If they fail to do that, they shall irreparably damage their party in the 2018 congressional election and the 2020 presidential and congressional election.

This country needs two responsible political parties. Whether the Democrats are currently acting responsibly is also a debatable and ongoing question. But fact is this: The necessity for restoring the political health of our nation now rests primarily on the backs of the most influential Republican leaders.

Throughout the tumultuous Trump presidency, there has been a widespread sanguine opinion that the USA will survive Donald Trump, whatever might happen in the next three and a half years. We have managed to survive numerous other crises in our 240+ years of history. But when you consider what has happened in just the last seven months, it may be a very sanguine view that we shall inevitably muddle through once again.

It took more than two full years for Watergate to be resolved. The past seven months feel like seven years. If we wait nearly three and a half more years, it will seem like an eternity. Remember Edmund Burke.

A sanguine attitude toward the current crisis could be the correct one. If so, the dark musings of these three essays are all in vain. If such a view is incorrect, however, a laissez faire opinion may eventually be perceived to incur as much guilt and condemnation as the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

  • John Miller is a writer, author, lecturer, and preacher-for-over-fifty-years who is pastor of The Chapel Without Walls on Hilton Head Island, SC

 

The Resignation of Donald J. Trump, Part II

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The Unacceptable Risk of Impeachment

Second in a four-part series on The Resignation of Donald J. Trump by john M. Miller. Graphics and links have been added by Views from the Edge.

President Trump must be convinced it is in the nation’s interest and his own personal interest to resign the presidency. Having made that brazen assertion, it must be noted it is totally impossible under current circumstances that will happen anytime soon.

narcissism2As was stated in the first of this series of four essays, our President has a very serious personality disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the most commonly used sourcebook to designate and describe various mental diseases and abnormalities. Its enumeration of the symptoms of narcissism is clear and lengthy.

Donald Trump fits every single one of those symptoms in astonishing and easily quantifiable detail. He constantly exhibits severely narcissistic behavior.

One of the primary characteristics of narcissists is that they are fully convinced they are rarely and perhaps never wrong. Because of that terribly unfortunate characteristic, it is almost certain that Mr. Trump would never resign anytime soon. From his standpoint, why would he? Why should he? He is convinced has done nothing wrong. Any narcissist who does no wrong does not resign, ever, especially if he is Donald Trump.

If the nation refuses to recognize and affirm that the President must leave office, and soon, we place ourselves in grave danger. Do we consciously intend to do that?

Not long ago the columnist Charles Krauthammer renounced his membership in the Republican Party. He did so, among other reasons, because he finds it incomprehensible that the GOP itself has not renounced Donald Trump for his “pathological need to display dominance.” Charles Krauthammer has been a lifelong Republican and is a very gifted political thinker. If someone such as he takes a position such as this, it is a vitally important statement, whether or not anyone agrees with its essence.

By no means is there presently a sufficiently widespread resistance to the President’s conduct in order for any person or group of people to persuade him to resign. But what about impeachment? Might he be found guilty in a constitutionally-provided impeachment trial?

The Four Major Presidential Investigations

Section 4 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution says this: “The President, Vice-President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes or Misdemeanors.” A two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress is required for conviction in an impeachment trial.

There are at least four important investigations being conducted regarding potentially impeachable actions of the President before or after being sworn into office.

170608104254-07-comey-testify-0608-exlarge-169The FBI, under its then-director James Comey, was already conducting an investigation of activities by Mr. Trump before his election. It has not divulged the nature of that investigation.The President fired Mr. Comey precisely because of the existence of that inquiry, and a new director was named. The FBI is continuing its investigation. At some point, presumably, they shall publicize their findings.

In addition, within weeks of the President taking his oath of office, the Senate and the House Intelligence Committees started looking into what were alleged irregularities by the President with respect to his dealings with foreign governments, particularly Russia. Since each of those committees has a majority of Republican members, and since Donald Trump is a Republican, understandably neither committee is working at the swiftest possible pace. If they discovered and could prove that the President had violated any laws, it is difficult to imagine that they would immediately report their findings. For their own protection, The Republican committee members would drag their feet as long as possible.

170518_ASSESS_Mueller.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2In the meantime, Congress named Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to look into possible breaches of law by the President. As soon as Mr. Mueller was designated as Special Counsel ( not Special Prosecutor, as in the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton), Mr. Trump has threatened on numerous occasions to fire Mr. Mueller. Thus far the President has reluctantly followed very powerful advice not to do that because of the potentially disastrous political fallout it would almost certainly evoke.

It is unrealistic for any citizen or elected government official to imagine that any of these four investigations will rush to judgment. They might not be ethically inclined to do that if the one being investigated was a low-level clerk in a government department accused of wrongdoing, let alone the President of the United States. None of these investigations, as thorough as they may be, is likely to turn up anything of legally verifiable substance in the next several months or for the next year or more. The wheels of justice, with very good reason, grind exceedingly slowly.

Furthermore, if any of the four investigations were shortly to recommend an impeachment trial of the President, it would never succeed. Republicans, and perhaps some Democrats as well, would see to that. Such a result would further solidify the unshakeable conviction of the fiercely loyal Trump base that an evil cabal of enemies are conspiring to scuttle the attempts of a genuine reformer who is seeking to re-establish a true government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

lead_960If things are bad now, they would be infinitely worse in the event of a failed attempt for an impeachment trial. The uproar of the Trump base would be deafening.

Narcissism 165639-170250Unless or until key leaders of Congress and the most respected members of the President’s Cabinet convince him to resign, he shall not give up his office. His narcissism will surely prevent that. Meanwhile, every day everyone in the news media spends inordinate time and space covering the latest unpredictable actions of Mr. Trump. His huge (“’uge”) ego can never receive too much of this attention, negative as it may be. Why would the sufferer of such an extreme personality disorder voluntarily relinquish the continual coverage in which he luxuriates?

The Unacceptable Risk of the 25th Amendment

Ah, but what about the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution? Does it not offer an alternative means of removing a President from office, other than by resignation or impeachment?

Indeed it does. Its first three sections address a presidential vacancy by death or resignation, and how the Vice President constitutionally is then empowered to assume the office of President.

It is the Fourth Section of Amendment XXV that offers a Congressional alternative to removing a President if he neither dies nor resigns. Reading the Constitution can be fascinating, but it also can be befuddling. Section Four of Amendment XXV is one of those befuddling parts. After some mystifying, muddled language (you can read it for yourself), it says that Congress must “determine by a two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

164868-kjnsdvdgvIf the wheels of justice grind slowly, the wheels of Congress to remove a President for being “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” for medical reasons would grind inordinately slowly. And if extreme narcissism is the unfortunate condition which is purported to render Mr. Trump incapable of continuing as President, trying to employ Amendment XXV right now would be an unimaginable disaster.

Suppose that any of the ongoing four large-scale investigations into presidential wrongdoing were quickly to conclude that in fact the President had committed high crimes or misdemeanors. Even more unlikely, suppose they decided his criminal actions were the result of his mental derangement. There is far too little political or ethical support currently for Congress to initiate the politically treacherous procedure whereby the President might be found unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.

There is an undeniable political polarization which has paralyzed Congress for far too many years. Any effort presently to remove the President by constitutional impeachment provisions or by Amendment XXV would be doomed to acrimonious failure, and would only further polarize the electorate. That would be particularly true among those who continue to support Mr. Trump to the greatest degree possible.

Many congressional Democrats would be delighted for partisan political reasons to seek the President’s removal from office on the basis of his being mentally unable to fulfill his office. They believe it could assist in their next re-election. For precisely the same partisan political reasons, many congressional Republicans would do everything they could to prevent the removal of the President by means of Amendment XXV, because they believe their resistance to the effort would enhance their own re-election. That indicates how partisan all of them are in their thinking, and how little they are considering what is best for the country.

Far too many professional politicians perceive the Trump presidency as a purely political issue. It is not. It is a constitutional issue. There is an increasingly rapid growing threat afoot to undermine American democracy.

Donald Trump, Abdel Fattah al-SisiUnder Donald Trump, we are all witnessing the USA turning into a dictatorship. However, too many of us are too distracted by the daily news cycle to admit that alarming truth. We are becoming a Russia, a China, a Syria, a Turkey, a Philippines, or a Venezuela. Yet we steadfastly ignore the obvious trend because of our daily distractions and our cowardly timidity.

How can we exit this potentially if not actually catastrophic situation?

  • John M. Miller, August 3, 2017

[John Miller is a writer, author, lecturer, and preacher-for-over-fifty-years who is pastor of The Chapel Without Walls on Hilton Head Island, SC. For Views from the Edge readers, John is a personal friend, ministerial colleague, and author. We share the same alma mater.] 

 

A Good Kick from a stagnant place

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This idea that sometimes we need a good kick in order to advance from a stagnant place is not new and does not always find biblical inspiration. Nietzsche said in 1888 “Aus der Kriegsschule des Lebens – was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich starker”– “From the war school of life – what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.” – Peter Luijendijk, Dec. 21, 2016.

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Friedrich Nietzsche

How I got to Peter Luijendijk, the rabbinical student at Leo Baeck College, and the controversial philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), he quotes would take too long to explain. Suffice to say it was a serendipitous event inspired by a 3:30 A.M. awakening. I didn’t know of Peter Luijendijk, until this morning when I rushed off a “friend” request on FaceBook.

Although a good kick is always good for advancing me from my stagnant place on the couch with my best friend, the MacBook Air, it was a search for the source of the Nietzsche quote that introduced me, so to speak, to Peter.  “Aus der Kriegsschule des Lebens – was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich starker” had caught my attention moments before as one of three quotations featured on a college religion professor’s faculty page.

Not many religion professors quote Nietzsche to introduce themselves on a college website. Nietzsche is one of those philosophers pious religious types love to hate, in no small part because of his parable of the prophetic madman — the eccentric town crier who announces to the town that God is dead and “we have killed him!”– in Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

Go back now to where this reflection started — the quotation by Peter Luijendijk is part of a Chanukah reflection on the Leo Baeck College (London) online publication. It appeared there as part of a commentary on the Genesis story of Joseph’s survival (Parashat Vayeshev, Genesis 37:1 – 40:23).

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Overbeck, Johann Friedrich, 1789-1869. Joseph sold into slavery, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=47452 [retrieved August 2, 2017]. Original source: http://www.yorckproject.de.

It turns out that Peter, like Joseph’s painter, Johann Friedrich Overbeck, and Willem Zuurdeeg, the pioneering philosopher of  religion whose work so heavily influences me, is Dutch. Nietzsche’s parable of the madman was pivotal for Zuurdeeg as well. Is there something about being Dutch that leads a Jewish or Christian scholar back to Nietzsche for a good kick in order out of a stagnant place?

This morning the world is making us all Dutch, sending us back to Nietzsche and the town crier who announces that the god of our illusions is dead, leading us to post the quote on a faculty page intro in hopes of a being stronger, more courageous, and perhaps . . . therefore even more biblical.

Peter Luijendijk’s online reflections on the Joseph story concludes with a word of hope in a time of deep darkness like our own:

I guess what I am trying to say is “Kol zeh ya’avor” this all will pass – it will become better. When Rabbi Lionel Blue z’’l talked about the festival of Chanukah in 2013 at the Chanukah reception in Parliament he “commented on a modern miracle – the social change that is leading to widespread acceptance for LGBT people in our society – by saying “Chanukah is a festival of wonder, and tonight is truly a wonder”.*  Chanukah celebrates survival, hope and the promise that the world’s natural AND spiritual light WILL come back. That, my friends, is the hope imbedded in Chanukah and that is the hope imbedded in the story of Joseph and his family.

At 3:30 A.M. this morning, I feel stronger and very, very Dutch.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 2, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking America’s Temperature

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Is America’s temperature changing, or is it about the same as Gore Vidal claimed 36 years ago?

“Americans understand that the game is rigged, and they’ve had enough of it. They’re ready to fight back. They want a Washington that works for them, I think that people are getting more engaged, politically, and they’re seeing through a lot of the rhetoric that politicians have been throwing out there for a long time. They want to see some real change, and I think that’s what we need to work on.” – Senator Elizabeth Warren, 2017.