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

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This first installment in “The Resignation of Donald J. Trump,” a four-part series by John M. Miller, is published without comment. The photographs have been added.

I. The Presidential Personality Disorder.

DSMThe Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is, if you will “parson” the expression, the Bible of psychiatrists and psychologists. Here is what it says about the narcissistic personality disorder:

“The essential is a Personality Disorder in which there are  grandiose sense of self-importance or uniqueness; preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success; exhibitionistic need for constant attention and admiration; characteristic responses to threats of self-esteem; and characteristic disturbances in interpersonal relationships, such as feelings of entitlement, interpersonal exploitativeness, relations that alternate between the extremes of over-idealization and devaluation, and lack of empathy. The exaggerated sense of self-importance may be manifested as extreme self-centeredness and self-absorption.”

No one familiar to any American citizen could more completely fit that description than the President of the United States of America. Donald J. Trump has a serious personality disorder. He exhibits it on a daily, often on an hourly, basis. His actions are classic examples of narcissism.

Mental health professionals declare narcissism to be one of several personality and mental disorders. Not all psychiatrists agree that a personality disorder is a form of mental illness. However they do agree that narcissism is sufficiently abnormal that it can be classified as a mental disorder.

narcissus-caravaggio-300x363Narcissists seek attention. They crave attention. For them to feel fulfilled, full-blown narcissists believe everything going on around them must be about them. If anyone or anything else is the focus of attention, they feel diminished and thwarted. Because that behavior is so aberrant, it is categorized as a mental disorder.

The United States of America and the entire world are in a burgeoning crisis because of the increasingly erratic behavior of the American President. We are being led, and far more frequently misled, by an utterly unpredictable human being. His unpredictability is the result of his narcissism.

It is an extremely provocative statement for anyone to claim that the American President has a mental disorder. That is particularly true when an elderly preacher with little formal training in psychology is the one making the claim. Yet for more than half a century this elderly preacher has observed many parishioners and others who were narcissists. All of them were relatively harmless. Donald Trump is anything but harmless.

It is amazing that millions of American voices have not joined in a cacophonous chorus of citizens who also have unhappily identified the sober and somber condition of our President. His actions verify that he has a severe, and rapidly growing, mental disorder. Recently Charles Krauthammer wrote that the President has “a pathological need to display dominance.” Would that other widely-read columnists would also join their colleague in his accurate assessment.

Why isn’t there a much more widely acknowledged demand for steps to be taken to overcome the grave threat facing us? Many newscasters are concerned, and Democrats in Congress are nearly apoplectic. Yet the American people as a whole thus far are passive bystanders. The danger facing us because of the President’s flawed perception of reality is as great as it was in World War II or in the Cold War, although it is a very type of danger. But we are still a nation of Neros, fiddling while Rome burns. And remember: It was Nero himself who set Rome ablaze.

Every day the President lights matches and throws political bombs both large and small. His rants and tweets and insults indicate his instability, but there is no concerted movement to force him to resign. Why?

The basic explanation for our hesitation is that our nation has never been in a situation like this before. The President declares himself to be the greatest President since Abraham Lincoln. He claims to have passed more legislation during his first six months than any previous President. These and many other such statements are undeniably delusions. They are not the mere braggadocio of a television reality-show host; Mr. Trump honestly believes these statements. His most zealous supporters apparently also believe them.

During the past century, several other narcissistic men like Donald Trump crossed the stage of history, leaving a huge and bloody swath behind them. Four such fellow narcissists were Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Saddam Hussein.

President Trump is determined to remake America in his own image. That is what narcissists with unlimited political power invariably do. Power goes to the heads of the all-powerful. Hitler became Nazi Germany, and Nazi Germany was Hitler. Stalin became the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union was Stalin. Mao became China, and China was Mao. From the 1970s through the 1990s, Saddam became Iraq, and Iraq was Saddam. People who seek complete political power may not have been narcissists before they initiated their lofty seizure of total control, but they become extreme narcissists during the pursuit.

Almost all narcissists are content to seek attention on small stages, because that is where they live. Gigantic narcissists seek attention on a huge stage. And in the process they require opulent palaces and dachas and country or city or beachside estates to keep them satisfied in their narcissism.

Let us be clear. This is no attempt at this point to equate President Trump to the aforementioned four infamous dictators. His behavior up to the present is not nearly as draconian as theirs. But I am suggesting it is inevitable that a particular kind of personality disorder when yoked with growing or unquestioned political power can exacerbate that disorder into an enormous and potentially disastrous mental imbalance.  That is the tragic and dangerous path our President is quickly traversing.

Dictators rarely begin their political careers as dictators. They are shrewd enough to realize that totalitarian power must be seized carefully and slowly. Eventually, however, care and a leisurely pace are jettisoned for a complete seizure of all the authority the state is able to command.

Any authoritarian who is utterly inured to the sufferings they cause their own people is, by definition, a severe narcissist. The history of totalitarian regimes is the history of unlimited narcissism in the pursuit of unlimited power.

Probably no two of the four autocrats herein cited had exactly the same kind of personality disorder as Donald Trump. By their very nature, personality disorders are likely completely individualized. Nevertheless, by their behavior authoritarian autocrats manifest a distinctive kind of illness which apparently afflicts only those who are given or who acquire unrestricted political power.

Donald Trump is no more to be blamed for his mental disorder than are people with physical illnesses to be blamed for their maladies. The President deserves compassion and sympathy. He is not an inherently evil man, though that is what many of his detractors think. Nor did he choose in his early years to become cantankerous and a deliberate promoter of chaos, though he is extremely cantankerous and chaotic. But he displays those qualities because of his personality disorder, not because of any carefully considered choices. In truth, it seems that few or none of his choices are carefully considered, which is another glaring index of his illness.

It is easy to denigrate Donald Trump, but one should not denigrate someone suffering from a serious personality instability. His daily behavior verifies the magnitude of his malady. However, when the most powerful man on our planet is afflicted with what clearly should be widely perceived as a dangerous mental imbalance, something must be done to rectify an intolerable situation.

To say that the President is mentally unstable is not to say that he is an unable person. He is incredibly able, amazing able, astoundingly able.

In a fairly narrowly circumscribed but very successful strategy, Donald Trump became a partisan political genius, like many other such previous narcissistic political geniuses. He is demonstrably a master salesman, having exhibited the art of the ultimate political deal by becoming President of the United States. He has astonishingly solidified what he loves to call his “base.” And he closed that “deal” over the year and a half that he campaigned for the Republican nomination as President, the three months he campaigned as the Republican nominee, and the six months he has served as President. Over eighty percent of those who voted for him are still extraordinarily enthusiastic about him.

That unflagging support is an enigma to the 60+ percent of the population who now disapprove of his performance as President. Still, it is the positive proof of his extraordinary political acumen that his base has scarcely lost one scintilla of their zeal for their man.

We need to remember, though, that the same phenomenon was observed in the millions of Germans, Russians, Chinese and Iraqis who were so committed to Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Saddam during their bloody reigns of terror. No one can seek and maintain total power in an authoritarian state without strong endorsement from a sizable percentage of the population, even if the support is based on unmitigated fear.

The Multiple Firings, Dictatorial Decisions,

and the Beleaguered Jeff Sessions

The many people who have already been fired in the Trump Administration is an example of how serious his illness is. Literally no one in his right mind would fire so many key people in such a short span of time, and for such spurious peccadilloes, unless his judgment had become badly impaired. It is not a brain tumor which has caused this behavior, but it is surely the result of an impairment in his brain, namely, his major personality disorder.

The President demands complete loyalty from everyone serving “at his pleasure.” If he detects the slightest disloyalty, even if his assessment is completely mistaken, the “offender” is gone. There is no point in listing the names of the many people who have unceremoniously been ejected from the Trump administration. Nor is there any purpose in trying to guess the reasons for any of the political bloodletting. No reason was needed, and usually no plausible one was offered. If the President suspected disloyalty, the person was out.

No completely sane leader of any organization would dismiss so many key members of that organization in so short a time. It is obviously disruptive and demoralizing to everyone in his administration. Unfortunately, very talented irrational people often do become leaders of organizations, but irrationality and effective leadership are always in constant conflict. To allow such behavior in the chief executive of the United States government is politically and organizationally irresponsible. It is not a reality show the President is overseeing; it is the American government.

_93836096_037486020-1The number of presidential executive decisions, apparently made in consultation with no one, is incomprehensible. The volume of the rumblings in the White House and throughout the various federal departments is rapidly growing. The military have been caught off guard and have been deeply embarrassed several times by ill-conceived presidential orders. The entire federal government and bureaucracy are constantly forced to wonder what shall happen next.

Those who have remained loyal to the President firmly believe it is his carefully considered intention to act as he does. They imagine that he wants to keep everyone in suspense. His presidency is, he proudly informs us, “a new kind of presidency.” That is a statement no one would or could dispute.

But it should be obvious to everyone that Donald Trump does not carefully consider anything. He acts solely on impulse. By all accounts, he does not devote much time to study reports or recommendations, including his daily intelligence reports. Nonetheless, with cavalier disregard, he instantly makes decisions which affect not only the policies of the USA, but of our allies and the entire world. He has frequently undercut time-tested policies which have been in place for decades, without even attempting to explain why he did it. He just does it. It is what narcissists do.

When he was the CEO of his own corporation, living by his own rules, he had the authority and the unrestrained ability to do such things. As President of the United States, this bizarre behavior guarantees nothing but enormous political apprehension and uncertainty. It cannot and must not be tolerated.

Mr. Trump’s incurable narcissism is surely the subconscious explanation for his bizarre actions. He knows he shall be excoriated in the news every hour of every day on the 24/7 news networks, except on Fox, his and his base’s favorite news network. He loves Fox and detests the others, but if the others are decrying his every move, he is ecstatic, because they are criticizing him. He must be the center of every controversy in order for his giant, fragile ego to be nourished.

Bad coverage is always preferable to no coverage for a narcissist, and he guarantees himself bad coverage. If everyone is talking about him, he is happy, regardless of what is being said.

The President’s treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions is an incomprehensible example of the President’s skewed behavior. For weeks he has been berating him and accusing him of being disloyal. And he does this to the first major politician to endorse him early in the Republican primary campaign. It is inexplicable — except that it isn’t.

170720142106-26-jeff-sessions-life-and-career-gallery-super-169Mr. Sessions will probably refuse to resign. If so, the President may fire him. Mr. Sessions and the United States Congress are well aware that could foment a constitutional crisis. Apparently Mr. Trump does not understand that, nor does he seem to care.

No stable, even-tempered, thoughtful, rational person would do the things Donald Trump continues to do every single day. Only an unstable, ill-tempered, thoughtless, irrational person would do that. A mentally healthy person would never act the way our President acts repeatedly and frequently.

The man is mentally unstable. There is great peril for the nation if we allow the current situation to continue. Four years of this presidency are unimaginable. Mr. Trump must resign. We, and he, have no other alternative.

But Donald Trump being Donald Trump, how shall that ever happen?

  • July 29, 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.

Future installments are:

The Resignation of Donald J. Trump: II – The Unacceptable Danger of Impeachment

The Resignation of Donald J. Trump: III – Only GOP Leaders Can Convince Mr. Trump to Resign

The Resignation of Donald J. Trump: IV – The Twitter-in-Chief

 

 

Taking America’s Temperature

Video

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.

 

Acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez – a Response

The following letter from Presbyterian Church (USA) leaders in Minnesota arrived this morning in response to the acquittal of police officer Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting death of Philando Castile.

“Nearly a year ago, in a community overwhelmed with anger, grief, frustration, and despair at the shocking video images of the shooting death of Philando Castile, and then at the roiling protests that have followed, we—the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area—joined our voices together with each other and with many others in a cry for comfort, for equality, for justice.

“We committed ourselves to prayer for the family of Philando Castile, that they would know our God’s deep and abiding presence, and for the many others so deeply grieved by these events. We prayed for our community,that amidst its deep divides and fractured relationships, amidst the fear and anger especially of our black community, we in the church might find words of comfort and challenge to speak into the yawning chasm of societal fractures and divides. We prayed for our police officers and all who daily place themselves in potential harm’s way in order to protect us. And we said, firmly and unequivocally, that Black Lives Matter, and we committed ourselves as a Presbytery to the work of understanding white privilege and to anti-racism.

“That work is not done. Today, we are compelled to revisit those prayers and commitments in the aftermath of the acquittal of police officer Jeronimo Yanez, a verdict that ripped open a family’s overwhelming grief and further caused our African-American brothers and sisters to fear anew that their lives indeed do not matter in this country.

“As followers of Jesus, our task is to listen, to hear, to act, in response to the call of God and the voices of the people. And so we again join our voices in prayer for the family of Mr. Castile. But we must not stop there. We must commit ourselves anew to work for end the perpetual sense of fear and suspicion under which our African American brothers and sisters constantly live. Whetherwe live in a community with very few people of color or with many, no one of us has the luxury of being detached and unaffected. Those of our society who feel suspect and vulnerable are our very sisters and brothers in Christ. As Christians, we must stand with them.

“We are challengedto look anew into the imperfect structures of our society; and to speak our belief that every person is created in the image of God, even as we confess our denial of that very belief in the sin of institutional racism. We must speak our belief that “Christ’s work of reconciliation is made manifest in the church,” knowing that, too often, we have allowed our ideological differences to fracture our unity in the One Body. We must challenge ourselves anew to proclaim Christ’s words, “that they may all be one,” knowing the essential need for all Christians of privilege to seek deeper understanding when so many of our brothers and sisters cry out for a justice they do not know.

“Our African American brothers and sisters have implored us to raise our voices on their behalf. Together, we in the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area re-commit our voices and our actions to better seek justice and work for the good of all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.Give us the determination to build new or deeper relationships, as together we seek new ways to partner in work for a just society. Give us courage, in all that we do, to be not simply speakers of peace, but peacemakers.”

The Presbytery Leadership Team, Sue Rutford, chair
The Executive Presbyter, Jeffrey Japinga

Jake’s bench visitor

The stranger sits alone on Jake’s’ bench under the elm tree in the grassy area behind the seasonal Mexican food truck parked at the edge of the Cooper’s Food parking lot.

It’s not everyone who comes to sit on Jake’s bench. I wonder whether he knows of Jake and whether he’s read the inscription etched into the marble:

“Now Jake is a man who wonders why the world is torn asunder. Better worlds he plans, where joy is at hand, and people can live in peace and plenty”.

Mexican food truck 55d36cc8485e9.imageHis back is turned to the picnic table where I eat my taco from the food truck. I only see him from the back, which, come to think of it, is how one sees Jake here – the way Elijah saw God from a cave while God passed by: from the back, the mystery of the Presence maintained against every mortal effort to control, define, or reduce a mystery to a thing.

A bedroll and a pair of well-worn shoes sit on the ground under the inscription. A pair of dirty, wet socks sits on the bench beside him. Clearly he’s been on the road. Is he a hiker on a long trek? A traveler passing through Chaska? Does he have a home somewhere else? Is he homeless and torn asunder in this world?  Or maybe he’s a rare fellow-traveler pausing in the company of Jake on Jake’s bench.

CoopersFoods1Jake’s bench is meant for the weary traveler.

Jake Cooper was an American socialist, the second generation of Cooper’s Foods.

Cooper’s still sits there today, hosting the Mexican food truck, a witness to an era when care for a stores’s customers were more important than updating its physical appearance and service to the community was as important as profits. Cooper’s is the most generous business in Chaska, the go-to supplier of food for community events and good causes. Coopers is a community institution. Its Deli offers complete meals for under $6.70 with portions large enough to provide dinner for two with some left over. Best little restaurant in Chaska! It’s not a money-maker, but it pretty much pays for itself, says Jake’s latest successor at Cooper’s – and it serves the people who can’t afford higher end restaurants or who just know good food at a great price. An example of the spirit of American democratic socialism to whose dream Jake’s bench still bears witness behind the Mexican food truck.

Whether the stranger sitting at Jake’s bench came by chance or came to pay his respect to Jake, he is like most of us in this day and time: a weary traveler who wonders why the world is so torn asunder, and hopes for a better world of peace and plenty.

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

 

 

Who will you stand with today?

Dear Folks,

There is a custom at a little church in the Midwest that goes like this. Whenever a person is about to be baptized, the minister calls out to the congregation, “Who stands with this child?” and the extended family or close friends rise from their seats and offer an outward and visible testimony of their inward commitment.  They stand, hearts brimming and knees shaking, even though they know sometimes their love might seem compromised or limited or unreciprocated.  They rise to pledge that they’ll do the best they can. These are the folks in the child’s life who know that growing up has never been easy, the people who know that being a parent is hard work in the best of circumstances.

And this custom of folks popping up here and there in the pews at a baptism makes the church feel cozy and warm and like a family, but I want to warn us from easy sentimentality, from striving to build a church in which it would be simple to guess who might stand for whom.  The community of faith is more than a family.  The measure of our vibrancy is not when we gather amiable people to stand with their neighbors… rather the church is created when enemies break bread together, when one broken-hearted outcast stands up for another, when a queen kneels before a poor, unwed mother or a recovering addict, and calls her sister.

That is the society that we are trying to create here and beyond, at home and at work and at play.  The community of saints is both more welcoming and more challenging than most of our biological families.  Our litmus test is not blood, but the spirit, and when we are at our best, the spirit of God is breathing through us wherever we go.

A child named Matthew was presented for baptism at an Episcopal church a few years back, and I imagine a group of folks stood to support him and his family as they gathered around the font.  But that same Matthew, child of God, was beaten and left for dead as a young man, tied to a fence post like yesterday’s garbage, because his way of being challenged some people’s idea of family values.  He loved “the wrong person,” another man, and that made some of his neighbors mad.  So one dark night, two very scared and confused young people, also God’s children, acted out of their own brokenness, and their fear turned murderous.

It would not have surprised me if Matthew’s parents had settled into their own murderous rage, mirroring the worst of their son’s killers, looking for vengeance, an eye for an eye.  But his parents did something extraordinary.  They asked for their son’s killers to be forgiven.  They stepped beyond the narrow circle of family of blood into the family of the spirit, and saw another son staring back at them through the eyes of their enemy.

Our true brothers and sisters are as likely to be our so-called enemies as our friends.  Jesus says, blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for what is right and merciful, because that is what the human family looks like and feels like and hurts like.  Jesus is describing us.  We belong to each other.  Any walls we build between us, of race and class and gender, of sexuality and nationality and ethnicity, of political party and religious tribe, are walls of fear.  Each of us has been a wanderer and a stranger, and our call is to make the world feel more like home for all.

Who will you stand with today?

MEMORIAL DAY 2017 – REMEMBERANCE

Moment after learning that “Memorial Day and the Soldier’s Helmet” was too long to air today on MPR’s “All Things Considered,” Marilyn Armstrong’s SERENDIPITY Memorial Day 2017 stood out from the in-box. Best wishes for a thoughtful Memorial Day.

SERENDIPITY

Memorial Day


Memorial Day (formerly Decoration Day ) is observed on the last Monday of May. It commemorates the men and women who died in military service. In observance of the holiday, many people visit cemeteries and memorials, and volunteers place American flags on each grave site at national cemeteries.

A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.

72-Flags-Party_07

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

The first large observance was held that year at…

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A very sad little man

A video is worth a thousand words. A push. A “get outta my way” shove. The quickly changing facial expression. The peacock fanning his tail. So much for the conversation with Pope Francis: “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” It stuck like silly putty. Or…like water off the back of a very sad little man. The President misunderstood the Pope’s quotation from John 14. “In my Father’s house there’s only enough room for me.”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 26, 2017.

When a megalomaniac is cornered

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150th anniversary logo of The Nation

Sasha Abramsky’s article “Trump is a Cornered Megalomaniac — and That’s a Grave Danger to the Country” (The Nation, May 21) examines the growing crisis in the White House and the clear and present danger it poses.

“Men like Trump,” says Abramsky, “do not fade gently into their political night. Rather, with all nuance sacrificed in pursuit of their senescent need for the spotlight, they scrabble and scratch, lash out and fight. With no self-limiting or self-correcting moral gyroscope, they go down whatever paths they believe offer them the best chance of survival.”

I read Abramsky’s article yesterday and recalled a brief conversation last December aboard ship on The Nation Annual Cruise.

This morning the President was playing from the script, doing Abramsky warned he would: fighting back, lashing out at the “fake media” who don’t want him to “drain the swamp of Washington bureaucrats” in order to “make America great again,” the media who have treated him worse than anyone in American history, against those who keep making stuff up like “the Russian thing.” Donald Trump was using “all the tricks of the demagogue as he fights for his survival” (Abramsky).

A Facebook “Friend” posted a Trump call for readers to rise up in support of the victimized people’s President. This afternoon I can’t seem to find it and wonder whether perhaps Facebook, which revised its policy that allowed splattering false news in the 2016 election, had censored the post as faux news. Whatever the reason for the post’s disappearance, the reason for its initial appearance was clear.

But three things seem clear.

  1. The game is on. “Donald Trump’s grotesque presidency now hangs by a thread. By the hour, it seems, the possibility of impeachment, of him being declared incompetent to govern—or, at the very least, of his own party bringing irresistible pressure on him to resign—grows.” (Abramsky)
  2. This President has shown repeatedly that he is capable of almost anything, including, God forbid, creating or exacerbating an international crisis of epic proportions, in the megalomaniacal struggle to survive.
  3. My Facebook “Friend” doesn’t agree with any of that. She still believes in the President. She’s a good person, a fallen-away Catholic. We’re still “friends” on Facebook and in real life.

But, hey, who knows what may happen?

The President’s trip includes a meeting with the Pope. Maybe Pope Francis will hear his confession, convince the beleaguered, lapsed Presbyterian president to resign, and convince the likes of my lapsed Catholic Facebook Friend that wise people don’t confuse demagogues with victims.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 20, 2017.

 

 

 

 

Why do we feel so unhinged?

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Vertus cardinales par Germain Pilon (Louvre)

Yesterday a friend reminded me of the Four Cardinal Virtues:

  1. prudence (wisdom),
  2. justice,
  3. temperance, and
  4. courage.

They are called ‘cardinal’ (Latin cardo; English: ‘hinge’) because they are the ‘hinges’ of the good life and the good society. These are the hinges on which the door to the good life opens.

We don’t think much about ‘virtue’ in the Ayn Rand society. We have learned to recoil at the smugness of those who claim to be virtuous. Even so, one is led to wonder whether we recoil at the imprudent, ill-tempered tweetings and firings in the news because of lingering respect and yearning for the Four Cardinal Virtues, the traditional moral hinges of our cultural heritage.

Prudence/Wisdom. In Greek and Roman philosophy – the works of Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero – and in subsequent Christian teaching, all other moral virtues depend on prudence or wisdom (Greek: φρόνησις, phronēsis; Latin: prudent): the ability to judge between appropriate (i.e. virtuous as opposed to vicious) actions in a given time and circumstance.

Temperance (Greek: σωφροσύνη, sōphrosynē; Latin: temperantia) – restraint, self-control, abstention, discretion, and moderation – is the practical exercise of prudence/wisdom.

Justice (Greek: δικαιοσύνη, dikaiosynē; Latin: iustitia) is the moral and economic balance between selfishness and selflessness, between having more and having less than one’s fair share.

Courage (Greek: ἀνδρεία, andreia; Latin: fortitude) means not only fortitude/strength, but forbearance, endurance, and the ability to confront fear, uncertainty, and intimidation.

Could it be that the daily unhinged violation of the Four Cardinal (hinge) Virtues is why we feel so unhinged?

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, the Ides of March, 2017