Inflammatory Rhetoric

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INTRODUCTION

After posting “The Incendiary President” yesterday, someone with better memory than I remembered the guest commentary aired by Minnesota Public Radio’s All Things Considered 10 years ago. Some things don’t change. The audio has vanished, but MPR’s archives preserves the text. In 2020, we are reaping the harvest of what we’ve sown.

When political rhetoric poisons . . .” – All Things Considered (MPR), March 29, 2010

Our nation is being poisoned by inflammatory rhetoric. How else does one explain the sending of a used condom to a Minnesota congresswoman, or the phone message left on Rep. Keith Ellison’s answering machine: “Timothy McVeigh said dead government workers are good government workers. Goodbye, Sambo”?

And that’s just here in Minnesota.

The success of a democratic republic depends upon the civility of its citizens and their respect for the offices of public servants, regardless of who occupies the office. Unless we clean up the language of our civil discourse, we are inviting unimaginable tragedy.

According to a Harris Interactive Poll taken this month, “more than 20 percent believe [President Obama] was not born in the United States, that he is ‘the domestic enemy’ of whom the U.S. Constitution speaks, that he is racist and aynti-American, and that he ‘wants to use an economic collapse or terrorist attack as an excuse to take dictatorial powers.’ Fully 20 percent think he is ‘doing many of the things that Hitler did,’ while 14 percent believe ‘he may be the anti-Christ’ and 13 percent think ‘he wants the terrorists to win.'” 

Though I distrust the percentages of any poll, whatever the real percentages of such views, this cocktail is lethal. But it is not new. The acrid taste is familiar to my generation We grew up in another time when the civil discourse was being poisoned.

Sen. Joseph McCarthy was dumping poison — instigating a national witch hunt for communists and communist sympathizers in government, the entertainment industry, and labor unions. In the spring of 1954, McCarthy’s crusade of insinuation, innuendo and guilt by association was brought to an end by journalist Edward R. Murrow and Joseph Welsh, attorney for the U.S. Army.

Sharpening his teeth to devour his adversary by character assassination, McCarthy snarled and reminded Welch that one of Welch’s colleagues had belonged to an organization suspected of communist sympathies. Welch replied with words we all need to hear again: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Welch’s words took our breath away back then. They still do. A sense of decency is the only thing that will strengthen us to escape the politics of assassination and allow us to seek solutions in a difficult time. In Murrow’s words, “We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from the fearful.”

Painting the president of the United States or members of Congress with McCarthy’s sloppy brush as domestic enemies — let alone as the Antichrist — gives deranged minds a license to send used condoms or hateful voicemails. Or even to plot an assassination.

I am a pastor. The use of Christian scripture to stoke the fires of fear and hate are the hardest to take. The Christian life takes evil seriously, but there may be no greater evil than ill-informed, loud spirituality. All the great religions hold some version of the essential tenet expressed in the First Letter of John, which, incidentally, is the only place in all of Christian Scripture that the idea of the Antichrist appears. “He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still.”

Where are the likes of Edward R. Murrow and Joseph Welsh now? We need them again.

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Gordon C. Stewart, Minnesota Public Radio (91.1 FM), March 29, 2010. Re-posted September 4, 2020.

Support MPR or your nearest NPR affiliate.

Trump ghost writer Tony Schwartz tells his story on YouTube

Video

Tony Schwartz knows Donald Trump in a way no one else does. Ten (10) days before the 2016 election, he shared his experience at an Oxford University public forum preserved on YouTube.

Click HERE to listen in on what you knew and didn’t know before listening to the ghost writer of The Art of the Deal, the book that put a 38 year-old real estate developer on the NYT Best Sellers list and onto the world stage.

Gordon C. Stewart, author of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (49 two to four page social commentaries on faith and the news), Chaska, MN, April 4, 2020.

The Oath: “I do solemnly swear….”

Interview in the Oval Office

George Stephanopoulos’ Oval Office interview with President Trump is going viral. For the first time in history an American president sees nothing wrong with a candidate for public office accepting a foreign government’s dirt on an opponent.

Oaths of office

Every member of Congress knows that’s illegal. However how wide the chasm between Republicans and Democrats on this president or the Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election (“Mueller Report”), there should be no question about this one. President Trump handed Congress an issue on which its members are sworn to act. Either the President was ignorant of the federal law that protects the integrity of the American electoral system or he was consciously defying the rule of law.

Republicans for the rule of law and the Constitution

Today Republicans for the Rule of Law begins airing “THE OATH” — a TV ad calling on Congress to act. Click HERE for more on THE OATH. Bill Kristol, serves as director of Republicans for the Rule of Law

photo go Bill Kristol, Director of Republicans for the Rule of Law

Today Republicans for the Rule of Law begins airing “THE OATH” — a TV ad calling on Congress to take action. Click HERE for more on THE OATH.

Bill Kristol, a conservative highly respected in Republican Party circles, is director of Republicans for the Rule of Law.

Previous Views from the Edge commentaries on impeachment

As always, leave a comment to join the conversation, if you wish.

If you’ve come by Views from the Edge, you know where we stand. If you haven’t visited us before today, Click our May 25 commentary In the winkling of an Eye: Impeach or Wait? Or click Impeach or Wait: It’s an Oath of Office Question for MinPost’s republication and reader comments.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 14, 2019.

Mad King George and the national emergency

King George III is remembered as the “mad” British king responsible for losing the American colonies that became the United States of America, a constitutional democratic republic. The cause of George’s illness continues to be a matter of dispute.

The new American constitutional republic turned its back on King George III [shown here in Allan Ramsay’s portrait “King George III in coronation robes”] and on any future British royals who might re-claim the American colonies. But old habits die hard, and, it seems, old Kings never die.

Mad kings like King George III occasionally re-appear in dark suits and red ties without their coronation robes when a free people forgets its origins. “Mad King George” disguises himself as the people’s sole protector against barbarian invaders who threaten his realm. “Mad King George” throws a fit as defender of the republic, and once again raids the nation’s treasury to protect an anxious people from the threat that comes from his head.

“A new way to pay the National Debt” (1786). James Gillray caricatured King George III and Queen Charlotte awash with treasury funds to cover royal debts, with Pitt handing him another money bag. A quad-amputee sits on the ground to the left with an overturned and empty hat between the stubs of his legs, which are fitted with prostheses.” – uploaded from Wikipedia entry on Mad King Charles.

This morning, King George III, acting under the limited powers granted a president by the U.S. Constitution, declared a national emergency to stop the invasion from the southern border. Announcing his decision in the White House Rose Garden, he declared, as he had centuries before in England:

“Anyone who does not agree with me is a traitor and a scoundrel.”

I never believed in ghosts, but I do believe experience is our best teacher. Some ghosts come back to haunt us. After all these years, the ghost of “Mad King George” has emigrated to the colonies to reclaim the subjects he once lost.

— Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 16, 2019.

Faith, Patriotism, and the Administered Consciousness

After a week of contentious struggle in the U.S. Senate that left the nation not just red and blue, but black-and-blue, I harkened back to “the administered consciousness” (Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man) that mutes Cain’s question after he had slain his brother Abel: “Am I, or am I not, my neighbor’s keeper?” And “who is my neighbor?”

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week. (Beyond Comprehension…)

Live & Learn

87 Elephants Slaughtered in One of the Largest Poaching Incidents in Africa (Sept 3, 2018, LiveScience.com)


(Photo via Newthom)

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The Day America Changed

How did we get here?

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The National ENQUIRER and other tabloids at a supermarket checkout counter

Looking back at what led to the election of Donald J. Trump, historians and cultural anthropologists may mark the day in the 1960s when the National ENQUIRER first appeared at supermarket checkout counters, where Americans buy our groceries, as a turning point in American culture.

The National ENQUIRER (click the link) is not a newspaper. It’s not the New York Times, Washington Post, or Los Angeles Times. It’s a tabloid that substitutes sensational photos and titillating headlines for responsible journalism. The National ENQUIRER and the Star, both owned by American Media, Inc., are not driven by the search for truth. They’re driven by profits that appeal to shoppers’ appetite for entertainment — sex, scandals, and alien visitations — purchased at check-out counters across America.

The story of the ENQUIRER’s origins and sudden omnipresence at America’s checkout counters one day in the late 1960s is captured in the following summary of Paul David Pope’s book, The Deeds of My Fathers. The book’s subtitle — How My Grandfather and Father Built New York and Created the Tabloid World of Today” — tells the story of those deeds.

Thrown upon his own devices, Gene [Pope] spies a newspaper he wants to run, the New York Enquirer. With a loan from “Uncle Frank”—mobster Frank Costello, his real-life godfather—Gene buys the paper, reinvents it as the National Enquirer, and forces its distribution onto grocery checkout counters nationwide. With an unerring sense of his audience, Gene sees his newspaper as appealing to a prototypical female reader dubbed “Missy Smith.” Increasingly tyrannical and eccentric, he scolds reporters who hand in weak copy: “I’m not crying,” which meant Missy Smith wouldn’t be, either. Gene gives readers what they want, as he covers the paranormal, medical cures, celebrities, ever mindful of the dreams and fears of everyday Americans. The result: a new species of modern media—the supermarket tabloid. Circulation soars, peaking with the 7 million copies sold of the Enquirer’s 1977 exposé on the death of Elvis Presley.

This week we learned that David Pecker, CEO of American Media, Inc., the parent company of the ENQUIRER, has accepted immunity from federal prosecutors in New York for agreeing to cooperate regarding the ENQUIRER‘s “hushing” of salacious stories about Donald Trump in the run-up to the 2016 national election.

American Media, Inc describes the ENQUIRER’s editorial mission on its website.

Enquiring Minds Want To Know!

The National ENQUIRER has a proud 92-year history. Insatiable headlines, scandals and unforgettable stories have made this title a household name! We report the unvarnished stories about celebrities: their antics, celebrations, loves, mishaps.

Plus, the ENQUIRER covers high profile national and international scandals like no other with exclusive breaking news. If it’s a gritty true crime story, or political scandal, no matter what is reported, National ENQUIRER readers are first to know!

Enquiring minds might wish to have read Karen McDougal’s suppressed story before casting votes in November 2016. But money is money, profits are profits, and supermarket tabloids like the National ENQUIRER remain indebted to “Uncle Frank”.

 

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“Uncle Frank” — Frank Costello, American mobster, testifying before The United States Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce (Kefauver Committee), 1950.

How did we get here? We got here as a result of contracts with supermarkets and drug stores that slowly erode the fabric of the culture on which a democratic republic depends. The ENQUIRER’s longer history includes open support for fascism and a not-so-open deal with Uncle Frank whereby the ENQUIRER would never criticize the mafia.

The 2016 national election says as much about the change in American culture — our obsession with entertainment and entertainment culture’s preference of crying over thinking — as it does about the National ENQUIRER or about a sitting president who rants about “fake news” while whittling away at what still remains of our respect for truth, decency, real news . . . and the rule of law.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 25, 2018.

Remembering the Music Man

Video

Turning 76 reminds me of “Seventy-Six Trombones” from The Music Man. Every town loves a parade. What’s a town without a parade? Or a big marching band? The Music Man, Harold Hill, arrives in peaceful little town of River City, and convinces its citizens that “they got troubles”. He’s a con man who sells musical instruments, promising to create the greatest marching band the world has ever seen, led by 76 trombones.

Sound and look familiar? No parades. Please, no parades.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 12, 2018.

A Uniquely Grateful Graduate

Some people’s stories are priceless. Austin Wu’s is one of those. Austin shared his last night at Chaska High School’s commencement.

Austin is a neighbor and friend recognized in Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness, published in 2017. He will begin his undergraduate studies at Macalester College in September.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 9, 2018.

Grandpa, do I need lawyers?

Oh, my! Why would you think you need a lawyer, Elijah?

IMG_0255I didn’t say ‘lawyer’, Grandpa. I said ‘lawyers.’ Sometimes you don’t hear so well or just don’t listen. But that’s okay. So, how many lawyers should I have? How many do you and Grandma have?

Right now we don’t have a lawyer, Elijah. We don’t need one.

Why? 

Well, we don’t have need for one, and our lawyer retired, so she’s no longer practicing law.

You have to practice to be a lawyer? Can we practice being lawyers?

It’s confusing. Practice doesn’t mean trying, like trying to walk or say ‘Grandpa’ or throwing the ball to Barclay. It’s a different kind of practice.

FredTrumpArrest

Fred Trump

Yeah, and you can’t practice alone if you’re a lawyer, right? I’ve been watching Ari on The Beat. Michael Cohen’s a lawyer and he has lots of lawyers. President Trump has lots of lawyers. He keeps hiring and firing them. So how many lawyers should we have, Grandpa. You need at least ONE.

Okay, I see where you’re going. But Grandpa doesn’t need a lawyer right now. Neither does Grandma or your Mom. We’re not in any trouble.

I’m in trouble, Grandpa. ICE is coming to my daycare! I know my rights under the Constitution! But Juan and Carlos don’t have rights like me. Their parents don’t either. We’ve been practicing what to do if ICE comes to our daycare. I’m going to be a lawyer when I grow up!

Good for you, Elijah. But before you think about practicing law, let’s practice saying ‘Mama’ and ‘Grandpa’. So far ‘Uh-oh!” is your only word. You need more words, not more lawyers.

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, April 21, 2018.