It feels like years ago

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Already it feels like years.

It was just 13 months ago – Feb. 16, 2016 – that Pope Francis made news in Mexico after then candidate Donald Trump spoke of building a wall and making the Mexican government pay for it.

After saying Mass at the Mexican-U.S. border in February, the kindly Pope who named himself after Francis of Assisi, the advocate for the poor who prefers the Vatican guest house to the Pontiff’s palatial quarters, offered his view of the Christian life:

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.”

Francis’s statement has firm roots in Christian Scripture and the tradition. Ambrose (c. 340 – 397), Bishop of Milan, one of the four early Doctors of the Church, for instance, declared that “giving to the poor was repayment of resources bestowed on everyone equally by the Creator but which have been usurped by the rich.”

It’s not just a matter of charity. It’s a matter of economic justice.

In a June 28, 2016 CNN interview candidate Mr. Trump said that, compared to the fortune the Mexicans are making off the the U.S., paying for a wall “is a tiny little peanut compared to that. I would do something very severe unless they contributed or gave us the money to build the wall.”

Today the billionaire candidate who promised “something very severe” if Mexico didn’t “give us the money to build the wall” is President of the United States and the Pope is still the Pope. Mexico has refused to pay for the wall. The President’s proposed budget includes money for the wall while cutting funding for programs on which low and middle-income Americans depend and funding for the State Department, the builder of diplomatic bridges among nations like Mexico and the United States.

As the President spends his weekend at Mara-Larg-O  with the bill sent to the tax-payers, I recall Francis’s response to Mr. Trump’s criticism. “At least I am a human person,” he said, adding that, as for being a pawn of the Mexican government, he’d leave that “up to your judgment and that of the people.”

The judgment was made on November 8, 2017. Four months later it feels like years.

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

 

 

 

Over-the-Top

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I blame it on the White House Chef.

Saturday morning should have started with a hot breakfast, but it didn’t. The President woke up tweeting over-the-top accusations against his predecessor, whose legitimacy (“not born in the U.S.A.”) he had spent a fortune to undermine, the black one whose two terms were without scandal. Suddenly, before breakfast arrived, the former President had become Nixon and Watergate and all things “sick” and “bad”.

Bugged by President Trump’s outrageous claims, FBI Director Comey immediately demanded that the Justice Department issue a statement that President Trump’s claim about Trump tower being bugged has no basis in fact. The Justice Department, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions whose unexpected recusal from the Justice Department’s investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election had just infuriated the President, denied the FBI Director’s request.

The President is out of control – his own or anyone else’s. His fears, imagination, and impulses control him. Someone in the White House needs to tell the White House Chef to bring him his favorite breakfast at 5:00 a.m. before he turns the world upside down with over-the-top conspiratorial tweets or, instead, uses the nuclear codes to one-up Kim Jong Un.

Monday, March 6,  the six Monday of  A.T.* 1, the whole world depends on the White House Chef and kitchen.

*Anno Trump

  • Gordon C. Stewart, eating my Wheaties, the Breakfast of  Champions, Chaska, MN, March 6, 2017.

 

 

Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes!’

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If the choice in the 2016 Presidential election had been between Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders, I believe now, as I did then, that Sanders would have won.

What the two had in common was that they were “outsiders” to the political status quo. Both spoke about strengthening the working class, creating jobs, bolstering the economy with infrastructure investment, getting Washington, D.C. out of the Wall Street bedroom, refusing to take big donor money. Both spoke with passion. Both sometimes spoke like unvarnished straight-talking guys comfortable in the “no B.S.” Truck Stop locker rooms. They said what they meant and they meant what they said.

Bernie was the first democratic socialist since Eugene Debs to capture the attention of the American electorate. Many believe his socialist views, the opposite of the billionaire capitalist, would have condemned him to defeat in the 2016 election.  I argued that, to the contrary, Bernie would have exposed Trump as a fraud, a phony whose business record proves him to be the opposite of the working class – a spoiled brat member of the Billionaire Class, a 1 % beneficiary of crony capitalism. Bernie was the straight-talking common man and woman’s candidate who spoke truth to power and presented himself as the candidate who would take back the power on behalf of a fairer society.

The straight-talking democratic socialist Bernie was and is my guy.

But listening to him on “State of the Union” yesterday, I found myself wanting to whisper into his headset: “Just let your ‘Yes’ be a simple ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ a simple ‘No’; anything more than this has its origin in evil” (Matthew 5:37, CJB).

Like the political insiders he had opposed, Bernie wasn’t answering the question.

“State of the Union” Moderator Jake Tapper’s question was simple and direct.

“Are you going to give your list (of campaign donors) to the Democratic National Committee so that you can help them become more grassroots?”

I hoped for a straight ‘yes or ‘no’, followed by an explanation, but got neither. Bernie was answering like a politician with an answer that, in effect, said ‘no’ without saying ‘no’, playing the cat-and-mouse game straight-talking truck drivers and folks at the union hall and the neighborhood bar-and-grille voted against in the 2016 election.

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men,” said Lord Acton (1834-1902) more than a century ago. Bernie is a good man. But he was exercising his power against corruption by controlling the large list of small donors who had contributed to the campaign of the candidate whose ‘yes’ was ‘yes’ and whose ‘no’ was ‘no’.  And while the DNC and the Sanders campaign engage in a political trade war over the list, the Billionaire Class that controls the DNC, the RNC and Congress, and the billionaire behind the desk in the Oval Office obfuscate reality, refusing the hear that “anything more than (‘Yes’ or ‘No’) has its origin in evil,” and contributing further to the erosion of trust and hope for something better.

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

 

 

 

When the “gaggle” gobbles the press

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It was just a “gaggle” – an informal off-camera gathering of the press. But it was another small step in the Trump Administration’s war on the press, as reported here by The New York Times.

Little by little the abnormal (alternative facts) creeps forward to become the new normal.  Only a diligent “Fourth Estate” – the free press whose freedoms are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment – with full access to “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” – stands between democracy and autocracy.

This is serious. Breitbart News, the alt-right news media once headed by White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, was in on the gaggle. It’s enough to make a grown man or woman gag at the “gaggle” and gobble back at the Gobbler.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN

 

 

The Bannon Presidency

Every day that the White House chaos grows worse, President Trump escalates his attack on the fake news of the fake media.

As the President’s approval ratings tumble, It doesn’t take much to imagine Steve Bannon, the alt-right “news man” of Breitbart News as the key figure in the new Administration, pushing the President to get back in front of the cameras to shift the blame the media and reassure his shrinking base in an ill-conceived, hastily called Press Conference.

This morning the NYT published David Brooks’s piece zeroing in on Steve Bannon as the strategist of chaos pulling the strings behind the bully pulpit.

In an administration in which “promoted beyond his capacity” takes on new meaning, Bannon looms. With each passing day, Trump talks more like Bannon without the background reading.

Click  What a Failed Trump Administration Looks Like  to read Brooks’s editorial.

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

Praying for the President

Yesterday was at once heartening and frightening.

The Women’s March participants refused to Echo, the tragic nymph of the Greek myth who, enchanted with Narcissus’ charm, loses her own voice except to echo Narcissus’ words as Narcissus stares at his own reflection across the pond. Meanwhile, on the same day, Narcissus, despairing of Echo’s recovered independence, went across the river to visit the CIA – the intelligence community he had scorned – in hopes they might become the new reflecting pond and echo that would confirm his claims to singular greatness as the new Commander-in-Chief.

The President is disintegrating before our eyes. Mental health is about integration – the spiritual/psychic process by which a person brings together the disparate parts of the self and the various conflicting sorts of experience into a greater psychic wholeness. This process requires a center that does not depend upon the adulation or negation of others.

Yesterday we saw a lonely, frightened man with neither the Echo nor the reflecting pond into which he stares to be reassured of his real self.  He is a sick man deserving of prayers and pity. But when a threatened narcissist has access to the nuclear codes no one else in the world has, prayers for this president become prayers for ourselves and the planet that reflect a greater glory than Narcissus’ reflection.

“The whole Earth is the theater of God’s glory.” – John Calvin.

As a member of the Confirmation Class  at First Presbyterian Church of Jamaica in Queens, NY, a young Donald John Trump learned by heart the first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Question: “What is the chief end (i.e. aim or purpose) of man?”

We have need to hope and pray the 70 year-old Donald remembers the antidote to the psychic integration and disintegration of Narcissus:

Answer: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy God forever.”

The Book of Common Worship (1946) in use at the time of the President’s confirmation includes this Election Day:

Almighty God, who dost hold us to account for the use of all our powers and privileges: Guide, we pray Thee, the people of these United States of their rulers and representatives; that by wise legislation and faithful administration of the rights of all may be protected, and our nation be enabled to fulfill Thy purposes. . . .  Amen.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 22, 2017.

 

 

The Waterbeetle President

Something is dying today at noon Eastern Standard Time.

Not everyone holding their breath on Inauguration Day is . . .  a liberal, a radical, an anarchist, a socialist . . .  a whatever. Click “Trump is the waterbeetle of American politics and he’ll keep on flabbergasting” to read conservative columnist George F. Will‘s Washington Post opinion piece. Wednesday’s Washington Post is worth a read today. So is the NYT photo of the President-Elect and new First Lady in front of the statue of Abraham Lincoln (look closely at Lincoln’s face) at the Lincoln Memorial.

I believe in the resurrection of hope. But I experience today as a Good Friday and Holy Saturday kind of day, a day when collective madness delivers the Oval Office and the nuclear codes into the hands of a waterbeetle.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017.

 

 

Wrong swamp – trumpery

“Drain the swamp” had a nice ring to it, until you realize that a swamp is an essential part of nature. Think Everglades. Think nature undisturbed. Think the spaces that have been drained and filled by real estate developers – pristine places we humans once regarded as wasteland waiting to be cultivated by a more civilized, more cultured species than tadpoles, frogs, alligators and crocodiles.

When Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp, some hearers believed he was talking about the human swamp of Wall Street and corrupted politicians.

Now we know he meant something else. His cabinet appointments are Wall Street billionaires and corporate executives with histories of destroying the natural swamp for the purposes of real estate development, fossil fuel industry profit, and profit.

The Oxford online dictionary defines “trumpery“as:

“Showy but worthless: ‘trumpery jewellery’
“1.1 Delusive or shallow:
“[as modifier] ‘that trumpery hope which lets us dupe ourselves’”

Before getting excited about draining the swamp, ask for clarification about which swamp will be drained, who is going to drain it, and for what purpose. Otherwise, it’s all trumpery, and we’ve been duped.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 4, 2017

When Trump becomes an adjective

Trump is getting Trumpier is the headline of David Brooks’s NYT editorial. Its reference to psychological discussion of the sources of Narcissism and examples of the candidate’s speeches increasingly spiraling out of control are worth the read . . . and cause for prayer.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, July 19, 2016

BREAKING NEWS: TRUMP OUT!

This morning @7:30 a.m EST on Good Morning, America, Donald Trump announced he would not accept the Republican Party nomination after all.

Taking off his “Make America Great Again” cap, puckering his lips and brushing back his orange hair before putting on his NY Yankees hat,  Mr. Trump declared,

“I’m a businessman! I never wanted to be president. I just wanted to shake things up. I’m a winner! I won! All politicians are liars and Losers! It could have been so great! Have a nice life, everybody!”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, reporting for Views from the Edge: Breaking the Chains that Bind Us, May, 27, 2016