America’s divided house

thinking

Following a long and tedious, tortuous presidential campaign rife with insult and innuendo, counterfeit story lines of candidates’ illnesses and inabilities, conspiracy theories of media favoritism and rigged election processes, and virulent threads of racism, sexism, and nativism, Hillary Clinton carried the popular vote and Donald Trump, winning the Electoral College, is America’s 45th President-elect.

The election is over, but no one’s happy.

Not Clinton stalwarts, many, perhaps most viewing Mr. Trump, at best, as unseasoned in governance and unprepared to govern and, at worst, a personification of a wholly self-interested, ethnocentric, exclusionary ugly America.

And not Trump supporters. To wit…

On Thanksgiving Day eve, a Michaels arts and crafts store customer in Chicago, proclaiming, “Yes, I voted for Trump, so there!”, erupted into a profanity-laced, racial-tinged tirade protesting discrimination at the hands of African American employees.

This past Wednesday, a Florida man, berating a Starbucks barista as “garbage” and “trash”, made the accusation of “anti-white discrimination”, though ostensibly for poor service, linked to his self-identification as a Trump supporter.[1]

This past Thursday, Clinton and Trump chief strategists joined in the now, since 1972, traditional presidential election post-mortem at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. The customary civil character of the gathering quickly evaporated in the heat of mutual verbal fusillades of anger, if not also contempt, some of it markedly personal.

On June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln, then the state Republican Party’s nominee as Illinois’ United States senator, channeling Jesus,[2] delivered what became known as his House Divided Speech. Lincoln, as a latter-day prophet, speaking of America in the light and shadow of the idea, the reality of institutional slavery, said, in part: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free…Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it…or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States…”

The presidential election is over and no one’s happy. There are few gracious losers. There are more sore winners. Depending on where one stands, hope is shrouded in varied shades of doubt and fear and civility trumped by schadenfreude-esque self-satisfaction. America again is a house divided, and, according to Lincolnian and biblical wisdom, cannot stand. Which way will we go?

 

Footnotes:

[1] In a nation of over 325 million people, I would and could discount these two incidents as anomalies; considering them to be peculiar expressions of individuals at particular and isolated moments of personal stress or distress. However, in light of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s tabulation of 867 acts of intimidation and violence, most unabashedly motivated by racial or religious animus, coming within ten days after Election Day, I view the Michaels and Starbucks episodes, reflective of a larger and most worrisome malaise, as manifestations of a communal, national psychic disorder.

[2] When Jesus was accused by the religious authorities of casting out demons by Satan’s power, he answered, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3.23b-25, my emphasis).

Advertisements

a word spoken cannot be unspoken

thinking

A word spoken cannot be unspoken.

The effect of an uttered word is long-lived and, as the proverbial ripples, the consequence of a stone cast into a pond, ever-widening, non-ending.[1]

A word spoken cannot be unspoken.

An advisement that we take care, very great care with the words we share. I am reminded of the admonishment of the Apostle James: The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire…No one can tame the tongue; a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.[2]

A word once spoken cannot be unspoken.

I think of that now generations-old observation of children, in my experience and hearing, often spoken in public settings as an apology to others for unruly behavior: “S/he’s bad” and in private directed at the child as a word of reprimand, “You’re bad.” In either case, what is missed, I think, is the effort to discipline by conveying to our children the desired or required behavior rather than almost necessarily teaching our children that we believe them to be inherently disorderly.[3]

A word once spoken cannot be unspoken.

I – and this is long look back in the day (and dating myself and giving insight into my adolescent curiosity!) – think of that boundary-breaking, rabble-rousing comedian and social activist and critic Lenny Bruce.[4] In one of his famous (infamous?) routines, Bruce laced the air with a repeated torrent of denigrating epithets about every identifiable ethnic and racial group. His aim? To delegitimize those words by their overuse, rendering them ineffectual elements in the arsenal of the wounding weaponry of racism and nativism. A brilliant, even noble effort, I think, but one that…did…not…work. The words remain; their use rising with society’s anxiety with the progress toward universal equality and inclusivity.

A word once spoken cannot be unspoken.

I think of America’s recently (finally!) completed presidential campaign that saturated, sullied the communal climate with all manner of invective. In this, I especially consider our 45th President-Elect, Donald Trump, whose mastery of the act (the art?) of insult – among them, through the Republican primaries, “Low Energy Jeb” (Bush), “Lyin’ Ted” (Cruz) and “Little Marco” (Rubio), and then, during the general election, “Crooked Hillary” (Clinton) – honored neither civility nor veracity. On January 20, 2017, Inauguration Day, Mr. Trump, among numerous national roles, will become our Commander-in-Chief, perhaps, too, our Defamer-in-Chief and surely our Tweeter-in-Chief.

A word once spoken cannot be unspoken.

I also think of Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s previous presidential candidate, who made especial effort to denounce Mr. Trump (though whose endorsement he craved and received during his 2012 run at the White House). During a March 3, 2016, speech, Mr. Romney described Mr. Trump variously as “a con man, a fake…a phony…(possessing) neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president.” On November 19, 2016, Mr. Romney was asked by Mr. Trump to meet and consider a potential role in the Trump administration. Oh, to have been the unnoticed and observant fly on the wall! Given Mr. Trump’s consistently exhibited grudge-bearing animus, I wonder how that conversation unfolded. Perhaps, too, Mr. Trump’s invitation demonstrates his less-expressed capacity for pardon. One can hope. Yet whichever – both ever – the case…

A word spoken cannot be unspoken.

Now, I surmise the same is true for positive words of acclamation and affirmation. They, as words, once spoken cannot be unspoken. Still, there is, I think, a repeatedly demonstrable reality that we humans tend to remember and ruminate more on the negative than the positive.[5]

Nevertheless, as a Christian, in this Advent season of preparation for the annual Christmas celebration, there is one occasion in which a word spoken cannot be unspoken that enlightens my mind, lightens my heart, emboldens my soul, enlivens my spirit…

As John the Evangelist wrote: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory.[6]

The Word, the divine logos, took human flesh in Jesus, entering the realm of time and space, standing on the stage of human history. And John’s wondrous statement, a cascade of words about the Word linked by the word “and”, testifies that God’s life-giving power is unconquerable, that God’s light-bearing presence is inextinguishable, that no matter how ebbs the tide, no matter how dim the day, God’s life and light prevail. For the Word spoken cannot be unspoken. Thank God!

 

Footnotes:

[1] I believe this to be true also of words emailed, texted, tweeted, or otherwise set aloft in the universe of cyber-communication, despite the capacity of electronic deletion!

[2] The Epistle of James 3.5-6a, 8-10a

[3] If “badness” is a genetic predisposition or a learned behavior and fault must be assessed, in the name of justice, wouldn’t that be ours to claim, specifically, as the principal adults in the child’s life and, generally, as society at large? Would it not be fairer to say, “We’re bad”? I think so.

[4] Leonard Alfred Schneider (1925-1966)

[5] Perhaps it is our innate psychology that thinks more about the bad and feels more about the good that makes the former longer lasting in the realms of our recollections and reflections and the latter more ephemeral.

[6] Gospel of John 1.1-5, 14a

Trump change redux

In my November 10 post, Trump change, I reflected on the result of America’s November 8 presidential election. More, I wondered about the character of the Trump presidency, recognizing that it’s too early for me to tell, too early for me to arrive at a conclusion, any conclusion. Hence, as I wait, looking forward to what will be, what may be, I looked back and asked questions in regard to some of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises.

Now, on this day after the day after the day after the day after Election Day, reflecting afresh on my November 10 point of view, I realize that my fundamental internal stance on that day was what I’ll term egalitarian idealism. In a word, believing in the God-given equality and respecting the dignity of all people, I gave Mr. Trump the proverbial benefit of the doubt.

This morning, I’m in a different place; one, in some abiding measure, the product of my responses to life’s disappointments, more akin to my typical skeptical, even pessimistic realism. In this light or perhaps more truly said, shadow, I ruminated on Jesus’ word from the Sermon on the Mount: “Beware of false prophets…You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7.15-17).

Prophecy, particularly of the biblical sort, is not a prediction of the future (which, I believe, is a common perception or rather misconception), but the proclamation of God’s revealed word to a community (which, in calling for a response from the people, bears within their choosing to obey or reject it future consequences).

I do not presume to cast Mr. Trump in the role of a biblical prophet. However, in the same way that I, in my November 10 post, looked at the substance of some of his campaign pledges, I think now of the spirit of his rhetoric. In this, Mr. Trump, as I perceive him and his words, fashioned his appeal on a homophobic, nativist, racist, sexist foundation, each element and all elements of which, in the brilliance of God’s love and justice, God’s unconditional benevolence and fairness for all, I believe to be bad fruit.

Given that a sufficient percentage of the electorate that cast ballots bought and ate of this fruit, I do predict that the future of America, indeed, the world will be difficult.

Trump change

donald-john-trump-nbcnewsThe American people (well, a minority, according to the tallies both of total votes cast vs. the number of eligible voters and of the popular votes for each of the major party candidates) have elected their 45th president, Donald John Trump.

Between now and Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017, and then, immediately beyond, in the fabled “first 100 days” in office, with selections of cabinet members and the leadership team and propagations of political and policy agendas, the kind of president Mr. Trump will be will become clearer.

Today, this day after the day after the Election Day, whilst I, with everyone else, wait for what is to come, still, ever the inveterate inquirer, I wonder. With nothing else yet upon which my mind can feast (or from which it can fast) save Mr. Trump’s campaign declarations (though low on the scale of substance, were they high in hyperbole or deeply sincere?), I, among many questions, ask…

Will Mr. Trump press forward to build a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico, with the request (demand?) that Mexico pay the price for construction?

Will Mr. Trump carry out his expressed intention to rid the land of 11-12 million undocumented immigrants?

Will Mr. Trump execute his proposal of an outright ban on Muslim peoples entering the country or his subsequent position of instituting the “extreme vetting” of immigrants?

Will Mr. Trump, in league with a Republican-controlled Congress, repeal Obamacare?

Will Mr. Trump seek to dismantle the North America Free Trade Agreement and continue to disavow the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Will Mr. Trump withdraw American support for the United Nations’ Accord de Paris on climate change?

Speaking of change, “Change We Can Believe In” was a 2008 slogan of then presidential candidate Barack Obama. A cornerstone of Mr. Trump’s campaign for the White House was that he, a businessman, is change. Indeed, he is the first American President-Elect who neither served in the military nor held elective office. Given the latter, he touts himself as having no debt to pay to the political class, no duty owed to Washington’s establishment elite.

The change Mr. Trump has in mind, articulated in fuller measure in his campaign declarations and enumerated in part in my aforementioned questions doubtless bears little resemblance to that of his soon-to-be predecessor. Equally doubtless, those who voted for him believe in the change he embraces, embodies

Leading me to ask additional questions, for, it seems to me, a businessman-now-President-Elect is summoned to stand within sight and in the light of different rules than those of his making or choosing:

What will happen with the Cohen v. Trump class action lawsuit suit filed against Mr. Trump and the erstwhile Trump University?

What will happen to that privately owned international conglomerate known as The Trump Organization, headquartered in New York City’s Trump Tower?

What will happen to Mr. Trump and the release or, as yet, non-release of his taxes?

Whilst I wait, I wonder.

12 days ‘til (all I want for) Election Day!

Our American commercial economic machine has turned its attention to Christmas. Store aisles are lined with toys for tots and decorative baubles, bangles, and beads to festoon the soon to appear evergreen trees (which, I imagine, if they could feel, would be chomping at the bit to get those Halloween candy displays and pumpkin patches out of their way!).

However, for me, Christmas can wait. Another über-significant day fast approaches. Election Day. As I am not one of thousands of Americans in various states who have cast their ballots in early voting, Tuesday, November 8, is my opportunity “to exercise my political franchise.”

One of the grandest learnings my family taught me was the value, indeed, the virtue of voting. My parents, Bill and Lolita Abernathy, my grandmother, Audia Roberts, and my aunt, Evelyn Roberts, considered the casting of a ballot, yes, a long-fought, hard-won political right, especially for black people, but also, through history’s illumination of those who died to make it possible, an elemental act of American citizenship imbued with the spiritual quality of an active, living legacy. Voting wasn’t an option, but rather an essential act of individual responsibility of communal consequence.

As I consider the principal candidates at “the top of the ballot”, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I face a dilemma of mind, I feel a dis-ease of soul…

All I want for Election Day (I confess it’s a lot!) is to vote for a candidate who I believe is committed to:

  1. The vocation (yes, from the Latin vocare, “to call”, thus a political-spiritual calling) of public service.
  2. The vigorous and virtuous pursuit of collective societal interests, indeed, the common national and international good (meaning, for me, believing and treasuring the dignity and equality of all people); necessitating the practical recognition and prudent restriction of the influence of singular special interests and wedge issues (whether of race, class, religion, and region) and, as importantly, personal self-aggrandizement.
  3. The viewpoint of “both-and”, not “either-or”, even more, a worldview that believes in the reality and knows the language of ambiguity, eschewing notions of absolute certainty, thus, being able to entertain a contrary opinion, indeed, person as not innately duplicitous, erroneous, injudicious, or malicious (read: dishonest, wrong, stupid, or evil).

As I reflect on the public histories of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump and particularly the less than bighearted, high-minded tenor of the current presidential campaign, each, in her and his own way, fall short of what, who I want. Thus, come November 8, I will vote, but not with liberty of mind or lightness of soul.

the protests ought continue until black li(v)es matter

On Tuesday afternoon, September 20, 2016, Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year old African American, was shot and killed by Officer Brentley Vinson, also an African American, of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC) Police Department.

This is irrefutable. All else concerning this tragic encounter is in dispute.

The police claim that Mr. Scott wielded a gun and refused several commands to drop the weapon. Considered an “imminent deadly threat,” Mr. Scott was shot. The police maintain that the weapon in Mr. Scott’s possession was recovered at the scene.

Mr. Scott’s family counters that he was holding a book and posed no danger to anyone.

The authorities are in possession of video footage recorded on police body and dashboard cameras. To date, it remains kept from public view, both Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney citing the necessity of maintaining the integrity of the police investigation.

Yesterday, Mr. Scott’s wife, Rakeiya Scott, released a video of the incident taken on her cell phone. Watching the video, I heard her ardent appeals to the police not to shoot her husband, telling them that he had a traumatic brain injury and had taken his medicine, her pleading with Mr. Scott “not to do it” (what “it” was being unclear), the sound of gunfire, and Mr. Scott’s fallen body surrounded by police officers.

The killing of Mr. Scott has provoked several days of protests. Charlotte Uprising, “a (community) coalition…committed to ensuring the safety of their communities…police accountability, transparency and social and economic equity,” has developed a list of ten petitions under the heading We Demand. Number 5 reads in part: “A release of the police report and body camera footage connected with the killing of Keith L. Scott…”[1]

I think the authorities ought[2] to release the police video for public viewing because I believe what’s at stake is more important than police investigative procedures. The issue is one of public trust that black lives matter enough to be protected; the reinforcement, the refurbishment of which cannot begin, much less be achieved without fullest transparency. If and until that happens, I believe the protests, peaceful and involving no harm to human life or property damage, ought continue…

+

On a related note, the Republican Party presidential candidate, Donald Trump, at an evening campaign rally, coincidentally in North Carolina and on Tuesday, September 20, declared that black communities in America are “absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before. Ever. Ever. Ever…You take a look at the inner cities, you get no education, you get no jobs, you get shot walking down the street. They’re worse – I mean, honestly, places like Afghanistan are safer than some of our inner cities.”

This statement is a part of Mr. Trump’s presumed appeal to African American voters, “What have you got to lose (in voting for me)”; though oddly, I think, in this recent instance and at other times previously, proclaimed before largely white audiences.

Yes, I believe African Americans, relative to white Americans, continue to experience, to suffer disparities of opportunity and fulfillment in the vital fields of economics, education, health, and social justice.[3] Yet these substantial difficulties cannot compare to the horrors of institutional slavery and the era of Jim Crow law.

Mr. Trump has proven himself to me to have a feeble grasp of history and a more fragile hold on truth. His statement, woefully lacking in accuracy and in reality is a lie about black people and, thus, a black lie.

The protests – by all people who treasure truth – ought continue until black lies matter enough to be rejected.

 

Footnotes:

[1] See http://www.charlotteuprising.com/charlotte-uprising-information.html

[2] For me, ought, along with must and should, is always a heavily morally-weighted-and-freighted-word, inferring to do otherwise is immoral. Because this triumvirate of terms bears an unmistakable force of judgment, I use them infrequently and carefully.

[3] See The National Urban League’s Locked Out – Education, Jobs, Justice: A Message to the Next President (www.stateofblackamerca.org)

counted (Clinton’ed) out?

In my blog post, when the trumpet blasts, run for the hills! (May 9, 2016), I offered observations on the then presumptive nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, reflecting on what now are widely seen as their “negatives”.

Still, I wrote, in part: “…two confessions…I believe Hillary has some credibility concerns…And I’ve done some hard thinking through my questions about her person and her candidacy…between Trump and Clinton, I believe her to be the class of the two regarding experience in governance and expertise in governing. For this reason…I plan to vote for Clinton…”

I am reconsidering my vote. Why? Because Clinton broke my heart.

In a speech this past Friday, she said, in part, “…to…be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables…The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic…Now some of those folks…are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”

I do not disagree with Clinton’s assessment of the temper of the Trump campaign. I also acknowledge the “grossly generalistic” tenor of her language and that she later regretted her exaggerated negative categorization of “half” of Trump’s base of support.

Nevertheless, I have lived much of my conscious life able and willing to listen to others, verily, “the other”, those with whom I vastly, at times, violently disagreed. In my listening, I labored and labor still to see and understand reality from their point of view.

Why? Because I believe we all are children of one God. And even if one argues with me on that point, none, I also believe, can dispute that we all occupy one planet. Thus we are inextricably bound in a global destiny. In this realization, made especially telling, chilling given how fractured is our world along deepening, bloodyingly darkening boundary lines of clan and class, race, religion, region, and ideological worldview, I live to be a person, an embodiment of a place where contrary people and conflicting opinions can engage in safety.

This night, tweeting @Hillary Clinton, I wrote:

Sec’y Clinton, you’ve identified unnamed, untold folk via your perceptions of their views. I expect more from you

and

Verily, id’ing folk as “deplorable” based on your sense of their positions, in my view, is to denigrate them. I expect more.

If, in my view, Trump has ascribed to himself the role of a false messiah, repeatedly saying, “I alone can fix it” (whatever America’s problem is), then Clinton, in casting some folk as “irredeemable”, has ascended to the realm of divine judgment.

Either case and both cases are utterly unacceptable to me.