Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Words we cannot send back

Today, Donald Trump sent another divisive message to his followers via his official Twitter account regarding Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.  For those who would make excuses or who are praying that his racist comments will just blow over, they won’t.  Telling people not socially colored white to “go back home” or to “go back to where they came from” is not a new directive and deserves a response.

But we don’t need a history or geography lesson to point out his failings or flawed argument.  While the media struggled to label his words racist, we don’t have to wait for them to use the adjective.  It was racist.  Because this is not really about one’s place of birth or even country of origin.  Not simply telling someone to leave the country but believing it is within your right to do so is the problem.

Where does this confidence come from?  It is colonial in origin.  It is proof of America’s continued possession by the spirit of conquest.  It is the belief that socially engineered white people have the power to determine the belonging or dis-belonging of another group not given the privileged label.  It is the assertion that said persons have the power to move bodies anywhere around the world as they so choose, for their pleasure and to maintain their comfort.  It is a historical habit, never changed or challenged.

Colonizers went to ancestral homes and relocated African bodies for labor and exploitation during the Trans- Atlantic Slave Trade and destroyed indigenous bodies, belonging to what is now the United States of America, that received them on their shores, is what needs to be named.  Neither group told European settlers to “go back” or to get back or to keep off their land.  The locals were hospitable; these strangers were hostile.

Still, in the crowd of thousands, persons chanted, “Send her back” at Trump’s recent North Carolina rally.  But send Congresswoman Omar back where exactly?  What address do they have on file?  They talk as if she is a package to be returned due their dissatisfaction.  She is not what they want in American society.

It is their choice to make, their right to refuse her though she, too, is an American citizen.  Is she is not American enough and where does she need to go to get more American?  Because there are levels, grades, rungs to this identity.  And Congresswoman Omar has apparently been outranked.

That rally was like a committee meeting and all Americans got to watch persons reject other Americans not socially colored white on live television.  The chant lasted seconds but long enough to echo back centuries.  We’ve heard this all before.  This is not a new request.  When formerly enslaved Africans were freed and stood as a visible reminder of the barbarity of their enslavers, they wanted to send them back to.

No longer reflecting the relationship of oppressor and oppressed, the mirror that African faces became was more than their enslavers could stand.  And today it is tempting to look away, to change the channel or the conversation.  But, it won’t change what Trump and thousands of his supporters said.  We can’t send those words back.

They are fully present; now we must account for them.

After Charlottesville: Rally Around Love

Image result for loveI am uncomfortable.  I am unsure of if I should go or stay… in the United States.  Perhaps, my uncertainty is due to President Trump’s treatment of the aftermath of the Unite the Right rallies that left one person dead, nineteen injured and a nation on edge.  For many persons, regardless of political party affiliation, his statement wasn’t clear enough or strong enough.  Worse still, it was perceived as insincere.  Many people in America are wondering, “Did he mean it?”  And worse still, “Whose side is he on?  Who does he really represent?”

As the president of the United States of America, his primary job is to lead and speak in ways that foster, support and maintain our unity among the American people.  We had hoped he would make the first move, that he would bring us back together. We were wrong.  So then, I issue this call: rally around love.

Rally around tear- stained faces and hardened hearts instead of statues and hardened positions.

Listen for the fearful, the trembling voices, the hearts beating fast.  Rally around them.

Look for those who can’t find the words, who are struggling to name their present reality.  Rally around them.

Track down those in hiding after the terrorist attack in Charlottesville.  Rally around them.

Search for those conflicted by the present and troubled by the past.  Rally around them.

Find those who feel they can’t find their footing and don’t know if there is a way forward.  Rally around them.

Seek out those who are tempted to close themselves off from cross- cultural relationships because they have been hurt before. Rally around them.

Notice those who are struggling to trust again, who are preparing to settle into historical assumptions. Rally around them.

Discover the bridge- builders, conflict managers and reconcilers.  Rally around them.

Rally around those who looking for love.

 

 

A round of applause for police brutality?

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

With the line of what is acceptable being crossed and then pushed back with each outlandish action from the current White House administration and decency being redefined to accommodate the indefensible behavior of President Donald Trump, it is hard not to become disgusted by the hypocrisy.  I am well past feeling disappointed.  What is acceptable, good and right is being changed with each interview, after each commercial break.  This is democracy.  Truth created by the people for the people.

And true to form, Mr. Trump has been consistent in speech and character, each tweet and speech outdoing the other.  Recently, two speeches warranted statements from the groups he was speaking to, here being the Boy Scouts and then to police officers in Long Island, New York.  While both are disgusting, the latter is deeply troubling.  Because the sitting President of the United States endorsed police brutality.  He told police to break the law.  To which he initially received applause.

Applause.  Agreement with violating the rights and personhood of citizens who may or may not be suspects?  See “innocent until proven guilty.”  Applause.  Affirmation of wrong- doing by those who have sworn an oath to uphold the law– not bring it down to their level and prejudices?  Applause.  Appreciation because the President is saying what you want to say or giving voice to what you really want to do, to some people, to those thugs he mentioned?  Applause.   Permission to incite fear in the residents you have agreed to serve and protect?

And these are police in communities– not soldiers at war with an enemy in a foreign land.  Police officers are patrolling America’s city streets and country roads where persons are driving to school and work, persons who want to make it home to family and friends too.  With or without badges, all of us deserve honor.   But, this is not what the current Commander- In- Chief said.

Persons are worried about his access to nuclear codes but I’m concerned about his access to a microphone and a cell phone, for that matter.  Mr. Trump is far from a role model and certainly not a model president.  Still, persons are hanging on his every word and if this kind of speech is mindlessly applauded, then persons could die because of his words.

With communities living in fear, cases pending and families still mourning the deaths of their loved ones, Mr. Trump says, “Please don’t be too nice.”  With body camera and cell phone footage depicting the shooting death of unarmed American citizens, Mr. Trump says, the laws are “horrendously stacked” against police officers.  His words suggest that police officers should not be held to the highest standard of the law and that we should normalize this kind of bad behavior.  Move the line back.

But, police officers are not judge and jury.  There is due process of law.  And no one has the right to change it to accommodate police officers or a president.  Because then, it’s no law at all.  It is but the abuse of power and the passing of social privileges.

Perhaps, this endorsement of meanness is the counter response to political correctness.  I have heard it said that Mr. Trump speaks for many American people, that he says what is on their minds.  Really?  Fellow Americans would agree with the murder of other Americans without due process of law.  They would applaud that?

That’s crossing a line and that’s not democracy.

“Where ever the facts lead us”

“We are going to follow the facts wherever they lead us.”  Then, why is the investigation taking so long?  It is a short trip from the podium to the White House.  Or is it because as soon as they are off and running in one direction, Mr. Trump’s tweets throw them off the scent?

Some rebuff, “All politicians lie” but when did our acceptance of intentional deception become expected, normative even?  Is this on the job description of our public servants: “Candidate must be able to lie”?

Then, perhaps, we don’t need politicians running our government.  Persons thought a businessman with no government experience was what America needed.  Next time, we might consider putting prophets on the ballot.  We could use an Isaiah or Jeremiah right now.

Because I wouldn’t want my doctor to lie to me.  Instead, I expect an accurate report of my health and if ill, an appropriate treatment plan.  I don’t want a police officer to lie to me.  “Was I speeding or not?”  I wouldn’t expect my pastor to lie to me concerning Christ’s sacrifice and the cost of the discipleship.  “Well, the world was in quotes so God may not have loved you.”

And why is that we cover for people in power?  Why do we make excuses for persons who are expected to uphold a standard, represent our best interests and lead all American people?  But, show no mercy to those of lower estate?  They are the real liars, we surmise.  I suppose that I am expected to believe that Mr. Trump is a novice.

It is so interesting to see how we can expect American citizens to tell the truth in a court of law or risk perjury but the President of the United States can lie and persons who do not believe him are deemed unpatriotic.  I am so tired of the double standard.  Only in America is there a difference between a white- collar liar and a blue collar one.   More than above the law, this is beyond my ability to comprehend.  Where do you think we are going if we continue down this road?  Wherever it is, there is no amount of walking back his comments that will return America to some mythical state of innocence.

I had grown tired of the expression, “Speak truth to power” but it makes sense now.  Because the President does not seem to possess it.  These are not your usual run of the mill lies.  More than campaign promises that get caught up in bureaucratic tape, these are outright lies with the intention to mislead and to misinform the American public.

And to be sure, there are no big and little lies, no Democratic and Republican lies.  If this administration has done nothing else, it has reminded many of us of what happens when truth becomes relative, when we think that truth is related to us, a dependent of our political party or cultural ideology.

I’m no genius but Albert Einstein was and he said this about truth: “Whoever is careless with truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”  So, if you feel the need to lie about the size of your inauguration’s crowd size, when the picture is worth a few thousand people, what else will you lie about?  Because #truthmatters.

When Time recently asked on its cover, “Is Truth Dead?”, I knew that we had turned a corner.  With the celebration of Christ’s resurrection still fresh, the question carries even more meaning for me.  How does truth die and who buries it?  Will it rise again and will there be persons there to witness it?

“Where ever the facts lead us…”  If I had a dollar for every time I have heard this during the young Trump administration, the amount wouldn’t be worth much.  Because there is nothing valuable about being lied to.  Because what is a fact today when there are ‘alternate facts’?

Counselor to the President of the United States, Kellyanne Conway and White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer are master weavers at this point.   The spinning of tales and half- truths is making me dizzy.  I need to sit down and perhaps, sit this one out.  Can someone come and get me in four years?  Because I don’t expect the resurrection of truth in America any time soon.

Put your money away.  I am not placing any bets on his impeachment.  And why should I?  I have watched commentators, politicians and regular folks explain away reprehensible behavior.  I would pick up my lip but the bar that has been lowered to accommodate Trump is on it.  There is nothing honorable or noble about standing behind a lie.

Besides, I am investigation- weary.  These fact- finding missions don’t come with breaks.  The air of suspicion is unhealthy if inhaled over a long period of time and paranoia goes well with conspiracy theories.

To be sure, Trump’s administration is not the first and will not be the last to be guilty of lying.  Attempting to be all things to all people, politicians make campaign promises they can’t keep all the time.  But, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to get a straight answer from this administration, a sure sign that something crooked is at work.

And with the accusations of fake news media reporting now a part of our social psyche, the good news of Jesus Christ becomes more essential to my mental health and well- being.  The truth of Christ’s life and ministry was reported by persons from diverse backgrounds, locations and socioeconomic statuses.  Still, there were persons who called the work of Christ fake news and warned his believers not to teach in his name.  So, in some ways, my faith has prepared me for this.  In short, don’t follow Trump’s tweets but the paper trail of Jesus; the former will get you nowhere.

When the Church wears the emperor’s clothes

emperor-has-no-clothes

“We must change the method but not the message.” This has been the aim of recent generations of Christian leaders. Desiring to “reach the lost for Christ,” we developed radio, television and now social media ministries. We wear skinny jeans and tattoos. We want to meet them where they are but also dress like our future and fellow members.

We have replaced the cross with stage lighting, pews with theater-style seating, traded Sunday school for small groups and sanctuaries for coffee houses. Our argument is that the Church is not a building but us, and while we are getting older, we don’t want to show our age. Adding gyms and exercise studios to our sacred spaces, we want to keep up. Thousands of years old, the Church attempts to be young and hip.

Like our parents who try to speak to our friends using the latest slang, it can be embarrassing. If this interaction is not timed just right, and if it goes beyond introductions, we may lose our friend forever. Our sigh is a signal to be interpreted, “Go and talk to someone your own age.” Why don’t our parents know that they have reached the point of no return, that we are not peers but represent different roles in our family? If only in our heads, we whisper a prayer, “Please act your age.”

The Church’s need to translate the Ancient of Days for postmodern times has often created awkward positions and silence in moments that called for sound, for lament in the street, for the protest of marching feet, for the declaration of God’s presence in the earth and with us all. Wanting to be a part of the conversation, we ended up embarrassing ourselves. When we do not know our role or act our age, it is possible to give mere lip-service to God and those we are in conversation with. We walk away proud of ourselves, unaware of how we look to either.

Written in 1837, Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” still speaks today. Translated into many languages and across cultures, it is the tale of two swindlers pretending to be weavers who promise the emperor a garment that reveals the suitability of its wearer. If the person is ignorant or incompetent, they won’t be able to see the clothing. Only the person unworthy of the office will be blind to its reality.

The emperor has a keen fashion sense and a need to be voted best dressed every day. The swindlers play on his superficiality, asking for expensive fabric that they keep for themselves. They pretend to be working long hours and the emperor sends persons into their workspace to gauge their progress. The new attire is sight unseen but wanting to keep their jobs, these persons in leadership pretend to see the emperor’s new clothes. They are complimenting the swindlers on their work, still revealing their ignorance and incompetence.

Leadership is not about repeating after others or saying things to keep the emperor happy. Leaders don’t see what is not there and say whatever is necessary to keep their jobs. Leaders don’t “go along to get along.”

When the final product is ready, the emperor doesn’t see the clothes either. But not wanting to be judged unfit for his position, he goes along with the ruse. The emperor has no clothes on but he pretends to see the garment’s exquisite patterns and brilliant colors. He is naked and exposed but no one will tell him. Worse still, he won’t admit it.

The people around him let him go out into the street and parade himself in front of the people. He pretends to be well-dressed, the envy of all those who behold him. Because of his position, the people keep their corrections to themselves.

The emperor does not know that his own vanity has undone him. His pride has made a fool of him; ironically, only a child will tell him the truth. “The Emperor doesn’t have anything on!” And the emperor knew that the child was right, but he kept right on pretending and his leadership went through the motions of carrying his invisible train.

His story ends there but his actions continue in us. This political season has exposed us all. None of us are clothed.

While it could be argued that this narrative could be applied to President-elect Donald Trump and those around him, who refuse to correct him and attempt to normalize his bigotry, racism, sexism, and xenophobia, I would argue that the Church is guilty of the same arrogance and pride. So, caught up in how we appear to others, we have tried on just about everything. We can see that it doesn’t fit but will put on anything to fit in.

First dividing ourselves into black and white churches, now Democrat and Republican or liberal, moderate and conservative, we have identified ourselves with politicians. We have made the results of an election cycle the message of God’s eternal kingdom. And it is too late to wash our hands of it now, to fire the swindlers, to admit that we do not see this new clothing.

We don’t want to lose our position of authority or disappoint the people who have gathered to look at us. The parade route has been mapped out and we have invested too much. Cold, we clench our teeth. Naked and too far out to run back to our sanctuaries, we wave and smile.

* This post first appeared at Baptist News Global and was published on January 19, 2017.