Damn the Poor!?!

Trumpcare and the administration’s budget submission propose slashing the social safety net by about $1.7 trillion over the next ten years.

Most of the savings would be stuffed into already bulging pockets of the well-to-do, the top 1% or 2% of income earners.

Meanwhile, the cuts would not only target the poor, but more particularly those who are children, disabled, sick or hungry.

These proposals show the lie that were Trump’s campaign contentions not to cut Medicaid.

You can find articles on the impact of these cuts here, here and here. Here is a rather sad article on the rationale behind the cuts and how a Russian news reporter schooled Trump’s budget director on some aspects of it.

Christians who support this war on the poor don’t even have a fig leaf to wear in justifying these actions.

If you believe scripture, while we may not like it or understand it, God wants fairness and justice for the poor.

Bible verses attesting to God’s concern for the poor:

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 23:22

“Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land . . . buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat. The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.” Amos 8:4; 6-7

“Jesus answered, If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'” Matthew 19:21

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” Matthew 25:35

“They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.” Mark 12:40

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.” Luke 4:18

“So he replied to the messengers, “‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.'” Luke 7:22

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” Luke 12:33

If Trump’s budget and healthcare proposals are enacted, tens of millions of Americans will be worse off than they are today.

According to the latest Census figures, about 45 million Americans live in poverty and over 16 million of those are children.

According to the same figures, about 30 million Americans live just above the poverty line and, again, about one-third of these are children.

Some, such as Franklin Graham say in earnestness, and with faith and hope, that Trump is sent by God.

If that is true, my thought is that if these proposals are to be believed, God sent him not as a blessing but as a curse.

 

An American Mean Streak

Many Americans are proud of our individual freedoms and acclaimed generosity.

However true these qualities may be, our continuing struggles with racism, nativism and xenophobia indicate we still struggle how far those freedoms and generosity extend.

Indeed, racism, nativism and xenophobia are on ample and sometimes heart-breaking display in the Trump administration’s enforcement of immigration laws. Some of those actions are hard-hearted.

Last month, a mother of four was ripped from her family and deported to Mexico. Maribel Trujillo Diaz had lived in Fairfield, Ohio for the post several years. A native of Mexico, she is the mother of four children, ranging in age from three to fourteen, including one with special needs.

Interviewed earlier this year,  Trujillo said that she crossed the border in 2002 to flee threats from a drug cartel and “find a better way of life.” She has been living here since then, and has had work permit for the last several years. That permit was due to expire in July.

That made no difference to ICE, which arrested her in early April, irrespective of the work permit, her job and a clean criminal record. After her arrest, a trio of high-placed Ohio officials, Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Rob Portman and Sen. Sherrod Brown asked ICE to reconsider their decision to deport her.

ICE declined and proceeded with its action. Trujillo has now been “removed” from the country and become another statistic, while her children apparently remain motherless in Ohio.

Two articles covering her deportation are here and here.

It was reported this week that immigration arrests increased 38% over the first 3 months of 2017 compared to the same period last year. The Administration contends that its policies have emphasize the deportation of criminals. An article on that is here.

That is false as ICE “criminal” figures include anyone charged with an offense. Moreover, one of offenses included within the figures is being in this country without proper documentation. In other words, the government includes arrests of suspected immigrants without papers in its statistics. These things obscure the truth.HOew

There are now scores of reports like the one about Ms. Trujillo.

It is true that Trump’s deportation policies are working as he intended. Their consequences include arresting mothers at home in front of their minor children, ripping families apart, ridding the country of the “menace” of high school valedictorians without proper papers who hope to attend college here; and, hauling away people recognized as pillars of their community.

This is a national shame.

I say this because of personal and religious views.

My mom’s lineage is pure Anglo-Saxon and rather well-to-do. It is family lore that her father’s line in America began when a forebear was sent by England’s king sometime in the early 1700’s to serve as a royal official in the Carolinas. After that, the family became prosperous farmers, well, to be honest, plantation owners in South Carolina. We don’t like to talk too much about that odious slave-owning history.

Instead, I consider with some pride that I am from my father’s line of Scotch-Irish-English mutts.

We have no idea when that line began in the United States, although my theory is that a an ancestor was on the lam from the law in England and stowed away on an American-bound ship to get a second chance at life. There is something mutt-like, populist and hopeful in seeking to improve one’s life through radical risk and hard-work.

I view most immigrants out of this lens. My interactions with undocumented immigrants have been consistent with this. To a man and to a woman, they have been friendly, hard-working, humble and hopeful.

My Christianity also reinforces my inclinations toward sympathy and understanding.

There are some Bible verses to the contrary, but the heavy weight of both testaments emphasizes just, fair and even generous treatment of the foreigner, stranger and alien.

This is easily seen with even a casual reading of the Bible or the simple consideration that, in their own ways, Jesus and the early evangelists were at one time or another “foreigners, aliens or strangers.”

I deplore the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented workers. It has led not only to the deportation of so-called dreamers, but split families, swept up innocents and weakened local law enforcement.

You will find several hits on these items if you google “deportation of mother,” or “deportation of dreamer,” or “sanctuary cities.”

 

They Aren’t the Enemy

I’m an oldie who remembers the Watergate scandal unfolding drip-by-drip over a period of almost two years until the president resigned in August, 1974. Looking back, it felt like there were almost daily revelations of someone associated with the president having committed one or another illegal act. Finally, “the smoking gun” was discovered and Nixon resigned shortly thereafter.

For some reason, one of my most vivid memories of the time is of sitting at my kitchen table reading the Houston Post a few weeks after his resignation. The Post had an article stating that polls showed that a number of people still supported Nixon. I remember thinking something like, “Who are these people? How can they do that?” It made no sense to me. I thought he was virtually a criminal.

This week, I checked polls from those months and found out that, sure enough, a Gallup poll taken shortly after Nixon’s resignation revealed a bit over 20% of the electorate still supported him.

[You can find the articles of impeachment here and the Gallup poll here.]

Despite my shock at that those polls, supporting Nixon made a great deal of sense to my father, who was one of the diehards. He maintained, and probably still does forty years after his death (Daddy was never much on changing his opinions), that the whole thing was a witch hunt and Nixon was a great president.

When he and I discussed it at the time, I could not understand his point of view about something so clear to me.

In turn, he couldn’t understand my point of view about something so clear to him.

Most people are like Daddy and me. We humans have a tendency to be unable to understand how others can hold differing opinions about important matters that are  clear to us.

There are times when we need to look past those opinions and seek to understand “the other.”

Understand that my point is not that we need to seek understanding in the face of any disagreement, because it is sometimes incumbent upon us to confront and battle injustice.

Our country’s history shows clear examples of such times: the dispute with Britain about independence in the 1770’s; the vast gulf between the North and South over slavery and secession in the pre-Civil War years; the continuing fight against racism, with all of its injustice, violence and dehumanization; and, the decades-long battle in the early part of the last century for workers’ rights.

However, there are also times when we should seek to understand the differing opinions of others, and perhaps reach out in friendship to them despite those differences.

I think this is one of those times. Unfortunately, the chasm between Democrats/liberals/progressives and Republicans/conservatives is widening and hardening.

This is illustrated by a recent NBC News poll showing the same wide partisan split over Comey’s firing as other polls have shown about other executive actions taken by Trump, such as the travel ban(s), Gorsuch appointment and global warming actions.

In addition, conservative columnist Charlie Sykes writes this weekend in the New York Times that what was once a conservative movement has become in the age of Trump an anti-liberal movement or, more accurately, an anti-anti-Trump movement.

Sykes says, “As the right doubles down on anti-anti-Trumpism, it will find itself goaded into defending and rationalizing ever more outrageous conduct just as long as it annoys CNN and the left.”

Similarly, Republican consultant and pollster Frank Lutz said recently that people sympathetic to Trump automatically side with him because they believe he is constantly held to an unfair standard.

For their part, Democrats/liberals/progressives are the mirror image of their Republican/conservative brothers and sisters. I am one of the former, but think we also cling tightly to our beliefs and habitually fail to seek to understand opposing points of view.

For example, when I checked my email while writing this piece there was a fund-raising request from a liberal group urging me to donate to it in order “to punish the GOP right now.” And, there was a separate request from another liberal group beseeching me to sign a petition against Trump because it would take “only six seconds to hammer the GOP.” Uh, no thanks.

[Most of the below applies to Democrats/liberals/progressives, but others might find it useful as well.]

For a variety of reasons, we need to overcome this hostility and division to and build some bridges across the divide.

First, we do not want to end up with a liberal version of Trump.

Second, we do not want to end up with a liberal version of Infowars and Alex Jones.

Do not think these first two cannot happen. Remember that Trump is a creature not only of contemporary culture but also the Tea Party movement. If we continue down the Tea Party path of virulent opposition and even hatred of “the other”, we are in danger of engineeting the emergence of a Trump-like figure.

Third, we lost the election and need to gain voters, not alienate them. I know that Hillary won the popular vote, but it is the electoral college that matters. We will not convert people by attacking them.

Fourth, most people on both sides want to address national problems like jobs, infrastructure, economic development, climate change, true religious freedom, equal justice under the law, etc. We need broad, bipartisan and nonpartisan support instead of yawning division to do this.

Fifth, personal attacks dehumanize our brothers and sisters who disagree with us. We need to realize that they are just folks like us and are due respect and fairness.

Sixth, our fight is not so much with them but with the policies and incompetence of Trump and his administration.

In that regard, it is useful to point out that Nixon had approval ratings of about 70% right before the Watergate revelations started becoming public.

That support fell 50 points over the next two years not because of partisan vitriol but because of the president’s words and actions. In other words, he hung himself.

Trump will do the same and, as that unfolds, we want to be in position to welcome into our fold any who become alienated from him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Be Suckered by Trump’s Tweets

The New York Times had a recent article noting that our diplomats in Europe are warning governments wary of Trump not overreact to his tweets. America—and especially my fellow Democrats, progressives or liberals—needs to heed this warning. Today’s tweet by the Orange One about an arms race has yielded a bumper crop of overreactions.

The Washington Post editorial board already has posted an editorial warning about this threat. Meanwhile, Twitter chirps away with yet more hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing tweets about this latest storm and Facebook is rife with similar condemnatory posts. Even Trump’s advisors are playing their familiar role of walking back another burst of their boss’s regrettable statements. Predictably, progressive and liberal periodicals like Mother Jones, The Nation and The New Republic are also hurling thunderbolts at the POEUS.

Of course, there are many things we can object to about Trump. For example, we should be repelled about his appointment of a racist (Sessions); climate change deniers (several of them); Goldman Sachs alumni (again, several); and, climate change creators (in the person of Exxon’s Rex Tillerson). We can add to these his repugnant tilt to Putin; probable support of Assad; stirring of the Chinese pot; further inflammation of the Middle East; embrace of Israel; taxing and spending policies; intended repeal of Obamacare; possible action to reduce Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security; and, the list stretches on. Will it become infinite?

These are all substantive issues that we need to work on now. The tweet du jour which is just another in the round of tweets du jour is not a substantive issue. Yes, they do degrade our country. Yes, they will contribute to the deterioration of our role in the world. Yes, they do reflect the unstable mind at the helm and might scare the bejabbers out of us. If you are like me, you wake up early in the morning feeling that there is no way this ending will be good.

However, we need to put his tweets in their proper place as a blowhard doing what he does best. Instead of focusing on them, we need to focus on upcoming confirmations battles as well as subsequent fights over health care, taxes and the social safety net. So, instead of worrying about Trump’s early morning statements, we need to ask ourselves what steps we might take to counter his actions as opposed to his bloviations.

Democrats! Relax, Breathe in– and Get Ready to Work

Talk about disappointed and angry white males, I’ve been out of sorts since late Tuesday night. I haven’t killed anybody, but have embarrassed myself with two seperate rants. Forgive me, Customer Service Department at Express Scripts!

Teeth-gnashing, second-guessing and fault-finding began after the first vote totals began. It continues today, as it will for some time. May we not circle the wagons and shoot in. Instead, let’s breathe in, relax and take some time reflecting and assessing. Along the way, there are a few things to consider.

  • Democrats didn’t turn out. As of this writing, Hillary has received 59,938,290 votes. Obama received 65,915,79 in 2012 and 69,498,516 in 2008.
  • Republican vote was also less than four years ago. Trump received 59,704,886,less than the 60,933,504 that Romney received AND less than McCain’s 59,948,323.
  • White, male working class voters did come out in greater numbers for Trump, especially in the heretofore “Blue Wall” states that Trump won.
  • However, if the Democrat vote had turned out in those states, Hillary would have won.
  • Don’t believe the pundits and their opinions right now. They were wrong last week and for months and even years before that.
  • We don’t need to address the discrete issue of jobs and opportunities for angry white males in the Rust Belt or elsewhere, but jobs and opportunities for both genders in all parts of the country. This especially includes inner cities and Greater Appalachia.
  • We are weaker in local and state offices than we are in presidential vote. Talk about your ground game! It turns out that there is one we have ignored.
  • Sexism, racism, nativism and xenophobia affected some voters, but we will never be able to figure out who or in what proportion. So, we don’t need to call anybody “deplorables,” but need to focus instead on our goals and tactics.

Meanwhile, let’s also remember that we our values to use in deciding upon those goals and tactics. In her concession speech, Hillary said:

“So, let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear: making our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top; protecting our country and protecting our planet; and breaking down all the barriers that hold anyone back from achieving their dreams. We’ve spent a year and a half bringing together millions of people from every corner of our country to say with one voice that we believe that the American Dream is big enough for everyone — for people of all races and religions, for men and women, for immigrants, for LGBT people, and people with disabilities.”

You might say it a little bit differently, but those are values worth working and fighting for.

“Incivility” Happens– Sometimes for Good Reason

I may be a heretic. Like me, you probably are dismayed at the increasingly shameful and vicious language often used in social media and other public discourse.  Like our climate, it seems to get worse every year. However, while much of what we think is “uncivil” can only be condemned, a sweeping condemnation goes too far. There is a time and place for “incivility.” We might like to think of him as “Sweet Jesus,” but at times he acted uncivilly by the standards of the day.

hillary-shooting-target-nbcOn Thursday, the New York Times had an article quoting some Trump supporters promising a  “revolution” if Hillary wins. One went so far as predict they would do “whatever needs to be done to get her out of office.” It is likely that  some of our Christian brothers and sisters feel the same. On Wednesday, the Diane Rehm Show had a program on civility and public discourse. Most of the show’s panelists condemned “incivility.” One defined it as violating some vague standard of “politeness,” whatever that means. Another was more precise by defining it “as claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else in the process.” That is a more useful definition.

However, Jesus acted “uncivilly” at times under either definition. For example, in Matthew 23:27, he spewed venom on scribes and Pharisees, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.” Whew! He wasn’t being Sweet Jesus, and those are only some of the insults he threw out that day.

In addition, he periodically described people in other disparaging ways: dog, pig, snake, fox (in those days, it connoted a “weasel”), fool and brood of vipers. Moreover, one day he cleansed the Temple of merchants and money changers, overturning tables and driving them away with a whip. Sounds uncivil to me! It offended more than a few that day (they wanted to kill him!) and would have gone viral today: “#sonofmangoesberserk!”

In addition to these words and actions of Jesus, Paul was no shrinking violet. He called the Galatians “foolish” and later added that he wished those wanting circumcision would go the whole way and castrate themselves! (Gal. 3:1, 5:12) He also lambasted Cretans, “Even one of their own prophets has said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true.” (Titus 1:12-13a)

True, both he and Paul say and do a lot of other things that urge peaceful and harmonious discourse. Here are a few teachings:

  1. 5:7-9, “Blessed are the merciful. . . Blessed are the pure in heart. . . Blessed are the peacemakers. . .”
  2. 5:22, “But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”
  3. 5:44, “But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”
  4. 3: 8, “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”
  5. 3:21, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”
  6. James 1:9, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

Just as we do, Jesus lived in a time of political, cultural and religious and unrest. At times, he spoke and acted in ways that violated “civil” norms of his day. There are times that Christians may be called to do the same in our times. What are some consideration for us to have in deciding our path? More on that next week.

Our Painful Election

Our presidential election faces voters with choosing between a knee to the groin or a right cross to the chin. Either are bad. (If you want to throw in the two major third party candidates, all are bad.) This morning’s news gives us the most recent examples about Trump and Hillary. as if we needed more.

The latest from WikiLeaks shows additional dishonesty, smarminess or questionable conduct (choose your preferred description or add one of your own) by the Clinton Foundation. The Washington Post story about is here. A report by Bloomberg News reveals, in addition to other questionable activities, an admission by the Trump campaign that they are actively trying to suppress voter turnout. That report is here. Both stories are based on the words of a staffer and not the candidate, but let’s not quibble over that. There is no way to avoid: the choices we have are bad and the worst since it least the 19th century.

Even if you disagree with that and love your candidate, whomever wins will have a difficult time governing because he or she will be considered illegitimate by about half of the country. Even worse, some Trump partisans hate Hillary and threaten violence if she wins.

hillary-nbc-1200-800The picture illustrates the hatred that hatred for Hillary that is within the hearts of some Trump supporters. It was taken at a Trump rally on October 27 and depicts Hillary being hung effigy. There are also Trump supporters who wear a t-shirt which features Hillary’s face as a target. And, of course, all Trump rallies include the infamous chant, “Lock her up!” All is over the top nasty.

For their part, although they neither have the hatred of Trump nor have promised violence if he wins, a good number of Hillary voters (maybe the clear majority) consider Trump to be a narcissistic, misogynistic, repugnant, bigoted, racist, sexist bully.  Full disclosure: I am one of these and will vote for Hillary– reluctantly.

The likeliest outcome of all of this is that irrespective of who wins our country is destined to suffer through additional turmoil and division for the foreseeable feature. What roles are Christian to play in this? More on that tomorrow.