Three million years ago, a distant ancestor of mine lived in Ethiopia. Since then, we humans have grown taller, stronger, more intelligent and, I would hope, more compassionate.
After three million years of evolution, is Donald Trump the best we have achieved?
Face it, Trump is the world’s number-one human, the colossus who sits bestride the world (to borrow a line from historian Robert Payne). President of the world’s most powerful nation. Chief executive officer of the world’s richest economy, who can make stock markets around the world crash with a single Tweet. Commander-in-chief of the world’s largest military force, with the biggest nuclear arsenal.
A while ago, I resolved that I would not waste any more columns on Trump. It’s difficult to keep that resolution, when he declares himself “the least racist person in the world.” Or condemns the entire city of Baltimore as a “rat and rodent infested mess.”
In the last four years of his campaigning and presidency, I cannot think of one Tweet, press statement, or executive order that I would support unconditionally.
Not even his most recent assertion, following the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, that there is no place in America for bigotry and white supremacy. Because he was clearly reading from a teleprompter, mouthing words crafted for him by someone else. They’re not his style, not his sentiments, not his vocabulary.
And they directly contradict his previous positions.
Breaking my resolution
But I cannot continue to avoid writing about him.
The final straw was his attacks on four female members of Congress, telling them to go back where they came from. All four are American citizens. All four were elected by American voters.
At a rally, his supporters chanted, “Send her back! Send her back!”
Trump later claimed that he had quelled the chant. TV footage shows he was lying. He smirked. Even if he didn’t openly encourage the chant, he clearly enjoyed it.
Just as in campaign rallies, he reveled in the anti-Clinton chant, “Lock her up!”
I suggest we need a counter movement: “Turn him off!”
Recently, I went hiking from a remote lodge in the Rockies. Tucked into a mountain valley, it had no TV, no cable, no cell network, and only enough internet to process credit cards.
For four days, I heard not one word from Donald Trump. It was wonderful!
Had enough yet?
Three top clergy of the National Cathedral in Washington wrote an article circulated by Religion News Service.
The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde is Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith is Dean of Washington National Cathedral. The Rev. Canon Kelly Brown Douglas is canon theologian of Washington National Cathedral.
“As faith leaders in the sacred space where America gathers at moments of national significance ,” they wrote, “we feel compelled to ask: When will Americans have had enough?”
The trio recalled a similarly dark period, when “under the guise of ridding the country of Communist infiltration, [Senator Joe] McCarthy had free rein to say and do whatever he wished. With unbridled speech, he stoked the fears of an anxious nation with lies; destroyed the careers of countless Americans; and bullied into submissive silence anyone who dared criticize him.”
And then, they noted, on June 9, 1954, “U.S. Army attorney Joseph Welch confronted Sen. Joseph McCarthy before a live television audience: ‘Until this moment, Senator, I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. … You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?’”
Welch’s challenge, they said, “effectively ended McCarthy’s notorious hold on the nation. “
They summed up, “We have come to accept a level of insult and abuse in political discourse that violates each person’s sacred identity as a child of God. We have come to accept as normal a steady stream of language and accusations coming from the highest office in the land that plays to racist elements in society.
“When does silence become complicity? What will it take for us all to say, with one voice, that we have had enough?”
Turn him off!
If you’ve had enough, like me, turn him off! Turn him off every time he shows up on the news. Or on Twitter or Facebook.
Imagine the effect of having millions of TV sets and cell phones switch off every time Trump appears. The networks will notice; it’s their job to track of these things. Advertisers will notice. Even politicians might notice.
Besides, nothing humiliates a narcissist more than being ignored.
Let’s have a counter-chant: “Turn him off! Turn him off!”
Copyright © 2019 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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Thank you for some good, thoughtful, letters about my column in glaciers last week. I was delighted that there was not one letter denying a) that glaciers were melting, and b) that global warming had anything to do with it.
Cliff Boldt looked up his Comox Valley, where “over-logging and the disappearance of our ‘glacier’ is a growing long term concern. Actually our glacier is just a piece of the ice age left over from 10,000 years ago. In hot weather like today you can almost see it shrinking. For many locals, it is a sign of climate change.
“I asked my Saskatchewan relatives if there was any chatter about the fate of the rivers. Nada in popular discourse. Of course my relatives won’t be around much past 2040. But their grandchildren and their children need some consideration.”
Similar sentiments from Frank Martens: “When I lived in Golden in 1965 the markers showing the decline of the Glaciers in the parks to the north were already showing a significant decline; the smaller the glaciers become, the faster they are reduced to nothing.
“When I lived in Alberta in the ‘40s we were dug crib wells to the 25 foot depth for beautifully fresh drinking water. Now, in the same area, you have to drill over 250 to 300 feet for water and it is contaminated with salt.”
IN that vein, Tom Watson recalled the old song, “Whatcha gonna do when the well runs dry?”
Bob Rollwagen “did the drive from Banff to Jasper in Sept 2016. Beautiful. Sad to see the shrinking glaciers. At Lake Louise in 1964 the Victoria Glacier was magnificent. Last week, when the heat wave that brought record 40+ temperatures to Europe moved on to Greenland, the CBC reported that the one day melt of surface Arctic ice had been estimated at 10 billion tons. This sounds like a new record and the potential for acceleration in glacier melt.
“It has long been known that water is earth’s most valuable resource because of its relationship to life.”
Bob then sounded off about plastic packaging, typically justified on economic grounds: “When did eating food that has to travel thousands of miles become so necessary. When I was a kid we did not eat raspberries in January; fresh oranges in the winter were a treat; but glaciers were huge.
“My experience is that only one thing changes consumers and that is Taxes. Taxes are how we share the responsibility of paying for a fair society. They level the playing field of life.
“The sole reason for plastic on food is to enhance corporate profit in that sector. It is hard to figure out why some people think the free markets will solve climate change and satisfy shareholders at quarterly meetings, when [corporate profit] is has been main cause of climate change over the past 150 year. Corporate leaders have only one measure at the moment, bottom line, and that does not factor in any responsibility for melting glaciers and the lack of global access to clean water. When the prairies go dry, the local inhabitants will be wondering who caused the problem. With nothing to ship, it sure will help with the carbon emissions.
“Are we surprised how interconnected everything is? And yet we still have citizens who believe corporate CEO’s understand this when each one is paid to manage within his/her own sector buy maximizing profit and paying as little as possible for the resources consumed.”
“I'm becoming more and more uneasy all the time with the ways in which our world is changing physically,” Rob Brown wrote from Saskatoon. “And I think a lot about our water. Your story about glaciers brought that to mind once again. Simply put, I think there will be enough water as long as Janet and I are around. Probably the same for our children.
“But what about our grandkids? They are just around their early teens. They'll be ‘middle aged’ by time the glaciers die out. What will happen to them? Can we even stop the change?”
Isabel Gibson asked a similar question: “We all need water, so Bob Sandford's call to treat glaciers as endangered species makes sense. That’s why the ‘why’ of warming matters hugely. If it's *not* increased CO2 and similar gases from human activity, then we haven't got much leverage to change the path.”
James Russell: “There’s no bigger story than climate catastrophe, and complacency in the face of it will be our doom. I’m also of the belief that one of the most immediately practical things to do in an emergency is: Sound the alarm! And keep it ringing until the emergency is ended!”
People need constant reminders that the danger has not passed, nor will it until we have taken the measures needed to defeat it. In a world-wide emergency, we need to keep reminding people to wake up, focus on the job in hand, and keep working individually and together until it’s done.”
Ted Archibald usually writes about the dangers of the wireless radiation to which we are all exposed, every day. (To get on his mailing list, write Ted at email@example.com):
In response to questions like “What should we do? What CAN we do?” Ted wrote, “Maybe the real question is What should we have done?
“Malthus preached that WE HAD A PROBLEM of TOO MANY PEOPLE in the future, that world populations cannot continue to grow because of the limits imposed by space to live and grow food basically. But it seems that our societies have not understood the forecasts and have continued to increase the number of people and the attendant increase in utilization of the natural resources and the increase in the pollution of all types.
“We can analyze and publicize the problem and posit possible solutions but it seems that the decisions should have been made many many decades ago.
Why are we in this pickle?
1 - most humans deal with the here and now; feed the family, build a shelter, live as good a life as possible (Maslow's hierarchy of needs?)
2 - most humans feel that they are insignificant when dealing with the BIG Questions.
3 - most humans make decisions NOW that will increase their OWN well-being leaving problems for the future not being considered.”
Ted continued in a pessimistic thread – perhaps, I suggest, reflecting his experience with governments and agencies that refuse to pay attention to accumulating evidence about the harm being done by being immersed in a sea of electrical frequencies. Even if solving global warming is beyond local governments, they could do something about cell phones. But they don’t.
David Gilchrist commented about two columns: “These last two Sharp Edges have both struck a chord.
“The John Howard Society showed me the great difference between a Reformatory and a Punitive institution. We had some effort at the first, with a‘farm’ attached to certain institutions (like Bowden, Alberta) where at least some inmates learned skills. But a short-sighted government closed the project -- and several other intelligent opportunities for helping inmates to turn their lives around. I still remember the sense of despair I felt at the irrationality of some of our elected leaders
“Some 65 years ago, I first saw the Columbia Ice Field, and I remember how close to the highway the glacier was. It was a real shock years later to drive by again, and see there was nearly a mile between the highway and the glacier. Living in central Alberta now, I am afraid for my grandchildren who are still in this province.”
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Ralph Milton’s latest project is a kind of Festival of Faith, a retelling of key biblical stories by skilled storytellers like Linnea Good and Donald Schmidt, designed to get people talking about their own faith experience. It’s a series of videos available on YouTube. I suggest you start with his introductory section: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u6qRclYAa8
Ralph’s “Sing Hallelujah” -- the world’s first video hymnal -- is still available. It consists of 100 popular hymns, both new and old, on five DVDs that can be played using a standard DVD player and TV screen, for use in congregations who lack skilled musicians to play piano or organ. The website for this project has closed but you can continue to order the DVDs by writing info@woodlake,com
Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” is an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca. He set up my webpage, and he doesn’t charge enough.
I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also runs beautiful pictures.
Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom or twatsonATsentexDOTnet
ALVA WOOD ARCHIVE
The late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures now have an archive (don’t ask how this happened) on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. Feel free to browse all 550 columns.