March 28th, 2017 |
Ever since Donald Trump leaped into the political pool, announcing his campaign for the presidency, we’ve been subjected to a masterful card-shark. He’s a hustler, an expert gambler, who has manipulated the nation as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a fascist clad in fleece attire. The media he denounces, yet loves, has actually catapulted him into the presidency. We cannot trust the enabling-press, and I don’t mean just Fox News.
His legerdemain has been mesmerizing. This trickster is non-stop entertainment, a constant, unavoidable performance. And we are welded to him. We wake up to his late hour tweets, and go to bed dizzy from his crazy twists and turns. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear “breaking news” all day long, reporting that there is no Trump news?
Never one to wear a poker face, his sour, petulant demeanor matches his bullying personality. His self-proclaimed trick-taking power, however, hides more than it reveals. Beneath it all, his braggadocious behavior is a cover, a stunt, to mask his ignorant impotence. Nevertheless, he keeps showing up at the card table, ready to play with us.
Donald Trump has now lost two card games. He didn’t have the hands (slight pun intended) to win; the cards just weren’t there. He lost to the courts in his attempt to enforce a travel band, and then again in his battle with Congress over healthcare. In so doing, he looked like a loser. But we must keep in mind that he has a trump card up his sleeve, there for the most deadly game—the game of war. It’s the Commander in Chief card. He can run the table with that card, as well as ruin the world.
One might say that the Congress has the power to stop a president from trump-carding our nation into war, since it’s congress that has the constitutional power to declare war. Really? Well de jure, but no longer de facto. The last war to be fought legally, by congressional vote, was WW II. The situation now? Counting the Gulf War, we have been at war in the Middle East for almost 26 years, a long time since I went to Iraq on a peace mission in 1989. Four presidents (Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama) have conducted war without a declaration. It is now President Trump’s war.
The bloodied, broken-bodied news right now out of Iraq and Syria, not to mention Yemen, is March Madness, and I am not talking about basketball. I am talking about the continuing madness that has metastasized in place-after-place in the Middle East. Our misguided genocidal militarism, begun in 1990 with the Gulf War invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, has grown to behemothic proportions. Not content with a modicum allowance, these wars have consumed trillions of budgeted tax dollars, and left behind millions of dead, wounded, and displaced people. The numbers exhaust an overworked multiplication table.
Campaign promises from the card-shark: “I would bomb the s- - - out of ‘em. I would just bomb those suckers. That’s right. I’d blow up the pipes. … I’d blow up every single inch. There would be nothing left. And you know what, you’ll get Exxon to come in there and in two months, you ever see these guys, how good they are, the great oil companies? They’ll build that sucker, brand new—it’ll be beautiful.”
This past weekend Vice President Pence arrived here in Charleston. On his way from the airport, he stopped at the West Virginia Veteran’s Memorial and addressed a pro-trump rally. “Thanks to you all in West Virginia, we have elected a man for president who never quits, who never backs down. He is a fighter. He is a winner, and I’ve got to tell you: From day one in the Oval Office, he’s been fighting for the American people and fighting to keep the promises that he’s made to the people of West Virginia.”
That’s right, he promised to bar Muslims from entry to our country, euthanize the Affordable Care Act, and now it’s bomb-time, more troop-time, more budget-money-for-war-time. The question that hangs in the air: Will the rising tide of protest and resistance to the card-shark be sustained long enough to fight against an obese military budget, along with an unwillingness to rally around the flag when we are attacked for our constant reliance on massive bombing and an inevitable increase in troop deployment? The answer will be determined by how we play our cards.
March 28th, 2017
March 23rd, 2017 |
It was springtime in Lexington, Virginia—1958—my final months at Washington & Lee University.
Arnold Toynbee, the British historian, who had just written a monumental 12 volume Study of History, was on campus for an extended series of lectures. Being a philosophy major, I was privileged to hear him.
Like all great teachers—maybe preachers and everyone else, for that matter—what I remember most was his presence. Not his obvious erudition. No, it was his humility. I still recall him saying that every door he opened, there was another door facing him.
After classes, I would hustle over to lacrosse practice. My last season of playing a game I had played and loved since I was a young boy. That boy emerges still. Every spring, even now, I feel the urge to pick up the old lacrosse stick in my basement and bounce a ball off any nearby wall. It might as well be spring again.
I did know that graduation was about to happen. In June, I was handed a diploma. Afterwards, a short walk over to Lee Chapel, I was sworn into the Marine Corp. One week later, I was playing lacrosse in the North-South All Star Game in New York City. The next weekend, Judy and I were married.
Two weeks later we were headed to Quantico, Virginia, then on to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California. Within the next two years, we had a son, and I was floating around off the coast of Southeast Asia, prepared, if need be, to kill yellow people I did not know.
What did I know about marriage, or yellow people, or war, or raising a family? What did I know about my own country, the American Empire? There was so much more to learn.
So, here I am, still putting the pieces of my life together, past, present, and whatever future I can image, doing time inside the life I love. Still trying to learn, I dig out some Toynbee, from the musty past. Long dead, he still has something to say.
“Militarism has been by far the commonest cause of the breakdown of civilizations. The single art of war makes progress at the expense of all the arts of peace…The only real struggle in the history of the world, is between the vested interest and social justice.”
Toynbee’s Study of History recorded the rise and fall of empires, over 20 of them. The fall of an empire, or its rebirth, was dictated by the responses made at critical challenging moment, tipping points, if you will. For sure, that’s us, right now.
As difficult as it is for some to recognize, we are living in the dying American Empire. Visions of imperial power die a slow death. Martin Luther King Jr. was right when he said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” Gulp! That’s a hard message to swallow.
How to live lovingly and justly in our dying American Empire, visible in our bloated military budget, is the challenge. The militarism lodged in our way of life, here and abroad, must die. Our task? Bird business. Tending to a phoenix, that unique bird that lived for centuries, then burned itself out on a funeral pyre, in order to rise from the ashes to live into another age. In church-talk, my language, it has to do with death and resurrection. Lent and Easter.
It might as well be spring again.
March 23rd, 2017
March 21st, 2017 |
I know, I know! You can’t tell a book by its cover, nor know what’s in a person’s soul by looking at what they’re wearing. But quite honestly, I do pay attention to what people wear, and it can tell me even more than meets the eye.
In 1965, Mary Beth Tinker and her brother John wore black armbands to school in Des Moines, Iowa. They were protesting the Vietnam War. School officials expelled them. The students filed a suit and the case went to court, all the way to the Supreme Court. The Court decided in their favor, by stating that students do not “shed their constitutional rights at the school house gate.” What a person wears can count.
Now, consider the pink pussy hats at The Washington Women’s March. This attire, along with the t-shirts that defined the wearer as a self-proclaimed Nasty Woman, were fashion statements messaging President Trump that women are the vanguard of resistance to his presence in the White House.
And don’t forget the white dresses worn by Democratic congresswomen at President Trump’s first congressional address. The dresses were a reminder of the attire worn by suffragettes at he Women’s Suffrage March in 1913, the day of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. That was when 5,000 women took to the streets of Washington demanding the right to vote. It got violent. Badgered by onlookers, over 100 women were hospitalized.
What is worth noting is the fact that a year later, on August 29, 1914, 1,500 women marched in New York City. It was a march against the war in Europe, a march to let President Wilson know, in no uncertain terms, that women were in the streets to resist sending United States troops into what finally became World War I.
A whole army of suffragettes, a generation of nasty women in the early 1900s, marched and worked to gain what men had, the right to vote. Marching their way to a ballot box, they also protested the march to war in Europe. In their wisdom, they saw that the war, described as “the war to end all wars,” was in fact, just another war, one that would most surely perpetuate more war. It was no more than death-dealing militarism.
Think of militarism as a boa constrictor that wraps itself around every aspect of our lives, chocking the life out of everything we care about. Since it is by a woman that we have life, war is a feminist issue, par excellence. It is a male-perpetuated, monstrous erotic distortion. War makes love to itself, in a perverted way that procreates more war.
War abuses women. War is rape. War disrupts the peace. War sacrifices children. War creates homelessness. War seduces men. War attacks the poor. War destroys the earth. War gives birth to refugees. War creates jobs for killing. War disables its own troops. War is a march toward a graveyard. War is the enemy of faith hope and love.
I never met Jeannette Rankin; I only wish I had. The first woman to be elected to Congress back in 1917, she was a leader in the suffrage movement, as well as a leader in the creation of the Women’s Peace Party. A Republican feminist pacifist, she voted against WWI and WWII. In 1968, she marched in Washington against the Vietnam War. Her own testimony: “It is unconscionable that 10,000 boys (eventually over 50,000) have died in Vietnam. If 10,000 American women had mind enough they could end the war, if they were committed to the task, even if it meant going to jail.”
“Politicians and military leaders sound increasingly belligerent,” says Mikhail Gorbachev, in a recent Time magazine interview, “and defense doctrines more dangerous. Commentators and TV personalities are joining the bellicose chorus. It all looks as if the world is preparing for war.” I would only add, an escalation of the war we are already fighting.
On the way through Lent, toward Easter, there is more to say about this after a good night’s sleep.
March 21st, 2017