This morning I re-read a wonderful little book entitled Falling Upward by Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest. I first read it on the recommendation of one of my sisters, who isn’t conventionally religious. I suspect it interested her because it doesn’t just speak to Christians, but to anyone who lives life thoughtfully.
In a chapter dealing with the “first half of life”, Rohr discusses how society benefits from having limits, standards. “We cannot flourish early in life inside a totally open field. . . . Chaos and chaotic parents will rightly make children cry, withdraw, and rage — both inside and out”. Later Rohr continues, “Without laws like the Ten Commandments, our existence would be pretty pathetic. What if you could not rely on people to tell the truth? Or not to steal from you? What if we were not expected to respect our parents, and we started out with cynicism and mistrust of all authority? What if the ‘I love you’ between partners was allowed to mean nothing? What if covetousness . . . was encouraged to grow unstopped, as it is in capitalist countries today? Such shapelessness would be the death of any civilization or any kind of trustworthy or happy world. I wonder: Are we there already?
What Rohr wondered about almost 10 year ago is an apt description for what’s happening to our country under Donald Trump. What if you could not rely on people to tell the truth? Not only can we NOT rely on our president to tell the truth, we expect him to lie daily. Further, we expect his minions, a.k.a. Republicans, to ignore his lying and protect him from the usual consequences of lying in public office. And, by refusing to divest himself of his financial assets, he is gaining handsomely in financial terms as our president, which is not only illegal and immoral but now accepted as standard operating procedure. And “what if covetousness was encouraged to grow unstopped?” Aren’t Trump’s tax cuts, which further enriched the super-rich, an example of unstopped covetousness? The super-rich not only raked in more money, they also acquired more power and influence. (Anyone who thinks they didn’t write the tax bill is willfully naive.)
What is this atmosphere of greed, dishonesty, and lawlessness doing to our nation? Will we ever return to a nation of laws? Will we ever be a compassionate nation? How will young people who are learning about our country and how it should work be shaped by today’s goings-on? Will they learn the lessons they have seen lived out?
- That might makes right.
- That the rich are special and should be rewarded .
- That we don’t need to love and protect our planet.
- That telling the truth doesn’t matter.
- That humility is for losers.
Why should we expect them NOT to internalize those messages?
This country is moving in the wrong direction morally. And millions of its citizens — whether religious or not — know it. How did this happen? Part of the answer is that the handful of men who control the WEC (white evangelical Christian) vote made a bargain with Trump — a Faustian bargain. They gave him their full support, despite his amorality, in exchange for his promise to load the courts with judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade; be hostile to same sex marriage and transgender rights; and oppress immigrants who happen to be brown. You might say that sentence is too cynical but it describes reality. Here is how Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, sums up the situation and the challenge for moral people.
And the faith community, which should never be politically partisan, must make moral decisions and not succumb to Faustian political bargains. Donald Trump is and always has been a consummate liar, an amoral human being, a completely selfish man with no concern for any others, an ultimate wealth and power-seeking megalomaniac, and the kind of leader who always has and will always want to be a tyrant and dictator. Removing him from power is, therefore, a task central to the soul of the nation — and to the integrity of faith. (Emphasis added.)
Wallis further opined that the proper process for removing Trump from office was the ballot box, and warned about the dangers of impeachment. That leads me to my fourth manifesto:
Our Democratic presidential nominee (DPN) must be someone who can eloquently present to the American people the moral crisis of the present day.
She/he must be able to communicate that defeating Trump is not merely a political necessity but a moral imperative. She/he must make lying a campaign issue. When did it become acceptable for a leader of our country to constantly lie? How did we get accustomed to it? How can we rise up and say this conflicts with our moral principles? And when did it become morally acceptable for members of Congress to remain silent — even defend — the leader of their party when he repeatedly lies? When did it become moral to abet genocide in Yemen? When did it become moral to acquiesce to the brutal murder and dismemberment of a journalist by the Saudi crown prince? Are we to simply move on and forget these amoralities? Do we as a nation still have any moral grounding?
As never before in my lifetime, our next presidential election is a stark zero sum game. Our DPN must be able to frame the moral dimension of this battle as well as the specific issues that illustrate the immorality of the present regime. Most of the big issues have a moral dimension that the Republicans ignore: immigration, foreign policy, healthcare, tax policy, environmental policy, etc. I want a DPN who will highlight the morality or amorality of policy decisions. About 60 percent of the voters see through the Faustian bargain that would cost them their souls. As for those who did make the deal with Trump, I bet nearly all would describe themselves as “moral.” I pray they will put emotions aside and objectively examine Trump’s record of immorality, as well as the immorality that a second term would surely bring, and send him packing.
Which of the two dozen Democratic candidates seems most adept at communicating such a message? Time will tell, but so far one of the best communicators is Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He seems more genuine than most of the candidates and doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who would lie to us. That doesn’t imply that other Democratic candidates are incapable of framing the moral dilemma the country faces. But doesn’t Mayor Pete seem to be the right messenger?