Walk the Walk

June 13, 2016

I wondered how the GOP establishment, even the GOP mainstream (what’s left of it), would respond to Trump’s most recent racist tirade. The attack on Judge Curiel seems to have induced a zombie-like effect on them. Republican after Republican has gone on media and in the same flat affect denounced the Trump racism in terms that are as revealing of their own bias as there are of his. Some say his racism is “unfortunate” or a “mistake,” meaning the comments are only a concern in terms of their chances of winning the election. Some say they are “wrong,” which is a little closer to a moral judgment though not exactly clear as to why his racist attacks are wrong. Maybe they mean they are wrongly worded. I don’t know. Paul Ryan continues to amaze with his utter cluelessness by suggesting that the comments from a man who began his campaign by claiming Mexican immigrants were rapists and drug dealers and refused to denounce David Duke, were coming from “left field.” Maybe he was suggesting that Trump has nothing but a left field in his ballpark, but I doubt it.

I was taught that when it comes to matters of racism, it’s not what people say, it’s what they do that matters. Most racists are cowards and spew their hatred behind closed doors. In public, they tend toward silence or the meek defense of overtly racist speech (e.g. “I think he simply misspoke”). If the GOP were really not resting on a foundation of bigotry, then they would take back their endorsements of Trump. Saying that Trump’s comments were wrong, but doing nothing about it says more about their moral compass than anything else. Worse yet, if it were true that the comments from Republicans about Trump that he was unqualified, pathological, etc. before he won the primaries were sincere, then it illustrates the reason why nothing can get done in government. If politicians are willing to ignore what is best for the Country to win elections, then it explains why we are unable to solve our problems. Once again, what they do matters more than what they say. If Republicans deserted Trump in droves as he continues to reveal his true character, then there may be hope for our country yet…    

What Can One Man Do?

January 28, 2014

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a prophet. I believe he spoke with a moral clarity that rivaled the tradition of Old Testament prophets, and with the same effect. We recently celebrated MLK Day and, as I reflected on his life and accomplishments, I had mixed feelings but felt a certain inspiration.

At the end of his life, Dr. King was speaking more often about reforming our society not only in terms of racial justice, but more so in terms of economic justice. “Poverty” he said, “was the most insidious form of violence”. He condemned the moral bankruptcy of “a society that spends more on weapons of mass destruction that on programs of social uplift…” and predicted its demise. He condemned a government which ignored the needs of its citizens to serve the interests of a few.

Like many of the Old Testament prophets, he was killed because of his message. It’s difficult for me to identify who has since taken up his mantle, especially in government. Dr. King was instrumental in passing the Voting Rights Bill, instrumental in inspiring the War on Poverty, and the political end of the Viet Nam War.

By 2014, The Voting Rights Bill was gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court, and laws suppressing voting rights are flourishing. Even more insidious, was that economic injustice – the violence done to the hopes and dreams of the next generation of Americans – is more profound than it is has ever been in our history. Our own children today face the prospect of being the first generation of Americans to grow up in a third world economy for them and their children.

These days it rare to hear anyone in Congress speaking about the problems we face in moral terms and proposing moral solutions. I am not talking about bigots such as those who invoke “God’s Law” as a reason to hate Gays or women. I mean a person who has the courage to speak out in defense of those who cannot do so for themselves.

Such a Congressman might indeed be a “voice in the wilderness”, but as the life and words of Dr. King proved, one man with moral authority can change a society.