Saturday, June 4, 2016

"People, not Trump, can make a greater America"


By JOHN BUTTRICK
For the Monitor
A coffee mug holding my pens and pencils sits on my desk. It is decorated with insulting phrases spoken in Shakespeare’s plays. They are pithy, insightful, humorous, imaginative images. They hint at truths about the adversary and the speaker.
They often embody a critique of manners, selfishness or ethics: “A fusty nut with no kernel.” “Highly fed and lowly taught.” “Infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise breaker.”
I’m envious that I did not think these up or recognize occasions to use them.
Verbalizing ludicrous images that encapsulate a germ of truth contained in an action, an attitude or an idea contribute to understanding and expose hidden motives. At the same time, laughter eases the tension of discomfort over the personal and societal flaws exposed. The goal is to raise consciousness and stimulate the intellect of the audience.
However, Donald Trump’s political rhetoric consuming this year’s presidential campaign leads us in a different direction. His efforts to show his superiority are blatantly uncreative, dull, humorless and lacking any hint of truth. His goal is to win by domination, destroying the dignity of the opposition and playing his audience for fools. It’s troubling to me to read reports of people saying: “We like Donald Trump because he speaks like us. We admire Trump’s refusal to be ‘politically correct.’ ” Joining with a “winner” sounds good when we feel buried in the daily frustrations of economic, political or social impingements on our lives. It’s distressing when a health insurance company resists paying for a covered procedure; a bill collector demands money that’s been allocated for the basics of food, shelter and education for our children; or when ordered to work overtime instead of attending a daughter’s school play.
It’s fearful when we experience familiar laws, rules and customs changing in ways that challenge historic relationships between women and men, among races, strangers, immigrants and levels of privilege.
Given these daily struggles, joining Trump’s chorus of angry words, labels and accusations seems like a good idea. How good would it feel to let it all out, shake loose from inhibitions and join the world of name-calling, invective, derision, and ethnic, religious, racial and gender slander? And if I’m unable to risk it, I can at least be on the side of someone rich enough and brazen enough to abandon political correctness and hurl derogatory epithets without consequences.
However, I would suggest that bravado and unbounded ranting and raving never trump empathy, humility, creativity and clear thinking.
“Political correctness” may be simply recognizing and honoring people’s sensitivities and dignity. It invites people into community: listening to concerns, discovering differences and seeking ways to create common understanding and solve problems.
The models come from our childhood and may include the hospitality of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood or Sesame Street. They may recall the stories of Dr. Seuss or watching the recently released film Zootopia. The model comes from the Torah, the Bible, the Quran and other writings from faith traditions.
Basically, it doesn’t take a college degree or accumulation of wealth or the credentials of a “winner” to initiate these concepts we learned as children and contemplate as adults. And what about that old adage, “Count to 10 before speaking”?
This approach is not naive, weak or gullible. One of the ways to make America still greater is to resurrect impulse control, particularly control of the mouth.
There are ways toward empowerment that are far more effective than lashing out with bluster or hitching our wagon to a rich man who cannot relate to an hourly or salaried worker, a grocery shopper, a commuter, a prisoner of war or a refugee. To make our lives better, it is not necessary to associate with a man who has bankrupted two companies and makes questionable statements true by saying them over and over until they seem true. To make America still greater is to do the work of a good neighbor.
The world is watching. Handala, a 10-year-old Palestinian boy, has shown up in most political cartoons of Naji al-Ali since the early 1970s. We see Handala standing with his hands clasped behind his back observing the injustice portrayed in each cartoon. He is watching depictions of injustice in Israel, Palestine, the United States and around the world. He’s the witness to oppression everywhere. Al-Ali says that Handala will not grow up or turn around until there is peace and justice in the world. He is our conscience.
What does Handala see when he looks our way? Donald Trump with his entourage speaking out with belligerence, belittling others unlike themselves and relishing the bluster of a bully? Or will Handala witness evidence of the making of a still greater America?
I hope he will see my college cross country coach who insisted that whenever we passed an opposing team member during a race we talk to him, encourage him, and challenge him to pick up his pace and run with us. The result was we all ran faster, made personal bests and contributed to a great race for all of us.
I hope Handala will see a small group of Muslims, Jews and Christians meeting monthly together in Concord exploring ways of justice and peace for all people. Perhaps he will see college students in Palestine seeking nonviolent ways to claim dignity while under Israeli occupation.
He will see a group of Concord church people joining Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum’s initiative to write to President Obama, asking him to appoint a special envoy for 440 Palestinian children in Israeli military detention.
He will see people from many walks of life forming food co-ops and farmers markets to access affordable, healthy food.
He will see the hospitality Concord citizens extend to our refugee community and the help struggling people give to each other.
He will also see courageous volunteers from our country serving in Doctors without Borders, the Peace Corps, and working with refugees in Lebanon.
And he will see groups of people speaking truth to power in the language of reason, imagination and empathy while affirming the dignity of all people.
These ways are filtered out of Trump’s awareness. He seeks personal domination to rule. People in a democracy seek community empowerment to correct injustices.
No matter who we are – our education, our social or economic class, our race, ethnicity, gender orientation, religious belief or skill set – we have contributions to make for a greater America.
Donald Trump does not speak for us. We can refuse to be, in Shakespeare’s words, “not so much brain as earwax.”
We can choose faithfulness over fear, hospitality over hostility, dignity over domination.
(Rev. John Buttrick lives in Concord. He can be reached at fayejihn@gmail.com.)
Donald Trump does not speak for us. We can refuse to be, in Shakespeare’s words, “not so much brain as earwax.

8 comments:

Dave A. Rossetti said...

You know there is an old saying that a republican is a democrat who has been mugged. There was a time when I too believed that the system was about fairness, equality, and justice. I have learned some hard lessons over the last 9 years. I have learned that these are ideas, open to interpretation, guided by social conformity by people who live in a strange world of denial.
When the hornets build a nest near the front door of my home, I no longer try to reason with them in hopes that they won't hurt me or my family. I have learned that they will sting me for reasons unknown to me. Now I suppose that with some counseling and sting therapy I can co-exist so long as I have an epipen close at hand and am willing to accept the losses to my comfort and security in an effort to be "nice" to the hornets and attempt to change my way of living in an effort to co-exist, perhaps I should try using the back door or the basement bulkhead to come and go in and out of my home.
But this now means that I will have to expend hard earned resources in an effort to satisfy the aforementioned efforts. This means that I will have to change many of the life strategies I have implemented to enjoy what time I have left here to enjoy my family and the like.
I am no longer willing to do this. I now know that no matter how much I changed the way I come and go from my home that I stand a very real chance of being stung by the hornets no matter which way I come and go.
So, I have decided that the only way to stop the threat to my families safety and security is to eliminate the threat all together by destroying the nest and its contents. I won't wait for some politician to make a "law" against stinging people by hornets, I won't wait for my neighbor/official to protect me from the hornets. No, I will take action or at least hire the right entity to take the appropriate actions to ensure the hornets are no longer a threat to my families safety and security, I will vote for Donald Trump.

Anonymous said...

The preacher should stick to religion, and the pulpit. Maybe he can tell us about Elizabeth Warren and Hillary, and other pillars of the community.

Feel the Bern!

Barbara Koehler said...

One has only to look to the past 40 years, assuming you still read your history and not just Shakespeare, to see that the "kindness, empathy, forgiveness, etc." that the liberals propose is NOT really the kindness, empathy, and forgiveness WE all espouse to follow. They are instead labels used to appeal to the humanness in all of us in an attempt to manipulate us and take our freedoms away. Why? So they can be the totalitarian leaders and give us what THEY think we want. When Jesus Christ found the money lenders outside the temple, He threw them out! He did not say we should tolerate their insults and just get along.

Ask yourself where the liberal agenda has gotten us? Redistribution of wealth has not created fewer poor, but has made the poor lazy since everything is given to them, and has dragged the middle class working American down closer to being poor. How many people are on food stamps now???? Not fewer with these programs. How much safer are we for opening our borders? We are less safe now because criminals and terrorists can come right in, mixed in with the refugees. Donald Trump wants to KNOW they are refugees and NOT criminals or terrorists. That seems perfectly reasonable to me!! He is saying we need to put a halt UNTIL WE KNOW WHAT WE ARE DOING. A wall will force people to follow the law; how can you have a problem with asking people to follow the law???
How about global warming, climate change, all the "feel good" type of MANAGEMENT over our lives? There is actually NO proof that people in the good old US of A have made the planet any worse! Yet, we are ruining industries and the livelihood (remember the poor) of our people in the name of climate change!

Do you truly not think the majority of Americans don't see through this? The fact that Donald Trump is very rich, has everything he wants, and does not want this job, is clear to me. He is willing to leave everything he has for 8 years, put his life constantly at risk, work like a dog to win this election, and then face a job that has been completely messed up by Obama to try to save America from the precipice. Do you really think he wants this job for his ego???? He doesn't need it. Why do you suppose thousands upon thousands of people go to his rallies? Do you really think we are ALL stupid or can't see what a mess our country is in???
If you don't believe we are going down, take a look at Europe, a VERY CLOSE look at Europe, where socialism and open borders have left them in poverty and now danger in their streets.
Don't get caught up in the "we can't offend anyone" please. Obama and the liberals have been offending the rest of us for years by slowly taking away our freedoms. We public have lost all faith in our representatives in government, republican and democrat. We finally have someone who is telling the truth, not saying what I WANT to say but are afraid of the backlash, but what we HAVE BEEN SAYING for years and NO ONE LISTENED. Where do you think the Tea Party came from? It makes me sick to see Hillary, a crook, and you can't deny it, actually running for president. What happened to law and order? We are slowly becoming a third-world country. Read your history and learn.

Moultonboro Blogger said...


Barbara, you are entitled to your own opinions, but not everyone elses. I do not profess to speak for " WE all" or speaking for the majority. The majority has yet to weigh in.
The past 40 years you reference had 20 years of Republican Presidents and 20 years of Democrat Presidents. It is not true based upon that metric alone that it is the " liberals" fault that our country is in the alledged poor condition you seem to believe. I certainly do not.
You seem willing to entrust our future to a person who has no clue how the middle class and poor live. He is wealthy beyond belief and lives is a world with a lifestyle most of us cannot relate too. He has a long history of denigrating women and may be racist. Not only has Trump said on Twitter that blacks and Latinos commit most crime in America, but he’s also on record saying that we should be giving Europeans access to America and a path to citizenship, but not Latinos south of our American/Mexican border. He just recently called out a sitting judge of Mexican decent born legally in the USA of being a " Mexican" and thereby should not be allowed to preside over Trump's bogus and fraudulent " Trump University." He is uninformed on many issues and when in doubt, acts impulsively. Is that who you want with his thumb on the nuclear trigger? I do not.
Many people do receive public assistance in one form or another. The question we should be asking is, where would we be without these programs? I do believe that a future in which people don’t begrudge struggling families their humble benefits is possible. I don't believe that Donald Trump will do that.
The problem is that some don’t seem to care that Trump is so divorced from reality. They just want the comfort food of Trump’s bigotry and anger. This is who the Republican Party has become.

Tom Howard said...

Just listened to a great lecture as part of a course entitled "Abraham Lincoln: In His Own Words". This particular session spoke about Lincoln's first major public address, which he delivered at age 29 in 1838. The professor discussed the text and contexts of the so-called Lyceum Speech in which Abe addressed concerns for the perpetuation of American political institutions. He asserted that the major issue is how we can assure the survival of our political institutions and thereby fulfill our duty to our Founding Fathers. And he contended that the greatest threat to these institutions is more likely to be internal than external. The domestic danger, he stated, is disregard for laws. Mr. Lincoln argued that the consequences of this disregard would be that lawlessness would beget further lawlessness, which would destroy the attachment of the people to their government. Following this continuum, "Ambitious men will take advantage of such detachment and the attendant 'mobocratic spirit' to overthrow constitutional government and introduce tyranny."

Wow, and that was spoken 178 years ago. I thought the message fit well into this discussion.

Also Enjoys History said...

The lead words of this thread are not accurate, if you believe in The Lyceum speech; laws, not people, make the USA great (Mexico and Canada are also American).

"... Lincoln concluded that there was a need to cultivate a "political religion" that emphasizes "reverence for the laws" and puts reliance on "reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason."

During the speech, Lincoln referenced two murders committed by pro-slavery mobs. The first was the burning of Francis McIntosh, a freedman who killed a constable, and was subsequently lynched by a mob in St. Louis in 1836. Lincoln also referenced the death of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, a newspaper editor and abolitionist, who was murdered three months earlier by a pro-slavery mob in nearby Alton, Illinois."

Convenience, in utilizing history, should be scrutinized. Personal perceptions may not be accurate, but serve to accommodate a position.

"The Emancipation Proclamation was a presidential proclamation and executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863."

Some Presidential executive orders were useful, not like the debate in today's politics that executive orders are replacing law, passed by Congress, not the Executive branch. Lincoln's executive order did not free the slaves, as is popular belief. The proclamation only pertained to the southern slaves. The proclamation was an aid in the war to preserve the Union, and to keep The Brits and French from entering the war on the southern side.

The only common denominator to yesteryear's politics and today's politics is human nature. What kind of people we elect, is the mystery. That process, in itself, can be troubling, but who knows for sure, even after history is written, and then quoted; correctly or incorrectly.






Anonymous said...

I just don't get what people see in trump. What will he actually do for you for us? He prays on the poor and less fortunate, insults many and then whines like a toddler when he doesn't get his way! Yes we absolutely need to protect our families, but putting someone in office that will and has created proverbial hornets nests makes no sense to me. Myself and children will never serve to protect his mouth. Do you think his would? Demagogue & Dingleberry are two of the definitions that I find fit well to describe the Donald!

Just a voter said...

What options do you suggest? Not vote! Which is the worse evil? The self-absorbed "the Donald" or the Hillary, that was "broke" when she and her ex-President husband were asked to put back the silverware, when their time was up at the White House! Now multi millionaires from "doing public good"!

Both have a lot of money. What experiences from either, can do the country any good?

Maybe Putin, could be a write-in. We know where he stands!

Personally, I don't care about insults. I care about getting this country turned around, for the better. Some may think everything is just hunky-dory and continue living in la-la land!

It's going to be a hot summer! There may be some relief on the way, however. Indictments and criminal convictions could cool the political scene a bit.

The fact is, a different President comes on board January 20th, 2017. The real fun begins then!