How do we move forward?

Truth first, then reconciliation

move forwardMy friend Alison from church, in response to something I posted on Facebook, noted:

The Perils of having a reality show host as your country’s leader! I think probably you and [your wife] predicted that at the start? But no one could have predicted quite how terrible it could be! I would like your views on how this country can learn and move forward?

Let’s parse this. I don’t think that his a TV host per se was necessarily a disqualifying item on the resume. Ronald Reagan was an actor, and while I despised most of his politics, I seldom doubted that he was in government for what he thought was the good of the country, rather than always out for himself.

Whereas most people who knew Donald Trump before 2016 thought of him as self-absorbed, to be kind. He began his racist campaign talking about Mexican rapists. This was, as they say in poker parlance, a “tell.” So the outcome wasn’t that much of a surprise. What was more interesting/scary was how attractive his vulgar and abusive rhetoric appealed to voters.

Here’s the problem with political prognosticators. They depend too much on the past. “Trump will pretend to run for a few months then drop out.” He’s teased as early as the 1990s about running. They also said Biden couldn’t win in 2020 because he’d failed to even get his party’s nomination twice before.

Oh, yeah, what you asked

To your question, I really don’t know. I’ve been reading tons of contradictory advice on this topic. Ultimately, I often end up in the “truth and reconciliation” mode. See this article from Politico on the question of race. Surely, we need a healing process. But before that, we know we need some truth-telling.

This is important because “it’s not ‘unity that Republicans want, but absolution. They want Americans to forget what we just witnessed and what we are now likely to witness over and over again.”

Also: “As The very leaders who refused to accept the results of a free and fair election, who themselves trucked in the falsehoods and debunked conspiracy theories about a stolen vote and oncoming tyranny — the lies that fueled the Capitol assault — were now preaching the gospel of unity. And they did it with straight faces.”

Should djt be convicted in his second Senate impeachment trial? NO! But only if he appears before the Senate and repudiates the Big Lie. He could say, “I’m sorry. There was no widespread voter fraud. My hubris got the best of me.” Of course, he NEVER says he’s sorry about anything. So the Senate should convict the kleptocrat, keeping him from ever running for office ever again.

In remarks on the Senate floor on January 19, Republican leader Mitch McConnell condemned the violence at the Capitol. “The last time the Senate convened, we had just reclaimed the Capitol from violent criminals who tried to stop Congress from doing our duty. The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.” Sure Mitch has his own agenda here, but he always does.

Congress amok

As for those ‘other powerful people,” they include members of the House of Representatives. Members of the House such as QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene, Presidential Medal of Freedom awardee Jim Jordan, and minority leader Kevin McCarthy, spread the Big Lie.

Worse, Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, and newly-elected gun-toting Congresswoman Lauren Boebert,  among others, allegedly provided tours to insurrectionists ahead of the January 6th attack. Thus armed intruders knew the layout of the building and the weaknesses in security.

Then DURING the event, Boebert reportedly updated insurrectionists to the location of Democratic members of Congress, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi. If true, these people needed to be booted from the House, at the bare minimum.

In the Senate, McConnell has problems in his caucus. In an op-ed published a couple of Saturdays ago, the El Paso Times was the third Texas paper calling on Ted Cruz to resign. The editorial board wrote: “To borrow from the title one of his books, now was ‘A Time for Truth.’ And Cruz knew the Stop the Steal campaign was a fraud.” Failing that, the Senate should at least censure him and Josh Hawley (R-MO), constitutional scholars who know better.

Understand their views

Speaking of which, CBS This Morning ran a segment on how poorly the average American knows the Constitution. They asked toughies such as the three branches of the federal government, who the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is, and who their member of Congress is. Surely Constitutional literacy is lacking in America. Maybe we need to require Civics for Grownups.

Other suggestions kicking around include supporting local newspapers so they can engage in robust reporting. I’m afraid, though, that too many people are so jaded about the honesty of the “mainstream media” that it will be of minimal effect.

I relate to this. Teaching in the Age of Disinformation Propaganda and conspiracy theories are everywhere. What’s a professor to do?

All of this said, I think it is important to try to understand those who revere 45, preferably in a “safe place”. Admittedly I don’t know what this looks like. Maybe we need to engage therapists all over the country to have us talk it out?

I do know from personal experience that this is damn difficult. But if you dismiss them as deluded, stupid, or manipulated, this will get neither of you anywhere. They collectively see him as keeping GOD at the forefront of American life. He cares about the little guy in their minds. You can agree to disagree with them, or just walk away.

Reconciliation: black & white, gays & the church

There were people who believed that once the bigots die off, then a more tolerant, more enlightened next generation would take over.

More questions from Arthur:

Do you personally chafe at the name “Liberal Christianity”, or do you see the name as a necessary counter-balance to the assumption that all Christians (Protestants in particular) are conservatives?

Interesting that after you asked the question, someone linked to Social Justice Is a Christian Tradition — Not a Liberal Agenda. The person who posted wrote: “Many Christians are wary of participating in social justice because of a deep-rooted fear of being labeled ‘liberal,’ ‘progressive,’ or ‘secular.'”

I replied: “I am a Christian, and I have ZERO fear of being labeled liberal, though I prefer progressive.” Yes, we need SOME designation to counter the narrative. You KNOW I’ve spent a lot of space in this blog both claiming my faith and saying, essentially, I’m not “like them,” so I’d rather make a positive assertion, rather than be anti a negative one.

I happen to believe actual Bible reading is likely to turn one into a liberal, unless you cherry-pick like the woman upbraided by President Bartlett on The West Wing.

Given how awful Christians—conservatives in particular, but even mainline Protestant churches—have treated LGBT people in the past (and fundamentalists still do), how do you think reconciliation could be achieved? Could that be a model for reconciling other segments of society that are divided because of past antipathy?

The churches that are accepting just DO it, not without a great deal of deliberation, mind you because that’s the Presby way. The Presbyterian Church USA has a More Light designation, which I happen to think is a terrible name, because almost no one outside the denomination gets the reference. But it involves providing an opportunity for full participation, from having LGBTQ pastors and lay leaders to same-gender marriage, conversation in adult education, and yes, participation in the gay rights parade, which, as I’ve noted in the past, is much more important now than ever, given the backlash. People will make mistakes in the process, but they need a safe space to do that.

The Daughter is not confused by her church friend who has two moms, e.g. A lot of the membership in my congregation is LGBTQ and the leadership of elders and deacons reflects that.

The United Methodist Church, of which I am a former member, has ducked the issue, for now, the last major Protestant denomination to do so, I think, fearing a schism. But the schism will happen whether they vote yea or nay in 2020.

Let me throw in a question from Reader Wil here:

How do we have to deal with racists? Whenever I want to tell about people who are discriminated against, there is always someone who denies it.

Oy, that IS a tough nut to crack. Lots of people seem to think that racism is over when I see no evidence of that being true, in the United States at least. I know I was more hopeful eight years ago than now. In the US, even the systems that had protected voting rights based on race – Congress and the courts – have let us down.

One of the great things I’ve seen, though, since Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter movement, is the sheer number of WHITE people who seem to “get” it, that mass incarceration hurts not just the black community but all of us. It has always been thus, the need for white allies (or straight allies or male allies).

There were people who believed that once the bigots die off, a more tolerant, more enlightened next generation would take over. That may still be the case, but it’s going to take longer than I would like. Race, and specifically black/white in America, has a long historic framework. Just as you think you’ve torn it down here (Confederate flag moved from the SC capitol), it rises up there (the racist, often pro-Agent Orange tirades, post-election.)

I’ll say this: it’s heartening when white people talk about white privilege because it says that the problem of racism is NOT a black problem, it’s everyone’s problem. After the nine people were killed in a Charleston, SC church, the congregations of a couple of churches in that city, one black, one white, but with a common history, started meeting together, and it created greater understanding. THAT’S reconciliation, and we need more of that.

But it’ll be a slow go. Especially when courses designed to address the issue are fought.

I know it’s not much, but we have to keep on keeping on, embracing the “other,” as often as we can. I’m impressed how, in New Zealand, people of every ethnicity have adopted some Maori terms. I can’t imagine a lot of American people using some native American culture – “talk American!” – other than to denigrate it, but maybe I’m too cynical.

Guilt: not an American tradition

Germans feel guilty for something that happened long before they were born. As far as I am aware Americans do not actively feel bad about what happened to the Native Americans.

guilt1From Quora, in answer to What do Germans feel about Holocaust movies, international student Johannes Adams gave an intriguing answer. His parents are German, though he was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He’s a citizen of both Germany and the US and is fluent in both German and English.

Shame is an emotion that almost all Germans will feel when considering the last 100 years.We are ashamed of what our country, our forefathers and possibly even our grandparents did. And for good reason.

The Holocaust will forever remain a crime that words cannot, and should not be able to describe.

But here for me exists the main problem, and please bear with me even if it sounds morally disturbing and despicable. The German people have embraced their past, doing their best over the last 70 years to make amends to humanity and work towards a peaceful world .

We Germans accept the crimes of our people and country, allowing the collective guilt that exists already to pile up without an argument. We carry it, without protest, we feel guilty for something that happened long before we were born. As far as I am aware Americans do not actively feel bad about what happened to the Native Americans, in my experience my friends get quite hostile and defensive when I broach this topic. I think every current country and its people have something to be ashamed of, but usually these things are omitted from text books and generally hushed up.

But for the Germans, we continue to be told by all how horrible we were…

Germans should continue to feel differently towards the Holocaust even as history will continue to obscure and grey the horrid events of the past. Likewise I believe that the general trend of making 3rd generation Germans feel bad for things that they had nothing to do with must stop.

On the primary point: I think he is right that Americans don’t, and apparently never have, collectively felt guilt over the genocide of the American Indians or slavery or internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II. It’s just not who Americans were/are. They are a “let’s move on” sort of people.

The truth and reconciliation process, in South Africa after apartheid, and in Rwanda after the terrible genocide of the mid-1990s, isn’t the American way, I don’t think. Had it been so, perhaps the problems of previous generations might have been ironed out, and we would not live in a country so racially polarized, still.

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