Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015
Saturday, September 19, 2015
The good folks at CNN must have been eating the same stuff I do when they planned last week’s GOP debate, because the format seemed to key off of my maxim that the only time you can know that a politician is telling the truth is when he is calling his opponent a liar. The format of the debate, at least the first half hour, which was all I could bother myself with, was to take a quote from one candidate calling one of his opponents – mostly Donald Trump – a crook, and then giving the accusee a minute to respond.
That is, the moderator would hit the candidate with the truth and give the candidate a minute to try to lie his way out of it. “Vote for me, and I’ll make America great again” was the answer to every question, with a few exceptions.
One of those exceptions came when one of the establishment suits castigated the Donald for giving money to the campaigns of Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats. Trump had been playing the “I’m a businessman” card for a few minutes, so he replied, essentially, “Of course I gave money to them. I gave money to everyone. I’m a businessman. I need to get along with everybody.”
No new facts here. When Enron went under some years ago, it was front-page news that CEO Kenneth Lay had given money to Republicans. A few days later it was back-page news that he had also given money to Democrats. “Of course. I gave money to everyone. I’m a businessman. I need to get along with everybody.” (Lay didn’t say it that way, of course, but his form of crookdom was different from Trump’s.)
Uncle Sam arms Israel. He also arms Israel’s enemies. “Of course. I gave weapons to everyone. I’m an empire. I need to get along with everybody.” And it works. The corrupt Arab leaders love Uncle Sam for keeping them in power, and Israel loves him the way a wife-beater loves a codependent woman.
Is Donald Trump the only businessman who has to buy off politicians to get ahead? I don’t think I’m reading much into his words: his message to his opponents was, “Cut the crap. This is the way it is for everybody and you know it.”
(At about the same time, Jeb Bush was oh-so-offended that Trump had “tried to bring casino gambling to Florida” and oh-so-proud that he and the legislature had foiled the attempt. Yeah, right. Watch a Miami Marlins baseball game and look at the outfield wall: you’ll see a huge ad for a casino run by an Indian tribe.)
One of the best lines in The Shawshank Redemption is when the protagonist, who has been jailed for a crime he did not commit, tells his friend, “I never broke the law before I was put here [in prison]. It took prison to make me a crook.” Trump’s inconvenient truth is that politics turns business people into crooks to the degree businesses need to get such things as special tax breaks and monopoly status to survive. Absent politics (and present an order in which people and property are safe from violence and fraud), businesses survive or die solely on the basis of their ability to satisfy their customers (which includes keeping their employees happy).
I would love to see that, but neither Trump nor his GOP rivals nor his Democrat opponents have any intention of presiding over such an order. As Dwight Eisenhower said, “Should any political part attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”
While those guys aren’t “stupid,” I guess as a “businessman from other areas,” though certainly not in the league of Texas oil millionaires nor even of local landscapers, I am. But I read Jeremiah’s words – “The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?” (5:31) – and wonder: when a guy with no inhibitions, in front of the largest audience a major television network has ever had, makes a virtue of businessmen buying the politicians who supposedly make the laws to regulate them, how can anyone, especially God’s people, think that things will go well in the end?
Monday, September 7, 2015
When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him. (Prov 16:7)
When the George W. Bush administration announced that the Global War on Terror would require constant war for decades, if not generations, I don’t remember hearing anyone ask, “Isn’t this announcement an admission that something is seriously wrong with our diplomatic corps?”
I know I didn’t think to ask it. My thought at that time was that we should use our nuclear arsenal, the largest in the world and certainly large enough to turn the entire Muslim world into glass, to reward every act of Muslim terrorism with a mushroom cloud over a Muslim city, beginning with Mecca and working from there. I realized that we wouldn’t be able to get everyone who could carry out a megadeath attack, but eventually we’d get most of them. Well, it would be good enough for government work.
It didn’t occur to me that the list of large Muslim cities would soon include London and Paris and Hamtramck, Michigan, and Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
More importantly, it didn’t occur to me to ask if diplomacy might be more effective than war. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger” (Prov 15:1). If harsh words stir up anger, what do sponsoring the Shah or Hellfire missles that target wedding parties or the torture of people who turn out to be innocent do? And if the Muslim world does indeed hate us, might it not be worthwhile to at least try speaking gently rather than subsidizing despots and terror organizations?
I heard an interesting sermon (which has nothing I remember to do with politics) the other day, one that I encourage you to listen to while you do the dishes or take a walk or something. If you don’t hang on every word, I’ll be surprised.
Among other things, the preacher quotes from a fellow named Jack Miller, of which I know nothing but what he quoted, which I paraphrase:
People who are habitually unable to work conflicts to resolution have some or all of five characteristics:
A desire to get their own way at all costs and/or be prominent.
An inability to admit and correct sins in themselves.
A strong trend toward blaming others and self-righteous gossip.
A failure to practice deep and ongoing forgiveness.
An unwillingness to listen.
This sounds like Uncle Sam to me.
Are we not “the exceptional nation,” “the lone superpower”?
When was the last time you heard any VIP admit to any kind of immorality besides sexual? Even when admitting that “collateral damage” is the killing of innocent people, have you ever heard any of our rulers say doing so was immoral?
Isn’t every problem we’ve solved by war the fault of the Indians, the British, the Spanish, the Mexicans, the Confederates, the Filipinos, the Germans, the Japanese, the North Koreans, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, the Iraqis, the Afghans, the Syrians, … ?
Have we ever offered to forgive our enemies and sit and work things out in a way that doesn’t threaten them?
Do we ever really listen to them?
I say Uncle Sam is “habitually unable to work conflicts to resolution” because he has all five of those characteristics. And he’s proud that he does.
We Christians, each one of us, we also have those characteristics to some degree. In most areas of life we are willing to admit our fault, ask for forgiveness, and resolve by grace to do better.
Uncle Sam is unrepentant and proud of being so. I submit that any church that flies his flag will share in the reward he receives for that pride.
Sunday, September 6, 2015