Presidential Arson

This is from a Facebook post I put up last night:

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” declared Christ, “for they will be called the children of God.”

Today, the man who has claimed the title of President, made a few different kinds of declaration. First, in a phone call with governors of states who are affected by the protests and demonstrations for justice, he urged them to “dominate” peaceful protesters, saying they would be seen as “weak” if they didn’t do so. Then, disregarding the entire judicial branch and any sentencing guidelines that may be on the books, he told them he favored 10-year prison sentences for anyone arrested while exercising their First Amendment right to protest.

Then, this afternoon in the Rose Garden, he declared his intention to use the power of the state against its own people exercising their rights, saying he would send the US military in to states that didn’t “dominate” protesters in the way he sees fit. Specifically, he said he would deploy “thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers” to bring order.

This, of course is illegal. It is also a declaration of civil war, and a scary step towards an authoritarian, totalitarian military state.

Finally, he ended his day, not by cowering like he did last night, but by having protesters forcefully removed with tear gas and rubber bullets and violence, and proceeded to walk to a local church (St. John’s Episcopal Church, where he brandished a Bible like some sort of totem, and proclaimed, “We have the greatest country in the world,” as if the Church somehow condones this form of national self-aggrandizement and narcissism, much less the disgusting and deplorable militarism and oppressed seen in our nation over the past days, weeks, months, years, and decades.

Our country is facing a moment unlike any other in history. We have a deadly pandemic sweeping the world, with 104,000 dead in the United States over the last three months (that’s more than double the total number of American deaths in Vietnam, if you need a little perspective.) Our unemployment rate is higher than ever. Millions of businesses are on the brink of collapse. Tensions with the rest of the world are higher than ever. And now, another unjust death of a black body at the hands of the state has set alight centuries of frustration, anger and despair, and our streets are seeing blood and violence like few other times in history.

This is the kind of time that a leader stands up, with the intention of unifying and calming. This is when we need a leader to declare that our pain is heard, that injustice is unacceptable, that the right of the people to gather and assemble, to make their voices heard, is an important Constitutional and human right, that things may look bleak and dark now, but that together we can make a better future for all people. It is a time for a leader to remind us that change is hard, that sacrifices are needed, that justice is a necessity, that this work is possible but far from assured. This is a time for leadership.

Instead, what we have is an abdication. Instead of a leader in a time of crisis, we have a man who has made a career and a life out of dividing and demonizing, a man who is so self-absorbed and dangerously narcissistic that he can’t even begin to discern how to do anything but try to twist every moment to his own sad, pathetic little view of the world. We have a man who only knows how to play to the worst of the worst in this country, whose only play is to bluster and scream and stomp and Tweet until he gets his way, or destroys everything around him trying.

Ezra Klein wrote eloquently this morning (link in comments):

“When we elected Donald Trump, we elected a political arsonist. The sole consolation of his presidency, in its early years, was that there was surprisingly little dry tinder. The economy hummed along, seemingly imperturbable. We faced few foreign crises. Domestic divisions remained mostly digital. This is not to dismiss real disasters or excuse cruel policies — from children thrown into cages to toxins dumped into our streams to the lethal mismanagement of Hurricane Maria — but it could have been worse.

Playacting civil war on Twitter, as the president often did, was never the nightmare scenario. The nightmare scenario was the social fracture and violent crises of the 1960s layered atop the political and media system of the 2020; the tests of presidential leadership that have defined past eras demanded of this leader, in this era. We weren’t there, and then, all of a sudden, we were.

We are.”

Our nation is at a turning point. There is no going back to normal after the events of the past weeks and months. A large group of Americans has reached a breaking point when it comes to injustice and oppression and the demons of this nation’s past and present. Another, very small group has decided that, as the country grows in a direction they don’t like, that they would rather burn it all to the ground, and in the words of Klein, managed to elect “a political arsonist” to do just that. And in doing so, he will use any weapon, any word, anything deemed important or sacred or holy to achieve the task, no matter the damage done.

This afternoon, when he stood in front a church wielding a Bible in an attempt to invoke the power of God behind his own actions and words, he revealed (again) how little he, or his followers, know of the demands of Christ. While he stood there, trying to gain holy approval for the terrorism of the state he has demanded, while he invoked the civil religion of this nation in an attempt to coerce God into supporting something as anti-Christian as you can imagine, the words of the prophet Amos came to mind. These are the words of a prophet of God, spoken to a leader who imagines himself and his state as all-powerful and all-knowing, on behalf of an oppressed and hurting people, reminding that leader just what it is this God is looking for from those who would declare themselves favored by God:

“I can’t stand your religious meetings.
I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions,
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That’s what I want. That’s all I want.”

Lord let that justice and righteousness wash down on us now. We need a good cleansing. Amen

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