Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

On the morning of May 25, I awoke to a message from a colleague with whom, in spite of our decided political differences, I’m friendly.

His question pertained to the riots—he referred to them as “protests”—engaged in by anti-Trump thugs—he called them “protesters”—outside of a Trump rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico the evening prior.

“If his [Trump’s] rhetoric wasn’t as controversial as it I,” my fellow professor asked, “if he said NONE of what has garnered his rise to the top—would these violent protests happen?”

Chris is a good guy. However, implicit in his question are assumptions that are as dubious as they are concerning.

(1)For starters, we should remind ourselves of what exactly it is that Trump has said that “has garnered his rise to the top” of the GOP presidential field.

(a)Given the legions of Mexican flags under the banner of which the rioters in Albuquerque (and elsewhere) have spread their reign of terror, it’s safe to say, I think, that Trump’s remarks regarding the criminal underclass that Mexico has exported to the United States and the need to deport those who are in America illegally is one piece of “rhetoric” that my colleague finds so “controversial.”

It’s undoubtedly true that on this score, Trump struck a chord with unprecedented numbers—millions and millions—of Americans from across the political spectrum. And given the displays of outrageous, indeed, the criminal, conduct of Mexicans assaulting police, destroying property, violating Americans’ right to peacefully assemble, and self-identifying as illegals, it’s just as undoubtedly true that Trump’s observations were spot on.

As for the deportation of illegals, from whichever country of origin, this is what the law requires—even if craven and greedy politicians refuse to enforce it.

Of course, Trump also promises to construct a wall along our southern border for which he’ll make Mexico pay. Yet unless one is for the erasure of a border between Mexico and the US, why should any American regard the proposal of a wall as any more “controversial” than the proposal for one to lock one’s doors at night?

And why should anyone whose allegiance is to America be in the least upset by an arrangement that would insure that a foreign government subsidizes an expensive mechanism that may not have existed but for its abuses?

(b)Trump has “suggested” for consideration a temporary ban on all Muslim immigrants. Considering that Islamic jihadists murdered nearly 3,000 Americans on a particularly infamous day some 15 years ago, and given that ever since America has had to contend with the most brutal of jihadists of various sorts from Islamic lands, this too has struck the ears of millions of Americans from diverse backgrounds—including Nation of Islam minister and black separatist, Louis Farakhan—as a commonsensical plan.

There are other “controversial” things that Trump has said, but I suspect that it is principally his comments on these immigration-related matters that my colleague has in mind when he uses the word “controversial” in connection with the violence of anti-Trump thugs. And this brings us to his next questionable presupposition.

(2)You can take it to the bank that if a person refers to another’s views as “controversial,” it is almost always going to be views with which he or she disagrees.

In other words, it is always the other guy (or gal) who speaks controversially.

As for the views of oneself and one’s ilk, not so much.

In reality, though, the word “controversy” should be reserved for reasonable disagreements, i.e. conflicts between informed individuals. That there is disagreement between, on the one hand, folks who insist that the moon landing of 1969 never happened and, on the other hand, the rest of us, most definitely does not mean that the event in question is “controversial.”

But setting this point aside, we need only acknowledge this much: Given that the presence of different political parties, religious denominations, ideologies, and so forth represent differences in viewpoints, virtually any such perspective is bound to sound “controversial” to those who don’t share it.

Bernie Sanders’ and Hillary Clinton’s plans to militarize society via their socialism is, at a minimum, “controversial” to roughly half of the country that plans on voting against them.

And yet there are zero reports of their “controversial” views provoking political opponents into attacking the property and person of others.

(3)My colleague seems to assume that mob violence against innocents is an understandable, if unjustified, reply to “rhetoric.” To this I offer two responses.

First, as in the case of the “controversial,” it is always the other guy’s “rhetoric” that is “divisive,” “polarizing,” “incendiary”—i.e. provocative of bloodthirsty retaliation.

Had it been hordes of, say, white Southerners with Confederate flags who visited destruction down upon the heads of attendees at an Obama, Black Lives Matter, or even a Nikki Haley rally, you can bet dollars to donuts that my colleague never would’ve inquired into the connection between the “controversial” “rhetoric” of the latter and the “protest” of the former.

Second, the only time that violence is defensible is when it is defensive—when it is unavoidable in order to protect oneself or innocents. Decent parents teach their children this from a young age: “Sticks and stones may break my bones,” and all that.

As one lifelong martial artist and former New York City detective put it, for a civilian to use violence for any reason other than self-defense or the defense of a loved one from “imminent danger,” is for that civilian to be “part of the problem [.]”

(4)Finally, my colleague’s question assumes that those participating in these carnival-esque riots have a clue as to what it is they are against (or, for that matter, for). It’s far from clear from this is the case.

Besides, does anyone really think that if not for Trump, those igniting fires, hurling obscenities, flashing the middle finger, destroying property, and clashing with police would be volunteering to help the sick or going to work?

 

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The NeverTrumpster is on the horns of a dilemma, for if Trump is the faux conservative that he claims he is, then so too are presidential candidates that they’ve supported the same. On the other hand, if the latter are conservative, then so too is Trump conservative.

John McCain 2008

A self-confessed admirer of Big Government “progressive” Theodore Roosevelt, McCain allied with another Teddy—Ted Kennedy—to grant amnesty to 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants. He as well joined with Democrat Russ Feingold to pass “campaign finance reform,” a set of federally-imposed restrictions on the first amendment that the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional.

McCain rejected George W. Bush’s tax cuts “for the rich,” and he joined the “Gang of 14,” a bipartisan coalition of Republican and Democrat senators that existed for the sake of enabling the Democrat minority to block those of President Bush’s judicial nominees like Sam Alito who McCain described as “too conservative,” managed to make it to the bench (Unfortunately for McCain, Alito survived the confirmation hearings).

McCain, a firm believer in anthropogenic “global warming,” proposed “cap and trade” legislation, a move that, had it been successful, would’ve left “the American economy in tatters; supported using taxpayers’ monies via the federal government for embryonic stem cell research; and, while claiming to be “pro-life,” never tired of castigating Republicans for talking about abortion.

The NeverTrumpster states as a reason for rejecting Trump the latter’s “temperament.” Yet as both Democrat and Republican sources have verified, McCain has a notoriously terrible temper. On multiple occasions, he has berated and cursed out those of his colleagues—and his fellow Republicans to boot!—with whom he has disagreed. John “McNasty” McCain is as well known for making off-color remarks and, allegedly, has even gotten physical with people who have upset him.

Mitt Romney 2012

This Massachusetts liberal was the darling of the NeverTrumpster during the primaries of both 2008 and 2012. National Review, far from sponsoring an “Against Romney” symposium, endorsed him—twice. So too did those “conservative” talk radio hosts who are now weeping over Ted Cruz’s defeat.

Both the politically opportunistic timing as well as the blatant nature of Romney’s “flip flops” over a range of issues made him the classic textbook case of the shameless politician.

However, the NeverTrumpster assured us, Romney had “evolved.” It didn’t matter how many different positions Romney held. It didn’t matter that his “Romneycare” was the blueprint for Obamacare, or that he ran to the left of Ted Kennedy in their Massachusetts senate race on the issues of abortion, “gay marriage,” and the rights of gun owners. It didn’t matter that he praised portions of Obamacare during his first debate with the President, or that he substantially raised taxes while governor of Massachusetts—“conservatives” still supported him.

It didn’t matter that, six years after Ronald Reagan left office, Romney claimed to have left the Republican Party because of the damage inflicted upon its label courtesy of Reagan.

The NeverTrumpster embraced the real Romney.

George W. Bush

To this day, the NeverTrumpster refuses to recognize this “conservative” president for the Big Government “progressive” that he was.

Yet Bush II inflicted massive—indeed, quite possibly unprecedented—damage on the Republican Party. Thanks to our 43rd president, the country witnessed the GOP-dominated Congress that Bush II inherited transform into a Congress with Democrat supermajorities in both chambers.

Bush’s role in thrusting the country leftward can’t be overstated. As even Mark Levin, a one-time self-described “big fan” of Bush, concedes, the federal government grew under 43 at a rate that significantly surpassed that at which it expanded under LBJ’s “Great Society!”

Amnesty; McCain-Feingold; No Child Left Behind; the Homeownership Society; federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research; Medicare part B; the creation of the bureaucratic behemoth, Department of Homeland Security; TARP; the Economic Stimulus and Housing and Economic Recovery Acts of 2008—these are just some of the ways in which our last “conservative” president advanced the cause of centralization and social “progressivism.”

However, while Trumpphobes (as well as, to be fair, many in the “conservative” media who are now styling themselves opponents of “the Establishment”) would have us forget this, Bush, not unlike Woodrow Wilson in an earlier era, insisted upon taking his “progressivism” (and the rest of us) global so as to make the world, the Islamic world specifically, “safe for Democracy” under the pretext of the “War on Terror.”

Not coincidentally, McCain and Romney also excitedly embraced this democratizing project—a project that the vast majority of the electorate rejected in no uncertain terms in 2006 and 2008.

Ronald Reagan

What about Reagan? Well, this “conservative” president whose legacy Trump allegedly threatens to squander, upon cutting taxes in ’81, proceeded to raise taxes 11 times in subsequent years. And he raised payroll taxes to pay for “government-run healthcare,” i.e. Medicare (as well as to subsidize Social Security). Medicaid expanded under Reagan.

The federal government grew exponentially under Reagan, and the Gipper abolished not a single program, much less an agency. In fact, he actually created a new government department.

There’s much hand ringing on the part of “conservatives”—and “Reagan conservatives” especially!—over Trump’s “protectionism.” But Reagan was “protectionist (as shown here and here).

Reagan amnestied millions of illegal immigrants; “cut and run” when over 240 Marines were murdered fighting Islamic terrorists; appointed two left-leaning justices to the Supreme Court; and, once his tenure was over, supported the Brady bill.

As governor of California, this celebrity-turned-politician (sounds very contemporary, does it not?)—who didn’t become a Republican until he was in his 50’s–legalized abortion, imposed both “gun-control” and the largest tax increase in the history of the state, and proposed mandatory health insurance.

The NeverTrumpster’s dilemma is inescapable: If these GOP presidential candidates are “conservative,” then so too is Trump the same. On the other hand, if Trump is not a conservative, then neither is these “conservative” candidates anything of the kind.

 

 

 

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To the plethora of mental illnesses in this mental illness-ridden age of ours, we can now add another.

We’ve all heard of PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. During this past year, something we can call TTSD has emerged.

TTSD is Trump Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is also known as “Trump-phobia,” for such is the fear of those who suffer from it that the very mention of Donald Trump’s name immediately corrupts their rationality.

Trump’s break out presidential candidacy and the utter inability, in spite of every conceivable attempt (short of assassination), of any Establishment apologist to slow it down has led to an epidemic of TTSD among the political and chattering classes.

There are two particularly salient symptoms of TTSD. So as to not confuse them with symptoms of brain damage, it is important to note that they ordinarily only appear within a Trump-specific context.

The first is a pathological failure to perform simple arithmetic. For example, for the longest time the Trump-phobe would insist that because Trump managed to garner “only” 35%-40% of the vote, this proved that he had a problem. And Trump-phobes around the “conservative” media circuit would repeat this line even while the object of their panic was crushing—not just beating, but slaying—16 competitors (i.e. whomever they were supporting).

Trump has now crashed through this “ceiling” with over 60% of the vote—and in a three person race at that. Thus far, the Trump-phobe has not conceded the faultiness of his or her past calculations.

The second symptom is a chronic penchant for self-contradiction.

The Trump-phobe can be guaranteed to level any and every conceivable ad hominem attack against Trump—regardless of how profoundly one criticism contradicts the other.

At one and the same moment, the Trump-phobe can be counted upon to make comments like the following:

“We need to grow the party by appealing to ‘independents’ and ‘moderates.’”

And: “Too many ‘independents’ and ‘moderates’ are voting for Trump.”

“The Republican Party needs candidates who ‘can reach across the aisle.’”

And: “Trump has ‘reached across the aisle’ too often in supporting Democrat candidates over the years.”

“Trump is ‘really’ [secretly] a ‘liberal Democrat’ or ‘progressive.’”

And: “Trump is ‘really’ [secretly] a ‘fascist.’”

“Trump is a ‘sexist’ who wants to arrest and incarcerate women for having abortions.”

And: “Trump wants to continue supporting Planned Parenthood, abortion, and every other Big Government program [ostensibly] designed for purposes of ‘women’s health issues.’”

“Trump is ‘anti-immigrant.’”

And: “Trump hires [i.e. he creates jobs] for illegal immigrants.”

“Trump is ‘racist.’”

And: “Trump’s definitely a ‘liberal Democrat’ or ‘progressive,’ for he supports ‘affirmative action.’”

“Trump’s a ‘neo-Nazi’ sympathizer, for he [allegedly] failed to [immediately] repudiate David Duke when the latter paid him compliments.”

And: “Trump is a ‘liberal Democrat’ or ‘progressive’ for having contributed to the campaign coffers of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schummer.”

“Trump’s an ‘Islamophobic’ bigot.”

And: “Trump doesn’t care about fighting ‘Islamo-fascism.’”

“Trump’s ‘homophobic.’”

And: “Trump’s ‘New York values’ make him a supporter of ‘gay marriage’ and unisex bathrooms.”

“Trump’s a madman with an erratic temper who will, essentially, get America involved in WWIII.”

And: “Trump’s an ‘isolationist.’”

“Trump’s a greedy, deceptive ‘capitalist.’”

And: “Trump’s a protectionist, someone who will make free trade between nations more costly.”

The Trump-phobe contradicts him or herself in many other ways as well.

In spite of having insisted for years and years that scores of Republican conservative voters who were less than enthused over their party’s “centrist” or “moderate” presidential candidates must nonetheless vote for those candidates lest a Democrat gain the White House, the Trump-phobe is now just as insistent that a Democrat president would be preferable to a Republican president—as long as this Republican’s name is Donald Trump.

A Trump-phobe of the GOP variety unequivocally rejects Trump on the grounds that he’s not a real conservative. Meanwhile, he or she continues to laud President Ronald Reagan as the penultimate conservative, and the quintessential conservative president. Yet the very “anti-conservative” positions that they attribute to Trump were not only shared by Reagan at different times throughout his career; unlike Trump, who has only ever been a civilian, Reagan had the power to implement those positions.

And implement them he did: As, first, governor of California and, later, a two-term president, Reagan legalized abortion; contended on behalf of “universal healthcare” in the Golden state; raised taxes repeatedly; grew the size and reach of the federal government; amnestied millions of illegal immigrants; appointed left-leaning, pro-abortion Supreme Court justices; and pushed for restrictions on the Second Amendment (“gun-control”).

It’s true that Trump has spoken in support of some of these things at various times throughout his life. But he has done none of them. Yet to hear the Trump-phobe, one would think that it is Trump, and not Reagan, who walked this “liberal” walk. Trump is simply insufficiently conservative for supporting some “liberal” positions while Reagan, who actually implemented these positions and others, is a conservative hero—or so the Trump-phobe would have us think.

The Trump-phobe of the Democrat species is no less irrational than his or her GOP counterpart. This Trump-phobe continues to charge the Donald with being a conman, a carnival barker, a liar. However, if Trump is faking anything right now, presumably he is faking being everything that self-styled “progressives” despise: a conservative Republican.

Yet this, in turn, implies that Trump is really a “progressive” or “liberal Democrat” himself—exactly what the Democrat Trump-phobe supposedly should want!

Trump-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious illness. One should never try reasoning with a Trump-phobe, for the subject is likely to get only more hysterical.

 

 

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That a senator from Vermont, a 74 year-old man who has spent his professional existence on the taxpayer’s dime and who is a self-avowed “socialist,” has managed to become an exceptionally popular Democrat presidential contestant is troubling enough.

That even many folks who are not his supporters regard Bernie Sanders as somehow more virtuous than his rivals is an especially tragic commentary on this generation.

Yet none of this should be of any surprise, for it has been quite some time since our culture began equating moral righteousness with Political Correctness.

How a person lives his life on a daily basis; how he treats his family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc.—none of this is of any moral significance to the self-appointed guardians of the new morality.

All that matters, from this perspective, is that a person subscribes, or at least pays lip service, to PC orthodoxy.

And to judge him by this standard, Sanders may as well be its patron saint.

Saint Bernie knows, for example, that the Orthodoxy forbids an affirmation of all lives, for only “black lives matter.” He also is well aware that resistance to abortion is a function of “sexism,” resistance on the part of bakers to baking wedding cakes for gay couples is “homophobia,” and that those earning more than a couple hundred thousand dollars a year are evil.

Perhaps most importantly, Saint Sanders knows that moral virtue requires support for a robust, activist national government that will deploy its power monopoly to the end of confiscating the legitimately acquired resources of some in order to “redistribute” them to others.

For advocating on behalf of these positions, Sanders—and, by implication, anyone and everyone who agrees with him—has his place among the Virtuous.

Back in the late 1930’s, while German Christian theologian and anti-Nazi Dietrich Bonhoeffer sat in a prison cell, he composed his classic book, The Cost of Discipleship. It was within this text that Bonhoeffer described “cheap grace,” i.e. “grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

Cheap grace is no grace at all.

Similarly, Political Correctness, the morality of Bernie Sanders, is “cheap morality” or “cheap virtue.”

In contrast, those of us who refuse to give up the genuine article in exchange for the “social respectability” that accompanies this counterfeit know all too well that the former is anything but inexpensive: Real morality is hard. It’s tough.

Some people, like Salvatore “Ivan” Graziano, know this better than others.

Ivan is a childhood friend of mine. We met in our neighborhood elementary school in Trenton, New Jersey back in the late ‘70’s and had remained good friends until we lost touch some two decades ago. Courtesy of social media, I was able to find out from this child of Sicilian immigrants (who himself didn’t arrive in America until he was four) that in addition to having opened his own restaurant, he was also a single father to a ten year-old girl—“Gia.”

Gia Graziano had just entered the world when doctors whisked her away, for not only was Gia not crying; she wasn’t breathing.

It was hours before anyone—including her parents—discovered that their little girl had been born with an extremely rare disease: Neonatal Myasthenia Gravis (NMG). In fact, the latter is so rare that neither the doctors who delivered her nor those world-class doctors at the Philadelphia hospital to which she was swiftly medivacked had ever seen a case of it.

Gia is fortunate to have survived, for her prospects did not look good. Today, ten years later, she has what her father describes as “the worst case of Muscular Dystrophy imaginable.” He summarizes her situation: “Gia is essentially an intelligent being trapped in a body that, tragically, simply doesn’t work.”

This little girl, incapable of lifting up her head, arms, and legs, is bound to a wheelchair. Nor can she eat without the assistance of a tube, and because of her inability to control her bowels, Gia must wear diapers.

Yet there are still other issues, like pulmonary disease, chronic respiratory illness, and cardiomyopathy, from which little Gia suffers. Four times daily, professional home care nurses administer to Gia respiratory treatments, including vigorous machine treatments that assist her in coughing, for she lacks the ability to clear her lungs on her own.

In spite of all of her problems (or is it because of them?), by all accounts, Gia is among the sweetest and most thoughtful of human beings. To note just one example, because of her vulnerability to such run-of-the-mill illnesses as the cold, the flu, etc. she not infrequently winds up in intensive care for lengthy periods of time. Yet when her father picks her up, she expresses deep sadness for the other children who can’t go home.

This is real compassion—not Bernie Sanders-style “compassion.”

Perhaps she has learned this generosity of spirit from her father, a guy who is as hard working as he is devoted to his daughter. Ivan, however, would insist that it is he who has learned from Gia. In any case, the Grazianos, unlike Bernie Sanders and every other PC ideologue, embody real virtue.

But now—now, in this Age of Obamacare!—Ivan has been denied by his insurance company the coverage for Gia’s medical expenses that it once supplied. A “Get Gia Going” gofundme page exists to assist the Grazianos in this time of need.

In contrast to the Bernies of the world, those of us who champion real morality know that compassion and generosity can’t be coerced by bullying politicians.

Let’s choose to help Gia and her dad.

 

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