I’m not sure if we are witnessing a comedy or a horror show when it comes to watching the American primaries. There is something within me that holds onto the belief that America would never elect Donald Trump as its president. I hope and pray for the sake of the world that this will never happen. I’ve moved beyond being both amused and appalled by the character of the man to a concerned disdain for the methods he is employing to gain support for his campaign. He is a skilled political entertainer and he is putting on a great show which is wooing the crowds. My disdain over his character and conduct is matched by my despair of those who support his campaign. I believe he is arguably the most dangerous presidential candidate that the States has ever known. He is a racist, sexist, bullying, narcissistic demagogue. He lies constantly yet with such fluency that he beguiles his audiences into thinking that he is “telling it like it is”.
He is not a joker, nor is he a clown. He is a man on a mission and he has the money and media to realise his ambition to rule America. His career is littered with trouncing anybody who opposes him and he has endured bankruptcies and numerous scandals, unscathed.
He is shameless. In a country where the misdemeanours of presidents and presidential hopefuls has been highlighted and brought down people, it is incredible that Trump is able to continue as he does. Shame is often the most powerful restraint on politicians and others in the public arena. Most politicians carry a sense of shame when they’re exposed as liars and cheats. Not so Trump. He operates without shame or any restraint. It’s what allows him to behave the way he does, hold the attitudes he has and say the things that others find repugnant.
He has risen to prominence and gained support by playing upon the fears, suspicions and mistrust of the American nation. He has called Mexicans rapists and killers, and called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”. In one of the debates he openly accused one of the women candidates of, “being on her period”. When speaking to his supporters he denounced the questions asked by Serge Kovaleski the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist of the New York Times who happens to suffer from arthrogryposis, a condition which limits mobility in some of the joints. Whilst recalling the interview to his supporters, Trump contorts his face and limbs in a mocking impression of the disabled journalist and elicits laughter.
Appalling behavior. If this was just some entertainment, an outspoken and outrageous guest on something like the Jonathan Ross show, it would be mildly amusing but this is not entertainment. This is politics and what goes on in the US presidential elections will impact the rest of the world.
He employs the tactics that were deployed by Hitler in the 1930s and Putin in Russia today. Trump at one of the recent television debates was asked about his admiration for Putin, someone who, “kills journalists, political opponents and invades countries” he said, “At least he’s a leader, he’s running his country, unlike what we have in this country.” He later went on to clarify that he doesn’t actually condone killing journalists, but, speaking to the audience said, “I do hate”. Capitalising on people’s fears, each of these evil demagogues use their ability to harness anger, resentment and hatred.
His rhetoric is vicious and his policies are deeply partisan. It’s everybody else’s fault. He offers very little solutions other than to blame others. The way he has described Muslims, Mexicans, migrants, basically anybody who doesn’t agree or hold the same views as him as, “villains”. His message to the American public is not one of helping its citizens but rather about taking on and hurting its ‘enemies’. His outrageous statements are stirring pots of hatred and hostility both in States and in the wider world. As the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said, “Trump, like others, stokes hatred”. As Chemi Shalev, the Jewish newspaper columnist remarked, “For some Jews, the sight of thousands of supporters waving their fists in anger as Trump incited against Muslims and urged a blanket ban on their entry to the United States could have evoked associations with beer halls in Munich a century ago”.
Donald Trump’s campaign is anything but entertaining or amusing. It is not a comedy but a potential tragedy. I pray that America will wake up to the dangers of this incendiary, vile and of noxious pretender.
In contrast, someone whom I have hailed in previous blogs as one of my great heroes is the former President of the United States Jimmy Carter. Portrayed as weak, a peanut farmer, a country hick, he was in fact one of the most intelligent presidents the United States has possessed. A man of remarkable intelligence, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, he possessed genuine humility and compassion and is known throughout many countries in the world as a godly, compassionate man of peace. I was privileged to meet him a few years ago at the Baptist World Centenary Congress in Birmingham and he exuded these qualities. He is a prolific writer, linguist and among his many interests, a learned devotee of the poet Dylan Thomas. I read his latest book, A Full Life, recently, which contains his memoirs and reflections of life now that he has turned 90. Many commentators at the time blamed his handling of the Iran hostage crisis as a major factor in his failure to win a second term of Office. Someone who had so brilliantly improved American foreign policy, building good relations with former enemies, furthering the cause of humanitarian aid in Developing Nations, bringing justice and equal rights to all American citizens, presiding and facilitating the coming together of Arab and Jew, Egypt and Israel at the Camp David Peace summit. A closer look at what was going on reveals that far from being weak, he was a man of great strength and principle and perhaps it was his manifesto and proposals for a second term in office that really contributed to his downfall. Among his proposals were measures to put a cap on the amount of money that could be used by political parties in the run-up to elections. He also sought to curb the pervasive influence of large corporations buying political power.
He envisages a day when a powerful, wealthy media mogul would buy their way into the White House ~ prophetic warning or what!
The same fate that Carter experienced at the hands of the media befell Neil Kinnock, who with less than one week to polling day back in 1992 held a six point lead in the opinion polls, with most of them predicting Labour win. If elected, he promised to curb the power of the media, (brandered by some as a threat to civil liberties and press freedoms).
Kinnock said that under a Labour government he would restrict foreign ownership of the media, which would have instantly disqualified people like Rupert Murdoch, a US citizen, from owning British newspapers or UK television companies. Threatened by such measures and the prospects of a Labour win, Murdoch and the editors of the tabloids, (many of whom he owned), except for the Daily Mirror, got together to coordinate their attacks in the last week running up to the election upon the Labour Party. A strategic plan to ‘demolish’ Kinnock was executed and within days he lost the confidence of the electorate, with the lies and persuasion of the media, coordinating together to attack him as a person in the most vitriolic media campaign witnessed in post-war political history. Over forty times in the last week in the run-up to the election he was referred to as, ‘the Welsh Windbag’. True, he could be verbose but he was one of the most eloquent and passionate politicians in Westminster. On election day itself came the Sun’s infamous front-page exhortation: ‘If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights”. Labour lost and the jubilant Sun newspaper boasted of its achievements. A front-page headline; ‘It’s The Sun Wot Won It’. I may take up the influence of the media today in a future blog.
For Jimmy Carter, he fears that America would become in many ways ungovernable because of the increasing partisan nature of contemporary politics, something we are not immune from here in Britain now. Carter pays credit to Ronald Reagan who defeated him in the race to the presidency. Commending Reagan for working with Tip O’Neil for the well-being of the union that is the United States. Reagan and O’Neil were poles apart politically, representing opposite extreme wings of their respective Republican and Democratic parties, yet respectful of one another and with the common cause of serving the nation, they worked well together.
It has been Barack Obama’s lack of support and cooperation from those in the opposition, Republican Party, that has held him back from delivering on the potential and promises he made. ‘Yes we can’ has been replaced by, ‘No you won’t’ by those who have abused their political power to thwart his presidency.
I’ve just been watching Michael Portillo’s Great American Railroad Journeys programme and his last stop in tonight’s episode was at Gettysburg, the famous battlefield of the American Civil War, where in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln made his historic and momentous speech:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
When I look with horror at the escapades of Donald Trump, I think how Lincoln must turn in his grave, that his desired legacy for the United States should have become a media inflamed, monetary gained and corporation determined election shambles….
God bless America because the likes of Donald Trump sure won’t!
Some may ask why do we need to concern ourselves with such issues? Well, I believe it is an imperative for all who claim to follow Christ, to pray and reflect, discern and act when faced with injustice, exploitation and evil.
The Northumbria Community derives huge inspiration from the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It was as a German pastor and theologian that he perceived the pervasiveness and threat to human life in society that Hitler and Nazisim posed. When the pro-Nazi German Christian party won elections in 1933, Bonhoeffer quickly opposed the anti-Semitism of the Nazis. His resistance to Hitler and the Nazi regime included his support and participation in the Confessing Church, along with other theologians like Karl Barth and Martin Niemoller. It was Niemoller who wrote his famous poem;
Figures like these are reminders to us all to be watchful about the happenings all around us. Bonhoeffer, regarded by many as the founder of new monasticism, bears witness in his life and death to his commitment to Christ and his opposition to the evils of Nazism.
We do well to remember the testimony of his life and speak out in Christ’s name, lest evil flourish.
As Edmund Burke, the Irish philosopher and politician said ; The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.