The Two Spies Report

The "Minority Report" from J. Michael Bennett, Ph.D, Emeritus Producer of the Future Quake Radio Show, and Author of the soon-to-be-released book series The Holy War Chronicles – A Spiritual View of the War on Terror

Category: Television

Did America Just Elect Negan?

neegan

I mentioned in my last post that it was probably ill-advised, but that due to rhetoric I had heard from Christians close to me, I could not be silent, and rather focus on more long-term productive tasks like finishing my last book manuscript.  I posted anyway, and spent a good bit of time mentioning thoughts to consider, and aspects of Trump’s character and actions that would be good for Christians to ponder further.  If you have read it and the comments thereafter, you saw that my points were controversial for some, like most of my posts (it would have been even more controversial if it had been circulated within the greater Christian community, and not just the very special readers of this site).

However, as with many posts I have made (and as a foreboding of the expected response to my books to be imminently released), some of my points were evidently misunderstood, accidentally by many, and maybe intentionally by some.  First of all, let me make it again clear for doubters that my last post (nor this one) was an intention to promote the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.  I did vote Tuesday as a civic duty, but I did not vote for her or Donald Trump, because they did not meet my standards for trustworthiness, character, wisdom or mercy, as a Christian and humanitarian (I did not try to whitewash their limitations and vices in Christian “double talk” either).  I also did not mean to insinuate who I thought would win – after the shocking Brexit vote, I knew that polls were not a reliable indicator).  The real reason of my post, as I tried to explain, was my primary concern about how the Christian Right leaders and their followers re-packaged Trump as a pious Christian example, and visionary spiritual leader and messianic figure to “deliver us from evils” as sent by God, and how this rationalizing “spin” behavior will impact the long-term mission of Christians in America in their appointed tasks for the Kingdom of Heaven.  In fact, that is the motive of almost all my posts, and my books – how our thoughts, attitudes, words and actions of us as self-proclaimed “representatives of God” impact our eternal heavenly mission and “ministry of reconciliation”, particularly in our frequent quests to obtain transient advantages in power and influence in carnal matters for our own selfish interests and in spite of the “Kingdom fo Heaven” standards, which emphasize the Golden Rule and loving your neighbor and enemies.  I may overgeneralize at times (or be perceived as such by those who do not read my posts carefully), but for these objectives I do not apologize.  I also did not add a lot of references and linked citations in my last post (as I said I wouldn’t, as I haven’t in other posts as well), because it is very time consuming to do so (and I really need to focus on book writing), and I felt the recent events cited were fresh enough that people should be aware of them (although I shudder to think how many of my Christian colleagues do not read a wide array of news sources outside of talk radio, Facebook and one or two partisan sites).  I expect that some people may be in disbelief in many of the assertions and data I cite, and thus why I do cite extensively in my permanent writings. Some readers here may be unaware of the data I cite, and other commenters here try to seed doubt and accuse me of inventing facts, when they merely could confirm them with a one minute Google search.  Thus, for this post I will take the extra time to cite online linked references for the actions and quotations I cite, which I think will be embolded in the text for you to click on them, if you desire.

Anyway, on to the subject of my post today.  I felt like I had wasted enough time on my last post which probably did little contructive good, and certainly had no intention to go “double or nothing” and post again after the election.  However, I had an idea this morning just as I was getting up.  Most of you are familiar with (or are watchers) of what has evidently become the most-watched television program in the history of television, and a bona fide cultural phenomenon, called The Walking Dead.  Not only is it the only television show that I think is well-written enough to warrant my time, but it is very “non-Hollywood” in that it does not focus on Millennial angst, or beautiful youths hopping into bed with each other, or elite upper-class folk swapping spouses (in which I just described most other shows on TV today).  I see it rather as a modern day “Western”, filmed in rural Goergia and not Hollywood, in which a sheriff and a rag tag “klan” of his family, those he loves and his new-found brethren try to survive in a lawless society, where the greatest threat is not the zombie “walkers” (their version of the Apache “savages” in the wasteland), but rather the other survivor groups of dubious nature and purposes.  Even the weekly talk show Talking Dead after each episode leads an interesting public debate with a variety of people on set and callers as to the ethics of the actions of these people under dire circumstances – a discussion that is warranted for television.

The recurring theme of the show is the attempt of this group, under non-stop duress and no-win circumstances, to maintain their own humanity and mercy, in a merciless age and environment – a goal at which some times they acomplish better than others.  They have generally and consistently taken risks to the group’s well-being to rescue one or two of the group to leave “no child behind”, and have struggled to take risks to incorporate new people into their fold (sometimes causing them to realize new dangers and be betrayed, and sometimes to fail to accept them, all over much debate and soul searching).  However, a main portion of the conflict durng the seven seasons is over their encounter with groups who have sacrificed their humanity, for the sake of survival, and the risks it poses to them.  They have survived a mentally twisted Governor and his idyllic community, and a group at Terminus who were broken by other savages and now resort to the worst taboos against others.  Others were purely depraved like the Wolves.  However, this current season, which is breaking all TV viewing records, concerns their deadliest foe yet – the brutal yet pragmatic “Negan” and his mercenary group “The Saviors”.  The picture above shows Negan towering over the the star Sheriff Rick Grimes’ group as Negan and his men have terrorized and then captured them, forcing them on bended knee before him as he taunts them.  Shortly thereafter, he executed (pun intended) the acts which have become most famous in the series – brutally and mercilessly bashing in the brains of two beloved members of their group with his famous barbbed wire-lined bat called “Lucille”, they having been chosen randomly to “teach them all a lesson” not to resist (a “message” which broke them to the point of capitulation).

In the few weeks since this episode aired, we have observed and learned more about Negan and his group.  This morning I sudenly realized the similarity between Negan and his “operation”, and that of Donald Trump and his supporters and followers to “make America Great Again”.  Follow me as I give a few examples of their natures and similarities, and a few citations to both confirm and archive these actions:

NEGAN – Negan is a charismatic figure with wit, a sense of irony, supreme self-confience and focus on “winning” over others, wrapped up in a “swagger” that attracts followers more than repulses them (at least many types of people), not being burdened by propriety or political correctness, or even the Golden Rule.

TRUMP –  I need no citations to make this comparson clear to most readers.  This last description is the best way to describe Trump’s life and image, both historically and during the campaign.  “Winning” was a major and recurring theme of Trump’s campaign, as well as his books (which have been ghostwritten by others), Trump University, etc.  Trump can evidently “charm the socks off a rooster” with most of the public, who are dazzled by his swagger, bravado, boasting comments, conspicuous opulence and self-absorption (which is why he may have close affinity to evangelical leaders who can do the same to them as well).

NEGAN:  One can see that Negan has attracted brutes, bullies, ruffians and “hot heads” to his gang, who like to threaten others as much as he does.  He has encouraged them to beat up outsiders brutally, not wanting to have all the “fun” himself.  This includes group member Darryl (on two occasions), and other people as they are captured or encountered on the road.

TRUMP:  One needs to only watch the Trump rallies closely to see many of the same crowd in their functions.  He bragged on televised addresses over his early victories that polls showed he leads in support amongst the “poorly educated” saying, “I love the poorly educated!”.  After the election, pollsters showed that he led in those without college degrees nor college-educated.  Certainly there is nothing sacred or noble about a college degree, and if it makes one smug or elitist it is a detriment, but it is clear that Trump has focused his message on those with limited tools of discernment, and the many televised interviews with Trump supportors have shown them largely (but not totally) motivated by emotions or anger, or simplistic views of problems.  More disturbingly, Trump has been shown encouraging rally members to be physically violent with protesters at his rallies.  He has told rally attendees on camera to “knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.”; in others, he has said, ““I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell ya,” to a protester.  Attendees at these events have been shown punching or roughing up protesters at the events or Muslim women reporters ; elsewhere, the cited erefence notes that “a 78-year-old white male audience member at a Trump rally in North Carolina was videotaped sucker-punching a black protester being escorted from the event by police. The man, John McGraw, was later charged with assault and battery. But it was the protester who ended up in handcuffs at the rally”.  Many more such exmaples could be listed, but do you get the point?  Is this how things looked at Nazi rallies in the 1920s, when his SA goons grabbed protesters of other political views who were then drug out of those halls and worked over?

NEGAN:  Negan believes in using terror, or the fear of terror, to control people as a “force multiplier”, to keep not only outsiders but even his own people in line, and not challenge him as a single man with a bat who mentally controls many.  His barbaric barbed-wire-lined bat, dripping with blood, he uses phallicly toward others, directly in their face, to breed their fears and to dehumanize them.  When Sheriff Rick initially offered some resistance, Negan countered by forcing him to amputate his own son’s hand (to the point of committing the act).  Others in his own group who did not meet his demands he disfigured on their face with a hot iron.  Even more heinous means were in his toolbelt, to get what he wanted from others.

TRUMP: Trump has clearly gone on the record that he not only wants to bring the torture protocols back for detainees, but also make them even worse.  When a suspect was captured from the recent Paris terror attacks, Trum said on his Twitter that he would have talked “a lot faster with the torture”.   Trump has been far more explicit; he said on a New Hampshire television interview that “we’re going to have to get much tougher as a country. We’re going to have to be a lot sharper and we’re going to have to do things that are unthinkable almost.”  In the televised New Hamphire primary, he stated, ” I would bring back waterboarding, and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” On Feb. 17, he publicly said, ” Torture works. OK, folks? You know, I have these guys—”Torture doesn’t work!”—believe me, it works. And waterboarding is your minor form. Some people say it’s not actually torture. Let’s assume it is. But they asked me the question: What do you think of waterboarding? Absolutely fine. But we should go much stronger than waterboarding”, and on July 27  he said, “I am a person that believes in enhanced interrogation, yes. And by the way, it works.”  At a recent rally, he said regarding torture you have to “fight fire with fire”, and added, “What do you think about waterboarding?” Trump asked the crowd. They cheered as he gave his answer: “I like it a lot. I don’t think it’s tough enough.”  These are but a few examples.

NEGAN:  Negan has no compassion for “outsiders” outside his “klan”, unless he can exploit them for his purposes.  Regardless, he has no mercy on them or see them as fellow human beings.  They also will be kept out and away from the benefits of his society unless they can offer more in return.

TRUMP:  The hallmark of Trump’s campaign was to exlcude and eliminate “undesirables”.  At a press conference he held on December 7, 2015, he read an official statement that said, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering in the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on…we have no choice…it is going to get worse, you’re going ot have more World Trade Centers…we can be politically correct and we can be stupid…folks, those days are over, we have to be tough…yes we will look at mosques”.  This view is not only that of Trump’s – it’s that of his “klan” coast to coast.  A June 2016 Reuters poll showed that 50% of all Americans said that there should be a temporary ban of all Muslim immigrants to the U.S.  CBS News reported in July 2015 that Donald Trump followed up his early campaign pronouncements (as in his early debate appearances) with the assertion that the U.S. was becoming a ‘dumping ground” of outsiders with the world’s problems, and reiterated his position in a CNN interview.  He stated that the Mexican government was sending people of which “they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”.  when the interviewer pointed out that the women Trump cited as being raped were victimized prior to entering the country, Trump replied, “Well, somebody’s doing the raping, Don. I mean, you know, somebody’s doing it. Who’s doing the raping?” – a phrase he reiterated during the campaign.  Alicia Machado, the woman he crowned Miss Universe (as Trump runs many beauty pageants), was told she was fat by Trump and fired, and as a Hispanic was called by him, “Miss Housekeeping”.  I am glad Trump was not able to force his immigration policies in ancient Israel – the world would have missed the contributions of Rahab, and the Moabitess Ruth – both famed ancestors of our Lord.  If the Philistines had had such a policy, they would not have generously accepted David and his followers as they were wanted men in Israel.  Of course, Trump himself imported his own wife as an immigrant from one of the U.S.’s recent Iron Curtain enemies – I wonder if he might send her back, as Ezra the priest did in sending all foreign women and children away to their death who had married Jewish men, to set a good example to the rest of us?

NEGAN: Negan’s fundamental policy was to take the spoils and resources of any outsiders he encountered as his own.  Sometimes he would let people in his spheres of control keep up to half, at his discretion, and would continue to take from them over time.  He also encouraged his loyal henchmen to help themselves to the goods of others as they desired.

TRUMP:  Trump has a similar policy; whereas before he had to use his access to capital, and to New York lawyers to enforce these provisions, he will now have the IRS, CIA and military to do the collecting for him.  While he did not think it was wise to invade Iraq (after originally supporting it), he did think it could be worthwhile if we confiscated the profitable oil from the very country which we ourselves had destroyed and impoverished (first by sanctions, and then by bombs).  The Atlantic noted that in August 2016, like many times before, Trump gave a speech in which he stated regarding our involvement in Iraq, “We should have kept the oil…I was saying this constantly and consistently to whoever would listen. I said: Keep the oil, keep the oil, keep the oil…In the old days, when we won a war, to the victor belonged the spoils…Instead, all we got from Iraq—and our adventures in the Middle East—was death, destruction and tremendous financial loss.”  The Los Angeles Times added that “It also would have violated decades of international law, including the Geneva Conventions, as well as the United Nations mandate that authorized the invasion.”  I guess we now know that Trump also would not have come to the aid of the millions of victims in the Tutsi-Hutu conflict in Africa – there was no oil there to justify it, as America’s critics now feel justified in having pointed out over the decades.  Trump even declared that he would not honor America’s long treaty commitments to aid a fellow NATO member if attacked, unless they had paid significantly in advance.  In a July 2016 New York Times interview regarding helping NATO nations, Trump stated that “You can’t forget the bills. They have an obligation to make payments. Many NATO nations are not making payments, are not making what they’re supposed to make. That’s a big thing. You can’t say forget that..Have they fulfilled their obligations to us? If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes.”, and in May 2016 also told the Wall Street Journal that when other NATO nations “don’t pay up, they’ve backed out of their obligations, then we no longer have an obligation to defend them.” (while they note that the only time the NATO provision has been enacted is when the other NATO nations came to the aid of the U.S. after the 9/11 attacks).

 Trump thinks like a businessman, and makes decisions based upon the bottom line ledger – not morality, or mercy or civility.  He sees war as only another money-making operation, and would only pursue it in that context (and would stay out of those he did not deem monetarily profitable).  Trump also plans another way for he and his henchmen to clean up from others – this time their fellow Americans; in one of the few detailed plans Trump has produced, Trump’s published tax plan will adjust the tax brackets so that the rates on the most wealthy will come down considerably, while the lowest bracket of the poor will rise, and the lower middle class will be about the same.  By eliminating personal exemptions, low and middle-income families with many children will have their tax go up a good bit.  Currently, estates above $5.45 million are subject to inheritance tax regarding the fortunes passed on to offspring within rich family lines to prevent their need to work for generations; Trump will make sure that this tax on the ultra-wealthy will be eliminated.  He will also bring the tax brackets down for the largest corporations down (from 39.6% or so) to about the rate of the most poor in society (15%).  Will Trump’s own estate benefit from these rules?

NEGAN:  Unless you are one of his “elite” henchmen, residents at Negan’s ‘Sanctuary” have to earn “points” to gain their basis necessities he has confiscated from them.  In the case of one of his henchmen on the show, this includes access to fundemental health care needs such as critical medical drugs.  In contrast, Sheriff Rick’s group provided medicine freely to anyone in his group who showed a need for it, and they would often risk their lives to obtain it, such as an intubator for his son Carl, or emergency medical care for a sick pregnant member.

TRUMP:  Trump prefers Negan’s approach to health care, by abolishing Obamacare, which provided basic health coverage for those with pre-existing conditions who could not get coverage as “bad investments” to the insurance companies, and making sure they had access to catatrophic care so the banks could not later wipe them out;  Trump sees “no money” in covering these people, and will leave them to their own fate.

NEGAN:  Negan has been shown to sneer and mock the weak and wounded, including those whom he has just beaned with his bat and look “real messed up”, and otherwise are a “mess” because of their suffering and misfortune.

TRUMP: Trump shares a similar view.  He is famous for recently mocking a disabled reporter investigating his claims.  He unfortunately has a palsy-like neurological condition that causes limb contortions and tremors, to which Trump at the lectern began to impersonate with exaggerated limb shaking and facial contortions – behavior society deems unacceptable for teenaged boys, much less the Leader of the Free World.  Trump always outdoes himself – at the 2015 Family Leadership Summit in Iowa, Trump famously said of long-time tortured POW Senator John McCain, “He’s not a war hero…He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”  The citation adds, “Trump received four student deferments from military service between 1964 and 1968. In Ames, he told reporters another medical deferment he received after graduating was for a bone spur in his foot. When asked which foot, Trump told reporters to look up the records.”  A published survey showed that people felt that this was his most offensive comment (while noting that Trump claimed he did not know the reporter nor that he was disabled, while the reporter claimed that he and Trump had been on a first-name basis for many years), even more offensive then his statements that the “second amendment people” amongt his followers should take care of Hillary Clinton.

NEGAN:  Negan is famous for how he treats women.  He rates them based if they are “smokin’ hot” or not, and if he takes a shine to them, he forcibly taked them to be his concubine “wives”, thereby nullifying their lawful marriages to other men present.

TRUMP: Trump’s history is very similar, which American Christian supporters have amazingly excused.  An abbreviated list of some of his more famous past and recent comments about women include his assertion that debate moderator Megyn Kelly was menstruating during the debate to justify her fierce quesitoning of him (saying that “blood was coming out of her…whatever”), such as when she cited that it had been documented that”You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals”, to which he said it was only directed to Rosie O’Donnell. He said in a 1991 Eqsuire Magazine profile that “You know, it really doesn’t matter what they write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass. But she’s got to be young and beautiful.”  He said that Arianna Huffington was “unattractive both inside and out”, and that a female New York Times reporter had “the face of a dog”.  Of a female contestant on his show The Apprentice, he said as she stooped in front of him, “It must be a pretty picture,” he said to her. “You dropping to your knees.”  He also tweeted that Bette Midler was “extremely unattractive”.  Of Hillary he said, “Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote,” Trump said in April. “The only thing she’s got going is the women’s card.”  He now uses former Fox News chief Roger Ailes, whom the network found was sexually harrassing women there, to be a chief advisor for him. He released an unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz next to his own wife, and entitled it, ‘The images are worth a thousand words”.  On an Entertainment Tonight interview in 1992, he pointed out a 10 year old girl nearby, and said, “I am going to be dating her in ten years.  Can you believe it?”.  He not only called Miss Universe Alicia Machado “Miss Housekeeping”, he also publicly called her “Miss Piggy” and “an eating machine” (the New York Post also reported that Trump also arrived unannounced in his beauty pageant dressing rooms as the contestants were nude, making “creepy” comments to them (including 15 year old participants), and later saying on the radio to Howard Stern in 2005 that it was one of the “perks” of ownership, adding, ““I’ll tell you the funniest is that I’ll go backstage before a show and everyone’s getting dressed…No men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in, because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it…You know, they’re standing there with no clothes…And you see these incredible-looking women, and so I sort of get away with things like that.”) .  Of course, the list also includes the video of him bragging to an interviewer (who has since lost his job with the Today Show) about his targeting of married women to initiate adulterous affairs, and grabbing women by their genitals and leading them around or forcing himself on them and getting away with it because he was a celebrity.  Another published list notes his assertion that people should not vote for primary rival Carly Fiorina because of her face, and that he said he’d really like to date his daughter Ivanka.  In 1992 in New York Magazine, he said of women that “You have to treat them like shit”.  When asked in 1993 about his reputation as a womanizer, he said, “Yes I have that image. I think women are beautiful –  I think certain women are more beautiful than others, to be perfectly honest – and it’s fortunate I don’t have to run for political office.”  Talking of one of his former wives, he said, “when I come home and dinner’s not ready, I go through the roof.” Regarding prenuptual agreements for his wives, he said, ““There are basically three types of women and reactions. One is the good woman who very much loves her future husband, solely for himself, but refuses to sign the agreement on principle. I fully understand this, but the man should take a pass anyway and find someone else.”  He said that when he bought the Miss USA pageant, “I’m going to get the bathing suits to be smaller and the heels to be higher.”  Of his daughter Ivanka, he said, “”You know who’s one of the great beauties of the world, according to everybody? And I helped create her. Ivanka. My daughter, Ivanka. She’s 6 feet tall, she’s got the best body.”, and adding on the TV show The View, “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”  Trump said on Howard Stern’s radio show that he’s “been with women with extraordinarily bad breast jobs’ and ‘pancake tits’.  There are many more I could list.

NEGAN:  His followers have been corralled and maintained by a combination of privleges offered to them, and dreadful fears if they do not stay in line.  However, some of them are having doubts and are considering defection.

TRUMP: Trump similarly has made promises of insider influence to prominent evangelical Religious Right leaders and other conservatives whom he has portrayed as his spiritual advisors.  Others, like House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Ted Cruz he has corralled after their original adamant refusal on grounds of principle, with threats of political disenfranchisement and blowback if they did not get in line. CBS election day exit polls found that of the “winner”, Donald Trump, 60% of voters said he was not honest or trustworthy, and 60% of voters said that Trump was not qualified for the office of the presidency, with even 25% of Trump voters saying he was unqualified (I guess motivated by their Hillary hatred exclusively).  NBC exit polls said that 60% of voters had an unfavorable view of Donald Trump.  Hillary Clinton received almost a quarter of a million more votes than Trump (how would he have acted had he won the total vote count but lost the electoral collage in his “rigged system” mindset?), who himself secured less than half of the public’s votes.  When they all see that Trump now has no obligation on fulfilling any promises to these individuals and groups, now having obtained their support to accomplish his election objectives, will any of them then have the courage to defect and stand up to him?  When Trump has control of the CIA, FBI and IRS, will they dare speak up, given his history of petty reactionary harrassment?

A BIG Difference between them:

NEGAN: Negan came to power during a time of lawlessness and upheaval, in a society suddenly with “no rules”.  He somehow provides a measure of security, along with exploitation and brutality, that might be at least partially excused in his unique times and challenges.

 TRUMP:  In contrast, Trump came to prominence in a time of relative prosperity and peace in America, without any tangible civil wars or major unrest, or economic calamity.  America had built on almost two hundred years of racial and human rights progress. Public demographics were turning away from those interested in Trump’s xenophobic, paranoid demagoguery.  Now Trump has a majority in both chambers of Congress, and has no restraint on his excesses moving forward, much like Hitler when he assumed the Chancellory in 1933.  So how did he do it?  Exit polls show that Trump received 81 percent of the evangelical vote, while noting that 76% of evangelicals are Republican, making up one fifth of all voters, and a third of Republican voters.  The story of how he seduced most of Christ’s Body in America (and particularly its leadership), and what it reveals about their gullibility, lack of principle and respect for basic virtues and values, and lack of recognition of the true spiritual priorities of Christ Himself and for God’s people in assisting secular governments in the scope of responsiblilities God has given them, as distiguished from those of the church itself, and lack of basic common sense maturity much less maturity of the spiritual variety, is a story that requires much data to consider, and is beyond the scope of this post, but may be started to be discussed soon thereafter.  What this has revealed about the true mind of most of the American evangelical community, and how this will affect their mission in the future, is the far bigger story than who won this last election, in my view. 

The BIG question is – Trump has gotten his big objective and trophy, presumably, in being the most powerful man in the world and secured his place in world history, but what will be his true motivations and goals during his administration?  Using his life history as a guide, Trump would be first motivated by (a) what raises his prestige, respect, praise and overall “brand”, and (b) what will monetarily help him and his financial peers either now or down the road.  Regarding (b), the clear details of his proposed tax plan (which will likely fly relatively unscathed through a Republican-controlled Congress) will largely accomplish those goals for his checkbook and others; how he opens doors for big business via his foreign policy and stopping raises in the minimum wage or the requirement to provide health care to workers, for example, are other ways he can accomplish this objective.  Regarding (a), what else does he have to accomplish for his ego?  Wipe out ISIS?  Raise the gross national product?  Be popular enough to be able to be re-elected if he chooses?  Time will tell.

Most people who have had concerns about Trump recoginize that they really don’t know what he will do – could he be surprisingly statesman-like and visionary, or autocratic and cruel to minorities on the margins, as he has suggested?  Heal rifts with other cultures and nations, or bring us to war?  What did his behavior during the campaign, much less his history, suggest will happen?  Actually, his history of being an intimidating “tough guy” and using strong-armed tactics reveals that he usually doesn’t believe the nasty things he says, for once he has “won” – albeit in securing the business deal or contract, the court case, or even the court of public opinion – he then begins speaking kindly of those he has humiliated after he has defeated him, suggesting that he may not actually pursue the most severe, ugly and draconian policy approaches he sold to his followers in the campaign.  Even during this campaign, how many times has he warned people of the unsuitability and dangers of “Little Marco” Rubio, “Lying Ted” Cruz, and even “Crooked” Hillary, all of whom he has praised after he had disposed of them.  As another example, The Hill, Buzzfeed and others have reported that the New York Times possesses an audiotape and transcript from an off the record portion of their interview with Trump this year on his immigration plans, which attendees suggest or implied that he does not plan to actually follow through on the positions he sold to his followers, as evidence the Times will not release unless he approves, which led Sen. Ted Cruz to state that the tapes they have suggest that Trump “doesn’t believe what he’s saying on immigration.  That all of his promises to secure the borders are not real and if he’s president he doesn’t intend to do what he says…The New York Times apparently has this on tape…The voters deserve to know if he says something different when he’s talking to The New York Times then he does when he’s talking to the voters”, as a posiiton also echoed by Sen. Marco Rubio.  This tendency for Trump and his peers to make these serious and dramatic charges against others as traitors and criminals (including Hillary, whom he promised to lock up to her face in a debate, and now praises right after the election as a real patriot) leads us not to take seriously what any of them say; not only should we not get worked up over their allegations, but why do we not not get behind leaders who have a reputation for honesty and straight talk, even with policy differences, rather than who has the most charisma, bravado or macho image?  However, if he hesitates to pursue all these inquisitions against Mexicans, immigrants and Muslims to the severe degree he “sold”, it will certainly disappoint many Christians that counted on him to be the “strong man” and bringer of wrath.  I suspect that they will find that after he has secured their votes, the last thought on his mind will be how the Religious Right members he counted on for election consider his actions, or if he lives up to what they wanted him to be.    

In any case, beyond my verbose opinions, what I do know is that the Bible is clear that Christians are to pray for the blessing of their rulers.  We all have that obligation on behalf of Donald Trump by the command of our Saviour, that he could help fulfill the role of what national governments are to do to secure the well-being of its subjects on the issues God has assigned to them as evidenced by the words of the Lord through the prophets and apostles, to protect their citizens from outsiders, look out for the minority and vulnerable stranger, the poor, the widows and orphans, and provide honest and fair courts and marketplace for everyone, and particularly the poor.  I plan to do that duty in prayer for Trump; I wonder how many Christians have fulfilled that duty in sincerity for President Obama?  I also plan to still critique my own heart and values as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, and that of my brethren here; that is the right and productive thing to do, because “judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17), and due to Paul’s admonition to the church itself that “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside” (1 Cor. 5:12-13).  While we are to be educated about the true nature of these exploitative politicans of every stripe to “be not deceived”, the real focus of judgment and self-assessment belongs to the Church in America itself, for and of itself, and who it needs to be in the midst of these issues.

The experience of this election process, and how I perceive the American church participated in it and how it revealed its values, reminds me of the words of the Greek philosopher Thucydides, in his famous writing History of Peloponnesian War, Book III, 3.82, as he saw demogogues emerge in his society on the advent of regional war – which may be what we will receive as a consequence of this age of demagoguery – when he observed:

“To fit in with the change of events, words, too, had to change their usual meanings.  What used to be described as a thoughtless act of aggression was now regarded as the courage one would expect to find in a party member; to think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just an attempt to disguise one’s unmanly character; ability to understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action.  Fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man, and to plot against an enemy behind his back was perfectly legitimate self-defense.  Anyone who held violent opinions could always be trusted, and anyone who objected to them became a suspect…If an opponent made a reasonable speech, the party in power, so far from giving it a generous reception, took every precaution to see that it had no practical effect.”

 

 

 

Vote for Pedro

NapoleonAndPedro

Friends,

Tomorrow I have to cast a primary vote in Tennessee for the upcoming presidential election.  I think we can all agree this has been some kind of disturbing election season, which I think portends a work God is doing to show us who we as Americans, and in particular Christians, truly are, in the eyes of God and everyone else.  I am not going to tell you who to vote for, but I am going to suggest the kind of person to vote for.

Vote for Pedro.

Those of you who are now confused (or think I am being racist) are obviously the few who have not seen the wonderful and insightful (and funny) 2004 movie Napoleon Dynamite.  The “heroes” of the movie were a trio of geeky outcasts at school – the types we all knew, or better yet (as in my case) were.  One of the main story elements was a competition for school student body president between a socially awkward Mexican transfer student Pedro, whose shyness reveals the courage and daring (or madness) he exhibited in even deciding to run, and the domineering “insider”, the popular and beautiful cheerleader “Summer”.  While her many popular friends posted “Vote for Summer” signs everywhere (she probably did not have to compete for Prom Queen), Pedro’s buddy Napoleon sported the now societally-popular phrase “Vote for Pedro”, using an old iron-on “puffy” transfer on a T-shirt.  As the movie’s many viewers fondly recall, Pedro was ready to get his head handed to him in the election, when a school assembly beforehand let Summer and her cheerleader friends use their sex-appeal in a dance number, contrasted to Pedro’s unassuming and unimpressive speech, until Napoleon saved the day with the most exotic dance number ever put to celluloid.

The message of this aspect of the film is more relevant now than ever.  It contrasted the two kinds of people in the world – the “insiders” (“Summers”) and the “outsiders” (“Pedros”).  We and the public make numerous value judgments each day over who are friends are or those we want, the leaders we want to follow, the people we want to trust and then purchase from, the company we keep, and the kinds of people we aspire to be like.  In this context, the “Pedros” never have a chance when it comes to earning our devotion, wallets, endorsements and emulation.  Ads and commercials are filled with beautiful and macho “Summers”, male and female, who have ideal weight and body type, do amazing physical sports and exercise, go on all-inclusive vacations to the Bahamas and dance in formal wear on the beach, walk with a swagger and confidence, and “know what they are doing”.  And then there’s the rest of us – including those who try with great effort but in vain to measure up or gain their acceptance and approval, or those of us who gave up, either due to lack of energy or interest.

Here’s some of the traits I can think of concerning the “Summers” and “Pedros” of the world:

“Summers”                                                                       “Pedros”

Seen as physically attractive, sex appeal    “Average” or less looks, appeal less noticed

Confident in statements and positions             Tentative, self-critical, slow to speak

Swagger in style and image – “big talker”       Meek, self-effacing

Surrounded by adorers or other “insiders”     Loners or small group of fellow “Pedros”

Often born into “Summerdom” by parents     Humble upbringing

Wealthy, connected, advantages for success   Starts from the bottom, no insider help

Gets heard, attention whenever they want     Often overlooked, seen as hopeless, “loser”

Gets all the breaks                                      Gets few breaks

Will drop friends when no longer useful     Loyal to fellow “Pedros” who offer nothing

I could go on, but you get the point.  The “Summers” get picked first in pickup sports, get invited to the slumber parties, get multiple prom date requests, selected as team captains and class presidents, fraternity and sorority offers, lucrative job positions, quick promotions (particularly in the military) regardless of true skill, and offers to join high society.  And then there’s the rest of us “Pedros”, who could only dream of such attention and opportunities, and watch such people adored on TV and elsewhere.  Janis Ian, a backward wallflower growing up herself, wrote of these latter people in her hauntingly melancholic hit song, “Seventeen”.  Some of the lyrics are

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for the beauty queens
And high school girls with clear-skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired

The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth

And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone

—————————————————-

And the rich relationed hometown queen
Marries into what she needs
With a guarantee of company
And haven for the elderly

—————————————————

To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball

It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
When dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me

 

These “Summers” are the people who are “super-salesmen” who we admire and thus succeed, becoming charismatic military leaders, entrepeneurs and CEOS by “looking like they know what they are doing”.  Even well-known pastors in mega-churches and para-church organizations can come from these ranks.

I have been blessed to be around wise Christian family and friends of great attributes but humble estates my whole life.  I have rubbed shoulders with billionaires and connected people in my early career, and even had Lear Jet rides and the keys to executive positions dangled in front of me.  However, I knew then I could never fit in or pull it off, and I am greatful to God to be spared such a shallow and unfulfilling existence.  When one becomes aware of the move-prop facade this type of “success” is, one cannot help losing one’s natural envy of others who do “make it”, and all its material perks and supposed esteem-builders, and feel sorry for those struggling so hard to find that elusive contentment and real acceptance with that crowd, and truly feel pity for their BMW and “work hard/play hard” worlds.  If is particularly sad to see women in Southern California, and now everywhere, who have been told that their value is merely their looks and youth, and thereby mutilate themselves at times in a vain attempt (excuse to the pun) to retain their “utility”.

The ultimate domain for the “Summers” is in the field of politics.   It is often all about image, swagger, “tough guy” mentality, and frankly being a bully.  As you can imagine, in a regular field of narcissists we now have a candidate who probably is the ultimate “Summer” – a wealthy billionaire born into wealth and connections, with people who hang on his every word, whether it is foolish or not, and even if he is insulting them or pandering to them in an obvious condescening way (and I have to say that Christians always seem by and large to be the most gullible).  They are dealing with a “dealer” whose life of deals are not those that are “win-win” for two parties who meet each other’s needs, but where one is a “winner” and the other a “loser”, decided on who has more inside information or assets, or merely by bluff, bullying and intimidation.  Those who are in the way either get out of the way, or get sued – just ask Merv Griffin – to further show his awesome “power”.  His success?  You know what they say – “Everybody loves a winner”.  The people proving this adage the most by beating a path to sit at his feet are many of our most prominent Christian leaders, and professing American Christians in general.

Well, I have started a movement some time ago to start voting for the “Pedros” of the world.  If it is real popular in society right now, be it a television show, style of music, gadgets or other styles, I’m probably going to take a pass on it.  If it is a “trend”, “fashionable” or status symbol – count me out.  If a person comes well-connected or with lots of money in their background, I’m probably going to write them off right on the spot.  If they come with associations with powerful or prominent organizations and institutions, I will probably write them off too.  If they are not selling themselves, but rather a noble idea, particularly one that looks out for the Forgotten People (those in institutional care, the elderly or low-income, all of whom are of no interest to Madison Avenue, Wall Street or the politicians, or others “out of favor”), then I will probably buy in, even if I disagree with them on certain matters; it is a question of integrity.  If “insiders” recommend them, groom them or try to influence them, they are off my list, regardless of the good “positions” they claim to represent – I am old enough now to know whose interests they really represent.

This is a life decision for me, concerning all aspects of life.  Tomorrow I am going to “vote for Pedro” at the ballot box.  Won’t you join me?

 

 

 

 

REVELATION: Ted Cruz is Green Acre’s “Mr. Haney”‘s Long-Lost Son!

I have not seen this as breaking news on World Net Daily, but check out the following two videos from Sen. Ted Cruz and study his voice and face carefully:

Now see how his voice and face resembles another prominent salesman and businessman, Mr. Haney from Green Acres…

The more speeches you hear from Sen. Cruz, the more it becomes apparent!  Apparently he learned to sell “ice cream to the Eskimos” like his old man…

Please Pray for Jesus’ Work Through Stephen Colbert

Friends,

I know I come across as frequently whining against the short-sighted, maudlin, and boorish behavior and attitudes of my fellow American Christians whom I love (“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.”, Rev. 3:19. Jesus to the Church at Laodicea); think about what my close friends must put up with!

However, I want to emphasize that I do see many promising developments amongst followers of Jesus, particularly amongst the young, but as a consequence of relating to today’s culture they will be knocking down a few walls of tradition and culture masquerading as religious fundamentals, and it could get messy at times.  Older Christians raised as their predecessors (and myself) in a traditional evangelical/Catholic/Protestant culture of narrowed language and accepted means of expression, constrained levity and satire, and a propensity of “sacred cows” that dare not be skewered (such as our veneration of the divine nature of our nation, pastors and religious establishment and its other heroes) will be hitting the bottle of antacids frequently in the days ahead, or (like many) will turn bitter, resentful and evermore exclusionary in their thinking.  A few of my cautionary “heroes”, whom I think might yet preserve a genuine Gospel ethic in the current and future generation (albeit in their own daring way), are even some “old geezers” like myself.

One such person I highly regard is Stephen Colbert.  Most older Christians probably do not know who he is, even though he has been a cable television superstar for many years.  Others would hold him in high suspicion because of his early association with John Stewart of the Daily Show (himself one of the best bastions of old-fashioned Christian ethics (while not himself a Christian) even though they don’t recognize it), and his skewering of many conservative icons and sacred cows on his show who were not to be touched.   

I personally find him to be a true genius of our generation.  Not only is he a multi-talented, highly educated and intellectual Renaissance Man of our generation, having an unparalleled litany of remarkable credentials to his credit (having invented the now-accepted word “truthiness”, multi-Emmy Winner and one of Time Magazines “100 Most Important People” in 2006 and 2012, has a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor named after him, has a Virgin America plane named after him, Grammy Award winner, has had four different species of insects officially named after him, is the only person to have a piece of equipment in space named after him (the COLBERT treadmill) and having been knighted by the King of Jordan, amongst many accolades).  He definitely produces the most insightful and intellectual content on television.  How he provides these subtle and insightful subtexts, even when acting  as a buffoon or crassly, is appreciated by many, however it sadly goes over the head of most older Christians I know.  His interviews and comical pieces not only make me laugh, but better yet make me think.

One of the unique aspects of Colbert beyond his cleverness and intelligence (and the fact of being a month younger than me, I get him), is his strong continuing Christian faith, even while enticed by all the trappings of the entertainment world.  You can read about some of his background and religious influences here.  He mentions his upbringing in a healthy, practicing Roman Catholic family, that was shattered when his father and siblings were taken away in a plane crash when he was only ten.  Like many young men he began to lose his faith, when he says someone gave him a Gideon Bible on the streets of Chicago.  In here he found Christ’s teaching on the Sermon on the Mount, which changed his life, and which he likes to talk about (you can find the Sermon’s influence in much of what he does in his comedy, if you look for it).  He is known for being a regular Sunday School teacher as well – how many television darlings can you say that about today?  I have observed, when I watched his wickedly funny and insightful Colbert Report shows on rare occasion, was his consistent defense of basic Christian truths such as man’s creation by God – even when interviewing an evolutionary biologist – and make it seem funny, endearing, non-threatening, and likeable (and he comes across as more enlightened, informed and intelligent than his scholarly expert guests, without being a boor).

He will say a few naughty words or vulgarities on rare occasion (at least on cable) to make a point, joke about sex (while being presumably faithful to his wife of 23 years) or discuss topics that make fundamentalists squirm.  However, he is one of the few voices for the basic principles of love and decency toward others as Christ taught that the people in society respect, and will listen to.  The only other peer that I can think of in his class is another controversial figure in fundamentalist circles – the Christ-loving TV and film producer Tyler Perry, who is arguably the most powerful (and wealthy) man in Hollywood, openly teaching marital fidelity, devotion to Christ, wife and children, and redemption and forgiveness in the guise of dressing up as a woman (“Madea”) and spitting out a foul word or two for laughs, while millions watch and learn, as many of our dour churches lay empty.

We as Christians should diligently pray for these two decent Christian brothers, who are two of the few witnesses for Christ who, while ruffling our feathers at times, retain any measure of respect and credibility in reaching today’s culture.  Pray that God will send more like them.

Here is a link to Colbert’s inaugural show as the new host of David Letterman’s former show The CBS Late Show (his first foray into network television) – watch for his skewering of the media’s addiction to Trump coverage by use of an Oreo analogy, and the final musical number with one of gospel’s Staple Singers calling for societal love and unity.

http://www.cbs.com/shows/the-late-show-with-stephen-colbert/video/

Blast From The Past: Joe Friday Defends Police Brutality to the Hippies and Blacks

As I said in the blog description, I have a soft spot for culture from the 60s to early 80s, be it a “good ol’ boy” country music song from the 60s about hippies and the war, to this gem from the 1969 edition (the season premier) of the iconic TV series Dragnet.  It focuses on Detectives Friday and Gannon being asked to defend police brutality and profiling on a controversial, confrontational TV show, and it is a classic (the Hulu link should play, but you might have to sit through a commercial):

Hulu: Dragnet 1969 E1 – Public Relations

For you youngsters out there, Dragnet became one of the early mega-hits on TV in the 50s, lasting for eight seasons and making star Jack Webb a TV mover and shaker.  He became, post WWII, the quintessential defender of the “Greatest Generation” and its values, warning of the risk of Commies taking over our towns in many works, and defending the actions of authoritarian figures such as the military and cops, and the “American Way”.  He brought back Dragnet for what I feel is its most interesting era, in early color from 1967 to 1970, probably because it was TV gold monetarily, but also I suspect because he was worried about the emerging “hippie culture” and youth movement that was really impacting his home town of Los Angeles.  He starts each show with some iconic words about “carrying a badge” and the virtues of LA – with its recurring elements, such as the “bad guys” being sentenced at the end in some type of police line up, becoming iconic and being parodied on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and elsewhere (Dan Ackroyd also did a spot-on impression of Joe Friday in the 1980s movie Dragnet).  His first show of 1967, “The LSD Story”, has some of the most classic engagement scenes between square oldsters of the establishment, and “flower children” and junkies, as caricatured by his older generation as he wrote their parts.  It is must-see TV for fans of unintended satire.  Jack Webb, and his character of Joe Friday, is THE archetype of that generation and those who ran the Establishment, with views and characteristics for better or for worse.

In the episode I linked above, Friday and his partner Gannon get roped into defending the cops on a confrontational show that must have emulated the 1960s Los Angeles “Joe Pyne Show” (with episodes itself you should watch on Youtube), which became a confrontational forerunner of the “Morton Downey, Jr.  Show” and Jerry Springer.  They get ambushed in debate by a hippie (played by the great Howard Hesseman, later to achieve fame as “Johnny Fever” in WKRP In Cincinnati), a leftist human rights professor, and blacks, Hispanics and others from the poor neighborhoods who hurl questions to them about police brutality and profiling.  Joe Friday makes an eloquent and heart-rending appeal on behalf of the beat cop, but never really addresses tangibly how to solve the problems they cite.  Although it is obvious these antagonists are stereotyped by Jack Webb through the lens he saw them through when he wrote their parts, the debate shows that the issues have NOT changed in the last half century, and even this contrived debate is more eloquent than what we see in the public sector today (at least they had a dialogue, and acknowledged the problems then; how would today’s Religious Right and conservatives be accurately portrayed in such as show?).

Hope you enjoy this as much as I did, and I look forward to your comments!

P.S. As a bonus, a Youtube link to “The LSD Story” is here: