Bob Schwartz

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Rationale for any bad behavior: I’m just a regular person, so if it’s okay for a president, it’s okay for me.

From an interview with Mark Galli, retiring editor of Christianity Today, whose editorial criticized Trump’s immoral conduct in office and called for his removal:

Do you think evangelicals’ willingness to excuse Mr. Trump’s behavior will translate to a more broad willingness to forgive bad behavior by politicians, or does it seem to be Trump-specific?

I think his supporters would say it is limited to Trump. But I will say that some of his closest followers are, in a sense, being discipled by him. Mr. Trump’s typical response to a critic is to frame the entire conversation as a competition between success and failure.

The question is too narrow. The question should be: Do you think evangelicals’ willingness to excuse Mr. Trump’s behavior will translate to a more broad willingness to excuse their own bad behavior?

The answer is yes.

In fact, the willingness of evangelicals, Republican politicians, and many others to excuse Trump’s behavior is precisely based on that. Trump is a get-out-of-hell-free card. “I already told you that it isn’t wrong for him to [fill in the blank]. So obviously it isn’t wrong for me.”

A rise in expressive and aggressive hateful words and actions is not hard to explain. Just hard to fix.

People, to some degree and in some numbers, experience frustration, alienation and related negative emotions. Some of those people will speak out and act out in response to those emotions in hateful ways. The target for that speaking and acting out may be an individual or a group of individuals, identified by some affiliation or characteristics.

Two things are happening now, as they have happened before in history, and as they always will.

One is an increase in the drivers for that frustration and negativity. It may be economic, social, cultural, ideological. Certain trends are leading some people to feel themselves, individually and as part of a society, put upon by the way things are going.

The second thing is acceptance, encouragement and enabling of that acting and speaking out. The contributors to this are too long to list here, but include for example social media and high-profile individuals. Or better said, high-profile individuals who use and exploit social media.

Once and still, we had and have counterbalancing forces, both in helping to reduce that sense of frustration and alienation and in tempering the acceptability of speaking and acting out in hateful ways. But the presence and power of those forces seems to be diminishing.

Unless and until those counterbalancing forces—those that help reduce frustration and alienation and those that temper the acceptability of hatefulness—regain power, we are not getting out of our situation anytime soon.

Trump says I am a citizen of American Jewland. I am not.


Jewish Groups Accuse Trump of Anti-Semitism Over ‘Horrifying’ Plan to Define Judaism As a Nationality

Liberal American Jewish advocacy groups have reacted with horror to reports that President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order defining Judaism as a nationality rather than just a religion.

According to a Tuesday report from The New York Times, the president is planning the order to help combat anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses and crack down on boycott campaigns against the state of Israel.

But progressive Jewish groups suggested the reported move is actually anti-Semitic, in that casts Jews as a separate nationality to all other Americans, and arguing it could stifle legitimate criticism of Israeli policies.

The move comes as the president himself is facing renewed accusations of anti-Semitism, after a weekend speech in which he used multiple anti-Semitic tropes and again suggested that all Jews must support for the Israeli government.

The Education Department can currently withhold funding from institutions or programs that discriminate “on the ground of race, color, or national origin,” but not religion, the Times explained.

By defining Judaism as a nationality, the administration will be able to defund institutions seen to be allowing an anti-Semitic environment do develop.

But it will also help the Education Department’s efforts to quell Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions-linked movements, which seek to pressure the Israeli government to improve its treatment of Palestinians and end its continued violation of international law.

Let us parse this craven move as a political and religious matter.

Politically, the vast majority of American Jews don’t like or support Trump. If, however, he can exploit differences in the Jewish communities to weaken that opposition and resistance, his handlers believe he comes out ahead. Support for Israel, including condemnation of BDS, crosses political lines. If Trump is seen as a “hero” to some Jews, that bolsters his chronically narrow support.

Religiously, this is typically careless, as in his not caring or knowing about Judaism, Christianity or any other religious tradition. Or about history. If he did, he would understand that racializing and nationalizing Jews is an insidious matter, used to raise issues of split loyalties and to set Jews apart from “regular” citizens.

Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December — the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): a milestone document proclaiming the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Available in more than 500 languages, it is the most translated document in the world.

Peyote Pilgrims

“Imaginatione and historie are a fine paire.”
Made up old-fashioned quote

Some believe that the accounts of the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621 have been sanitized to leave out an extraordinary detail. Somehow, it is thought by some, the Native Americans at Plymouth had traded for peyote from Southwestern tribes and shared it with the colonists at that famous three-day meal.

First, here’s the version we have, from Edward Winslow in Mourt’s Relation, published in 1622:

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

The omitted mention of psychedelics explains much. For example, the outlandish hats and clothing we associate with the pilgrims in fact did not exist in that community. Instead, it is possible that those in the midst of an experience began sketching the ridiculous fashions they thought they saw. “Tall hats with buckles,” William Bradford said. “Oh wow, such hats reflect our reaching to heaven.” “Awesome!” the others who were still capable of speaking might have exclaimed.

Happy Thanksgiving (yes, we all still call the holiday that).

Dawn, again

Dawn, again

The first sip of light
can be so sweet
wonder waiting
untold possibility
once more
no promises
not even a seen sun
just a slip of blue gray
unnamed day

© Bob Schwartz

America is a nuclear plant in meltdown

Chernobyl control room

Nuclear plants are immeasurably powerful and potentially dangerous. To run properly and safely they require strict systems and conscientious people. When the systems or people fail, the power is set chaotically free. Disaster follows.

America is right at that point, though we are assured, and assure ourselves, that this is a ridiculously exaggerated metaphor, and concern should not proceed to panic. We have no historical precedent for the worst, at least not here. We believe that the Constitution, the laws, and the essential goodness and wisdom of people in power and citizens make a meltdown impossible.

What if our optimism is wrong? What if our confidence in systems and people is tragically misplaced? What, if anything, can and should we do?

You are already minimal

Your life is filled with stuff, outside and inside yourself. Minimalism is popular. You are told and believe that reducing the amount of that stuff, outside and inside, has its benefits. It does.

But there is another face to this. However much too much is in your house or inside in your busy buzzing mind, the minimal is already there, without discarding and disposing of a single unkempt pile or thought. The ultimate is to remain surrounded and filled with stuff and to realize that you are not.

Trump: Snitches Get Stitches

Talking today about the trouble he is in because of a whistleblower, Trump might have said:

“Snitches get stitches.”

Or he might have said:

“Rats need to be exterminated.”

This is what he actually said:

“I want to know who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”

Yes sir, you yourself should be glad these aren’t “the old days,” so now even traitors can escape the ultimate punishment. Of course, some traitors may try to pardon themselves.

Why Republicans Don’t Care About What History Thinks of Them: “History Is Bunk”

“History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history that we make today.”
Henry Ford

Republicans today don’t believe in history, any more than they believe in government or journalism. They don’t believe in historians, any more than they believe in civil servants and journalists. And they are confident that much of the electorate doesn’t believe in these either.

That’s why suggesting to Republicans that history will judge them harshly makes no difference to them, falling on deaf ears. They continue to subvert conventional regard for institutions such as government, education and journalism. Convincing people that history and historians can’t be trusted and have little to offer doesn’t seem that hard to them.

Republicans are probably not right about the whole of the citizenry. Historians are already quick-reviewing the current era in an unflattering light, and numbers of people are paying attention. But if Republicans are right about a substantial portion of the citizenry, that people are ignorant and skeptical of history, and don’t really care what historians say, that unflattering light may get much darker.