Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Category Archive: 'rant'

Compassion and Leadership

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Mar 07, 2017 @ 11:39 am PDT

I’ve been increasingly dismayed by the hatred I’m seeing in political arenas these days, especially from those who profess to be Christians. Now, admittedly I’m Jewish and not an expert on Christianity, but my understanding is that Christ preached love, understanding, and compassion for people, and rallied against the moneychangers and those who accumulated wealth for wealth’s sake.

What brought this to the fore of late was reading the proposed GOP replacement for the Affordable Care Act. The proposal, according to the LA Times summary, would ensure that no federal funding can be made, either directly or indirectly, by Medicaid to a healthcare organization that “provides for abortions,” other than those done in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. That not only defunds Planned Parenthood, but any hospital that performs abortion. Further, According to a House Ways and Means Committee digest, the measure forbids spending federal tax subsidies on health plans that include coverage of abortion, even if the customer doesn’t get an abortion. This denies women the right to a safe abortion guaranteed under Roe v. Wade, under those timelines — and that in many cases has the government interfering with the practice of the mother’s religion (which might permit abortion). Further, you would think that a group so concerned with the life of a child would ensure it is born healthy, if they are going to prevent abortion. But no. According to the summary, as of Dec. 31, 2019, ACA rules that required qualified health plans to provide hospitalization, maternity care, mental health services and other benefits would be sunsetted at the federal level. So not only is abortion prohibited, but there would be no requirement to provide maternity care. This isn’t compassion, this is hatred towards women.

Further, studies are showing that the new proposal will cost 6 to 10 million people their health insurance. It will raise premiums on older people. It will cost Obamacare enrollees about $1500 more each year. It slashes funding for vaccines and public health. The plan will be really bad for the sickest Americans due to the continuous coverage requirement. Oh, and it encourages health insurers to pay their top executives more.

This is just an example. Hatred from the Conservative side is rampant, and has been for many years. I’ve had conservative friends wish all liberals dead. I’ve seen hatred towards immigrant groups. I’ve seen hatred towards the poor. Yet these are from people who profess to be Christian, who profess to want to have Christian values throughout society. They are using Christianity as an excuse for their hatred, and that’s wrong. I know that’s not what Christianity teaches, as I have seen numerous compassionate Christians who are living that compassion every day.

In a VCStar interview with Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul, and Mary, he was asked about his passion and liberalism. I found his response quite interesting:

I also think for the liberal, it’s the willingness to take a chance, to share and to reach out and to find new ways to interact. I think the conservative mold is essentially to protect your resources or to protect what’s yours; and I don’t know if I should say this to a tape recorder because I don’t know when it’s gonna return to bite me in the ass, but I would say organized religion is very much the same way. When Luther nailed that note to the door complaining about the abuses of the church, he was also in a sense talking about the strict format that had to be obeyed, when really, his feeling was — and I think it’s gaining contemporary recognition — that spiritually, matters of the heart, are for us to decide individually, and that’s scary for the church because that means that essentially everyone is an angel. Everyone is essentially creating their own religion, and that’s scary for people who have put their faith in dogma and in routine. That’s not to say that I don’t have routines that I find comforting – and I’m sure that you do too – but when they exclude other people, create difficulties or lack of respect for other people, then I think we need to re-address obeying forms and start obeying the compassion in our hearts.

Compassion in our hearts. Our political system here in America is one that permits many spiritual paths, and explicitly recognizes that one group cannot impose a spiritual path on another. The Supreme Court recognized that when it found a compromise position on abortion: a point before which it was legal, and a point after which it was not. This is a clear middle ground between those who believe life starts at conception (a Christian view) and those who believe it starts when the infant takes its first breath (a Jewish view). Ultimately, however, it is not an outside party’s choice to make: it is the woman’s choice, in consultation with her spiritual advisors.

If our society is going to show compassion, it can’t be Dickensian, putting the poor in workhouses and letting people die if they can’t afford healthcare. That appears to be the goal of the GOP proposal — and this administration as a whole: benefit the wealthy, let those who have the privilege take advantage of everyone and everything that does not. That’s not Compassionate Conservatism — that’s “I’ve got mine, I’ll take yours”.

Some argue that compassion shouldn’t come from the government; it should come from the churches helping the people directly. Obviously, these people are not familiar with the teachings of the RamBam, Moses Maimonides, and his levels of charity:

  1. The greatest level, above which there is no greater, is to support someone by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others . . .
  2. A lesser level of charity than this is to give to the poor without knowing to whom one gives, and without the recipient knowing from who he received. For this is performing a mitzvah solely for the sake of Heaven. This is like the “anonymous fund” that was in the Holy Temple [in Jerusalem]. There the righteous gave in secret, and the good poor profited in secret. Giving to a charity fund is similar to this mode of charity, though one should not contribute to a charity fund unless one knows that the person appointed over the fund is trustworthy and wise and a proper administrator, like Rabbi Chananyah ben Teradyon.
  3. A lesser level of charity than this is when one knows to whom one gives, but the recipient does not know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to walk about in secret and put coins in the doors of the poor. It is worthy and truly good to do this, if those who are responsible for distributing charity are not trustworthy.
  4. A lesser level of charity than this is when one does not know to whom one gives, but the poor person does know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to tie coins into their robes and throw them behind their backs, and the poor would come up and pick the coins out of their robes, so that they would not be ashamed.
  5. A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person directly into his hand, but gives before being asked.
  6. A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person after being asked.
  7. A lesser level than this is when one gives inadequately, but gives gladly and with a smile.
  8. A lesser level than this is when one gives unwillingly.

Support from the government is at the first two: we know not to whom we give, and they do not know who gave it. Helping provide medical care and job training is above that — we help find them employment and strengthen their hands. The GOP proposal is at the bottom — inadequate giving and unwilling giving.

Our political leaders have a responsibility not only to represent their major donors — the people with the money. They have the responsibility to represent and protect the people with no voice, the people who don’t have the funds for PACs. When their compassion is only for the wealthy who look like them and who were raised like them, this isn’t a government of the people, by the people, and most importantly, for the people.


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You Have To Be Carefully Taught

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Mar 05, 2017 @ 11:07 am PDT

userpic=divided-nationOne of the things that has truly dismayed me about our current political atmosphere between liberals and conservatives is the pure hatred between the groups. When I see a Conservative friend write about legislators scurrying like cockroaches after the President’s speech to Congress, and wishing that all libtards would die, does he realize he’s wishing death to a cockroach like me? When I see liberal friends refer to those who voted for Trump as idiots, does he realize he is referring to friends of mine?

This was brought to mind when I read the following paragraph in a recent article:

People don’t come out of the womb hating their neighbor. Hate is taught and learned. Hate comes from the inside. It’s felt and it lingers. Hate pushes you to find revenge for what you feel is unjust and unfair.

This was not an article about politics. It was an article about a white woman who married a black man, and saw the reactions of others. But the same notion is true. It is a notion that we see, alas, in our President — who when acting “presidential” calls for unity, but then goes out of his way to make outrageous claims about anyone who does not agree with him. We see it in his desire for a homogeneous society, a society where all immigrants subsume their cultural identity to the assimilated whole. We see it in his choice of advisors, who see this country as a white Christian nation — and work to bring that about.

What makes this country strong is diversity. Science shows us that diversity makes us better thinkers. According to that article:

The most successful civilizations throughout human history have demonstrated the ability — no matter how warily — to adapt through acculturation and evolve alongside others. The benefits of diversity today are largely acknowledged and often desired, as companies strive to innovate and political parties vie for voters. But the pushback against diversification, exemplified so powerfully in political upheavals in 2016, speak to the enduring fear of change and differences, even though the latter is often a societal concept, like race.

A similar message is echoed in today’s NY Times in an article about biracial people, such as President Obama:

What President Trump doesn’t seem to have considered is that diversity doesn’t just sound nice, it has tangible value. Social scientists find that homogeneous groups like his cabinet can be less creative and insightful than diverse ones. They are more prone to groupthink and less likely to question faulty assumptions.

What has made our political nature strong is our ability to find compromise between views. The majority does not have the ability to ramrod their choices through (or they should not). They have to find compromises — solutions that not everyone likes, but they can tolerate and live with. We have also had the ability to respect those we disagree with: to like them as people even as we dislike their politics.

We have lost that. It has been a slow process that started with the loss of trust brought on by Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War, the campaigning tactics of Ronald Reagan, and the polarization that arrived with the election of Bill Clinton. It has culminated with the election of a petulant spoiled brat, who throws a Twitter tantrum everytime he doesn’t receive 100% adulation or adoration or get his way.

We have to find a way to restore the balance, to restore the respect. We have to break the cycle of hatred. We have to look past the labels to the people inside, and remember that we can agree to disagree.

It is only in this way that we can save our country.


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Where The Buck Should Stop

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Feb 28, 2017 @ 3:04 pm PDT

userpic=trumpOne of the big distractions in the news this week, other than how Kellyanne Conway sits on a sofa, has been the fiasco with Best Picture at the Oscars. I’ve already shared my thoughts on why this happened; instead, I’d like to look at what PWC did immediately afterwards: they accepted responsibility. That is the mark of a responsible CEO and business leader. When their business screws up, as the leader at the top of the food chain, they accept responsibility for the action, and clearly state they will find the cause and correct the system so it doesn’t happen again. I’m sure you can think of numerous examples (one of the best known). With respect to government this principle is clear, and it goes back to Harry S. Truman, who had the sign on his desk: “The Buck Stops Here.”

President Trump was supposedly elected because of his experience in business and as a CEO. One would think he would have learned this.

Obviously, one would be thinking wrong.

Just this week, there have been three egregious instances where President Trump has blamed anyone but himself or his administration for problems in the country:

The President is a leader — someone who leads in words and by example. Mr. Trump is failing to do that. Update: He started his speech tonight by condemning the antisemitic violence — which is good.


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A War Not Fought By Soldiers

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Feb 28, 2017 @ 7:57 am PDT

According to Donald Trump, we’re in a war. But this is not the war against ISIS; it is not the war against terrorism. But it is a war for the soul of America.

Let me explain. An article in the LA Times this morning had the headline: “The real goal of Trump’s executive orders: Reduce the number of immigrants in the U.S.” Why does Trump want to do this? Here’s how the article starts:

Behind President Trump’s efforts to step up deportations and block travel from seven mostly Muslim countries lies a goal that reaches far beyond any immediate terrorism threat: a desire to reshape American demographics for the long term and keep out people who Trump and senior aides believe will not assimilate.

In pursuit of that goal, Trump in his first weeks in office has launched the most dramatic effort in decades to reduce the country’s foreign-born population and set in motion what could become a generational shift in the ethnic makeup of the U.S.

Think about it this way: Before the 1960s, what was the goal of immigrants? To blend in. To become part of the American culture, to melt into the great American melting pot and become indistinguishable from everyone else. Distinctive cultural traditions were lost: this was the era of Reform Judaism and religious practice that looked like Christian practice. It was white bread — everyone blending in. Comfortable conformity. This is the era where the White Man was superior. It is also the era to which much of small town America aspires: it is in many ways the epitome of small town America. This is the era that Trump, and many of his followers, pine for.

When you look at the post-1960 era — and especially what America has become — it is best expressed by a phrase from that era: “Black is Beautiful”. We celebrate our distinct culture. It is the era of Black Studies and Women Studies and Asian Studies in college. It is the era of wearing our religious identity “in your face”: hijabs, kippot, turbans, all are beautiful. We celebrate our origins and we keep them separate. We are no longer a homogenous melting pot with a uniform flavor: we are a diverse multiflavored broth where you can taste every distinct flavor. We don’t hide our diversity, we insist and treasure it.  We insist on it at work because it makes us better thinkers. We work to make up for past mistakes with affirmative action programs and providing extra advantages to classes previously disadvantaged — all so we can have more diversity. We don’t want our immigrants to assimilate and blend in. We want them to stand out, celebrate their origins, and be diverse.

[ETA: In a comment on Facebook, I used this analogy: Think of America as a large box of crayons of all colors. The Trump Administration wants to go back to the melting pot: where these crayons are melted together (assimilated) into a single homogeneous color, all the same. He is protesting the approach of the recent generations, which is to recognize that while we are all crayons, it is the variety of colors that makes us beautiful and stronger.]

President Trump, his advisors, and all their followers hate this. Their answer: reduce those immigrant groups that won’t assimilate into the whole. The Mexicans. The Muslims. (and I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t go after the Orthodox Jews at some point, the Amish having been here far too long). How do we do this? Hmmm, just look at those executive orders.

(Psst. There was once another leader in the 1930s who wanted a similar goal for his nation. We know how that ended, especially for those groups that were different.)

Seeing the truth is the key. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.


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Offensive People: They Make America Stronger

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 25, 2017 @ 7:09 am PDT

Back in early 2016, while the movie about her libel trial was in production, Dr. Deborah Lipstadt participated in a debate at Oxford University about whether the act of Holocaust Denial — that is, saying that the Holocaust never happened — should be against the law. You might find it surprising that her position was that it SHOULD NOT be criminalized. Her reasons? Here is what she said: “I am convinced that freedom of speech means nothing unless it includes the freedom for offensive people to be offensive.  We who are offended by them, must accept that, as a cost of living in a free society.”

Read that again: “Freedom of speech means nothing unless it includes the freedom for offensive people to be offensive.” This bedrock principle of America is why the ACLU defended the right of Nazis to march in Skokie. It is why Breitbart News is an important part of the landscape, but it is also why left-learning and neutral news sites are also an important part of the landscape. Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of the Press, are cornerstones of what makes America great, of what keeps American politicians accountable to the American people, and ultimately, what keeps the people at the top of the national power structure.

It is something that Donald Trump has forgotten. In a post yesterday on Facebook, Trump wrote that he is fulfilling the promise of promoting “our values”. And what are these values? He talks about allegiance to America. He says, “We all salute the same American Flag. And we are all made equal by the same Almighty God”. But he does not mention the Constitution — the ultimate, founding definition of American Values. Values that, for America, take priority over the Bible. This is no small testimony to the wisdom and foresight of the Founding Fathers. Unlike the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution contains no reference to God.

Offensive people being offensive. We see this every day in the era of Trump. Yet it is something that Trump does not want to see. It was manipulation of the media and fake news that created the outrage against Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Agenda that cemented his election — and it was something that he supported, used, and encouraged. Now that he is in office, this manipulative news is the only news he wants to see. More importantly, it is the only news he wants THE PEOPLE to see. He wants to suppress investigative journalism into what his administration is really doing, and is arguing that such media is “fake news”, the product of “illegal leaks”. He is going so far as to publicly attack journalists as “enemies of the people” (such an ominous phase) and to bar selected news outfits — including not only American media but the BBC and the Guardian — from meetings with the Press Secretary. There has only been one time where, in my memory, an American President has been this hostile to the media. Most Americans won’t remember it; I wasn’t barely in my teens when it happened. It was when President Nixon attempted to cover up his direct involvement in the Watergate Breakin.

What is President Trump trying to hide? What is he trying to divert and distract us from seeing? It could be his collusion with Russia over the election, although Congressman Darryl Issa (R-California) is working to get a special prosecutor to investigate just that. More importantly, however, it could be to divert our attention from the fact that the President is actively working to dismantle the American Government.

That’s right: His advisor Steve Bannon said so directly: Bannon framed much of Trump’s agenda with the phrase, “deconstruction of the administrative state,” meaning the system of taxes, regulations and trade pacts that the president says have stymied economic growth and infringed upon U.S. sovereignty. But in doing so, he is also deconstructing the system that ensures equality and non-discrmination under the law; that ensures safe food, water, and drugs; that ensures a clean environment in which to live; that ensures that our leaders are ethical, honest, and working for the people. In doing so, he is building a system where reporting government abuse of the Constitution and violation of the law is viewed as a problem for the government, not whistleblowing protecting the people.

Pretty offensive, right?

But just as in America it is vital that we have the ability to hear the offensive lies that President Trump and his supporters promote, it is vital that President Trump, and his supporters, and all the American people hear the offensive truth that the media investigates, sees, and reports. This reporting comes not only from American media sources such as the television networks, the major city papers, and long-time journalist outlets, but from the foreign media such as the BBC.

Occasionally being offended is the price we pay for living in the freest society on the planet. Those who work against such offense are working against American values.

In a few weeks, Jews all over the world will be celebrating Purim. It is an interesting holiday. It is not in the Torah at all; it is defined in a story called the Megillah, which you know as the Book of Esther. The story is remarkable because it makes no mention of God — just like the Constitution. It tells the story of an advisor to the King that hated the Jews, and wanted to see them all destroyed to make him, and his values, more powerful. Sound familiar? It is also the story of how a man of the people and from the people spoke truth to power, and not only saved his people but restored the nation to their values. Speaking truth to power — even when it is uncomfortable to do so, even when there is significant risk in doing so — that is what our Free Press does.

It is what men such as Hamen — the real enemies of our people — hate and despise and want to suppress, for speaking truth to power will deprive them of their power.

Now think about this: Who is the power that has the President, his advisors, and the GOP leadership shaking in their boots? Who is the power to whom the Press is speaking? The People. It is the People — you and me and Democrats and Republicans and Independents — who have the power to vote their asses out of power, to remove the power of their party and ideas at the state and local level. It is we the People that have the power to replace them with people from all across the political spectrum — liberals to conservatives, non-religious to religious — who respect and treasure the Constitution, and who realize that in our system of government, it is finding the point of compromise that is key, and compromise only comes from all sides both talking and listening.

All of this, just from putting up with offensive people.


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We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Papers

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Feb 21, 2017 @ 7:48 pm PDT

userpic=trumpToday, President Trump put a new “tougher” immigration policy in place, and our country became a less safe place for citizens and non-citizens alike. The reason why is best captured in the subtitle of a Vox post on the policy: “Almost everyone in the US without papers is now a priority for deportation.”

As you read about the new policies, I want you to ask yourself, if you are a legal US citizen, either naturalized or by birth, whether you carry papers with you at all times proving your citizenship? A drivers license is not sufficient — drivers licenses can be forged, and some states issue licenses to non-citizens. Drivers licenses are also issued to legal residents.

So, if under the new rules, an ICE officer thinks you look like an illegal immigrant, for whatever reasons, and you have anything on your record — a parking ticket — they can deport you first and ask questions later. They will not give you access to a judge or a way to prove your citizenship (even though that amendment has been ruled by the Supreme Court as applicable to anyone in the US, citizen or not).

Another problem is the tactics that ICE uses. Did you know that they can impersonate local law enforcement to entice people in — they do not have to identify as ICE until after they have taken people into custody?

Not that I’m not arguing that people should be permitted to be in this country illegally. Employers should be following immigration laws and only hiring legal immigrants, and those who don’t should be penalized (and that includes picking up undocumented laborers at Home Depot). But the Government must respect the constitution, and must respect the rights of citizens. It must not profile based on religion or skin color. It must be humane in how it treats people, and respect people as people. It must also use a risk management approach: recognizing it is impossible to identify and deport everyone, prioritize the efforts on those committing crimes, and prioritize that effort on those committing violent crimes.

This is not an easy issue — if it was, we would have resolved it by now. But the approach being taken here is just wrong and needs to be rethought.



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The Message He Sends

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Feb 20, 2017 @ 4:00 pm PDT

I’ve been sitting around this afternoon wondering what I might post. I didn’t have enough random news chum, and I wrote up the show from yesterday. Then I saw a headline and a rant welled up that touches on a number of things from this weekend. The headline?

Vandals target historic Jewish cemetery in University City

University City, MO, is a suburb of St. Louis. It is actually where my mother grew up; we have relatives buried in a different Jewish cemetery in the city. This is on a day when we’ve yet another round of threatened (at least, we hope they are only threats) bombings of Jewish Community Centers around the country.

Presidents are supposed to lead; to represent American values. One value is the right to practice your religion. This, after all, is why homophobic Christian bakers insist they can’t bake a cake for a homosexual, right? Trump wants to defend that right. This, after all, is why Christian-owned Hobby Lobby wants to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives, even for workers whose religion permits them to use contraception? Trump wants to defend that right.

So where is Trump on this issue? Where is he insisting that antisemitism is un-American?


He gets questions at a press conference asking for a statement on increased antisemitism in America, and he responds that he has Jews in his family — how can he be antisemitic? Remember the days of “But I have a black friend?”

Further, he wants to ban people from entering this country — excuse me, be suspicious of them — just because of their religion, Muslim. But he wants to permit extra Christians to come in from those countries. His Secretary of Education wants Federal Tax Dollars — my Federal Tax Dollars — to flow to Christian religious schools and out of the public school system.

We all know you set an example and send messages by what you say. President Trump has demonstrated that aptly, by trusting opinion pieces on Fox News over fact from government agencies, by claiming that science is an opinion, and that independent journalism is un-American. We know these messages are bullshit, but they have been said over and over and over and have become a conspiracy theory. We all know that Conspiracy Theories can’t be disproved, and a large segment of the country now believes the conspiracy and will not be convinced otherwise. (And why should they: we’ve lost the ability to teach critical thinking)

But you also set an example by what you don’t say, and what you do without saying it? President Trump, by not condemning attacks on individuals and institutions based on religion, is condoning it. President Trump, by instituting a Muslim ban — excuse me, extreme Muslim vetting — is condoning religious discrimination. He is letting fear rule the country, just as fear kept Jews from safety during World War II, just as fear put Japanese in internment camps at the same time. By not saying anything, he is demonstrating the worst of America.

Further, those in rural areas are eating it up. Remember, much of rural America is heavily Christian. They may never have met a Jew or Muslim in person, and their only knowledge is from TV shows, movies, and the news. Jews tend to live in larger cities, because of the nature of Jewish worship and practice. Muslims are often the same — in areas with sufficient population to support a mosque. How likely is that in a city under 25,000. So these people believe what they are told: if TV says they are bad, then they must be bad. Ask yourself: how does our media portray minority religions? Now think about what we must do to battle that impression, and why it is even more important for our President to stand up and be Presidential, to say: This is not America. America respects all religions: all religions are welcome here, and no religion, including “no religion”, is favored by the Government.

Mr. Trump: Again, you are failing to lead. If you can’t do the job, resign and let someone who can do it.

[ETA: Finally, on 2/21, he condemned the threats against the JCCs and antisemitism.]

P.S.: Presidents are also supposed to work to support all states and all the people in the country, even those that may oppose him. That’s part of the job; no President is universally loved (not even Reagan). So what has Mr. Trump done to California? He cut the allocated funding for Caltrain to electrify. This makes it more expensive to run the trains, increases operating costs, retains older equipment decreasing ridership, and keeps us tied to polluting fuel. All because he doesn’t like a state. Watch out, other urban areas. You might be next (while he lines his personal pockets every time he goes down to Mar-a-Lago).


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Trump and Apocalyptic Visions

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Feb 09, 2017 @ 11:19 am PDT

userpic=trumpWhen the state of Israel was formed, many Orthodox Jews were anti-Zionist. The reason was simple, in their logic: “the Torah forbids us to end the exile and establish a state and army until the Holy One, blessed He, in His Glory and Essence will redeem us. This is forbidden even if the state is conducted according to the law of the Torah because arising from the exile itself is forbidden, and we are required to remain under the rule of the nations of the world”. In other words: It was G-d’s responsibility to establish the state, not the actions of men.

I mention this because of an interesting article that came across my RSS feeds today exploring the Islamic view of Donald Trump, and how the Koran foretold his arrival. The d’var koran, if I can use a mixed term, describes how the Muslim scripture foretold someone who seems to fit the description of Trump, and notes:

“The individual described in the Quran did not meet a good end. The result of his cheap, mean-spirited ways was that God destroyed his garden overnight, and when he and his workers came to it in the morning they lamented: “nay we have been deprived of everything.” The only silver lining the Quran offers is that they, after witnessing the result of their evils, realized the error of their ways, reproached one another, turned to God and repented of their past injustices.”

Now, I’m not an Islamic scholar. I do not know if this is a conventional interpretation, or a fundamentalist interpretation. All I note is that it is an interesting interpretation, and one that might be used as an excuse for many things, from an Islamic ban to…

But apocalyptic interpretations of scripture are not limited to Muslims. Many devout Christians appear to support Mr. Trump precisely for the chaos he is bringing. You see, they view him as the anti-Christ:

Trump does fit several of the criteria attached to popular perceptions of the Antichrist. Many earnest sources of apocalyptic speculation, including the best-selling Left Behind series by the late Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, imagine the Antichrist as a truly modern figure. Although the wildly popular 17-book series, which was published between 1995 and 2007 and has sold over 65 million copies, is fictional, the vision embraced by LaHaye and Jenkins portrays the coming apocalypse as an event where non-believers are forced to reckon with the damage wrought by the Antichrist. Here, the Antichrist is a worldly, charismatic man, often of Eastern European and Jewish heritage, who embraces modern technology and institutions for his own sinister ends. This interpretation, which is common among a large subset of American Evangelicals, believes the Antichrist’s reign — a period known as the “tribulation” — will follow the rapture of true followers of Christ.

It’s easy to extrapolate this to Trump. He’s vainglorious, charismatic (at least in the eyes of some Americans), and obsessed with wealth. Kushner Companies, a real estate company jointly owned by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, is headquartered at 666 5th Ave. Trump, while not Eastern European himself, has a proclivity for Eastern European women and promises better relations with Russia, a country that figures prominently in 20th and 21st century apocalyptic tales. And while Trump says that his favorite book is the Bible, he did once note that he’s “not sure” as to whether he’s asked God for forgiveness of his sins.

In particular, Steve Bannon, Trump’s closest advisor, has such apocalyptic visions:

In Bannon’s view, we are in the midst of an existential war, and everything is a part of that conflict. Treaties must be torn up, enemies named, culture changed. Global conflagration, should it occur, would only prove the theory correct. For Bannon, the Fourth Turning has arrived. The Grey Champion, a messianic strongman figure, may have already emerged. The apocalypse is now.


War is coming, Bannon has warned. In fact, it’s already here.

“You have an expansionist Islam and you have an expansionist China,” he said during a 2016 radio appearance. “They are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march. And they think the Judeo-Christian West is on the retreat.”

To confront this threat, Bannon argued, the Judeo-Christian West must fight back, lest it lose as it did when Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453. He called Islam a “religion of submission” in 2016 — a refutation of President George W. Bush’s post-9/11 description of Islam as a religion of peace. In 2007, Bannon wrote a draft movie treatment for a documentary depicting a “fifth column” of Muslim community groups, the media, Jewish organizations and government agencies working to overthrow the government and impose Islamic law.

And you wonder where Trump gets his ideas.

I have seen discussions on Facebook where the hope has been expressed for the rapture to occur, and for the true believer to be swept up to Heaven to live with Jesus. As for the rest of us: non-believers and liberals and such, well, it is the pits of Hell. And if not Hell, then Detroit or Cleveland.

Now, I’m not going to criticize anyone for their beliefs. This is America, and you are free to believe whatever you wish. Further, the government is not supposed to establish or favor any particular religion, so as to permit you to believe whatever you wish. More importantly, to permit me to believe whatever I wish. [Translation: This is not a Christian Nation; even though almost a third of Americans think you need to be Christian to be truly American. Sigh.]

However, your right to your beliefs stops when it impacts someone else. I take offense at people who deliberately elect someone unqualified, and with a dangerous narcissistic streak, just to hasten the Rapture and the Apocalypse. Here I side with the Orthodox: it is not your place to bring it about. If a Rapture and Apocalypse is going to happen, it is up to G-d to bring it about, not you or me. You are not G-d, and you are certainly not my G-d. If there is a G-d.

Note that there is a distinction between belief in G-d and faith. Although I sometimes question the existance of G-d, I certainly do have faith. In particular, I have faith that the American People and our Nation will survive the bumpy ride we’re in for with Trump. Resistance to his unilateral executive orders is growing, his unqualified nominees are not making it through the Senate, and the Democratic Congress has decided to resist Trump the same way the Republican Congress resisted Obama. Further, a number of Patriotic Republicans such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are standing up for American Values and saying: Trump’s behavior is not who we are.

Both the Muslim and the Christian interpretations of scripture above assume that all is ordained, with the implication that we don’t have the ability to stop it. But we are given the choice in Deuteronomy 30:19: “This day, I call upon the heaven and the earth as witnesses [that I have warned] you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring will live;” We are given the choice — we can choose. We must and should choose the good, the blessing, the life, and not the evil.


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