reflections, updates and homilies from Deacon Mike Talbot inspired by the following words from my ordination: Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach...
Saturday, January 9, 2021
Fr. Longenecker writes to us about these Divided States of America
THE DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA
The divisions in America reached a climax this week, and they are not going to go away. Donald Trump has now said he will assure a peaceful transition of power, but what next? He’s also said, “This is just the beginning.” Is this more grandstanding and bragging from the braggart in chief or is he planning to start his own media empire, his own political party or just return to making lots of money?
My political stance has always been non-partisan…pretty much a “plague of both your houses.” Nevertheless, my vote went for Trump in November, but I wrote at the time that I was holding my nose and that I wasn’t so much voting for Trump as voting for the policies of the Republican party which were the closest I could get to my own beliefs. Trump and his supporters say the event on Wednesday was “mostly peaceful”. The pictures and videos of crowds storming the Capitol looked pretty violent. Apparently Trump told his people to remain peaceful and law abiding and condemned the violence. OK, but what was he thinking when he called his huge fan base to come to Washington on January 6? That in itself was a recipe for trouble and an invitation to foment civil unrest.
Here are the grim facts facing the United States: Millions of Americans believe Donald Trump is not only a fraud, a bully and a cheat, but that he has also been a disastrous president. For them, Donald Trump (if not a dictator) is just about to become one. They believe he is a psychopath, a malignant narcissist, a criminal, that he locks children in cages, that he is a racist, misogynist gangster. They believed he was in the pocket of the Russians and that he should have been impeached. Some believe he should be removed from office because of insanity. Others that he should be tried and executed for treason. They dismiss out of hand all allegations of fraud and cheating in the election as so much paranoia, and are completely unconcerned about alleged irregularities in the 2020 election. If the 2020 election was rigged, that’s okay because Trump cheated Hillary in 2016 by getting the electoral college, but not the popular vote, and besides the man had to be got rid of in order to restore sanity and the rule of law to America. If some extra aggressive politics helped to do that, no problem. They despise, vilify and sneer at Trump supporters as a bunch of naive, Bible thumping, rubes–dangerous fools for having supported such an idiot. Furthermore, they regard the Trump Train as a dangerous, seditious force–angry, hungry and heavily armed and ready to launch a military coup to put Trump back into power. They regard the huge crowds for Trump not as enthusiastic patriots but as a wild group of crazy fundamentalist Christians who “cling to their religion and guns.”
However, millions of other Americans believe Donald Trump was America’s last chance. They believe a globalist elite have been maneuvering into power for the last few decades. This globalist elite consist of the World Economic Forum, the United Nations, the big bankers, big media, big tech, big pharma and the military industrial complex. They believe the real power in America shifted from elected officials to the deep state–the unelected power brokers behind the scenes–the FBI, the FDA, the TSA and the CIA and all the super rich globalists. They believe Obama was a secret communist and his croney Joe Biden is a corrupt, money grabbing hypocritical puppet of the globalist regime. They loathe and fear this gigantic monolithic potentially totalitarian mammoth. They see this totalitarian power structure already using censorship, already tracking and using surveillance on ordinary citizens. For them Donald Trump was the savior. Although he was a flawed character he was their man–an outsider like them. He was going to stand up for them and for their country. He was going to make America great again. He was going to pull the plug on the globalist socialists. They truly believe the 2020 election was rigged by these globalist forces. For them it is obvious. They saw the size of Trump’s crowds while Biden sat at home in his basement. They can’t believe anybody actually likes Biden. They find it totally incredible that he sat at home, didn’t campaign but he received more votes than Barack Obama. Already inclined to paranoia and conspiracy theories, this has poured gas on the fire.
Now, if you find yourself agreeing with with one of these perspectives, your natural inclination will be to call the other side “Crazy, deluded, naive, and ‘drinking the Kool Aid.” If you take the first point of view you write off the Trump supporters as idiot believers in stupid conspiracy theories. If you take the second position you will view the Trump haters as idiot believers in the mass media lies and fake news. Whatever side you are on you will say, “But those other people are seriously crazy! Why can’t they see that they are believing a pack of lies?” Furthermore, whatever side you are on, you will really, honestly believe your version of events. If you’re a Trump hater you really do believe and trust the mainstream media. You really honestly believe that is the truth. If you are on the Trump Train you also really do, honestly and sincerely believe your version is correct. You trust your dedicated news websites, blogs and social media feeds.
Stop for a moment.
The people on the other side believe their version just as totally and sincerely as you believe your version, and guess what? Just like you think you and your people are the ones who are sane and full of common sense…just like you believe you and your people are good citizens and honest, hard working, law abiding folk…the other side think that about themselves. They really do.
In the heightened emotions people are saying terrible things. “Those people should be taken out and shot.” “Those people should silenced.” I hear this from both sides. The other day on Facebook someone who assumed I was a Trump supporter said, “These priests should not have a platform.” What does this mean? It means the person who wrote it thinks I should be silenced. If you really believe the other side is so very evil and dangerous, then it makes sense that you want them silenced. That’s how censorship starts, and what is the ultimate way of silencing “those people”? First censorship, then isolation, the they are taken away, then they are silenced permanently.
And this kind of horrible talk is going on from both sides. More frighteningly it is increasing and it is coming not from the lunatic fringe of guys dressed in furs with face paint and a buffalo hat. It’s coming from “nice” people who are enraged, frightened and vindictive.
I will join with other people like me who are right
We will only ever read material that supports our bias
We will get stronger
Those other people? They are wrong, and if wrong, then bad, and if bad then dangerous
We must silence those other people. We must block them out.
They must be removed. Take them away
We are right to take them away. We are good people. They are bad people
Because we are good people God loves us. We are doing God’s work
God is happy that we have taken those people away.
What? They are still there? They are still wrong?
We must silence them for good. God will be even more happy when we silence them for good.
Do you think this cannot happen here? Do not be foolish. Do you think you are not caught up in this cycle of violence? Do not be so proud and foolish. We are all caught up in it. It is the default setting. It is always there–always there just beneath the surface. All it takes to set it all aflame is stress, tension, fear and anxiety. What we are seeing in America in 2020 is classic, and do not be naive. It will not get better on its own.
This kind of problem does not get better by itself.
So stop and think again. Let us imagine the worst case scenario from each side. Let us imagine that Donald Trump or someone else who is able to lead the Trump Train emerges as the first American emperor. Let us say he takes over the military and brings about a fascist dictatorship and begins a military-economic campaign for world domination. What will you be able to do about it? Very little.
Or let us suppose that the vastly powerful global players bring about the United States Socialist Republic…a one party state with the illusion of a two party system with “free and fair” elections that are totally rigged from here on out. Let’s imagine that they bring in a socialistic, atheistic, communist style totalitarianism with the media as their propaganda outlet and some abominable antichrist at its head. What will you be able to do about it? Very little.
So what’s the answer? The answer is what is has always been:
Listen to the other side. You’re not always right
Do not demonize the other side.
Be aware of the limitations of your power
Be concerned about what you can do
Build up what is good. Turn away from evil of all kinds
Say your prayers. That will help you discern good from evil.
Cast your vote carefully and prayerfully and hope for the best.
Pray for the courage to stand for what is right when the opportunity comes to you
Love God and Love your neighbor
Live local. Love local. Work local. Local is real
Do what you can with what you have where you are
Be at peace.
If bad times come and your worst fears are realized, then do not be afraid. Bad times have come to many people in many places in the past. They have found courage when they needed it.
Remember Frodo and Gandalf: “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”