Tag Archives: Republican

Extremism Is the Enemy

One day in in the summer of 1966, I walked through the capital of a Latin American nation during the inauguration of a new president. Armed soldiers lined the avenue into the center of town, spaced about 50 feet apart, to guard against the trouble that was expected.

The election had been hotly contested and divisive. The leading candidate of one party had died under mysterious circumstances, but his brother had stepped in and won the presidency. There were innuendos of corruption on both sides.

There were rumors of a planned insurrection, an uprising to disrupt the inauguration and prevent the new president from taking office. In addition to soldiers and military vehicles in the streets, the air force was on the alert, ready to crush any rebellion.

I congratulated myself on coming from a country where this could never happen.

Now consider January 6, 2021. A mob invaded our nation’s capitol building, known throughout the world as a symbol of law, order, and liberty. The mob’s purpose: Disregard law, order, and liberty to overturn a legitimate election. They were driven by a repeated lie that this election was somehow stolen, and they refused to believe the truth despite repeated vote recounts and reviews that disproved the lie. Greedy political opportunists, people who wanted those votes in a future election, just kept on feeding them the lie.

Rabid partisans on both liberal and conservative sides blame the Capitol insurrection on “extremists.” They’re right. To get a good look at those extremists, they need only gaze into the mirror.

Both major political parties have extremists within their ranks who refuse to consider any compromise. To compromise is to deal with the devil; the hyper-partisans demonize people who do it.

In reality, it is the extremists at both ends of the political spectrum who are doing the work of the devil. Left or right, they would willingly impose tyranny to achieve their ends.

In the 1960s, that Latin American country represented the realities of political extremism.

It was one of several countries under military rule in the region where I lived as a missionary. The military had taken over the government in the name of law and order. Under martial law, people were forbidden to gather on the streets in groups of more than four, so when we left a church meeting, the congregation had to carefully break into small groups. Two people were not allowed to ride on a motorcycle because the passenger, even if dressed like a woman, might turn out to be a gunman with an automatic weapon to shoot up the neighborhood police station. Motorists had to drive with interior lights on at night so that police could see who was in the car. People in public could be stopped and questioned by the military or the police.

I wonder how many U.S. citizens would be willing to live under similar conditions? Those who have demanded that troops be called out to impose martial law on troubled cities in our country should be careful what they wish for.

At the other extreme, communist terrorists in that Latin American country were working to foment revolution and undermine the government.

I once had to help organize a funeral for a member of our church congregation—a father of several young children—who had been assassinated by terrorists. On patrol as a national policeman, he had caught them placing a bomb at the home of a prominent military officer. The country’s military could not root out the guerrillas from their strongholds in the mountains. We saw their spray-painted slogans, often with anti-U.S. messages, everywhere—including across the street from the house where we lived.

One day I met one of the communists dedicated to bringing socialism to the country. He was a well-educated intellectual. We talked to him about Jesus Christ and the holy scriptures, and he replied that he didn’t believe in those teachings. “These are the books I live by,” he said, as he pulled three off his shelf and handed them to me. They were Spanish versions of books that had been published by an economic institute in Moscow, U.S.S.R. They laid out the vision that the communists wanted to impose on other countries.

For a time, I worked in and around a very poor barrio in that capital city. Houses were made of scrap metal and cardboard. The sewers were open trenches running in the streets. Residents could look up from their homes and see the beautiful, artistic building housing the city offices—la Municipalidad. That barrio was nicknamed “Red Square” because some said that all the communists had to do to raise an angry crowd was harangue its people about how they were being exploited by the elites in their country, how the elites should be forced to share their land and their wealth. Sometimes such gatherings got out of hand—which was probably what the agitators intended.

The history of political conflict in that Latin American country was long and tragic, with ugly atrocities committed by both sides as they dedicated themselves to destroying the opposition. (Parenthetically, the U.S. was not an innocent bystander in the conflict, having backed the military government.)

Activists in the United States often assert that freedom of speech includes the right to demonstrate in public streets and areas anywhere, anytime, including in front of private residences. If others are endangered as a result, or if their rights are taken away, too bad. Few of those activists seem willing to acknowledge that when they tap into others’ anger at injustice they may light a fire they cannot control.  If the activists have integrity, they will recognize the possibility of hooliganism and take steps to cut it off. And if their cause is just, they will stick to the truth in their protests, offering more light than heat.

Demagogues are skilled at manipulating people’s fears or feelings of injustice. They whip up an angry crowd by convincing people that they are being cheated, that they are being exploited, or that the have-nots are coming to take away what they hold dear—their property, or the place they have claimed for themselves in society. In the Capitol riot, we all saw this demagoguery in action, provoked by a persistent lie—that an election was “stolen.”

Government by, for, and of the people cannot survive in the United States of America with this kind of dishonesty undermining trust in its processes. Politicians who support false myths of corruption for their own advantage are disloyal to the spirit of the Constitution, which I believe was inspired by God.

Surely He would not want His children warring among themselves over who is more fit to rule. Surely He would want us working together to “form a more perfect Union” (Preamble to the Constitution).

The far left and far right extremes in our country are not seeking union. They want dominance for their philosophy and their biases.

I know people of good character and sound judgment on both sides of the political divide who are passionate and firm about what they believe. There’s nothing wrong with that. But once the votes have been counted and recounted and the result is the same, it’s time to work together in a reasonable manner and drop the self-serving myths.

History suggests that corrupt politics and political opportunists will always be with us. But at least for now, in a time of national pain and sorrow, true patriots should be helping with the healing and be willing to move forward.

Dilemma of a Conservative Voter

My official vote-by-mail ballot came today, and now I will be forced to commit to a choice for president. Tonight I am still not sure who will get my vote.

But I am absolutely certain who will not.

Hillary Clinton provokes, first and foremost in my mind, skepticism. For decades she and her husband have behaved as though the rules that apply to ordinary mortals do not apply to them. She has been politically opportunistic, willing to say all the right things that will win votes. Like many liberal politicians, she seems to believe that the solution to every social problem is more government. Her proposed solutions to some problems may sound good in principle, but they’re too fuzzy on specifics. Yes, for example, every citizen should enjoy the same civil rights. But for some citizens, deeply held moral beliefs come into conflict with governmental solutions, as in the case of same-sex marriage. Who will protect the civil rights of those of us whose deeply held beliefs and faith make it impossible to accept what is currently “correct” social thinking? Does Mrs. Clinton simply say, “Tough luck, abandon your faith and fall into line”? And yes, it’s obvious that we have a problem in this country with guns getting into the wrong hands. But just who is going to decide which of us gets to exercise the constitutional right to own weapons for hunting or self-defense, and what type of weapons?

For me, Mrs. Clinton represents those who believe that individual liberty must give way to the common good—the common good, that is, as they in their more enlightened thinking happen to see it. This is suppression of freedom of thought by legal pressure. Voting for her would be troubling.

But voting for Donald Trump would be frightening—absolutely unthinkable. I have been observing or voting in U.S. elections since Eisenhower versus Stevenson in 1956. In all of those years, Donald Trump is the least effective, most unstable, most dangerous presidential candidate I have seen.

Much is being made of the behind-the-scenes revelations in the leaked emails from the Democratic campaign. These offer maddening evidence of political machinations. And yet—few people seem concerned that this information was stolen to be used by outsiders who would like to influence our national election. There seems to be solid evidence that it was stolen and is being leaked by Russian hackers. Vladimir Putin denies any knowledge (wink, wink), but insists that Americans just need to look at all that evidence against Mrs. Clinton. Just look! And now, one of Putin’s key supporters in Russia is making threatening noises about the possibility of nuclear war if Americans don’t elect Donald Trump. I just can’t bring myself to vote for the candidate favored by Moscow.

Bill Clinton’s shameless infidelity in the White House is raised as a criticism of Hillary. I have heard no good explanation as to how she somehow “enabled” him. In my mind, his betrayals of trust 20 years ago—not only betrayals of his wife, but also of the American people—make him the second most dishonest president I have ever seen, after Richard Nixon. And it’s likely that Mrs. Clinton took out some of her anger on the other women involved. But how does Bill Clinton’s guilt give Donald Trump a pass on his disgusting moral behavior? We have Trump’s own words and actions to show us how he feels about and treats women. His wrongs to his spouses are on the public record. He says his situation is different because he wasn’t in the White House at the time. Seriously? He says it was just “locker room” talk. Well, I remember hearing some of that in the locker room among a few of the guys back when I was in junior high—but not among mature men. And why do the words of Bill Clinton’s accusers seem to carry weight with some people but not the words of Donald Trump’s current accusers? Any man who treats women as Trump has and does should face the penalties of law, not be elected to enforce the law from the Oval Office. Obviously, he feels his wealth gives him power to do to others whatever he wants.

Hillary Clinton blamed her husband’s troubles years ago on some vast right-wing conspiracy. Today, Donald Trump blames his troubles on some press conspiracy with the Clintons. The master manipulator who knows how to grab headlines every day with some fresh controversy whines when the press does not write what he wants. He has tried to bar news organizations or reporters he does not like from events that need to be reported. However flawed and erratic our communications media might be, they’re the best we have as citizens to keep us informed about what our government is doing. But Trump would like to control what the media are allowed to tell us. That is a common tactic in dictatorships. Moreover, Mr. Trump has said that he would stop or limit acceptance of some immigrants into the U.S. because of their religion. If he can use the power of government to target one religion, he can target any other. Donald Trump is the very reason that the Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment into the Constitution, with its protection of the freedoms of religion and of the press.

His facile characterization of Mexican immigrants is simplistic and ignorant, and his stubborn insistence on a border wall is ridiculous. I grew up largely in South Texas and went to high school about 10 miles from Mexico. The wall is an idea that would never work. Its most likely result would be to create new jobs—for the skilled tunnel builders on the south side of the Rio Grande. Immigration is a vexing, complex problem that needs a cooperative solution, but Mr. Trump does not seem capable of complex philosophical thought.

He mocks people for their looks and physical disabilities. (As someone born with a very visible defect, I take that a bit personally.) He continues to deny saying certain embarrassing things even in the face of printed reports and audio or video clips that prove otherwise. His wealth depends largely on marketing his name—his brand. How is that supposed to produce jobs? He offers little concrete information to back up his promises. He still dodges questions by pointing fingers at his opponent and his opponent’s husband. Just once I’d like to hear a detailed answer. He has refused to renounce violence by his supporters, and now some have floated dangerous talk of revolution if he is not elected.

No. No! This is not a man who can represent the country I love as it deserves to be represented.

If not Hillary or Donald, then who?

The Libertarian candidate does not seem to have a grasp of world affairs. The Green party seems focused only on certain issues, and not the full range of challenges that face our nation. In my own state, latecomer Evan McMullin seems to offer an alternative congenial to my beliefs. But at this point can he have any impact in the national election?

Sometimes I ask myself, “Where are the statesmen and stateswomen we deserve in public office?” And the answer that comes is frightening: Maybe these are the candidates we deserve. Maybe we are asking government to serve our individual or group self-interests to such an extent that the only people who will step up are those willing to promise anything and do whatever is necessary to assure their own aggrandizement.

I am not a follower of conservative television personality and writer Glenn Beck, but in opposing Donald Trump, he said recently that if Hillary is elected, she can at least be closely watched and fought in the political arena. I agree. Donald Trump, on the other hand—and this is my own opinion—is the petulant teenager whose tantrum in the White House could do significant damage to the republic and to national security before anyone could stop him.

This is a painful choice, but for the first time in more than 50 years of marking a ballot, I cannot bring myself to vote for the Republican candidate for president. I have to look elsewhere.