This is a good thing. The disgraceful hate-mongering over it by Donald Trump shames our nation. America has done much to worsen the situation in the Middle East. Taking in families fleeing the devastation and chaos is the very least we can do. When people so vehemently object to this humanitarian action, it is clear that American exceptionalism means never facing the consequences of America's projection of power around the world. If that is what greatness is all about, we should have no part of it.
The job of a photojournalist is not a comfortable desk job. By its nature it often puts a photog in harm's way, or close to suffering, to capture a story in one striking image. You and I can gaze at this remarkable photo at a safe remove, but not the photographer. The Syrian child covered in dust and blood is 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh, and the photographer is Mahmoud Raslan. Without such images, we would avoid confronting the horrors of war even more than we do.
Wayne Grudem, a Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary in Arizona, writes at the conservative website Townhall.com about why he supports Donald Trump. His article, "Why Voting for Donald Trump Is a Morally Good Choice," acknowledges several of Trump's character and behavioral flaws and then says it doesn't matter if the alternative is worse. He goes into a long list of issues on which he claims that Trump is better than Hillary Clinton.
I could not disagree more with Professor Grudem, so here I will respond to several of them. Given the enormous gulf between the candidates with regard to experience and qualifications, this election should not be close. The fact that the race is close should be a stark reminder not to treat the frightening prospect of a Trump presidency as something to dismiss lightly. Perhaps you may find some of my arguments useful in making the case to friends and family members who are sticking with Trump despite his almost daily barrage of appalling statements. Here goes, for what it's worth.
Abortion. I am sick of the religious bullying on this issue. The utter contempt for people making different choices in this area is very disturbing. I am personally troubled by abortion, and think that the ideal situation is for unwanted pregnancies to be prevented through contraception. But the question of whether to continue or end a pregnancy is not my decision. It is up to the woman. You can say a thousand times that this makes me pro-abortion, but that is not true. Respecting people's right to make a different choice than mine does not mean I agree with that choice. The point is that IT IS NONE OF MY BUSINESS.
As for contraception, the Catholic Church, in which I was raised, is stoutly opposed to it. A leading anti-choicer, former senator Rick Santorum, has made it clear that he does not just want to overturn Roe v. Wade, but also Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized contraception for married couples, and Eisenstadt v. Baird, which did the same for single women. I find it stunning that people in this day and age are willing, much less determined, to mind their neighbors' business in such an intrusive way. The constitutional separation of church and state protects everyone by prohibiting us from imposing our religious dictates on one another.
My new Blade column gapes at Trump's fascist rally in Cleveland, as well as the growing scandal over Russian interference in the American election. And I examine the sharp contrast between the two parties' vice presidential candidates. Have a gander while you watch self-defeating leftists trying to sabotage the proceedings in Philadelphia.
Our friend John Becker writes on Facebook (reprinted here with permission):
SHAME -- The chants of "lock her up!" from the delegates and speakers at this week's Republican National Convention are disgraceful and baseless and chilling enough, but now we have a surrogate for and adviser to Donald Trump going even further: he's calling for Hillary Clinton's execution.
That's right, they're calling for the execution of their political opponents now. That's something that happens in dictatorships, not democracies.
Republican friends, let me be perfectly clear: if you do not immediately, explicitly, unequivocally, and loudly condemn and repudiate this hateful ugliness, you are tacitly condoning your party's dangerous slide into the evils of authoritarian fascism. Period.
There can be no hedging on this, no sitting on fences. How you choose to respond will reveal whose side you are on. I'll be watching.
Chelsea Manning violated the Espionage Act. She released vast numbers of documents in a reckless fashion. That being said, it does not justify abuse of a prisoner. Those who say that appropriate transgender healthcare should be withheld as punishment are damnably wrong. I hope that Manning will get the care that any prisoner deserves, as well as respect for her gender identity. Healthcare is a right; its denial is not a legitimate part of punishment.
A powerful moment in Hiroshima as our president embraces one of the Hibakusha, a survivor of the atomic blast 71 years ago. My heart soars. I am so proud of this man, who with simple grace leaves the haters in the dust and honors the better angels of our nature. He enlarges himself and us.
The haters on the right are going ape. It is a reminder of the despicable alternative we are faced with this year. We can defeat the haters if we simply stop making excuses and vote. 71 years are long enough to cling to the bitterness of the past. If we do not heal, we make a hollow mockery of Yad Vashem's "Never Again, Never Forget."
Obama has offered Israel the most generous military aid package ever. But that is not good enough for the war criminal Netanyahu, whom you can only defend at this point if, like one friend, you are ideologically prevented from admitting that Israel could ever be wrong about anything, including the murderous naval shelling of Gazan boys playing soccer on a beach. Such a belligerent attitude undermines Israel's long-term future by denying reality, and damages your own soul.
In the meantime, this article talks about the importance of closing the aid deal in terms of cementing Obama's legacy of strong support for Israel and refuting unfair charges against him on that score. But he has nothing to prove. The evidence is clear. Bibi is the problem, having aggressively attempted to sabotage a multilateral nuclear agreement, vowed never to allow a two-state solution, and continued the slow annexation of the occupied Palestinian territory. Obama should make no further concessions.
My thoughts while comparing foreign policy remarks by an experienced stateswoman versus a bullshitting narcissist:
The most vital presidential traits are not about public ceremonies and photo ops. They are summoned during grim, tense hours in the Situation Room. In a moment of crisis, do you really want a posturing amateur? No. You want someone who's been there, someone with experience--including vivid memories of when things went terribly wrong.
In the dark, fraught hours, when you watch and wait from oceans away as our nation's finest warriors must summon all their training amid grave danger, there are no illusions about your job being some slow, grand march to glory. It is humbling and sobering to know how many lives are implicated in every decision. Will you be meeting their coffins in a hangar at Dover AFB, comforting their loved ones?
This is a sacred trust. You cannot be glib about this. The job calls for someone who has been there, who knows the stakes, who has the relationships with foreign leaders to make the difficult calls at midnight to keep a confrontation from boiling over, or to summon and facilitate a global response to a tragedy. You need someone with the seasoning of hard experience. You need a survivor. You need someone who's ready. Hillary for President.
Hillary Clinton showed her political skills and foreign policy chops in her AIPAC speech Monday. She mixed pandering to a key constituency (and let's be honest, there certainly was some old-fashioned pandering) with a reiteration of longstanding American policy. Her bellicose tone in delivering it, which brought those in attendance repeatedly to their feet, likely gave some the impression that she was distancing herself from Obama, whose personal relations with Netanyahu are famously chilly; but she defended and tied herself to the Iranian nuclear accord. She could hardly do otherwise, since her fingerprints are all over it.
It was noteworthy how quiet she got in talking about still believing in a two-state solution. Her invoking the memory of Golda Meir as a woman leader of Israel, and grinning as she asked what's taken America so long, was a nice touch. Her citing Jerusalem Pride was entirely fitting despite the cries of "Pinkwashing!" by radicals on the left whose moral scorn only seems turned to the Jewish state. Her slamming of the BDS movement and its targeting of academics is also sound; after all, we do not boycott China and Russia, and as I write this our president is in Cuba--all of which are led by notoriously oppressive regimes.
Chris Wallace is not going to be bullied by Raphael, who is sinking fast, and Wallace sticks it to Jeb, who promises to dispense with legal niceties in our warmaking. Rubio got applause just by promising not to walk offstage. Clever of SNL to hack into Fox, but which one was Darrell Hammond playing?
The president soared last night, a fact that was all the more clear as Republicans, trapped in their refusal to give him credit or respect for anything ever, sat on their hands. He outclassed his detractors by so far it was embarrassing, and showed he was the grownup in the room. Here are excerpts.
"Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, and turning against each other as a people? Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together?"
"Some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber."
"Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did."
"Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon."
Reichstag fire, 1933 (Photo public domain; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
My year-in-review column went online today at the Blade. My summary blurb is "Historic progress met the usual backlash." Here's an excerpt:
"Set the motherfucker on fire!" That recent call by a Donald Trump rally goer concerning a black protester, with another attendee yelling "Sieg heil," illustrates the viciousness fueling Trump's presidential campaign. If you take this lightly, Google "lynching." It is not just that what happened in Europe in the last century could happen here; what happened here could happen again. Trump's incitements, and those of his rivals, do not just pander to intolerance, they spray gasoline on the fire.
Hate-spewing demagogues were not the year's only newsmakers, but they produced its most dangerous legacy. The demons they unleashed cannot easily be tamed. But the haters cannot win the general election unless the rest of us allow it. Before we head back into battle, let us review some positive developments of 2015, though with cautionary notes.
The landmark victory for nationwide marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges, which President Obama celebrated by lighting the White House north front in rainbow colors, inspired opponents to switch tactics by pushing "religious freedom" laws (better dubbed "religious supremacy") to continue their anti-gay attacks. The Equality Act represented a new approach to LGBT anti-discrimination legislation, but stood no chance in a Republican-controlled Congress. Openly gay Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson and several colleagues launched the smart, well-designed Campaign Zero policy website.
Our friend Ernest Hopkins writes on Facebook about this Atlantic article by Peter Beinart:
Brilliant analysis. Relax U.S. citizenry the president is a really smart guy and also quite a student of history. He is paying way more attention than the press credits and is doing way more than we will ever know. I really believe that. Good read.
Really? How brave is it to appeal to people's worst instincts and betray U.S. values while making terrorism likelier? These reckless provocateurs--and I mean Trump and others like him or supporting him--are endangering lives and the civil order. It is good that the chorus of criticism is rising against him; but he has already tapped into the national Id to such a degree that it is not clear he can be stopped. It is necessary to try, for our country's and our diverse people's sake.
My Blade column this week responds to the right wing's disgraceful exploitation of the terrorist attacks in Paris. Here's a portion:
As many Americans sang "La Marseillaise" and expressed solidarity with the French after the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, Republicans rushed to seize political advantage.
Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee threatened savage bombing campaigns. Cruz, possibly inspired by Herod the Great, promised he would not worry about slaughtering innocents. These holy warriors will say anything to win cheers from the xenophobic, Christianist GOP base, ignoring the spectacular failure of reflexive, ill-targeted militarism in the past. Meanwhile, President Obama's Pentagon quietly took out ISIS leaders in Syria and Libya.
Instead of showing strength amid tragedy, conservatives turned cowardly and demanded that Syrian refugees be turned away lest a jihadist be lurking among them. Never mind the major role America played in creating chaos in Syria, where civilian deaths dwarf those in Paris. On the night of the attacks, ordinary Parisians took stranded strangers into their homes. They displayed more courage than is being asked of Americans. Despite more than half of America's governors absurdly announcing their own harsh immigration policies, refugees face extensive screening procedures.
Muslims across the world have denounced the attacks. Ignoring this hampers the relationships we need to defeat the extremists. Appropriately, many Western leaders have begun using the Arabic acronym for ISIS, "Daesh," which has a mocking connotation. Declaring yourself a caliphate does not make you one.
We must respond to the attacks intelligently and in cooperation with our allies. We cannot simply bomb our way to safety. We cannot wall ourselves off from a world in which we are deeply engaged commercially and culturally, and in which we extensively project ourselves militarily. We cannot prevail unilaterally or by holding ourselves above the rest of the world. We cannot paper over legitimate grievances resulting from our past actions.