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Topic: Domestic Terrorism

Trump is Using Immigrants as a Political Scapegoat: Very Bad
2/20/2017 6:09:34 PM

I watched the recent Florida campaign event of Donald Trump. He is already running for 2020. Apparently he has such a big need for adulation that he wanted to hear the crowds singing his praises again.

But what struck me is how he speaks of terrorists and immigrants, combining them and speaking of them as if they are one thing. He again attacked the courts for challenging his executive order ban on immigrants from certain Muslim countries saying his primary objective was to keep Americans safe. The problem is, of course, that there have been no terrorist attacks in this country by immigrants from those countries, which may have been a factor for the judges reviewing the order.

Think about this for a minute. If you go to a doctor and the doctor does some tests and says that you have cancer and puts you through chemotherapy and radiation and then later tells you that the diagnosis was wrong to begin with, that you went through all that for nothing, then I suspect you would be rather angry at that doctor. But that's just the sort of thing Trump is doing. He is saying that we must fear terrorists, that terrible things are happening in France and Brussels and even Sweden, and so if we do as he says, stop immigrants from those Muslim countries, we will be safe. Trump is making a diagnosis. But there were no terrorists from those countries in the first place. If you are one who believes what Trump says, let me say that again; Trump is lying to you when he says his action will save you from terrorist attacks. Those attacks have come from other countries, as well as from domestic terrorists, people born and raised in this country, or far right domestic terrorists like Timothy McVeigh.

And all this is obvious to anyone who thinks about it even a little bit. So why does Trump say this stuff? Partly because there are many people, I guess, who simply believe anything he says and he doesn't care whether he is telling the truth or not as long as his crowds keep cheering him on. He has chosen people to be his advisors, like Steve Bannon, who are ideologically opposed to Muslims in general, who think in terms of a vast civilizational battle between the Muslim east and the Christian west, as if this is a reasonable way to understand the world and history.

This false world view is important to think about. But right now I want to point out that there is something else happening here, something that explains why this works politically, why people cheer for Trump. He presents them with a scapegoat that carries their own sins away.

When our three kids were growing up my wife and I invented a family scapegoat named "Leukie". I don't know where the name came from. But whenever something bad happened that couldn't be explained some other way, we would say, "Leukie did it." That way nobody in the family had to be blamed. Leukie took a regular beating in our family, poor fellow. He was our scapegoat, the one upon whom we laid our sins, the one we blamed for bad stuff that happened.

The word "scapegoat" comes from religious history. In the book of Leviticus, the sixteenth chapter, verses 21-22, it reads:
Then Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and sending it away into the wilderness by means of someone designated for the task. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a barren region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness.
This was part of the Day of Atonement, when through elaborate ritual, the people of Israel could be made "at one" with the Lord again, as if they had not sinned. And this, then, also, of course, was important background for Christians to be able to understand the sacrificial death of Jesus as a scapegoat, taking upon himself the sins of the people and restoring them to righteousness, or right relationship with God.

The whole notion of sacrifice and religious understandings of righteousness are not well understood at all by secular folks today so they have a hard time even beginning to see it happening in today's world, even though I believe these words point to realities occurring all the time in human relationships. We are willing to "sacrifice" lots of people these days and we have lots of ways to blame our sins on others.

And this is what Trump is doing politically. He has made immigrants into scapegoats. He blames them for the sins and problems of the country. And his followers love it. It feels good to be told that it's somebody else's fault. Trump says it is those terrible Muslim terrorists who are causing all the problems. It's certainly not what this country has been doing in the Middle East for the last seventy years. It's certainly not the Iraq war which George W. Bush waged based on lies which created ISIS. It's certainly not British or American corporations who have wanted to take advantage of cheap oil in Iran and the Middle East. It's certainly not the fact that big advanced countries in Europe and the United States have taken advantage of smaller, underdeveloped nations in the Middle East over the last many decades. The so-called "conservative" movement will not even begin to acknowledge any of this history; they call it "blaming America". Note the word, "blame". We must find someone to blame for all that is wrong, and Trump conveniently blames the Muslims. It's all their fault. So, ban them from the country.

So Muslim immigrants are the scapegoat. It's an exceedingly powerful and psychologically satisfying experience to be liberated from one's sins. Trump has perfected this scapegoating talk and preaches it just like all those actual preachers of the religious right, the ones who also like to blame the Muslims because they don't really belong in what is wrongly called a "Christian nation". Real Christians know they don't need any other scapegoat; real Christians don't need to make others into scapegoats because they know their sins are already forgiven.

And Trump also uses Mexicans and other immigrants from Latin America into scapegoats. He blames the economic sins of this country on them. They are the reason Americans don't have jobs with adequate salaries. It is not businesses or corporations who are to blame for the troubles of the economy. No, indeed, blame it on the Mexicans, build a wall, keep them out, then everything will be all right. Another diagnosis gone wrong, this is. Yet so many believe it. Again, it feels so good to blame one's sins on something else. And in this case imagine all of that money spent on building a wall and the only good it does is give some folks a few jobs for a while, wasting a mass of money.

But the worst of this scapegoating is the fact that we are talking about real people here who are experiencing themselves as being placed in the position of being scapegoats. And it hurts. It hurts a whole lot. Being the one who is blamed for the sins of all of us others is not a happy experience, it means suffering and death, it is like the cross upon which Jesus died. Think of those innocent Muslims on planes coming here when Trump's executive order was to take effect and were turned away after being vetted completely. Trump placed the sins of this country on their backs and they could feel it severely. Think of those Mexicans in this country who have lived here for decades, working the fields, providing us with the food we eat on our tables, and Trump turns around and blames them for the economic troubles of the country. These innocent folks, who have done so much for us, are now living in fear and terror because Trump has made them into scapegoats. It makes his audience feel so good and righteous and sinless to hear Trump verbally attack those terrible immigrants who are criminals and rapists and who should be forced out of the country. To me, Trump followers should be ashamed of themselves for giving in to such simplistic rhetoric.

The truth is that immigrants should not be blamed. They keep this economy going. If Trump gets his way, many are now actually realizing, our economy would be in very serious trouble. If you don't face your own sins, if you are not willing to confess your own sins, then you are in one way or another going to be in big trouble. This world finally demands justice and righteousness, just as the bible says. This is what the word "god" actually means, it means a God who demands justice and righteousness in human affairs through history. Trump by preaching false scapegoats is letting the American people get by without confessing their sins, and there is no future for such people in the final analysis. That's why it is necessary to consider that if Trump remains as president the actual continuation of this nation is in question.

Another leader who loved adulation blamed the sins of his country on a particular group, the Jews. It didn't go so well for him or his nation.




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Post-Factual Politics
2/8/2017 6:34:19 PM

I listened to the court debate yesterday on the appeal of the Seattle judge's order against the Trump executive order on the Muslim immigration ban. It was fascinating to hear that the questions had to do, really, with whether the president was lying.

The first big lie was that this was not a ban on Muslims even though Trump had earlier promised in his campaign that he would, indeed, ban Muslims, and others speaking for him said likewise. The second big lie was that refugees from these seven countries represented a major terrorist threat and that he, Trump, wanted to "protect" the American people. One judge asked how many terrorist acts had been conducted by people from those countries and the answer was none.

Everybody agrees that a president has great power in relation to immigrants, but the question is what do we do when we know that a president is lying again and again? One phrase I heard related to that was "bad faith", that judges have to take into account whether someone is acting in bad faith, or, lying. Responsible citizens really have to think about this. I read the following in the New York Review of Books today in an article by a Serbian writer Vesna Pešić. It has to do with the intentional action of authoritarian governments to make it impossible for citizens to distinguish between truth and lies. This might be helpful to you as you seek to discuss with others about whether Trump can be considered a legitimate president:
"Politicians are, of course, always promising more than they can achieve; demagogues didn’t appear yesterday. But where did this deliberate and constant lying come from? It appears to have become a prerequisite for holding a state office, especially for the position of a minister in Vučić’s government. Vedran Dzihic, a scholar at the Austrian Institute for International Affairs, argues that the aim is to make it impossible to distinguish facts from lies. This phenomenon is spreading throughout the world and is not specific to Serbia. Dzihic calls this post-factual politics. He believes that those bewildering stories we hear about spies, traitors, and coups d’état are meant to inflate Serbia’s mythical sense of importance and “throw dust in the eyes of the public.”

"The fact that Donald Trump has won the US election thanks to his skillful management of lies confirms that there is some truth to the theory of post-factual politics. He unstintingly gave false promises in order to get the votes of those who had been “forgotten,” who were happy to be remembered—even if only to be lied to. That low-paid workers believe they will be rescued by a billionaire who does not pay taxes and who is the king of reality shows (false reality) is simply a result of downright deception. This will become evident very soon. Trump will cut taxes for those who already have too much money, but he won’t be able to give factory workers well-paid jobs, because it is impossible to do that in an advanced post-industrial society. Yet the angry and the poor continue to believe that a rich showman will start a fight against the very establishment that has marginalized them and impoverished them. And this is not just happening in the US, but also in France, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and elsewhere. In fact, super-wealthy right-wing demagogues have formed coalitions with the poor all over the world, using post-factual and deceitful politics. By taking over the abandoned working class and relying on nationalism, which always wins in times of crisis, these new leaders are threatening Western liberal democracies. We are, in fact, dealing with an advancing form of social fascism—the most dangerous enemy of democracy, equality, and freedom."



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Trump May Want a Terrorist Attack
2/7/2017 2:09:51 PM

After his Tweet against the "so-called judge" from Washington State who overturned his refugee travel ban on Muslims, Trump followed up with another in which he said the judge should be blamed if there is a terrorist attack. Notice such an attack is in his mind. He was fear mongering about it throughout his campaign. He falsely claimed that national security was at stake in his travel ban. Many otherwise ordinary Republicans believed him, as they have been believing that terrible enemies are about to destroy us throughout the Cold War. Then it was the Communists, now it is the Muslims.

But what the man has got to know, unless he is the dimwit some think he is, that his attack on Muslims generally is going to unnecessarily inflame the whole Muslim world, including some inside the U.S. who otherwise would not have thought of doing something to attack Americans. John McCain and others know this clearly and have talked about it. Maybe it is Steve Bannon who in the past has said he, indeed, wants a war with Islam. So, maybe he and Trump actually are hoping for a terrorist attack that kills Americans, lots of them. That would justify going all out in a big new war. Honestly, this seems the logical path Trump is taking and he doesn't want to involve many others in formulating his policy because he knows they would not approve of intentionally provoking terrorists and the taking of American lives. Without an actual attack Trump cannot justify taking authoritarian and autocratic control of American institutions (like his hero does in Russia).

Brian Beutler writes about this in The New Republic in an article Donald Trump’s Dangerous End Game. After indicating how unpopular Trump is becoming Beutler says this:
Perhaps because judges are the greatest impediments to autocratic rule, Trump has singled them out most insidiously. Having inflamed global tensions by antagonizing millions of Muslims in a legally dubious way, Trump not only seeks to attack those who accurately describe the steps he’s taken, but to set up anyone standing in his way for blame when the backlash occurs. Trump is courting terrorism to gain political power at the expense of his power rivals. He doesn’t need a masterplan or even a high level of consciousness about it for us to recognize that this is what’s happening.

In the absence of a major crisis, this has the effect of pitting his most committed supporters against a broad opposition: The significant majority of Americans, who find his political style unappealing, alarming, or grotesque. Trump cannot render the country’s massive democratic institutions impotent when most Americans will make common cause with them over him. If the attack Trump is courting comes, the ensuing battle for narrative control will determine whether he, or his opposition, is held responsible for it, and thus, how durable the resistance to authoritarianism will be. His opponents will have facts on their side, but he will have the largest bully pulpit and the means of retribution at his disposal. If at some point, without changing tactics, Trump wins over a broader swath of the public, the real damage to democracy will begin.
Trump voters have no idea what they have done. Even those listening to the anti-government screaming on AM radio didn't think anyone actually would take this kind of thing seriously. Either Trump is seriously stupid or he is duping the country. Either way he is encouraging and inviting and creating the conditions for a serious terrorist attack on the nation. This is not something a legitimate president would do.

Notice the phrase "narrative control" in the above quote. That is something Protestant pastors have some influence about. Their preaching creates a narrative about how to understand current events. If we pastors don't offer this to our congregants, if our preaching is merely an escape into some inner psychological world rather than the real world in which we all live, then we are selling ourselves and the bible short, and not helping our members negotiate the struggles of living in contemporary times. We do, after all, know something about the use of death and sacrifice by governments for the sake of political power. The cross is at the center of Christian faith.

I think it is seriously morally irresponsible for anyone to do anything to encourage or normalize this president. People should do everything in their power to remove him from office as soon as possible.






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Cry for Our Country: Spontaneous Demonstrations across America
1/28/2017 7:40:22 PM

Update: I put the item below on Facebook and received a tremendous response from friends and family members. Thank you.

And I am most happy to report that yesterday, Sunday, 1/29/17, there was an outbreak of spontaneous demonstrations in cities across the country. Thousands of people hit the streets and airports to support detained refugees, in solidarity with immigrants. More people demonstrated in downtown Boston than attended the Trump inauguration.

Donald Trump lied to the American people about Islamic terrorism, that Obama had not done enough to vet immigrants, etc. He was fear mongering, and many people voted for him out of fear and hate. So Trump felt he had to satisfy his "base", those who were demanding the "blood of immigrants", that these terrible immigrants be forced to suffer in some way. So he does his "executive orders" to show how tough he is.

A very terrible, evil spirit has grasped too many of the American people evoked by a delusional president willing to manipulate the minds of Americans with his lies. If you are a Republican and voted for Trump you have blood on your hands, you are not "conservative" or "conserving" the best of this country, you are supporting a craven extremist, you are threatening social upheaval, and I urge you to take responsibility and do what you can to remove this man from office as soon as possible.


As I have gotten older it seems that I cry more easily. Now as I read or hear the news I find myself crying again and again. I am becoming ashamed to be part of a country which would elect such a disturbed and hostile person such as Donald Trump.

I feel the pain of the people he is hurting and threatens. He has himself become a sort of domestic terrorist in the White House. He is bringing terror into the hearts and minds of real people, people who deserve our empathy and respect. He is doing what the vicious hatred expressed on right wing radio, listened to especially in rural areas around the country, wants him to do: attack innocent refugees and immigrants who are just trying to improve their lives and their families. It is terribly disturbing.

This account today in the New York Times made me cry:

On Friday, a group of suburban synagogue members clustered at O’Hare International Airport, waiting to greet one of the last Syrian refugee families to be accepted in the United States, to give them the warmest possible welcome to a country that no longer wanted their kind.

In Washington, the presidential limousine was already speeding toward the Pentagon, where President Trump would sign a paper officially slamming the door shut on Syrian refugees. But here the volunteers had yellow roses, more warm coats than the newcomers would need and, a few miles away, an apartment ready with a doormat that said “welcome” in 17 languages.
Then I also saw this on Twitter:
'Christians who are anti-refugee don't have a theological leg to stand on. They oppose Christ himself. As such, they are anti-Christ.
My friends, this is very serious. Right wing religion, which has its base in the racism of the white South, likes to talk a lot about the anti-Christ. What they are now going to have to face is that they elected him.




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How the Portland Media Help Make Domestic Terrorists into Heroes
2/6/2016 3:23:40 PM

I have been now watching the unfolding of the situation in Burns, Oregon, for several weeks. It has been amazing to me the degree to which the media has presented in a positive light the people who have perpetrated illegal actions.

Channel 8 news, for expample, calls the situation a "protest" and those engaged in it as "protesters." Wow. These people were not invited into Harney County but they have marched into town with their guns and announced to local folks that they must change their form of government and that they, the militants with guns, are the true law of the land. These militants took over a federal law facility. They stand around the town of Burns with guns as if they are in charge. They are terrorizing the hearts and minds of the people, but they are just "protesting"?

These militants are costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax money every week. They have closed down federal offices disallowing anyone to do their jobs. They have damaged an immensely popular and well-visited wildlife refuge including Indian artifacts. These people have done very bad things but the media call them protesters?

What's going on? Well, the media have gotten to know their subjects. They were invited into the compound and got to know the armed thugs personally so it was harder to call them "armed thugs" or domestic terrorists, which is what they really are. They are using guns to intimidate, after all.

And the media feel they have to provide the reasons given by the domestic terrorists for what they are doing, so the views of these terrorists get out into the public context. But in this case, for example, the views of the federal government, of the Bureau of Land Management and Fish Wildlife Services, do not get covered. The people in these agencies are not allowed to expzress themselves, which is understandable, but that means that these views are only available in longer, in depth articles where reporters have time to provide a greater range of information.

The local paper in Burns in its print edition, which I read when I was there last week, contains full information and analysis on what would happen to Harney County if state and federal offices closed their doors, if that investment was taken away from the county. There would be extreme devastation. Local people may talk against high taxes or federal over-reach but when it comes down to it it is the federal government that makes this a viable county. That is just the truth. This information was not on the website of the local paper, however, so few people have seen this analysis. And I have read about this analysis in no local paper or news outlet in Portland. Rather, they report what the terrorists say.

Portland's largest paper, The Oregonian has just published a terrible article by Carli Broseau which lauds and glorifies the figure of Lavoy Finicum, the one person killed by police for reaching for his gun last week. She went to his funeral and places him in the context of "cowboy constitutionalism" without one word of criticism about what his actions did to the people of Burns.

The reporting has been so bad that even the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association had needed to publish a statement on its own:
"Recently, men and women have broken the law and encouraged others to take up arms against our local and federal governments. These individuals have used firearms and their interpretation of the Constitution to justify their criminal behavior. These militia men and women have broken into publicly owned buildings, disrespected Native American heritage and intimidated and harassed local residents and officials.

These men and women are asking for change, and we support their right to challenge our government to make change. However, we do not agree with or support any citizen or elected official who would advocate for change in a manner that includes illegal action, threats of violence, or violence against any citizen of the United States."
On Facebook there are fierce arguments going on. But I think this one by Terry Barton on Franklin Graham's intervention was particularly appropriate:
"As a Oregonian it's important that we not view these people as heros or see their acts as martyrdom.They are anti-government thugs with guns who disrupted a bird sanctuary and turned a small Oregon town upside down.If they were Black lives matter protesters or Muslims, this dog and pony show would have ended before it even started with multiple casualties and Franklin would have took to Facebook to denounce them as opposed to making friends with these people.This is the epitome of white privilege in America."
The major media have not helped provide this greater understanding. They have made heroes of these domestic terrorists. If you care about this try to speak up as you can.




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