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Posts published in “Day: October 27, 2016”

Toxic mixture: Religion, politics


Of all the downright stupid “shoot-himself-in-the-foot” statements Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has made this campaign season which alienate different voter groups - and there have been many - one of the more incomprehensible was the charge he made at the Al Smith charity fund-raising dinner in New York City.

The tradition is that the dinner is a chance for the candidates to put partisanship aside, engage in some light-hearted humor and recognize that their opponent is not the devil incarnate.

Trump, however, despite initially looking and sounding almost presidential, blew it all by accusing Mrs. Clinton of being insincere even by being there because she allegedly hates Catholics.

Really, Donald? The Clintons are many different things to many different people, but no one has ever accused them of being stupid.

Catholics constitute the largest religious group in America with an estimated 82 million people, or about 25% of the population which translates into one fourth of all eligible voters. A key constituency supporting Mrs. Clinton is the Hispanic vote which is heavily Catholic and a rapidly increasing demographic group.

The head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics is Pope Francis I, one of the world’s and this nation’s most admired individuals.

Nonetheless, in a futile and ham-handed effort Trump was attempting to develop a wedge between socially conservative, blue collar, working class Catholics who are on their way to voting for Mrs. Clinton despite this constituency having opted largely for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984.

It was classless and clueless, especially when put in the larger context of his effort to keep Evangelicals, many of whom are deserting him in droves, in his coalition of base supporters. If anyone on the dais at the Al Smith Dinner could be charged with hating Catholics it is the Donald himself.

In doing so Trump is trying to tap into a dying almost dormant tradition of anti-Catholicism in America. The Al Smith honored in name at the dinner was the first Catholic to carry a major party’s nomination for the presidency. John Kennedy was the first Catholic elected president.

The ideal in America is complete separation between Church and State. The reality is that so many issues today have a moral and religious context to them, that inevitable intermingling occurs. Life issues in particular are fertile grounds for such. The Catholic Church is and always will be inalterably opposed to abortion on demand and physician assisted suicide.

Gray areas become obvious when Catholic hospitals are the recipients of federal funds, but will refuse to allow abortions to be performed on site and will not give privileges to doctors who perform abortions.

While appreciating the importance of life issues (I chaired the campaign in Washingtton state in 2008 against Initiative 1000 which sanctioned physician assisted suicide) I don’t appreciate being lectured from the pulpit by a conservative priest who feels compelled to spell out in a not too subtle manner why those in the pews should oppose Mrs. Clinton.

Such occurred a couple of Sundays ago when I was attending Mass at St. Rita’s in Kellogg. The former (for 11 years) pastoral priest, Father Tom Loucks, was substituting. Imagine my surprise when he started in on how much anti-Catholicism still exists. He even claimed Idaho’s Constitution still contains anti-Catholic language (He must be reading a different copy than I have), but made no mention of the extensive anti-Mormon language that was stripped out in the early 70’s.

He even sang the praises of Philadelphia’s Archbishop Chaput who makes a point of saying he will deny Holy Communion and the Host to any Catholic politician who may privately abhor abortion but recognizes the woman’s right to choose.

The vast majority of bishops in the United States take the position that they cannot judge the heart of a person seeking communion and their role is to administer, not deny.

Father Loucks should know that the days of “pray, pay and obey” Catholicism are long gone. Both he and Donald Trump should show more respect for the separation of Church and State, that the mixing of the two can become a toxic mixture that poisons whomever imbibes.

Trump 13: Wanting a dictator


I'd never heard of the movie Gabriel Over the White House until a few days ago, when a friend (who also had just recently learned of it) screened it for me. If you're in a mood to be frightened, this one will do the job.

It was set for release early in 1933, within days of Frank Roosevelt's swearing-in, and at a peak (or depth) of the Great Depression. The film, technically advanced for the time, was set in that time and place, and focused on Judson Hammond (played by Walter Huston), the newly-elected president of the United States. At first he seems ineffectual, until an accident leave him in a coma. He revives from it, apparently with the help of the angel Gabriel, and becomes decisive - extremely decisive. He dissolves Congress and the Supreme Court, wipes out any remaining opposition within the country (the army is employed), then imposes his will on leaders of other countries - and miraculously saves the country. Whereupon, he dies.

The picture was pulled from general distribution after producers and others observed what was happening at the time in Germany. But it has a strong and eerie resonance now.

But for the last plot bit, Gabriel seems to be what a large portion of Trump supporters seem to want. Trump's statements have all the earmarks of a dictator-in-the-making, but he has never applied that term to himself. (Yet.) Some of hs followers have, though, and enthusiastically.

Huffington Post on July 29 reported how “Hundreds of posts in Reddit’s The_Donald forum ― where Donald Trump this week participated in a Q&A session ― refer to the Republican presidential nominee as “God Emperor.” The practice of using this name for Trump apparently caught on last spring. New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman wrote in May about the deluge of anti-Semitic hate he’d received from self-identified Trump supporters, including “Nazi iconography of the shiftless, hooknosed Jew” from a user called “Trump God Emperor.” Among Trump’s active online supporters, using the nickname is now commonplace. The post announcing Trump’s participation in the Q&A heralded “our God Emperor,” and a search of the phrase returned over 200 posts in the day after Trump’s appearance."

I don't mean to overstate here: "Some forum members say “God Emperor” is simply a tongue-in-cheek attempt to rile up Trump opponents who fear he would be a strongman as president. The term is attributed variously to God Emperor characters in the science fiction series Dune and a tabletop game called 'Warhammer 40,000'. 'We know he can’t literally be one,' wrote member NewJersey908, but the phrase whips people 'into a frenzy saying that we literally want a dictator.'”

I've learned to be wary - and often dismiss - followup statements from this crowd saying something to the effect of, "We were only kidding." When eyes look away, that's often followed by statements that more clearly say, "No, we weren't."

The idea of We the People as the big boss of this country, of democracy as our form of government now and always, is so ingrained that many of us have a hard time imagining anything else - or that any significant number of Americans do think in any other way.

But there's no mistaking it. Quite a few Americans do think otherwise, and that's one of the scariest realizations of electiono 2016: That a lot of Americans really would prefer it be the last. - rs