Washington National Cathedral 

The US does not have a state religion, even though many want to claim that it is a Christian nation. I tend to believe that a state religion is just as harmful to the religion as it is to the state, which is why I don’t even like having the US flag in the sanctuary of churches, as is common practice. That’s a battle I’ve chosen not to fight.

I joined the Episcopal Church 18 years ago after a long period of not attending church at all. I found the willingness to question, the openness to doubt, and the focus on faith as a journey a good fit. I wanted a church that took seriously a social justice mission more than just converting souls. 

But now I’m doubting the capacity of the Episcopal church to stand up to the challenges ahead. Are we a church that values peace more than justice? 

Washington National Cathedral has always been perhaps a little too close to the national part of its name. It has held state funerals and prayer services, and inaugural events. It has agreed to hold an inaugural prayer service for Trump, a man whose campaign ran counter to so many values Episcopalaleans deem important. As a National Cathedral, this would be an obligation. As an Episcopal church, not to do so would be an repudiation of all that Trump has promised to do, and a promise to stand with the vulnerable. Since there is no state religion, I think the choice is clear: Washington National should rebuke Trump, rather than legitimize him with the trappings of power.

I believe we should pray for Trump regularly, that he will, contrary to his campaign, serve as President to protect the vulnerable rather than enact racist, sexist, xenophobic policies and policies that shred the social safety net. I don’t think we should give him the pomp and circumstance he desires unless he shows such actions.

Peace without justice is a false peace. Do not seek it.

Meryl Streep and Donald Trump

Donald Trump and his supporters are angry this morning over remarks Meryl Streep made at the Golden Globes last night. Watch the speech, it’s powerful. But the part that got under Trump’s tissue thin skin was where she took him to task, though never by name, for mocking a disabled reporter. 

Certainly one of the many hurtful things he did and said on the campaign trail, Trump and his surrogates still try to spin that away. This is a grown man, making fun of the disability of a reporter he didn’t like, in front of cameras and a crowd of thousands, for laughs. It would be bad enough if he were just the reality TV star we could turn away from, but he did it as the candidate for the highest office in the land, and he won.

That is why so many of us struggle to accept the results of the election. It’s not just that such a disgusting human being will serve as president, but that so many Americans, so many people we know, saw incidents like that, shrugged their shoulders, and said, no big deal. 

I still don’t know how to deal with that. 

You don’t like what Meryl Streep had to say, turn off your TV, don’t watch her movies. What am I supposed to do about how the president treats people he doesn’t like, with the power of the office behind him? What am I supposed to do about the people who shrug their shoulders and say, no big deal, as long as they aren’t the target?

Ideas vs Votes

Republicans may win votes, but their ideas are deeply unpopular. That’s why they rely on white resentment and culture war politics and lies to win.

The latest example is in Tennessee, where a moderate Republican governor can’t get through the right wing noise machine to pass a modified Medicaid extension. Call it Insure Tennessee instead of Obamacare, tweak it a little, and 85% of the state favor it. But the Koch brothers roll in and plaster pictures of Obama next to it, and suddenly government run health insurance is terrible again, though keep your hands off my Medicare.

Trump and the Republicans told everybody that they were going to get rid of Obamacare, but the people who voted for them despite being dependent on it didn’t believe them. Too bad that the health insurance they want would never be proposed by people they vote for, and they hate the people who would propose it. It’s socialized medicine, don’t you know, and that’s unAmerican. I’ve done everything I’m supposed to, so I deserve health care, but those other people, I don’t think the government should be taking care of them, they shouldn’t be so entitled.

Journalism, not just in the age of Trump

I don’t think it’s fair to call journalists lazy, but I do think they lack sufficient skepticism, and the result is indistinguishable from lazy journalism. When they are handed a story, wthether in the form of leaks or tweets or press releases from an organization, too often they run with the story at face value with putting it in context, or even considering if it merits a story at all. Or, in the case of Trump tweets, whether they are true. 

Trump has claimed or been given credit for a number of things by journalists since the election, while the truth is either more complicated or the opposite. The latest example is stopping the House GOP from changing the ethics rules. Trump didn’t oppose the changes, and wasn’t a major factor in the House backing down; Offices being flooded with constituent calls made the difference. But many news stories gave Trump the credit, despite the plain language of his tweets agreeing with their move, just disagreeing with the timing. 

Jay Rosen has urged a move towards evidence based journalism rather than accusation based journalism. He has more good suggestions for journalists in the age of Trump, though many apply in any time. Trump has just made many of the problems of journalism impossible to ignore.

It’s nobody’s fault

These things just happen.

Generic drug prices spiral out of control, but not because of collusion or price-gouging. It’s nobody’s fault, these things just happen.

Children are being poisoned in lead-contaminated houses, but don’t blame the private investors who are selling the houses on a rent-to-own basis. They sold the houses “as-is”; caveat emptor and all that. It’s nobody’s fault, these things just happen.

Algorithms are neutral; if somebody gets fired, or can’t get hired, or is given a longer sentence, it’s nobody’s fault, it’s just the algorithm.

Unpresidented

Josh Marshall still gives much more credit to James Comey than I’m willing to, in allowing that Comey merely made a mistake or was biased against Clinton when he sent that letter to Congress. Knowing what we now know, that he knew about the intelligence concerning Russian interference in the election, I lean more towards the corrupt explanation.

Republicans  were successful with their coup in North Carolina, as the legislature stripped away power won by Democrats at the ballot box. The Rev. Dr. William Barber continues to fight the good fight.

Meanwhile, SCOTUS still only has 8 members, because the Senate refused to consider Merrick Garland. Evidently elections only count if Republicans win.

Pay attention to the people who roll over for Trump, from the Tech CEOs that Kara Swisher calls out to the media who enjoyed an off the record cocktail party with him, despite his not having answered any questions on the record for weeks. Photo ops make him look good and earn you nothing but contempt, and the sooner everyone learns this, the better off we’ll all be.

 ETA: Why it really matters that the press is having cocktails with Trump rather than asking questions on the record. 

BTW, of all the horrible, terrible, no-good appointments Trump has made, Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn stand out. Bannon, because he apparently wants to destroy democracy, and Flynn, because he’s a full-blown conspiracy-theorist paranoid nutcase, and that’s just what you want in a National Security Advisor. Two of the most powerful people in Trump’s orbit, in positions that don’t need Senate confirmation.