By Bill Mefford, photo by Chicago Tribune
For close to 12 years now I have led or been part of dozens if not hundreds of trainings on how to mobilize folks to more effective political advocacy and organizing through incarnational relationships among those directly impacted by injustice. Long gone are the days when people engage in missional justice work simply because denominational elites tell them to do so. Long gone are the days when people were persuaded by statistics or any kind of reason or logic at all. I firmly believe that people are transformed and become engaged in meaningful acts of solidarity through relationships.
But my belief is being severely tested right now in the face of such willful stupidity and ignorance by so many of those who continue to support donald trump.
I did something I have regularly urged others not to do. Yep, it was my fault for doing so, but I took a chance. I responded to a friend’s asinine Facebook post condemning football players for kneeling to protest racism and police brutality and I tried to carefully and thoughtfully point out how asinine it truly was. Big mistake. As expected, my friend’s Facebook friends all showed up and made thoughtful dialog impossible. Now, I don’t mind getting into it with folks on social media and I certainly do not mind being outnumbered or holding a minority opinion. But what do you do when the other side traffics in lunacy; when their points are just watered down versions of trump speeches and Hannity broadcasts? How do you argue when there is absolutely no common framework for reality? When their only retort is that President Obama is a “piece of shit” who ruined the country and trump is destined to make America great again because he doesn’t bow to political correctness? What does any of that even mean?
I don’t know. I spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure that out and that is something I will try to never do again simply because you cannot make sense of the nonsensical. Although I used to believe that most if not all people really do have good intentions I am not sure I can maintain that belief ion the face of such willful stupidity. I do not say that lightly or with an attempt at being mean. I honestly believe that many if not most of trump’s supporters prefer the cover and comfort of fabrication to the stark reality of fact.
Just look at some recent news:
- Three times Republicans have now tried to repeal and replace Obamacare with healthcare bills that will slash Medicaid and throw millions - even tens of millions - out of any healthcare coverage at all. Yet, in the face of overwhelming public support for bipartisan efforts to repair the broken parts of the Affordable Care Act, donald trump continues to push for a repeal to Obamacare, even threatening to undermine the current exchanges that are in place and are working. He is working to strip the healthcare coverage of his base and practically no one has called him out on it.
- And trump and the GOP mainly care about dumping Obamacare and endangering millions of peoples’ lives because, in addition to laying waste to the legacy of the first black president, they also desperately need the money slashing healthcare would save so that they can give their party donors and best pals (not to mention themselves) tax cuts. And yes, no one in trump's base has noticeably called him out on it.
- Let’s not forget the signature issue for trump: building his environmentally disastrous wall. And it is a wall he promised Mexico would pay for. Well, Mexico is not paying for the wall, which was such an idiotic thing to promise and an idiotic thing to believe. He has begged the Mexican President not to publicly state he was not going to pay for it and now, not even the United States will pay for it as he cannot get it added to the budget. Further, he is now saying that the wall does not need to cover the entire Southern border, yet another promise he had made.And yes, no one has called him out on yet another lie.
- And before we forget his endless and baseless attacks on Hillary, specifically on her use of a private server for her work emails, now we are finding out that in just the first couple of months of this administration Jared Kushner and Ivanka trump have both used private servers for official White House emails (as well as Reince Priebus and other White House officials). This is in addition to the fact that as governor, Mike Pence did the exact same thing. Where are the mob cries to “lock them up!” that were such a regular feature of trump rallies? Where is all of the outrage at the blatant hypocrisy?
- Finally, though so much more could be added, we see the stupidity of attacking mostly black athletes who choose to exercise their constitutional right to free speech by kneeling down during the playing of the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality. And the thick-headed trump supporters are loving the attacks on the athletes. They object to protesting racial inequalities or police brutality and they refuse to even admit that either of these exist! No one is asking when did this conflation between the military and sports leagues start happening. No one is asking why the armed services has paid millions of dollars to sports leagues, especially the NFL, to fetishize support for the military. No one is challenging what is underlying these overly emotional and carefully staged events to create emotional ties between spectators and their military; emotional ties that will forever prevent voters from asking why this country spends billions of dollars, mainly into the coffers of the defense industry, for military hardware that often does not get used, and even more frightening, will invent ways for it to be used as it did during the illegal invasion of Iraq.
But good luck communicating any of these points to those who mindlessly follow trump. To understand these points is to recognize the importance of wisdom, nuance, context, and perspective. These are not values or disciplines that are prized by trump or his followers. In fact, they are often seen as weak, effeminate, or overly focused on political correctness. Well, if being thoughtful and thinking deeply about the challenges facing this country and world means being an elite then I will take it over being stupid and mindless any day.
I still believe that relationships are the primary ways God can bring about transformation individually and for all of society. But I can no longer believe that all people have good intentions. Not even close. There simply are some people who willfully choose to hold onto baseless mythologies to demonize others, exacerbate division, create harm, and continue to support a man who is void of empathy, leadership skills, or even a shred of dignity. It is tragically destructive to watch. And though I will continue to believe and work to create spaces for even the opportunity for people not directly impacted by injustice to enter into incarnational relationships with those directly impacted, I cannot be silent in pointing out what is simply DUMB. And in the age of trumpism, pointing out the DUMB is almost a full-time job.