Friday, August 09, 2019

Mission Accomplished

Proud Melania holds baby whose parents were killed in El Paso mass murder by Trump follower who wanted to kill as many Mexicans as he could, while beaming President gives thumbs up. (Source: The Independent)

Sunday, August 04, 2019

The National Cathedral On Decency

It can be too easy to break today's deterioration of American culture down into quibbles about what some politician "really meant" when they said something terrible-sounding, and we see actual American people arguing in defense of authoritarianism, racism, assaulting women, political corruption, and a multitude of instances of rudeness and ignorance. These quibbles address one thing at a time, as they rise to the nation's awareness -- he didn't really mean "go back to the country you came from," he meant, "go help the country you came from and come back." He didn't really mean Mexico would pay for the wall. He doesn't literally grab 'em by the pussy. He didn't mean that China was going to pay the tariffs. It's just a coincidence that he uses the word "infested" only for black and brown people. And so on. I saw someone once describe this as being like someone throwing a handful of dirt at you, and you have to swat away every particle of dust individually. You have to address each absurdity but there are so many of them you can't keep up. And even if you do try to keep up, there is no time for anything else in your life.

But of course all these individual things are part of one ugly pattern. The National Cathedral issued a statement this past week, and I think this might be a good perspective. Call it decency.
Have We No Decency? A Response to President Trump
July 30, 2019

The escalation of racialized rhetoric from the President of the United States has evoked responses from all sides of the political spectrum. On one side, African American leaders have led the way in rightfully expressing outrage. On the other, those aligned with the President seek to downplay the racial overtones of his attacks, or remain silent.

As faith leaders who serve at Washington National Cathedral ¬– the sacred space where America gathers at moments of national significance – we feel compelled to ask: After two years of President Trump’s words and actions, when will Americans have enough?

As Americans, we have had such moments before, and as a people we have acted. Events of the last week call to mind a similarly dark period in our history:

“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. … You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”

That was U.S. Army attorney Joseph Welch on June 9, 1954, when he confronted Senator Joseph McCarthy before a live television audience, effectively ending McCarthy’s notorious hold on the nation. Until then, under the guise of ridding the country of Communist infiltration, McCarthy had free rein to say and do whatever he wished. With unbridled speech, he stoked the fears of an anxious nation with lies; destroyed the careers of countless Americans; and bullied into submissive silence anyone who dared criticize him.

In retrospect, it’s clear that Welch’s question was directed less toward McCarthy and more to the nation as a whole. Had Americans had enough? Where was our sense of decency?

We have come to accept a level of insult and abuse in political discourse that violates each person’s sacred identity as a child of God. We have come to accept as normal a steady stream of language and accusations coming from the highest office in the land that plays to racist elements in society.

This week, President Trump crossed another threshold. Not only did he insult a leader in the fight for racial justice and equality for all persons; not only did he savage the nations from which immigrants to this country have come; but now he has condemned the residents of an entire American city. Where will he go from here?

Make no mistake about it, words matter. And, Mr. Trump’s words are dangerous.

These words are more than a “dog-whistle.” When such violent dehumanizing words come from the President of the United States, they are a clarion call, and give cover, to white supremacists who consider people of color a sub-human “infestation” in America. They serve as a call to action from those people to keep America great by ridding it of such infestation. Violent words lead to violent actions.

When does silence become complicity? What will it take for us all to say, with one voice, that we have had enough? The question is less about the president’s sense of decency, but of ours.

As leaders of faith who believe in the sacredness of every single human being, the time for silence is over. We must boldly stand witness against the bigotry, hatred, intolerance, and xenophobia that is hurled at us, especially when it comes from the highest offices of this nation. We must say that this will not be tolerated. To stay silent in the face of such rhetoric is for us to tacitly condone the violence of these words. We are compelled to take every opportunity to oppose the indecency and dehumanization that is racism, whether it comes to us through words or actions.

There is another moment in our history worth recalling. On January 21, 2017, Washington National Cathedral hosted an interfaith national prayer service, a sacred tradition to honor the peaceful transfer of political power. We prayed for the President and his young Administration to have “wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties that they may serve all people of this nation, and promote the dignity and freedom of every person.”

That remains our prayer today for us all.

The Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington
The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral
The Rev. Canon Kelly Brown Douglas, Canon Theologian of Washington National Cathedral
It's not about any particular thing, not about immigration or guns or trade wars or racism or greed or ignorance. It's a matter of decency. It is not hard to be kind, to be fair, to be decent.