Monday, January 30, 2017

An Interlude: Dark Night Fears

I know that some of my conservative friends will accuse me of fear-mongering from my side of the fence. Or perhaps that my highly over-active imagination has gotten the best of me. Or even that age has finally caught up with my sense of reality and rational thinking.

Any of these may be true, but I don't think it is my goal to increase the level of fear in the world. In the posts on the Dark Night of the Soul that I have been doing my goal is to alleviate the fears and present ways that I, as a person of faith along with others of faith can find the light through what feels like a dark night. I will get back to that development next week. For now I wanted to take another interlude and talk about some of the issues that bring about fear. After 9 days in office, Mr. Trump has shown some clear directions.

What I see is an almost perverse style that wants to create chaos. The immigration orders from Friday are an excellent example. It appears on the surface that he simply put this executive order out and signed it without thinking through what needed to be done to implement it. Did it go into effect at that very moment is pen lifted from the paper? Was there any process of informing immigration points at busy airports what they should be doing? Was there any earlier consideration about what happens to individuals who are already here on green cards? What about those who had been here and were now overseas? Or those that were in the air at the fateful moment of signing? So far, I have not seen any information about that. (I hope we will get some answers to that!)

What happened was that somehow or another customs agents at places like JFK airport in New York just went ahead and implemented the order. The result was the chaos and fear at the airport. People who had already been upset by the order itself were mobilized through their networks of friends and family and protested. The court stepped in and put a stay on the order, as the courts had done with Obama's immigration order previously.

So, hold on to that image of chaos for a moment.

Something else has been happening in D.C. A pattern seems to emerge that when a highly public-impacting order comes out, there is also one that is more shadowy, that will get less publicity. In this case Mr. Trump also signed an order changing the personnel make-up of the "Principal's Committee" of the National Security Agency. Dropped from the committee was the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Huh?

Added to the Committee was Mr. Trump's controversial chief strategist, Steve Bannon. Double Huh?

Even George W. Bush knew better than that. He clearly instructed his chief strategist, Karl Rove, to never attend such meetings. It is not the way things should be done. Oh, I am sure Mr. Bush shared information with Rove. Of course he did. But Rove did not have a direct voice at the NSA table.

So then, these two things happened in the past 48 hours. In the midst of the uproar and chaos from the immigration order it may be hard to see the slippery move with the NSA. The immigration order impacts many, many people. It goes against the law passed by Congress over 50 years ago. (That says if the President doesn't like a law, he doesn't have to follow it?) It is probably unconstitutional even though it may not be as obvious as we think it is.

Hence, the NSA order doesn't seem to have the greater impact. Some might even be able to argue that removing the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs enhances the civilian control of the military. Sorry, but national security is one of the important aspects of the military.

Some have used the word "coup" to describe what this means. I am not ready to go that direction yet.

Let's add another request by the President. He wants data that shows how criminal refugees and immigrants are. He wants a weekly report on that. Legal or illegal immigrants or refugees? It doesn't matter. These foreigners are a threat, is the message, even though statistics readily available seem to indicate that these groups have a lower crime rate than the national average.

But there have to be "alternative facts" and the President wants them. I am sure there may be those who can "find" them for him. This announcement came under the radar of his order to build the wall that Mexico will pay for- by Americans paying 20% more for goods made in Mexico due to a tariff. The wall made the news; the request for criminal data was secondary.

There are a number of possibilities of what could be at work here. He could be as clueless as these things indicate about what the repercussions of his orders are. I doubt that. He could be ignoring any advisor who warns him about these repercussions, because, Damn it! He IS the President of the United States and whatever he does is "legal."

He could also be attempting to satisfy his followers and will one day "pivot" and begin to make sense. We have been waiting for that since the nomination. I will be surprised if it happens in any significant way. Maybe he will step back some on the highly public issues and the other ones will have been slipped into place. Hardly noticed. Maybe he will "allow" his GOP Congress to turn these into some more sensible law as they seem to want to do in their own way with the Affordable Care Act. (By the way- I think all Democrats and Progressives should always refer to it as the Affordable Care Act. People don't want to repeal that. They want to repeal Obamacare!)

Here then is where the shivers begin to creep up the spine of many of us who know history, specifically the history of Germany in the early- to mid-1930s when Hitler could conceivably have been stopped. Some of this looks all too familiar. Most clearly the demonizing of a group of people. Hitler had his police report to him with all the crimes of Jews and these would be  posted. The Jews were not safe. They were criminals- even when they weren't. Before you knew it "everyone" believed that the "Jews" were bad for Germany.

The result was Kristallnacht.

But before that even happens, let's think for a moment about chaos. As protests increase- and they will- chaos will become more common. Already some state legislatures are eyeing laws to curtail the right of protest- even peaceful protest. Some of that already exists as a friend fond out when he and others were protesting the death penalty at the Supreme Court. They were in a very public area where no protests are allowed. He spent a night in jail. More of that will happen.

Chaos will increase because, as we have seen too often, there are those who use a protest to cause trouble. Riots make the news; they increase fear; laws will be enacted; protests will increase; etc.

The answer to chaos?

Martial law.

When will something occur that will be our equivalent of the burning of the German Reichstag?
I know that I am sounding like some of the more extreme critics of Mr. Obama over the last 8 years. I am very aware of that. As such, I DO understand where their fears came from, even though they were clearly unfounded, as history has shown us. These things did not happen. I hope and pray that in the end I am just as far off base as they were.

Okay, but now that I have gone this far down this dystopian road, let me make a few things clear.
First, I am not ready to say these things will happen. History, though, does have a way of following patterns and events. These are all way too much like what we saw in Germany in the 1930s. As such they can become a warning to us, not a prophecy. These events do not have to happen, but it is up to us, the people, to work as hard as we can to make sure they don't.

Second, a couple of my thinking conservative friends will tell me that this can't and won't happen here because of the way our laws and our checks and balances work. In theory I am in 100% agreement with them. Our Constitution and governmental form is set up to make sure these things do not happen. We have seen how it does work- and work well- many times over our 241 years as a nation. We came close in the Civil War. We came close in the 1960s and early 1970s. In the first it took a war. In the second it was a free and independent press and peaceful protestors being attacked that woke the nation up. In political theory, we should be okay. But theories can never take into account the insane ways we humans can find to screw things up!

I come back, then, to why I am working on the Dark Night of the Soul. This seemed like as good a place as any to enumerate some of the fears that underlie my search for direction. For me, any response and approach to these issues must be based in my spiritual life and my following the God I believe in, who can restore me to sanity if I trust that God with my will and life. The principles of the spiritual life must have something to say to how I respond to the concerns of the world I live in. If those principles are irrelevant to these, they are probably not relevant at all.

I believe they are. Thus the spiritual crisis, wrestling match, and ultimately pilgrimage of this series of posts.  I am working this out as I go along; I have no idea of where and what I will discover. I expect to be surprised when the light grows and I awake to what has been in front of me all along.

Back on the journey with another post in the next week.

No comments: