12 May 2016

Political discipleship today

Not so "promptly" in my case.... The local postmark reveals that the ballot arrived at my neighborhood post office on April 19; I finally voted yesterday. 
Yesterday I voted in the Oregon state primary election. With only a few days left until election day, I didn't risk ordinary airmail -- I sent in the ballot by e-mail, with gratitude that Oregon provides this option.

If you've been paying attention to USA's remarkable presidential election season, you already know that, for the Republican party, there seems to be no need to wait for the last primary to determine that party's candidate, Donald Trump. The reactions among Americans have varied from ecstasy to maximum consternation. Those on the "consternation" side include not just Democrats but many Republicans, third-party voters, and independents. Rarely have we had a presidential candidate entering the general election race with unfavorability stats higher than Donald Trump's -- although, this year, Hillary Clinton's negatives are close.

My daily ration of Internet traffic is full of dire warnings that a Trump presidency would be a national and international disaster. Bitter exchanges between nobody-but-Sanders advocates and "get real! Vote for Clinton to avoid Trump" campaigners are another major feature of the season. Here are some reflections and suggestions on behalf of spiritual and political sanity between now and the general election.
  • Pray for the candidates, and particularly for those you dislike.
  • Think before circulating snarky comments about candidates or about their supporters. By exercising restraint, you do your part in restoring civility to our common life. Don't hesitate to say why you support your favorite candidates, but say it in your own voice, with respect for the intelligence of your audience.
  • Even so, you might feel called to flag the dangers of a Trump presidency (or substitute the name of your own least favorite candidate). I honestly don't think alarmist rhetoric is persuasive to those whose behavior you hope to influence, although it might be enjoyable to those who already agree with you. What might be more persuasive would be to point to Trump's apparent incompatibilities with values you and your audience hold dear.
For myself, I'm determined to exercise a sort of calm vigilance. I do not want to be under the spell of fear or alarm, but I also want to exercise a daily watchfulness. Hitler rose to popularity in modern Germany in part because of middle-class complacency as well as class grievances and poisonous nationalist resentments; now is no time for political laziness in the USA.

Finally, a reminder to those of us who feel democracy is in a fragile state in today's USA: let's not make Trump a convenient villain to distract us from other dangers, especially those dangers that are not so easy to personalize. Prime examples: the power of great wealth to distort both elections and governance; and the mushrooming growth of the national security state with its watch lists, surveillance, entrapment tactics, mercenary contractors, drone attacks, elite strike-force teams, and secret budgets. No matter who becomes the next president of the USA, these dangers will continue to demand prayerful, focused responses from disciples of the Prince of Peace.

Another poignant remembrance of Dan Berrigan, with some good links. (Thanks again to Jim Forest.)

A fascinating take on Julian of Norwich. (Thanks to Bill Samuel for the link.) Here's a particularly apt diagnosis, to my mind:
Julian had a single word for this opposition to God’s love and life. She called it wrath. While she was clear that there was no wrath in God, and thus no movement of God against us, there is a great deal of wrath in all of us, what she also called a contrariness to God’s peace and love. This is not the whole of who we are, but it is a part of our fallen condition.
Tomgrams continue to be my regular, reliable bulletins in the perpetual war watch. Today's example: Washington's military addiction.

A virtual experience of solitary confinement.

Amnesty International and others confront punitive psychiatry in Russia. (Late word is that authorities in Moscow may intervene on Vorobyovsky's behalf.)

"Kneeling there in deep contrition, help my unbelief" ...


avvakum said...

Can I ask a dumb question? Where did you (who live in Portland, I gather) get your "late word" that "authorities in Moscow" might "intervene on Vorobyovsky's behalf"? Vorobyovsky was released from the mental hospital in Voronezh because a) he had a terrific lawyer, Olga Gnezdilova, and b) Amnesty International and other human rights organizations publicized his case hard and earlier, and launched a campaign of bombarding the prosecutor's office and mental health clinic in Voronezh with phone calls asking why a perfectly sane, peaceable man was being held against his will in a mental hospital? That is why the court ruled that the hospital had no grounds to seize him in the first place. Don't give the authorities in Russia, of all people, any credit for anything, unless you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they actually deserve it. The authorities are ruthless, corrupt scum. After all, it was one or more of these selfsame authorities who tried to pull this little trick with Vorobyovsky in the first place, because the hospital was surely not acting on its own.

Johan Maurer said...

Not a dumb question at all (not that you thought it was!) ... I live in Moscow Oblast', by the way. My source was a note on Facebook that reprinted the relevant news from RIA Novosti:

"Информация о том, что Воробьевский был принудительно и без решения суда помещен в психиатрическую лечебницу, появилась 7 мая в местных СМИ. Сообщение об этом случае накануне было опубликовано на сайте Amnesty International.

"У нас было сообщение. По данному сообщению прокуратурой направлена информация для проверки в следственный комитет… Вопрос, связанный с похищением, — следственный комитет будет разбираться", — сказал РИА Новости представитель прокуратуры".

РИА Новости

Maybe this apparent commitment by investigators to figure out what happened in Voronezh has now been made moot by Vorobyovsky's release. I trust that AI in Russia will stay on the case.

In general, I don't find it helpful to paint all officials and bureaucrats with one brush, as I briefly explained in one of the notes in this post. However hard it is to resist, cynicism is spiritual poison. (Not that willful stupidity has much to recommend it!)

Anonymous said...

"For myself, I'm determined to exercise a sort of calm vigilance." For cooler heads to prevail, first we have to have cooler heads. Thanks for being one of them.

Johan Maurer said...

Hello, Letters. I don't think I can take credit for being a cooler head. It takes work! Anyway, thank you.