Monday, November 7, 2016

Mr. Trump, Put Me on Your List! / Joshua Abbott

There is a real possibility that on Tuesday Donald Trump will be elected the next President of the United States. As I’ve argued here, here, and here, this is the closest Americans have ever come to electing to our highest office a demagogue who, by definition, seeks power "by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people."

Of all the "emotions, passions, and prejudices," Trump has shown a particular genius for arousing fear. He exploits our fears of terrorism, crime, immigration, impacts from trade, and dishonesty in the media. He evokes fears of racism, misogyny, nativism, and religious persecution. If FDR was correct that "the one thing we have to fear is fear itself," then Trump has proven to be the latter-day prophet of fear.
  • First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.
  • Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
  • Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.
  • Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

When you deport the millions of Americans who are undocumented immigrants, deport me too—because today, I am an undocumented immigrant. #PutMeOnYourList

When you force Muslims to register on a national database, add my name—because today, I am a Muslim. #PutMeOnYourList

When you "take out [the] families" of terrorists, be sure to target me as well—because today, I am the family member of a terrorist. #PutMeOnYourList

When you order the torture of suspected terrorists, order my torture too—because today, I am a suspected terrorist. #PutMeOnYourList

To those who agree, please share this message and vote to show that Americans will not be intimidated or afraid because we know that "perfect love casteth out fear."

If Trumpism continues to prosper beyond the election, it may yet usher in a climate of fear unknown since 1930s Europe. As one writer has observed, "frightened people do frightening things." A Lutheran pastor who lived during that time and ended up in a concentration camp, warned what can happen when we take counsel from our fears:

The lesson of history is clear: when anyone's rights are threatened because of race, religion, ethnicity, or belief, the rights of all are threatened. The only way to defeat such threats is to speak out in solidarity. And so, Mr. Trump, I have one demand: Put me on your list!




Sunday, November 6, 2016

Donald Trump, the Law of Chastity and the Atonement / Lloyd

Donald Trump’s profligate violation and disdain for marital chastity and consequent dishonor to God is the showstopper for me. Let me explain.

I have come to understand that the very Atonement of Jesus Christ is necessary because our Heavenly Father offered his children to progress from 1) Their state of individual spiritual men and women without physical bodies, dwelling in God’s presence to 2) The state of eternal husbands and wives with immortal physical bodies, again dwelling in God’s presence.

For that to happen he revealed to his spiritual children -- to all of us -- his Plan of Happiness, wherein he would create an earth, place his children on it in physical bodies made from the elements of earth, and test us to see whether we would obey his commandments and thereby qualify to return to his presence and continue to live as family, but with the privilege of having children of our own. After all, we are his children, children of Heavenly Parents -- who are themselves male and female.

It's my understanding that God provided Adam and Eve physical bodies the way we ourselves provide bodies for his spiritual children, our spiritual brothers and sister. That Heavenly parents, came to this earth, ate and drank food created from the elements of this earth, and created Adam and Eve in the same manner as we ourselves create children -- providing spiritual beings with physical bodies.
When Adam and Eve elected to disobey Heavenly Father and eat fruit that he forbade to eat, they transformed from immortal beings to mortal, subject to physical death -- the separation of physical body and spirit.  However, their transgression enabled them to obey the more important of Heavenly Father’s commandments to multiply and replenish the earth -- and that was the choice they wrestled with before disobeying His law. Thus the process of mortality began for the spiritual children of Heavenly Father. And we are the result.

I believe that not only are we spiritual children of God before entering mortality, our physical bodies also descend from God beginning with Adam and Eve. Although we are the race of God, we are in mortality with very limited capabilities to see if we will qualify to live the life of God, continuing to have children in eternity, or to be relegated to immortal life without children and recognized family bonds.  

We don’t require the super physical and intellectual capabilities that myth and fantasy would portray for children of God. In mortality our focus, the focus of the sons and daughters of God, is obedience to our Father’s law, and that requires sacrifice of our will and wants to conform to God’s will and wants for his children.
When we recognize the essential union of Heavenly Parents to create spiritual children and our opportunity as parents to provide mortal, physical bodies for God’s spiritual children on earth, only then do we fully appreciate the eternal importance and centrality of God’s Law of Chastity: Wherein the daughters of Eve and the sons of Adam have no sexual relations except with their husbands and wives with whom they are both legally (law of men) and lawfully (law of God) married. Our Heavenly Parents are not pagan gods -- prone to every kind of whim and debauchery that myth depicts of deities.  

From the beginning it was fully expected that in mortality we would learn from our experiences and choices including transgression of God’s laws. With the transgression of Adam and Even we are separated from the immediate presence of God in mortality.

Thus, even before the earth was created provisions were made for a Savior to atone and mediate the effects of sin -- separation from the presence of God and physical death. Jesus Christ -- initially a spiritual child of God with us makes it possible not only for fallen mortal men and women to overcome physical death through the resurrection but also to overcome spiritual death and return to the presence of our Heavenly Parents.

The difference between Adam and Jesus Christ, is that our Heavenly Father was the father to Adam when he was yet immortal, but to Jesus Christ in mortality. Accordingly, Jesus Christ became God’s only begotten in mortal flesh and thus endowed with godly capability to function as the Redeemer of all mortal men and women. When we live in accordance to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ -- we are saved from our sins.


Donald Trump’s profligate violation, verbal disdain, and continued unrepentant attitude toward marital chastity dishonors our Heavenly Father’s purposes for the creation of earth and our mortal probation and Jesus Christ’s Atonement to bring us back to the presence of Heavenly Parents. That is the showstopper for me in voting for him. Has any other candidate for President of the United States been so openly crass and disrespectful of women and family. Voting for him is voting for that. Who would do that?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Great Leaders Build Bridges,Tear Down Walls / Joshua Abbott


One could reasonably ask, "What if there really is a dangerous crisis; and our leaders really are corrupt, weak, or incompetent; and we really do need a strong leader? Shouldn't a candidate who points out those realities be considered honest and courageous, instead of a wanna-be dictator?" Possibly. If those conditions are real, then saying so may not differentiate a demagogue from a good leader.

The difference is what they propose to do about it. Fortunately, we have both good and bad historical examples to help us learn to discern. A great leader confronts challenges by building others up, emphasizing unity and shared values, appealing to our virtues (love, patience, humility), and reinforcing our commitment to fundamental principles of freedom and equality. A despot tears others down, emphasizes our differences to stir up contention (rich vs. poor, women vs. men, christian vs. muslim), cultivates a cult of personality around himself, appeals to our baser instincts (fear, greed, hate), and sacrifices fundamental values for political and economic gain.

Compare how past leaders faced crises to Trump's approach:

"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory . . . will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." (Lincoln, First Inaugural Address)

"[T]he only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." (FDR, First Inaugural Address)

"The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it--and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country." (JFK, inaugural address)

"We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. . . . Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" (Reagan, Berlin, 1987)

And now, Trump:

"The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems. . . . When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. . . . They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." (speech announcing candidacy, 2015)

"The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponents, is that our plan will put America First. Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo." (convention speech, 2016)

"I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words." (speech announcing candidacy, 2015)

"I am your voice. . . . Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it. . . . I am the Law and Order Candidate." (convention speech, 2016)





Tuesday, November 1, 2016

For Those Who Would Be King: The Kingmaker's Playbook / Joshua Abbott

The Kingmaker's Playbook

How does one become king? And not just a figurehead, but an absolute ruler? In the old days, kings asserted their rule by divine right, meaning either being born into it or leading an army to victory. These days, with democracy so much in vogue, it's not so simple. Not that it's impossible, but you'll have to be clever about it and probably won't get to use the title of "king."
First, you'll need a core group of committed followers.
Next, you'll need to convince at least a plurality of voters that (1) a crisis is threatening the country, (2) the current leaders are too corrupt, weak, or incompetent to do anything about it, and (3) the only solution is a strong leader, unshackled by politics.
Finally, you must persuade people that you are the strong leader they need. Without the burden of scruples, you'll soon be able to leverage whatever authority they grant you into real power.
Along the way, you also must understand that "the way to power . . . [is] to ally [your]self with . . . powerful institutions." (Shirer, 1960) Having access to existing social and political infrastructures will make your job so much easier.

Donald Trump seems to be following this playbook to the letter. The most accurate description of his ideology is that of an authoritarian nationalist, and he has plenty of ambition. His greatest initial hurdle was winning control of a major political party. As neither a true conservative nor a liberal, most experts doubted he could do it.  But he perceived early on what they did not—that a nationalist faction within the Republican party was gaining sway—and he seized his opportunity. Having consolidated his base and secured the nomination, Trump need only persuade voters that, distasteful as they may find him, he offers the lesser of two evils (admittedly not a high bar this year, given Hillary's unpopularity).
Trump's speeches offer a closer look at how exactly he's following the well-established game plan. On October 13 in West Palm Beach, Florida, Donald Trump gave a speech that, in its tone, content, and style, was what one would expect to hear only from a would-be dictator.  Overflowing with superlatives, most of what he said fell into one of several themes:
  1. A global conspiracy among his political opponents, the media, and leading financial institutions, is destroying the country.
  2. The political establishment is totally corrupt, and our current leaders are liars, criminals, and traitors.
  3. He willingly endures all their attacks and false accusations because he and the great movement he leads are our last hope to save the country.
All of this, including the apocalyptic and messianic allusions, come directly from the playbook outlined above. But while this message is sure to rally the faithful, it may be harder to convince more moderate voters. That's where his takeover of the Republican party comes in. Many who would otherwise be turned off by his rhetoric will find solace in voting for the party they've always been able to trust in the past.

In every democracy where an authoritarian has come to power, moderate voters have justified their support or their acquiescence with wishful, yet dangerously naive, thinking:
"Sure, he seems a little extreme and has said some crazy things, but I'm sure that . . ."
  • he doesn't really mean what he says
  • he'll act responsibly once he's in office.
  • we'll be able to control him.
  • we need a strongman for the current crisis.
"And if all else fails, how bad could things really get?"
If history teaches anything, it's that things can get much worse than we in this country often imagine. At a certain point in his rise to power, all an authoritarian needs to tip the scale is complacency among those who oppose him. Anyone who thinks, "it couldn't happen here," needs to remember that every time and in every place an authoritarian has seized power, many people believed the same thing.
It can happen here. When candidates speak, we must take their words seriously. We must never let our narrow partisan interests, important as those may be, outweigh the fundamental principles of liberty and equality on which our nation was founded. The most important words in the U.S. Constitution may be the first three, "We the People," because that means the people, not the state, are sovereign. Let us learn from the experiences of those in other democracies who have at least partly abdicated their sovereignty by electing authoritarians into office. America has been blessed never to have had a king or anything close to one. May it ever be so.


ADDENDUM

Joshua Abbott  November 2, 2016


After re-reading this post, I thought a bit of counter-analysis would be helpful. One could reasonably ask, "What if there really is a dangerous crisis; and our leaders really are corrupt, weak, or incompetent; and we really do need a strong leader? Shouldn't a candidate who points out those realities be considered honest and courageous, instead of a wanna-be dictator?" Possibly. If those conditions are real, then saying so may not differentiate a demagogue from a good leader.
The difference is what they propose to do about it. Fortunately, we have both good and bad historical examples to help us learn to discern. A great leader confronts challenges by building others up, emphasizing unity and shared values, appealing to our virtues (love, patience, humility), and reinforcing our commitment to fundamental principles of freedom and equality. A despot tears others down, emphasizes our differences to stir up contention (rich vs. poor, women vs. men, christian vs. muslim), cultivates a cult of personality around himself, appeals to our baser instincts (fear, greed, hate), and sacrifices fundamental values for political and economic gain.

Compare how past leaders faced crises to Trump's approach:
"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory . . . will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." (Lincoln, First Inaugural Address) 
"[T]he only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." (FDR, First Inaugural Address)
"The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it--and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country." (JFK, inaugural address)
"We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. . . . Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" (Reagan, Berlin, 1987)

And now, Trump:
"The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems. . . . When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. . . . They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." (speech announcing candidacy, 2015)
"The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponents, is that our plan will put America First. Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo." (convention speech, 2016)
"I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words." (speech announcing candidacy, 2015)
"I am your voice. . . . Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it. . . . I am the Law and Order Candidate." (convention speech, 2016)

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