Sex, Politics, and Religion: A Christian's View of Donald Trump
I live in North Carolina, where we are suffering from near-lethal campaign fatigue. Both major party candidates seem to show up here every other day, resulting in an alarming spike in ER visits from people who’ve chewed off their own ears. It’s bad, y’all.
But we’re blessed to live in a democracy (Or... a republic? Feel free to weigh in here, civics nerds.) People are entitled to differences of opinion. Although I know and love people all across the political spectrum, I’m neither a Republican nor a Democrat, so I’m not the most qualified person to write a political article in a country that seems oblivious to those of us in the middle. But, like most people, I care deeply about the fate of my country.
And in my case, I also care deeply about my faith. I welcome the perspectives of all religions, as well as those of people of no particular religion. I don’t speak for Christians in general, or for my beloved church in particular. But one of the reasons I chose to write this article is it seems my perspective as a politically moderate Christian is lost in the chants of the evangelical build-a-wall crowd. Some years ago, the minister of a mega-church near my home pulled his support of a local soup kitchen because three Muslim students from the nearby university were allowed to help serve a meal.
I remember feeling almost sick as I wondered how anyone—especially a minister!—could promote the idea that Jesus would not want us to help the homeless if people of another faith were also willing to help. Really? You read the Gospels and that’s the message you came away with? I didn’t understand how our two interpretations of Christianity could be so radically different.
Our editorial team has added this item to your post.
It’s a feeling that’s magnified now. I keep hearing and reading that Christians should stumble, presumably blinded and gagged, to the polling booth in order to cast their reluctant votes for a man—Donald Trump—who pretty much everyone agrees is a moral cesspool. Can anyone imagine Jesus Christ—who Mr. Trump claims to follow— praising dictators? Urging people to beat up peaceful protestors? Vowing to commit war crimes? Sexually attacking women? Making light of a catastrophic massacre of innocents at the hands of Saddam Hussein? Denigrating Gold Star families and war heroes and generals? Lying with breathtaking regularity, more than any other candidate in modern history? And of course, every living creature in the solar system, including my innocent children, has heard the infamous grab-her-by-the-p-word speech by now. We’ve all heard that the women who came forward with claims that Mr. Trump did exactly what he described doing are a) not hot enough to be molested, and b) liars because they didn’t sue him at the time.
I don’t know about you guys, but as an average woman, I am 100 percent sure I wouldn’t sue one of the most vindictive, litigious, richest men in the world—somebody who keeps an army of lawyers on retainer—in a he-said-she-said unsolicited crotch grab situation. I’d just wail to my friends. And while we’re on the subject, if I’d been allowed to ask a question at the town hall debate, I’d have stood and faced Mr. Trump, and I’d have asked him my rating. Am I a 6? A 4? Maybe even an 7? It makes me want to cry, or kick someone—one person in particular—to think that this man assesses my worth as a human being not based on my accomplishments or my intellect or the sum of my actions or my being a beloved child of God, but because I’m first and foremost a piece of ass. Or even sadder: a former piece of ass, since I’m over the age of 35. Or maybe not even that, because I know I’m not pretty enough.
But I digress. Nobody is making the argument that Mr. Trump is a man of good character, aside from his family and maybe Newt Gingrich. Instead, the argument seems to be that we should overlook his “crudeness” and his “imperfections” because he’s a person who will get things done and shake up Washington and stick it to the man, and, hey, no one in American politics is moral anyway. Everywhere you look, there’s some politician banging someone else’s wife, pilfering campaign funds to buy himself a private jet, or straight-up sleeping with Satan. So why be so hard on Mr. Trump?
But I think I’m safe in saying Donald Trump is not going to stick it to the man; he IS the man. It’s hard to think of anyone running for public office in America—ever—who’s had a history of being less compassionate to the little guy. This is one of the central tenets of my faith, one of the abiding and most compelling of Christ’s calls to us: to practice kindness and empathy, to help the oppressed and the poor. You can bog down in debate about whether or not that means the government should aid war refugees, or offer entitlement programs, or, you know, offer soup to the homeless if there’s a Muslim trying to help too. But it clearly, absolutely means there is a moral imperative to—at the very least—try to avoid screwing over the little guy in order to add to your own personal billions.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of examples of how Mr. Trump conducts himself in business and in his personal life, but I want to focus on just one of them: how he’s treated small business owners.
You’ve probably never heard of J. Michael Diehl. He’s the retired owner of a small family-run music store who sold $100,000 of grand and upright pianos to Mr. Trump for his Taj-Mahal casino in 1989. His initial excitement at the large sale gradually changed to dismay, as he remembers the Trump corporation responding to his repeated requests for payment with one excuse after another. Ultimately, he received a letter stating they’d pay him 70 percent of what was owed. As he reported to The Washington Post, Mr. Diehl had no good options:
I didn’t know what to do — I couldn’t afford to sue the Trump corporation, and I needed money to pay my piano suppliers…Losing $30,000 was a big hit to me and my family… It made me feel really bad, like I’d been taken advantage of. I was embarrassed. Today, when I hear Trump brag about paying small business owners less than he agreed, I get angry. He’s always suggesting that the people who worked for him didn’t do the right job, didn’t complete their work on time, that something was wrong. But I delivered quality pianos, tuned and ready to go. I did everything right. And then Trump cheated me. It’s a callous way to do business.
Does Mr. Diehl sound like a guy who did “shoddy work”?
Or how about the father of Brian Walsh, a Republican strategist, who recalled his company being stiffed on a six-figure job his small telecom business did for Mr. Trump in the 1980’s? Or the Ohio fiberglass company whose owner says he had to take out loans —ultimately having to write off two million dollars—when Trump didn’t honor their contract? Think this guy did “shoddy work?” Mr. Trump evidently didn’t think so: he offered the fiberglass company right of first refusal on future jobs.
It’s a great business model: hire people who depend on the work, then refuse to pay them, or pay them cents on the dollar, knowing most of them can’t afford to sue you. And while you’re at it, go ahead and slander them.
It would be bad enough if there were only a few of these stories, but there are hundreds. The ones I mention are the result of a five minute Google search, but I spent hours—maybe days— reading this stuff in detail. I checked conservative websites as well as liberal and neutral ones, in order not to fall into the poisoned well of groupthink. I read investigative reports by journalists who spent months finding original documents and interviewing people. This is so much more than just some horndog getting up to a few sexual shenanigans, or some unprepared oaf spouting unhinged tweets. This is a man utterly lacking in integrity and conscience. This is not the lesser of two evils.
These stories are upsetting, because they upend our fundamental sense of right and wrong, of fair play, of which behaviors are rewarded and which are condemned. You fashion a career out of screwing people, and in return, you get billions of (untaxed) dollars? And then you claim you are the only one who can help the little guy, in a nation that’s rotten and unfair and rigged?
Our editorial team has added this item to your post.
Unlike Donald Trump, I believe wholeheartedly that America is great. We are born free, and that freedom—to be our most essential, blessedly unique selves—is our greatest strength. We’re a nation of mongrels, and we should be proud of it. We hail from every corner of the globe to live in a society that treasures equality and industry instead of kings and castes. Our diversity spawns an ingenuity seen nowhere else on the planet. No one else has our unique mix of creativity and compassion. The same country that races to aid the world’s disaster zones also offers “Saturday Night Live” and Apple.
We explore the infinities of space and the mysteries of the atom. We band together to help the least of us, donating our time and money and muscle to those in need. We churn out a torrent of art and music and literature and science, and we send our bravest men and women to defend against tyranny and evil. We worship—or we don’t—each according to our own internal conscience, without compulsion or punishment from the government. If our leaders turn out to be incompetent misogynistic narcissists—just to pick a few words totally at random— we revel in our ability to mock them or protest them or eviscerate them on Twitter, all without the fear that we’ll be thrown in jail, or beaten up at a political rally, or “disappeared.”
We are American.
But we have challenges. Life is harder for some than others, and I think Mr. Trump is right about one thing: the system is tilted. In this America, you can force those less fortunate than you into financial ruin, without ever suffering any consequence or expressing any remorse.
And as far as Donald Trump being the only one who can make America great again, he doesn’t have a workable plan to pull off most of the things he promises. Talk is cheap, especially talk from a filterless word-vomiter. It takes more than a bumper sticker to attack the massively complicated issues we face. Are we going to just magic up the zillion-dollar wall? The idea that our climate might be affected by spewing trillions of tons of hydrocarbons into the air is actually a hoax by the Chinese, you say? Oh, you never said that? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Obamacare is gong to be replaced with “something terrific,” but what, exactly?
How can you be president if you don’t think these things through?
Mr. Trump expects the voters to trust him and only him: “I alone can fix it. I will give you everything... I’m the only one.” When you ask people to believe that you, and only you, can accomplish things—without specifying how—that’s asking for blind trust. Or to say it another way, that’s asking for faith. In my view, there’s only one man in the history of humanity deserving of that kind of faith, and his name isn’t Donald Trump.
What Actually Happens When You 'Throw A Little Gas'
I want to describe what it feels like to suffocate.
First, let me acknowledge the obvious. I am writing this piece, so I am clearly still alive. I’ve never been the victim of a near-suffocation, either. I can barely even stand to hold my breath for more than thirty seconds. So why am I writing this?
I’ll get to that in a moment. Bear with me, and imagine you are a young woman―let’s say 30 years old―with four children: Jacob, Caroline, Jackson, and the baby, Ellie. It’s a beautiful spring day, and you watch in amazement as out of the clear blue sky a rain of strange metallic objects begins to fall. They hit the ground and a smoke unlike anything you’ve ever seen fills the air. In your neighborhood, people are screaming, running past your house, urging you to flee. You try, but you cannot carry all four children, so you sink to the ground and do the only thing you can: you wrap your arms around them to try to shield them.
The first one to die is the baby. Ellie is too young to talk, but desperation is written on her little face as she tries to breathe. Each gasp sucks more poison into her lungs; she kicks frantically, her eyes begging you for help. Her skin turns blue and a green fluid begins to seep from her mouth, but still she is conscious, still she rails against dying. There is nothing you can do except hold her until she stops struggling.
In the horror of Ellie’s death, you’ve missed what’s happening to your other children. They are all three on the ground. Jackson is seizing—he must be unconscious—but the older two are awake and the agony on their faces is terrible beyond anything you can endure. Caroline’s skin is covered in bubbles—no, they are blisters—and a raspy croaking sound is coming from her mouth. She’s trying to scream. An unidentifiable scent is everywhere—it’s like apples, or garlic, or maybe rotten eggs. Your throat and eyes begin to burn. Jacob, your three year-old, is clutching his eyes. Caroline stops reaching for you and grabs her throat. There is no air left in her lungs, but her eyes are still open; she is still moving even though it looks like her face is going to explode. She and Jackson die at the same time.
Now it is just you and Jacob. Each breathe you take is like inhaling fire. The pain is so intense you lose sight of your remaining child, but in your last glimpse of him you realize he’s been blinded: he’s wailing, with his hands held straight out in front him, trying to feel you. Your last coherent thought is enough to kill you: you worry he will survive. And then the pressure in your chest becomes more than you can stand, and you die.
ADAM JONES, PH.D./GLOBAL PHOTO ARCHIVE/FLICKR
Diorama of Omer Khawar, a victim of the Halabja chemical attack, cradling a child
Change the names of the children to Ariya and Liyan and Adar and Rojan, and change the place to Halabja, Kurdistan, and this story is no longer so fictional. In March 1988, 5000 Kurdish civilians were massacred here—reportedly by a mixture of sarin and mustard gas and possibly cyanide—under the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.
Why bring this up? Because a few days ago, I read news reports quoting Donald Trump on the subject of genocide.
“Then Saddam Hussein throws a little gas, everyone goes crazy, ‘Oh he’s using gas!’” Trump said at a rally last year in which he criticized the invasion of Iraq and praised Hussein―himself a terrorist―because he killed other terrorists. To be sure Trump actually said something so asinine, I watched footage of his rally (fast forward to 1 hour, 8 minutes to hear the exact quote.)
Let’s repeat Trump’s words, keeping in mind the context. Saddam Hussein “threw a little gas.”
Being even momentarily cavalier about using chemical weapons on innocent people is monstrous. It should disqualify you from being a human being, let alone being the most influential human being on the planet. But Trump seems to respect some of the world’s most reprehensible villains, going out of his way to compliment Moammar Gadhafi and Kim Jong Un even as he acknowledges they’re bad guys. It’s baffling to Republican commentators ― even Rush Limbaugh described Trump as “emotionally incontinent.”
Personally, I would prefer the leader of the free world to be continent. A bonus would be getting through a speech without a torrent of straight-up insanity. Do I think Donald Trump is in favor of gassing babies? No. (Except maybe terrorists’ babies—he’s already said he’d “take out” their families.) Do I think it matters what you say, especially if you’re aiming to be POTUS? Yes.
After Trump’s comments on “taking out” the families of terrorists, a predictable outcry arouse, in which it was pointed out that intentionally ordering the military to murder civilians is a war crime. Trump’s response: “They won’t refuse. They’re not gonna refuse me. Believe me,” adding: “I’ve always been a leader… If I say do it, they’re going to do it.” Then, in practically the next breath, he insisted he never said he’d kill the families of terrorists.
My point is not that it’s wrong to kill people related to terrorists, or that the Middle East is any more or less stable with dictators in charge. My point is that Trump appears unable to appreciate the consequences of words. Having a president afflicted with mental diarrhea is not okay. If you vote for Trump, you are voting for someone who is incapable of controlling himself, assuming he’s not actually stone evil.
I’m not endorsing anyone in this election, and no one would care if I did. I am a regular person. I’m a doctor, and I’m a wife and mother. I swing both ways, politically-speaking, and I have friends all across the spectrum of beliefs. (And I hope these friends will visit me in the internment camps if Trump gets elected.)
But I don’t think I can stay silent when I think of a presidential candidate describing what Saddam Hussein did as “throwing a little gas.”
When A March Becomes A Blizzard
I’d like to try to explain from one person’s perspective—mine—why hundreds of thousands of women chose to march across our nation’s cities today. If you saw images of the marchers and your first impulse was to dismiss them as special snowflakes or whiners or whatever, I’d be so thankful if you’d hear me out. You may not agree, but why not try to understand each other?
First, I don't speak for all marchers. I don't speak for any marchers, actually, because I didn't go. But personally, I am SO GRATEFUL we live in a land where we have the right to free speech. I cherish nothing more than our First Amendment rights. I cannot imagine living in a dictatorship where I wouldn't be allowed to write what I think, or peaceably protest, or scrutinize the actions of the powerful. My power is my voice.
And I am fearful that the right of free speech is in jeopardy. During the campaign, I listened to Mr. Trump's reaction to those that protested him at his rallies, and it made me sick. He offered to pay the legal bills of people who beat up the protestors, and talked about the good old days, when they'd be "carried out on stretchers.” He claimed specific protestors had themselves been violent in cases when they had not, and offered that as justification for someone to "knock the crap out of them." I listened to this--as someone who vocally and publicly opposed his candidacy--and I wondered: Am I next? Who knows who will heed or misinterpret these calls to violence? If you tacitly or explicitly say it's okay to hit people who oppose your candidacy, what will you say or tweet about those opposing your policies as President? (And this goes for violent looters on the anti-Trump side as well--they are despicable.)
We—as Americans—have the absolute, fundamental right to challenge our government, without fear we will be beaten, or persecuted, or worse. Now I realize that calling to have a few people at rallies knocked sideways is not the same as being tossed in the Gulag. But ever since the moment I realized we had a presidential candidate who actually called for protestors to be physically assaulted, I have been spurred to protest. Free speech is a fundamental American right. Long Live the Constitution!
Moving on: let’s be specific about the threat to women. I’m going to mention an article I read during the campaign: UnInvent The Washing Machine And The Pill. The gist of it is that women should not have access to birth control and should not work outside the home:
Let’s start with the device that forced women out of the home... and doomed them to perform unsatisfying tasks in the workforce in order to respond to new social norms: the washing machine.
This infernal contraption was celebrated as a means to making a woman’s life much easier, and is now hailed as one of the milestones of women’s liberation. Almost no invention or political decision in history affected gender relations like the washing machine, because it effectively freed up half the human species to enter the workforce.
You think this writer is being sarcastic? He’s not. He genuinely thinks women were happier when they could not control how many children they had, and when they had to spend backbreaking hours scrubbing clothes on a washboard. (And among his other anti-birth control arguments: Birth control makes you fat, and as we all know being fat is disgusting and should never be allowed in a civilised society.) This last point of view is summed up in another article entitled Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.
Okay, you’re thinking this is some fringe whackjob I pulled out of a crack in the Dark Web, and possibly the most applicable use of the term misogynist you’ve ever heard. This isn’t mainstream, and this doesn't reflect the President’s views. This is straight-up nuts.
Yes, it’s straight-up nuts, but no, it is no longer quite so fringe-y. These articles were published in 2015 and 2016 by Breitbart News, whose executive chair resigned to become Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to President Donald Trump. I’m going to say that again—Steve Bannon, the former executive chair of Breitbart News, is the Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President of the United States. Someone who approved of the odious writer of the two articles I quoted, and many more affiliated with the alt-right, is advising the POTUS on policy. Please let that sink in.
This seems to me to be an excellent reason to protest. I like working, and while I am indescribably blessed to be a wife and mother, I am valuable to society in other ways too. Having twelve children would not make me a better human being. Women are not oppressed in the United States in the same dismal, soul-sucking, catastrophic ways they are in some repressive countries, and I for one would like to keep it that way. Therefore I protest you, President Trump, for bringing such an abysmal tool as Steve Bannon into the White House to advise you. You might want to rethink that particular choice if you don’t want people in little pink hats marching across Washington all the time.
Those are two of my personal reasons why I support the marchers. I know many people who protested for reasons that don't affect me directly, but I understand a lot of them. (Please—try to imagine how threatened you would feel if you knew some of the most powerful people in government were actively trying to dissolve your marriage against your will. That you could wake up one morning and find you were no longer married to to your beloved spouse because it offended someone else’s beliefs? Would you be a snowflake for crying then?)
I sincerely thank anyone who is still reading this, and I’d welcome hearing views that differ from mine. I do want the President, and by extension, the country, to succeed and we will have to cooperate in order for that to happen. Furthermore, it’s theoretically possible that I could be wrong about all kinds of stuff (although I can state with unequivocal certainty that having washing machines is better than not having washing machines.)
But yeah, I cried on election night. I cried because I am fearful that free speech is eroding, and that some very repressive people have the ear of the President. I cried because I hate the division in our country, which, let’s be honest, is not being helped by the tweetstorm of hatred whirling around, on both sides. I cried because I love science. I cried because I believe words—and facts— matter. I cried for my gay friends. I bawled like a baby for the things I fear we are losing—our quintessential American reverence for individual freedoms. But then I dusted myself off and got up and thought about things, and some of my natural sunniness returned. I still have power, and I’m wielding it right now. I can write. I can also reach out to people who think differently, and I can listen to them, and we can find common ground. So to the other snowflakes out there—those of you who cried on election night, and those of you who marched today— as many people have pointed out:
Gather enough snowflakes together and you’ll create a blizzard. Let’s do something good with it.
You Can't Handle The Truth
We have a problem. We all know we have a problem. Like everyone else in America I watched with despair as the news this week showed scores of people shot to death in Las Vegas. No one wants this. Everyone wants things to change.
And yet, it does not change. We have a mass shooting every day in this country. We watch innocent first graders cower in closets, wrapped in the arms of their teachers as some murderous demon slaughters them and we do nothing. We stare at the television, horror-struck, as concert-goers are mowed down by automatic weapons and we all agree it is a tragedy. But we do nothing.
Here’s a thought: why don’t we use scientific research to try to shape our public policy most effectively? Why don’t we study empirical evidence about what works and doesn’t work to reduce gun violence in our society?
And here’s an answer. We don’t, because if you try to use federal funds allocated for injury prevention to study gun violence, you will be marched out and shot by the NRA.
Ok, not really. But there is a story behind why the American government spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year studying food safety and traffic safety and even cigarettes, while spending virtually nothing on gun safety.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, an ER doctor named Arthur Kellerman published a series of epidemiological articles in the New England Journal of Medicine that caused an immediate, uh, firestorm. Among other things, Dr. Kellerman’s research indicated that for every self-defense homicide via firearm, there were 43 suicides, criminal homicides, or accidental gunshot deaths in the U.S. He followed that up with other studies indicating that having a firearm in the home was associated with an increased risk of homicide in that same home, at least in certain cities.
The response? The NRA lost its collective mind. They were outraged—outraged!— that such flawed, terrible studies had ever been published, and so they commissioned further research from the CDC in an attempt to more accurately and scientifically evaluate the issue. Ha! Just kidding. They did no such thing. What they actually did was this: they got a Republican congressman from Arkansas to insert a rider into a federal omnibus spending bill mandating that none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control. Then they enlisted Republicans in Congress to snatch millions previously allocated to gun research and assign it to something else.
Let that sink in: funds to study INJURY PREVENTION could not be used to promote gun control, even if the scientific evidence clearly demonstrated its effectiveness.
If you want to get a scientific answer to anything related to firearm violence, you’ll likely have to pay for it in the private sphere. Politicians who propose funding such an atrocity are targeted and harassed by the NRA. Meanwhile, the politicians who throttle legislation to study firearm violence receive massive contributions from the NRA (looking at you, Mitch McConnell!) The research has almost completely stopped. (The NIH did fund some programs after Sandy Hook, when President Obama argued that research was not the same as advocacy, but apparently that program stopped accepting new applications this January.)
This is all unbelievably stupid and unbelievably corrupt. We have an agency doing its best to suppress any attempt to learn the truth about gun violence because they are terrified that the truth might not coincide with their ideology. And they are aided at every turn by politicians who accept money from them. Why do we accept this?
We do not know how to best reduce gun violence because we’ve often been prevented from studying it. We know that homicide rates via gun violence rise and fall at specific times and specific places, but we cannot effectively evaluate why.
I believe in scientific study. I believe that some things are true and some things are not true and we have valid ways to try to distinguish between the two. Is the scientific method perfect? No. Is it a better way to acquire knowledge than tweets, memes and unverifiable internet stories? Yes. We still need actual research.
All this is NOT to say that firearms should be banned. (I personally want a gun, although my reasons probably differ from those of most gun owners.) I support the Second Amendment, as do most Americans. I also support reasonable gun restrictions, as do most Americans. As an ER doctor, I can attest that there is a downside to allowing people with poor impulse control access to deadly weapons, but perhaps that is the price we pay for freedom. However, I want to draw the line somewhere. There are very few of us who would be okay with handing out guns to anyone, no questions asked. I don’t like government regulations being applied to me any more than the next person, but I accept them as the price of living in a functional society. The question is: without banning guns altogether, which regulations are most effective?
I am standing up to publicly declare: I will not vote for any politician, ever again, who takes money from the NRA. I will not vote for any politician, ever again, who tries to suppress research into gun violence. Let our scientists evaluate the facts, and then perhaps you can convince me that fewer gun regulations will make me safer. If lax gun laws actually make us less safe, then own it. Let’s work together to figure out which restrictions we can accept.
But don’t try to block the research because someone giving you money is afraid to learn the truth.