Friends of Padre Steve’s World
I am on the way to Houston for my annual denomination Chaplain training symposium and as you have gathered from what I wrote last week I spend a good amount of time doing some reading and reflection.
One thing that I seem to be noticing in the current presidential race is the nearly blind certitude of most of the candidates, especially Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and this reminds me of something that I read. Barbara Tuchman wrote, “No one is so sure of his premises as the man who knows too little.” When I look at Cruz and Trump, I am struck by how this resonates. Now to be sure they are not alone, but they stand out because of the way that they talk about foreign and domestic policy, demonize all that oppose them, and act as if they, and they alone are the political messiah who can save the world, and to borrow Trump’s campaign slogan which is on every Chinese made baseball hat, “Make America Great Again.”
This particularly concerns me in matters of foreign policy and national security. Trump seems to be ready to destroy alliances that do benefit us a nation and to demean the leaders of allied nations even as he brags on totalitarian leaders like Russia’s President Putin. Cruz on the other hand, according to his speeches is willing to “carpet bomb our enemies” seems to be ready to begin a policy of total war to achieve his goals. Honestly, I would be more scared of Cruz than Trump, simply because Cruz masks his ignorance and blind hatred in a belief, that he is anointed by God to lead the United States.
Tuchman wrote, “Strong prejudices in an ill-formed mind are hazardous to government.”
I think that is at the root of many of our political maladies, and not just on the political right, where they their proponents, who show not an ounce of empathy; are stoked by hatred of the other, encouraged by religious intolerance, and bolstered by the power of myth masquerading as fact are incredibly dangerous and proto-fascist.
But to be fair, when I read what many supposed progressives write, they seem more like angry revolutionaries willing to destroy systems at any cost, without replacement systems ready, and without thinking of second, third and fourth order effects on society as a whole. Some seem to be as intolerant of debate and compromise as are their opponents on the political right.
I am a progressive; my beliefs about the banking systems, economic inequalities, universal health care, civil rights, gay rights, women’s rights, and the use of national power in foreign relations, are all progressive. But I am also a pragmatist, you have to think before you act and you have to do things one thing at a time and sometimes, in a democracy that takes time and true political wisdom is to sense the time.
As my real progressive hero Franklin Delano Roosevelt noted in words that seem as pertinent today as when he spoke them during the Great Depression, “From the end of the World War twenty-one years ago, this country, like many others, went through a phase of having large groups of people carried away by some emotion–some alluring, attractive, even speciously inspiring, public presentation of a nostrum, a cure-all….There always exists in a democratic society a large group which, quite naturally, champs at the bit over the slowness of democracy; and that is why it is right for us who believe in democracy to keep the democratic processes progressive–in other words, moving forward with the advances in civilization. That is why it is dangerous for democracy to stop moving forward because any period of stagnation increases the numbers of those who demand action and action now.”