“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
A bronze plaque in the iconic Statue of Liberty proclaims those words. It is a call to what liberty, what equality, what compassion looks like. It is a call to all of America and those arriving on her shores to live into the ideals of what a truly great nation looks like.
Two hundred and twenty-five miles away from that monument, the current leader of our nation sits at his desk in an oval room (unless, of course, it is a golfing weekend for him – which it to say, unless it is the weekend). To a rational observer, it seems he is hell bent on reshaping the nation. His reshaping runs counter not only to what our founder fathers imagined we could one day be, but it also runs counter to the teachings of the religion that he professes to follow.
There is an ever-gaping hypocrisy between what his embarrassingly limited vocabulary says (or tweets) he will do, and the laws he supports and signs. What a person can be certain of is that he has no qualms with spouting verbiage that has no reality behind it nor intent to put reality behind it. Put simply: he lies.
But, for those paying attention, that’s no surprise.
That’s where the problem comes in. As frightening as it is, there are those who are deeply bothered by my accusation that the President lies. It is as if a certain segment of society has fully disengaged their evolved ability to gather data and extrapolate rational thought, and have chosen instead to live blissfully out of what neuroscientists refer to as their reptilian brains. It’s all about aggression, dominance, territoriality, and ritual displays. (It should be said, we all use this part of our brain, but only to a small degree).
Honestly, it seems to me that “aggression, dominance, territoriality, and ritual displays” perfectly describe not only those who somehow have found their way to continue to support him, but the Machiavellian proposals and laws that we’ve seen coming out of our current national administration. Sure, they may have relabeled them as things like “gun-rights, America first, the Mexican wall, and patriotism,” but at their core they are an appeal to base instincts that are nation-damaging when they come absent of any morals or compassion.
Trump isn’t just killing our nation, he is killing the inclination for compassion of any sort by a whole segment of our society.
I’m not saying that the United States was ever as compassionate as our ideals should lead us to be. I’m just saying that Trump is about to beckon in an age when, if you aren’t one of “us” (read as U.S born, white, male, Christian, straight, and conservative), we aren’t even going to pretend like you or your rights matter to us anymore.
In his America we only say, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” when we need new people for our boots to trample upon, so that we may feed our reptilian brain and assure it that just by being born who you are you are somehow better than everyone who is not like you.
As a minister, I must say I have a hard time believing that Trump has any desire to be a Christ follower. The way he treats other people, particularly those some would label as “the least of these,” is about as far from Christ-like as I can imagine.
But the reality is, he’s President. Whether he is good at practicing his religion is really beside the point. Via the Electoral College he has been entrusted with the care of this nation and its people. He’s been entrusted to help insure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to our citizens and in equal measure. Instead, he is catering to a select few and rallying his supporters to behave in ways that all but insure the inability of non-white, non-male, non-Christian, non-straight, non-conservative people to have a life of equality and the pursuit of happiness. And, he and his party are actively pursuing policies that insure citizens do not receive justice in equal measure.
While the compassionate America that our historical ideals held out to us as who we should strive to be have never been fully met, it seems to me we’ve arrive at a great tipping point in U.S. history. Will we silently allow this administration to put an end to the hope of a compassionate and equal America? Or will we resist?