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donald and hillary

Trump’s Man Card Is Self-Loathing Hatred

Earlier in the week, Donald Trump accused Hillary Clinton of playing the “woman card.” It’s a bit hypocrital, don’t you think?

I mean, nobody plays the gender card better than Donald Trump. He is the stereotypical male – and he’s loud about it. For Trump, to be male is to win so much that you’ll get sick of winning. He talks down to Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina, all while saying, “Oh but the women love me!” Do you remember what he said about Fiorina’s face? “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?” He boasts about defeating his male rivals. And do you remember one of the many low points in his campaign when he defended the size of his “hands“? Trump plays the man card more than anyone.

More than anyone except for maybe one group – internet trolls. I recently heard a story on “This American Life” about Lindy West, an author and former columnist for Jezebel. West writes with an honest passion about herself, especially about how she came to accept her body. She’s overweight and has worked through self-esteem issues. She now joyfully accepts herself for who she is.

Men viciously trolled her social media accounts. One man went so far as to create a false Twitter account of West’s recently deceased father. The man googled West’s family and filled the fake Twitter account with information about her father and siblings. Pretending to be her father, this troll tweeted that he was ashamed of Lindy.

Of course, West was hurt by the harmful tweets. She wrote an article about her deceased father’s twitter account and how much pain it caused her. The man who created the false Twitter account read her article and felt a sense of guilt for his actions. He emailed West, apologizing for his harmful tweets. Then they talked over the phone. In their recorded conversation, West asked the man why he trolled her. His response was stunning. He told West that he was overweight, too, but could never accept himself. In fact, he hated himself, and so projected his self-hatred onto her with tweets that seemed strong and aggressive, but stemmed from self-loathing hatred. As René Girard wrote in his book Resurrection from the Underground, “At the source of the hatred of the Other is the hatred of the Self.”

Trump and this troll are essentially the same. They are run by self-hatred. In order to deal with the hatred that plagues their lives, they play their “man card” by demeaning women. They act macho. They claim to be more powerful than they are because deep down they know they lack meaning in their lives. And, like most of us men, they have never been taught how to play the card that will help them manage their self-hatred, so they project their hatred onto women.

There is one difference between Trump and the troll. The troll became more of a man when he apologized for being a jerk. In apologizing, he found a little more self-acceptance.

The humble ability to say I’m sorry. That’s one of the most important cards men need in our deck.

Image: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton During United States Presidential Elections 2016, Wikimedia Commons.

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Let’s Make America Meh

Donald Trump wants to “Make America Great Again.” Hillary Clinton claims America has never stopped being great. But maybe we should just try to make America meh.

Here’s a question, how do we define American greatness? In politics, American greatness is usually described in comparison with other nations. This comparison is part of human nature. As René Girard states in his masterful book on human social dynamics called Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, to be human is to have a tendency “to compare oneself with others.”

What’s true on the personal level is also true on the national level. Historically, the United States has compared our greatness to other nations – England, France, China, Germany, and Russia, for example. But now we also compare ourselves to terrorist organizations. Our greatness as a nation is being defined by our ability to destroy al-Qaeda and ISIS.

To make America meh would be to stop defining our “greatness” in comparison with other nations. On an individual and national level, comparing ourselves with others leads to relationships of constant and escalating rivalry.

Many of us are addicted to that rivalry. We gain a sense of “greatness” by being against our enemies. But that’s a false sense of greatness. It may give us a temporary high, a sense of meaning in our lives, but we will always need another fix, another enemy to be against.

True greatness isn’t formed in a relationship against our enemies. Rather, true greatness is formed in a relationship with our enemies. Or, as Jesus put it, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

When we are addicted to rivalry with our enemies, loving them might give us a sense of meh. Or, even worse, some may claim that Jesus’ command to love our enemies is naïve. But in an age where weapons of mass destruction can be obtained by almost anyone, it’s naïve to think relationships of escalating rivalry will make us safe.

Girard ends his book The Scapegoat with this apocalyptic warning, “The time has come for us to forgive one another. If we wait any longer there will not be time enough.”

Love? Forgiveness? They might make us feel pretty meh. But at this point in human history, they are our greatest hope.

Image: Flickr, Donkey Hotey, Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump – Caricatures, Creative Commons License, some changes made.

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There’s Nothing New About A Contested Convention

Editor’s Note: As mimetic creatures, we are connected to one another not only in the present, but also across time. Being able to think historically helps us to understand how we are shaped by what we have deemed worthy of memory, while an understanding of mimetic theory helps us to look back at our history and search for the unheard voices. Dr. Tracy McKenzie’s articles provide us with a rich, complex understanding of the past that neither romanticizes nor scapegoats those who came before us. This deeper understanding can inform our present.

In this installment of his series of articles drawing on the wisdom of the past to reflect on our current election cycle, Dr. McKenzie puts political conventions into historical perspective to show us how the possibility of a contested convention is by no means unprecedented.

 

Think of your forefathers!  Think of your posterity!—John Quincy Adams

So what would you make of the following scenario?

In a highly charged election year, the Republican Party faces a showdown at its impending national convention.  The field of presidential contenders has been large, and no single candidate will come to the convention with a majority of the delegates behind him.  Candidate A of New York is the clear front runner, and for months his rank-and-file supporters have considered him the presumptive nominee.  But Republican elites are lukewarm about A.  His reputation as an extremist gives them pause, and despite the enthusiasm of A’s followers, they worry that A will fare poorly in the general election.  They fear that A is unelectable, and by nominating him they will not only sacrifice any chance at the presidency but harm Republican candidates for state and federal offices as well.  The future of the party hangs in the balance.

As the opposition to A becomes ever more outspoken, a “Stop A” movement works frantically behind the scenes to rally behind a single alternative.  The number of potential nominees makes this difficult, however, and the divisions within the “Stop A” movement look to be crippling.  Candidate B is a southern conservative with tenuous links to party leaders.  Candidate C is an economic and social conservative who has risen to prominence in the Senate but made too many enemies along the way.  Candidate D is a northeasterner with a following in his own state but viewed elsewhere as a corrupt opportunist.  Candidate E has none of these liabilities, but as the convention approaches this Midwesterner is the first choice of only one state: his own.

Although candidate A commands a sizable plurality of delegates when the convention opens, candidate E’s campaign team goes to the convention determined to deny A a first-ballot nomination and open the door for E.  Unabashedly pragmatic, their message to delegate after delegate emphasizes expediency.  E is electable.  A is not.  E lacks A’s negative baggage and is widely respected.  He is a unifier who has been careful not to denigrate the other candidates.  E’s promoters encourage A’s delegates to consider E as a good second choice if it becomes clear that A cannot win a majority on the convention floor.  Where it promises to be helpful, E’s team makes thinly veiled offers of future political favors to delegations willing to switch their support to E after the initial ballot.  A significant number of wavering delegates are even willing to shift their allegiance before the balloting begins.

In the end, the strategy works.  On the first ballot, A takes 37% of the vote to E’s 22% (with candidates B, C, and D trailing even farther behind).  But as delegates are released from their first-ballot pledge to support A, the momentum shifts decidedly toward E on the second ballot, and by the third ballot E claims the nomination over A.  E’s margin of victory?  A razor-thin 50.5% to 49.5 percent.

So how would you evaluate the outcome of this contested convention?  Was it a miscarriage of justice?  An assault on democracy?  A “brokered” behind-the-scenes deal that bartered the wishes of the people? Or was it a politically prudent compromise that secured the best outcome realistically available?

If you say that you don’t have enough information to answer the question, you would be right.  But in thinking through the scenario, it might be helpful to know that it isn’t hypothetical.  It’s my best attempt to summarize the nomination of Abraham Lincoln in 1860.  Candidates A, B, C, and D were Republicans William Seward, Edward Bates, Salmon Chase, and Simon Cameron.  We don’t know how this year’s Republican slugfest will play out, of course, but so far I’d say there are some pretty striking similarities to the 1860 Republican contest.  And although Donald Trump has modestly proclaimed that he is as “presidential” as Abraham Lincoln, right now the person best approximating that role is probably John Kasich.

So what does this analogy prove?  Can it help us to predict how the race for the Republican nomination will come out?  Can it teach us how it should come out?

Absolutely not.  The point of listening to the past is not to get easy answers to contemporary problems.  I cringe whenever I hear someone in the public opining ponderously about what “history proves.”  We study the past not as a storehouse of simple lessons but as an aid to thinking more deeply, more self-consciously, and hopefully more wisely as we meet the future.  History promotes wisdom, when it does, by expanding the range of our experiences to draw from.  As C. S. Lewis put it figuratively in “Learning in Wartime,” the student of history has lived in many times and places, and that greater breadth of perspective aids us as we seek to think wisely and live faithfully in our own historical moment.

I suspect that much of the popular hyperventilating about the prospect of a contested Republican convention stems from the fact that the last multi-ballot nomination of a major-party candidate came in 1952, before the vast majority of Americans were born.  And because we have no memory from before we were born—only people with historical knowledge can have that—we are vulnerable to all kinds of nonsense from those who would prey on our ignorance.

The reality is that the presidential primary model that we take for granted today has been dominant for less than a half century.  The earliest presidential candidates were chosen without any popular involvement at all, hand-picked by party caucuses in Congress.  Beginning in the 1830s (following the lead of a bizarre coalition known as the Anti-Masonic Party), the major parties established the pattern of choosing candidates in party conventions.  And although some states began to hold presidential primaries as early as 1912, as late as the 1950s conventions still effectively made the final decision, and it was possible for a presidential candidate like Adlai Stevenson to win the nomination without running in a single state primary.

And unlike the conventions of the last half century—which are carefully choreographed, excruciatingly boring infomercials—the conventions between the 1830s and the 1950s were frequently contested.  It wasn’t just Abraham Lincoln who was nominated after multiple ballots.

Future president James K. Polk was nominated on the ninth ballot at the Democratic Convention in 1844.  In 1848 future Whig president Zachary Taylor was nominated on the fourth ballot.  Future Democratic president Franklin Pierce was nominated on the forty-ninth ballot in 1852 (and received no votes at all for the first thirty-five ballots).  Among other future presidents, James Buchanan was nominated on the seventeenth ballot in 1856, Rutherford Hayes on the seventh ballot in 1876, James Garfield on the thirty-sixth ballot in 1880, Benjamin Harrison on the eighth ballot in 1888, Woodrow Wilson on the forty-sixth ballot in 1912, and Warren G. Harding on the 10th ballot in 1920.  And although he lost in the general election, Democrat John W. Davis outdid them all, claiming his party’s nomination in 1924 on ballot number one hundred and three!

There was much that was broken about this system of selecting nominees.  Political bargains in proverbial “smoke-filled rooms” were the norm, and I’m not recommending that we return to them.  But these examples should give us pause and lead us to wrestle with some questions that might not otherwise occur to us about the current Republican contest.  Why, for one, would we assume that a candidate with a plurality of popular support has earned his party’s nomination?  Is it wrong to take “electability” into question in selecting a nominee?  Why do we think that a contested nominating convention is automatically disastrous for the party in question?  I have thoughts about all of these, but I’ll stop here and invite you to share what you think.

For more in this series, see also:

Offered In A Spirit Which Will Not Disgrace The Cause Of Truth

Words From The Past: James Madison On The Role Of Elected Leaders

George Washington on the “Spirit of Party”

“Neither Force Nor Will”: Alexander Hamilton on the Supreme Court

Should the American People Have a Say in the Supreme Court’s Direction?

Image: 1880 Republican National Convention by C.D. Mosher. Available via Wikipedia. Public Domain.

Dr. Robert Tracy McKenzie is the chair of the Department of History at Wheaton College. He is the author of The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us about Loving God and Learning from History ​from Intervarsity Press, along with two books pertaining to the American Civil War (published by Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press). He blogs at http://faithandamericanhistory.wordpress.com. 

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Quiz 6: To Bern or Trump The Economy? That is the Question!

Are you feeling the Bern? Or are you just feeling burned? Are you hoping to Trump the whole economic system that breeds inequality with a particular candidate? Or are you hoping that that candidate will get trumped, never to be seen again?

If we learn anything from the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, two candidates who challenge their party’s establishment base, it should be that a lot of people are not satisfied with the economic status quo. From racism to classism to sexism, inequality keeps many people from achieving the “American Dream,” turning lives into an American nightmare. Which of the following statements about the economy and inequality do you most agree with?

• Bernie Sanders claims to be a Democratic Socialist, but we all know what socialism means! If Sander is elected president, we’ll be hailing the Fuhrer of socialism! Capitalism made America great and socialism has always been our great enemy.
• Hold your horses, big guy. Socialism is not a bad word. In fact, America has always implemented socialist programs to help those in need. Veteran Affairs, social security, education, Medicare, public libraries, even our military and police departments that are meant to protect our society – whether we pay our taxes or not – are all socialist programs.
• White privilege is a myth and affirmative action should take class, not race, into account.
• Racism continues to be a destructive source of evil in the United States that guides our economic, judicial, and political systems to create inequality for minorities, but especially for African Americans.
• Trump knows how to make money and we need someone who knows how to make money to make America great again!

Change Your View: Inequality and the economy are major hot button issues at the moment. Despite the high emotions running on all sides of these contentious issues, there’s one thing that we all seem to agree on – our opponents are the problem! They and their misguided plans are sure obstacles to alleviating inequality and to fostering better economic opportunities for all people! The problem is that the one thing we agree on is the absolute wrong answer because scapegoating our opponents will not solve anything.

When we view our opponents as an obstacle to our goals, we become entrenched in an adversarial relationship of bitter rivalry. The only way out of that rivalry is to change our view about our opponents. Maybe, just maybe, they aren’t the willful obstructionist we think they are. If we change our view and start by assuming the good intentions of the other, we might be able to work together to create equal opportunity and a better economy that will benefit all people – including those we previously viewed as obstacles to overcome.

Image: Screenshot from Youtube. “Outsiders are in Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders lead in latest Iowa poll” by interesting on the planet.

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Quiz #2: The Candidate I Love to Hate

The Candidate I Love to Hate

  • In this campaign season, some of us are not just choosing a candidate to vote for. We are also choosing a candidate to hate! Some of us do this openly and some of us feel a bit ashamed about it. But this is an anonymous quiz, so no one will know how you answer.

Image: “Vote” by Maialisa. Available via Pixabay.

Change is coming! Be sure to enter the random drawing to win a $50 gift card at the online store Ten Thousand Villages. For 65 years, Ten Thousand Villages has been a leader in the fair trade movement, connecting artisans in developing countries with markets in North America. Every dollar spent on their site helps a family in poverty build a sustainable future. Visit Raven on April 15 to see what’s new on our site and to find out the winner of the drawing.

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Trump, Abortion, and a Better Conversation

By now you have probably heard the joke that Donald Trump has finally come through one of his major campaign promises.

“I will be a great unifier,” Trump boasted last October.

He finally did it. Donald Trump came through on his promise and unified the country. Democrats and Republicans have turned against him.

It started last night during an MSNBC town hall with Chris Matthews, who brought up abortion. Trump seemed very uncomfortable as he skirted around the issue, but Matthews continued to press him. Finally, Trump said that abortion “is a very serious problem” and that “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who have an abortion.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders quickly condemned Trumps remarks. Trump’s republican rivals for the GOP’s nomination, John Kasich and Ted Cruz, also criticized Trump for stating that women need to be punished when they have an abortion. Planned Parenthood accused Trump of being, “Flat-out dangerous.” Even Jeanne Mancini, president of the pro-life March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said Trump is, “completely out of touch with the pro-life movement and even more with women who have chosen such a sad thing as abortion.”

So, Trump has managed to unify each side of the hotly contested abortion debate. At least we can all agree that Trump is an idiot.

But can we find a better answer to the abortion debate than to unite against Trump? Or, as Daniel Kirk asks in his brilliant article, “Abortion: Is a Better Conversation Possible?

Kirk gives the best answer that I know, which is to find “the good that each side it trying to maintain.” For example, if we take Trump at his best (which is admittedly hard for me to do), he is trying to protect potential victims. That’s the argument of the pro-life side of the debate. It’s an argument about “rights.” The unborn have rights, and if we don’t protect their right to life, then they become our victims.

But those who advocate for a woman’s right to have an abortion claim that women should have the right to protect their bodies, to financial security, and to privacy. If we don’t protect a woman’s right to have an abortion, then they become our victim.

So, each side is trying to maintain the good of protecting a potential victim. It’s worth pausing here to consider how important and rare in history the concern for victims is. As René Girard claims, the concern for victims is found primarily in the modern world:

 Examine ancient sources, inquire everywhere, dig up the corners of the planet, and you will not find anything anywhere that even remotely resembles our modern concern for victims. The China of the Mandarins, the Japan of the Samaria, the Hindus, the pre-Columbian societies, Athens, republican or imperial Rome—none of these were worried in the least little bit about victims, whom they sacrificed without number to their gods, to the honor of the homeland, to the ambition of conquerors, small or great.

But Trump’s statement reveals the dark side to the modern concern for victims. Trump is able to gain power by actually claiming to be a victim. He declares himself to be a victim of “political correctness.” As he claims the title of victim, he’s able to assert the authority to demean and punish anyone he sees as a potential victimizer. He is consumed with power, and his method to gaining power is to claim to be a victim of the media, the liberals, the republican establishment, and anyone who might criticize him.

Trump has corrupted the modern concern for victims. We should be concerned for victims, but when we become victimizers in order to protect victims, we become the very thing we are against.

And this is where those of us who are finding a sense of unity against Trump need to be careful. As Trump becomes hostile towards women, Muslims, Mexicans, the poor, and even the handicapped, we can easily mimic his hostility by uniting against him.

And that’s exactly what he wants us to do. He wants to be our victim, so that he can rally his supporters with a spirit of hostility and bitterness.

Playing by Trump’s rules will not help us have a better conversation about abortion. It will only lead us down the path of hostility and bitterness. Having a better conversation about these hot button issues begins by acknowledging that the other side is directed towards the good desire to protect potential victims. A better conversation continues with the fact that in a democracy, sometimes we have to make difficult choices about issues like abortion. But when we start by assuming the good intentions of the other side, we will refuse to demonize our opponents and we hold our positions with humility, grace, and mercy.

That’s how we can have a better conversation.

Image: Screenshot from YouTube.

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Playing With Guns

Editor’s Note: Chicago-based journalist Robert Koehler’s articles are intuitively Girardian. While he may not write specifically about mimetic theory, his articles demonstrate the contagious nature of violence, and more importantly, inspire hope in the contagious power of compassion. We are honored to feature his articles every Thursday.

You shouldn’t play with guns, unless you do it the way “Jim” apparently did.

His gun play — a (seemingly) satirical petition at change.org — has enveloped the looming Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer in awkward surrealism and forced the three Republican presidential candidates to duck for cover from their own words.

The petition, posted by Hyperationalist, who later identified himself to certain curious reporters as a proponent of gun sanity named Jim, demanded that the Quicken Loans Arena, where the convention will be held, lift its ban on guns in the building and that the Republican National Committee explain “how a venue so unfriendly to Second Amendment rights” was chosen for the convention.

“We are all too familiar with the mass carnage that can occur when citizens are denied their basic God-given rights to carry handguns or assault weapons in public,” the petition reads. “EVERY AMERICAN HAS THE RIGHT TO PROTECT AND DEFEND THEIR FAMILY. With this irresponsible and hypocritical act of selecting a ‘gun-free zone’ for the convention, the RNC has placed its members, delegates, candidates and all US citizens in grave danger.

“We must take a stand. We cannot allow the national nominating convention of the party of Lincoln and Reagan to be hijacked by weakness and political correctness. The policies of the Quicken Loans Arena do not supersede the rights given to us by our Creator in the U.S. Constitution.”

The petition has garnered over 50,000 signatures and forced responses from the Secret Service and the three candidates, all of whom had stood four-square against gun-free zones as dangerous invitations for terrorists and psychos to have a little fun. Donald Trump, the king of nuanced restraint, described such zones as “target practice for the sickos and for the mentally ill.”

Oh bluster! In the World’s Greatest Pseudo-Democracy that is America, presidential candidates can say anything they want because it’s all a show, it’s all a game. Our quadrennial presidential election has essentially nothing to do with reality because the country is run by a military-industrial corporatocracy which has, over the last seven decades, constructed a parallel infrastructure that can’t be touched by “the people.” This has given the Republicans, in particular, plenty of leeway to pander for votes with policy positions and vacuous blather that appeal at the level of junior high consciousness. But the blather is only supposed to travel in one direction.

So when it bounced back, in the form of a satirical but real-seeming petition demanding that guns and “Second Amendment rights” be allowed inside the Quicken Loans Arena, the Secret Service had to step parentally into the controversy and declare: uh, no way. Guns not allowed. And the glorious three, Trump, Cruz and Kasich, all quietly repressed their guns-R-us bombast and acceded to the Secret Service ruling. In the real world, that’s what made sense.

“I’m 100 percent genuine in my belief that they should be able to have guns at their convention,” the mysterious Jim told Rolling Stone. “It’s consistent with state law, and if people who go to movie theaters and malls and shopping places and restaurants have the quote-unquote ‘protection’ of the open-carrying citizens around them, well, I think the GOP should have the same. . . .

“I’m fighting for their rights by taking them at face value.”

He also brought up the awkward possibility that gun-saturated societies are on a dangerous hair-trigger — that open carry actually increases the possibility of violence — in which case, why is safety a greater concern at the Republican convention than elsewhere in Ohio? “Is there some variation,” he wondered, “in the value of life between presidential candidates, like Donald Trump, and the 7-year-old girl at McDonalds? I’m not sure I understand how they account for that distinction.”

So we have yet another layer of surrealism contextualizing the 2016 presidential race. This isn’t what’s supposed to be happening. It’s supposed to be Hillary vs. Jeb and business as usual continues unchallenged, with a wall still separating real America from pseudo-democratic, reality-TV America. We the voters are supposed to remain safely ensconced in our role not as participants in the country’s future but as consumers of our favorite brand of election-year bullshit.

We’re not supposed to notice that our leaders (and our secret leaders) have no interest in transitioning to a globally cooperative, environmentally sustainable way of being on this planet. We’re not supposed to notice that the U.S. military budget remains unchallenged or that our world grows increasingly dangerous as our wars against terror and evil continue unabated.

And even if we do notice, we’re supposed to surrender to cynicism and shrug that nothing can be done about it.

And then, I guess, we’re supposed to arm ourselves. But I say there’s a difference between being armed and being empowered. Just ask Jim.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

© 2016 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.

Image: Public Domain via Pixabay

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Islam Does Not Hate Us. Muslims Want To Be Our Friends.

I can’t help but feel sorry for Donald Trump. But he’s not the only one for whom I feel sorry.

Donald Trump may be the loudest voice in politics right now, but his recent bombastic quip, “I think Islam hates us,” no doubt ineloquently utters what many others must think. For all the talk about the need to separate terrorists and extremists from the vast majority of Muslims, untold numbers of whom are active peacemakers, United States policy toward Muslims has been marked by suspicion at home and genocide abroad. Surveillance of mosques, closing Muslim charities on “secret evidence,” and racially profiling Muslims are regular courses of action here at home. And in at least 8 predominantly Muslim countries, drone strikes based on “patterns of behavior” —  without even knowing the identities of the targets —  obliterate human life. Up to 90 percent of the strike victims are not the intended targets, but, as long as they are military-aged males, they are obscenely deemed guilty unless posthumously proven innocent. Drone strikes are just part of a military policy that prioritizes profit over human life and is genocidal at heart, as it demonizes and denies the humanity of its victims. The treatment of Muslims as enemies must lead many people to believe that Muslims hate us. After all, if we wish to see our violence as noble, honorable and righteous, we must believe our enemies to be malicious, evil, and filled with hatred. And if United States policy does not make more than a lip-service effort to distinguish between most Muslims and terrorists (drones and missiles are certainly incapable of making such a distinction), then it stands to reason that many must believe the delusion Donald Trump himself seems to be under, that there is something about Islam that engenders enmity.

And I can’t help but feel sorry for anyone under such a delusion, because it is clear that anyone who believes that “Muslims hate us” is not blessed, as I and many others are, with wonderful, compassionate, inspirational Muslim friends.

To know Muslims like the dear sisters who have been among my closest friends for over 20 years is to know that Islam at its best is a faith that brings out compassion, mercy, thirst for justice, and love in its adherents. It is a faith that encourages kindness and respect, one that seeks peace and forbids compulsion. It has pacifist as well as militant interpretations, with most believers falling within the middle of the spectrum, but the vast majority of Muslims site the Qur’anic prohibition of war except in matters of self-defense. To know Muslims is to know that they are just like everyone else, and to understand that there is nothing about Islam that renders it incompatible or hostile to modernity. And to have good Muslim friends, for whom faith is an essential part of their identity, is to have friends who value mercy and compassion, as these are the two attributes of God most frequently cited in the Qur’an. Friendships like those I have with my Muslim friends are rare, nurtured by values we share generated by the same God, worshipped differently but mutually understood to be the author of compassion, forgiveness, and love.

To have good Muslim friends is to understand not only how wrong Donald Trump is, but also how very much he is missing out upon when he mistakenly says that “Islam hates us.”

And to have good Muslim friends is to understand that there are now unprecedented levels of Islamophobia sweeping the nation, higher levels than there have been in the 14 and a half years since the September 11th attacks. To have good Muslim friends is to be unable to ignore the devastation being wrought against Muslims at home and abroad. It is to understand the tragic counter-productivity of our violence, which, in the name of defeating terror, creates more terrorists out of desperate, drone-orphaned children or grieving, enraged parents. And it is to recognize the counter-productivity in policies and rhetoric and bullying and vigilante violence here at home that play directly into the hands of the leaders of ISIS.

ISIS uses the chaos and desperation wrought by over a decade of war to convince Muslims that the world is against them and spur violence. Islamophobic attitudes and policies that isolate Muslims do far more to help than harm ISIS, which feeds off of the isolation such policies engender. For the frontrunner of a political party to claim that there is something inherently hateful about Islam is to further marginalize and isolate Muslims. And the message that America hates Islam will be easier for ISIS to sell to Muslims who are shunned, insulted, and assaulted, as well as Muslims who have lost their dreams, their futures, and their loved ones. As Donald Trump expresses desire to mirror the tactics of ISIS to fight ISIS, he ironically mirrors the recruiting techniques of ISIS – spreading fear and hatred which will result in individual violence and support for institutionalized violence. And while he recruits against Muslims, he also recruits for the very extremists he wishes to defeat.

And in spite of all of this, the majority of Muslims in the United States and worldwide shun the recruitment efforts of ISIS and other extremist organizations using the veneer of religion to claim legitimacy for their violence. The majority of Muslims do not hate America, because they distinguish between the people and the policies, value our common humanity, and wish above all for peace. Muslims make an effort to distinguish American citizens from the leaders who call for indiscriminant bans on immigration, heartless deportation of refugees, and “making sand glow in the dark” from bombs that will kill civilians along with ISIS. (Yes, I know that was Cruz, not Trump. The point is that multiple leaders are ratcheting up the violent rhetoric.) Claims that it is hard to distinguish between peaceful Muslims and those with hostile intentions are as dangerous as they are lazy, because Muslims are among those who must be most vigilant against hate crimes, and they are still willing and able to befriend their non-Muslim neighbors.

In fact, Muslims around the nation are actively reaching out to befriend us all, in an effort to quell Islamophobia, show hospitality, and build bridges to peace and mutual understanding. I recently attended an event in DuPage County, IL, “Know Your Muslim Neighbor” which drew a crowd of over 1000 people, nearly evenly divided between Muslims and non-Muslims. Speakers included Dr. Larycia Hawkins, who spoke of the need for human solidarity across division. Illinois Institute of Technology Muslim Student Association president Mohsin Ishaq (pictured above) expressed the love his parents had for the United States and their faith in the American dream when they immigrated from India before he was born. And Rev. James Honig of Faith Lutheran Church exuded gratitude to the many Muslim friends who prayed for his newborn grandchild. Muslims and non-Muslims were seated side-by-side in order to come to know each other, just as the Qur’an stipulates (49:13). The event was a testimony to solidarity and peacemaking. And it is just the beginning. In my county alone there are at least 6 upcoming “open mosque events” to foster interfaith friendship. It is worth looking to see what kinds of similar events may be taking place in your area.

I hope Donald Trump and anyone who has yet to experience the joys of friendship with Muslims will take advantage of such events. Friends of all faiths and no faith at all are blessings. Friends who open us to new perspectives, through a different race or religion or culture or ideology, are treasures. Freedom from fear of the “other”—freedom to realize that there is no “other,” is the beginning of peace.

Muslims do not hate us. They are a part of us. We are incomplete without them. May we all come together in our common humanity, for the sake of this fragile world so desperate for love.

Image: Screenshot from Youtube: “We the People: Stand Together With Your Muslim Neighbor” by s khalil.

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Politics And The Golden Rule

Editor’s Note: Chicago-based journalist Robert Koehler’s articles are intuitively Girardian. While he may not write specifically about mimetic theory, his articles demonstrate the contagious nature of violence, and more importantly, inspire hope in the contagious power of compassion. We are honored to feature his articles every Thursday.

“What I’m not trying to do is just pass legislation. I’m trying to change the face of American politics.”

Pull these words out of the context of “the news” and let them pulse like the heartbeat of the future.

The words are those of Bernie Sanders, of course — engaged last week in a confrontational interview with Chris Matthews. Free college tuition? Matthews loosed his skepticism on the presidential candidate, who pushed back:

“You and I look at the world differently. You look at it inside the Beltway. I’m not an inside the Beltway person.”

“But the people that vote on taxes are inside the Beltway,” Matthews retorted.

“Those people are going to vote the right way when millions of people demand that they vote the right way on this issue. I have no doubt that as president of the Untied Stated I can rally young people and their parents on this issue. . . . As president of the United States, I would have the bully pulpit. What I’m not trying to do is just pass legislation. I’m trying to change the face of American politics.”

I listen in disbelief and feel hope percolate as poll results come in. This week Sanders triumphed in my wounded home state of Michigan, confounding the media and political status quo yet again. Is this really a revolution emerging from a presidential race?

That’s not supposed to happen. And I find myself skeptically embracing the possibility, spurred by the near total cynicism and intentional cluelessness of the mainstream media. For the past half century, the American media, in collaboration with the military-industrial corporatocracy — the Beltway — has delivered up issueless presidential campaigns to the American public. Business as usual, in all its manifestations, is not to be disrupted. Until now.

Something uncontrolled is happening in American politics. Trump supporters raise their hands in pledges of brand allegiance and the ghost of fascism smirks. America’s racists, so marginalized all these years, converge at the edges of his campaign, knowing that his “disavowal” of the Klan is a wink-wink, nudge-nudge sort of thing. He’s their man. Allegedly respectable Republicans convulse.

Among the Dems, Sanders is bringing democracy to the disaffected, calling not for slivers of social fairness but a full-blown re-emergence of the New Deal, in defiance of the Democrats’ post-Reagan allegiance to compromised ideals. He’s standing up for the sovereignty not of Beltway politics but of working-class America — the people! — reopening the door of participatory politics and declaring that the American government should not be for sale.

I’m so close to believing in the revolution — in this reclamation of the United States of America.

At a recent debate, a woman in the audience asked Sanders: “Do you think God is relevant?”

He answered yes, to serious applause, explaining: “What we are talking about is what all religions hold dear, and that is to do unto others as you would like them to do unto you. . . . I believe morally and ethically we do not have a right to turn our backs on children in Flint, Mich., who are being poisoned or veterans who are sleeping out on the street. . . . I want you to worry about my grandchildren and I promise you I will worry about your family. We are in this together.”

And the Golden Rule enters the presidential race and I stand in awe of the potency of this ethical imperative. It’s the opposite of the spectator idiocy of “my guy is better than your guy,” the state to which the media has reduced American democracy.

If the Golden Rule is not simply a personal but a political principle, we cannot wage war. And knowing this, I can’t think about social fairness without feeling a shattering sense of despair . . .

“The United States launched a series of airstrikes on an al-Shabab training camp in Somalia on Saturday, killing more than 150 militants and averting what a Pentagon official described as an ‘imminent threat’ posed by the group to both U.S. and African Union troops stationed in the war-torn country.”

As Glenn Greenwald put it, reflecting on this latest impersonal news about dead bad guys: “We need U.S. troops in Africa to launch drone strikes at groups that are trying to attack U.S. troops in Africa. It’s the ultimate self-perpetuating circle of imperialism: We need to deploy troops to other countries in order to attack those who are trying to kill U.S. troops who are deployed there.”

And here’s the beginning of an open letter written by four former U.S. Air Force drone operators, which they sent last November to President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and CIA Chief John Brennan: “We are former Air Force service members. We joined the Air Force to protect American lives and to protect our Constitution. We came to the realization that the innocent civilians we were killing only fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantanamo Bay. This administration and its predecessors have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.

“When the guilt of our roles in facilitating this systematic loss of innocent life became too much, all of us succumbed to PTSD. . . .”

Changing the face of American politics is a profound, unfathomably difficult undertaking, but it’s nothing at all if it doesn’t begin with the Golden Rule. And this rule cannot be selectively applied.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

© 2016 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.

Image: “The Golden Rule of Religions” by drakoheart. Available on Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike 2.0 license.

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Trump: The GOP’s Monstrous Double

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by guest author Ellen Corcella.

Marco Rubio took on a new persona for the February 25, 2016 Republican presidential debate hosted by CNN.  He transformed himself from a sound-bite constrained candidate to an attack dog.  In an online article the day after the debate, CNN’s reporter Eric Bradner wrote that Rubio owned the stage and “mercilessly prodded, slammed and taunted Trump, talking over him in a sustained way.”  Rubio was not the only transformed candidate, because Ted Cruz also went on a sustained attack on Trump’s lack of conservative credentials.  Trump, meanwhile, continued to be Trump, making fun of Rubio’s perspiration and calling Cruz a liar.  Plainly, the campaign has devolved into a chaotic trading of personal insults and accusations that appear to have little to do with presidency of the U.S.

The mainstream media is fueling this politics of personal destruction and asking questions that do not relate to the functions needed in our next president. Repeating Rubio’s accusations through several news cycles, as well as Trump’s responses, the media wonders — Is Rubio running scared? Is the Republican conservative establishment trying to block Trump’s triumphant march to the GOP presidential nomination?  Has the GOP woken up too late to stop Trump? Only time will answer the media’s questions, but the more critical question is why are the key candidates acquiescing to Trump’s strategy of chaos, personal insults and tirades against each other, and is this what the GOP really wants as a U.S. President?

I suggest that the phenomenon we are witnessing is mimetic and imitative rivalry.  According to cultural theorist René Girard, the more the rivalry intensifies, the more the rivals begin to look like each other.  The imitation runs both ways and, in the same week, Trump promised to be nicer and use less foul language in imitation of rivals.  So, we are witnessing the emergence of doubles.  Girard tells us this is an ironic process because as rivals strenuously protest their differences, their likenesses becomes more apparent and the rivalry becomes uglier and more violent.

The GOP presidential primaries have turned ugly and chaotic. In the days after that debate, Cruz, Rubio and Trump have relentlessly hurled insults at the other and, in the process, have participated in the denigration and demeaning of the U.S.’s political process.  In a nation haunted by daily violence, I suggest that the last thing we need is to watch our carefully constructed political system, designed to promote democracy, implode upon itself.

The way a system rids itself of impending destructive violence is to heap responsibility for the chaos and disorder upon a scapegoat.  The last few days show that the establishment prefers a candidate willing to implement, without question, the Republican conservative agenda.

The problem is that Trump is not the illness; he is the symptom of a wider, deeper sickness within the political right and much of our larger political process.  The fact is the political right has been shouting, stomping, obstructing the “other” for decades.  The “other” is anyone that threatens to take away their power, privilege, money and prestige.  The GOP establishment wants a president who will defend their control of the wealth and resources of our country.

The true rivalry in this contest is not between Trump and the other presidential candidates; it is between Trump and the right wing Republican establishment. This became clear when Mitt Romney fiercely attacked Trump on the morning of the next presidential debate held a week later on March 3, 2016.  Romney told the crowd that Trump was not a genuine business success because he inherited his wealth.  Romney seems to have forgotten that he not only inherited his wealth, he inherited his access to power and political office.  His father, George Romney, was the president of the American Motor Corporation, the Governor of Michigan and the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under Richard Nixon.  Trump and Romney inherited their privileged positions in life, expanded their inherited fortunes and grew up with the kind of access to power the vast majority of us can only dream about.  Romney did not attack Trump’s policies because they mirror the heart of the GOP’s policy wishes; a desire for a bigger wall at our southern border and an intent to implement a national security policy based upon religion or ethnicity — Muslim or Syrian, for example — rather deterring the real threat of home grown terrorists and mass murderers.   Romney, Trump, Rubio and Cruz embrace economic, trade and labor policies that ensure the rich get richer and that ignore the U.S.’s deeply entrenched problems of poverty, income inequality, racial division and injustice.

The GOP believes Trump to be “monstrous” despite being the twin of the establishment because Trump drops the facade of political correctness, he openly trades on fear and anger, he is not beholden to anyone and he doesn’t play by any rules but his own.  The establishment’s response to Trump is much like the response of a young girl when she encountered her new baby sister coming home from the hospital with a dear friend — the daughter cried, “I wanted a sister, but not that sister.”  The GOP wanted a white, male, rich, privileged, antagonistic candidate like Cruz, but not the white, male, rich, privileged, antagonistic candidate who is winning –Trump.

The question is, how much violence will this destructive rivalry do to our political process?  Will the GOP accept the results of the primaries or take control of the nomination process to get their candidate?  My best estimation is that the establishment will continue to scapegoat Trump all the way to the Republican convention.  The ideological right will hold Trump responsible for the decline of civility in politics and will brand Trump as the true threat to our democratic process.   The Republicans will then congratulate themselves for not being like Trump and select one of Trump’s more palatable doubles as their presidential candidate.

Ellen-CorcellaEllen Corcella has a M.T.S., M.Div. from Christian Theological Seminary, a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center; her Master’s Thesis explored mimetic theory.

Editor’s Note: Would you like to submit an article for consideration to The Raven Foundation? Find out how in the guidelines of our new section, “Your Voice.” Articles published do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the staff at the Raven Foundation, but are selected primarily because of the way they enhance the conversation around mimetic theory.