December 15, 2015

How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Donald?

I bow to no man in my ability to say "what the f--k!', which is pretty much what Republicans have decided to do this election so far.  But I haven't decided to chuck it all yet, not with Hillary as the Dem candidate. The base responds, "we patiently offered moderates like McCain and Romney and look what it got us? So we just don't care anymore."

There's irony in how the reason for the dismay over the establishment is due to unfulfilled promises, given that Trump has upped the ante by making promises close to the level of "if I'm elected, I'll turn water into wine!"

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I'm transfixed that an Orthodox priest I know here in Columbus is supporting Trump and spoke before 15,000 people at a recent Trump rally. Pretty interesting to see a man of the cloth so into politics, and Trumpian politics at that.  "The Other" lives. People are complicated. It seems a cult of personality. People seem very susceptible to that, witness Pope Francis's popularity.

Jeb Bush said the Donald is a great politician and I'm beginning to believe it. One definition of a gifted pol is someone who can get away with stuff no one else could. Bill Clinton won despite a myriad of lies, bimbo eruptions and shady land deals. Obama won despite (what I considered at the time) fatal flaws of  the “cling to God and guns” comment (is that any better than Romney's 47% comment?), as well as the Rev Wright and Bill Ayers connections. And Trump has survived birtherism, flip-flops and a dust-up with Republican powerhouse Fox News. I think it comes down to all three being liked so much. You can't trump likability, no pun intended.

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On the subject of Muslim immigration, I've read of a proposal that gets at the heart of the problem: not religion but a need to vet our values. George W Bush famously went to free Iraq and remake the Middle East in his image -- into a freedom-loving paradise -- and the same problem seems to be present in our immigration policy in which we assume everybody is the same, all cultures equal, and nobody really wants Sharia law except for a few terrorists.

It's hard to get any sort of impartial narrative on something like Muslim immigration. People on the right are subject to prejudice. People on the left are subject to debilitating liberal guilt. So it's hard to get purchase on it.

One real-life experiment: Lewiston, Maine, a 99% white town until Somali immigrants came in huge waves beginning in 2001.

I found an article on Huffington Post that suggested this was the model for the country of beautiful integration and multiculturalism. While Ann Coulter pointed to increased crime and how the mayor said back in 2002 “no more, please! We can't take any more Somalis”.

So what's the truth?

The mayor did say that and has since retired.

Crime rate hasn't gone up. So in that sense the statistics, impartially, don't bear out the complaints of some whites there. Of course since second generation Muslims tend to be a bigger problem, so it's still way early.

A white, Republican anti-welfare mayor of the town just won a third term despite the place being mostly Democratic. This speaks louder than words: for all the pretend peacefulness, there's a whole lot of white Democrat voters there who are crossing the aisle because they like what they're hearing on the other side. Mostly they are sick, it seems, of Somalis gaming the welfare state. Is this a prejudice? Who knows, but it sure suggests ain't everything all hunky-dory.

Then I looked at the Minneapolis Somalis.  Nicht gut. The best intentions lead to Hell. A lot of Somalis were brought here by Lutheran Social Service back in the 90s and now even NPR has a piece about ISIS recruitment in Minneapolis. Our own little hotbed of potential extremism, which "has legs" since extremists generally come in the second generation of immigrants, not first.  Is it fair to laden our grandchildren not only with crushing debt but jihadists? Even Angela Merkel, no Donald Trump, says multiculturalism is a sham and a lie.

At war within me: safety versus generosity. It seems zero-sum. Taking in refugees is a noble and generous thing. I think of how life is not the greatest value, that God is, and that God chose love over life (in the short run). The Second Person of the Trinity was a migrant from Heaven, a migrant into a death-dealing world as vicious - at least to Jesus - as Yemen or Syria. And yet he chose to mingle with us.

I was musing on this as my grandson was lulling me to sleep with his cuddling next to me on the recliner, him watching YouTube videos of superheroes and me reading about one of my superheros, St. Francis, and in particular how he dealt with the Muslim Sultan when he famously ambled through the DMZ during one crusade talked to the Islamic chieftain. While history is different it rhymes, and so perhaps the key to the current predicament of how to deal with the Muslim headache can be answered by that saint of yore.

I see two promising books on the subject, one from a conservative side (mentioning immediately Pope John Paul's comment to Mother Teresa, "watch out for the Muslims!") and one from the liberal.  I'll probably end up more confused than ever.  Making it even worse is how the US bishops seem definitely on the liberal end of things.

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