Plenty has been said about how Donald Trump’s election wasn’t legitimate. Congressman John Lewis said that his presidency would be illegitimate. I forget which news magazine, but one of them posted a story online about how Trump’s biggest fear is having his legitimacy questioned.
Some would cite how he lost the popular vote by more than 2.8 million. Some argue that he’s unqualified and unprepared. Of course, there’s the fact that Russia meddled in the election process. What’s worse, it would seem that FBI Director William Comey helped. What would be treasonous is if Trump himself knew about it or had a part in it- of course, we do have him on video inviting Russia to hack us.
Not to mention the archaic and many of us feel unnecessary vestige of the slave era, the electoral college.
It ought to be self-evident that any or all of these facts render Trump illegitimate, but I would like to point out that what really makes him illegitimate is his lack of principles- or more to the point, the fact that his behavior and policies are contrary to America’s founding principles.
In his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. challenged the United States to finally stand up and live out “the true meaning of its creed,” that “all men are created equal.” Lets look at some of our principles.
In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson expounds on three core democratic principles.
- All men are created EQUAL- Trump antagonizes Latinos, dehumanizes African Americans, subjugates women, and ridicules people with special needs.
- And endowed by their creator with certain inalienable RIGHTS- From First Amendment rights to a free press and freedom of assembly, to women’s rights, to LGBT rights. About the only rights that Trump & Co. supports are gun rights.
- (SOCIAL CONTRACT) To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.- This is a man who routinely breaks contracts and promises. If he or his cabinet appointees abandon or abolish entire departments and agencies of the Federal government, or slash Social Security, Medicare or veterans’ benefits as alleged, that’s not draining the swamp or bucking the establishment, that’s breaking the social contract. By refusing to make public his taxes or documents connected to business conflicts of interest, by continuing to benefit from foreign business investments, by refusing to divest himself of his businesses, he has broken the social contract and in some cases already violated the Constitution before ever taking office.
Not only does he have severe issues with these three most fundamental principles of our republic, but also with the principles that Madison and Hamilton wove into the Preamble to our Constitution.
- We the people- I believe that Trump cares about himself; he clinically suffers from narcissistic personality disorder at worst, an immature sociopath at best.
- In order to form a more perfect Union- Trump may say he want’s us to come together and to win again or make America great again- but he was divisive even of his own party while he was running in the primaries. His base supporters wave confederate flags. Never since the Civil War have we been so polarized. This is the furthest thing from unity.
- Establish Justice- We have been failing poor people and minorities, especially African Americans through our criminal justice system. Not all police are racist and it’s not anti-police to recognize that we have systemic inequality in the grand jury processes and in our penal system. Does anyone believe that appointing an Attorney General who jokes about the Klu Klux Klan being too socially liberal will address these injustices?
- Domestic Tranquility- He has encouraged violent treatment of dissenters at his rallies, incited and failed to condemn racism and violence perpetrated by his supporters and he plans to continue holding rallies even though the election is over. This is the opposite of seeking harmony or reconciliation.
- Common Defense- He joked about carpet bombing Middle Eastern countries during the campaign and has alienated our allies, saying that NATO is obsolete and antagonized China and North Korea. He has been reckless in matters of state and ignored Defense and State Department protocols for reaching out to foreign leaders. He has refused to hear intelligence briefings and instead has alienated our intelligence agencies. He’s slandered and devalued various heroic veterans. Worst of all, he admires tyrants and has storied interests with Russia and Vladmir Putin. Forget defense, he in the months since he has been elected has already been putting us all in jeopardy.
- General Welfare- His cabinet appointees speak volumes. Mostly male, all white, mostly fellow billionaires. This fits on an internet meme:
- An Attorney General who opposes restoration of the Voting Rights Act
- A Secretary of Health & Human Services who opposed Medicare
- A Secretary of the Treasury who opposes Dodd-Frank
- A Secretary of Education who opposed Public Education
- A Secretary of Housing & Urban Development who opposes the Fair Housing Act
- Plans to privatize and cut Social Security & Medicare, repeal the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions without insurance, eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts & privatize public television and public radio, tax plans that will benefit the wealthiest 2% even more than those of those of George W. Bush.
- Essentially, not just undoing the policies and programs of President Obama, but unraveling 90 years scientific, legal, social, economic and political progress.
- Promote the blessings of Liberty for ourselves and our posterity- He’s curtailed or circumvented rights to freedom of speech, the press, assembly and petition. Besides Russian melding, egregious attempts at voter suppression took place in various states in an effort to disenfranchise Latino, Black and poor voters, voter I.D. laws and plans a national registry for Muslim Americans all constitute horrendous attacks on the 1st, 14th and 15th Amendments.
This is not a man of the people. This is not a representative of our shared interests or of our common principles. This man has shown every indication that he intends to rule as an authoritarian. His hyper-nationalism, racism, militarism, and corporatism are a formula for fascism and tyranny.
Our best hope may actually be that he establishes a “kakistocracy,” a government of those most stupid, ignorant, least qualified and unprincipled citizens in power. And that our midterm elections replace the Republican majorities in Congress who enable him.
Reading his tantrums on Twitter leads you to believe that this may be the case. It may not be that he disagrees with or misinterprets the Constitution. It may just be that he doesn’t understand it or is wholly ignorant of it.
How can any president be considered legitimate, who diametrically opposes or violates virtually every one of our most basic principles?
These are the reasons that I believe the man about to take the oath of office is not a legitimate president.
God have mercy on me if I’m wrong. I do not want to end up in prison somewhere for my disloyalty to the state. I love my country, but what I love most about America are the principles of freedom and democracy which I’ve listed above. My family & I faced plenty of ridicule & resentment during the Bush administration because of my opinions.
But if I’m correct in my evaluation of the new president and his administration. Then God help us all. Pray for the president elect, but pray for our entire nation.
Don’t ever forget, THESE are Donald Trump’s principles…
That this is SO HUGE the day after the inauguration, the fact that it’s not just in DC and NYC but in HUNDREDS of cities nation wide AND WORLD WIDE- is a phenomenal piece of history. This isn’t just about abortion or birth control or women’s health. This is more than just equal pay for equal work. Much of this is about opposing belittling and objectifying women. This is more than just reaction to the “pussy grabbing” recording or the “golden shower” allegations or sexual harassment charges- in fact, with crowds this large and so diverse in SO MANY cities- this is about far more than just women and women’s issues.
This many people isn’t an anomaly. Even if the vast majority of these people don’t become consistently active and committed, there are just too too many of them that will, for this not to become a movement.
Trump claimed his election was part of a “movement.” Which one? The “birther” movement? The Tea Party? The “Alt-Right?”
The establishment should be scared. Racists should be scared. Privileged straight white males who responded to Trumps pandering to fear and anger, may now actually have something to fear.
Is this the Occupy movement, begun in the 2000’s? Is this Obama’s movement, started in 2008? Is it Bernie Sander’s movement, begun in 2016? Is this a Women’s movement? None of that is quite clear.
What IS clear is that unlike the Tea Party movement, this truly is grass-roots, bottom-up, rather than something bankrolled by billionaires, top-down.
Nothing like this has been seen before in the United States, even at the heights of the anti-Vietnam war and pro civil rights movements. Hundreds of thousands in hundreds of cities simultaneously, peacefully. This is historic.
Millions of young people, yes especially young women and yes especially young women of color, but MILLIONS of young people are initiating their political awareness and political involvement today. This is the death knell of the predominance of rich white conservative males in America. This will mark a sea-change.
Historians take note. Journalists get a clue. Demagogues with aspirations of tyranny take warning.
The day after the election I was a basket case (as you might have figured from previous posts on this blog). A professor of mine once suggested that our most prolific times would usually be times of emotional stress or poor mental health. He said it matter-of-factly, not even alluding to art therapy.
I remembered this advice (or admission) and decided that I needed to create something.
On the first day, my grief for my country was so deep all I felt that I could paint was what I felt. As Frida Kahlo once said, ” I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.” So this is what I painted:
I’d been teaching about the New York School. Action painters who emphasized the process as a cathartic, meditative experience and color-field painters who created pieces intended to invoke a contemplative mood in their viewers. It was very satisfying.
It wouldn’t leave me alone. It called out to me. This past Summer I’d read a biography of Lutheran theologian and WWII resistance member Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This Fall I re-read his reflection on Christian fellowship, ‘Life Together.’
Bonhoeffer refused to compromise genuine Christian discipleship to mollify the demands of the Third Reich. First this meant pioneering the “confessional” church movement and underground seminaries, but eventually he was recruited by the Abwehr (a German intelligence agency which pre-dated the rise of NAZI power) and thereby a number of assassination plots against Hitler.
He was For a year and a half, he was kept in a military prison, then to the Gestapo’s high-security prison, then to Buchenwald concentration camp, and finally to Flossenbürg concentration camp where he was hung in April of 1945 days before German surrender.
So I attacked my muddy brown canvas with black, then built an almost ghostly face with stark white. The under-painting began taking shape.A ghost in a concentration camp. Certainly not the prophetic voice of hope which I had met in his writings. But definitely a product of my own angst.
I thought I remember reading somewhere that angst is the combination of anger and anxiety born from the inability to control a situation or effect change. This is certainly how I feel about the election of Trump; a hateful, unprepared, unqualified, angry, entitled, demagogue.
There it stood on my easel for a week. Students commenting that it looked like me- perhaps an indictment of my melancholic disposition. To me it felt like Poe’s raven, constantly reminding me of the death of equality, liberty, justice and any hope of any kinds of peace at home or abroad. A dour ghost haunting my classroom.
I experimented in Photoshop with blending the original photo with my under-painting. The image was exciting and moving, but still ghostly. For me it evoked the spirits of Elie Wiesel, Anne Frank, Corrie ten Boom and Viktor Frankl, not just Bonhoeffer.
Finally this week, I resumed painting. Like the prophet Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones, I attached flesh to the bones. But alas, dry ache became weeping sorrow. But at least students told me, “now it’s finally starting to look like him instead of you!”
Yesterday I made a great deal of progress, although I think it looked more like a cross between William H. Macy and Philip Seymour Hoffman than Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Now I felt like it had some indignation and resignation rather than just depression and despair. Somehow I hoped to add some sense of hope or faith, since these are the things Bonhoeffer demonstrated most to me.
Today, I feel like I gave it a great deal more dimension and solidity. I feel like it looks more realistic and closer to finish. This may be prejudiced somehow, but I think it even looks German or at least European- although I’m not quite sure it looks like Bonhoeffer exactly. I’m also not sure how to capture any hope. It may be too late for that.
It’s hard to imagine a martyr with any hope or joy- but that is what is so amazing about Bonhoeffer’s story- witnesses claim that they were amazed by his warmth and encouragement for his fellow prisoners and his amazing composure and bravery even in his final moments.
I haven’t decided whether or not I’m finished with it. Perhaps if I live with him for another week, he will tell me again. But I do like it. Of course, I liked that ghost-like mummy from the second and third days too.
To check that I had the spectacles in the right place, I held my canvas up to the projector on the SmartBoard in my classroom and projected the original photo onto the painting. I loved what I saw so much, I had to take a picture of it. It seems to me still sorrowful, but challenging as well. “What are you prepared to do, Ted? For democracy? For authentic Christianity?” Would I have the faith or the courage to make the kinds of sacrifices he did?
I pray I’ll never have to. One biographer notes that while he wrote treatises and essays and devotions and letters, he never really wrote much poetry until he was imprisoned. But I have to say, one of his poems is one of the most amazing pieces of reflective existential art that I’ve ever run across.
Once you read it, look back over the various stages of my painting’s development and imagine them reciting it to you.
Who Am I?
by Deitrich Bonhoeffer
Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a Squire from his country house.
Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As thought it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.
Am I then really that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectations of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.
Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!