THAT AUTUMN FEELING – the bullies are back
Service to mankind…that’s what it’s really all about (from ‘Towards a Distant Sea, 2005, Indra Publishing)
Have you ever experienced that abrupt, unexpected change of seasons when the languorous heat of summer days suddenly fades and the cool, damp air of autumn fills the air and the anticipation of advancing cold and short days seems just too close? We struggle to hold onto those long hypnotic summer days that we thought would never end. For me the current political and cultural climate signal a change of season as the cold winds of conservatism surge across the planet.
I’ve been sniffing the wind since the elevation of Trump and his acolytes (or are they his puppeteers?) and trying to pinpoint the nub of what these conservative forces are ignoring or have forgotten. The heady rush forward of their ideology has failed to imagine that individual human beings need to be front and centre of our human journey and governments must always be the servants of basic human rights.
The existence of these ‘political terrorists’ (as Philip Adams labels them) always depends on finding a target group to hate or to blame. They draw their power from scapegoating those who lack the power or opportunity to respond. Minorities for them, provide the easiest target and an irresistible focus.
There are some common themes emerging as the new Trump Administration unfolds its vision and in an earlier blog I wrote about the possible agendas of individuals who would assume power with Trump. The bottom line is that under this administration, minorities are inferior citizens and here are some of the highlights.
• One of Trump’s first Executive Orders enforced a ban on providing federal money to international groups that perform abortions or promote the option. This ban is expected to restrict access to safe abortions and undermine the viability of groups that provide contraception and family planning options especially in developing nations, hence affecting vulnerable poor women.
• Trump’s executive order barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days and suspending the admission of all refugees for 120 days sent shock waves around the globe and ignited a huge backlash against its racist intent.
• The LGBTQ Nation predicted this week that an executive order was imminent and could be far-reaching. It could include: making taxpayer funds available for discrimination against LGBTQ people in social services; allow federally funded adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ parents; eliminate non-discrimination protections in order to make it possible to fire federal employers and contractors based on their sexual orientation or gender identity; and allow federal employees to refuse to serve people based on the belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and that gender is an immutable characteristic set at birth, which would impact a broad range of federal benefits.
• The formal inclusion of Steve Bannon as Trump’s chief strategist and ideologue in the small circle of top officials who decide US national security policy is a worrying move. Bannon, increasingly seen as the most powerful figure in the White House after the president himself, was believed to be behind the issuance of a string of executive orders culminating in the radical immigration ban on travellers and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries. Bannon, the former Breitbart media chairman has shown himself to hold racist, misogynist and Islamophobic views.
What all these developments appear to have in common is the belittling of minority groups and the whittling away of their basic rights. It’s ironic that the powerbrokers of this bullying ideology profess such a deep affiliation with fundamentalist Christian groups. In October 2016 a nationwide survey in the US showed that sixty-five percent of evangelical voters supported Trump.
The very essence of Christianity is based on the example of Jesus who, before the grubby legalists got their hands on his message, epitomised love and compassion equally, especially to society’s outsiders –the sick, poor, refugees and prostitutes. The Beatitudes of Matthew’s gospel clearly expresses the agenda of Jesus.
Furthermore, “in Jewish teaching compassion is among the highest of virtues, as its opposite, cruelty, is among the worst of vices.”
For Moslem believers, ‘compassion’ is the most frequently occurring word in the Qur’an. In fact compassion represents the true spirit of Islam and is far more vital to Islamic teachings than any thing else. Compassion in Islam, after the concepts of unity of God (tawhid) and risalah (messengership of Muhammad) is as central to Islam as it is to Buddhism. All the major world religions have love and compassion at their core and this is what is lacking these days in the rise of right-wing ideologies.
Secularists too can look to the Declaration of Rights, as part of the eighteenth century Enlightenment period, as a basis for the rights for which we still struggle today and on which were based Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence of 1776 that claimed “inalienable” rights were the foundation of all government .
These traditions of compassion and human rights, whether of a religious or secular basis, provide the bedrock of a legitimate and stable government where a government’s right to mandate should be judged on how it treats its minorities. It is on this judgement that Trumpism, Hansonism, and all right-wing bullies have lost their credibility.
The current pushback against the human rights revolutions of the 1970s, many of which were conceived in the US, is disturbing. It’s exhausting to think that the battles on human rights we thought were won may need to be fought all over again. But the resistance to these ‘political terrorists’ we have seen so far is inspiring. The times do not, as some believe, resemble 1930s Germany. Humanity has moved forward in consciousness and Trumpists may have misinterpreted the extent to which society has been altered by the advance of multiculturalism and human rights. The bullies and the fake leaders just need reminding that spring will return.