"The surest way for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing." - Attributed to Edmund Burke, 1770
Four centuries before Edmund Burke, Aleghieri Dante, author of the masterpiece, The Divine Comedy stated the concept more harshly, "The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality."
Last week I departed from the usual Journal approach to write how Donald Trump's views clash with Radical Loving Care. I also described his opinions as inconsistent with Christianity.
Why does this relate to Christianity & the sacred work of caregivers? Because Trump's example emboldens the worst leaders in healthcare & elsewhere. Because hate-mongers like Trump threaten the whole concept of loving care for all - including Muslims & Hispanics, legal or not. Because degrading people with disabilities is an insult also to those who treat people with disabilities lovingly rather than (as in times past) with derision.
When I was a kid the only fights I got into were with other children who mocked my sister's disability. For the past forty years I have fought for the concept that loving leaders should take care of the people who take care of people, that love is the highest power. Everyone says they agree.
So why would some of these same people support any leader who expresses hate? What are we to do when a leader degrades Hispanics & Vietnam POWs, who insults every one who disagrees with him, who proposes banning 1.5 billion people only because they are Muslim & who makes derogatory comments about women?
Cartoonists, along with thousands of other responsible commentators, have struggled to warn us. My best friend, attorney & author Bill Banta, is guiding a course on the Trump issue at his Presbyterian church in an effort to create further dialogue on this subject in a Christian context.
But many good people have decided that the right response is...nothing. They sit silent or, worse, fail to learn the facts needed for an informed position. Others rationalize Trump's racist & misogynist comments by saying, "The country has gotten so PC you can't say anything." or "he didn't mean that." or, most commonly, "I like that he speaks his mind."
Yes. He speaks his mind. But, what comes out of his mouth when he does?
Political correctness calls for respect not censorship & insults. Jesus taught that "God is love." Trump implies that God is money & winning is all that matters.
Trump's success fuels every bullying boss in America. His message to leaders is that you win using intimidation (his book, The Art of the Deal), deceit (Trump University), slight of hand & other tricks con-men use every day.
Sadly, many hate groups including the Ku Klux Klan, the racist American Freedom Party and the Council of Conservative Citizens (which, according to CNN, "is widely considered to be white supremacist") have rushed to support Trump.
What harm can hate speech cause? The Trump-endorsing American Freedom Party, again according to CNN, "inspired Dylan Roof, who last summer confessed to shooting and killing nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina."
Donald Trump has been slow to decline support from some of these hate groups. CNN reported that "he initially refused to disavow former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke" and claimed that he really did not know who Duke & his supporters were.
In the face of Trump's hate speech why have so many American's voted for him? It is baffling, deeply discouraging & a core reason why I, as a Christian minister & healthcare leader, speak out against his demagoguery.
If Trump says Muslims & hispanic immigrants should not be allowed in America will some caregivers think these same people do not deserve medical care? Is this the America Trump wants to "make great again," to take us back to a time like the 1950s when hundreds of doctors, nurses & hospitals refused to treat black people?
Advocates of hate anywhere are threats to loving care everywhere.
We can argue Donald Trump is "not as bad" as the other choices. We can also sit in silence every time someone tells us they support this demagogue.
Or we can decide that love calls us to action not acquiescence, to understanding but not to tolerance of such fear-mongering. We can ask, "Which leaders appeal to our highest & best self?" and, "Who appeals to the worst in us?
This is not a call to hate Trump & his supporters. This is an appeal to live the tougher side of love, the side that called Jesus to attack the money lenders in the temple & inspired his disciples to speak out against bigotry toward Christians.
For America to be a temple of God's peace & tolerance we need only turn our eyes & our votes toward love instead of away from it, toward open arms instead of closed fists.
In a way, the British have faced this choice & 52% of them opted for isolation. Interestingly, after their vote to leave the European Union hundreds of thousands who supported the "Brexit" watched the collapse of their currency in horror. "We didn't know it would mean that," these short-sighted people say now. They failed to pay attention & now they are paying the price.
I am always haunted by the language of Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoeller during World War II. His words speak to the best & worst in each of us & call us to speak up:
"In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."
Reverend Erie Chapman