John K. Stoner and I have been publishing this blog for a bit over two years now, offering commentary on life within the US-led empire. If you are a regular reader, you probably have noticed the following aspects of our perspective.
First, we are gloomy about the life the empire is preparing for us. Our pessimism is based on our reading of the Bible (it regards empires as doomed instruments of evil) and our reading of current events, which confirm deceit, domination and violence as standard imperial operating procedures.
Second, we value the process of becoming disillusioned with the US-led empire and thus free of its omnipresent power to shape our worldview, self-understanding and vision for the future.
Third, we are optimistic about the faith of Jesus as a way through this disillusionment and into a renewed commitment to life and to saving the world. When we trust YHWH the way Jesus did, our disillusionment leads not to fear, apathy or cynicism, but to compassionate engagement with people and the world. This sounds religious and is religious, but does not require the affirmation of religious dogma.
As we see it, the election of Donald Trump reflects the hubris, frustration and anger generated by decades of coercion, betrayal and deceit. His ascension to the presidency is not an aberration or anomaly, but the natural progression of a system that depends on fear, propaganda and continuous war to manage public opinion.
Certainly his presidency will be painful, especially for less powerful members of our society. How that pain is distributed will be a bit different than it would have been had Hillary Clinton been elected. It’s important to respond to these differences. Yet neither Trump nor Clinton ever showed any inclination to abandon America’s imperial quest, and we see no point participating in the divide-and-conquer grudge match over who exploits the weak more, Republicans or Democrats. *
Because the Trump Administration is unabashed in its embrace of imperialism and brazen in its exercise of coercive power, it is likely to cause many more people to become disillusioned with the empire. This is potentially promising as it enables us to see the empire clearly, maybe for the first time.
No, we do not see true promise in détente between Trump and Putin; both are oligarchs seeking to enrich themselves and their friends. But it is helpful when President Trump speaks candidly about “grabbing the oil;” about how the US-led regime change agenda has destroyed Iraq, Libya, Syria and Ukraine; about how much killing US leaders have done. The imperial mask has been lowered, at least for a moment.
So yes, as I’ve written before, we perceive the Trump Administration to open a new window of opportunity. Here are some of the positives that now are more likely:
--Strip away the aura of moral legitimacy that has been the empire’s greatest asset;
--Acknowledge how contrived and wasteful America’s recent wars have been;
--Forge bonds of empathy—even solidarity—with people who may be below us in the neo-liberal pecking order, but are no more vulnerable than we to the loss of community, humane values and moral conviction;
--Recover our understanding that the way of Jesus is a narrow way requiring courage and the company of brothers and sisters in the faith;
--Recognize compassionate acts, which Jesus names in Matthew 25, in all people of any or no religion; and
--Create sustainable and humane patterns and practices that will survive the empire’s demise.
These are our hopes for how people will respond to the presidency of Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, prospects are slipping away for the Trump Administration to make good on some of its best ideas: (a) stopping US and allies’ support for violent Salafist extremists; (b) narrowing the role of the CIA to the gathering of intelligence; (c) normalizing relations with Russia. **
Looking ahead, the fundamental problem is not the Trump Administration, but the way the empire has organized the world to enrich an imperial elite. As we press on, disappointments are to be expected. Our focus will be a faith, worldview and community to help us endure with creativity and courage.
This is our prayer and our purpose, living here in the belly of the beast. ***
* In “Revolution Beyond Blue Bubbles,” Paul Street engages the views of Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. Here is a quote from Street: “Hillary represented the . . . toxic variant of bourgeois identity politics—a version that disastrously tossed many of the everyday people who repair cars, maintain city parks, build pallets, drive trucks, clean sewers, do construction, take patients’ blood pressure, stock warehouses, and who do countless other low-pay and low-status jobs into ‘a basket of deplorables’.”
** For discussion of this slippage, see Consortium News’ “Trump’s Foreign Policy at a Crossroads,” and Moon of Alabama’s “CIA Honors Major Terrorist Financier for Successful Cooperation,” and “Organized Campaigns Hit at Trump's Foreign Policy Plans.”
*** In the imagery of the last book of the Bible (Revelation), the empire is a ravenous beast.