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A Season of Humiliation

by Berry Friesen (September 7, 2017)

“The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled
    and human pride brought low;
the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.
 The LORD Almighty has a day in store
    for all the proud and lofty,
for all that is exalted:
 they will be humbled.”
                                                  Isaiah 2:11-12

Watching the evening news these days is spiced by moments of schadenfreude—pleasure I feel upon hearing of the troubles of our national politicians.

This is a guilty pleasure I feel; it is wrong to enjoy another’s distress, even when the distress is caused by the return of the chickens to their roost.    

Still, there also is a sliver of purity in my heart. It is what the Psalmist expressed: “O LORD, how long shall the wicked—how long shall the wicked—exult” (Psalm 94:3)?

Let’s start with the Republicans.

Donald Trump—the candidate Republicans chose to run for the White House—embodied the more bombastic policies and detestable tricks of the Grand Old Party. Much to the chagrin of the Republican establishment, Trump as President hasn’t toned-down those policies and tricks—he flaunts them.

So he calls for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and passage of a substitute that would cause over 20 million Americans to lose health insurance coverage. While Barack Obama was President, the Republicans in the House voted over 60 times to repeal the ACA.  But now with Trump in the White House, they can’t get the job done. It’s an embarrassment to them.

Or consider the DREAM Act, which proposes a pathway to permanent residency for people who entered the US illegally as children.  The legislation has been around for 16 years; Republicans have repeatedly blocked its passage. They even portrayed President Obama as a dictator for implementing some provisions of the Act via an administrative work-around called DACA.

Now their guy in the White House is ending the work-around, thus subjecting 800,000 US-educated residents to deportation.  Again, Republicans are embarrassed; Trump’s action is reflecting badly on them!

Then there’s the Republican strategy of using racist strategies and tactics to win elections. It’s been their standard operating procedure for decades.

And Trump?  He simply makes it all too obvious as he speaks disparagingly of people of Mexican descent, pardons Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s federal conviction for contempt of court related to racially discriminatory law enforcement, and launches a voter fraud commission that extends the long-running Republican scheme of manufacturing phony voter fraud scenarios in order to drive down voter participation by African Americans.

Trump’s flamboyant disregard for common decency is a huge embarrassment for establishment Republicans.  Yet they will do nothing about it because impeachment would split the party down the middle (and most current Republican office-holders would never again be elected to public office). So they swallow their pride and endure their public humiliation.

And the Democrats?  Ample opportunities for the guilty pleasure of schadenfreude here too.  

They pose as the voice of everyday working people, but now have to live with the fact that their party leaders rigged the 2016 primary against Bernie Sanders, the “little guy’s” candidate.

As further embarrassment, their party ran a candidate for President who was more inclined to war and militarism than the bombastic Donald Trump. Imagine, Democrats are now more hawkish--more inclined to military intervention--than Republicans!

To hide their humiliation, Democrats have been peddling a phony Russia-stole-the-election story for nearly an entire year now, poisoning US relations with Russia.

Then there’s the embarrassment of California, where “Medicare for all” legislation has gone down to defeat despite having a Democrat as governor and Democrat super-majorities in both state houses.

As we contemplate this mess, here are two important threads to follow.

1. Humiliation is a strong emotion.  When not followed by repentance, it’s powerful enough to override sound judgment and rationality.  Few national leaders show any inclination toward repentance; most are fixed instead on changing the subject and restoring battered reputations. Their response makes this a volatile time because actions to divert national attention to external threats and national “crises” (e.g., violence and war) are very attractive.

During this time of national humiliation, we need to be especially alert to contrived emergencies. If national politicians attempt such, we must be quick to register our disbelief. This is the most effective form of political engagement I can imagine at the moment.

And Donald Trump?  As always, he is the wild card. His humiliation threshold is higher than anyone I can remember; I pray that will become a positive factor during this volatile time.

2. The second implication also has to do with where we put our time and energy as concerned citizens. Is it on electing better leaders to Congress? Or on electing effective leaders locally?

Imagine you are a civic-minded person with excellent people skills, a solid public reputation and the desire to do your part to fix our systemic problems. Do you run for Congress? Or work at things at the local level?

Going to Washington to fix anything looks more and more like a fool’s errand. Once you get there, you’ll be required to serve your time as a toady for party leaders who spend most of their energy mending the holes in tattered reputations and pretending to be something they’re not.

Beyond that dysfunction, there is the reality that Washington is a company town, owned lock-stock-and-barrel by Pentagon contractors, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and “intelligence” spooks with oh-so-scary stories and transcripts of every digital conversation you’ve ever had.

Perhaps we should focus on local leadership instead.

As for that pleasure we feel as the arrogant are humbled, let it pass quickly. This is a serious moment in our history; it’s important to be engaged.


  1. I'd say the humiliated are those near half of the voting population, the irredeemable deplorables who voted for Trump out of sense of frustration and futility, since nothing is going to change for them. The schadenfreude is all on the winning side, even if it's not the side that won election night. For those folks, there's no sense of shame and they are not going to be repenting, no matter what the lies or malfeasance of the elites visit upon the economic losers they've written out.

    To bring this closer to home, the rot extends not just to the Washington controllers and courtiers, but from your house, to the White House, and beyond. Even in our daily life that's come to reflect a society of winners against losers to be vanquished, there's no sense of sin, no matter how objectives are achieved, nor any guilt or repentance evidenced for serious harm done to others. Just a doubling down, whether in the evil of foreign imperial war waged against hapless populations, or local destruction of those neighbors seen as impediments to whatever appetite appeals.

    1. "Disappointed," and "betrayed" are terms I would use to describe those who voted for change, but have not seen it happen. "Humiliation" is a term I would reserve for public figures whose hypocrisy has been revealed. But yes, you make an important point that "humiliation" lacks any power in a society that has lost its moral compass, lost any sense of sin.