Letter from America – April 2016

An inclusive Christian community in Auckland, New Zealand

Letter from America – April 2016

Letter from America

Editorially speaking I am always delighted to receive contributions from the Rev John Biggers in Nevada.  In his latest correspondence he states his well-founded concerns for the current political climate in the USA.  Given the intensity of the campaign in the election of the next President he felt motivated to pen the attached commentary.  In it he reflects on a troubling part in the political arena of his country.  He regards these elections as being the most poignant moment in American culture, where its citizens have to truly look at the role of their government in their own and social lives.

We should be aware that we are not immune from the consequences of the outcome of this contest for the presidency, which can have a profound influence on us Down-under due to our existing trade and defence ties.

The “Trump Card” DIScarded        March 2016            

At this point in American history, our treasured political scene has undoubtedly reached a low point, as you consider the history of the whole system we have designed for selecting our nation’s leaders.

The first real leader of the Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln, would shed major tears of sadness over what is transpiring today in the form of the nominating process for electing our president. His own challenges were in 1860 and 1864.

When we realize that Lincoln, and the “new” (at that time) party he represented evolved from efforts to rid our country of slavery and the divisive moves of the southern states, what has arisen today from the new “trump card” in the GOP nominating game is a sad milepost for what has been revered by many of its adherents as the “grand old party” and now an embarrassment and humiliation felt by many discerning Republicans. Even major Republican-leaning media are raising their ire over the absurdity of the GOP campaigning. (And, how about the two most recent GOP presidential candidates now renouncing this unbelievably errant “front-runner” candidate in their own party!)

(As someone from the opposite side of the political arena, it is tempting for me to receive some almost humorous enjoyment watching the current line-up of GOP presidential candidates, acting very non-presidential in their campaign efforts, resorting to absurd antics, crude personal derision and insults of each other,  and on and on.”)

Of course, there have always been power brokers in the political arena, from all organized political efforts. From the time of George Washington and the early Colonial leaders, on to today, the people (mainly men, of course) responsible for the machinations of the political process have often led to unsavoury battles, whereby the will of the electorate was not the goal or ambition for many partisans.

In these years following the birth of our nation, we have wanted to think of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, their contemporaries and the succeeding presidents (and their administrations) as great leaders, certainly above the selfish clamour for power that has often dominated our social and political structures. History has been replete with political “machines” whereby “the power behind the throne”, so to speak, was tragically contrary to the intentions of a well-meaning president and other governmental operatives.

As soon as it was obvious that power and prosperity in the hands of the “mighty” were profitable goals to pursue, many of the participants have used intrigue and corruption to win the day. Of course, in order to justify dubious motives and corrupt actions of so-called “politicians” who have given politics a bad name. They have used rallying and captivating cries in elections, suggesting that they alone recognize that “this is the most crucial election in history,” and “let’s make America great again!”

Thinking back to Lincoln’s Day, his first election “electrified” the southern states to attempt to divide our nation, in order to preserve a way of life that many leaders and average citizens wanted to preserve. The terrible cost to America at that time resulted in the making of a unified nation that can withstand the struggles for the rights of all human beings.

So it is thus stated and guaranteed with the founding Constitution that put into writing the goal to have one nation in which all persons are equal, with “inalienable rights” to pursue lives in a fair society from the day each of us is born. This concept is so simple to say, and yet so difficult to achieve as we have seen for two and a half centuries of struggles with the many definitions of what those rights really mean, most significantly witnessed in the Civil Rights Movement and the progress it has achieved in many areas of social justice.

As a personal reflection on Lincoln’s own political principles, as well as the man who was his most vigorous opponent, Sen. Stephen Douglas, also of Illinois, and the leading Democrat of his day, who was a fervent supporter of “States’ Rights” and other conservative positions, I am sure that they would be on different party tickets today, Lincoln as a Democrat and Douglas as a Republican. However, these were candidates who were the perfect example of presenting debates on critical issues; not ridiculous and crude insults.

Well…now here we are in 2016, with one presidential candidate and his rants causing a critical and dangerous approach to justice and to the honoured American structures of presidential politics. Strangely and frighteningly enough, he has a significant following, bombasting vigorously and viciously, in effect, that this sort of understanding of a free society is one that must be redefined, and limited; yes, even changed with vitriolic and demeaning tones; whereby some of us have the option to put barriers before other fellow human beings; creating boundaries that divide a society that is diverse, because we are not all the same. And additionally, the “trump card” has brought out the worst in the campaigns of the other candidates. It is virtually a “free for all”.

Politics is not a card game, in which the “trump card” can be allowed to overturn the play of all other cards in  the deck; it is not a set of on-and-off “quick draw from the hip”  tactics that will be potentially   destructive of a society within the parameters of mutual hope and trust.

And, surely, as we think of the way that Abraham Lincoln pursued his and our nation’s destinies (and who himself did have to wage a mighty battle to become a presidential nominee and the ultimate great leader that he was), we must not denigrate or dilute this magnificent human creation—the open and free democratic election, whereby all citizens have a part to play—and an election process that must not be relegated to a game of trickery and a multitude of devious devices, including one wherein a “trump card” is thrown onto the table that makes a mockery of the authentic will of an electorate that desires a free and fair nation of which we are all so proud.

John Biggers          Sedona, Arizona