of kings and wise men

We use the terms “Kings” and “Wise Men” interchangeably to describe the mystery men from the east who followed a star to Bethlehem. Does it matter? I don’t think so. But, I do think it matters when it comes to leadership. Kings/Queens or Wise Men/Women? How we view our leaders and, more importantly, how they view themselves has a huge impact on leadership styles and expectations.

The history of our church, past and recent, is filled with scoundrels who sought/seek leadership roles for grandeur, prestige and power along with excessive fashions and symbols of monarchy. Stroll through some famous cathedrals and churches for proof that the institutional Body of Christ has often lacked the humility of its founder. Our ecclesial structures rival world palaces for riches and over the top decadence. Our church has been more often ruled by “kings” than wise men.

The contrast between wise leaders and would-be kings is blatantly apparent in the current political situation in America.

I’m reading “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White-House” by Michael Wolff. It has a “tell-all” gossipy tone to it, but it doesn’t stray too far from what has already been leaked and reported from inside the Trump conclave. The book reads like a sleazy, reality TV show. Take a mix of attention and power seeking individuals, lock them up in a confined space, and watch them battle to the death for an illusive crown/title.

Or, think of a “Game of Thrones” epic battle for crowns and dominions. Alliances are made and broken. Heads roll. Mad men and women rule. Ordinary women and men are used as pawns for evil agendas. All that counts is getting power and holding on to it.

The idea of absolute power by divine right has been largely laid to rest in most of the world. Absolute power is incompatible with democracy. And yet…

What used to be the most powerful democracy in the world is now led by a despot who has lived his life surrounding himself with the trappings of a king. His gold and marble world may be as fake as he is, but he truly believes that he and he alone is the possessor of truth and wisdom. He is the smartest, most stable genius. He is accountable to no one. Any and all challenges to his leadership are “fake news”.

Going back to the Epiphany story, we know the danger of mad kings. Herod was a paranoid king, fearful of any and all who endangered his hold on power. He received news of a possible usurper to his throne and went crazy. We know Herod’s horrific response; the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent babes. Evil power has no empathy. It knows no bounds.

The world needs, more than ever, wise leaders.

Wise women and men do not react impulsively, but patiently read the signs of the times in their quest for truth, justice and peace. They observe, listen, ponder and speak with careful discernment. When they see the “star”, they leave present comfort with nothing but a hope that the journey will bring future enlightenment.

Wise women and men do not fear the unknown. The unknown nudges them to seek clarity and wisdom from other wise souls. They take risks, without risking the lives of those they serve.

The world needs wise leaders.

And, for the sake of the world, we need to dethrone mad “kings”.

 

 

 

I believe…sometimes there IS only one side

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In my previous post I spoke of the need to find middle ground between ideological extremes. This is what dialogue is all about. But, what if there IS no middle ground? What if an ideology is not only wrong, but dangerous? What if there is nothing to dialogue about?

This past weekend’s events in Charlottesville, VA laid bare the ugly reality of racism and bigotry in America.

Nazi, white-supremacist, and racist ideology is WRONG. It is EVIL. There is no common ground on which to begin a dialogue.

Any decent person with a decent knowledge of history should shudder at the sight of swastikas and Hitler style salutes. The images dig up memories of one of the most horrific mass exterminations of human life, of hatred systematically acted out in the executions of millions of men, women and children.

And yet, there they were. Hitler’s ideological descendants.  Marching on the streets of small town America. Using their right to free speech to spew hatred of the “other”. Claiming that their own white, privileged lives were under attack. Flaunting the support of the man whom they helped to elect president. And, support them he did.

By claiming that “many sides” were at fault for the violence, Trump claimed a false equivalency between the alt-right, white supremacists and those who came to protest them in the name of basic human equality. Despite the back-pedalling of the White House, Trump had clearly shown where his loyalties lie. A man who based his political platform on name-calling, refused to call by name the evil of nazi, racist, white supremacy.

There are moments in history where dialogue is not the answer. When evil rears its ugly head, threatening the security of all, it must be fought. It is not the time for nice words. It is not the time for seeking middle ground.

After hearing Trump’s speech, hubby and I were both reminded of a dark chapter in our family history. One of our daughters and her friend were sexually harassed in high school. The harasser was obviously emotionally disturbed. We feared for the safety of the girls. We spoke to teachers, the principal, and the school superintendent. We went with the girls to the police to make a report. Nothing was done. The principal finally came back with a “solution”. Mediation! The perpetrator and his victims should sit down together and try to work together towards a solution.

We were gob-smacked. Mediation implies there are two sides to an issue. There WERE no two sides. The girls were innocent victims, whose school life had become a fearful hell of what might happen if this young man finally snapped.

Eventually, the perpetrator was removed from the school but our trust in the school system was broken. Any talk of respecting the safety and dignity of each student rang hollow. Words need to be backed with effective action, or they are worthless.

In his speech, Trump called Americans to unite. Unite with what? Hold hands with evil and join in a resounding chorus of Kumbaya? No. This is not a time for unity. It is a time to stand up, speak out, protest against, and do everything we can to ensure that NEVER AGAIN.

NEVER AGAIN, will good women and men sit back while madness and hatred is allowed to fester.

NEVER AGAIN, will a leader be allowed to shamelessly rally his minions to support a platform of “us and them”, a platform of supremacy for a few while millions of lives are deprived of basic rights and value.

NEVER AGAIN.  PLEASE, GOD. NEVER AGAIN.

 

 

power of political satire

I like political satire. No. I LOVE political satire. When the daily news overwhelms, I find blessed relief in the wit and biting analyses of Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers. I still miss my daily dose of Jon Stewart yet am filled with gratitude that he introduced us to John Oliver.

Some might dismiss these rants as angry, left-wing political commentary masquerading as a stand-up comedy routine. But it is more. So much more.

Bee, Colbert, Meyers, Stewart and Oliver (and, of course, their writers) all exhibit a depth of intelligence and masterful vocabulary that is often missing from the 24-7 news cycle; and even more absent in the superficial, double-speak of many politicians today. Want some serious fact-checking? Check out Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Want some serious analyses of issues often over-looked by the media? Tune in to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Comedy intertwined with solid journalism is a winning recipe for bringing a message to the masses.

And then there’s Saturday Night Live.

The current cast of SNL, after an understandable period of post-election mourning, has stepped up to the plate and double-downed on its critique of the Trump administration. This past Saturday’s episode was satiric brilliance and Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of press secretary Sean Spicer stole the show.

Trump is extremely thin skinned, a common characteristic of narcissists. He is known for ignoring more important issues of the day while spending time on Twitter attacking those who dare insult him. He is not a fan of SNL nor a fan of Alec Baldwin and his spot-on Trump impression. But, it seems, Trump watches SNL. Which gives SNL an enviable amount of power. They have the ear, the eye, and the attention of the president. Not too shabby!

What to do with this power?

Considering Trump’s misogynistic history, having a woman impersonate one of the president’s men had a surprisingly powerful effect. A deliciously tempting suggestion is circulating online this morning, calling out for other women actors to join Melissa McCarthy’s Spicer role on SNL. Meryl Streep as Trump? Rosie O’Donnell as Steve Bannon? Ellen Degeneres as Mike Pence?

Now that would be must see TV!

Back in 2011, Melissa Musick Nussbaum wrote a wonderful article for the National Catholic Reporter titled We laugh because we know who we are. She describes perfectly the power of humour over ego.

The dictator’s goal is to be recognized as God, even if God over only this little house, that small nation, or the most modest parish. Dictators work hard at building and maintaining the illusion of godhood. Laughter destroys the illusion. (Melissa Musick Nussbaum)