The Jewish Roots of Catholicism; Jesus was a Jew
In 414, an entire community of Jews were violently assaulted by Christians to the point of extinction. This atrocity, like so many other other atrocities, stemmed from ignorance. Catholics based their faith, and excused their egregious behavior towards those of other faiths, with their comprehension of the early Christian Church, and the Nicene Creed. However, the Nicene Creed was created under the auspices of Emperor Constantine–a man who was not even baptized when the Creed was written. Emperor Constantine no longer tolerated other faiths; nor did he tolerate various thoughts (heresies) within the Christian Church. To this demagogue who created the much of Catholicism’s dogma, a “heresy” endangered his unified Roman Empire, and his mind must be expelled.
The early Church was made up of Jews who were followers of Christ. They practiced Jewish rituals, went to Temple, and adhered to Jewish Scripture. Even later on, after Constantine promulgated the Edict of Milan, Jews and Christians began sharing rituals once again, just as the early Jews who followed Jesus did.
Constantine turned Christianity into the religion of state, and adopted the Cross as his military banner, and thus made Christianity a religion of power–a religion of state. This presaged the schism
between Judaism and Christianity. A schism that led to the deaths of millions of Jews.
Constantine had a “celestial vision” in the night’s sky that if he and his army cross the Milvian Bridge and cross the Tiber and into Rome with the Cross of Jesus as their unifying symbol, Constantine would be victorious. The Cross was to be formed by a spear and a traverse bar. It was to become a symbol not only of Christianity, but of state power represented metaphorically by the spear.
It is more likely that the well-educated, politically astute (a man just as politically astute the contemporary political geniuses Karl Rove, David Plouffe, and David Axelrod) Constantine saw that upon crossing the Rubicon and Tiber and entering Rome, that he would need a passionate base to secure his position. Although not in the majority, Christians provided Constantine with the political strength he needed to maintain control of Rome:
They were a minority, but a well organized one. And no claimant had the allegiance of a majority. Fierce Christian devotion to a conqueror whose miraculous conversion proved the truth of their faith would have made Christians powerful political allies. – James Carroll, Constantine’s Sword. New York: Mariner Books, 2002, p 182
Realizing that the sudden conversion to Christianity may jeopardize the good will he had amongst his pagan troops and followers, he met with his sole adversary, Licinius, and they issued the Edict of Milan, which granted religious freedom to pagans, Jews, and Christians.
Referred to as “man’s free choice”, one can already see the sprouting seeds of the Enlightenment, and dare I say, it divined that one day men and women would accept and fight for God’s Natural Laws and the freedom and rights inherent in those laws. e.g., freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of speech.
Many, Romans–Romans with the progressive human characteristics of unity, hope, and love–had that innate desire to relate to other cultures. Our early progressives felt the innate desire to relate to their Jewish kin. Once again Christians found their Jewish roots and began practicing the rituals of their mother religion–the rituals that Jesus practiced.
How could that be sinful? Yet Constantine saw this as a danger to the unification of the empire and issued the Nicene Creed:
The decree signals the success Jews were having in attracting Christians to their culture and calendar. Moreover, the decree was prompted by a widespread Christian wish to maintain a lively connection with the Jewish origin of faith in Jesus. (Ibid. p. 185
But Constantine, now proving himself a demagogue who passes and abolishes laws according to how these laws will benefit him and his quest, not just to unify the Empire, but to unify the Empire under his name, passed a law that restricted Jews from proselytizing (an act that Jews are not well-known for–attraction to the faith is their preferred method of propagation).
Therefore, Constantine and the Cross permanently separated the religions of Judaism and Christianity. These religions might have been inseparable if not for the ignorance of the historical context of Jesus and for The Emperor Constantine. After all, Christ and his followers did not alter their Jewish Rituals and beliefs.
Constantine became the sole ruler of the empire. The dogmatist in political matters became the dogmatist in religious matters. Constantine was not baptized; yet he set the Church’s policy for 1700 years. And that policy was not decided by Catholic Intellectuals, but by a dogmatist who wasn’t baptized, and who merely sought to unify his empire.
It is important to emphasize that this need [for Constantine to answer the questions debated in The Church since Jesus’ Day], which has so dominated Roman Catholicism that even now the Church cannot break free from it, was first defined not by the Lord, a Jew who identified with dissenters; nor by his apostles, who did not hesitate to differ from one another; nor by his successor bishops who defended interests; nor by evangelists who produced not one version of the Jesus story but four … but by an all-conquering emperor for whom one empire had come to equal one religion. (Ibid. p. 189)
We say the Nicene Creed weekly at Mass. The words of the Emperor Constantine. It has taken a Jesuit Pope, Pope Francis, to finally see the sin in uttering a politically motivated doctrine for the Church set by an Empire, who though not baptized, took it upon himself, and himself only to set the dogma of the Church.
Prior to Pope Francis, The Catholic Church finally made an attempt to amend the doctrinal past that caused the Church as an institution to behave so contrary to the words of Christ by promulgating Vatican II. Historically, the Church has often been at odds with the sagacious words and actions of Christ. As the Roman Catholic Church, would the Church perpetuate the Roman Empire or perpetuate the words of Christ?
O’Malley [Reverend and Georgetown University Professor] says a theme of the documents was reconciliation. In keeping, they allowed for Catholics to pray with other Christian denominations, encouraged friendship with other non-Christian faiths, and opened the door for languages besides Latin to be used during Mass. Other new positions concerned education, the media and divine revelation. – Jordan G. Teicher, “Why is Vatican II so Important?” Religion. NPR (10 October 2012) Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2012/10/10/162573716/why-is-vatican-ii-so-important Accessed on 18 August 2017
Constantine corrupted our faith. Jesus demonstrated that dissent was a universal good. His acts of protest and dissent mark some of the greatest stories in the New Testament, i.e., the turning over of the tables in the Temple used for the marketing of goods. Dissent is the application of the greatest gift that God gave us: the gift of human reasoning. Jesus wanted there to be questions meditated on by rigorous minds like Augustine and other intellectuals. Jesus wished his theology of unity, love, hope, and, yes, of dissent, to be questioned and studied by erudites of various backgrounds. And most importantly he taught that when dissent is suppressed by a tyrannical demagogue, it would lead to the brainwashing (the removal of rationality, the gift of reason, and the love that we feel towards those with whom we disagree) and the mass hysteria of whole nations of people, as a way for those to pervert Christianity and promulgate hate, as we saw in the death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau
Now we have a Pope who truly understands that human reasoning is God’s greatest gift to man–a Pope who truly wants his bishops to think, and even his flock to think. He is the anti-demagogue. The antipode to Emperor Constantine. He wishes the Church to go back to the days when regional bishops had greater responsibility and participated in the development of Catholic teaching. As one who refers to himself as a Jesuit Catholic Jewish Deist, and as follower of Jesus, not just the Jesus of the Bible, but of the historical Jesus whom we so often over-looked, we cannot base our faith on the words of a power-thirsty, greedy, and very fallible man. Why should Emperor Constantine have the final say in a religion that worships a man who denied Satan’s offer of empire, power, and riches, and instead wondered the dessert for 40 days?
Pope Francis yesterday gave an address to the profoundly divided Synod on the Family in which he confirmed his plans to decentralise the Catholic Church – giving local bishops’ conferences more freedom to work out their own solutions to the problems of divorce and homosexuality … One statement in particular horrified the conservatives. Francis told them that ‘the sense of faith impedes the rigid separation between the Teaching Church and the Learning Church, because the flock possesses its own “sense” to discern the new roads that the Lord reveals to the church… – Damian Thompson, “Pope Francis is now effectively at war with Vatican” The Spectator (18 October 2015) Accessed on 16 August 2017
Pope Francis’ radical belief that a layperson can have astute observations about the Catholic Faith, and that the The Holy Spirit can be revealed in the adept reasoning of a layperson, seem to be radical beliefs only within the institution of the Catholic Church.
Many prophets of Christ have appeared even in recent history, and they were blessed with the Holy Spirit in their rhetorical skills. MLK and Bobby Kennedy come to mind. They too, like the Jesus that they not only worshipped, but tried their outmost to live their lives as he would, suffered execution as Jesus did. But the Holy Spirit within them lives eternally.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. – MLK Speech to garbage workers on 3 April 1968
Martin Luther King Jr. was slain by a bullet fired in hatred the next day on 4 April 1968. Like many other prophets he presaged his own untimely death. These words came earlier in the same speech and are just as meaningful:
Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. (Ibid.)
Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. (Ibid.)
Jesus died on the Cross and while resurrected blessed us with the gift of the the eternal Holy Spirit, and thus his message of unity, strength, hope, and love is eternal.
The message of Jesus is antonymic to hate or fear. We can not stand idly by as fascists take to the streets with their malfeasant message of hatred and tribalism. We cannot allow any more pogroms under our watch. As long as we have that eternal Holy Spirit within us, or for those who can’t relate to that statement, as long as the power of love keeps us moving as a hopeful people towards the removal of a tyranny based on bigotry and hatred, and instead towards unity and love, we will not stop, we will not falter, we will not quit until the light drives out the darkness.
“I’ve seen the needle and the damage done” sings Neil Young. We can relate to that verse. Due to overdoses, A whole generation of young men and women are dead, dying, lost. I have lost so many family members and friends to this insidious disease. Collectively, we shed a sacred river of tears. Today, I thought of the congregation of friends and family who have succumbed to addiction.
When it comes to a social issue that has resulted in the death of some of the kindest, loving, and gentle souls whose acquaintance I was blessed to make, I am duty bound to ask why this epidemic has gotten so out of control–I am duty bound to research and explore, and find some answers.
And I’m not writing this article for MD’s and PhD’s (yet they should not consider this a snub, and, if solicitous of the research, should continue reading). I am writing this for you: the addict, the addict’s friend, the addict’s family member. And if I start to lose your attention because of my choice of words or my citing of research, please be confident that in the end, you will understand what I have to say.
Please believe in your ability to produce a positive change in society. Your questions, answers, and experiences matter to me, and matter to the lives you spare when your share your story of how faith, hope, and love saved your life and ordained you with a serenity that a superficial high just cannot compare to.
Always remember what our goal is here: we are trying to figure out why all our friends are dying to a vicious disease–a disease that, if we’re being honest, wants to kill me, wants to kill your loved ones, or wants to kill you.
Already some of you have open-and-closed my research. “Addiction is a progressive disease that if left untreated results in death.” I agree with that statement, and so doesn’t the American Medical Association. But addiction is not a unique psychological illness. There are social/environmental causes that precipitates the disease.
One need only compare the rates of addiction in The United States with that of other countries.
It is highly unlikely that everyone with the biological trait that makes addiction more probable, somehow ended up in the United States.
Something precipitates addiction in American society, whether it is political or sociological/social psychological. There is an anomaly in the United States that leads to the highest rates of addiction in the world. The answers to the question, “Why have I lost so many people to this disease?” is closer to being answered when we discover these anomalies.
Let’s take a look at the political anomalies. The United States has a political system that requires candidates to consistently raise money. A congressperson is required to raise $15,000 a week to hold on to his or her seat. That money is not coming from you or me. It is coming from the pharmaceutical lobby. (Aliyah Frumin, “How much does it cost to win a seat in Congress? Well, if you have to ask…” Hardball with Chris Matthews. MSNBC. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.com/hardball/how-much-does-it-cost-win-seat-congre Accessed on 17 August 17)
So far this year, the lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry have spent $1,657,260,107 on bribing your federally elected representatives to pass laws that benefit the pharmaceutical industry (retrieved from OpenSecrets.org on 9 March 2017).
Money has a harmful influence on our government, but senators like Senator John McCain witnessed the greed and harm that infected our federally elected politicians. Senator McCain pushed for limits on the amount of money special interests could donate (or legally bribe) to our elected representatives. With Senator Feingold, he promulgated legislation that would limit soft money contributions to campaigns.
The conservative Supreme Court’s Decision in the Citizens United v. The FEC now allows corporations to donate limitless amounts of cash to Super PAC’s. Super PAC’s ostensibly do not coordinate with campaigns, but folks with no official role in the campaign act as the mediators between the campaigns and their Super PAC’s. After the nomination process the DNC and RNC act as the mediators. Essentially, since Citizens United, bribery of federal officials is a legal act.
Why is this important to the issue of addiction? The money donated to campaigns by Purdue Pharma, for example, have had devastating affects on the opiate epidemic. Purdue Pharma, “greased the wheel” for FDA approval. And at the time, there were no laws prohibiting companies like Purdue Pharma from enticing doctors and medical professionals from prescribing certain drugs. In Democracy’s Edge, Frances Moore Lappé writes:
…consider that throughout the 1990’s, pharmaceutical manufacturers poured more than $108 million into campaigns for federal candidates and their parties while the Food and Drug administration approved twice as many drugs in half the time it used to take to review them…hundreds of people have died while taking drugs that were later pulled from the market.
– Lappé, Frances Moore. Democracy’s Edge. Jossey-Bass. 2006. p. 59
The 90’s was the OxyContin Era. It led many people to heroin, and heroin has led to fentanyl–an opiate 100% stronger than morphine.
Did the prescribing Doctor tell people how addictive OxyContin is and how tolerance increases, which requires one to take a higher quantity to feel the same effect? It is doubtful. These drugs were pushed on medical professionals by pharmaceutical industries. According to Forbes Magazine:
The FDA approved the medication in 1995 and it soon took off. By 2003 OxyContin sales hit $1.6 billion as the drug helped drive a huge nationwide spike in opioid prescribing. At its peak in 2012, doctors wrote more than 282 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers, including OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet – nearly enough for every American to have a bottle. (Chase Peterson-Withorn, “Fortune of Family Behind OxyContin” Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/chasewithorn/2016/06/29/fortune-of-family-behind-oxycontin-drops-amid-declining-prescriptions/ accessed on 9 August 2017)
Let’s discuss the corrosive proclivities that exist in the social psychological make up of American society–a pervasive sense of hopelessness in the souls of most American addicts presupposes a sort spiritual malady. The genesis of this spiritual malady begins at a young age. We are exposed to commercials and advertisements that darken our souls with the belief that happiness is an external search. We seek money and material goods more than we seek peace, happiness and serenity, which can only be found in the deepest recesses of our minds.
The Jesuits at BC High taught me that happiness requires that we commit acts of justice–we must be “men for others”. And I never feel more fulfilled while engaging in acts of justice–particularly social justice.
And acts of economic justice are necessary to combat the socioeconomic factor in the addiction epidemic. Neoliberalism began with Reagan, and continued with Clintons and the DLC who sought to turn the Democratic Party into a fiscally conservative party.
The middle class has slowly disappeared. No jobs, the inability to take care of one’s family, the rampant hopelessness, all lead to drug use. (Carl Latkin, PhD.; Aaron Curry, PhD; Wei Hua, MD, MS; Melissa Davey MPH, CHES; “Direct and Indirect Associations of Neighborhood Disorder with Drug Use and High Risk Sexual Partners” American Journal of Preventative Medicine Vol. 32 Issue 6 (2007) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749379707001110 Accessed on 16 August 17
The United Nations has been able to quantify the happiness of each country. The countries that are the most happy are Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland. What do these countries have in common: universal healthcare, union membership of 80-90%, free day care, good schools, lack of corruption in business and governance. (Retrieved from http://worldhappiness.report/ed/2017/) Essentially these countries learned–a long time ago, at around the same time we were unlearning it–that the economic power of the United States came from the strength of the middle class created by the Keynesian economic model. FDR used this model as the basis for promulgating social security and medicare.
Our friends that have succumbed to this diabolical disease are not just the victims of their genetic make up. They are the victims of a society the values money and materialism over human life. Our society is based on the lie that materialism and self-interest are the traditional traits of American Society. This is an egregious lie.
Corporations have reduced us to consumers who seek happiness through external means. When we seek happiness externally we are bound to feel the pain of an inconspicuous oppression. Corporate greed and the milieu it has created has formed a society of demoralized citizens. This demoralization of our society is the reason we have lost so many friends. Rebellion is not antonymic to The Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Are we going to fight back, or will we continue to allow the demoralization of society by corporate America? If we don’t do something about corporations that make drugs like OxyContin getting away with killing our friends, we ourselves our sinners.
MLK beautifully writes of Aquinas’ view of human law: “An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust…”
The current tax plan benefits the wealthy and corrupt, avaricious American corporations. Some of these corporations caused the Great Recession. Why would conservatives, who now control every federal branch of the government with the help of their their most dependable demographic, the Christian Right, give away much needed revenue, which serves to positively reinforce egregiously unethical corporate behavior? The Obama Administration’s morally sound decision to save many ordinary citizens’ from further financial hardships by the promulgation of a stimulus package that included stipulations, i.e., the money had to be used for loans to America’s businesses saved the national economy, and, which in turn, saved the international capitalistic system brought to brinksmanship due to the promulgation of the neoliberal agenda by Reagan, Clinton, and W Bush: the deregulation of Wall Street and the shift away from government oversight towards a Laissez Faire economic model.
How anyone justifies supporting a tax plan which increases taxes on the folks who saved corporate America’s ass, while an already wealthy corporate, which never stopped its malfeasant behavior, including pushing Citizens United–their successful coup of our government. It’s now their government. Their coup ensures that Congress and the White House are controlled by conservatives who espouse Friedman Economics. Hence, we have a tax bill written by the candidates who which will eliminate subsidies for Obamacare, the poorest citizens continue to suffer and die due to right wing values.
People who call themselves a Christian, yet support a bill that is antithetical to Jesus’ teachings, are either completely ignorant to the teachings of the Divine Being whom, as a Catholic, I consider the Son of Man/The Son of God commit blasphemy when
Bill of Rights were born out of God’s Natural Law. We have a right to them. And indeed our Founders believed natural law comes from God, just as Aquinas did. John Quincy Adams writes:
,The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.
Jesus, Aquinas, and The Founders sought not to divide us into factions; instead they sought to unite us under God’s Natural Law. Trump and his supporters iniquitously seek to divide us at home according to skin color, and to divide the world into the Muslim World and the West. It is a complete deviation of Catholicism, Christianity, and American Principles. Why are Trump’s critics so incensed? They are vexed that Trump and those who support him deviate so acutely from our national principles, especially when so many have fought and died for those principles.
Two wars are often cited when one speaks of men and women making the ultimate sacrifice for our natural rights bequeathed by God: The Revolutionary War and World War II. And then there are folks, who blasphemously wrap themselves in the American flag while harboring the most hateful, racist beliefs. They have not the faintest notion of what that flag represents.
They voted for a man who is antonymic to the principles that those Americans died protecting. In dying, the heroes of our nation hoped to make eternal a country rooted in God’s great, sacred, and undeniable rights–they made the ultimate sacrifice for the American values that are now under attack. The Preamble to the Constitution states:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal. That they were endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. – Thomas Jefferson
Trump does not subscribe to these fundamentally Christian and American beliefs. He has spurned equality by avouching ubiquitous racist and sexist rhetoric. Trump demonstrates his disregard for the right to life with his tax breaks to the wealthy and a vindictive drive to destroy the American Affordable Heath Care Act (Obamacare).
Obamacare has saved the 50,000 American lives (retrieved from https://www.ahrq.gov/sites/default/files/wysiwyg/professionals/quality-patient-safety/pfp/interimhacrate2013.pdf on 3 August 2017)
Even if one argues the semantics of the previously cited research, it is accurate to say that many Americans diagnosed with cancer prior to Obamacare often declared bankruptcy, sold their homes, and their possessions, just to stay alive. Obamacare keeps people in their homes, prevents people from selling their possessions, and allows them to focus on getting treatment, without worrying about securing the money necessary to pay for treatment.
Yet Trump is lobbying Congress to repeal this law without anything to replace it. Millions would lose their health insurance coverage. The Consitution guarentees the right to life; nowhere does it say that you have an undeniable right to life, if you have Blue Cross and no pre-existing conditions. His tax breaks and bloated military budget take from the “least of these” and give to those who have plenty, while ignoring our natural right to life.
Trump demonstrated on multiple levels his disdain our most sacred democratic right: the right to vote. Before his election, he cried that the system was rigged. As an excuse for losing the popular vote by 3 million votes, and as an excuse for not uniting the country after such a divisive election, he fabricated a narrative that our election was highjacked by “illegals.” Overwhelming evidence proves that he is lying to the American people when he claims that millions of illegals voted.
The highjacking of this election occurred when Trump treacherously colluded with the Russian government to damage his opponent. He has demonstrated his scorn for the sacred right that is an essential component of any healthy democracy. It is our natural right and the people’s sovereign power to elect their leader without undue, outside influence.
Every president should respect and revere God’s Natural Law set forth in both the Constitution and Christianity. Donald Trump, who constantly attacks our most sacred democratic institutions and ignores our most deeply held beliefs, such as the election process and the right to life; whose treacherous use of Russian intelligence to influence the election, which was nothing short of a coup; is antonymic to God’s Natural Law, The Constitution, and Christianity.
Paul Adams Jr.
Trump has already damaged our international reputation. His first act as Commander-in-Chief resulted in the death of an 8 year old, and the death of one of our best, a Navy SEAL, Chief Petty Officer Owens and three other injuries Yet, unlike his predecessor, Trump, most likely due to his Johns Hopkins’ diagnosis of malignant narcissism, blamed President Obama. Ironically (perhaps not for someone suffering from Trump’s personality disorder) President Obama never signed off on this raid. He questioned the wisdom of getting even more embroiled in Yemen with special forces. Trump went on to blame the generals after not getting the traction he wanted in the story that blamed Obama.
At the end of his predecessor’s presidency, the United States enjoyed an 89% rating in Germany, an 84% approval rating in France (yes, France), and a 79% approval rating in the U.K.–our most important ally. These numbers are mind blowing in how Trump managed in 8 months to turn Germany’s approval rating of 89% to 11%. France went from 79% to 14%. The UK–I’ll reiterate “our most important ally”–from 79% to 22%.
These are our allies; our fellow NATO members; the countries that are supporting our attempt (or at least our former attempt under Obama) to curb Russian aggression–the country who interfered in our election and has recently committed more cyber attacks against us; the country that invaded Georgia and Ukraine.
I do not believe this country has ever seen such blatant incompetence in The White House, especially in matters of international relations. We have gone from being the Leaders of the Free World to an isolated country whose allies are bewildered by Trump’s cozying up to the dictator we are supposed to collectively hold in check.
Trump is quite audacious to call President Obama’s foreign policy weak. President Obama decimated al Qaeda, pushed ISIS out of Iraq, and gave the order to kill bin Laden, all while increasing the popularity of the United States in the Middle East and Europe, which allowed for the genesis of nascent democratic movements in countries with ultra-conservative, inherently undemocratic Sharia Law.
President Obama allowed the Reform Party of Iran enough room to breath by pulling most troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. This strategy resulted in the victory of the Reform Party of Iran and the ouster of one of the world’s most dangerous despots, known for chanting “death to Israel” while secretly maintaining a nuclear program: Ahmedinijad. Without firing a single shot, Obama ridded the West of one of its biggest problems. Not only did Obama’s strategy rid the world of one of its unstable despots, but for the first time since the Iranian Revolution, we have a government in place where hatred of the “Great Satan” (The US) doesn’t seem to be a requisite in serving in the government.
Yet the president did not yield from aggressively pursuing terrorists in The Middle East. Instead of wielding a sledgehammer and deploying divisions of troops on the ground and destroying cities and their infrastructures, President Obama wielded a scalpel by using targeted drone attacks (I know folks protest the morality of drone attacks, and this is an important debate) and by deploying the best trained, most disciplined, and most courageous special forces units in the world, we have successively killed the new leader of ISIS every time someone was chosen for the job. After the series of successful raids by “an elite team of American Commandos” not one of the incipient leaders wanted to take the leadership position.
His Middle Eastern Foreign Policy was the the work of a brilliant statesman. Calling it weak, was a Republican talking point that unfortunately caught on with some folks, particularly Trump supporters.
The trouble is that most Americans are too inundated with work, domestic issues, their families, or maybe even “weapons of mass distraction” to study Middle Eastern foreign policy (Even after studying it and keeping up with it for four years, I still have questions, and I definitely don’t have all the answers). So a simple sound bite, “Obama is weak on foreign policy”, although a mindless sound bite and the antithesis of the truth, was affective. And as rhetorically gifted as President Obama is, he and his surrogates were not gifted enough to explain Middle Eastern Foreign Policy in 30 second sound bites.
If jihadists are keeping Russia’s client state Syria, and, therefore, the Russian military busy why bother putting boots on the ground? And why play brinksmanship by firing Tomahawks into a Syria that contains Russian military hardware and military personnel. I may sound harsh and illiberal. I know innocent folks are getting killed, but there isn’t any good outcome for the United States. Putting US Troops in Syria would create regional unrest, propaganda for terrorist organizations, and would accomplish nothing.
Just as Saudi Arabia is our client state–and thus allowed to perpetrate some of the worst human rights’ abuses in the world–Syria is Russia’s client state–and thus, since Putin’s Russia views Western ideas of natural law and human rights as a threat to the power of the state, Syria commits even worse human rights’ abuses, such as the use of sarin gas on a civilian neighborhood. Syria most assuredly made it difficult for President Obama to sleep peacefully. It had already cost Trump some sleeplessness back in April of this year.
However, U.S. Intelligence claims no evidence exists that supports Trump’s claim that a sarin gas strike by Assad back in April of this year ever took place. The Russians even supplied the United States with the intelligence that in Khan Sheikhoum high level jihadists were planning a meet. The meeting would take place on the first floor of the building, but in the basement, Jihadi rebels had stockpiled propane, insecticides, fertilizers, chlorine, etc., forcing the local population to deal with the jihadi rebel economy.
The Russians and Assad are close to winning this war, and both are rational actors. Why use sarin gas when you just got the newly elected President Trump to agree to allow Assad to stay in power? American Intelligence said no sarin had been used–that it was the chemicals stockpiled in the basement that caused chemical poisoning. Furthermore, this was a Russian made guided missile.
Trump–despite all of his advisors advice–needed to bomb something because he alone thought there was a sarin gas strike. So his advisors told Russia and Russia told Syria about the upcoming strike. I think of the belly laughs emanating from a Russian diplomat explaining to his Syrian colleague that a bombing was being staged solely to soothe the ego of America’s megalomaniac. Syria removed its most important aircraft out of harms way. The only punishment doled out was to the American taxpayer. Assad and Putin laughed at us that night.
At least President Obama realized that sometimes the greatest move in “the three dimensional chess” that is international relations, is to not make a move until you see all the pieces on the board–until you have all of the necessary intelligence (rather than ignore the necessary intelligence). President Obama may not have had a straightforward move in Syria, but he at least did not give up. He kept our Russian adversaries busy in a Middle Eastern quagmire of their own by arming the folks he thought to be the least of the evils and of course the least threatening towards the United States. Russia undoubtedly felt the effects of the American rebels. The Russian military interceded and bombed the positions of American rebels.
It is almost comical for Trump to have audacity to call Obama weak on foreign policy. Trump has destroyed American credibility with his treatment of allies and his embracing of Putin. Let’s not forget that Obama sent weapons to the Ukrainians to fight Putin’s Russia–the country that took it upon itself to annex Crimea because the soft power that Obama wielded (more on that later) brought Ukraine over to our side.
To prevent Russia from violating the sovereignty of yet another country, he put American military hardware and American troops on Polish frontier bordering Russia, knowing that Russia would not dare to attack US troops, thus protecting the territorial integrity of Poland. Similar DMZ’s with American advisors were set up in other friendly Baltic states. With Obama at the helm, the world was on our side, once again viewing the United States as the benevolent superpower.
Then Trump with the help of Putin succeeded to the presidency. He insults our Western Allies and questions the legitimacy of NATO–the alliance with our Western allies that helped us win the Cold War. Trump alienates our NATO allies at a time when NATO’s importance is as great as it was during the height of the Cold War.
Perhaps just as distasteful is how Trump praises Putin. He truly emulates the man who single-handedly dismantled liberal democracy in Russia. Putin is one of the biggest villains we have seen since Nazi Germany.
Yet Trump wants to get along with Russia? A country that has troops in one of our ally’s sovereign territories; a country that suppresses free speech; arrests and even kills opposition leaders; a country that has no other foreign policy goal than the furthering of its own interest. Trump must be psychologically projecting when he calls Obama weak; not in the course of history have we had a president so weak. It is beyond weak: it is cowardice; it is treachery; it is ignorance.
And our friends have already had enough. The United States was isolated at the G20 Summit. We were the only country not to sign the environmental accord–it is not often that one country comes out of the G20 as the only country not to be a signatory of an agreement. These events are pre-planned by an advance of diplomats to prevent such an embarrassment. The leaders of our Western Allies did not even want to be seen with him or have their pictures taken with him.
Just like that, Trump turned Obama’s “three dimensional chess” of international relations into bowling, knocking down ally after ally. Now we find ourselves alone in the world and friendless. A friendless country, now hated by the allies that have helped us shape the world order for over 72 years, a country made weak by the lie who still o
The only foreign policy strategy that I’ve seen out of The White House is talk loudly and carry a small stick. Unless you are really ready to turn North Korea into “fire and fury” don’t say it. Trump has served to display every negative stereotype used by our enemies around the world to Bd ree c3 brainwash their citizens. He essentially gave Kim a huge win just by uttering such an idiotic phrase. The greatest president, in my opinion, was a Republican: Theodore Roosevelt. He changed the importance of the presidency and was able to achieve a far greater role for the executive branch. His words were “talk softly and carry a big stick.” TR’s stay at what he dubbed The White House, were the years America became a great power. The construction of the Panama Canal and the manufacturing an American Navy that could rival any Old Europe’s navies. Although economically progressive, he believed in a strong military. His sage advice in foreign policy, “talk softly and carry a big stick,” was adhered to by President Obama. His foreign policy prowess is something that will be reflected in American History when one studies his legacy.
It is, therefore, unfortunate that Putin is getting exactly what he wanted with Trump. After Congress–no doubt protecting its own hindquarters with November fast-approaching–passed sanctions against Russia for interfering in our election, Trump refused to sign it for a week. Trump put some serious thought about whether to be loyal to his Party or Putin. But Putin, a brilliant man, of course had his puppet sign his own Party’s legislation, especially with enough votes to override the veto. Trump was not happy about having to sign it, and he said so publicly. He essentially admitted signing the bill so that the Trump White House would not be rendered toothless. At least he’s honest about why he screwed the Russians.
But Putin already got what he wanted: A weakened West, a weakened United States that is globally hated, an incompetent White House with an undignified, offensive, obtuse president who is presiding over the loss of the superpower status of the United States, and a cabinet and staff laden with people who have worked for Putin’s interests, including a Secretary of State who considers Putin a friend.
Can the Executive Branch of The United States escape from Putin’s clutches? Will ever regain superpower status? Unless we elect a truly competent president, well-respected by the world, in four years–a person who can rebuild our relationship with Europe, reimplement Obama’s foreign policy, and explain that Trump won because of Russian interference and an antiquated electoral college system without coming across as the dreaded “apologist”–then American hegemony may be forever lost.
Our own allies publicly speak of moving on without the United States. Some Trump supporters may not care or may even celebrate our cutting ties with Europe and the rest of the world, but that is because they are philistines with no concept of international relations and the globalized economy.
The United States does not just help protect Europe because of our benignant behavior. In a globalized world of interconnected economies and limited resources, our Western Allies are just as necessary to us as we are to them. They help protect our shipping, they help us counteract Russia’s attempts to gain more-and-more natural resources (and it is important to note here that Russia uses its natural resources like oil as a form of international extortion), our Western Allies are on the front lines with Russia. helping us protect any further violations of the sovereignty of neighboring states by Russia; Europe, particularly Germany is the home of important American military bases that allow us to respond to situations rapidly; our European allies share intelligence with us; they are our allies in fighting Muslim extremism.
Furthermore, the United States has soft power (or we did have soft power until Trump single handedly destroyed it). Soft power is our ability to affect another international actor’s behavior based on the appeal of our values, based on the popular support of The United States within the country whose behavior we seek to affect, and based on whether-or-not a country views our goals as benign.
Soft power is a major asset for the United States. Ukraine’s decision to vote for a pro-Western/pro-American government was soft power at work. However, when we act against our principles soft power no longer works effectively. By praising Putin and picking Paul Manafort (yet another Trump associate connected with Putin–the rest we know of are pictured below) for a campaign manager. Manafort worked for the Russian government by expanding Russian influence in Ukraine–a US ally.
Putin has managed to interfere with our sacred democratic voting process. Putin purposely damaged a candidate who would have continued Obama’s policy as defining Russia as an adversary. He helped a man win the presidency whose obtuseness, especially with foreign policy, gives Putin what he needs to continue to behave nefariously.
Even as a candidate, Trump questioned the necessity of NATO. And since it damages our leverage and soft power, it can be assumed that with America’s low approval ratings around the world, including amongst our strongest Western European allies that Putin is planning on posing half-nude somewhere in the Russian wild.
Western-Russo relations have not been this tense since Reagan first got elected. Putin with his sociopathic brilliance sewed dissension between Western Europe and The United States–a successful divide and conquer strategy. He has plenty of Russian associates in the White House, and an American Secretary of State who met with Putin several times since 1999, made several lucrative deals with him, and was awarded the Russia Order of Friendship by Putin personally.
We may have gotten a brief break from the Cold War in the 90’s, but Reagan’s famous “Tear Down This Wall” moment, and the victory he and Pope John Paul II are credited with, was definitely not the finale to the Cold War.
Welcome to Cold War 2.0, and America we are losing. Putin an ex-KGB official and Russian Dictator used one of America’s greatest strengths as a weakness: the sacred democratic process of electing our own president. When a country interferes in our democracy to ensure the weaker candidate, Trump, who, if involved with Russia himself, has chosen many people for his inner-circle who once promoted Putin’s interest. This was nothing short of a successful coup–a coup that just might have caused the most powerful country on earth since the 40’s to lose its hegemonic status. But Putin has his weaknesses too.
The United States should continue arming Syrian rebels and draw Russia to the point where they are sending ground forces. Russia wants Syria as a client state, then let them Russia be the great evil in the eyes of ISIS and jihadists. As that happens there needs to be a build up of weapons and paramilitary forces in the Crimea. Finally, the Caucuses will disintegrate again into a conflagration. During this time period, we move one fleet into the narrow Bosporus Strait of the Black Sea. At the same time, we renew our ties with our European Allies, by electing someone personable, who believes in international liberal institutions, who treats world leaders with respect. With our Western Allies, we covertly fund the Russian opposition, and use the NSA to the best of our ability. A liberal democratic movement exists in Russia, but they are afraid of the power of the state. Weaken Putin a little through sanctions, proxy wars, and a reunited NATO, these weaknesses might make him look vulnerable at home.
America is isolated from its allies. We are embroiled in scandals that could very well prove this president the 21st century Benedict Arnold. He has ruined the dignity of the office with his immature tweets and cyber bullying. His maturity level is that of a teen. His actions are ensuring that the hardliners will continue to gain support in Iran; unlike Obama he won't stay out of the Saudi/Iran Sunni/Shia feud. He doesn't have the courage to stand up to Putin and Netanyahu–the biggest bullies in the international community who refuse to respect the sovereignty of their neighbors.
And when Israel builds settlements on Palestinian land, who do Muslims blame: The United States. That is the major reason why Wababi Muslims attempt to attack us. Netanyahu is aggressively encroaching on Palestinian sovereignty which is a danger to Israel, and to The a United States. And there's only been one President who had the brains and the balls to allow the UN to censure Israel for ignoring international law, and that's President Obama. And I get a kick out of the folks who call him anti-Semitic for allowing the censure to go through; you realize that these settlements put both the US and Israel in danger. Even a growing number of Israelis say enough-is-enough with the settlements.
Putin has violated the sovereignty of two neighboring states in recent years. Who do you think was arming the Ukrainians who were fighting the Russians?–Obama. Who promulgated sanctions against Russia?–Obama. And now who wants to be buddy buddy with the Putin and is trying to stop the new sanctions from going through?–Trump. Who has 7 associates that met with Russian men and women tied to the government during the campaign?–Trump. Come on people! Wake up! His own son met with someone with ties to the Russian government.
And I hear this argument from Trump supporters: it's good to get along with Russia. You guys sound like a reincarnation of Chamberlain. Why would we abandon our Western Allies for an adversarial country who interfered in our election; who has attacked Ukraine; who is a dictator who suppresses free press; violently stamps out any political opposition; acts solely on the self-interest and the interest of the oligarchy; who is committing cyber war against us? Are you people American? Do you believe in our sacred Democratic principles and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights written by Eleanor Roosevelt?
When President Obama was in office for 8 years, America became a world leader again. 69% of folks saw the US in a positive light. Now we're sinking down to 49%. If you think that doesn't matter, then you know nothing about international relations. Soft Power–the ability to influence nations based on trust and on the appeal of your principles–plays a very important and powerful role in international relations.
Ironically, the people that voted for Trump are some of the same people that called Obama a Muslim Terrorist despite the fact that he destroyed al Qaeda, gave the order to kill bin Laden, and forced ISIS out of Iraq.
Now we have a president who is protecting America's adversary. Who had several people meet with Russian officials during the election and conveniently forgot about it, including his own son. Yet I don't hear any outrage from Trump
supporters. You allowed an arrogant, wealthy, sorry excuse for a human being whose goal is to take away the benefits and programs of two of our greatest presidents: Theodore Roosevelt and FDR. He's cutting your benefits to give tax cuts to the wealthy, he's gutting the federal government, including TR's National Park Service, he's gutting education to ensure that more working class people are stupid enough to vote against their own interests by using racism to pit working class people against each other, and he's trying to do away with Obamacare–a bill that has saved countless lives.
So I ask you this? Are you for American values? Or are you with Trump and Russia? Pick a side. I choose The United States of America!
To be an Afro-American, or an American black, is to be in the situation, intolerably exaggerated, of all those who have ever found themselves part of a civilization which in no wise honorably defend–which they were compelled, indeed, endlessly to attack and condemn–and who yet spoke out of the most passionate love, hoping to make the kingdom new, to make it honorably and worthy of life. (James Baldwin, No Name In The Street, (1972)
James Baldwin, wrote these words in 1972. They are profoundly prophetic and apropos to our current political and sociological conditions. An African American led this country’s latest progressive political revolution, was treated abhorrently by racist philistines who questioned his presidential legitimacy because of the color of his skin. The leader of these philistines happens to be the current occupier of the Oval Office.
Yet Obama did not allow racial division and hate to give way to hating; he did not allow hatred and condemnation to affect his capacity to love; he inspired unity among blacks, Hispanics, educated whites, and even among the demographic Democrats find so elusive: working class white people. We were, in the words of James Baldwin, “hoping to name the kingdom new, to make it honorably and worthy of life.”
And I am forever grateful to President Obama for renewing my hope in politics–in proving that good governance is one of the most effective ways bring about positive changes in people’s lives.
Despite the years of enslavement and persecution African Americans have faced over the years, black people have refused to relinquish their hope. MLK spoke of the “the sweltering heat of oppression.”–this phrase Martin Luther King Jr uttered over 50 years ago, resonates to this day with both black folks and white folks. Martin Luther King’s picture and speech hangs in my office next to photographs of John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy. Every time I experience the symptoms of the disease of apathy—a disease so rampant nowadays amongst progressives—I look up at those photos and that speech to remind myself of the progressive principles that these men, whom I consider heroes, gave their lives fighting for. And it inspires me to never surrender to the disease of apathy; to continue to the fight for progressive values.
These men died defending love and peace. MLK Jr is a hero to me—a white Irish Catholic from South Boston. If one fails to maintain hope that we have the ability to unite as one people—a people who dutifully protect the rights of their fellow citizens despite ethnicity, despite skin color—then they are incapable of understanding the most important phrase in the Constitution, which states unequivocally that “all men are created equal.”
Our Founders did not say “all white men are created equal”; therefore, the philistines who voted for Trump because he was overtly racist—or anyone who voted for someone according to racial identity—then they are ignorant of our Founding Creed.
We have the ability to unite as one people and America’s black leaders have spoken and written far more eloquently than any other demographic about maintaining unity and hope in the face of injustice—the face of tragedy. One only needs to read the words of Martin Luther King Jr., President Obama, James Baldwin, Cornell West, etc., to become aware that the race that has given us the most hope—the race that has inspired us to unite as one people—is the race that has faced the most injustice. That being said, anyone unable to overcome identity politics should look to these great African-American intellectuals for the inspiration to overcome their perceived racial injustice. These men had ancestors that were slaves, yet they still call for us to unite as one people and live up to the creed, “all men are created equal…”
I emulate the black community—a community I admire just as much as my own community—and I will not let the tragedy of the 2016 Election disengage from espousing my progressives beliefs.
To this day we are battling to keep America faithful to the liberal beliefs espoused by our Founding Fathers. African Americans in Alabama recently did battle with the Trump faction who actually voted for a pedophile. 95% of African Americans voted according to their liberal beliefs and for the sake of moral decency. It is vexing that 73% of white people voted for a child molester. The high turnout of black people in Alabama and the statewide legislative elections in Virginia does not bode well for Trump and the Republican Party. The Black People of Alabama saved the country from another national embarrassment—the election of Trump being the other—and I commend them for their sense of civic responsibility.
Recent elections held in Virginia mirrored the results of Alabama. Once again, my fellow Black liberals have blessed me with hope after a long period of despair and cynicism.
And the hope bequeathed to me by the African American leaders who, despite the many reasons to relinquish hope, including suffering threats to their lives, continued to propagate the message that inspired a generation of Asians, Hispanics, Blacks, Whites, and other people of color to elect President Obama, who embodies the message of hope, unity, and love, in the face of injustice.
Imagine for a moment that Obama had two immigrant wives, multiple failed marriages, multiple failed businesses. Imagine Obama standing in front a sign with the campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”. Imagine that Obama refused to turn over his tax returns; had extensive ties to a foreign government that just so happens to be our greatest enemy: Russia and Putin; imagine if Lspent millions of tax dollars on maintaining three residences for the Secret Service to protect.
Trunpists are the biggest hypocrites–and racists I ever met in my life. Obama, by virtue of his odd name and his skin color was accused of being a terrorist—and according to Trump, the leader of ISIS. Yet Trump has a bromance going with a dictator who interfered with our sacred democratic process by hacking into the DNC. And what was Trump’s response to Russia: keep spying on us.
Trump’s aides and even his cabinet members met with well-known Russian spies during the course of the election, then lied about it. The same voters who called Obama un-American, a terrorist, and much worse voted for a guy who supports a nefarious dictator who interfered with our election; who is interfering with the election of our Western allies; and has trampled over the sovereignty of Ukraine and Georgia. Trump supporters have put the West in serious danger by voting for a guy who has seriously weakened America and Western Power.
If Obama had immigrant wives and failed marriages, bankrupted businesses, refused to release his tax documents-. He wouldn’t have made it through the Democratic Primary in ’08. Yet Trump somehow won the primary and electoral college. Folks are hurting, and in the age of the 30 second sound bite, where free media seems to be earned through bizarre rants that scapegoat immigrants and people of color for the financial struggle of segments of the American Electorate, Trump’s message resonated.
How would Trump supporters reacted to the man they called a terrorist, a communist, and disgusting racial epithets if he appeared on stage with a slogan that said “Make America Great Again”.
By the way, Trump is the most nefarious hypocrite in this country after calling Obama corrupt for not releasing his “long form” birth certificate–this coming from a guy that has broke with a decades long tradition of releasing his tax documents).
The fallacious right wing talking point that Obama has weakened America’s power in the world is such bullshit. Despite criticism from the left wing of his own party, he droned ISIS back to the Stone Age, assassinated its leaders with the heroic service of our Navy Seals, gave the order to kill bin Laden, and kicked ISIS’s ass out of Iraq. He gave the appearance that the United States was backing out of the Middle East, so that the Reform Party of Iran could achieve victory in Iraq (sending the madman Ahmedinijad packing), which led to the end of Iran’s nuclear program. But he did not back out of the Middle East: he used a scalpal rather than a sledge hammer. The scalpal–drones and special forces–has decimated ISIS. Anytime ISIS elected a new leader, Obama took him out. Leaderless and confused, they cannot even hold on to territory never mind plan an attack on the Homeland. The sledge hammer used by Bush and his neo-cons has destroyed the Cradle of Civilization. These pictures were taken from a friend of mine from Baghdad today:
Bushes quagmire expanded Iranian influence, and has created a hatred towards the United States that will last generations.
President Obama inherited this disaster in the Middle East, and a capitalistic system on the brink of collapse. Yet, he achieved a record of 83 straight months of job growth, expanded our economy while Europe’a shrank, and hit new records with the Stock Market. He increased America’s influence in the world with soft power (the ability to attract people and nations to one’s cause through ideological appeal. And he used hard power in a way to create the least amount of blow back; a stark difference from Trump’s indiscriminate bombings and impetuous decisions to green light missions that led to the death of an 8 year old and a Navy Seal (his sacrifice will never be forgotten).
Obama stood up to the world’s bullies, particularly Putin. Eastern Europe is the most militarized it has been since the Cold War. And now we have Trump who thinks that a sociopathic dictator help bent on weakening the West, is his buddy.
President Obama already realizes that America is great, and he was willing to defend the West from Russian aggression.
Trump does not respect American Values. A patriotic president does not call on our enemy to spy on us; he does not allow espionage to go unpunished; he does not reward a dictator that has attacked us and our Western Allies to the White House for a visit (and then egregiously attack the our 1st Ammendment right of freedom of the press by shutting out the American Press, while allowing the Russian press access; a guy with nothing to hide does not fire the non-partisan FBI Director for investigating possible ties to the Russian government; and he does not utter the words “Make America Great Again”–we already are great.
President Obama realized this, and he also cherished American Values and projected American values and strength around the world; whereas Trump I nothing more than a treasonous self-serving stooge whose Administration has been a complete and utter failure.
President Obama cherishes American values, abhorrs corruption, stood up to the world’s bullies. Trump denegrates American values, is corrupt as the day is long, and befriends the dictator who is currently attacking the West. One has to be a serious hypocrite to call President Obama unpatriotic, a terrorists, or weak, while supporting the guy who tramples freedom of speech and freedom of press and befriends the dictator who is undermining our Western Values.