The Republican Party, once Communism’s greatest antagonist, is now its biggest cheerleader
Still, as Wendell Berry teachers us, there is no reason to hate the Russian people anymore than Russians should hate us for Trump
By Michael M. Barrick
On March 8, 1983, Republican President Ronald Reagan, speaking to the annual convention of the National Association of Evangelicals, famously called the Soviet Union an “evil empire.”
This is the same Republican Party of Donald Trump and his buddy, Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer. This is an astonishing turnabout in just one generation. The Republican Party, once Communism’s greatest antagonist, is now its biggest cheerleader.
While many Republican leaders have criticized the president’s performance in Helsinki, they do not follow up their words with action. So, they are enablers. It is noteworthy also that some of Trump’s remaining strongest loyalists are influential evangelical pastors. So, I’m quite disappointed – again – in our institutional and societal leaders. In the face of evil, they are silent. (Those who claim to be Christians might want to look up Ephesians 5:11).
Still, it’s a republic, so we have a voice, protected by the First Amendment. Obviously, this essay is such an example of exercising my right to speak freely. But I have another way, and you’ll find it on the back of my car. It’s a bumper sticker. It’s below.
This message isn’t warmly received where I live and work – the heart of Trump country – from Western North Carolina through southern Virginia to all of West Virginia.
It’s controversial because people – as we know from “A Few Good Men” – just can’t handle the truth. I read. I’ve heard our own Republican Senator Richard Burr – chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee – say that the Russians interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Nevertheless, this “love note” left on my windshield while my car was parked at an elementary school in our county, provides insight to how people respond to this truth. Here it is:
There are two important things to learn from the mentality expressed in these words (I won’t call them thoughts). First, note the “Love it or Leave it” mentality from the 1960s. This person is asserting authority over me he that does not have. Why? We have an authoritarian president who he apparently voted for and worships. He craves – and emulates – the authoritarian approach. That’s the first step to Fascism. Secondly, and sadly ironically, this person will follow orders from Trump, even if they violate the Constitution one presumes this writer claims to love.
So, what do we do about this problem of having a president that is chummy with an enemy of freedom and who is doing all that he can to break up NATO and other vital alliances?
Applying the Wisdom of Wendell Berry
We apply the wisdom of Wendell Berry. (And Forrest Gump but hang on a minute).
As Berry wrote in his poem, “To A Siberian Woodsman,” published 50 years ago, we as a people must realize that despite Putin, there is no reason to hate the Russian people – anymore than Russians should hate us for Trump.
Berry, in his poem, introduces two protagonist farmers – an American (Berry) and a Russian. In this exchange, the farmers contemplate upon their common interests and concerns – their love of family, their love of farming, their respect for nature, and their respect for their fellow man. Implicit in the poem is that nationalism is an enemy to all people.
You lean at ease in your warm house at night after supper,
listening to your daughter play the accordion. You smile
with the pleasure of a man confident in his hands, resting
after a day of long labor in the forest, the cry of the saw
in your head, and the vision of coming home to rest.
Your daughter’s face is clear in the joy of hearing
her own music. Her fingers live on the keys
like people familiar with the land they were born in.
Further on, he continues:
And I am here in Kentucky in the place I have made myself
in the world. I sit on my porch above the river that flows muddy
and slow along the feet of the trees. I hear the voices of the wren
and the yellow-throated warbler whose songs pass near the windows
and over the roof. In my house my daughter learns the womanhood
of her mother. My son is at play, pretending to be
the man he believes I am. I am the outbreathing of this ground.
My words are its words as the wren’s song is its song.
He then asks:
Who has invented our enmity? Who has prescribed us
hatred of each other? Who has armed us against each other
with the death of the world? Who has appointed me such anger
that I should desire the burning of your house or the
destruction of your children?
This is but a small sampling. Berry ends by asserting that no government should have the power to require us to participate in the destruction of families, homes, communities and nations.
So yes, it’s disturbing that President Trump is incompetent at best and compromised at worse. Or both. Let us not lose sight of the fact, however, that the Russian people are not our enemies. They’re simply fed a load of crap like we are. It’s up to us – the free people in this equation – to hold our elected officials accountable to seek the truth sincerely and immediately. Anything less is dangerous, even treacherous.
One more thought:
Here is another contrast between President Reagan and President Trump I’d like my Republican friends (it’s a shrinking group with articles like this) to explain: President Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, Germany on June 12, 1987. You can contrast it with anything Trump has said about building a wall on the Mexican border.
All of this seems perplexing until one considers the wisdom of another great American philosopher, Forrest Gump: “Stupid is as stupid does.”
© Michael M. Barrick, 2018