How Long Will Americans Tolerate This Man as Their President?

Today I watched Representative Ilhan Omar’s speech on Islam, religious liberty, anti-Muslim bigotry at the Council of American-Islamic Relations.

Here is the controversial part of the speech:

Here’s the truth: far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen. And frankly I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it. CAIR was founded after 9/11, because they recognized that some people did something and then all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties. 

I do not take Omar’s remarks here in a sinister way.  Yet, Donald Trump chose to interpret them in that way.  Here is his tweet:

Trump’s decision to post this video with the burning 9-11 towers doesn’t surprise me.  Trump is an idiot and he is never going to change.  But there are no doubt millions of Americans who are praising Trump for this tweet.  They represent much of what is wrong with America right now.  Some thoughts:

  1. The Omar quote Trump used here is woefully out of context.  Let’s also remember that her entire speech focused on the difference between patriotic American Muslims and the Muslim extremists who attacked the U.S. on 9-11.
  2. Let’s also remember that Trump claimed that he saw “thousands” of people in Jersey City “cheering” as the World Trade Center “was coming down.”  As we now know–this did not happen.  It was yet another example of Trump’s embrace of a politics of fear.  And then there was Trump’s comments a few hours after the World Trade Center fell.  Instead of showing compassion for the lives lost in this tragic event, Trump was on the radio bragging that his building on Wall Street was now the tallest building in New York City.  (In actually, is the 32nd tallest building in NYC).  So let’s consider the source and the hypocrisy evident in this tweet.
  3. One can condemn both Trump’s tweet and Omar’s February 2019 tweet about Jews.
  4. This tweet is yet another appeal to Trump’s anti-Muslim white evangelical base as we get closer to the 2020 election.  Expect to see much more of this garbage. Strongmen use fear to stay in power.
  5. In this tweet Trump exploited the families of those killed on 9-11 for political gain.  Sadly, this is politics as usual.  Despicable.
  6. The New York Post seized on Trump’s words, thus further degrading public discourse in America: NY Post

I still believe that a President should set the moral tone of a nation. (Wow, what a crazy idea!). Trump is a deeply immoral man who is incapable of leadership.  Even if you think Omar should have been more specific in her condemnation of the 9-11 terrorists, we should not stand for this kind of gutter-politics from the President of the United States.

What saddens me the most, of course, is that white evangelicals played a major role in getting this man into the White House.  I know not all white evangelicals who voted for Trump like this kind of rhetoric.  I have met dozens of them on the road over the last year.  But let’s not pretend that these voters don’t share responsibility for the mess Trump is making of our country.  White evangelicals gave Trump this platform.

Song of the Day #2

Can’t get through a day like this without listening to “The Rising.”  I’ve written a lot about this song (and the album by the same name) over the years.  I’ve always seen it as a song about vocation.

Can’t see nothin’ in front of me
Can’t see nothin’ coming up behind
Make my way through this darkness
I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far I’ve gone
How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed
On my back’s a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile of line

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Left the house this morning
Bells ringing filled the air
I was wearin’ the cross of my calling
On wheels of fire I come rollin’ down here

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li – li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li – li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li

There’s spirits above and behind me

Faces gone black, eyes burnin’ bright
May their precious blood bind me
Lord, as I stand before your fiery light

Li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li – li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li – li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li

I see you Mary in the garden
In the garden of a thousand sighs
There’s holy pictures of our children
Dancin’ in a sky filled with light
May I feel your arms around me
May I feel your blood mix with mine
A dream of life comes to me
Like a catfish dancin’ on the end of my line

Sky of blackness and sorrow (a dream of life)
Sky of love, sky of tears (a dream of life)
Sky of glory and sadness (a dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear (a dream of life)
Sky of memory and shadow (a dream of life)
Your burnin’ wind fills my arms tonight
Sky of longing and emptiness (a dream of life)
Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li – li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li – li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li…

See all our 9-11 posts here.

 

Teaching St. Augustine on 9-11-01

st-augustine-3

Peter Candler was a graduate student at Duke Divinity School on September 11, 2001.  He was scheduled to give an 11:00am guest lecture in a theological class on St. Augustine’s City of God.

He describes what happened on that day in a piece published Monday at The Washington Post.  Here is a taste:

This was what the students came to hear from Augustine. They came to hear him argue that when the common interest of a public is not grounded in love for its own sake, and when human rights are not grounded in a universal human calling to love God and one another, then we inevitably serve some other god than the God of Love. We worship at some other altar than that of true mercy and freedom, and above all we end up worshiping an idol whose shifting forms disguise his one name: domination. In our desire for mastery over others, we will merely become slaves to the lust for domination that we mistakenly call freedom.

Read the entire piece here.

 

*The Rising* at Fifteen

1573c-bruce-springsteen-the-rising

In honor of the 15th anniversary of the The Rising, I listened to Bruce Springsteen’s 9-11 album several times on my recent drive from Mechanicsburg to Princeton and back.

I have written about The Rising several times here at the blog.  Here are some of those pieces:

Rise Up: Springsteen in Pittsburgh” (September 13, 2016)

Why September 11 is About Vocation” (September 10, 2011 and September 11, 2014)

Bruce Springsteen’s Spiritual Vision for America” (March 6, 2012)

Many of themes I wrote about–vocation, calling, courage, faith, hope, community, loss and tragedy–continued to resonate with me as a drove down the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

“May your strength give us strength

May your faith give us faith

May your hope give us hope.

May your love give us love.”

Over at Salon, David Masciotra reflects on the 15th anniversary.

Here is a taste:

“The Rising” demonstrated that Springsteen, already an uncontested legend, and his band, already one of the best in rock history, were not merely a classic rock expression of nostalgia. They could adapt to a rapidly changing world and musical landscape, even in the worst of circumstances and with the most brutal of muses, and provide music that sounded and felt built for the present.

Springsteen has often explained that he aspires to write songs with “blues verses and gospel choruses.” “The Rising” maximized that formula. “Lonesome Day” — one of Springsteen’s best songs — rocks with abandon, even while integrating country elements into its introduction and musical break, to describe a scene of devastation. “House is one fire / Viper’s in the grass . . . ” Springsteen sings. The chorus offers a secular prayer of revivification: “It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, yeah!”

The simplicity of Springsteen’s faith claim that somehow, even if it is hard to imagine, everything will turn out alright is another force allowing the record to transcend its historical inspiration. “The Rising,” an anthem of life, death and love giving an awe-filled depiction of how firefighters moved through what Springsteen calls “secular stations of the cross,” soon became the campaign theme for Barack Obama’s campaign. “My City of Ruins,” making great use of music similar to Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” describes communal destruction and individual despair before a chorus of “Come on, rise up!” Its message of social uplift caused it to resonate in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and Christchurch, New Zealand, after the city suffered an earthquake in 2011.

Before playing “My City of Ruins” at a benefit for 9/11 survivors and family members in Red Bank, New Jersey, Springsteen said, “This is a song I originally wrote for Asbury Park. You write songs, and you hope that they end up where people need them. So, this is a gift from Asbury Park to New York City.”

The man in the parking lot was right. It seems that people will always need the songs of “The Rising.” When a friend takes her last breath, when a spouse slips away, when a natural disaster leaves a city in ruins, or when the victory of an unqualified, bigoted demagogue turns a national election into a lonesome day, Springsteen’s exploration of human tragedy and triumph — from the funeral of a lover to the house party of a friend — will inspire those in need to drop the needle and pray.

After Springsteen sings “I drop the needle and pray,” near the end of “Mary’s Place,” the Alliance Singers, a New Jersey gospel choir formed in the wake of 9/11 and personally recruited by Springsteen for “The Rising,” shout with church fervor and ecstasy, “Turn it up!”

That’s as good advice as any.

Read the entire piece here.

“A probationary member in a pastoral utopia of armed nostalgia”

<> on June 30, 2013 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Dan Johnson, a writer from Los Angeles, describes how, as a teenager, he used Civil War re-enacting as a means of escaping the world in the wake of September 11, 2001.

Here is a taste of his piece at Salon:

My first day back at school was Sept. 10, 2001. I went from being a soldier in a fictional approximation of a long-defunct 19th-century army to being a boy in a 20th-century educational system. At home my time was much more my own, but my status had been greatly diminished to that of a child. A teacher welcomed me back to the “real world” even though everything about a return to supposed adolescent normalcy felt unnatural.

I first saw footage of the planes hitting the World Trade Center on the cafeteria TVs. In the days after, I sat in my parents’ house watching moribund repetitions of structural collapse, airport security checkpoint footage and the omnipresent tears of victims’ families. The high-pitched roar of combat air patrols replaced the regular wash of passenger jet noise from planes landing at nearby Dulles Airport.

The world of the dot-com suburbs was in a state of flux. A promising future braided with the trappings of supposed progress threatened to unravel in the face of the new national pastime — brooding paranoia. In a time when nobodies from half a world away can fly planes into skyscrapers unimpeded, anything is possible. The lucrative undergirding of Pax Americana was suddenly in question.

There was a certain feeling of entrenchment in the re-enacting community that fall. We hobby soldiers did in literal what the rest of the country did in abstract — we dug into the bedrock of national mythos. It’s an age-old remedy in times of fear and insecurity. We sought our deliverance in the calm certitude of the past. Rarely is that enough.

As the world around me changed, re-enacting became an all-important excavation. I built a system of spiritual trenches to safeguard a comforting idea of history. I wasn’t alone. Far from it. The harder I dug, the more I found like-minded pseudo-soldiers doing the same.

I linked up with others in a vast labyrinth of breastworks cut into the loam of Americana to protect us from a future more intimidating than any of us could have imagined then.

Read the entire piece here.

The Mike and the Mad Dog 9/11 Tapes

Mike and Mad

I just stumbled upon this article at Deadspin.

As I have written here before, I spent a lot of time over the years listening to WFAN, New York City’s first sports-talk radio station.  Between 1989 and 2008 Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo were the heart and soul of the station.  Their afternoon drive-time show “Mike and the Mad Dog” dominated the New York City radio airwaves, especially among men between the ages of 25 and 55.  (Francesa is still at WFAN.  Russo now has his own Series XM Radio channel).

I was living in Valparaiso, Indiana on September 11, 2001 and was thus not listening to Mike and Mad Dog.  I never really thought about how they would have reacted to the tragic events of that day until I read this piece.

I had no idea that they did a controversial show on September 12, 2011. I also did not know that this show was not preserved or made available to the media.  Keith Draper and Nick Martin have located a recording of the show and they have analyzed it extensively at Deadspin.

Here is a taste:

On Sept. 12, 2001, Mike and the Mad Dog host Mike Francesa drove to his local gas station to fill up the tank before coming into work. The station was owned by an “Arabic family,” and he said he could tell that the man working was understandably nervous given the previous day’s events, so he “gave him a slap on the back” before leaving the station.

 Francesa related this anecdote on the air later that day, as he and partner Chris “Mad Dog” Russo spent the six hours of their WFAN afternoon drive radio show occasionally discussing sports, but mostly the 9/11 attacks, and how they happened, who was responsible, and, critically, who should be blamed.

That broadcast, and the broadcasts on the days that followed, entered into a shadowy sports-radio infamy because of what was supposedly said. The Anti-Defamation League wrote a letter to WFAN program director Mark Chernoff denouncing how Francesa and Russo spoke about Jews and Israel, New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick wrote a number of critical columns about the duo’s 9/11 takes, and Francesa and Russo even addressed it for an upcoming 30 for 30 documentary.

But the actual tapes of the Sept. 12, 2001 Mike and the Mad Dog broadcast were seemingly not preserved and never made available. Mushnick asked WFAN for them and was stonewalled. The director of the 30 for 30 couldn’t locate them. Chernoff told us that WFAN doesn’t have them in an archive.

According to former WFAN employees, at the time the Mike and the Mad Dog show was recorded onto six-hour long VHS tapes. The video track was from a station security camera. But these tapes would only be stored for six months, at most, before they were re-used and recorded over. Only certain portions—say, an interview with a coach that might be replayed—were transferred off of VHS onto audio cassettes. In the days before the huge capacity of external hard drives, WFAN didn’t keep an archive filled with endless physical tapes.

Rumors continued to suggest that the tape was somewhere out there, however, and Deadspin was able to confirm that in the years afterwards there were—at the very least—two copies of the Sept. 12, 2001, broadcast of Mike and the Mad Dog.

Read the entire piece here.

 

An Oral History of 9-11

card-to-bush

This one comes from the people surrounding President George W. Bush on the fateful day.  Here is a taste of this widely-shared Politico piece:

This oral history, based on more than 40 hours of original interviews with more than two dozen of the passengers, crew and press aboard—including many who have never spoken publicly about what they witnessed that day—traces the story of how an untested president, a sidearm-carrying general, top aides, the Secret Service and the Cipro-wielding White House physician, as well as five reporters, four radio operators, three pilots, two congressmen and a stenographer responded to 9/11.

Andy Card, chief of staff, White House: We woke up in Sarasota, Florida, at the Colony Resort. There was a terrible stench in the air—the red tide had killed a lot of fish that had washed up on the shore. I remember being struck by that smell coming from Air Force One the night before. We’d gone off to dinner in Tampa. It was unusual for President Bush to stay out late like that, but it was a relaxing evening.

Ari Fleischer, press secretary, White House: The day couldn’t have begun any better or more beautifully.

Gordon Johndroe, assistant press secretary, White House: The day starts off very normally—the president went for a run, and I took the [press] pool out with the president. I remember I got stung by a bee, and I asked Dr. Tubb if he had something he could give me for the swelling. He said, “Yeah, we’ll get you something when we get to the airplane.” Needless to say, I promptly forgot about it that day.

Sonya Ross, reporter, Associated Press: This was a garden variety trip. It was low-ranking staff and a lot of the top journalists didn’t come. It was a scrub trip.

Mike Morell, presidential briefer, Central Intelligence Agency: I walked into his suite [for the president’s morning intelligence briefing]; he was surrounded by breakfast foods and he hadn’t touched any of it. He asked me if I’d gone to the beach the night before, and I told him I’d just gone right to bed. The second intifada was well underway then, and the briefings at that time were very heavy on Israeli-Palestinian stuff. A good bit of the briefing that morning was about Israeli matters. There was one thing that caught his attention, and he picked up the phone to call Condi [Rice] to ask her to follow up on it. There was nothing in the briefing about terrorism. It was very routine—just him, me, Andy Card and Deb Loewer from the Situation Room.

Andy Card: The president was in a great mood. He had that George W. Bush strut that morning.

Read the entire thing here.