Bishops and Priests: Please Stop with the Petty, Selective Attacks on Joe Biden

There has been a growing chorus of Catholic priests and bishops who have become outspoken in their disdain for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, despite their shared Catholic faith. Some are blatantly partisan, while others are clearly incensed by his position on abortion and willing to set aside the basic civility applied to politicians who dissent from Church teaching on a whole range of other matters.

Biden’s faith has been a big part of his campaign, as he consistently reflects upon his Catholic faith and his Catholic upbringing on the campaign trail. It’s also not uncommon to see him holding a rosary.  However, Joe Biden’s position on abortion has shifted over time; he was once opposed to the federal funding of abortion and perhaps favored more restrictions on abortion, but he shifted in the primary toward more liberal policies.  Both his pro-choice stance and shift on these issues have clearly rubbed a growing number of Catholic clergy and prelates the wrong way, and they are becoming more and more vocal about Joe Biden’s faith. Others who consistently favor Republicans have used his position as an opportunity to chime in, as well.

Cardinal Raymond Burke went on Fox News to attack Joe Biden’s stance on abortion and claimed that Biden should not receive communion.  Influential conservative priest Father Dwight Longenecker called Joe Biden a “fake Catholic.”  And on the evening of August 21st, Bishop Rick Stika of Knoxville, TN proclaimed that he didn’t “understand how Mr. Biden can claim to be a good and faithful Catholic” and praised President Trump for being anti-abortion. These are just a few of the most recent examples of prominent Catholics who have attacked Joe Biden—and, frankly, enough is enough.

I am sad and embarrassed to watch priests and bishops selectively attack certain politicians, like Joe Biden, and attack Catholics who are supporting Joe Biden by calling them “fake” or claiming that they should be denied communion.  I am not in a position to proclaim the depth and sincerity of Joe Biden’s faith or the faith of those who support him politically (or those denouncing him and his supporters); however, I am deeply offended by the snide, petty, and demeaning comments that are being made by prominent Catholics who have the privilege of reaching tens of thousands (if not millions) of Catholics via social media and other avenues.  It is beneath the dignity of the office these men hold.  Are they not supposed to show love and compassion?  Are they not supposed to be charitable?  Are they not supposed to show grace?  Are they not supposed to evangelize and bring people into the Church, and bring back those who have left the Church? Do they imagine that this is what Christian witness should look like?

How will these malicious and nasty remarks help to evangelize?  They won’t.  There are those who left the Church who see these mean statements that pass harsh judgment on the faith of Catholics like Joe Biden and think to themselves: “Yes, that’s why I left.”  Perhaps the petty, bullying nature of these comments will attract some right-wing ideologues into the Catholic Church (though probably not many), but I fail to see how this callous and highly judgmental image that is being presented by priests and bishops will help the Church draw and retain people in the way that is desperately needed during this era of rising non-affiliation.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, at a time when millions of Catholics are sitting at home because of COVID-19 and are unable to attend Sunday services, it is more important than ever that the Church remind Catholics of why they need the Church and what good the Church does.  As bishops and priests attack, lecture, and demean Catholic Democrats, or Catholics who might vote for a Democrat, they risk pushing those Catholics away from the Church. They can challenge Biden on the issue of abortion, just as they can and should challenge Catholic and non-Catholic politicians on the whole range of issues that help to create the throwaway culture that Pope Francis has spent years highlighting and denouncing. But their behavior and rhetoric should reflect Christian virtue and respect for the dignity of other human beings.

Twitter, Facebook, and traditional media sources can be useful for evangelization.  They are tools that when used properly can spread the Gospel messages of love, mercy, charity, and justice.  However, when those who use them choose to spread malice, spite, and vindictiveness, all they do is sow seeds of resentment and anger.  So, before this election grows more brutal and our country becomes more divided and bitter, please stop. Just stop.


Raymond Arroyo’s Defense of the Trail of Tears Ignores History

Embed from Getty Images
In a recent appearance on Fox News, Raymond Arroyo, EWTN’s news director and the host of The World Over, tried to justify the treatment of Native Americans during the “Trail of Tears”.  Arroyo—a frequent guest of Laura Ingraham’s Fox News program—made the outlandish claim that we should not criticize the way Andrew Jackson’s administration treated Native Americans because “this is how he held the country together. It was ugly, but those were the times. Take it all as it is, as it happened.”

Arroyo, like many who try to justify immoral and appalling actions that have occurred in the past, argues that “those were the times.” Arroyo is implying that the actions that were undertaken were somehow completely normal or seen as entirely acceptable back then.  Statements like that are problematic for numerous reasons, and they misrepresent the actual historical facts about the Trail of Tears and other ways Native Americans were treated during and prior to the 19th century.

The violent removal of Native Americans, the enslavement of the indigenous populations, and slaughter of Native Americans that happened from the 16th-19th centuries were not universally accepted.  There were many public figures who fervently opposed these actions.  There were many who knew that what was being done was morally wrong and spoke up in opposition.

In the state of Georgia, Christian missionaries lived on Native lands and worked to protect Native Americans from the state and federal government.  Georgia responded by imprisoning the missionaries.  In 1832, the United States Supreme Court (in the case of Worcester v. Georgia) rebuked the government of the state of Georgia, ruling against them and maintaining that Native lands were sovereign and not under state or federal jurisdiction.  This decision laid the groundwork for the legal rights of Native American communities, but was not respected by President Jackson or the state of Georgia. The Native Americans were later forcefully removed (in violation of the Supreme Court decision) in 1838—as a part of what we now call the Trial of Tears.

Arroyo’s justification also ignores the fact that many prominent Catholics spoke up in defense of indigenous persons.  Under the leadership of various popes, the Catholic Church, which itself had been involved in the mistreatment and abuse of native populations, spoke out against numerous forms of dehumanization that involved Native peoples. Centuries before the Trail of Tears, Bartolomé de las Casas forcefully objected to the enslavement and murder of indigenous people in Latin America. Pope Paul III declared in a Papal Bull that: “The said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ.” St. Junipero Serra fought the efforts of the Spanish to enslave Native Americans in California and stopped the killing of numerous Native Americans.

Numerous Christian missioners and leaders opposed the Trail of Tears. Prominent members of the opposition party, the Whigs, did so, as well. Even Davy Crockett spoke out against these policies.

Arroyo’s claim that the violence perpetrated against Native Americans  was acceptable because “those were the times” thus displays a total disregard for facts and history.  It denies the agency of those who intentionally and deliberately attacked and mistreated indigenous populations.  The idea that “those were the times” implies that there was a consensus about what to do with regards to Native Americans. That is simply factually false.  The actions that were taken against Native Americans were planned and undertaken despite well-known opposition.

It’s high time that we fight back against the notion that atrocities that were inflicted upon groups like Native Americans, immigrants, and enslaved Africans, are somehow justified and defensible because “those were the times.”  This sort of historic fatalism denies that there were those who pushed back against the abhorrent treatment of marginalized groups, and it is critical that we highlight those voices to show that throughout history, there have been people who understood that such acts were immoral and unacceptable, regardless of the times.


Will the Trump Era Lead to the Rise and Triumph of Illiberal Catholic Conservatism? Don’t Count On It

Over at First Things, a manifesto was recently published that proclaimed that the old “conservative consensus” was dead and that space has been created by Donald Trump’s victory for a better form of conservatism.  The authors of the manifesto are right about the demise of the old conservative consensus; there are many studies and public opinion polls that demonstrate that the political right in the United States now embraces many of the policy positions of President Donald Trump.  However, while they are right about this change in the values of this newly emerging conservatism in the United States they—surprisingly and rather disturbingly—appear to believe these changes may very well be positive!

On the matter of nationalism, the manifesto works hard to blend Trumpian ideals with the aims of a certain illiberal conservative Catholic political mindset. Ultimately, this approach is morally objectionable and stands in conflict with Catholic social teaching.  Meanwhile, their assumptions about Trump’s policies or the space he has created through his election are disconnected from reality. President Trump’s administration is not a true ally of Catholics—neither those with a reasonable understanding of Catholic social teaching nor even those trying to create a more reactionary alternative understanding.

In the manifesto, the signatories praise what they call the “new nationalism” that opposes “open borders.” They maintain that Americans ought to show allegiance and devotion to Americans above all others. There is a palpable anti-immigrant mentality behind these appeals and the simplistic dualities they set up. Their nationalistic desires have certainly been aided by the rise of Trump’s nationalism.

Of course, it flies in the face of the Church’s commitment to global and international solidarity and institutions. And it comes at a time when US Bishops from across the political spectrum have acted in unison against Trump’s xenophobic, grossly immoral immigration policies. The Trumpian pseudo-Catholic conservatism of these “new nationalists” (who do not signify any way they are different from the other ‘America First’ nationalists of today or last century) stands in opposition to the Christian call to universal brotherhood and sisterhood.  The social teachings of the Catholic Church teach us that governance, citizenship, and political life should always be directed toward the common good. We are obligated to put the common good above our selfish interests and stand with the most vulnerable in society because of our principle of solidarity.  As Catholics, we have an obligation towards the poor, the vulnerable, the disabled, and religious and ethnic minorities. And we have a responsibility to welcome the stranger, including vulnerable migrants who are fleeing abject poverty and violence.

Catholic social teaching emphasizes the importance of strong community. Solidarity is the name we give for what weaves us together in community.  This community, however, does not stop at the borders.  We are not defined by where we were born or where we live—the principle of solidarity transcends boundaries. As Saint Pope John Paul II wrote: “We are all one family in the world” (Sollicitudo rei socialis).  Pope Emeritus Benedict also argued that people must go beyond seeing people in other countries as mere neighbors—that we must be united in fraternity. This is not the globalism of elites on private jets but the globalism of a religion that is catholic (universal). And the Church’s teaching is not optional, something to grab or ignore in line at the cafeteria.

Yet the authors of the manifesto clearly reject the call to solidarity and concern for the global common good.  They embrace a worldview where only the people who live within our politically-drawn boundaries are part of our extended family.  They see the international community as dangerous to the American way of life. The pope speaks from the heart of the faith when he encourages us to build bridges instead of walls, but they want walls. The negative reference to multiculturalism may point to a Steve Bannon-style culture warrior stance of opposing “the other” because they might destroy the fabric of the American way of life.

Beyond this clear rejection of Catholic teaching, it is not clear why they think many of the other ideals they advocate can be better served in this new Trump Era than by past conservatives. Will President Trump’s administration produce a conservatism with a much greater commitment to defending human dignity? Do Trump’s policies really help American workers who have been neglected, helping to foster a conservatism focused on such folks?  They also desire a conservatism that challenges “the soulless society of individual affluence” and believe that:

Our society must not prioritize the needs of the childless, the healthy, and the intellectually competitive. Our policy must accommodate the messy demands of authentic human attachments: family, faith, and the political community. We welcome allies who oppose dehumanizing attempts at “liberation” such as pornography, “designer babies,” wombs for rent, and the severing of the link between sex and gender.

Does that sound like the conservatism arising from Trump’s victory? Trump is obsessed with money and power. He has mocked those with disabilities. He tried to strip tens of millions of Americans of their health insurance.

Is he strengthening our political community? He has downplayed Russia’s repeated attacks on American democracy and backed voter suppression efforts. Is he a friend of religion? The Trump administration is definitely no friend to religious freedom or diverse political communities.  As a candidate, and as President, he called for a Muslim Ban.  He raised the specter of a Muslim registry. He has proposed gross violations of religious liberty for religious minorities by using the power of the United States government to close down mosques and places of worship that he deems “un-American.”

How about opposing pornography and the culture that makes it so popular? I’m not sure how a man who is caught on tape admitting to sexual assault, who dehumanizes women by publicly rating them on a 1-10 hotness scale, and has had affairs with porn stars can be seen as an ally of people who want to eradicate pornography. They claim to “reject attempts to compromise on human dignity.” It is not clear how Trump’s presidency will help conservatism be more focused on promoting human dignity—assuming that one regards women as human beings with dignity.

Is Trump really turning away from investors and “job creators” and making it easier to create a conservatism that benefits workers? He has passed regressive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and the largest corporations, while undoing critical economic regulations and safeguards. These policies are designed to help those at the very top while abandoning normal American workers, the vulnerable, and the needy. His administration has done everything it could to empower corporate greed and exacerbate inequality.

Beyond this inability to explain how the Trump administration is creating space for the various principles they favor (besides their nationalism), an even greater failure may be their inability to recognize that the election of Donald Trump and his administration’s corruption and incompetence are a clear distress signal.  The election of President Trump should signal to all political observers that there is dysfunction at the heart of American politics. The American political system is spiraling downward not turning a corner.

The election of Donald Trump was an attempted firebombing of the American political system by those who felt that today’s diverse, multicultural, and globalized world is hostile to their preferred way of life—one tainted by sexism, racism, and xenophobia (not merely economic anxiety). This is not the time to rejoice at the possibilities of how conservative Catholics can use the Trumpian conservative movement to advance their causes; this is the time for deep introspection and self-examination. How might each of us have contributed to the election of an incompetent, immoral, egotistical political neophyte whose core supporters seem to nihilistically relish nothing more than “triggering the libs”? Before exploring a better way forward, these conservatives must realize the gravity of our current situation and how we got here. Otherwise, they may continue to entertain the delusion that the Trump Era is opening the door to a better conservatism.


Yes, You Can Regulate Evil: Why Catholics Should Support Stricter Gun Laws

“You can’t regulate evil.”  These words, spoken by Matt Bevin, the Governor of Kentucky, seem to resonate with so many Americans.  Horrific acts of brutal violence are the price we pay for living in a free society, or so people claim.

Nevertheless, as Catholics, we do not believe this, and our faith does not teach this.  The fatalistic attitude that bad things will happen because bad people exist fails to take into account the very purpose of laws.  The essence of law is to regulate and reduce bad behavior, in addition to directing citizens towards making good decisions.  Catholics believe that good laws can help to create better people.  Laws should point society towards the common good.

St. Thomas Aquinas argues that laws can do two things: first, the coercive power of laws can pressure or scare citizens into obeying rules, and second, laws can work to create more virtuous citizens.  Through this coercive element of law, even those who are the most vile and dangerous to society can be pushed in the direction of virtue.  By prohibiting the unethical behavior that citizens might engage in, laws teach citizens good and virtuous behavior.

While Aquinas points out that laws cannot aim to create a perfect society filled with citizens who possess all the virtues of goodness, laws should always be oriented towards creating a system that promotes the common good and welfare of society.  Obviously, Aquinas states, society cannot prohibit all vices; it would be impossible to do so.  Nevertheless, in order to promote the common good, laws need to prohibit the most egregious misdeeds that people are capable of committing.  These include laws against assault, murder, etc.  Violence perpetrated by guns clearly falls into this category.

The simple fact of the matter is that Catholics need to support stricter gun laws and restrictions on weapons. There is a culture of violence and death that is abetted by our excessively libertarian approach to guns. The absence of adequate regulations results in harmful, unethical behavior that can be reduced. There’s no way around this; if you are Catholic, then you need to be in favor of creating governmental policies that will reduce gun deaths.

Using law to promote virtue and goodness in people might sound far-fetched, but we only need to look to civil rights laws that promoted and protected the equality of women, ethnic and racial minorities, religious minorities, persons with disabilities, and gay, lesbian, and transgender persons to find real examples of this in action.  Various laws have helped to shift public opinion and have created a society that not only protects but also accepts and embraces people who were previously oppressed or ostracized. Bigotry, injustice, and inequality remain, but changes in law have dramatically shifted both behavior and attitudes in a positive direction.

Why should our attitude about guns be any different?  Why couldn’t well-designed laws and regulations on firearms help to create a more virtuous community?  The very point of law is to regulate evil and to convert those who might otherwise commit that evil. From a broad lens, it seems obvious that the United States has a great deal of room for improvement on this.

It is true that crafting legislation in this area is an incredibly complex issue in the US; and there does not need to be a “one size fits all” approach to regulating guns.  Aquinas makes the point that different communities might need different variations of the law to match the needs of the community.  We can do the same with guns.

Rural areas will likely need different rules and regulations than large cities, and areas with lots of hunters will need different laws than places where hunting is non-existent.  But this is the beauty of the American federal system.  Local, state, and the federal government can all engage in the policy making process to make laws that make sense for their area.

Given how pervasive gun violence is in this country, doing nothing is not an option.  If we take the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas seriously, then Catholics need to be on the front lines of this fight for better gun control.  To continue to throw our collective hands up in the air and to say “these thing happen” only further invites these things to happen.


Trump is No Ally to Catholics

Embed from Getty Images
At the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast earlier this month, Vice President Mike Pence proudly proclaimed that “American Catholics have an ally in President Donald Trump.”  But which Catholics really do have an ally in President Trump?

Is he an ally of Catholic women who want to have families?  Is he an ally of the unborn?  Trumpcare would blow up a critical part of the safety net that supports women who want to have families, protects unborn children, and assists the vulnerable in ensuring they have affordable access to essential healthcare.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) protected pregnant women from discrimination in the healthcare system by not allowing insurers to charge them more for wanting to have (or being open to having) children. The Affordable Care Act has made it easier for unborn children and their mothers to receive essential prenatal care.  All of the regular prenatal check-ups, tests, and ultrasounds are covered at no extra cost to pregnant women under the ACA.  Infant mortality rates are directly tied to access to quality preventive care for both the mother and child.

Allowing states to undo these protections not only risks increasing the infant mortality rates, it puts the lives of mothers at risk as well because without comprehensive preventative prenatal care, many diseases and conditions will go undetected and untreated.  Regular check-ups for expecting mothers includes screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and other conditions like strep B, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia that could not only result in harm or death to the child, but result serious harm to the mother. Periodic ultrasounds, meanwhile, ensure the proper development of the child and allow doctors to check for any potential birth defects that can be corrected either in utero or with surgery immediately after birth.

Stripping away ACA protections for expectant mothers and unborn children discourages families from having children. This will almost certainly increase the abortion rate. Increasing premiums on women and families that want to have kids is an anti-family policy that punishes low income families, in particular.

Is Donald Trump an ally of the Catholic worker?  President Trump signed an executive order that rolls back protections for workers, especially women employees.  The Fair Wage and Safe Workplaces order “included two rules that impacted women workers: paycheck transparency and a ban on forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination claims.”  President Trump has eliminated these protections.

President Trump has argued that wages are too high for America’s workers.  His pick for the Secretary of Labor position, Andrew Puzder, opposes raising the minimum wage and wants to further cut workplace safety regulations.   Labor unions see threats to collective bargaining and are increasingly worried about potential overhauls to labor laws and an increase in “right to work” legislation.

Is President Trump an ally to Catholics with disabilities?  He has openly mocked people with disabilities. Potential cuts to Medicaid and decreased protections for those with preexisting conditions will disproportionately harm those with disabilities.

Is President Trump an ally of Catholic immigrants?  He is certainly not an ally of the 11 million immigrants whom he wants to deport.  He is not an ally of the immigrant families who will be broken up because of his policies.  ICE raids are up 40% under Trump’s administration.

Is President Trump an ally of Catholics who desire protections for religious freedom?  Don’t believe the rhetoric from the Trump White House; he is no friend of religious liberty.  Trump has argued that he could round up and register Muslims living in the United States.  He plans gross violations of religious liberty by using the power of the United States government to close down Mosques and places of worship that are “un-American.”  His recent refugee ban, targeted at Muslim-majority countries, further demonstrates his lack of commitment to freedom of religion in America.

If he can target Muslims one day, why not Catholics who oppose his blatantly un-Catholic polices the next?  Donald Trump shows an open disregard for the most vulnerable of people and basic democratic norms.

Catholics believe in government that is directed toward the common good of all in society.  This is why Catholicism puts such a heavy emphasis on strong communities that are tightly bound together.  But the common good is not just what is good for society as a whole, the common good starts and ends with the good of each individual person.  It is because of this principle that we are obliged to stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable members of society.

As Catholics, we have a serious obligation to protect religious and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, women, the unborn, workers, and immigrants.  A true ally of Catholics would stand in solidarity with these groups, not target them.

No, Vice President Pence, President Trump is not an ally that Catholics can count on.


Machismo Madness is Damaging American Politics and Our Society

The night before the election, the Republican candidate for Montana’s lone congressional seat, Greg Gianforte, body slammed the Guardian’s political reporter Ben Jacobs, who was trying to get Gianforte to comment on the CBO’s score of the American Health Care Act and captured the entire altercation on an audio tape.  Unsurprisingly, a number of prominent conservative members of the media were quick to attack Jacobs, calling him a “wuss,” saying that he deserved it, and that he’s a snitch for calling the police.  On Twitter, there are reports of Republican voters in Montana who are saying that Jacobs had it coming and that other members of the media deserve what happened to him.  Even more depressing is that members of Congress were making jokes about how they have wanted to “body slam” reporters in the past.

Gianforte’s assault and battery of a reporter is not a surprise, nor is the conservative response in defending him. President Trump has viciously vilified the media as liars, dangerous, enemies of the people, fake news, and dishonest.  Reporters at Trump’s campaign rallies were often threatened and felt endangered.  It’s surprising that it took this long for it to reach this point.

But Gianforte’s violent response to Jacobs, and the positive responses to it, are symptomatic of a larger problem in the conservative movement: an obsession with faux-masculinity.  The Republican Party has descended into what we might call “machismo madness.”  There’s a growing obsession with real men and how real men are supposed to act that borders on idolatry.

Few embody this machismo madness better than President Trump. Donald Trump has been recorded calling women “fat pigs,” “slobs,” and “Miss Piggy”; rating women’s bodies on a scale of 1-10; and bragging about using his money and his fame as an excuse to sexually assault women by “grabbing them by the pussy.”  Then a slew of women came forward to state that he had, in fact, sexually assault them just as he publicly said he did.  Trump said in a debate that Hillary Clinton did not have the “look” of a President.  None of this was problematic for either Republicans or conservative voters.  He was just being a real man with manly locker room behavior and banter.

Sexual assault is just a man being a man; all real men do it. Beating up protestors is how real men deal with people who are disturbing them. Grading women on a hotness scale is how real men treat women; and these women really want to be objectified by real men, even though they won’t say so. Real men don’t complain to the police when they’re choked, tackled, and punched; the man who did the punching is the real man because real men stand up for themselves with violence.  All real men have guns, carry guns around for protection, and will use guns to defend themselves.

These attitudes are a result of a post-modern conservative mindset in which conservatives long for a past that never existed, a fantasy golden age created from literature, media, and political speeches. In this past that never was, men were strong, violent, and powerful. Cultural changes in our society are causing people to flee to this false past as a refuge, instead of coming to terms with their place in the modern world.  Read More


How Sexism and the Desire to Blow the System Up Led to Trump’s Victory

So the election is over, and Donald Trump will be president. What do we make of what transpired?  There are many takeaways from this election, but I’d like to reflect on just a couple of points.

The first is that sexism and misogyny are alive and well in the United States of America.  Let us go back to 2008 for just a moment; imagine if it came out that then GOP nominee John McCain had been recorded using repulsive racial slurs in reference to black people. Then, picture African-Americans coming forward and accusing John McCain of openly racist behavior towards them.  How would the public respond to the blatant racism of a candidate running for President of the United States, especially when that person is running against the first African-American nominee?  Disqualifying perhaps?  A national outrage?  Then imagine that John McCain, after having said and done all those racist things, beats Barack Obama, an African-American.  What would we think about America then?

Now let’s go back to the present.  The GOP nominee for President of the United States, Donald Trump, has been recorded calling women “fat pigs,” “slobs,” “Miss Piggy,” rating women’s bodies on a scale of 1-10, and bragging about using his money and his fame as an excuse to sexually assault women by “grabbing them by the pussy.”  Then a slew of women came forward to confirm that he had, in-fact, sexually assaulted them just as he publicly had said that he did.  Donald Trump was running against the first major party woman nominee for President, Hillary Clinton. Trump even went so far as to say that Hillary Clinton did not have the “look” of a President.  None of this was problematic for American voters.  Donald Trump beat the first woman nominee for President after being openly sexist and misogynistic, and even after sexually assaulting women and bragging about it.

Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton despite the fact that Trump had zero political experience, along with no military experience (the first nominee of either major party to have neither), while Hillary Clinton was President Obama’s Secretary of State and a former Senator from New York.  Americans did not seem to care about Trump’s lack of experience in comparison to Hillary Clinton’s years of public service; of even greater importance, Republicans, who in 2008 argued that then-Senator Barack Obama lacked experience to be President, did not care that Donald Trump lacked any political experience to be President. Whether you agree with her positions or not, Hillary Clinton was an exceptionally disciplined candidate who studied policy deeply, while Trump refused to prepare legitimate answers on numerous policy questions and even lacks a basic understanding of the role of the president.  America does not seem to be troubled by this.

The second point is about the growth of fear and desperation in America.  Some might argue that “white fly-over America” voted based on their naked self-interest.  They unleashed terror on America’s most vulnerable by giving in to race-baiting and a politics of fear and hatred.  I do not doubt that there is an element of that in this election.  However, we also must recognize that Middle America suffers and feels just as unwanted and unwelcome in this country.  People in Flint, Michigan—black, white, and everyone else–continue to drink poisoned water while their means of livelihood have been eliminated either via automation or globalization.  People who live in coal country and former steel workers are losing their jobs while their towns dwindle to near non-existence.  All the while, the costs of basic necessities have risen, the cost of educating their children have sky-rocketed, drug addition and overdoses plague their communities, and no one seems to give a damn about them.  Worse yet, they are lectured about their “white privilege” while drinking water contaminated with the poisonous run-off from coal mining in West Virginia.

We have to understand their struggle, and it appears that we have failed to do so.  Their vote for Donald Trump was a vote to destroy a system that they see as having abandoned them.  They pulled the pin on the Trump grenade because they saw no other way forward.   He may be a conman, his policies are probably not in their actual economic interests, his values are probably not their values, but he promised what no other candidate promised them: to blow the system up.  I cannot condone their vote for Donald Trump, but I can understand why they chose to do it.

Nevertheless, while those who live in bright blue America need to do a better job of encountering Middle America, that does not absolve white Middle America from doing what they did.  I have seen a lot of social media posts from friends who are apologizing for white America and asking how white people could betray their brothers and sisters of color, their Muslim neighbors, and other vulnerable communities.  They have a valid point in that “fly over country” America voted for a man who insulted and threatened basically every ethnic and minority group in the country.  He threatened to separate immigrant families with deportation, to round up Muslims, register them, and monitor their Mosques, and promised to create “law and order” in minority communities.

The people who Donald Trump has insulted now feel a legitimate sense of terror.  They legitimately feel as if they are unwanted and unwelcome.  Worse yet, it seems as if the election of Trump has made it acceptable to be a bigot again.  Muslim women are being taunted and threatened; Latinos are being harassed in schools as their classmates shout “build the wall;” gay, lesbian, and transgender students at many colleges are afraid to leave their dorm rooms because they might be assaulted.

Rust Belt America needs to encounter ethnic, racial, and religious minorities.  America is become more and more diverse, and white America needs to realize that diversity and multiculturalism are not values that liberals push on people—they are the basic facts of life.  The United States of America is not going to get less diverse just because they want it to.  Globalization is not going away just because they want it to. America is constantly evolving, and just because you do not like it that does not make it wrong.  These two Americas need to engage each other, learn from each other, and find away to co-exist in this country.  How that happens, I have no clue.