Recently on Twitter, Stuart Stevens posted the following: “From Boy Scouts to law enforcement, POTUS is urging American institutions to embrace anger and & give up on trying to uphold higher standards.”
For the record, Stuart Stevens is a Republican. And not just any Republican: he’s a top strategist who has worked on the presidential campaigns of, among others, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, and Mitt Romney. He is someone with whom I disagree politically a lot more often than I agree. And yet there are some issues which are larger than partisan politics.
Late July and early August mark the season of Lammastide. It is the time of first harvest, when the wheat is being brought in, and we begin to celebrate the bounty from the seeds that we planted earlier in the year. We rejoice in the generosity of Earth, which keeps us alive. But not all seeds are wholesome. And some harvests can be poisonous.
Over the past six months or so, seeds have been planted in this country which could produce a highly poisonous crop: a society where hospitality is seen as weakness, and fear and bigotry are seen as strengths. An example of these bitter seeds is alluded to by Stevens in his post: the speech that Donald Trump recently gave to a group of law enforcement officials, the transcript of which can be found here. In this address, Trump went far beyond simply praising law enforcement for their courage, and offering them support. He painted a picture of a society in the grip of chaos and anarchy, threatened on all sides by immigrants, “thugs,” and “radical Islamic terrorism.” He praised his director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for looking “very nasty” and “very mean.” He repeatedly referred to the criminal gang MS-13 as a reason for his crackdown on undocumented immigrants, even though the great majority of such immigrants are leading peaceful and productive lives in our communities. He portrayed the court system as being totally on the side of criminals. He implicitly endorsed police brutality against those arrested for crimes. And throughout the speech he left no doubt as to the general nature of those who in his view pose such dangers: they are the “others” — racial and religious minorities. In the society that Donald Trump portrayed, generosity and tolerance lead only to violence and lawlessness.
At Lammastide we rejoice in bounty and we celebrate generosity — the generosity of the Earth towards us and our generosity towards each other. It is the harvest of hospitality, compassion. justice, and goodwill. But when seeds of fear, hatred and intolerance are planted, the crop produced is a thick morass of brutality, resentment, and violence. We should speak out loudly against the planting of such seeds — and utterly avoid the reaping of such crops.