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His Lips to God’s Ears: Tired of Winning

Mar 31, 2024 | PDA Blog

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His Lips to God’s Ears: Tired of Winning

 

“Donald Trump realizes that recent financial judgments against him are losses, not wins. But, like a desperate gambler, he plays on, believing that delays in future judgments will win him the presidency again.”

Back when many in the media found it unthinkable that Donald Trump would win the U.S. presidency, he told a cheering crowd of thousands that he and they would win so much they’d “get tired of winning.”

 

It’s happening in front of our eyes. Dull, fat, exhausted, and confused, Trump is the embodiment of his prediction. He’s tired of winning.

But he can’t stop playing. He realizes that recent financial judgments against him are losses, not wins. But, like a desperate gambler, he plays on, believing that delays in future judgments will win him the presidency again. And by dictatorial fiat, he will make all charges disappear.

I kept People magazine’s Decade In Review from the 80s. My children were born then, so it was history. Donald Trump is on the cover, and the movie Wall Street is quoted – “Greed is good!” That became the battle cry of a new generation of business leaders who defied old moral norms. Winning was no longer everything but the only thing, to quote UCLA coach Red Saunders (later attributed to Vince Lombard.) Restraint was weakness. Unbridled ambition was rewarded and revered.

Forty years on, Bernie Sander’s disgusted “Enough is enough!” answered that excess and became so popular it resonates, still, across our political divide. But in 2016, it was Trump who won the White House – not Bernie and not Hilary, despite winning two million more popular votes. It was a bitter spectacle for many of us to see “Greed is good!” become the organizing principle of our country’s policies, foreign and domestic, overt and covert. It was, and is, testament to the spell of TV celebrity that so many Americans, frightened by changes that seem beyond our control – mass migration, climate catastrophe, vanishing wealth, toxic pollution in our neighborhoods, sexual changes in the new generation – believed that a fabulously wealthy white man could restore their supremacy under the old order. Trump clothed himself in that belief and added to it a promise of national religious salvation, invoking a Bible he can’t even quote. But believers believed in his belief, and trusted a biblically righteous president to stop climate change, end the emergent changes in the biological binary order, and end what Catholic AM radio host Mother Angelica daily decried to listeners as “the Holocaust of abortion.”

Following Mitch McConnell’s refusal to allow Obama to appoint a Supreme Court justice, Trump obediently filled the empty positions with judges who reliably overturned Roe v. Wade. Trump was proven godly, as was the GOP. His personal promiscuity and dishonesty were also proof: God can do good with the most flawed of human beings. Trump’s persistent ubiquity in the media marketplace makes him seem a kind of secular saint, an immortal in the pantheon of our celebrity-worshipping culture. The marketplace can’t resist Trump. He sells. He’s a long-running soap opera, an adrenalin rush. Here I am writing about him, though I’ve resisted doing so for a long time. Because, in fact, I’d really rather ignore him.

But I can’t. Because he and his followers are now devoted to replacing our country’s imperfect democracy with a repressive dictatorship that would outlast him and require great suffering to dislodge.

The tragic irony now seems to be that the only person with a direct connection to Trump who can stop Trump is Trump. While the American people voting in overwhelming numbers may yet rise up to stop his self-described winning streak, even his wife appears to have little power in their partnership. She warned us sartorially, long ago, that she really doesn’t care. She may care more, now that the money that keeps her comfortable – and her son safe – dwindles. I remember the sad spectacle, during the 2016 campaign, of a nude photo from her past. It was unearthed supposedly to show us a norm that would be violated by a Trump presidency. For me, it served primarily as an unpleasant but telling glimpse into her rationale for becoming the third Mrs. Trump. Surely marriage to a wealthy and powerful man was security against ever having to be exploited – including by herself, in desperation – again. To me, her First Lady photos of public reverence show how deeply she aspired to being a Madonna, a faithful wife and loving mother. Donald Trump provided that. Whatever consequences she faces now, of having married him, he first appeared to her as a savior.

Wishing this man would go away – as many of us, Republican and Democrat, do – inspires deeply uncomfortable and ghoulish thinking. And perilous: we instinctively know that wishing harm on another is poisonous, and brings harm to us. One of the most painful things about the spectacle of Trump’s exhaustion, and his followers’ gradual disillusionment, or furious denial, is the effort it takes to obey the moral imperative of not wishing him ill. He spreads his exhaustion like a pandemic.

I am aware that many religious Americans believe a God-fearing dictator could better secure our nation’s future than a president obeying the Constitutional oath to protect religious freedom and preserve equal rights. They think a president serving a dogmatic, Omnipotent Deity would attract that Deity’s help in eradicating our national problems. If this required reward and punishment, so be it. The dictator could do, to whomever did not get in line, “whatever the hell they want.”

To the religiously fearful, I would point out the godly government, including Christian ones, are dangerous. Hitler was a Catholic but saw no problem with genocide. In fact, his religious views may have sanctified his resolve to kill Jews, homosexuals, and their sympathizers. The Rwandan massacre saw Christian neighbors, friends, and relatives commit mass-murder on one another, due to tribal hatred fomented for years by popular radio hosts. In Uganda and the Congo, the Lord’s Resistance Army employed rape, torture, murder, and child soldiers forcibly recruited to commit atrocities, all towards the stated goal of establishing the Ten Commandments as the supreme law of the land. Stalin was an atheist, but Putin isn’t. Yet his publicly observed Russian Orthodox Christianity seems no obstacle to poisoning, impoverishing, imprisoning, starving, and killing political opponents. In Ukraine, his Russian soldiers kill Ukrainian ones who bear the image of Jesus’ mother, Mary, on their uniforms. Which nation is the Christian God’s favorite?

Jesuit priest Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboys Industries, the most successful gang recovery program in the world, bases his work in the inclusive and unconditional love taught by Jesus of Nazareth. If your God inspires to you to fear, dominate, hate or kill, Boyle writes, you’ve got the “wrong God.”

Realizing that one may have “the wrong God” is usually something that takes place in private conscience or an affirming community. But when your God wants you to kill, torture, impoverish, and imprison your fellow human beings, “wrong God” must be publicly pointed out. And, in a democracy, voted down.

I believe in a God of mercy. Could it be that mercy is allowing Trump to be proven right, by his own prediction? And that exhaustion might show him how so much winning missed the mark?

I do not envy him his remorse for the sorrow he sowed for the nation and his family. The cosmic circumstances of anyone’s birth are a mystery, and Donald Trump’s father was, by all accounts, terrifying. Donald seemed to want to be different: more charming, more generous, more loved than feared. But he succumbed to “Greed is good,” and winning to vanquish his demons. To stay on top, he had to reward and punish. And he did, with mercurial approval and disdain stemming from a chaotic refusal to self-examine. His children’s various mothers, except for Barron’s, are invisible. Ivana is six feet under the Bedminster golf course, a source of much mirth from our late night wags. To me it is sad blasphemy in a world where even the poorest of the poor generally seek reverence for their loved ones’ earthly remains.

Tired of winning: his lips to God’s ears.

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