Category Archives: Donald Trump

When #LoveWins is not enough.

Many years ago, when political slogans first became fashion accessories, Brother Ivo used to occasionally wear a badge bearing the slogan ” Wearing badges is not enough”.

The badge was lost somewhere along the way, and probably would not be worn now in any event, yet its recollected message was a useful reminder as images have emerged in the media, following the dreadful murders in Orlando.

Nobody can can blame those who have been lighting candles, holding vigils, and joining hands in Great Compton Street singing ” Bridge over troubled water” ; we instinctively want to do something, to show solidarity with the bereaved, and to reassure ourselves that we shall overcome.

Yet wearing badges is not enough. Hashtags do not cut much ice in the councils of Daesche, and the sad individuals trawling the internet to feed their homophobia or misogyny will view all this as confirmation of our moral weakness and national cultural degeneracy.

Terrorism is not new. Russian anarchists took to it in the 19th century, so did Irish Republicans. The tactic of the suicide bomber was developed, not in the Middle East, but by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. Yet the present virulent strain began when a couple of thousand fighters were marauding around Iraq with little more than heavy machine guns mounted on pick up trucks, as the leader of the free world dismissed them as the ” JV (Junior Varsity) Team”.

The ISIS phenomenon was allowed to grow, when a decisive response by a more experienced or resolute US President might have prevented them from capturing vast military resource and, crucially, over a billion dollars in cash which has been used to swiftly mount a social media operation to outreach to the second generation immigrants in first world countries, who seem especially susceptible to their encouragement to actions such as we have seen in Paris, Brussels and Orlando.

The old adage ” nothing succeeds like success” applies in this field and it is worth reminding ourselves that the ” glamour” of the Waffen SS attracted recruits from France Holland Norway and Sweden. Even a few British prisoners of war joined them. There is something horribly attractive to young men in such gross and violent organisations, yet the converse is also true. Failure is not a great spur to recruitment. Young people especially, disassociate from it.

It is with this in mind, that Brother Ivo sadly concludes that the destruction of all semblance of ” Islamic State” is essential,: until it is, it will continue to function as a focus for Muslim youth when it wants to demonstrate its rebellion.

This sounds shocking. Many want to choose different “enemies”, less frightening ones. So the Orlando killings are blamed on the National Rifle Association, Donald Trump, Christian cake makers and those who disturb student sensitivities with challenges to their complacencies.

Yet one does not have to spend long considering the attitudes of militant Islam to start joining the dots between the extremist pulpit and the smell of cordite.

Though many kindly tolerant people find it deeply uncomfortable to associate their decent Muslim friends and neighbours with what -in other contexts -would be called ” hate speech”, it is unquestionably true that anyone looking for theological texts to justify the destruction of gay people, will not find the Koran lacking in such material.

We in the Christian Churches are struggling with a a handful of texts in our Bible as we try to be inclusive. Ours are less trenchant than those confronting moderate Muslims. Those seeking to read the Koran in a more ” gay friendly” fashion have infinitely more problems. One does not hear of “shared conversations” in UK Mosques; if they occur, it would not be safe to publicise them. Once that might have been conceivable; not anymore.

A recent international survey of attitudes to LGBT lifestyles shows that the Islamic world is resolutely hostile, with the percentage spectrum ranging from the high 70’s to 99%. Even in the UK 52% of Muslims believe it should still be illegal. In at least 10 Islamic countries there is a death penalty for gay behaviour.

Unless addressed, it must surely be the case that a growth of Islamic identity and population within the UK must have a potential for a cultural collision with the gay-friendly zeitgeist within the UK.

In parts of a London and other cities, we are seeing the defacement of public advertisements depicting females with less than Islamic modesty. The New Mayor of London is banning certain images from Transport for London for reasons couched in feminist terms yet congruent with Islamist attitude.

The likelihood is that “Culture Wars” may get worse before it gets better.

So how are we to head this off?

The !eft of politics in particular has been keen to attract support from sectional interests; they have not wanted LGBT people or Muslims to feel excluded from mainstream society. That sounds reasonable enough. It is an admirable aspiration. Yet what will be required of all sections of society if that is to be achieved? What if they are not interested, but inflexibly prefer to assert their religious and cultural rectitude?

Defeating Islamic State whilst holding the confidence of the UK Muslim population and simultaneously advancing gay rights, looks an increasingly difficult trick to pull off.

Wearing badges is not enough.

 

That “Ed Hotchner” moment

Most people have never heard of AE Hotchner which may be a pity because he lived a very colourful life as the trusted friend of interesting people.

Latterly he was the partner of the late Paul Newman in the marketing of culinary sauces which were sold in the film star’s name, and at the end of every financial year,  the two  friends would sit and work out how to distribute the very significant profits to charity; something like 350m dollars found their way to good causes in this way, so Mr Hotchner did a lot of good.

He was also a companion of Ernest Hemingway, and in his auto biography tells of a rather splendid story of their “hell raising” days together, when they were friends of the Bull Fighting fraternity.

After drinking with two of Spain’s finest matadors one night, they hatched a plot to smuggle Hotchner into the bull fighters’ entourage and send him into the grand parade of matadors before a prestigious corrida. They appreciated that making a mockery of this great Spanish institution was risky in the Spain of General Franco, but high spirits prevailed.

The following morning, Hotchner was dressed in a “suit of lights” and took his place as the 2nd reserve bullfighter and was soon hugely enjoying the joke and the adulation of the crowd as he entered the ring and took his place on the bench.

It was only at the entry of the bull that the full precariousness of his position came to mind.

If the bull killed the greatest matador in the world, it was the reserve bull fighter’s job to finish the job.

If the bull despatched the two greatest bullfighters in the world, the time would have come for Hotchner to make his bull fighting debut.

It is perhaps as well that this all took place before Leicester City defied the 5000/1 odds against winning the English Premier League.

This anecdote came to Brother Ivo’s mind as he heard US commentators opining that the effective winning of the Republican Presidential nomination meant a ” shoe-in” for Hillary Clinton to become the next US President.

Frankly, Brother Ivo is not greatly enamoured of either candidate, but he tries to be objective and “interesting” and it is worth pausing to consider Mrs Clinton’s position if she eventually shakes off the dogged campaign of Senator Sanders, who has made her expected ( and significantly engineered ) coronation a less comfortable process than the party bosses planned.

As she takes the plaudits before the adoring Convention might she too have her ” Ed Hotchner moment”?

Might she reflect that having beaten Mr Sanders with some some difficulty, she will next be facing a man whose brutal political populism has relatively effortlessly despatched, not one unknown Senator, but sixteen highly resourced opponents, several with significant records of  years of hard campaigning and executive experience?

Campaigning, andtaking part in a grand procession is one thing; delivering the final performance is a very different proposition, and all of us in greater or lesser degree have experienced that “Ed Hotchner moment”.

A curate securing her first living, the newly qualified doctor approaching his first shift in A&E , even the newly elected member of General Synod preparing to make the maiden speech – we all have such doubts and reminders of our own fallibilities.

Many Churches will be having their own collective ” Ed Hotchner ” moments as they hear another call to evangelism , and consider the exhortations to follow Christ’s great commission to make disciples of all the world. We will all feel inadequate to the task ahead.

Some may doubt their strength, others their technique. Many will feel their own faith incomplete – few of us have all the answers – but Jesus was ahead of us, telling is not to worry what we will say, he will give us the words if only we get alongside people like ourselves and start the conversation.

But there is yet another reason to set aside our fears in such circumstances.

Our Archbishops Justin and John have launched an online video not simply calling upon us to prepare to evangelise the nation, but giving us the watch word that will enable us to fulfil our part in the great commission,

it is encompassed in two small words that might have served A E Hotchner well as he confronted his doubts and fears in that bull ring all those many years ago –  Just Pray

Is Donald Trump the new Cassius Clay?

Brash, boastful, boorish, successful, not much of a gentleman, riding for a fall, hated – all words and phrases that might be applied to Donald Trump at a time when many British people have petitioned Parliament to ban from entry to the UK, the man who could become the next President of the United States of America.

Was it not only a few weeks ago that we entertained the Chinese Premier without any such foolishness, notwithstanding that the Chinese Government is infinitely less congenial to British values than ” The Donald ” will ever be?

What his detractors appear to miss is that Mr Trump thrives on the disapproval of those who dislike him. Both in this, and the full set of unflattering epithets listed above, Mr Trump resembles none other than another upstart braggart hated on these shores – one Cassius Marcellus Clay, the ” Louisville Lip” whose outrageous pronouncements propelled him to become both the heavyweight boxing champion of the world – and in later life, to the status of “National Treasure”, under his new name, Mohammed Ali.

In public perception as in theology, one can be “born again”.

Along the way, Ali flirted with some borderline racism in his association with the Black Power movement. He upset the Establishment, sporting and political, and eventually won his detractors round by doing exactly what he said he was going to do.

America loves success and forgives winners.

Could this be the fate of Donald Trump? He is certainly talking a similarly good game. He also has the media dancing to his tune.

His promise to ” Make America Great Again” resonates with many of those who once threw reason and caution to the winds to deliver with acclamation a landslide victory to Barrack Obama, who had similarly stepped onto the National political stage with no record of political achievement but a lot of populist rhetoric.

The public is fickle and may be again. Nevertheless, from time to time they take to an outsider. That certainly applies to the Republican Party field which is dominated by successes from outsider cañdidates. Trump, Cruz, Carson and Fiorina have all performed better than expected. Even Hillary Clinton now tries to step aside from her First Lady and Secretary of State status, and attempts portray herself as outsider champion whilst being challenged by another genuine candidate from ” Left field” in Bernie Sanders.

A dissection of the proletarians claims of Ms Clinton is best left to another time.

Like Ali, Trump is the master of the counter punch. Opponents who attack him see their subsequent poll ratings fall. You can’t best him on one liners and if you try to fight ugly, he can roll in the gutter with the best ( ie the worst) of them.

When Hillary Clinton accused him of sexism, he showed no squeamishness, and put into play her own complicity and lack of feminist outrage over the multiple women abused by her husband, and silenced by the Clinton “War Room”. Asked if his own less than pristine marital history was also in play Trump disarmingly answered ” Of course”.

Like Ali, he dominates both the centre of the ring, and the pre and post match interviews. He intimidates many, so that they are emotionally beaten before they begin. What is especially alarming to the political Establishment of both parties is his extraordinary personal resources- which he has not even begun to spend yet. Ms Clinton is very rich woman – her net worth is about $38m : her husband is worth around $80m. Mr Trump’s income last year was approximately $400k

Getting into a financial battle with a Donald Trump is like entering a bleeding competition with a blood bank. This even intimidates National Parties, especially the GOP that is terrified of him running as a third party candidate.

Unlike the British, Americans love this.

For the first time, the inner beltway Washington political machine and the lobbyists who work within it are bemused; they have  an opponent they don’t like, who they can’t outspend, can’t crush, can’t shame, doesn’t need their money and can dictate the terms of fight as a complete loose cannon. Joe Public USA loves the sport.

So does this make him the next GOP President?

Possibly, but far from certainly.

Those who think Ms Clinton invincible are drawn largely from those who thought the same when she fought Barrack Obama. Her husband’s legendary campaigning skills nor their formidable campaigning machine  did not save her then, and not only does she have her own vulnerabilities today, but her husband’s charm may not cut it with the new generation of PC voters they helped to create: they may be less charitable towards his predatory behaviour than the electorate of 16 years ago.

If you talk to Boxing fans about which fighters from another era could live with the supreme Mohammed Ali only two names are offered.

Rocky Marciano’s record is better, but those he fought were inferior to those with whom Ali contended.

In more recent times only one name recurs, that of the Canadian born Lennox Lewis. He was never so popular, but had a formidable physique, great technical ability, was equally resilient and of greater stature. He might have had what it takes to defeat the self proclaimed “Greatest”.

Of Donald Trump’s opponents there is also one whose raw intellect outguns even “The Donald’s” intimidating 154 IQ. He too is a Washington outsider, one who can draw and hold not only those who dislike Donald Trump, but those who adore him : that should not be underestimated.

He is younger, even more hungry, forensically equipped to dissect the Clinton record and has a cleaner record than either of his possible opponents. His name is Ted Cruz: he too was born in Canada.