Ask Uncle Ed 3A

Dear Uncle Ed*,

I’m a moderate Democrat living in a nice suburb of Philadelphia. My family and I are members of XX Presbyterian Church, PCUSA, where I sing in the choir. Quite a few members of the choir are Republicans, and it seems that almost all of them voted for Donald Trump, as did a majority of the non-singing members. This has made me very sad and also angry. I realize we don’t have to talk about politics, and really in the past we haven’t much, though I wish I had done more. Since the election I can hardly stand to be around them. But I love singing in the choir, and I think the Church does some good in the community. I’ve been seriously thinking about leaving the Church. What do you think?

Signed, Sad singer.

Dear Sad Singer,

Uncle Ed has twice written responses to people he doesn’t know, people he doesn’t live near, people whose lives he hasn’t lived, people whose education and training and life experience are completely different from Uncle Ed’s own life. This one hits close to home. Uncle Ed has similar experiences, though from a different bizarre Presidency, that of Bush 2. Many of the members of the Church at which Uncle Ed sang for over 20 years were business people or professionals; all were well educated, bright, and almost all had money. A solid majority were reasonable Republicans, people whose politics Uncle Ed didn’t share but at least could understand. Uncle Ed saw them as friends, if loosely. And they voted for Bush. So this is a tough question for Uncle Ed. There are two possibilities. You could leave, covered in this post. Or you could stay, covered in the next,

This is a common problem. Democrats and Republicans serve in civic groups, volunteer in community service groups, participate in trade groups and professional groups, help out in kid sports, and live in the same neighborhoods. In the past this hasn’t been a real problem. It’s easy to serve, as Uncle Ed did, on the board of an opera company with lots of Republicans. We didn’t talk about politics. We talked about opera and how to encourage people to come to our productions. In social settings we talked about sports or travels or investments or just about anything besides politics.

That doesn’t work any more. Voting for Trump feels like a betrayal of a shared concern with the future of the country and of our children and grand-children. How could anyone vote for that seething pile of ignorance, intolerance and narcissism? How could people you know and respect, people who have benefited from our economic and legal systems, vote for him.

The central question is how you can continue to sing. Are there Churches near enough that sing the kind of music you enjoy and would meet your spiritual needs? Are there other choirs you could join that sing different music but that you would enjoy, so that you could move to another Church that would work for you?

The first step is to get together with other people in the choir and maybe other friends in the Church who have similar concerns. In Uncle Ed’s experience, singers as a group are more liberal than other people you know at Church. Maybe you can ignore the Trumpists and hang out with the sane people. What are their thoughts? Are you overreacting? Is there some concerted action you could take that would make staying possible? And if you are leaving, where are you going?

If you decide to leave, the next step is to talk to the Choir Director and explain. You may be surprised by the response. Many Church musicians are much more liberal than the congregations they serve. The leader may be able to help you find another Church or choir, and may have sensible advice based on knowing you and your role in the Church. In any event, you won’t want to leave the Choir Director wondering where you are.

You also must think about the time to leave. You don’t want to leave too close to a big service, like Easter or Reformation Sunday or before the choir sings a major work. That wouldn’t be fair to the Choir Director and the other singers.

The next question is what you say to your friends and acquaintances at Church. In normal circumstances, Uncle Ed would point out that you shouldn’t burn any bridges, that you may need these people in the future and therefore you should go quietly. Later, when they notice you are gone, they may ask, but more likely they won’t. Especially if a group of people leave, others can work it out if they care, which they probably don’t.

These aren’t ordinary times. People who don’t see that Trump is a horrid person and a horrifying president, especially after the press conference of February 16, are not fit co-workers. Their judgment cannot be trusted, and their common sense has been overwhelmed by some psychological disturbance. Uncle Ed would rather starve in the street than ask them for anything.

You may not want to, but you have to say something. If you want to be marginally polite you could say something like: I feel awful about what’s happening in this country with Trump, and I’ll feel more comfortable with people who feel the same way. It’s simple and true, and tilts the balance of feelings towards you, so that the other person is unlikely to be too offended.

Uncle Ed would probably be more direct: Trump is everything I despise. It’s not his policies, such as they are; policies always change. It’s that he is mentally and emotionally unfit to be president. Trump is the is the antithesis of every value I hold. I don’t want to offend people who think he’s just fine, so I’m leaving.

Uncle Ed is pretty sure he wouldn’t say: I don’t want to be around Republicans any more. But he’d be thinking that. And he knows some people to whom he would say just that.

=====
* This is one of an occasional series in which I try to come to grips with the Age of Trump. Sad Singer’s letter is based on my personal experience in a volunteer choir at a PCUSA church, and in other singing groups that included a substantial number of conservatives. By extension, it applies to other groups where sane people have to deal with Trump voters.

Notre Dame undergrad (math); JD, Indiana University at Bloomington; 1st Lieutenant, US Army.; private practice in corporate and securities law; Assistant AG in Tennessee for consumer protection and securities; Blue Sky Securities Commissioner, Tennessee; private practice, bankruptcy and corporate law.

I have had a lifelong interest in economics. For most of my career, that interest was practical, focused on the problems in front of me. Lately I have been more interested in economics as a theory, especially its impact on the lives of people like those I met in my bankruptcy practice, and on the politics of money in the US. I also enjoy reading philosophers, starting in college and steadily expanding my reading ever since. I wrote at FireDogLake for a number of years.

Generally, I think the problem facing the US is the dominance of neoliberal discourse. I think it clouds the vision, and limits the kinds of problems that can be identified and solved. For example, the existence and danger of climate change can easily be identified in a scientific discussion. However, the problem does not fit the neoliberal discourse because science insists that the pursuit of individual and corporate self-interest will lead to devastation. In neoliberal discourse, the pursuit of self-interest always leads to Eden.

The neoliberal project has two prongs. One is the police function of crushing dissent and alternative views. The police function is provided by government agencies and private and institutional actors. The counterpart is the economic system , which is operated by government and by private and institutional actors. Some of these actors operate in both spheres. I focus on the second prong.

28 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Uncle Ed,

    I agree with your politics.  But I continue to struggle with the message that leaving the church/choir puts my politics above our community.  Then I remind myself to look past the uncomfortable moment, and to realize that a lived religion, a lived community, requires living my priorities, while accommodating others doing the same thing, including accommodating me.  Everyone claims to do that, claims to promote family values or public freedoms while eviscerating their meaning, such as stealing from the poor to subsidize the rich or enslaving others by corrupting their leaders in order to steal their resources.  Mr. Trump, for example, claims to be pursuing the interests of Main Street Americans, even though he knows nothing about them.  I suppose he then rests on the seventh day.

    Living one’s priorities, while accommodating others doing the same, continues to be as hard as it was in first century occupied Palestine.

    • lefty665 says:

      “Living one’s priorities, while accommodating others doing the same, continues to be as hard as it was in first century occupied Palestine.”

      Amen

    • Ed Walker says:

      As you can see, Uncle Ed is having a tough time with this problem, as he did with earlier responses. Uncle Ed thinks Sad Singer has to say something, for the reasons you lay out, at least in the context of Church. On the other hand, Sad Singer can’t explain leaving by saying that. Or maybe that’s exactly what needs to be said? Uncle Ed isn’t sure.

      • lefty665 says:

        I think Earl frames it precisely above.

        I too believe that Trump’s narcissism is frightening, on the other hand so was Bill’s willingness to let his dick drive. Trump seems to be making a few good appointments. Mattis at Defense is head and shoulders a better choice than Obama holding over Gates at the beginning or Carter at the end – bookends, and not so great in between either. McMaster as national security advisor is also arguably far better than Rice (either one). Gorsuch would never be my choice for the court, but he appears to be a decent human being and a big step up from Scalia.  It will not be hard for Tillison to be a better Secretary of State than either of Obama’s choices. Trump can hardly make worse economic advisor choices than Summers, Geithner and the whole Rubin Citi crew, although he seems to be trying with the Goldman gang. The point being that not all of Trump’s choices are Bonkers Betsys, and in many ways (some better, some worse) this is just another presidential transition, the 43rd since Washington handed the reins to Adams. How would you feel if you had been around when Adams was succeeded by rapist and pedophile Jefferson?

        For better or worse we freely elect presidents. The current hysteria and demonization of citizens who voted the other way demeans Democrats and our system of self governance. As responsible citizens it is our obligation make our feelings and beliefs known, and to assemble and petition when we believe government to be in error. However, being civil, and living the best guidance of whatever religion we ascribe to, if any, is part of good citizenship and an obligation if we have any self respect. That is, ironically, a big part of making America great.  We already largely self segregate by age, race and income. If we add party registration to that list it is just one more nail in the coffin of balkanization.

        As I have expressed several places around here, it is also my fear that the Dems by abandoning their first principles, in shorthand, the New Deal, and middle America have consigned themselves to irrelevance. It is hard to overstate the depth of their fall. They have lost executive and legislative control of both national and most state institutions. By demonizing Trump and the Repubs, Dems avoid the introspection required if they are to mend the error of their ways, recover and become a political force once again.  The collapse of the Dems into rage, self pity and denial is to me more frightening than Trump.

        I encourage Sad Singer to get his head out of his butt, be civil, drop the sore loser ‘tude, and get to work making Change.  ’18 is just around the corner, and with the redistricting in ’21 after the ’20 census the Repubs will be in position to further entrench themselves if the Dems don’t shake a leg big time starting three months ago – a quarter of a year wasted already.

        Standing for something you believe in and working to achieve it beats the hell out of whining, pouting and threatening to take your ball and go home. The Dems will not beat the Repubs with nothing, but that is what they have a whole lot of now. As the tune goes “Nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’, but it’s free”.

        • John Casper says:

          lefty,

          Should “I encourage” you “to get” your “head out of your butt, be civil, drop the sore loser ‘tude, and get to work making (sic)Change?”

          Thanks in advance.

        • Jonf says:

          I agree there are a few decent appointments in there, but what do you think of Sessions, Bannon, Flynn, Miller, Price, De Vos, Perry, Carson, Mnuchin, Kellyanne? Winners all Not. Trump is associated with the alt-right, a white nationalist movement. I’ve said it before, and I will repeat it again, he seems filled with hate. And he shows it in his desire to ban Muslims from entering, building a wall and  now deporting people. And then there is the incessant lying, more recently about terrorism in Sweden and his five million illegal votes. You do recognize that he lost the popular vote by a rather large margin? He is hard to take.

          That said I am not at all sure anyone should be walking away from groups bc of him. That, for me, is a personal choice. I live in a very red area and nearly all my friends are Trump supporters. I manage to tell them I do not agree and we have a sort of truce that allows us to live together.

          Actually I think the democrats have got to do more to win over other people or they will be a permanent minority in congress and state government. Maybe that something is similar to what happened in Houston this last election. They won there where only republicans did in years past. But it required reaching out to the people to understand their needs, and not tell them what they should have.

  2. lefty665 says:

    Dogma is what churches are all about, and Trumpism is just another piece of it, perhaps one that’s already been through the dog. If you don’t accept it don’t go. Certainly you can find another church that is more to your liking.  But be careful you don’t fall in with one that is full of equally deranged Hillaryists (the Wall Street snake handling and greed will be tip offs). That will be different, but every bit as insufferable.

    Perhaps you might consider simply leading a charitable, virtuous life, associating with others of like mind (some of whom will sing), and question why you are so insecure you feel the need to put a paid intermediary between yourself and God, presuming there is one.

    • Ed Walker says:

      This example uses Church, and singing, which Uncle Ed knows about from personal experience. That gives him a personal context to answer.

      But the same problem exists with other voluntary organizations. What about Little Leauge coaching? What about serving on the Park Board? What about Neighborhood Associations or PTA? Are there situations where leaving would be for the best?

      • lefty665 says:

        I play music with a lot of people I don’t have much in common with politically or religiously. Virginia is after all home to Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. In playing traditional music I run into folks from very fundamental sects, Pentecostals for example. Some of them are better musicians than I am. None have brought snakes to a jam, but many of the fiddlers have rattlesnake rattles in their instruments. We play music and don’t talk much politics or religion, although there was considerable disgust with both major parties last year. Same works with my wife and riding. More Repubs than Dems tend to be able to buy and keep horses, but they all have riding in common, so that’s what they do.

        Earl has it exactly right above: “Living one’s priorities, while accommodating others doing the same, continues to be as hard as it was in first century occupied Palestine.”  Failing to do that is not very Christian, Muslim, or simply civil.  Suck it up, put on your big girl panties and be a decent human being. Be an example of a good citizen, maybe some of it will rub off on someone. Accommodating differences is what this nation has been about for a long time.

         

        • John Casper says:

          lefty, what instrument(s) do you play?

          Link to some videos.

          You wrote, “Accommodating differences is what this nation has been about for a long time.”

          You wanna accommodate torture?

    • John Casper says:

      lefty,

      Your equivocation of HRC and Trump is  wrong and you know it.

      Was HRC going to ban Muslims?

      Was HRC going to hire white supremacists?

      Was HRC going to try to mobilize the National Guard to deport undocumented immigrants?

      Are the markets doing worse under Trump than they would have under HRC?

      You claim to be a green. How do you lead a “virtuous life” while consuming from fossil fuel supply chains?

      Got your “dogma,” right here “Laudato Si: Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment and human ecology”

      https://laudatosi.com/watch

      • lefty665 says:

        Actually John, I do not equivocate about much.  If I don’t have a pretty vigorous opinion I tend to keep my trap shut. For example, Clinton and Trump were both horrid candidates, but in very different ways. Between them they had most of the horrid waterfront covered.  How bad was Clinton?  She was so bad that the nation elected Trump in preference to her. That is Bad with a capital B. That’s also how we got Duhbya for a second term instead of Kerry. Elite Dems don’t seem to have a learning curve.

        Dems have to wake up and understand that they have lost the country to the Repubs by default.  Railing at the Repubs instead of changing will only get the Dems deeper in the hole they’ve dug. Dems have got to stand for something besides fattening the fat cats even more, more offshoring and more neocon wars.  That something is re embracing their roots, the New Deal that stood for people over corporations and Wall Street fat cats.  Even if you don’t like every day folks, there are more of them than you delusional elites, they have suffered, have suffrage and have demonstrated they will exercise it. Their needs are worth consideration.

        • John Casper says:

          lefty,

          You wrote: “That something is re embracing their roots, the New Deal that stood for people over corporations and Wall Street fat cats.”

          You figure the elites are gonna surrender?

          How do you plan on leaving “money manager capitalism” behind and replacing it with democratic capitalism?

          Please be specific.

          Should government be the employer of last resort?
          “A Guaranteed Federal Jobs Program Is Needed”
          http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2016/07/11/are-we-ready-for-the-next-recession/a-guaranteed-federal-jobs-program-is-needed

          That goes right back to FDR. We buy surplus agriculture as a buffer against famine. Why can’t the federal government buy surplus labor in lean times. When the economy booms, companies can hire out of the government surplus.

          Should we bring back the holiday on both sides of the federal payroll tax; while at the same time increasing federal funding for Social Security and Medicare?

          Should we increase federal spending on green infrastructure?

          Should federal investment in a green energy–not new nuclear–have a time table where the entire country is off fossil fuels?

          Is green hydrogen an option?

          You wrote “Even if you don’t like every day folks, there are more of them than you delusional elites, they have suffered, have suffrage and have demonstrated they will exercise it.”

          If someone disagrees with you, is it your “pretty vigorous opinion” that they don’t like “every day folks,” that they are “delusional” and are part of the “elites?”

          You’re the one whose comments keeps insulating the Republican elites–the vast majority–from responsibility.

          • lefty665 says:

            Your comments are part of what inspires “delusional”.  You and a lot of Dems, as Uncle Ed illustrates, still don’t have a clue. Continued focus on Trump, the Repubs and people who supported him, instead of working on Dem insight about where they have failed and working on changing it is going nowhere.  Being rehab ready requires acknowledging you have a problem, next step is being ready to do something about it. Denial of your own faults and projecting the issues on someone/something else, like the Repubs, guarantees rehab will fail.

            If you want to feel better keep preaching to the choir about what awful human beings the Repubs are. If you want to get better, look at yourself and your buddies, fix what is wrong then run on the New New Deal. If nothing else Hillary proved that spending tens of millions of dollars on negative ads attacking Trump were the way to NOT get elected. Do you really expect to prove that more anti Trump screeds and attacks on his supporters will work any better? “delusional” was the word, and it still is.  Dems, first heal yourselves.

             

            • John Casper says:

              lefty,

              You wrote, “Being rehab ready requires acknowledging you have a problem, next step is being ready to do something about it.”

              When were you last in rehab?

                • John Casper says:

                  Doubt it.

                  Earlier thread, you volunteered your opinion on some Trump appointments.

                  Didn’t include Tom Price, Sec. Health and Human Services.

                  You wrote: “Trump seems to be making a few good appointments. Mattis at Defense is head and shoulders a better choice than Obama holding over Gates at the beginning or Carter at the end – bookends, and not so great in between either. McMaster as national security advisor is also arguably far better than Rice (either one). Gorsuch would never be my choice for the court, but he appears to be a decent human being and a big step up from Scalia.  It will not be hard for Tillison to be a better Secretary of State than either of Obama’s choices. Trump can hardly make worse economic advisor choices than Summers, Geithner and the whole Rubin Citi crew, although he seems to be trying with the Goldman gang. The point being that not all of Trump’s choices are Bonkers Betsys, and in many ways (some better, some worse) this is just another presidential transition, the 43rd since Washington handed the reins to Adams.”

                  https://www.emptywheel.net/2017/02/21/ask-uncle-ed-3a/#comment-711144

                  What were the three largest–by budget–rehab programs you administered? What years did you administer them?

                  What were the names of the accrediting agencies for those three?

                    • John Casper says:

                      lefty,

                      Glad you liked it.

                      You can’t recall the three largest rehab programs you administered?

                      Are you sure you administered them?

                      Upthread at 2:53 you wrote “I play music with a lot of people….”

                      I asked what “instrument(s)” do you play?

                      You never responded. Were you lying about playing a musical instrument too?

  3. PeasantParty says:

    What would Jesus do?  I think it is a hate problem, a problem of ingrained division, and a problem, of psy-op on the masses.

    • John Casper says:

      Here’s a start.

      Matthew 25:

      44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

  4. bevin says:

    “Was HRC going to ban Muslims?”

    “Was HRC going to hire white supremacists?
    “Was HRC going to try to mobilize the National Guard to deport undocumented immigrants?”

    What HRC was promising was to initiate a “No Fly” zone over Syria in order to facilitate the replacement of the current government by one of wahhabi militias.  This policy based on that which she employed in Libya which is in a state of chaos, modified only by the order imposed by the militias that she empowered there, had the promised bonus that it could lead to a confrontation with Russia. And the possibility of nuclear war.
     What you call “banning muslims” pales in comparison with this dangerous and evil programme.
    Was HRC going to hire White Supremacists?
     Probably. She was certainly going to hire neo-cons and Ukrainian nationalists with neo-nazi links. Her fingerprints were all over the Maidan coup and the climactic employment of trained snipers who killed more than 100 people, including dozens of policemen, to prevent an agreed political compromise from being put into operation.
    “Was HRC going to try to mobilize the National Guard to deport undocumented immigrants?”
    Not that I know of. But she was pledged to wage the wars and extend the trade agreements that lead directly to the mass migrations away from conflict zones and economic disaster areas (NAFTA Mexico) which have driven millions of people in America and around the world from their homes and in search of work.
    It appears to me that you are as insouciant about the incredible amount of carnage caused by people like HRC as Obama’s government was.
     This is the anniversary of the killing of  Beta Caceres. She and hundreds of other Hondurans would be alive today were it not for the policies that Hillary was pledged to continue.

  5. Evangelsita says:

    Sometimes it helps to condense and paraphrase. To “Parable”, as Jesus of Nazareth might have said, had he not been too busy doing, instead. Let’s try in this case:

    What Uncle Ed’s “Sad Singer” is saying, reduced to few words, is, “Help! I am in a Handbasket on a Hell-Bound Train! Lots of the others in my Handbasket, a Presbyterian Choir one, bought tickets and are riding as paying passengers on this Hell-Bound Train. I did not! I am a captive! Kidnapped! I am not like a Hobo or Tramp, who could be accused of sneaking aboard to get a free ride, I am like a 19th century Woman! I am being dragged to (or through) Hell for insane decisions made by Men (many of them ‘trans-gender’ since the 19th Amendment, but no wit less insane)! What do I do? What can I do? Should I stay in this basket? Should I jump out? If I jump I will still be on the Train, and pulling the Stop-Cord does nothing but trigger Cosmic Peals of Diabolical Laughter!!.”

    Uncle Ed’s Reply, paraphrased in parabla, is, “I know what you are saying, Sad Singer, I was in a very similar basket on the same train, but then farther out from its Infernal Destination, when ‘Dubya’ Bush was elected and, with Cheney and the rest of that diabolical crew, jammed the throttle forward and poured on the coal.”

    Uncle Ed then takes up the lesser question of to abandon the basket or stay in, ignoring the true horror, that in the handbasket or out of it, we all are all still on the train, and still going to Hell, none of us able to turn, or even to slow, the train.

    I was there in 2000, and after, too, and there before, too, in 1990 and after, when the first Bush whupped up the first Iraq incursion, and the U.S. Military inundated the Middle East in Plutonium Dust, released by “Straegic Nuclear” Pyrotic Penetrator munitions (called “Silver Bullets” and “Depleted Uranium Rounds”}, and when the Clinton Administration compounded the damages of that poisoning by “Sanctions” interdicting imports of medicines and medical equipment and even basic antibiotic pharmaceuticals, making the area a sort of “passive genocide” test area.

    I imagine that if Uncle Ed thinks back, he can remember how it went in the ‘Dubya’ era, which, for those too young to remember the ‘First Gulf War’, was how it went before, too, which was that as time wore on and the facts began to surface through the glossy and bubbly blather of Neo-Con PR whipped-up Bullshit, the True-Believers began faltering in their True Beliefs.

    By the time Obama began to run for the U.S. Presidency there was a mighty lot of repenting sinners, not only in any one religion’s or choir’s basket, but in all of them, and even among the loose passengers on the Train. It was the repentings of many among those repenting sinners, joining the others whose hopes were for Change, that helped push Obama over the barriers and into the U.S. Presidency.

    Obama, of course, turned out to be as bad as Bush, as much a liar, as much a tool, as much a sawdust-filled dummy mouthing his manipulators’ assigned phrases. No Hope came with Obama. No Change came, either.

    And so a new election brought a new group demanding Change; and new voters with new Hopes.

    And already we are seeing we have nothing new. No Hope, No Change. Just another Dummy, another tool, another poseur and posturer, mouthing the same manipulators’ same phrasings.

    This means that Uncle Ed’s Sad Singer, and all the other Sad Singers out there, need only have a little patience; go with the flow, roll with the punches, bear up, hold the line, have faith in the future to be as the past. Shouldn’t be more than a few months before the Trump Voters’ illusions begin to tarnish and dis-.

    Solidarity will return to the handbaskets. All the handbaskets, the church choir ones, the anti-government ones, all the anti ones. Especially the anti ones. Church choir baskets then, when harmonies, except harmonies of hatreds, will be hardly to be found anywhere else, will be premium then.

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