IT CAME AS NO SURPRISE nor was it widely welcomed. As herald of the imperial census taken every fourteen years for the sake of universal taxation in support of ancient Rome’s vast military, “in those days a decree went out from the Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered” (Luke 2:1).
Now, again “in these days,” in keeping with the vast American empire’s hold over its people, on December 20, 2017, as no surprise nor widely welcomed, on the front steps of the White House in jubilant celebration of what was trumpeted to be ”tax reform,” the Republican Party’s leadership capitulated obsequiously to Donald Trump as America’s reigning autocrat. (Dictators come with more than one patronym.)
The party of “no” suddenly became the party of “yes,” having learned little or nothing from the history of the twentieth century on either side of the iron curtain. That curtain is now being re-erected with iron intent, as the first of Caesar’s wars, around the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Consumer Protection, the Department of Homeland Security (godfather of ICE), and soon, among other agencies if Republicans get their way, around the Department of Justice and the FFPF (Feared Federal Police Force) which at the moment and heretofore was known as the FBI.
One by one, the Republican phalanx in the White House is summarily taking down federal agencies and transforming them into the “arms” of its nascent fascist state. Following upon the heels of these legislative and executive coups d’état, the judiciary is lined up to be next. For with each new presidential appointment sailing through the tail winds of “advice and consent” with the imprimatur of the Republican rubber stamp, the courts will be pressured ever more stringently into a “jurisprudence” in keeping with a doctrine of constitutional “originalism” derived from key texts in the Law of Leviticus.
Consequently, it may be but a short while before we can mark our calendars for the day (or night) when this newly established plutocratic autocracy takes its first rounds of political prisoners to showcase its supremacy over the rank and file of those who would depose it by any democratic means at their disposal.
Already the president’s ICE squads, with due process of calculated cruelty, are separating Hispanic children from parents of families seeking political asylum at the Mexican border. Fascism’s manual of conduct inculcates the testing of small-scale rods of oppression before meting out the big ones. The host population is more amenable to being numb to the malice of cruelty when it is levied with one lash at a time rather than twenty.
The public media, subjected to the “Trump treatment” every day since his escalator announcement for the presidency, is methodically under siege from more than one direction: Republican corporate media boardrooms, every backyard bully’s bumper sticker, dens of wily foxes on Wall Street, the Koch brothers baskets of party favors, and the surly Madame Newspeak, otherwise known as the White House press secretary whose job it is to dissemble, dismiss, disavow, and disingenuously “press” the truth out of verifiable facts in defense of bald-faced Trumpian lies.
Note, if you haven’t already, what’s been transpiring at the formerly conservative Wall Street Journal in case you may want to cancel your subscription. Editors and reporters have taken leave of their posts like mice scrambling from a tomcat as Rupert Murdoch takes charge of its editorial pages and the once-upon-a-time inestimable competence of its newsroom. The word “conservative” is now getting re-branded with a definition more readily recognizable on the front pages of Pravda, which translated from the Russian means “Truth.”
By constitutional design the military, as the founding fathers intended, is at the beck and call of one-man rule. That puts General Kelly in charge for the hours-upon-hours that Mr. Trump sits frittering away his time at the game of Twitter. Just think for a horror-stricken minute of the “commander-in-chief” glued to Fox News and seeing there an image of the “Rocket Man” Kim Jong Un giving Trump the finger. Then with a single vituperative rant and a stroke of the pen (the war powers of the legislature notwithstanding) Trump issues an order to wipe out North Korea.
Parenthetically, though not incidentally, the nuclear arsenal at his disposal is sufficient to destroy civilization thrice over and starve every last living creature on Earth with a decades-long nuclear winter. When the madman wields the weapons of mass destruction he will not worry about who is to be the last man standing so long as his name is Trump. Such is the accolade sought by an emperor who in his feigned glory and solipsistic power reigns over a kingdom where the poor increasingly have nowhere to lay their heads while the rich feast on the fat of the land.
The royal name of the emperor is Kaiser Augustus Donald John Trump (heaven forbid he ever be renamed “Caligula”), and his “Neville Chamberlain” is Mitch McConnell. The official “shield” of the empire is the Devil’s bargain to “Make America Great Again,” come Hell or high water. And since Hell and high water are bound to come if “The Devil and Mr. Trump” have so much as anything to do with it, we will have to rely on the fact that the melting polar icecaps will be God’s way of finally sinking Trump Tower into the sea. By that time there will be a new portrait hanging from the wall of the Kremlin, whether right side up or upside down only Putin will decide, and looking suspiciously like a man with small fingers and a toupee of orange hair.
Meanwhile, the church on “State Street,” popularly speaking, abdicates its prophetic stance of resistance by foregoing the ways of justice and peace prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount, holding forth instead with a cultural prosperity gospel of “cheap grace” that replaces the cross on the altar with the American flag.
So, what is left to be said? Much, to be sure. But, for now, only this regarding the “wars” of the current Caesar:
Given that all empires come and go as do their emperors, and despite the momentary glut of the president’s dictatorial decrees, the one thing Mr. Trump surely would dread most of all to hear is what Jesus plainly said to Pontius Pilate, as to where the crosshairs finally meet: “My kingdom is not of this world.”
And from all the truth contained in those seven serene words, we Christians decide whether or not to bend the knee to this Caesar’s crown and scepter, and thereby to which of those two kingdoms we owe our present and lasting allegiance.
© Copyright, Charles Davidson – All Rights Reserved
Charles Davidson is a retired Presbyterian (PCUSA) pastor, psychotherapist, and professor of pastoral theology, care, and counseling. He is the author of Bone Dead and Rising: Vincent van Gogh and the Self Before God.