Truth Be Told

Signed copies of the book I co-authored with Soong-Chan Rah, "Unsettling Truths - The Ongoing Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery" are available from my website:

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Most Egregious Thing President Trump Said Last Week

Even in terms of the Trump Presidency, last week was a doozy.

Even coming off the week prior, when President Trump threatened, on Twitter nonetheless, the citizens of North Korea with nuclear annihilation, last week was a doozy. Even for a President who campaigned to the alt-right, hired a few of them as his advisers, and filled a majority of his cabinet with spineless white, land-owning yes-men, last week was a doozy.

After a horrific Saturday, which saw the murder of a female counter-protester at a rally of white nationalists and white supremacists waving Confederate and Nazi flags, President Trump refused, on Sunday, to call out these vile and explicit public displays of racism and hatred. Instead, he merely condemned violence, and ultimately cast blame on "all sides."  But those were not the most egregious words spoken by President Trump last week.

On Tuesday, President Trump began his day early by passive-aggressively using Twitter to lash out at his opponents, re-tweeting, among other things, an image of a news reporter from CNN seemingly being hit by a Trump train. An eerie, childlike and reckless re-tweet coming just 3 days after a white terrorists ruthlessly murdered Heather Heyer, a female counter-protester, by running her over with a vehicle. This was a tweet (later deleted) which caused myself and probably many others to wonder exactly where did President Trump fantasize he could have been on Saturday had he not had to worry about the secret service and other confining restraints of the office of POTUS. But that was not the most egregious thing President Trump said last week.

Later that same Tuesday, during a news conference that was supposed to be about infrastructure, President Trump, in response to questions about Charlottesville and racism, lost his composure. He went very far off script and once again blamed the violence on both sides, which he now termed the alt-right and the alt-left. But even these unscripted and from-the-heart words, which left the nation and the world flabbergasted, were not the most egregious words President Trump spoke last week.

Even when he was ‘good’ and simply read the script given to him by his advisers, President Trump’s words missed the mark. After being raked over the coals by US citizens, social media, the regular media, other politicians (including those from his own party), and the global community for his tepid response over the weekend, President Trump came out on Monday like a chastened child being forced by his parents to apologize for an act he clearly felt deserved no condemnation. He carefully read the statement crafted for him by his staff and advisers and took no questions.

In his remarks, President Trump called out racism and hatred. That was good. He labeled as repugnant the KKK and white supremacists. That was also good.  Two for two.  President Trump was on a roll. If only he had stopped there. If only he had ended his remarks with those two condemnations. But he didn't. He over-reached. President Trump tried to be a political healer and as a result he repeated the destructive and damaging rhetoric that all politicians, from both parties, use when they want to unite this nation. He repeated the lie of American exceptionalism.

"We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal. We are equal in the eyes of our creator, we are equal under the law, and we are equal under our Constitution."

This lie is smooth because it repeats a sentiment that Americans want to believe about ourselves.  We want to think that we are a nation founded on the "truth that all of us are created equal.” We want to believe that we are all equal under the law and under our Constitution. But that is not even close to what the authors of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution intended to communicate. Many of the founding fathers were white supremacists, and nearly all of them were white nationalists. They largely envisioned a racially homogeneous country where white men ruled over subservient women and people of color.

Many of the founding fathers owned slaves, they participated in the ethnic cleansing of natives, they broke treaties, they stole land. They were quickly becoming enamored with talk of Manifest Destiny. In their Declaration of Independence, they labeled natives as savages. And in their Constitution, they never mentioned women, they specifically excluded natives and they all agreed to count Africans as 3/5th of a person.

Even when they tried to fix it, they didn’t. The 13th Amendment doesn’t actually abolish slavery. And the 14th Amendment still specifically excluded women and natives.  Even today, the legal precedent for land titles is based on the dehumanizing Doctrine of Discovery and the Constitution is still peppered with 51 gender-specific, male pronouns in regard to who can be President, run for (or hold) office and, is a citizen.

But his appeals to the mythology of American exceptionalism were still not the most egregious words President Trump spoke last week.  That prize is reserved for this statement: "Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America."

Alt-right members preparing to enter Emancipation Park holding Nazi, Confederate, and Gadsden "Don't Tread on Me" flags.
Photo by Anthony Crider
How dare President Trump state such an egregious lie! He campaigned to that bigotry. He exacerbated violence. It was the alt-right, white nationalists, and white supremacists who got him elected. And President Trump knows that. He rose to political prominence riding the racist waves of the birther movement. He boasted that he was the only one able to publicly humiliate the first African American President of the United States by forcing him to show his birth certificate on the global stage.

At his first campaign event, Donald Trump labeled immigrants from Mexico as rapists and murders.  Throughout his campaign he continually demeaned and objectified women. He rallied his base by promising a Muslim ban. Before a conservative Christian audience at Dordt College in Sioux Center Iowa, he boasted that he could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue (NYC) and shoot somebody and still not lose voters. He was even caught on a hot mike mentoring a younger, white land-owning male, that celebrity and status gives the right to sexually assault women.

President Trump is so dependent upon the support of the alt-right that in 2016, after he was endorsed by David Duke, the former grand marshal of the KKK, he stumbled and took his time to condemn such groups and their racism. And David Duke remembers that, because, last week, after President Trump tweeted "We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let’s come together as one!" David Duke (whose Twitter account has since been suspended) rebuked him by tweeting, "I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the Presidency, not radical leftists."

Donald Trump fanned the flames of bigotry, intolerance, violence, hatred and racism. He knows our country is conflicted. He sees our racial, gender and religious divides. And as a businessman, turned reality TV celebrity, he made a calculated bet that he could use those divides to further elevate his brand and financially line his pockets. But his calculations were off. All Donald Trump wanted to do was feed his ego and enrich himself. He never wanted to become President. But he egregiously underestimated how alive and well racism, hatred and intolerance is in our country. And I believe he resents the fact that every morning he is reminded of his miscalculation, when he wakes up still confined to the Office of President of the United States of America. Because embracing bigoty, racism, sexism, hatred, and intolerance did something that Donald J. Trump never expected. It propelled him all the way to the White House.

Mark Charles

Authors Note: For the past six months I have mostly occupied a place of sorrow and lament, but am slowly moving towards a space of intentional, non-violent and prayerful action. I began to make that move about 10 days ago with two articles calling for President Trump to resign (re: Indiscriminate Attacks and Christendom). And I am continuing that transition today with this article calling out the explicit racism and hatred that we have been witnessing for the past two years.  I am convinced that Donald Trump is not fit for the Office of President of the United States and invite you to pray with me that God will give him the courage he needs to resign.

Friday, August 11, 2017

A Call for President Trump to Resign (2 of 2): The Destructive Role of Christendom

Throughout its history, the United States of America has considered itself to be an extension of a medieval institution known as Christendom. And it has continuously, and eagerly, engaged in religious warfare. Christendom is the prostitution of the Christian Church to the empires of the world. A plain text reading of the New Testament books of the Bible, especially the four Gospels, make it abundantly clear that Jesus did not come to earth to create, or even restore, an imperial religious state. He came to make disciples, heal the sick, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and to care for the poor. And ultimately, he came to willingly surrender his life and die on a cross so that the entire human race might have an opportunity for restored relationship with Creator.  Jesus both stated and demonstrated throughout his life that “his kingdom was not of this earth.”

In the fourth century, Constantine became Emperor, converted to Christianity and decided to “Christianize” Rome. In direct contrast to the teachings of Jesus, Constantine created a Christian Empire, known as Christendom. In the fifth century, Augustine of Hippo (later Saint Augustine) wrote, regarding the role of a Christian King in a Christian Empire, that “he serves Him (the LORD) by enforcing with suitable rigor such laws as ordain what is righteous, and punish what is the reverse.” Augustine also concludes that the subjects of a Christian King, when necessary, could be led to worship God after “being first compelled by fear or pain.”  In the thirteenth Century, the theologian Thomas Aquinas, concludes that if the state has the right to execute people who forge money “and other evil doers”, how “much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death.”

And that is Christendom. A heretical Christian state that considers itself empowered and sanctioned by God to use the resources of the state, through fear and pain to compel people to worship, and if necessary, to execute those who believe falsely.

It was this type of heresy that led to the writing of the Doctrine of Discovery by the Catholic Church in the 15th Century. The Doctrine of Discovery is essentially the church saying to the nations of Christendom, wherever you go, whatever lands you find not ruled by white, European, Christian rulers, those people are less than human and the land is yours for the taking. This was the Doctrine that justified Europe’s colonization of Africa and the enslavement of the African people. They did not believe the Africans to be human. This was also the Doctrine that allowed the nations of Europe to claim the right of “discovery” over Turtle Island (later known as the Americas). If you think about it, you cannot discover lands already inhabited, unless you consider the people who are there to be sub-human.

It was the heretical belief in Christendom that led United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall to reference the Doctrine of Discovery as a legal instrument when writing the ruling, that later became the legal precedent of land titles, in the case Johnson v. M’Intosh (1823). This case distinguished the difference between Aboriginal Title, otherwise known as the right of occupancy which SCOTUS concluded is held by indigenous people, and Fee Title, otherwise known as the right of discovery, which the court ruled, is the absolute title to the land and belongs solely to white European “Christian” nations. This precedent, and the Doctrine of Discovery were referenced by the United States Supreme Court as recently as 1954, 1985 and 2005.

It was the heretical belief in Christendom that allowed John Winthrop in 1630 to co-opt the narrative of Old Testament Israel and claim that the Christian colonists were in the New World to establish a “City on a Hill.” He then went on to imply that the lands of the Americas were their promised land. For white Americans, this re-appropriation of the identity of the people of Israel is critical, because it is the theology of Promised Lands that, according to commands of God in Deuteronomy and Joshua, orders and even sanctifies oppression and genocide. This is what morally paved the way for the ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples from the continent of North America. For Christendom, Manifest Destiny is simply god-ordained genocide.

And President Trump, along with most of the Christian right, believe adamantly in the heresy of Christendom. This is how he campaigned on a theme of religious liberty, while simultaneously promising a “Muslim Ban.”  President Trump, and many Americans Christians, do not believe in, or even want, religious liberty. They desire Christian liberty. They don’t want just any prayer in school, they want Christian prayer in school.  They don’t want a law that allows an LGBTQ baker to refuse to bake a wedding cake for a “Christian” wedding, but they will fight adamantly for the right of a “Christian” bakery to refuse to bake a cake for the wedding of an LGBTQ couple.

After the terrorist attack in London last March, Clay Higgins, the Republican Congressional Representative from the third District in the state of Louisiana posted this in his public Facebook wall:
“The free world... all of Christendom... is at war with Islamic horror. Not one penny of American treasure should be granted to any nation who harbors these heathen animals. Not a single radicalized Islamic suspect should be granted any measure of quarter. Their intended entry to the American homeland should be summarily denied. Every conceivable measure should be engaged to hunt them down. Hunt them, identify them, and kill them. Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.”
Again, these are the words of a “Christian” United States Congressmen from the state of Louisiana in the year 2017.

On Monday of this week, after President Trump threatened North Korea with an attack of “fire, fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before." And then followed up that threat with a tweet stating that “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely…” Robert James Jeffress Jr., a white evangelical Southern Baptist pastor from Texas, who has been a longtime supporter of President Trump and serves as an Evangelical adviser to POTUS, stated that "in the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un."

I call on Donald Trump to resign as President of the United States of America. According to the teachings of Jesus, upon which the Christian Church is based, there is no such thing as Christendom. The heresy of Christendom is just as dangerous, and as threatening, to global security as that of ISIS and other radical religious extremism.  The world does not want, nor does it need, another radicalized religious zealot with a short temper and an itchy finger on the trigger of a nuclear arsenal that is “locked and loaded”.

Religious wars suck. Religious wars have no rules. And religious wars bring out the absolute worst in humanity. Religious wars are not Christian, nor are they Muslim. Religious wars, whether fought by ISIS or Christendom, are nothing more than the justified and “sanctified” destruction of the enemies of one’s god based on the heretical interpretations of their founder’s teachings. And damned is anyone who gets in the way.

I do not deny that the rogue nation of North Korea is an international threat that needs to be addressed. But I am certain that the solution to this problem will not come from any nation, or leader, who feels that they alone are fighting in the name, and the authority, of God. War is horrible, and at times, perhaps, maybe even necessary. But it should never be sanctioned by religious leaders.  The church, the mosque, the religious, should always call for peace and be the prophetic thorn in the side of politicians, generals and other leaders, who, from time to time, may need to make the regrettable and lamentable decision of humbly and sorrowfully resorting to military warfare and violence to resolve conflict. But war should never be celebrated. The ability to destroy should never be flaunted. And the violence, the killing, and the horror of our unresolvable disagreements should never, ever, be religiously sanctified.

After months of observation and long periods of lament, I have concluded that the sincerest prayer I can, and do, pray for President Trump is that he will have the courage to resign. I honestly do not believe that holding the office of President of the United States is healthy for him, our nation, or the world.

Mark Charles

Also see: A Call for President Trump to Resign (1 of 2):  Indiscriminate Attacks

A Call for President Trump to Resign (1 of 2): Indiscriminate Attacks

The United States of America has a history of extreme, indiscriminate, military violence resulting in the mass killing of civilians. This is most evident when our country feels threatened, provoked or attacked. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the US Military base in Hawaii. This attack killed a total of 2,403 people, of which 68 were civilians.  Between January 1944 and August 1945, the United States firebombed the nation of Japan targeting some if its most populous cities. This included Operation Meetinghouse, a massive bombing raid of Tokyo that left 100,000 people dead. And of course, the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which killed another 120,000 people. The targets of these bombing raids were not specifically military nor were they precise and therefore most of the causalities were civilian. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) defines Indiscriminate attacks as those “of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction.”

By precisely attacking Pearl Harbor, a military target, Japan limited the number of civilian deaths to 68. Three years later, the United States of America retaliated with a 20-month bombing campaign that can only be categorized as "Indiscriminate.” How can I say this with such certainty? Because had Japan dropped nuclear bombs on the cities of Honolulu and Los Angeles and firebombed Chicago or New York, there would be no debate, academic, intellectual or otherwise. Such bombings would most definitely be categorized as "Indiscriminate" and probably even decried as war crimes.

On Tuesday of this week, President Trump threatened the country of North Korea with an attack of “fire, fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before."  Given our history, this can only mean a nuclear attack, which, by definition, is indiscriminate.  On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, reiterated the threat to the civilian population when he told North Korea to "cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and destruction of its people.” Also on Wednesday, President Trump tweeted, “My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before ... Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!” On Thursday, President Trump stated, regarding his “fire and fury” threat that “Maybe it wasn’t tough enough.” He also refused to take the option of a preemptive strike off the table. And on Friday, he tweeted that “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely…”

This flaunting of indiscriminate military destruction and blatant disregard for civilian life and international norms by the Trump administration is appalling.

I do not deny that the rogue nation of North Korea is an international threat that needs to be addressed. But I am certain the solution to this problem will not come through bragging about our nuclear arsenal or through our willingness to destroy an entire nation. Such rhetoric is evil and removes any shred of moral authority that the United States may have. If we preemptively, or even in retaliation, destroy an entire nation, we had better be prepared to live the rest of our days in isolation and fear. Because I doubt the international community will live without protest under the dictatorial threat of nuclear destruction by our nation that not only flaunts, but also exercises (will be three times), its ability to indiscriminately destroy entire populations whenever we feel threatened.

I call on Donald Trump to resign as President of the United States of America. Throughout his campaign and during his tenure in office, his public comments, tweets and unscripted rhetoric have demonstrated that he does not hold a comprehensive value for life, especially the lives of anyone he considers to be an opponent. And now he is touting his disregard for international law and threatening the entire civilian population of North Korea. The world does not want, nor does it need, an entitled American President with a short temper and an itchy finger on the trigger of a nuclear arsenal that is “locked and loaded”. We have already pulled that trigger twice and no one appreciates our President's perceived eagerness to pull it again. I ask Donald Trump to voluntarily step down from the Office of President of the United States before making himself, and our entire nation, war criminals.

Mark Charles

Also see: A Call for President Trump to Resign (2 of 2): The Destructive Role of Christendom