Greetings once again.
Being a very privileged person, I have just returned from 10 days in California (husband at scientific convention in San Diego; wife along for the ride). I do not intend to describe the trip here – the place for that is Facebook, face-to-face, or the annual autumn/Christmas catch-up – but I thought I would mention two things.
One It has not escaped the attention of the world that there is an election campaign going on in the US. CNN seems to report little else. On two nights we watched some of its coverage of the Republican party “town hall” event in South Carolina, ahead of the primary there. The format was individual candidates separately interviewed on stage, the interviewer asking some of his own questions, but mainly introducing questions from the audience. We saw some of the pundits’ comments on previous speakers; and we saw the actual interviews with Jeb Bush and Donald Trump.
Both of us thought Jeb Bush came across as likeable and sensible (of course it was his job to do so.) He admittedly found it difficult to answer the question “How do you relax?” so presumably he doesn’t, much. Eventually he said he reads, and when asked what, named a biography of his father, the first President Bush. The interviewer asked him if he had learned anything about his father from the book, and he said he had learned how much his father had been hurt by his defeat in the election of 1992 (by Clinton). We in the current generation, he said, emote about everything, but his father’s generation, perhaps more admirably, keep things to themselves.
24 hours later, the results of the South Carolina primary were in, and Bush had withdrawn from the race, which felt a bit ironic.
The first question to Donald Trump concerned the criticism of him by the Pope. In case you missed it, the Pope, recently visiting Mexico, had commented on Trump’s proposal to build a wall between the two countries, saying something to the effect that someone who was concerned with building walls and not building bridges was not a Christian.
I personally feel that this was a slightly inappropriate remark by Pope Francis, if one may dare to criticise him, and Bush (who is also a Catholic) declined to endorse the view that Trump cannot be a Christian. But considering that all the candidates in South Carolina were contending for the Christian evangelical vote, I was astonished at Trump’s answer.
It was in effect “The Pope is a wonderful man. When I looked up what he actually said, it was less harsh than you have reported it. I guess the Mexican government leaned on him to say it. We need the wall. The Vatican has a high wall.”
He pointedly did not seize the opportunity to say, “I understand the Pope’s concern. Of course as Christians we want to build bridges to people, and show the love and compassion that are the hallmarks of our faith. But we do sometimes need walls as well.” If I were a Christian voter in South Carolina, something like that is what I would have expected.
Trump went on to win the primary. It is probably arrogant of me to judge, but his approach seems to be to express anger at everyone except hardworking Americans, and to blame all the country’s problems on betrayal by its leaders, and everyone outside their own land. I find this paranoia and fury, which is obviously shared by many Americans, disturbing.
The prospect of a Trump presidency is a frightening one. Nightmare scenarios of this kind are the price we pay for democracy.
Two On a happier note, I attended church at the First Lutheran Church of San Diego, a pleasant modern building with two morning services, and a mixed-race and mixed-age congregation. In between the services was an event where members discussed their art on the theme of grief., and I got the impression that there is usually a teaching or sharing event during this time.
In my ignorance, I had supposed that a Lutheran church would mean going back to my Presbyterian/Church of Scotland roots, but in fact the communion service would have felt very familiar to anyone from the C of E. In some ways it was “higher” church than what I was used to – there was incense; the congregation crossed themselves; and Lent (with its purple colours!) was taken very seriously. There was no AV projection, and the service sheet provided not only words but also the music for the hymns, sung to a well-played organ.
The church distributes free food to the homeless twice a week. It is plainly a loving community. It is true that nobody except the pastor took much notice of me, but he was very friendly, and gave me excellent advice as to where to get a good view of the city!
The election was not mentioned…
If I’m in San Diego again, I would like to go back.
Until next time,
The Partial, Prejudiced, Ignorant and Jet-lagged Blogger