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Who are we kidding? Trump and Putin were cut out of the same cloth. I intentionally left the borders obvious on my cut and paste above because if I hadn't, you may not have noticed that the picture of Putin has been edited with Trump's eyes. Like I said, these two guys were cut out of the same cloth, brothers from a different mother.

And then there's Trump's little minion, Tucker Carlson, who has the same brio that these two have but without the requisite bragging rights of actually having lead a world superpower. Trouble is, we've nurtured a culture of Tuckers in this country who love to have anything to hate. They'll buy it cheap and sell it for a profit. Like his sugar daddy, Trump, and his new hero, Putin, Tucker Carlson is contributing to the darkness that is pervading the world at breakneck speed, and he's doing it simple because he wants to. And because he's getting paid a lot of money to do wallow in the marketplace of conspiracies, lies, and hatred. It makes for compelling copy.

Hatred is a virus that spreads faster than Covid. Spend enough time around people who are carriers and it's a virtual guarantee that you WILL catch the virus. And the disease that comes with it isn't treated by visits to the hospital. No sir, you need a proper exorcism for something like this, friends gathered around you in deep prayer for your very soul. Some kind of divine intervention. I'm reminded of the story in the gospels of the boy with an evil spirit:

Someone in the crowd replied, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a spirit that makes him mute. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked Your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable.”

“O unbelieving generation!” Jesus replied. “How long must I remain with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to Me.”

So they brought him, and seeing Jesus, the spirit immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has this been with him?”

“From childhood,” he said. “It often throws him into the fire or into the water, trying to kill him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

“If You can?” echoed Jesus. “All things are possible to him who believes!”

Immediately the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief!”

When Jesus saw that a crowd had come running, He rebuked the unclean spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” He said, “I command you to come out and never enter him again.”

After shrieking and convulsing him violently, the spirit came out. The boy became like a corpse, so that many said, “He is dead.” 27But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up.

After Jesus had gone into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

Jesus answered, “This kind cannot come out, except by prayer.”

Why is it that orthodox Christians -- that rare breed, at least in this country, who hold their allegiance to Christ more highly than their political allegiances -- who rightly want to remain above the fray ("When they go low, we go high"), nevertheless find it so hard to call a spade a spade? Because, I suspect, we want to operate on a higher plane. But sometimes you need to have the moral courage to get into the muck and mud with the very folks you're trying to reason with in order that they might be able to see the error of their ways, if only because you've used their language and methods. Speak like they do and maybe they'll get it. Though I tried it once with a friend -- literally bitched and moaned against the Far Right like they do against the rest of the world -- and my friend walked away from our friendship like he'd been hurt. I thought to myself, "Wait, okay, so I'm sorry I went there, but geez man, you listen to this vitriol all the time coming out of your camp, and you keep the radio tuned in." ???

Frederick Buechner once said about the deadly sin of anger (which I think is actually better translated hate, as even Jesus got angry):

Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back--in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.

Hate spreads like a virus, and that's precisely what's killing this world, and killing Ukrainians, and killing civil discourse in this country. On the way to drive my daughter to meet a friend, we drove past a home with a huge red, white, and blue banner hanging from its garage with the words: "Fuck Biden." Next to it was a slightly smaller banner: "Trump 2024." I was embarrassed for my daughter that I'm raising her in a country, and in a community of mostly conservative white folks, who have the... what? temerity? audacity? lack of good manners to hang such a sign? What has the Republican party descended to? No matter how much I disagree with them on many issues, I don't see any virulent Lefties hanging disparaging signs like that for all to read. What are the people who live in that home on a busy street, not three blocks from a Christian school, thinking, knowing that many parents drive by their home with their children in tow? It's precisely these kinds of signs -- and the people who hang them -- that give credence to Hillary's diatribe about a "basket of deplorables." Folks who hang signs like that three blocks from a school are deplorable. Plain and simple. I haven't seen a single sign or bumper sticker, not in Los Angeles where I used to live or here, that says "Fuck Trump." Not one.

The Far Right in this country has chosen hate as their preferred currency of communication, and you shall know a tree by the fruit it bears. When you continue to support Putin in his ill-fated and evil desire to conquer a sovereign nation, or call a virulent virus a leftist conspiracy, or climate change a hoax, or you support the very autocrats the rest of the world sees rightly as a stain on humanity, you are bound not only to hang such signs from your home, but to join in the Tucker Carlsons chorus of the world, as well. But make no mistake. Such people will suffer the same fate that awaits anyone who has chosen to hitch their horse to the wagon of hatred and degeneracy . You may win the wars/elections/polls and admiration of xenophobes/racists/trolls and conspiracy theorists everywhere, but you will have lost your soul in the process, and your place at the table of diplomacy where the adults sit to try to constructively solve the world's many problems will have been forfeited. And rightly so. Good riddance.

I generally try to operate on the tried and true method for assessing the merit of any form of dispute resolution with this calculus: If it wouldn't work well in your family, it likely won't work well for your country, or your political party, or your organization. If calling your family members names, or threatening their well-being, or yelling and screaming at them, doesn't helpfully resolve the tensions and disagreements in your family, what makes you think it will work elsewhere?

Rasputin was alleged to have been haunted by demons. He was one strange dude. But give me Rasputin over Trumputin any day, not because the latter is necessarily any better, but because the former had fewer tools with which to ruin the lives of 7 billion people. The bigger the gun, as they say, the greater the damage, and the greater the chance for a bigger mistake. And it's not symmetrical. Give some criminal psychotic a knife and he can do some serious damage to a few people. But give him the nuclear codes to an arsenal that can blow up the world 200 times over and you've got a whole different species of problem altogether. Talk about an existential threat.

Trumputin is an existential threat, as are "their" millions of minions, mainly because they live to hate (and, likely, hate to live). But again, as difficult as this is, the best thing we can do, both at the beginning and the end of the day, is pray. For them. For their children. For their enemies. For each other. For this country. For Ukraine. For Russia. For the whole blessed world. Why? Because “This kind cannot come out, except by prayer.”

How about this upcoming Lenten season, we beat our swords into plough shares and our hatred into prayer. How's that for a Lenten fast? A fast from hatred. Could very well be the most difficult fast you've ever engaged in. It would also likely be the most life-changing. Could change the world. And you never know. It might even change you.

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