MAGA Men Are Weak

Beta Male.
Soy Boy.

These are the labels Trump supporters, (especially the dudes) readily lob like verbal grenades at guys like me, who push back against the unfettered cruelty of this president, who advocate for Science, who make an appeal for compassion. I suppose they imagine that these brilliant salvos level me.

I always get a good laugh at how ironic their insults are, given the truth:

MAGA men are weak.

I was looking at the scenes from the Sturgis Bike Rally today, seeing thousands of people (most of them professed Trump supporters) pressed into close proximity, not a mask in sight, in the throes of the worst public health crisis in our lifetime. I watched these men peacock around as if they were undersized high school boys trying to inflate their biceps to impress the older girl across the street, who they know is too good for them.

Listening to them posture about freedom and America, in their loud, anti-mask, paper-tiger rebellion, I was reminded again of how “tough” male Trump supporters always claim to be; how that faded, macho, John Wayne aesthetic is such a part of both his identity—and theirs.

But the truth is, they are flaccid followers: sheep of the greatest sheep of the pasture. All of them lack the ability to withstand the peer pressure to do something reckless and asinine, simply because they don’t want to be perceived as “soft.”

Whether bikers or Evangelical churchgoers or Republican Senators or guys at the gym or country club brethren, they are all so desperate to prove their “strength”—yet they completely cave in the face of the herd mentality around them, no matter how ridiculous it is. They are men who cannot assert themselves, even if it puts them and the people they love in danger. They would rather be seen as unflinching alpha males than actually leading with conviction and breaking from the pack.

They’ll send their kids to school, willingly exposing them to sickness.
They’ll deny Science and refuse to protect their older relatives from a virus that can ravage them.
They’ll run headlong into calamity that has already taken 160,000 people.

And they’ll do it all to preserve the illusion that they aren’t terrified, that they aren’t worried—that they are indeed the strong men they’ve spent their lives pretending they are.

I call BS.

I think strong men protect those who rely on them to make difficult decisions.
I think strong men have the humility and wisdom to listen to people who know more than them.
I think strong men use restraint even when recklessness is the easier and more popular path.
I think strong men do all they can to make sure they live as long as they can with the people who love them.
I think strong men consider already overburdened healthcare workers who don’t need any more patients than they have.
I think strong men stay home and sacrifice a little bit now, so everyone can have a more normal life sooner.
I think strong men are capable of empathy for other human beings.
I think strong men walk away from the crowd when the crowd is walking into an oncoming train.

The sad irony of America, is how terribly terrified the quivering coward is who professes to lead this nation: how much he hides behind a phone screen and rows of White House barricades, how he ducks from accountability, the way he runs from reporters, how he uses our military as a shield—his completely inability to stand in the raking light of criticism without withering like a tiny orange flower in the scorching midday sun. He is a man fully lacking humanity.

Sadder still, is a generation of American men who’ve so placed their identity in him that they have lost the ability to criticize him or oppose him, men who cannot stand up for themselves and their loved ones, men who are so enamored with this fraudulent shell, that they will risk their own lives just to flex in the face of a deadly pandemic that is not impressed.

And they call us beta males…

This is What “Hurts God,” Donald

Dear Donald.

I heard you claim that Joe Biden will “hurt God.”

I know you don’t know anything about the God Joe Biden has spent his life worshipping and following and praying to.
I know that actual spirituality is something foreign to your heart, that authentic faith is antithetical to who you are and how you view the world.
I know that God is simply a prop you wield, a costume you put on, a resource you rent in order to manipulate religious people.

If you knew anything about Jesus, if you’d ever read the Gospels, if you even once opened the Bible and saw what the Good News Jesus preached actually was—you’d know the kinds of things that hurt God:

160,000 Americans dying without a shred of compassion for them.
Children taken from the arms of their parents and put into dog kennels.
Families pepper-sprayed for a sociopath’s Bible-wielding photo op.
Terrified refugees denied sanctuary from their suffering.
A leader who celebrates a rising NASDAQ and ignores a rising death toll.
Dehumanizing women by talking about their genitalia.
Black men murdered in the streets and a leader who will not condemn the executioners.

Rubber bullets fired into the bodies of young mothers standing silently in solidarity with those black men.
Someone trying to take away healthcare from millions of people in a pandemic.

The Jesus who implored his followers to love the least, to care for the poor, to feed the hungry, to visit the prisoner, to welcome the stranger—this Jesus surely is being hurt in these moments. 

Yes, a God of mercy fully grieves watching powerful people prey upon the vulnerable they are entrusted with caring for.
Yes, a God of justice is sickened at a nepotistic corruption that profits from the suffering of others.
Yes, a God of love is saddened by a human being who is incapable of any benevolent impulse.
Yes, a God of compassion laments a cruelty that is not moved by the death of thousands of people.
Yes, a God of goodness is horrified at the name of God being tossed like grenades by a man who hasn’t uttered an authentic prayer in his life.
Yes, a God who so loved the world is fully sickened by the America First.

Joe Biden is a flawed human being who has continually professed faith in a God you have never given a second thought to. He is a man who has aspired to become more compassionate and more understanding and more aware of the pain around him, because that is what religion at its best calls us to. That is what all earnest people of faith do.

For those of us who know that Jesus taught we are known by the outward “fruit” of our lives: that what we do and what we say and how we treat people, comprise the true testimony of what we believe and who we worship—we recognize you well.

You are a for-profit false prophet, the most predatory of wolves, the blackest darkness dressed in red, white, and blue light.

You are the gleaming orange idol your heart bows down to.

Yes, Donald, the hateful damage being done right now in the name of God is certainly something that grieves the heart of a God who is love.

Jesus looked at MAGA America and at you—and Jesus wept.


This Presidency is Killing Relationships—and We’re All Grieving

I’ll never understand it.

As long as I live, it will never really make sense to me.

Yeah, I’ve read all the research, analyzed all the data, digested a thousand think pieces, and watched countless late night cable TV commentaries over the past four years—and all of them together still don’t add up to this.

They don’t explain once rational, otherwise decent, educated people fully taking leave of their senses: people I’ve grown up with, served on mission trips with, families who’ve had my kids over for sleepovers, older relatives I spent decades aspiring to become, ministers I once respected for their compassion—a rapidly growing army of people who I was sure knew better than this.

Nothing adequately explains their complete rejection of Science.
Nothing completely accounts for them instantly embracing the most nonsensical of conspiracies.
Nothing truly prepared me for their social media explosions of racism.
Nothing fully connects the dots between their past goodness and this present ugliness.

I can microscopically parcel out every conceivable contributing factor: white supremacy, the pro-life lie, Fox News propaganda, toxic masculinity, Evangelical indoctrination, intellectual laziness, manipulated nationalism, unchecked capitalism, hatred for Hillary, political fatigue, disenfranchisement, fear of replacement, and celebrity worship:

They fail to adequately explain how I lost people I loved and respected.
They don’t cushion the pain of these separations.
They don’t make it easier for me to grieve the loss of living people.
They don’t comfort me in these relational funerals.

And as much as I am in mourning, I know that these people are likely similarly grieving me right now; that they too are lamenting their own list of ways they imagine I’ve changed or lost the plot or abandoned my convictions or betrayed my religion—and they’re wondering where they lost me.

I think that’s the smaller, more devastating story we’re not telling right now; the one far below the bold type trending news. It isn’t America’s clear compound fractures of  partisan battles, issue differences, loud tribalism, and attention-stealing sideshow press conferences that are doing the greatest damage right now. The real mortal wound to this nation is coming from the relational internal bleeding measured around kitchen tables and in church pews and in neighborhoods. It is the interpersonal separations that we’re all experiencing: hundreds of millions of losses to collectively mourn every day.

We’re not just being pulled apart along political lines, but the fragile, time-woven fabric of our most intimate connections with people are being torn in two right now. Marriages, families, lifelong friendships, faith communities, and social circles that survived every previous assault from within and without—may not survive this presidency. 

And the worst part, is that the election results aren’t going to fix this.

They’re going to leave half of us elated and the other half sickened—and that emotional divide is only going to grow and strain to sever the already tenuous ties between us. There will certainly be a massive wave of ghostings and unfriendings, more silent disconnections and explosive middle-finger send-offs, more aborted family gatherings and cold silences with our neighbors. There will be a greater separation in the small and the close spaces where life is truly measured—and I’m not sure how we prevent or repair it.

I imagine some relationships will manage to survive this beyond November—if we invest in them, if we keep listening, if we have willing participants in mutual understanding—but others will not, and that’s probably necessary. Maybe we’ve simply seen too much about the deepest contents of people’s hearts to ever feel safety in their presence again. Maybe we’ll never feel like they are home for us anymore.

Either way, we need to name and reckon with this very specific and metastatic grieving: the accumulating losses of people we love who are still here, the death of our relationships. 

It is a national tragedy.



What It Felt Like To Have A President Again

Photo: Alyssa Pointer/Pool via Reuters

I almost forgot what that felt like.

To have a human being, the most powerful human being on the planet, stand before the nation and display their humanity when we so needed to see it.

To be in the middle of a swirling maelstrom of unanswered questions and unthinkable of pain, and have a president assure the people that all was not lost and that disaster was not a foregone conclusion.

Until fairly recently, we’d gotten used to presidents rising to these terrible occasions; men who despite their flaws and failings and political affiliations, were capable of becoming better versions of themselves in order to be a symbolic anchor for all the people in the swirling storms of shared tragedy. 

At the funeral for Rep John Lewis, Former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, reminded us what true leaders are supposed to do.

They are supposed to step into moments of great shaking and steady us, not willingly contribute to the shaking.
They are supposed to approach our collective wounds with a salve of decency, not press the jagged salt of malice into those painful places.
They are supposed to enter in times of national grieving and alleviate the despair, not intentionally compound it
They are supposed to take the glaring spotlight pointed at them and direct it to someone else, to something else; to our better angels and higher callings, to our many commonalities and to the nation we could be if we lean into them.
They are supposed to show us that the world is bigger than one person.

It’s been a few years since we’ve had a leader like that and we are worse off for it. The fractured nation we are all living in, is a product of the spectacular failures of the man alleging to lead it: to attempt anything approaching unity, to aspire to any kind of empathy, to show himself emotionally healthy enough to stop pleading for approval.

There are many reasons the person currently occupying the White House was absent from John Lewis’ funeral—and all of them are national tragedies.

He was not there because he has spent his entire tenure and life, treating men like John Lewis with abject disregard. He would see this as a defeat.
He was not there because he rightly would not be welcome, in the presence of the body of a man whose life was animated for eighty years around the very equality and justice that this non-leader has tried to actively suffocate.
He was not there because he knows the racist rabble who comprise his rapidly-shrinking base would see it as a sign of weakness and failure.

He was not there because he lacks the elemental maturity to put aside his origami-fragile ego in order to make a moment about anyone other than himself.
He was not there because he is a small, empty coward who can’t operate anywhere outside a controlled, cloistered bubble of adoring sycophants or safely behind a phone screen firing off reckless insults that he is never accountable for.
He was not there because he lacks a single noble influence in a position that necessitates it.
And he was not there because despite all his tough guy flexing, when actual strength is required, he simply vanishes. The emperor of bravado has no clothes and so he runs away when true leaders would step forward.

Barack Obama reminded us what it was like to be led well—and he reminds us that we can be led well again if we vote together in November: not by a flawless human being, not by a perfect human being, but by a human, human being.

That would be a comforting, hopeful, beautiful change.