By DEXTER DUGGAN
Walking to church for evening stations of the cross on a Lenten April 7, I saw two tiny white butterflies playfully circling each other as I waited for the stoplight before crossing a busy street.
Like my sister, I think of a butterfly sighting as a little reminder from God for carefree trust, often hard to attain in a world shuddering under the Devil’s thrusts. Regardless of whatever is actually in the colorful bug’s minuscule mind, its fluttering from flower to flower in apparent abandonment to the moment suggests faith and assurance.
And this Friday sighting was even better because there were two of the little fellas in tandem. Fanciful thoughts occurred of a boyfriend and girlfriend off on a date for some honey. But the happy vision quickly turned into whatever horror an adult male can feel over the fate of two bugs whose wingspan was no more than the breadth of a man’s thumbnail.
Instead of staying with the flowers, they headed into the street, not far above the asphalt. As they fluttered around each other, traffic zoomed toward them. A pickup truck rushed by and they were gone.
I hoped that, in all their fragility, they’d perhaps been sucked into the slipstream and would resume their evening after shaking off the shock. But how many motorists’ grilles are covered with splattered insects that no one mourns for even a moment? Still, I walked on to the stations, where one recalls the physical death of God’s Son, with a more somber feeling.
If we’re into grieving smashed butterflies, what of the rest of the shuddering world? Whole schools of small fish disappear into sharks’ stomachs every day, bears kill Bambi to feed bear cubs, the world before us is a war of the strong against the small, from insects — what does the mantis prey on except tiny victims? — to muscular, mechanized human armies.
Lest landscape painters become too romantic about the sunset, the Victorian poet laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson, reminded readers shortly before 1850 that those “who trusted God was love indeed” must also acknowledge that “Nature, red in tooth and claw . . . shriek’d against His creed.”
National radio talk host Laura Ingraham reminded her listeners on April 11, “There are atrocities all over the world and have been throughout human history.”
Ingraham, an early and strong supporter of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, was distressed that his foreign policy recently rapidly had become “180 degrees different” than his emphatic “America first” pledge.
Even while hosting Communist Chinese totalitarian boss Xi Jinping in Florida at Mar-a-Lago, Trump announced on April 6 that he ordered targeted missile strikes against a Syrian airbase after dictator Bashar al-Assad gassed some of his own people again.
“It was a slow and brutal death for so many,” Trump said. “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
The Protestant president used a Catholic concept of the afterlife when he also said, “We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who passed.”
Praying for the souls of the dead essentially isn’t a recognized practice for those who don’t believe in Purgatory, because the dead either would be in Heaven, where prayers for the deliverance of their souls is unnecessary, or in Hell, where prayer would be futile.
One might hope that Trump would employ his fittingly somber manner during the Syria announcement at some other occasions as well, instead of reinforcing a reputation for brashness sometimes unsuitable.
He probably won over some voters last fall who were tired of politicians not speaking forthrightly, but does he stand to lose many of them now who see Trump as betraying his “America first” platform?
And some have asked: What constitutional authority did he have for the attack without consulting Congress?
Talk host Ingraham wondered how the U.S. could be attacking Syria for its ruler’s barbarity while at the very same time toasting Communist China’s bloody Xi, whose government family planners bash in the heads of unauthorized-birth babies in villages.
Indeed, the Trump administration in early April announced it was cutting off taxpayer money to the UN Population Fund because of its support for this very same China’s forced abortions and sterilizations.
Diplomacy may mean a smiling mask to conceal a frowning face.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka had her own little daughter sing for Xi in Florida.
Was power-hungry Xi smiling at the little girl because he saw the U.S. getting tied down in Syria?
Some reports said Ivanka persuaded the president to launch the Syrian attack because of the barbarity there.
However, some pundits like conservative Pat Buchanan, a strong Trump supporter, had their doubts that Assad ordered the gassing. “For it makes no sense,” Buchanan wrote. “Why would Assad, who is winning the (civil) war and had been told America was no longer demanding his removal, order a nerve-gas attack on children, certain to ignite America’s rage, for no military gain?”
No one can doubt that dictatorial evildoers should be made to pay, but how often has well-meaning America been made to pay instead for overconfidently plunging in as a world policeman? It’s not as if President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 that started disastrous dominoes toppling is so long ago as to be forgotten.
Proverbs plainly says, “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” However, there can be wiser or worse ways of following this admonition.
Syria is a case, like many others, where a truly impartial “world policeman” like the United Nations would be called on to right wrongs without drawing opprobrium as a meddling nationalistic power.
At least, that once had been the hope for a UN that subsequently proved itself disreputable at the least, deeply morally corrupt at the worst. If you were told that UN “peacekeepers” — a/k/a soldiers — were assuming military control somewhere in the U.S., that would be a nightmare, not assurance of impartial power and justice.
And if Trump’s U.S. needs to act in its immediate self-interest, how about offering to help reform contiguous, corrupt Mexico, repulsive to so many of its own people, rather than the other side of the world?
When talk host Ingraham contrasted the old Trump with the new Trump of April, she touched a key point. The president’s foreign policy was being drawn toward conventional establishmentarian priorities.
Wall Street Journal columnist Gerald Seib wrote in the April 11 issue, “The Trump approach is starting to look — dare we say it? — almost conventional. America-first, neo-isolationist tendencies have faded.” The attack against Syria “was a mainstream move that won bipartisan praise.”
Indeed, The Hill national political news site reported on April 11 that when Tulsi Gabbard, a liberal Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii, criticized Trump’s Syria attack, there was “an outcry from some establishment Democrats, including former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, who want her out of Congress.”
The Hill said “congressional leaders from both parties have endorsed the president’s response.”
Only days earlier Democratic honchos seemed united in blasting every breath Trump took as an impeachable act, yet now the threat of Trump stumbling into deeper Mideast involvement brought bipartisan cheers.
Ingraham said Trump’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, was the voice of war hawks like Republican U.S. Senators John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida.
Another big bonus, in the establishment’s eyes, was Russia increasingly coming to be seen as an international threat, even though only a few months ago both Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin were hopeful for a better future between their nations.
If Moscow so easily now was assumed to be at dagger point with the U.S. over Russian ally Syria, how much prospect for cooperation had there really been recently?
Many U.S. liberals hate non-Communist Russia as they never had the aggressive, atheist Soviet Union, but what had been wrong with Trump’s hopes for handshakes with a Moscow where, piquantly, both long-suppressed Christian religion and new American-style hamburger hangouts emerged in the post-Soviet spring?
Trump’s new approach to foreign policy revealed a gap between some of his conservative supporters, with conservative national radio talk host Mark Levin enthusiastically endorsing Trump in this arena, even though Levin frequently makes plain that he’s free to speak critically whenever he thinks the president mistaken.
Praising Trump’s conduct as competent and measured, Levin told his audience on April 11 this is a necessary reversal of course by the president after Barack Obama had projected such an image of U.S. weakness.
On April 5 and 6 Levin had called for a U.S. attack on Syria, repeatedly citing gruesome video evidence of gassed babies helplessly flopping around on the ground like fish. He praised Trump’s attack when it was revealed.
Levin is no neoconservative eager for wider wars, but a self-described “constitutionalist” wary of government growth.
Peace Through Strength
The Wanderer asked strong Trump supporter Rob Haney for his reaction to the April 6 attack on Syria, noting that it “alarmed a number of his supporters.” Haney is retired chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Party, headquartered in Phoenix.
“I am a strong believer in the old axiom, peace through strength,” Haney emailed on April 11. “Bullies are a part of life from grade school to international relations. If you don’t stand up to them, you will be devoured by them. Chamberlain’s failure to stand up to Hitler is the most often-cited example of a disastrous consequence resulting from timidity in the face of tyranny.
“The bullies of the world have witnessed the decline of America’s military power and influence once again under Democrat President Obama, as they witnessed under Democrat Presidents Carter and Clinton,” Haney said. “North Korea, Iran, China, and Russia are now exploiting our weaknesses and flying the intimidation flags, expecting us to surrender.
“Obama’s eight years of retreat and decimation of our military services may have made it too late for our adversaries to back down without first testing our mettle through military conflict. We can either back down until we are devoured or refuse to be bullied into submission. I am grateful that Republican President Trump appears to have chosen the latter course,” he said.
San Francisco Bay area conservative commentator Barbara Simpson told The Wanderer on April 10: “So Donald Trump decided to make his position known about Syria and the attacks on Christians — and, not surprisingly, he is under attack for what he did. Was the attack on Syrian airfields legitimate, or was it a means of getting attention focused on the wrong goal?
“At what point,” she asked, “do we decide the evil deeds of despots need to be stopped, and those who seek freedom have the right to pursue their goals for their country and those around the world who want freedom?
“For those who are upset that Trump’s children may have influenced his decision…forget it,” Simpson said. “Every president is influenced by his family. The children of Donald Trump are adults and entitled to their opinions. Whether you agree or not isn’t the issue. The key is that they and their ideas are part of the mix of what we call the Trump administration.”