Living Through a Nightmare “With a Little Help from My Friends”

by James M. Wall

A close friend took note of the scarcity of recent Wall Writings. I told him I was living in a nightmare in which two world figures hold the power to plunge us into an even darker nightmare. Their names are Trump and Netanyahu.

To keep describing that nightmare feels futile.

My friend wrote :

“the children are crying
the parents are crying
Rachel Maddow is crying
and I am crying.”

He continued:

“Never tell me again that Republicans are the party of family values.

Never preach to me from an evangelical standpoint and expect me to have any respect for what is said, since both Republicans and evangelicals currently lack sincerity, lack a moral compass, and fail as empathetic human beings.

They also seem to have great trouble with the truth.”

My reader makes this suggestion for a new post:

Wall Writings is on hold for the moment. I am unable to describe or analyze this nightmare because each nightmare emerges from an individual, personalized, dark experience.”

Good suggestion. 

I wrote another friend about pausing Wall Writings in a world dominated by Trump and Netanyahu. She responded:

“I agree, Jim, it’s wise to withdraw temporarily. This past week has proven that (even though it seems impossible) things CAN and HAVE gotten worse. The absence of morality is staggering…”

I must not pause without leaving readers with two suggestions for meditation during this nightmare.

First, read carefully a recent wise piece from New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, which demands to be read in its entirety. Click here to do so. Here is an excerpt:

America has long been a powerful nation. In particular, we emerged from World War II with a level of both economic and military dominance not seen since the heyday of ancient Rome. But our role in the world was always about more than money and guns. It was also about ideals: America stood for something larger than itself — for freedom, human rights and the rule of law as universal principles.

Of course, we often fell short of those ideals. But the ideals were real, and mattered. Many nations have pursued racist policies; but when the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal wrote his 1944 book about our “Negro problem,” he called it “An American Dilemma,” because he viewed us as a nation whose civilization had a “flavor of enlightenment” and whose citizens were aware at some level that our treatment of blacks was at odds with our principles.

The second suggestion for meditation during a nightmare comes from a column I wrote 41 years ago for The Christian Century, five years after I began editing and publishing that publication.

This article by me was published on November 23, 1977, and later reprinted on William Fore’s site, “Religion on Line”. That reprint may be accessed here. It was written a year after the election of President Jimmy Carter in November, 1976.

Here is the start of that column, written 41 years ago: 

A recent full-page advertisement appearing in major U.S. newspapers argues for support of the State of Israel and voices concern over “the recent direction of American foreign policy” in the Middle East. The signers of the statement “are particularly troubled by the erosion of American governmental support for Israel evident” in the U.S. decision to include the U.S.S.R. in planning for the Geneva talks.

Israel has many supporters in this country, and ads of this sort are frequently carried in major newspapers. But this one is different. It comes from persons describing themselves as “evangelical Christians,” including W. A. Criswell, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas; entertainer Pat Boone; Harold Lindsell, present editor of Christianity Today; Kenneth Kantzer, editor-elect of that journal; Hudson Armerding, a past president of the National Association of Evangelicals; and Arnold Olson, coordinator and president emeritus of the Evangelical Free Church of America. 

Four decades later, things are far worse, now that Donald Trump and Bibi Netanyahu have seized biblical literalism and turned it into a weapon of war for Satan.

These two monsters have transformed God and Country into frightful forces for evil. Pause with me to meditate on that fact. In time we may wake up. Or not.

The picture above at the border, is a Gregory Bull AP picture from the Independent, of a Mexican child clinging to his father’s leg.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
This entry was posted in Israel, Jimmy Carter, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, The Human Condition, Trump, USA. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Living Through a Nightmare “With a Little Help from My Friends”

  1. Essential post, Jim. Surely neither Netanyahu nor Trump is mentally fit to lead “civilized” nations and the populations resident in them. They are both dangerous psychotics/psychopaths. I’ve recently characterized Trump as inhabiting three zones that mirror and feed on each other: an appalling disdain for women, whom he considers and treats as objects existing to feed his ego and adolescent-level/testosterone-driven sexual lust; a “one-upsmanship” business style that centers on domination, control, adolescent-level bullying, and “winning the deal”; and a (shudder) governing instinct that delights in chaos, uneducated/shameless posturing, and adolescent-level arrogance while intent on demonstrating that “My … is bigger than yours.” No humility, no Christian-empowered ethics there….

    Netanyahu, if possible, is even more dangerous as a mental case. I haven’t heard for a while that he once drove his own psychiatrist to suicide, but I can readily take it as an entirely likely scenario in the life of a monumental ego trading on his “chosenness.” After all, he is intent on driving the Palestinians into oblivion.

  2. Samia Khoury says:

    Dear Jim: Please do not ever stop writing, or take a pause. Your writings help us cope with this nightmare which the whole world is going through. As frustrating as it is, your voice needs to be heard especially by people who think they are the champions of democracy and moral values. I am not a veteran writer like you and my sister keeps wondering why I continue to write despite the absurdities and the lopsided logic of what is going on around the world, thanks to Trump and Netanyahu. But I always answer her that it is important for me to get it out of my system and speak on behalf of the voiceless and let somebody else try to digest my words.

  3. Dan Casey says:

    Oh Jim, I think I understand how you feel.
    I have felt that we may at a similar place to where Germany was in the 1930’s.
    Why did the good people of that time not see what was happening and have enough influence t avert the future. Why do the good people of today not rally round messages like yours and alter the future. I hope you will continue to offer us your observations and insights when you feel compelled to do so. You have helped me see the wrongs and encouraged me to resist and try to alter the likely outcome in my way. I will continue, my friend, and I hope to have the benefit of your wisdom and humanity in your writings in the future. Dan Casey

  4. Robert Assaly says:

    Jim, I think you have been living with two delusions about the two monsters that helped bring us to where we are. Although you are in a difficult space, I think it calls for a response from you:

    1. Krugman laments the end of American exceptionalism, a myth that has obscured the reality and allowed evil to thrive. At least since the U.S. set it’s sights on the Middle East in the first Gulf invasion (1990), America has shown itself to be the evil empire. “Exceptionalism” promoted by Obama and others white-washes the facts that American violence abroad and the unprecedented suffering it has caused, not least against Arabs, and gun violence domestically and locking up untold numbers (long before anyone heard of a prison-industrial complex) is all rooted in America’s exceptional racism and capitalist elitism. It is no coincidence that the only other purveyor of exceptionalism on this small planet — Israel — is equally racist and destructive.

    2. Evangelicalism allows evil to thrive because it is grounded in incorrect, self-referential biblical hermeneutics and therefore doesn’t take the bible seriously, contrary to it’s claims. Read: untruthful. This has allowed it to become a dangerous ideology, no less so than that of the scripture-based Islamic or Zionist extremists. The difference is that it has it’s finger too damn close for comfort to the most deadly nuclear button on the planet, and the world’s largest conventional force that backs it up.

    The outcome has been inevitable. The exceptionalist mentality of American liberals has been a spectacular fig leaf for fake democracy which brings all of us — including the vast majority who have no franchise in the US but suffer with its evil every day — the Trumps, Bushes and Clintons of the world, or at least to the world.

    They vary only in the degree of global suffering they cause backed by bible-thumping fanatics obscuring the message of the Cross: that we together are called to live out self-sacrificing, suffering love.

  5. Ed McNulty says:

    Thank you, Jim, for sharing with such frankness your feelings concerning the “two monsters.” Because many of us feel this way, it is good to read them expressed so well. For some us older readers they are familiar ones. I can recall wondering when justice would catch up with Tricky Dick who came to power by smearing a Congresswoman and continued to use the “Reds” card throughout his nefarious career, even clandestinely prolonging the Vietnam War for the sake of his career. A few years later I lamented the closing of our church’s daycare center when Reagan began cutting funds for such people-serving organizations, Having been involved in church radio & TV ministries using public service time, I regretted his deregulation of the media that led to its demise, and far worse, that allowed a few wealthy to buy up more than the hand-full of stations they once were restricted to. And there was Irangate and our not so clandestine support of the Contras in Nicaragua. Going back farther, there was the Civil Rights Movement when it seemed that segregation would never be overcome, no matter how many times we sang our anthem. (I write segregation because I know that racism is far from being overcome, but its institutionalized form has,) Let’s hope that the millions who have been speaking out, and who will come out on June 30th, will continue to make Trump back peddle and be forced to start the process of reuniting immigrant parents and children. To my delight the Session of the conservative little Presbyterian church I am serving during my retirement came up with a resolution calling for the end of separating the children–and asked me to send it to our government reps, churches, & others.
    So please, because of your experience and contacts, keep us posted, Jim–for instance. how is the investigation of the Israeli PM going, and what are some of the details of the recent charge against his wife? Thanking you in advance.
    Ed McNulty

  6. J. Martin Bailey says:

    I am grateful for Jim Wall’s current post, with all its expression of personal anguish and frustration. Still, Jim clarifies personal and national needs and suggests some essential goals. He also has stimulated thoughtful responses, not least that of our Canadian friend, Robert Assaly. I hope, with the rest of you, that some new [Democrat?] leader will emerge.
    Frankly, my principal anxiety at the moment is that I don’t see a wise and courageous and energetic individual yet. My principal hope in these days of tumult is the media–the real, trained, prophetic, thoughtful, courageous and disciplined (i.e. the opposite of “fake”) media. Perhaps we will see some prophets arise in our religious institutions. I long for that!
    Lord, send us the leader we need! May he or she have a strong and compelling voice!

  7. Fadwa Naji says:

    Hello Jim:

    I have been reading your postings for many years. Your insight on and many topics is always timely and extremely informative.

    We wish you the best and we urge you to stay on your humanitarian path of bringing truth and nothing but the truth to the surface. By staying your path of telling the truths and pointing out the causes of human sufferings on the hands of the oppressors and colonial powers , you serve
    The Palestinian cause and that of all people under occupation (land and mind) , and give them hope that there are those like James Wall who stand with them

    Being a Palestinian I feel your support surpasses that of many Arab -American
    Spokesmen, and it outweighs the untruth of the Biassed media.

    Please keep on writing and the Palestinians will keep on marching to achieve their freedom, and justice in A Democratic State , with Jerusalem its Capitol.


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