Donald Trump's sins are our sins, too, and impeachment won't absolve them

"By one man's disobedience many were made sinners" (Rom 5:19).

I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned: I dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. I aborted the fetus with Down syndrome. I took away the coal miner’s health insurance. I pushed for higher sentencing requirements. I blocked the refugee. I deported the undocumented.

But you’re not responsible, of course. You voted for the other one. Or perhaps you did not vote in this election or any election. Perhaps you have billed yourself as part of the resistance and have taken to tweet-storms and marches on Capitol Hill. Even if you supported or quietly voted for the man in the Oval office, I would wager you don’t want much responsibility for the circus unfolding in Washington. Maybe you just wanted a businessman in office for a change or something.

But whether you donned a red MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN trucker flatbill or a pink knit hat at the Women’s March, Donald J. Trump is your responsibility.

Whether you donned a red MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN trucker flatbill or a pink knit hat at the Women’s March, Donald J. Trump is your responsibility.

As soon as Donald Trump was elected to the presidency, there were cries of “Not my president” from (it seemed) every blocked-off roadway of every major city in the United States. The protests have not slowed, and scandals have accelerated from weekly to daily to hourly. A month into the new administration, columnists from the liberal block were contemplating the various constitutional routes to removing Mr. Trump. Four months in, the right was having its own debate on the merits and methods of ending 45’s first term short. And now, with the country captivated by former F.B.I. director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, members of Congress are asking if the president’s actions are worthy of obstruction of justice charges.

Whether or not impeachment is warranted, it will not be enough to redeem this strange episode in the life of the United States. And even if the president were indicted tomorrow, it would not be the end of our collective involvement and responsibility.

For not only is Donald Trump the president, he is our president. Therefore, whatever his vices and virtues may be, they are also mine. And they are yours.

Perhaps this is easier for me to see because I am a Catholic. Every week I stand before a community and before settling in to worship I confess my sins to and with that community. I am taught that I am born with the wound of original sin, implicated by the actions of my first parents. I did not take the forbidden fruit. I was not kicked out of Eden. And even though the sacrament of baptism cleanses me from the sin of Adam and Eve, its effects stay with me still.

For the record, I believe President Trump is demonstrably incompetent to execute the power of his office, and his remaining there could have catastrophic consequences. Yet it is a provocative question whether Trumpism is an aberration of, a detour from or the culmination of the American project.

It is a provocative question whether Trumpism is an aberration of, a detour from or the culmination of the American project.

Deportations were up to unprecedented levels under the previous administration, and we are still in the trenches of a war started by the administration before that. Before 2017 cries of “America First,” Americans have long believed in the myth of our exceptionalism. And Mr. Trump grew up and excelled in an economic system that emboldens the owners of capital to accumulate more of it, disenfranchises workers and has rewarded those who refuse to rent to black tenants.

Just as Christians share in the original sin of their first parents, Americans share in the original sin(s) of our country: the extermination of Native Americans, slavery, Japanese internment camps and nuclear bombs. They are the sins of individuals and institutions and corporations that make up the sins of a nation. For it is impossible to live in the United States without participating in and benefitting from a civic life and economic and institutional structures that are born out of these offenses. It is not enough to know this history unless we are also willing to recognize that we shareit. As Theodor Adorno deftly put it, the one who rebukes from the outside, as an individual absolved of the communities’ guilt, “runs the risk of believing himself better than others and misusing his critique of society as an ideology for his private interest.”

Even if Mr. Trump’s guilt is dragged out and condemned by the courts or Congress or James Comey, it may be all for naught if we fail to reckon with our own individual and collective guilt.

For while our president suffers as all narcissists do, seeing only himself reflected in the world, the rest of us fail to see ourselves and our sins reflected in him.

Leonard Villa
2 months 1 week ago

What about the sins of those seeking to undermine the election any which way they can including lies,calumny, and reckless, baseless charges leading some of them to suffer Trump derangement syndrome?

Lisa Weber
2 months 1 week ago

It is true that Trump is an American phenomenon, but he is also in office partly because of Russian influence in the past election. One of the sins of this Congress is failing to adequately address Trump's obvious unfitness for office and his shattering of ethical norms. We were vulnerable to Russian influence because of our racism, sexism, and willful ignorance. Some of the willful ignorance is related to religion. Eighty percent of evangelical Christians voted for Trump because they wanted a "conservative" Supreme Court justice. I put "conservative" in quotes because it is often a code word for dishonesty. A majority of Catholics voted for Trump as well, partly with the support of their bishops. They chose to overlook dishonesty, corruption and obvious craziness in hopes of being able to make abortion illegal. The degree to which sexism influenced the Catholic vote is a matter of speculation.

Trump might be "our" president, but I do not claim him. He is the current occupant of the White House and I wholeheartedly hope that he will be gone soon. The sin I can acknowledge is failing to be adequately active in politics. I intend not to be quite so passive in the future. I did not dream that such a despicable buffoon could possibly be elected to the presidency.

William Livingston
2 months 1 week ago

It's utter nonsense that the Russians were at all responsible for Trump's election, that is a phony claim dreamed up by swamp creatures of the deep state afraid of losing power & influence and who hope to overturn the election of '16..

A factor in Trump's victory was Hilary Clinton was despised for her near treason when Secretary of .State through mishandling classified material. Of course, another factor was her arrogance & on display sense of entitlement As was her eagerness to advance the fortunes of corporate America in exchange for their donations. Nor was her expressed disdain for working class Americans & Catholics assets--her "deplorables".

The editor asks we be charitable, but that is sometimes a mite difficult (but a practicing Catholic, I'll try) to accomplish for a grumpy old man such as I, rated by the V.A. > 90% permanently disabled owing to wounds incurred 47 years ago during the Second Indochina War. I've yet to discern whether my long lease on life is punishment or chastizement. Either way, I'm thankful for the extra 47 years of life our Lord has thus far granted me. since I was hit by AK fire from a North Vietnamese infantryman,

By & large Trump voters, most of us American patriots, are satisfied with our choice for president.

FRAN ABBOTT
2 months 1 week ago

I am also a Catholic. But being as down as I can possibly be about the current state of affairs, I cannot afford to dwell on collective guilt for things that happened decades and even centuries before I was born, or take responsibility for the horrors of the current Administration. All I can do is work every day to make this world a better place for all, and pray that it happens soon.

William Livingston
2 months 1 week ago

Fred,
You rant casually about horrors, but it's my bet you don't know the meaning of the word. From my perspective as one whose first full-time job was as a high school teacher in tropical West Africa, where truly horrifying diseases are rampant; my second full-time job was as a lieutenant in the U.S. 1st Infantry Division, located a few miles NW of Saigon. If you'd cared to have been alongside me then & there, you'd promptly learned the true meaning of the word "horror." If not then & there, you certainly would have learned it my second tour in Indochina, when I was a captain in the 101st Airborne Division operating out of Camp Eagle, a few miles west of Hue, the ancient capital of Viet-Nam turned into a slaughterhouse when over-run by the communists. Based upon those long ago experiences from my point-of-view anyone who demands a fresh change of clothing every day qualifies as an effete sybarite. If nothing else, soldiering in the tropics was educational.

Regardless I was severely enough wounded during a firefight with North Vietnamese infantry to be retired from the Army on a medical, subsequent to ten months & 3 days in the military medical system, my overall positive opinion of soldiering made itself manifest to my oldest son, who himself is nearing his 20th year as a soldier.

Mike Bayer
2 months 1 week ago

Mr. Davis wants us to be forgiving and charitable, heeding "he without sin may cast the first stone", and 'hate the sin, love the sinner'. Laudable indeed, except it can become a call to inaction, and in this case asking us tolerate what is morally, professionally, legally, and constitutionally intolerable.

As to the comment about "those seeking to undermine the election", I hope those that support Trump, since they believe they have made the correct decision, retain an open mind to the facts about Trump's agenda and personal behavior.

Michael Bush
2 months 1 week ago

Yeah. We are all collectively guilty of the abomination that is Trump because 62 million dopes voted for him. That's nuts. Original sin has nothing to do with the pitiful rage of the Trump voter, the childish attitudes of people who think another human being can restore or bring about a political nirvana for them.
I'm curious as to why Mr. Davis is so angry about things neither he nor I nor anyone alive today had anything to do with. You can wallow in self-flagellation, Zac. I refuse to join you.

Charles Erlinger
2 months 1 week ago

This is not the first time that rather loosely reasoned assertions, and, in my opinion, potentially harmful moral judgements, have appeared in these pages in the context of collective guilt.

It may be reasonable to remind ourselves of the many reasons we have for experiencing emotions of regret, shame or chagrin with respect to behaviors and mistaken judgements that U.S. citizens might have exhibited in the past, or even contemporaneously. It may be beneficial to achieve a heightened sense of our own proclivities regarding shameful behavior, and to feel a profound sense of gratitude to God, our parents, and religious educators, as well as the example of honorable people whose virtues are publicly known, that we have avoided so far the mistakes that make parts of our history shameful. It may also be beneficial to remind ourselves that we are not yet beyond the days when we might be tested as others have been.

But to assess our state as one of sin based on some activities, past or present, that others have engaged in is irresponsible and potentially damaging to some souls, in my opinion. There are three essential elements characterizing sin, as I recall, and acts by someone else, whom a contemporary person did not know and had no relationship with, do not comprise those three essential elements. Collective guilt is an emotion, not an indication of personal sin. Collective guilt, as a concept, is a metaphor, not a valid moral fault, in my opinion. And the assertion in the article, quoted below, insofar as it implies personal sin, I believe to be seriously misleading.

“Just as Christians share in the original sin of their first parents, Americans share in the original sin(s) of our country….”

John Walton
2 months 1 week ago

Can we speak for a moment about "communal guilt"? I know if I go to confession, admit my sons and have a firm resolve not to sin again I am forgiven. How does one absolve the sins of an entire community if even one offender refuses to "resolve not again".

The notion of "communal guilt" throws out the notion of individual fault and responsibility.

John Walton
2 months 1 week ago

...and what of Trump's sins? Define please.

Did he chase skirts, did he fudge his scorecard or improve his "lie" at Trump National GC, did he sell a casino bond without divulging the risks?

This type of juvenile character assassination by Zac Davis is, in and of itself, sinful.

No Sharia
2 months ago

Good question John, somehow one forgets the only man who led a sin-free life is Jesus, all saints were sinners. Strive to praise the good Trump is doing and keep spreading the message that we accept rough edges if the result is closer to Christ.

Tom Fields
2 months 1 week ago

More of the lefty---hate Trump rhetoric. Get over it. "Markerts work, morals matter, America must remain strong in the world".---These views are what elected Trump---over a left-wing, super pro-abortion, "bimbo-control" captain, failed SECSTATE, killer----backed by growing evidence of illegal voters throughout the Country.

James Haraldson
2 months 1 week ago

Speak for your own sins, your own trashing of the Eighth Commandment, your own trashing of the United States Constitution, and your shameless recycling of clichés as serious thought.
Obstruction of justice? Please. If you trouble yourself to actually read the Constitution, you would learn the President has the authority to end any criminal investigation the FBI is involved, even though this President clearly did not.
I know America Magazine has been an apologist for abortion for decades, but morally sane people do recognize that it is and had been the primordial evil in human history. You might believe it is shameful that America’s abortion regime was not sustained with another pro-abortion degenerate elected president, but that is your sin to deal with, not “our” sin.
And if you go back to the Constitution, you will also learn that there is no authority in what you loosely refer to as “the courts” to adjudicate on immigration policies. The fact that they did should have offended you.
The amoral circus unfolding in America Magazine and other pseudo-Catholic publications, whose main concern has always been to adopt culturally popular positions where their contributors would not risk not being invited to cocktail parties among Manhattan sophisticates, is not likely to concern you until you overcome a sufficient amount of its anti-Catholic bias to discover authentic Catholic moral concerns.

James Haraldson
2 months 1 week ago

Speak for your own sins, your own trashing of the Eighth Commandment, your own trashing of the United States Constitution, and your shameless recycling of clichés as serious thought.
Obstruction of justice? Please. If you trouble yourself to actually read the Constitution, you would learn the President has the authority to end any criminal investigation the FBI is involved, even though this President clearly did not.
I know America Magazine has been an apologist for abortion for decades, but morally sane people do recognize that it is and had been the primordial evil in human history. You might believe it is shameful that America’s abortion regime was not sustained with another pro-abortion degenerate elected president, but that is your sin to deal with, not “our” sin.
And if you go back to the Constitution, you will also learn that there is no authority in what you loosely refer to as “the courts” to adjudicate on immigration policies. The fact that they did should have offended you.
The amoral circus unfolding in America Magazine and other pseudo-Catholic publications, whose main concern has always been to adopt culturally popular positions where their contributors would not risk not being invited to cocktail parties among Manhattan sophisticates, is not likely to concern you until you overcome a sufficient amount of its anti-Catholic bias to discover authentic Catholic moral concerns.

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