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.
Seems worth restating: Trump is absolutely, 100% American, and a product of longstanding features of US political history and trends.— Patrick Blanchfield (@PatBlanchfield) February 21, 2017
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.