After a hiatus of many years, I decided to take up bridge again. Like me, most of the people I play bridge with are retired. Like me, most of them are Caucasians, with a smattering of Asians. But unlike me, most of them are Republicans. I have never seen so many Rolexes on so many wrists in my life. Golf is a regular item of conversation. And a few weeks ago, I played with three people who were all discussing the best place to get a Lexus repaired, inasmuch as they each owned one.
In between hands there is ample opportunity for conversation, from which I am able to gather much intelligence on how Republicans think. Last summer, for example, I was invited to play bridge with three women. I figured the hostess was a Republican when I saw her bathroom. Any time I see a bathtub that is custom designed instead of the plain old white bathtub I have showered in all my life, I figure a fair amount of wealth must be involved. This was confirmed by the dishwasher that played music when it was opened. Anyway, after a couple of hours of bridge, the subject of politics came up. “Who are you voting for?” I asked one of them.
“Well, I’m not voting for a Democrat,” she replied.
“That’s not the question,” I said. “The big question this year is whether you are going to vote for Donald Trump.” It turned out that all three women were big Trump fans. From there the conversation drifted around to Obama, whereupon another of the women said he was a Muslim. I was, of course, familiar with birtherism, and so I listened to her remark with dispassion. It’s amazing what you can learn about people if you just let them talk without showing any sign of disagreement or disapproval. Besides, why allow politics to interfere with an enjoyable afternoon of bridge?
The woman followed up on her birther comment. “That’s why he doesn’t wear jewelry during Ramadan,” she averred. That one I was totally unprepared for, and I involuntarily exploded with laughter. I have never been invited back.
When I got home, I Googled “Obama,” “jewelry,” and “Ramadan,” and sure enough, there actually was a story about that starting in 2010 when Obama was seen not wearing his wedding ring.
Last week, I was playing with a couple of other women, and they were discussing the recent testimony by John Brennan. They were praising Trey Gowdy’s relentless interrogation of Brennan, saying that Brennan was not able to answer Gowdy’s demand to know if there was any evidence of collusion on the part of the Trump campaign. Once again, I listened to all this in silence. But then, one of the women said that she didn’t trust Brennan, because he had converted to Islam. I managed not to react with laughter to this one, and it was with great self-restraint that I kept from rolling my eyes. As before, I went home and Googled “Brennan” and “Islam,” and sure enough, there was another such story making its way around the internet.
It is good that I was able to restrain myself this time, because I have noticed that Republicans are getting a little sensitive lately. Last summer, a man asked me, “Have you ever seen anyone put the media in its place the way Trump has?” I disingenuously agreed that I had not. After the election, another man commented that “Trump plays the media like a violin.” But I haven’t heard such talk lately. Instead, Republicans have become angry at the way the media has been treating Donald Trump, more unfairly, to hear them tell it, than they have treated any other president.
Anyway, there was one such conversation I heard at the bridge table about two months ago that has been wandering around in my brain ever since. One of the women said that she thought that Trump got elected president through divine intervention. Personally, I thought it was Russian intervention, but what do I know? Then a discussion ensued in which references to Trump were interspersed with references to David, the David of the Old Testament, that is. It was Trump this and David that. Finally, I had to ask, “Are you saying Donald Trump is a modern David?” In so many words, the answer seemed to be yes.
I never really did understand why David was such a big deal. After all, was he not associated with many great sins? Now, by “sins” I am not talking about his genocidal slaughter, as told in 1 Samuel 27, for example, because genocide is widely approved of throughout the Old Testament. No, I am referring to sins that are condemned in the strongest terms in the Old Testament itself: homosexuality, adultery, and murder. In particular, David’s sins consisted of his homosexual relationship with Jonathan (1 Samuel 18 and 20; 2 Samuel 1), his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, and the murder of her husband Uriah (2 Samuel 11).
These sins were not overlooked in the conversation I listened to at the bridge table. On the contrary, they were emphasized, the idea being that David had God’s favor in spite of all that. In short, the divine intervention that supposedly brought about Trump’s election was in spite of whatever sins Trump may be guilty of too. So what was it that made God love David, which is to say, what is it that makes religious people love David? I already said that the genocidal slaughter he was responsible for is not regarded as a sin, but more than that, it seems to be what redeems him. The fact that the first thing we learn about David as children, that he slew Goliath, is our first clue. Strength, might, force, conquest, power—these are the things for which all else is forgiven.
Those Republicans I mentioned that have lately become angry at the way Trump has been mistreated by the media were doubtless gladdened when Greg Gianforte assaulted reporter Ben Jacobs, because of the redemptive nature of force. We may deplore such an attitude in this particular case, but what if it is applied on the grand scale? As things worsen for Donald Trump, the temptation to overcome his domestic difficulties through war may become irresistible. It has long been known that there is a tendency to rally around a president in times of war, which leads many to suspect that some wars are started for just that purpose. But Trump seems especially susceptible to this logic. And when I think about all the gushing over Trump that I heard for a whole week on Morning Joe following his modest military strike on Syria, I can only imagine what a full scale war would do for his ratings.
The Middle East is messy. Besides, been there, done that. But what about a military strike on North Korea? Sure, millions would die on the Korean peninsula and possibly in Japan, but if the slaughter of innocents at the hands of David made him one of the most admirable characters in the Old Testament, then death and destruction in the Far East may be just what Trump needs to ensure God’s favor.