How does Jared Kushner reconcile not paying a dime in income taxes even as he sits in a front row seat at the Chabad Synagogue? And how does Mike Pence square his personal relationship with Jesus Christ with signing a bill making it legal to refuse to serve gay couples?
What allows our nation’s leaders to display the moral turpitude of dung beetles while mouthing soaring orations praising their religious principles?
The cringeworthy optics from the Kavanaugh hearings holds the answer. You saw eleven shriveled old white men enabled by centuries of male entitlement, sneering in disdain at the audacity of the challenge to their privileged role as arbiters of morality. And equally horrifying, a cadre of their clean-shaven sycophants nodding their approval as they wait in line for their turn to preside.
I know these men.
I first met them when I was fresh off the gritty streets of a blue-collar town, relocated by luck and doting parents to an ivy league university where a quota of lofty SAT scores was reluctantly allowed to mix with the blue-bloods. We proles recognized them by the Heraldic crests sown into the breast pocket of their Egyptian cotton shirts and to our shame, emulated them by creating fraternities with our own Greek letters and ridiculous rituals.
They wore Bermuda shorts and white bucks rather than jack boots and black lederhosen, but the relationship was clear. They ran the campus, Brooks Brothers blazers and patterned ties signaling their membership in Friars, Sphinx and Mask and Wig, elite honor societies where it was rare to see a hooked nose with a convex nasal bridge and a downward turn of the tip. Persons of color were nowhere in sight.
They behaved the way they did because they were conditioned to do so, exercising an updated version of droit du seigneur with rights of first refusal to perks and privileges as evidenced by their career paths after graduation: IBM, the board of the Metropolitan Opera, Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborne and JP Morgan.
Because they fit the desired mold they could be irresponsible, immoral and dishonest without anyone caring. They crossed the lines of moderation and propriety, relabeling dishonesty as boldly audacious; redefining deceitful to being creative; traveling in the fast lane because the main objective was to “get there first.”
Accustomed to being ghettoized, we outliers did what we could to duplicate the reign of the haughty with rhinoplasty and relentless pursuit of academic excellence. Our Greek letters were Phi Beta Kappa, ‘proof’ of a superior intellect that set us apart from the masses and provided our own license to bend the rules. We set the precedent for Mr. Kushner to find a way around paying taxes by simple fiat: be sufficiently devious to deceive the masses and you will be absolved from admonishment unless you are careless enough to get caught.
Indeed, I know the politicians wearing the MAGA hats and screaming for a return to “the good old days.” I lived in those days. I know first-hand about what made America “great” for white, upper-class men.
Sadly, society has not changed; the same questionable standards for those in power still prevail. If you doubt it, ponder the Cayman Islands with a population of 35,000 inhabitants and just under 600 banks and trust companies including 43 of the 50 largest banks in the world.
Happily, I have changed! At the midway point of my life when the ending came into sight I began to explore the gift of consciousness and took my first, faltering steps toward discovering what the Buddhists call our true nature. Decades later I am not yet a butterfly, but the process of transformation is well underway. Slowly but surely, I have absorbed a profound spiritual constituent as an ever-expanding part of my life.
It’s made an enormous difference in how I see myself and how I view the world.
It’s not something that happens biologically, like growing from adolescence into adulthood; you must make the decision and act on it. And you must practice the techniques that help you cheat death and give you joy and meaning; meditating, being compassionate, authentic, non-judgmental and offering selfless service, every day, day after day.
I’ve come to know the higher power that is central to the human spirit as opposed to the material or temporal. And I am saddened that this loving life-force has been perverted by the churches and temples that seat our nation’s elites in the front pews based on political clout rather than personal character.
Shame on Jared Kushner’s rabbi and Pence’s megachurch with its video screens and Christian bands. Without a tic of contrition, absolution echoes from their pulpits in exchange for proximity to power.
But tallit (prayer shawl) and kippah (head-covering) cannot cover the fact that Kushner’s tax return reveals an immoral man using accounting methodology and blunted conscience to cheat on his taxes.
Truth will out. And eventually, even the presidential seal will not hide his father-in-law’s tax return from public scrutiny.
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