Donald Trump . . . Jackson redux?
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6 New Living Translation).
My purpose here is to raise an alarm about the present threat to our democracy, and to provide a measure of reassurance.
Ever heard of the Treaty of Rabbit Creek? I hadn’t either till last week. It seems back in 1831, the federal government under then-President Andrew Jackson, coerced four Indian tribes into signing this document by which they surrendered control of their ancestral lands in what is now Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Texas. Jackson’s main supporters were his political base, the white plantation owners who wanted to convert Indian land into profit-making ventures.
One of the tribes involved, the Choctaws, were a sophisticated group who had steeped themselves in the ways of the white invaders. They took the case to the Supreme Court. In 1832 the Supreme Court ruled in their favor, in Worcester v. Georgia, a landmark case in which Native Americans’ right to ownership of their ancestral lands was strongly affirmed.
This did not deter President Jackson. Announcing that “the Chief Justice has made his decision, now let him enforce it,” Jackson violated his oath to uphold the Constitution and systematically drove the tribes off their land, beginning with the Choctaw. While none of this may be familiar, the result probably is — the Trail of Tears, one of the most disgraceful episodes in United States history.
Does any of this sound eerily familiar? A president violating his oath, ignoring the rule of law and committing atrocities against his fellow human beings. (By the way, most of these natives had converted to Christianity, had fought alongside Jackson in the War of 1812, and, when the survivors got to Oklahoma, the first buildings that went up were churches.)
I hope I do not need to spell out the comparison. A couple Sundays ago on CNN, Carl Bernstein, award winning reporter from the Watergate era, said that our current president was the most authoritarian in our history, holds the law in contempt, and is clearly engaged in a massive cover up. (At least he feels a need to cover up — Jackson did not apparently see that as necessary.)
Our democracy is under a clear threat. We have a president who is taking on dictatorial behavior. We have an attorney general who is aiding and abetting him. We have his party in Congress sitting on their hands looking down at the floor, like children suddenly caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
This is a time for all of us to perk up and engage in the great challenges we face as the 2020 election approaches. Meanwhile take heart. We are assured, at least in the Christian Scriptures, that, in the end, we shall be satisfied. (Source for this article is Steven Charleston, The Four Vision Quests of Jesus, 2015)
Bill O’Brien is a consciousness coach and shamanic practitioner. He and his wife Linda have lived in Shepherdstown since 2005. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.