I figured that I needed to update everyone on what is going on since my last post of a month ago.
Anyway, that’s me and my post-retirement beard. Since the time this photo was taken the beard and mustache have continued to thicken up, and I think that the mustache will do a nice handlebar. It will look late 19th or early 20th Century by the time that it is done. That being said we have moved into our “forever home” and are continuing to work to make it what we want. It is a beautiful home in a neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places and though only 11 years was built to look like the historic hundred year or more old homes in the neighborhood.
It is amazing and because it is not in Virginia Beach it didn’t break us. If we had found something like this in Virginia Beach it would have cost over a million, but in a quite and safe neighborhood where neighbors look out for one another in Norfolk it was less than a third of that. Since we have lived in military housing, starter tract homes, apartments and most recently a townhouse this is a mansion. Judy has an amazing art studio and my library/office is coming together. I cannot believe how much work it has been but our progress is amazing, and our Papillon kids love it. They have lots of windows to look out, a backyard that they play, do their business and keep watch on the neighborhood. Izzy and Maddy love the windows as do Sunny and Pierre, but Pierre needs to be up on furniture to look out.
Anyway, the amount of work has often left me exhausted, so much so that I had brain cramps and writers block. However, we are at a place where I was able to start working with my publisher and agent on Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory!, and things are taking off. I have a number of well respected historians, educators and civil rights leaders, including a Pulitzer Prize winning Civil War historian who are reading it in order to write blurbs for the publisher. I continue to work with my agent and the publisher daily in addition to working in the house.
So I am quite busy. I hope to write more here more often as things progress and time allows.
It has been nearly three months since I wrote anything on this blog. Since my last article so much has happened and frankly I have been so busy preparing our old house to sell, purchasing and moving in to our our wonderful home, as well as finishing the last quarter of teaching Rhetoric, the History of the Renaissance and Reformation, and early American History to the Civil War that I have had hardly any time to do anything else. Frankly, I have been too tired and emotionally exhausted to write anything.
However, on this night I am writing. It won’t be long but I hope that it will be meaningful. This is the 157th anniversary of what some have called “The Most Glorious Fourth.” It is not only the anniversary of Independence Day and the promise of the Declaration that “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Though the committee of five men, including Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams who drafted the Declaration included a scathing paragraph condemning slavery, that paragraph was removed because the Continental Congress could not ensure the unity of the country if it were included in the Declaration. It is certain that South Carolina and Georgia specifically rejected because they had no intent of ending the slave trade or slavery, and other states where slavery was not only integral to the economy but society would have rejected it out of hand.
So it was expunged. Had it not been those words, which Abraham Lincoln and others believed were meant to apply to an ever expanding and diverse populace composed of every race and religion, and have been instrumental in the hopes and dreams of people around the world would have had much more of an impact, the slaveholders of then, the Confederates who expressly included slavery as their primary reason of secession, and the White Nationalists, and insurrectionists who attacked that Capitol on January 6th, and their leader, former President Donald Trump be damned.
The words of that draft paragraph expressed a sentiment that those who with mythologize our past or condemn the men who drafted the Declaration as not going far enough would be embarrassed to read, so I post them here:
He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.
Had that paragraph been included it would have changed the course of our history for the better. Blacks would have been emancipated and made citizens sooner, and instead of a massive institution of Slavery which poisoned the country for 89 years after independence, a further hundred plus years of Jim Crow, racial violence, the wholesale destruction of Black communities, the lynchings of thousands of Blacks, bombing s of Black churches and assassinations of civil rights leaders including Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. Despite the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and Civil Rights Act of 1965 a resurgent White Nationalist movement, which though a significant minority of the voting population of the United States have so gerrymandered the congressional districts of so many states that they have far more house members, and a plurality of Senators who use a hackneyed version of the Filibuster, called Cloture, to ensure that a supermajority of at least 60 Senators have to agree to a bill to pass it into law, or to appoint Justices to the Supreme Court. This has ensured that the White Supremacist Republicans led by Senator Mitch McConnell have used Senate procedural rules to block Democratic nominees to the Supreme Court and end up with a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court, which just last week dismantled the last remaining pillar of the Voting Rights Act of 1964. As this was being litigated hundreds of measures to restrict voting rights have been introduced, and in some states like Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas have been passed by state legislatures and signed into law by their governors.
July 4th 1863 is often referred to as the Most Glorious Fourth because on that day following their decisive defeat at Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia began their retreat to Virginia, while General John Pemberton’s Army at Vicksburg surrendered to the armies of Ulysses S.Grant, exactly four score and seven years after the publication of the Declaration of Independence. On that day one Confederate Army was eliminated from the war and the most dangerous, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was so shredded that it could never go on the offensive again.
Now, twelve score and five years after the Declaration we are facing an existential threat to our democracy from the party which used to be the party of Lincoln, emancipation, and Reconstruction to that of the Southern Democrats who fought for slavery, fought civil and voting rights for Blacks, rolled back the rights fought for by Union Soldiers and voted into law in the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and FifteenthAmendments to the Constitution and the afore mentioned Voting Rights Act of 1964 and Civil Rights Act of 1965.
The simple fact is that our democracy is under attack and it is very possible that this Independence Day May be the last that we observe as a democracy. It is imperative that we fight at the ballot box, in state legislatures, in Congress, and with the power of an incumbent President committed to that democracy to beat back the attempts to overthrow it by legislation ,through the courts and by violent coup attempts. We may even have to take up arms to defend the American Experiment. If we do not we will cede the field to those who have already done everything they can and are working on more to disenfranchise most Americans and form a minority controlled, authoritarian, Christian Nationalist state that restricts the rights of the majority to maintain political control and cede power to an oligarchy of Christian Nationalists, Corporate interests, and violent White Supremacists. In effect we are at the same point as the Union in 1861 and the Weimar Republic in January 1933. We know how well those ended. Both ended in the defeat of the authoritarians but a great cost.
Many of the people endangering our system of government, our democracy and way of life have been convinced by propaganda and are completely ignorant of our history. Their ignorance is not something we can excuse. That being said we cannot treat them as enemies until they attack. Thus, we have to peacefully to to become this friends and show them how they have been deceived, just like most poor Southern Whites before the Civil War, and many otherwise decent and moral Germans in the 1930s. If we can do that. If we can win without violence and and help change the hearts of people ignorant of our history and Constitution we can defeat this racist, theocratic, and authoritarian threat before it can claim complete power in all branches of of government.
Historian Timothy Snyder wrote:
“The hero of a David Lodge novel says that you don’t know, when you make love for the last time, that you are making love for the last time. Voting is like that. Some of the Germans who voted for the Nazi Party in 1932 no doubt understood that this might be the last meaningfully free election for some time, but most did not. Some of the Czechs and Slovaks who voted for the Czechoslovak Communist Party in 1946 probably realized that they were voting for the end of democracy, but most assumed they would have another chance. No doubt the Russians who voted in 1990 did not think that this would be the last free and fair election in their country’s history, which (thus far) it has been. Any election can be the last, or at least the last in the lifetime of the person casting the vote.”
If we do not succeed, we will enter the most dark and dystopian future imaginable, it will be like the series The Man in the High Castle. That is not the future that I want to contemplate, however with the election restrictions being pasts in many states, the Supreme Court backing those restrictions, and an ever increasing violent element in the Republican Party we cannot be complacent.
So, I wish to a happy Independence Day and please don’t take it lightly. Democracy is fragile and under threat by Americans who would rather see a one party authoritarian State based on White Christian Nationalism. A State where Racism and anti-Semitism in its crudest forms takes over the nation.
This is not a partisan issue. Many people voting for the GOP are doing so because of years of propaganda who have no earthly idea of just how badly it has already harmed them, socially. politically, and morally. Conservative wings of Christian Churches have become nothing more than mouthpieces for the anti-Christian and anti-humanitarian new-fascists of the GOP, poisoning the faith and causing many people to abandon it.
I don’t know about you, but I will fight that future, if need be to the death.
Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day in the United States. It takes place on the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In 2019 had the honor of speaking about not forgetting the Holocaust at Norfolk’s Temple Israel. When I look at the Holocaust and the men who managed and executed the plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe, I realize the wisdom of the words of Joseph Conrad, who wrote:
“The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.”
Holocaust survivor and philosopher Primo Levi wrote, “Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.”
The truth is that human beings are incredibly capable of committing great evil and wickedness. The Holocaust stands alone, above every other genocide committed in history. Laurence Rees in his book Auschwitz, a New History, ended that book with these words:
We must judge behavior by the context of the times, and judged by the context of mid-twentieth century, sophisticated European culture, Auschwitz and the Nazis’ “Final Solution” represent the lowest act in all history. Through their crime, the Nazis brought into the world an awareness of what educated, technologically advanced human beings can do – as long as they possess a cold heart. Once allowed into the world, knowledge of what they did must not be unlearned. It lies there – ugly, inert, waiting to be discovered by each new generation. A warning for us, and for those who will come after.
That bring me to tonight’s subject. Seventy-nine years ago a group of 15 relatively common bureaucrats of various German government, police, and party agencies sat around a table and discussed the implementation of what is called the Final Solution, or in German Endlösung. The meeting was chaired by SS Lieutenant General Reinhard Heydrich, who had been charged with the task of solving Germany’s “Jewish Problem” shortly after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Hermann Goering, the number two man in the Nazi Reich sent Heydrich the following message:
Berlin, July 31st 1941
To: Gruppenfuhrer Heydrich
Supplementing the task assigned to you by the decree of January 24th 1939, to solve the Jewish problem by means of evacuation and emigration in the best possible way by according to present conditions, I hereby charge you to carry out preparations as regards organizational, financial, and material matters for a total solution (Gesamtlosung) of the Jewish question in all the territories of Europe under German occupation.
Where the competency of other organizations touches on this matter, the organizations are to collaborate.
I charge you further to submit to me as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative material and financial measures necessary for the carrying out the desired final solution (Endlosung) of the Jewish question.”
When Goering wrote Heydrich, who headed the Reichssiecherhiethauptampt (RSHA) or Reich Security Main Office, in July 1941 it seemed that Nazi victory in Europe was all but assured. Goering’s words were businesslike, and his words describing the Jews in terms of a question were euphemism of dehumanization. The late Christopher Hitchens understood how labeling ethnic or religious groups as in terms of questions or problems allowed people to escape the human realities of their solutions.
“Die Judenfrage,’ it used to be called, even by Jews. ‘The Jewish Question.’ I find I quite like this interrogative formulation, since the question—as Gertrude Stein once famously if terminally put it—may be more absorbing than the answer. Of course one is flirting with calamity in phrasing things this way, as I learned in school when the Irish question was discussed by some masters as the Irish ‘problem.’ Again, the word ‘solution’ can be as neutral as the words ‘question’ or ‘problem,’ but once one has defined a people or a nation as such, the search for a resolution can become a yearning for the conclusive. Endlösung: the final solution.”
The early measures taken by Heydrich to rid Germany and annexed Austria had been reasonably successful to rid those areas of their Jews through emigration and evacuation. These were not benign measures, people were forced to leave their homes, businesses, communities, and had most of their belongings taken from them in order to leave the Reich. However with the occupation of most of Europe following the Nazi military success and the looming occupation and subjugation of the Soviet Union the process of giving the Jews a chance to emigrate to lands outside Nazi control had come to an end. In fact the Nazis occupied the countries that may Jews had found refuge. In Heydrich, Goering, most likely acting on the verbal orders of Hitler, had found the man to execute the final solution of the Jewish Problem. Heydrich was the one man who could break through resistance of competing government and party offices and bring them into line.
Less than six months after he received the directive from Goering, on January 20th 1942 Heydrich summoned representatives from various Reich agencies were called for what turned out to be a brief, two hour meeting which decided the fate of the Jews. The meeting was held at an estate located in the suburbs of Berlin, called Wansee. Organized by Heydrich’s deputy Adolph Eichmann, involved Heydrich, Eichmann and 13 mid level representatives from various economic, governmental, justice and police entities.
Order of Heydrich to Martin Luther, Under Secretary of the Foreign Ministry
At the conference Heydrich established his authority through Goering’s directive to overcomek the bureaucratic and personal attempts of various attendees to take control of the Final Solution process. Despite objections from some attendees who favored sterilization and the use of Jews in the war armaments industries, Heydrich made it clear that the Final Solution would be a campaign of extermination. He was quite clear:
Estimates of Jews to be Exterminated from Wannsee Documents
“Approximately 11 million Jews will be involved…in large single sex labor columns, Jews fit to work will work their way eastward constructing roads. Doubtless the large majority will be eliminated through natural causes. Any final remnant that survives will doubtlessly consist of the most resistant elements. They will have to be dealt with appropriately, because otherwise by natural selection, they would form the germ cell of a new Jewish revival.”
The Nazi leadership decided that its race war against the Jews needed to forge ahead. Within days of Wansee the orders went out and SS commanders at various concentration camps began devising more efficient means to exterminate Jews and other “sub-humans.” It was a matter of pride and efficiency for them. As Rudolf Hoess the Commandant of Auschwitz said at Nuremberg “the camp commandant at Treblinka told me that he had liquidated 80,000 in the course of one half year. He was principally concerned with liquidating all the Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto. He used monoxide gas, and I did not think that his methods were very efficient. So when I set up the extermination building at Auschwitz, I used Zyclon B….” Hoess estimated that some 2.5 million people were exterminated at Auschwitz at rates as high as 10,000 a day.
Einsatzgruppen in Action
Of course before the Endlösung was decided on in Berlin and and the pieces were put into place at Wannsee, the Einsatzgruppen had been at work for over six months in the Soviet Union. Four Einsatzgruppen followed each of the German Army Groups and systematically began to massacre the Jews of every city and village which German soldiers captured. The Einsatzgruppen, OrdungspolizeiBattalions, Army Security Divisions and locally recruited units in fewer than six months, killed over a million and a half Soviet Jews, and the slaughter would continue unabated until the dying days of the Reich.
Heinrich Himmler, Heydrich’s friend and superior told a gathering of senior SS leaders:
“I also want to mention a very difficult subject before you here, completely openly. It should be discussed among us, and yet, nevertheless, we will never speak about it in public…I am talking about the “Jewish evacuation” the extermination of the Jewish people.”
It is One of the things that is easily said. “The Jewish people is being exterminated,” every Party member will tell you, “perfectly clear, it’s part of our plans, we’re eliminating the Jews, exterminating them, ha!, a small matter.”
But then along they all come, all the decent upright Germans and each has his decent Jew. They all say: the others are all swine, but here is a first class Jew. And none of them has seen it, has endured it. Most of you will know what it means when 100 bodies lie together, or when there are 500 or 1000. And to have seen this through, and –with the exception of human weaknesses– to have remained decent, has made us hard and is a page of glory never mentioned and never to be mentioned….”
Himmler and his entourage
Whether the words are those of Goering, Heydrich, Hoess or Himmler, there is a certain businesslike banality to them. But these men, and many others like them orchestrated a campaign of genocide and race hatred unmatched in history. Yes, there have been other genocides, the Turks killing the Armenians during the First World War and the Hutu and Tutsi slaughter in Rwanda but neither they or the politically motivated campaigns of mass slaughter conducted by the Soviets, the Chinese Communists and the Khamer Rouge killing fields can match the systematized extermination campaign waged by the Nazis against the Jews. Today we cannot allow the Holocaust to become just another terrible event in the history of humanity.
The truly terrifying thing about the Nazi perpetrators of the Holocaust to me is that most of the men at Wansee, men that commanded the Concentration camps and the Einsatzgruppen were very ordinary men who simply believed that they were doing their jobs. Very few could be described as psychopathic killers by nature. They were lawyers, doctors, career police officials, businessmen, and bureaucrats who carried out an extermination campaign that killed by their own numbers between 5.5 and 6 million Jews, not to mention others deemed to be subhuman including the handicapped, the mentally ill, homosexuals, and other non-Jewish minorities like the Gypsies not to mention the wide variety of those considered political enemies. But it was the Jews that bore the most tragic fate and it was the Jews who were the object of Hitler’s most bloodthirsty actions.
These men might have been ordinary, but their actions were extraordinary in their criminality. Never before had a modern, educated nation attempted to eradicate an entire race and “cleanse” their society from those they considered to be less than human. They eliminated political opponents, the handicapped, Jews, those of mixed race, gays and lesbians, Gypsies, and so many more. The Nazis desired a perfectly pure racial state. Once they conquered most of Europe the commenced exterminating all the Jews and others deemed less than human or a drain on the Nazi economy.
But without the bureaucrats, the mayors, district leaders, party functionaries, police officers, soldiers, railroad officials, businessmen, and others who helped there could have been no Holocaust. When I visited the Munich Center for the Study of National Socialism in 2016, 2017, and 2018, the evidence was that very few German could have known about the crimes of the Nazi regime. Most chose to look the other way.
Some didn’t. Sophie Scholl a student at the University of Munich and a leader in the White Rose resistance movement wrote:
“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”
Laurence Rees wrote:
“human behavior is fragile and unpredictable and often at the mercy of the situation. Every individual still, of course, has a choice as to how to behave, it’s just that for many people the situation is the key determinate in that choice.”
Timothy Snyder correctly observed that “The world is now changing, reviving fears that were familiar in Hitler’s time, and to which Hitler responded. The history of the Holocaust is not over. Its precedent is eternal, and its lessons have not yet been learned.”
That is something that we must never forget lest the would be architects of annihilation of our day; the former American President, Donald Trump, other politicians, preachers, propagandists, and profiteers demonize the Jews, Muslims, dark skinned immigrants, LTBTQ people and other inconvenient elements. In doing so their words of race hatred prepare people to do evil or ignore it: they are the ordinary men who believe the most absurd conspiracy theories and obey orders of the Fuhrer. Primo Levi who I quoted at the beginning was right, the common me, those that don’t think but simply follow orders or turn their heads and ignore the evil who are the most dangerous. This was show to us on 6 January 2021 when thousands of Trump followers, believing Trump’s Big Lie assaulted the Capitol with the intention of killing Vice President Pence, Speaker Pelosi and any Senator or Representative they believed disloyal to Trump and preventing President Joe Biden from taking office. Those who spearheaded the attack were Neo-Nazis and White Supremacist. They killed one Capitol Police Officer and wounded over 140 others. It was a brazen insurrection and attempt to overthrow our election and Constitution. The insurrectionist failed, but the Republican Party and Right Wing Media are now trying to read-write history. They are as bad or worse that Holocaust Deniers and if they had succeeded they would have unleashed a wave of terror against all opponents, including the Jews, who are frequently condemned by them and their conspiracy theorist allies in QANON using the exact same words and accusations used by Hitler, Goebbels, Goering, Streicher, and others. Even in losing Trump’s supporters are promoting state laws restricting voting rights and civil rights targeting Blacks and other minorities. The Holocaust is their inspiration, and given the chance they would begin it again here in 2021.
Milton Mayer wrote in his book They Thought They Were Free about a German colleague during the 1950s that had lived through the Hitler years as an academic. The man tried to explain how changes were so gradual that people like him who should have known better did not take action, if they did at all until it was too late. The man asked Mayer:
“How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice—‘Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’ But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings. One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men? Things might have. And everyone counts on that might.”
We cannot forget and we must always be vigilant or we too could easily succumb, it’s not that hard. Any of us can be a perpetrator, victim or bystander. Yehuda Bauer wrote these words of warning:
“The horror of the Holocaust is not that it deviated from human norms; the horror is that it didn’t. What happened may happen again, to others not necessarily Jews, perpetrated by others, not necessarily Germans. We are all possible victims, possible perpetrators, possible bystanders.“
I have been so busy that I have not been able to post anything in a few days nor have the time to get an new host and rebuild this blog. Many people have suggested fixes to recover the “classic editor” function on WordPress but I have not been able to make any of them work. However, I got a lot accomplished and woe betide me I am now 61* years old. Believe me 61* is not the new 41*.
Last week I managed to file my appeal of my VA disability claim, got a lot done at work, a bit done in the house and Judy and I are actively trying to buy a new home. We have an offer on a beautiful home in a primarily African American historic district in Norfolk which was accepted. Considering how tight the housing market is it was practically miraculous. I saw it online the day it listed and we toured it that afternoon and made our offer.
The home is only 11 years old but looks like it was designed to fir in with the older historic homes that populate the neighborhood. We could not have gotten a crappy tract home in Virginia Beach for what we offered for this mini-mansion. In the the mean time I have an amazing real estate agent who is working her ass off for us. She used to flip homes and is an experienced interior decorator. She is helping us get our townhome ready to put on the market. Likewise we have a great contractor who just retired from the Navy doing a lot of the work. We met him through a mutual friend who bragged on him. I figure that we will be ready to put the place on the market in a couple of weeks which lines up with the owners of the home we are buying.
We shouldn’t have any problem selling as homes like are in our neighborhood are being snapped up within days of listing. I was told by our friend who runs the office at our homeowners association that homes like ours are having bidding wars for them and she knows the improvements that we have already made to the home. They sell fast and I expect that ours will go higher than most, our realtor thinks she can get $250,000 for a home that we bought just before the last home bubble burst for 205,000. With the equity we have that should help us a lot with a couple of things we want want to do with the new home.
I am loving work and the Principal of my school and I are talking about adding to my course load next year to take advantage my unique skill sets in teaching advanced placement American and European History as well as electives on American Slavery, Emancipation, Reconstruction, the return to White Rule of Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement, one on World War II, and maybe one on the Holocaust. That is exciting for me because my students are very bright, motivated and come from a a number of different social, cultural, racial, national, and religious or non-religious backgrounds.
The past week and a half week we had our final third quarter presentations and projects and I prepared study guides and tests for my Renaissance and Reformation class, and early American History to the Civil War. Since the previous teacher spent most of her time on literature of the periods versus history and how those literary classics help us understand the times, I had to use my time to catch them up so that during the fourth quarter I am not doing a massive data dump but we can use time for reading, reflection, films or videos, special topics, and diving deep into particular subjects. They will still get all the historical lecture material but now it will be connected to the books required by the school, and let me tell you the reading list is amazing. I can guarantee that most college graduates haven’t read half of what they are to read before the matriculate. I am also finding the joys of navigating a blended classroom with students attending in person and others by zoom, and trying to get homework assignments and tests from the zoom students by email. The past week I have been grading tests, papers, projects and making lesson plans. Please do not tell me that teachers have easy jobs. The amount of time one spends off campus doing the job is huge. That is one reason I haven’t been posting much on this site.
Call me old fashioned but I am now seeing the damage that COVID-19 is doing to the education of our children. It is not good and I don’t know how many will recover from over a year of being out of classes trying to deal with varying means of online learning. Our students are better off than most, but kids in poor public school districts, and rural areas without decent internet connectivity have almost no chance. COVID-19 has exposed the massive inequalities of our educational systems.
Well, sixty-one years ago last weekend almost I emerged from my mother’s womb to take my first breaths of life on this planet. I was up working on my gargantuan test for my early American history students until almost 5 AM on Friday. I spent much of the weekend grading and communicating with my zoom students. Next week we have our spring break and we will have my contractor in to do the work to get the house ready to sell. I believe that tomorrow night I will bet the pictures scanned for my book, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory and sent to my agent and publisher. I hope to get my list of influencers for the book to my agent next week and begin work on the website to promote the book and depending on time find a new site for this blog as I still absolutely hate the new WordPress Block editor and nothing anyone has suggested to get back to the classic editor has worked.
Tomorrow is another day in class and posting the grades for the quarter. Thursday, I have just one class and Friday is a half day.
be doing some prep work on the house this weekend but to,spend some time doing things I have to do concerning the book, the blog, my job, and setting up an LLC to do my military history staff rides and Holocaust Remembrance visits and to make some introductions with politicians, government officials, pastors and community organizers in Norfolk. Likewise I want to follow up with local universities as far as teaching and find another Masters or a PhD. program that would interest me to use my Post Iraq GI Bill to get three years of tax free housing allowance while in school.
Anyway, I need to get to bed. Thank you for your patience as I have had so little time for blogging or social media. There are so many things that I want to write about but until we get a 32 hour day and 9 day week I don’t know when they will happen.
I had t post this because I don’t want it to be unsaid as I transition off of this site. For my faithful subscribers I will post the new site info as it becomes available. The way I feel about WordPress now is like Joe Pesci playing “Leo Getz” in the “Lethal Weapon” films: “they always fuck you in the drive through.” But I digress.
Due to the vast amount of race hatred and violence occurring in the United States I watched two films: “Operation Finale” about the brave Israeli Mossad agents who traveled to Argentina, captured and escaped with a primary architect of the Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann in 1960, not long after I was born. I then watched “The Eichmann Show” which was about how the trial of Eichmann was filmed and televised around the world bringing to life for people who either had forgotten or ignored the Holocaust. The producer of that mammoth undertaking was an American television producer, Milton Fruchtman. He stood at the booth where Eichmann sat and said these words, which were inspired by his director Leo Hurwitz, an award winning documentary producer who was blacklisted during the McCarthy witch-hunts.
Fruchtman said: “For each of us who has ever felt that God created us better than any other human being, has stood on the threshold where [Adolf] Eichmann once stood. And each of us who has allowed the shape of another person’s nose, or the color of their skin, or the manor in which they worship their god to poison our feelings toward them, have known the loss of reason.”
Those words are as true now as when they were spoken. The United States is NOT AN EXCEPTIONAL NATION to which legal principles of International Law that it helped establish for other Nations is above or immune. As US Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who served as the Chief prosecutor for the United States at the trial of the Major Nazi War Criminals at Nuremberg said:
“If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.” Justice Robert Jackson International Conference on Military Trials, London, 1945, Dept. of State Pub.No. 3080 (1949), p.330.
I now officially hate WordPress. They disabled the classic editor and are making everyone use their stupid Block Editor. I hate it and ever since it was introduced we still had the ability to choose the classic editor. They now have a “slimmed down” classic editor option within the Block Editor. It makes posting an article and seeing what I want to do with my categories, tags and other info nearly impossible. To think I just paid for a new site with them to like to this in order to be able to publicize my book and have links that would enable me to connect to my publisher and major booksellers.
I actually had something very important to post tonight but I am too pissed off to do it. I have been with WordPress since 2009 and now they fuck me. Damn them. One of the things they said when I tried to post was “Change is hard.” How fucking arrogant and disrespectful. I have had to deal with too much damned change in my life over the past three months. I am exhausted. This was the straw that block this camels back.
I don’t know when I will post here again. I may find a different service and try to transfer content from here to it.
Sorry for not posting for a week but my ass has been kicked by the work involved in clearing our home of things in order for the painters after having more contractors in the past week. Add to this the new new teaching job and my ass is kicked. Everything hurts, 60 is definitely not the new 40.
As I was getting things cleaned out I found a letter. It was the letter that greeted me at my office a few days that I preached sermon at the JEB Little Creek Fort Story Chapel in July 2017. It was from a fanatical Trump supporter who was upset that I condemned the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents and locking them up in cages on our border with Mexico. During the sermon I never said a word about Trump himself and stayed morality of his administration’s policies.
My accuser was a retired officer who never addressed me face to face and made heinous accusations against me. He sent a similar letter to my Commanding Officer demanding that I be relieved of my position as Command Chaplain and that I be tried by Court Martial. It was a seminal moment in my life. I discovered that the Trump movement was not simply about politics but it was a personality cult devoted to their “Leader” with profoundly racist motives bent on the personal destruction of anyone who opposed his policies.
My sermon actually had scriptural backing in that week’s lectionary readings and was based on the teachings of the Christian Church and backed by history. When I preach I do not deviate from the lectionary texts and seek to apply them to daily life, most of the time this was never about anything political.
The sermons of a chaplain are normally considered one of the most protected types of speech in the military and for that matter in the country, even if they stand against the policies of a President. In fact during my long career I have witnessed conservative Evangelical and Catholic Chaplains venture into politics on a regular basis, sometimes sitting through sermons that were much more partisan and disrespectful than anything I spoke that day, but I do not recall any to have been accused of crimes and investigated for what they said in a sermon preached as part of regularly scheduled religious services.
The official investigation of my “allegedly criminal conduct” in preaching the sermon was grueling. I was called into the investigating officer’s office and read my rights. I refused to answer questions without a lawyer. I had to retain legal counsel and went to Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation who has become a close personal friend. He spoke at my retirement ceremony where his words were remarkably similar to two of my previous commanding officers emphasizing my personal integrity, moral courage and commitment to care for all in my charge, regardless of their beliefs.
The investigating officer interviewed over half of the people present in the service as well as every member of my staff. My attorney handled the situation and in the end I was exonerated and no charges filed. I still have the investigation filed away, but it is now boxed up. Sadly, some of the people who denied that I said the things I was accused of saying also threw in political barbs. All were White male retirees and none ever spoke to me again. I was shunned, but the Black members of the chapel congregation were very supportive, some still keep in touch with me. One said that my sermon was like “hearing the thunder of the voice of God.” Honestly I do miss preaching, but I want nothing to do with the politics of the church.
I elected never to preach in that chapel again, in fact it was the last time I stood in the pulpit for anything other than an official ceremony or memorial service.
The assault on me and my rights by this Trump supporter and my treatment afterwards by the older White members of the chapel made me much wiser about the nature of the Trump Cult. It transitioned from a personality cult to a profoundly religious cult in which any disagreement with the former President was considered heresy and met by virulent attacks on the offenders, and if they were Republicans saw many expelled or driven from the Party, sometimes even threatened with violence.
The Trump Cult is deeply racist, openly White Nationalist and authoritarian in nature, and supported by violent Neo-Nazi groups, militias and Christian Nationalists, who are probably the most disreputable of the lot.
I get online threats on a fairly regular basis for what I write and truthfully I no longer feel safe in my country, a country I served for nearly 40 years in the military. Sadly, most claim to be “Christians” as if they even know what being a follower of Jesus means. It does not mean making death threats on behalf of a would be dictator, as a good number have done.
Less than a month after my sermon those White Supremacist groups conducted a violent demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump said that there “were very good people” on both sides. Of course he and they only grew more threatening and violent and culminated in the 6 January insurrection and assault on the Capitol, but I digress…
The letter from that man reminded me just how personal this threat is for anyone who actually believes in truth, believes in the promise our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. There are so many times that I resist the urge to spam my accuser’s name all over the world. That man is a despicable moral coward who refused to even follow the clear teachings of scripture of how to confront another Christian over a matter of faith, and instead attempted to use the power of military law in order to destroy me. Of course for him like most of these Christofacists, the teachings of Jesus, Scripture, or the testimony of the Church mean nothing, because the worship Trump uber Alles. They would kill for him, not die for Jesus. That my friends is idolatry and a denial of their Christian faith.
But for me this is a fight that I will not shirk. I cannot stomach supposed Christians who have a higher loyalty to Trump and his racist Cult than they do to Jesus. I quote General Henning Von Tresckow who helped lead the opposition to Hitler and died after the failed assassination attempt, “We have to show the world that not all of us are like him. Otherwise, this will always be Hitler’s Germany.”
Yes, I compared Trump to Hitler. This is because Trump has repeatedly shown that he wants to be like Hitler. True, he is not as smart and unlike Hitler never volunteered to serve his adopted country in wartime, and he has no one as gifted as Joseph Goebbels as his chief propagandist. Nor does he have anyone as Lani Riefenstahl to promote him as a God as she did in the film The Triumph of the Will.
That being said, Trump is both a demagogue and coward. He loves authoritarian government and hates the system of checks and balances created by our founders. Today he registered his disappointment that the Courts would not overturn the election, despite the fact nothing he and his lawyers could come up with that could win a single court case of over 60 they filed because they had no evidence and the facts did not support them. His continuous assault on facts and truth bodes ill for all of us, even his followers. Thus he and them and his followers remain a danger to anyone who actually believes that the Declaration or the Constitution.
But had Trump won the election, or had his insurgents prevented Congress from fulfilling its obligations under the Constitution there is no doubt that he would have gone full Fuhrer. Had he won or succeed in His coup attempt no opponent would be safe from his Neo-Nazi thugs backed by the full police power of the government and his Christian Theocratic base. The sad thing is that even though he is out of office the threat still remains, largely because of his Cult and a spineless Republican Party that sold its soul to Trump.
I’ll stop for now as it is late. However, it is a good thing that the man who tried to destroy me coming up on four years ago never properly introduced himself to me in person, thus I can’t match his face to my memories. It is a good thing for him because if I recognized him I might be tempted to beat him within an inch of his life if he did not admit his sin against me before my left jab right hook combination struck his jaw. Of course if that ever happened that sonofabitch would be the victim and I would be in jail. So I won’t give him that as strong as the temptation might be. But to quote the Psalmist in Psalm 139:22 when it comes to men like Jack who tried to destroy my life to defend Trump, “I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.”
Today marks the 159th anniversary of an event which changed naval warfare forever. It was a watershed event which ended the reign of the great wooden ships which plied the oceans of the world under massive fields of canvas sails.
It took place just a few miles from two of my last three active duty assignments. If it happened today I would certainly been able to watch it from beach any of the beaches were I worked at Joint Base Little Creek – Fort Story. I could have watched Virginia steam from the Elizabeth River to do battle from my office at the Joint Forces Staff College, or I could have watched Virginia’s transformation from the salvaged wreck of the steam frigate USS Merrimac into the ironclad behemoth she became in Dry Dock Number One at Naval Shipyard Norfolk in Portsmouth, my last assignment on active duty.
On 9 March 1862, two very strange looking ships joined in battle. This is the story of the Battle of Hanpton Roads and the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia.
On the morning of March 8th 1862 the CSS Virginia steamed slowly from her base at Portsmouth Virginia into Hampton Roads at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Awaiting her was a US Navy squadron of wooden warships including the steam Frigate USS Minnesota, the Sloop of War USS Cumberland, Frigate USS Congress and a number of smaller vessels.
The Virginia was an armored ram built from the salvaged remains of the large steam frigate USS Merrimack which had been burned at Gosport (Now Norfolk) Naval Shipyard. After Virginia’s forces seized the yard the hulk was salvaged. When the Confederate States Navy assumed command of the yard , Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory decided to reconstruct her as an Ironclad Ram.
Her plans had been leaked to the US Navy through by Mary Louvestre a former slave with a talent for drafting who worked as a seamstress for an engineer at the shipyard. Hearing her employer brag about the ship she went into his office and traced the plans, sending them to Union authorities. Virginia had a casemate of 24 inches of oak and pine topped by two layers of 2” thick iron plating. She was equipped with an iron ram on her bow and was armed with six 9” Dahlgren Smoothbores, two 7” Brooke Rifles and two 6.4” Brooke Rifles. However she was barely seaworthy and had too deep draft to navigate inland waters. Her engines were unreliable and she had a very slow and long turning radius which hindered her against Monitor.
The United States Navy was also in the process of constructing a number of ironclad ships of different types. The first of these ships to be ready was the USS Monitor, a small ship mounting a single heavily armored (8” iron) turret mounting two powerful 11” Dalghren smoothbore guns. She was designed by Swedish inventor John Ericcson. Her design was best suited for coastal and inland waters and she was was faster and more maneuverable than Virginia.
On the morning of 8 March she was still steaming to Hampton Roads from New York when Virginia came out for battle against the Union blockade squadron.
During the ensuing fight of March 8th Virginia rammed and sank Cumberland which though fatally wounded disabled two of Virginia’s 9” in guns. She destroyed Congress by gunfire which burned and blew up and appeared to be in position to destroy Minnesota the following day as that ship had run hard aground. The losses aboard Cumberland and Congress were severe and included the Captain of the Congress and Chaplain John L. Lenhart of Cumberland, the first US Navy Chaplain to die in battle. During the battle Virginia had several men wounded including her Captain, Commodore Franklin Buchanan.
Virginia rams the USS Cumberland
Due to the coming of darkness and a falling tide the acting commander of Virginia, Lieutenant Catsby Ap Roger Jones her executive officer took her in for the night. During the night Monitor, under the command of Lieutenant John Worden arrived and took up station to defend Minnesota.
The next morning Virginia again ventured out and was intercepted by the Monitor. The ships fought for over three hours, with Monitor using her superior speed and maneuverability to great effect. During the battle Monitor suffered a hit on her small pilothouse near her bow blinding her Captain, Lieutenant John Worden, as such Monitor’s executive officer, Lieutenant Dana Greene, the son of Union Brigadier General George Sears Greene, the hero of Culp’s Hill at Gettysburg took command. Neither side suffered much damage but the smokestack of Virginia was pierced in several places affecting her already poor engine performance. Jones broke off the action and returned to Gosport for repairs and Monitor remained on station.
Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles wrote after the battle:
“the performance, power, and capabilities of the Monitor, must effect a radical change in naval warfare.”
Monitor after the Battle
It did. The battle showed the world the vulnerability of wooden warships against the new ironclads. Monitor in particular revolutionized naval warfare and warship construction. Her defining mark was the use of the armored gun turret which over the succeeding decades became the standard manner for large ships guns to be mounted. Turrets like the warships they were mounted upon grew in size and power reaching their apex during the Second World War.
Both Virginia and Monitor reached less than glorious ends. Virginia had to be destroyed by her crew to prevent her capture just over two months after the battle on May 11th 1862.
Monitor survived until January 31st 1862 when she sank during a heavy storm off Cape Hatteras North Carolina with the loss of 16 of her 62 man crew.
The remains of two of those men, recovered during the salvage of Monitor’s engines, turret, guns and anchor were interred at Arlington National Cemetery on March 8th 2012. The relics from Monitor and some from Virginia are displayed at the Mariners Museum in Newport News (http://www.marinersmuseum.org )while one of Virginia’s anchors resides on the lawn of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. Additionally, parts of her armor are displayed at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
Those early ironclads and the brave men who served aboard them revolutionized naval warfare and their work should never be forgotten.
It has over a week since I last posted but assure you that I have been writing my ass off finishing the clean copy of my book minus the footnote link codes and with the appropriate photo references and citations. in doing so I ended up discovering I was about 1500 words above my limit and had to do more editing which made the book much cleaner and better coming in 200 words under the limit. I also had to eliminate the use of the “Ibid” citation in my footnotes, but the manuscript is done. I still need to go back through my photos over the next few nights and make sure that they are the resolution the publisher needs. As of right now some are not, I have to increase the resolution or find other photos to take their places.
In the process we have been seeing our rescue Papillon Sunny Dae recover from the removal of a bladder stone that was a flat disc the size of a quarter. Not only is she recovering but she is incredibly sweet and wrapping both of us around her paws as she integrates herself into our Papillon pack. She’s succeeding there too.
We have also been working our asses off in the house. We have been getting it ready for contractors and painters while packing and loading things that we want to keep in a PODS unit that would either be in the way of the painters and other contractors or clutter the house when we try to stage it. Lots of work.
I also got a job at a private international school that focuses on classical education with a Baccalaureate program where I will be teaching American History to the Civil War, the Reformation and Rhetoric. They will work with my crazy schedule dealing with contractors, medical appointments and working around the house. I start my first class in the American History tomorrow afternoon. It will be good but another thing going on, but I’m glad because it helps financial and gets me back into teaching High School age kids that want to get into places like the Ivy League and Stanford from the United States and around the world. The required reading these kids have to do, combined with the Arts, languages, and STEM is amazing.
But my God I have had so little sleep but I am happy that the manuscript is done, and as I was going back through it that our country is in as great or greater danger from Neo-Confederate, Neo-Nazi and White Nationalist followers of former President Donald Trump, the same people involved in the 6 January attack on the United States Capitol which nearly the entire Republican Party, including their Senate and House leadership and GOP leaders down to the county level implicitly support the insurrection, despite their protests from Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy and Lindsey Graham later that day. Since then they have all closed ranks and are pretending that nothing bad really happened. Then there was the hold up of the COVID-19 Relief Bill by the GOP which made their Senate leaders look like imbeciles, but enough of that for now.
It is late and I have to be up early since we have contractors coming in the morning to do outdoor work on my roof, gutters, downspouts and drains, chimney and other flashing, and to meet with another regarding some other work.
But until the next time I get a chance to write I wish you all the best, to stay safe, to wear your damned mask and follow the science of preventing the spread of COVID-19 and ignore the ignoramuses like the Governor’s states like Texas who don’t care if you, or others live or die.
As Raymond Reddington once said: “You can’t do every silly thing you want to in life. You have to make choices and be happy with them.”
Today looked like it would be a busy, eventful and productive day. It was that and more. But first an announcement I will keep this site for blogging but will soon have another site to help promote and sell my book which is not possible on this site using links to book sellers, my publisher, and well, even payments directly to myself through PayPal should you want me to write something for you or even worse. Sorry, I’ve been binge watching the Blacklist again, I do love Raymond Reddington, as he said “Like deep fried butter I am unhealthy yet irresistible.” That website is yet unnamed but will have the domain:
It will take some time before I have much on it, but at least bookmark the URL. I will have a link to it on this site, and some materials and articles from this site related to “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory!” Racism, Religion, Ideology and Politics in the Civil War Era” and my other books I am working on currently and what I might write about in the future. I will also include information regarding military history staff rides, civil rights tours, and Holocaust site visits, classes and lectures that I will be available for when I form my LLC to make them works right and be fully legal where I am able to teach, write, and travel. I do this so people who want to know the truth and walk sacred lands and visit sacred sites in order to have a physical connection to those places and people that one cannot just get from reading unless one is incredibly imaginative and sensory.
I experienced that when I led a Reformation tour to Wittenberg, where Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis which began the Protestant Reformation in 1517. That was in 1996 and the internet was still in its infancy so all I knew was from excellent church history professors and much reading. Judy actually faxed materials I had in the United States to me to help prepare. I had a number of people ask how many times I had been to Wittenberg, and I told them that this was my first. They asked how I knew the town and events so well, and I said, I read, I study, and before I ever came here I could see it all in my minds eye. that is something I have always tried to emphasize to my students or those who have made such tours with me.
Speaking of irresistible we became the unexpected rescue parents of a 7 year old Papillon, who was one of the abandoned Puerto Rican Beach Dogs rescued after Hurricane Maria. She has medical problem that her owner, an elderly woman of a very low fixed income could not afford, and took her to our vet, thinking of euthanasia because she didn’t know what else to do, not on the internet not knowing of other resources. However our vet offered to find her the perfect parents so she was not euthanized. The vet’s office called Judy, Judy called me and texted me a picture and I knew we had to be her new family.
Her name is Sunny Dae, we added the middle name because that’s just what we do. She has a very large stone in her bladder which is very painful and untreated would be fatal, but the surgery should go well and we expect a complete recovery.
I got word at 3:00 PM and by 4:30 she was signed over to us. The vet is sucking up $1000 of the $2000 surgery and post surgery costs. The timing is not good as I am looking for a job, we are trying to get our home prepared to sell, and I am still working with the publisher and agent for my book on technical issues. Knowing this the vet’s office posted this message on Facebook to help raise funds paid directly into Sunny’s account to defray our costs.
“Today, a sweet papillon named Sunny Dae was rescued from euthanasia by a couple with an enormous heart. Abbey Animal Hospital is donating $1000 worth of time and supplies to save this sweet dog a bladder stone that is as big as the poor pup’s bladder itself. Unfortunately, the surgery is still very expensive. Any donations would be greatly appreciated to help save this sweet girls life. Please call Abbey Animal Hospital 757-471-1003 to make a donation directly on Sunny Dae’s account. Thank you all so much!!!! Please share and spread the word. — with Judy Keiser Dundas and Steven Dundas.”
I guess it helps when you are known for how much you love, care for, and treat your furry babies. We’ve been with them since 2003. They have rejoiced with us and grieved with us over the years. Here is what they posted. If you would like to donate to help please call Abbey Animal Hospital in Virginia Beach. This girl is worth it. She is sweet, appreciative, and has already bonded with us. Our other three, Izzy Bella, Pierre, and Maddy Lyn have been slowly warming up to her and gentle with her. They know that she doesn’t feel well. We cannot wait for Sunny to get her surgery because we know that she is going to be a blessing to all of us, and we thank God for her first rescue mommy who decided to listen to our vet. We have chatted a couple of times and she too his overjoyed for us rescuing her baby when she didn’t know what to do or have the resources to help the dog she loved.
So until tomorrow, love life, appreciate others, and care for who you can be they human beings of God’s furry blessings.
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