Monthly Archives: March 2021

61* But Not Done




Me with our Newest Baby, Sunny Dae on the Morning of my 61st Birthday

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

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.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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“For Each of Us Who Ever Felt that God Created Us Better than Any Other Human Being, has Stood on the Threshold of where Adolf Eichmann Once Stood”

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

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.

To those who have ears let them hear…

Padre Steve+

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Damn the Changes to WordPress Editor

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

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.

Damn them.

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.

Fuck it and them,

Padre Steve+

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How a Letter from a Trump Cultist Changed my Life and Threatened my Liberty: Reflections on Trump and his Christofacist Cult


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

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.”

That they are so until next time,

Padre Steve+

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Iron against Iron: The Clash of the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia at Hampton Roads at 159 Years

800px-the_monitor_and_merrimac1

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

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. 

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

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.

 

CSSVirginia1862.2.ws

CSS Virginia 

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.

Cumberland_rammed_by_Merrimac

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.

603px-Battle_of_Hampton_Roads_Map

 

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.”

USSMonitor1862.3.ws

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.

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Sorry for the Silence but I am Back

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

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.”

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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