Category Archives: faith

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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The Impeachment Trial, Day Two of the Prosecution: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American Public”

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today while waiting for my MacBook to download the latest operating system I watched the second day of the House Impeachment Managers prosecution of twice impeached, disgraced, former President Trump. Once again it was a masterpiece of preparation and presentation. The House Managers were exceptionally wise by not simply focusing on Trump’s incendiary speech on the White House Ellipse but going back years playing videos of him urging his voters to violence and to the violence they committed in his name.

Having actually attended one of his rallies in October 2016 trusting that my flight jacket with all my unit patches chronicling my military serve would allow me to pass relatively unnoticed, I was able to watch the rally and talk with supporters one on one. Thankfully none questioned me about my views on Trump they were just eager to share their views with a veteran. They talked about the conspiracy theories promoted by Alex Jones and QAnon, election fraud, massive amounts of racist, Antisemitic, and anti-immigrant statements. The paraphernalia they wore included clothing that espoused both racism and violence, and this was at Regent University, one of the largest and most well regarded Evangelical Christian Universities. The attendees were by and large very well off people, after all Regent is located in Virginia Beach, one of the most affluent, white, and Republican cities in Virginia. Ironically, even though Trump won here in 2016 he lost by a significant margin in 2020 and the Representative for Virginia District 2, Elaine Luria, a Democrat and retired Navy Surface Warfare officer and successful business owner won re-election. Likewise, Senator Tim Kaine carried the city.

But in 2016 Trump, who was preceded by Rudy Giuliani preached his standard stump speech which included the conspiracy theories, the lies about Hillary Clinton, threats against political opponents, and urged the crowd to violence. I was glad that I said nothing because I could have been a victim. But one of the interesting facts is that since the rally was held on private property nobody wearing any anti-Trump or pro-Hillary clothing or paraphernalia were turned away by security personnel including Secret Service officers.

The evidence produced by the Impeachment Managers was designed to cut the legs out from any arguments that his legal team might offer Friday. Once again they were dispassionate in presenting the evidence while using enough video evidence and personal experience to connect with the emotions of how normal people feel when they see the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, the Senate President Pro-Tem, in fact the entire line of succession have to flee for their lives during the insurrection that Trump organized and encouraged the assault, and did nothing to to stop it.

Their arguments were devastating from a legal, Constitutional, historical, religious and moral precedents. There is nothing in the Christian, Jewish, or Islamic religious traditions that would support a not guilty verdict. There is nothing in the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, or anything in American law to support an acquittal. There is nothing in the Greek and Roman classicists arguments about democracy and republics to support any argument to support an acquittal, nor is there anything in the Enlightenment philosophers or jurists to support a verdict of not guilty.

In fact the only argument for acquittal is that of the personal, moral, and political cowardice of the GOP Senators who are so afraid that without Trump’s violent supporters they cannot remain in office. That is cowardice. What would Abraham Lincoln who was expected to lose his bid for re-election in 1864 do? We know that, he expected that he could very well lose but he did not back down. Winston Churchill was another who refused to abandon principle even though it left him in the political wilderness of Great Britain for years until with Hitler threatening to overrun Europe and invade England he was named Prime Minister, and despite so many terrible defeats he remained firm in resisting the Nazis. Neither are they Theodore Roosevelt who when he saw the GOP being taken over by corporate and banking interests intent on harming average Americans split the GOP by running on the Bull Moose platform. He didn’t win, but neither did the GOP. Likewise, he had no hesitation in speaking the truth even when it opposed the sitting President, Woodrow Wilson who would not have been President but for Roosevelt splitting the GOP.

When criticized for his opposition of Wilson’s war policies and even threatened with death Roosevelt wrote to the editor of the Kansas City Star:

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.”

A criminal ex-President is not worth sacrificing one’s office, honor or everlasting reputation to defend, even if his violence filled Cult rises in opposition. I would love to see if just a dozen Republican Senators would remain faithful to their oath of office and the oath they took as jurors in Trump’s impeachment trial. Their cowardice will redound through all American history and into eternity if the God I believe in exists, but then what does eternity matter when leaders are willing to betray their oaths to suck the ass of a former President and his violent supporters who hate the Constitution, the Declaration, and all the highest ideals of our nation. Eternity matters nothing when that is at stake, because eternity and theological beliefs are all suppositional unprovable. I may believe, but I cannot prove those beliefs, and I won’t unlike Trump’s allegedly Christian Cult kill for them.

Friday Trump’s pathetic defense team will likely begin and end their defense of him using arguments false equivalence, trying to re-litigate the constitutionality of the trial itself, something already decided. They will play video of protests in Seattle, Portland, and Minneapolis out of context in order to show that the mon that attacked the Capitol was no different than those protesting the murders of Black men and women at the hands of police and private citizens. At no time did anyone call for killing the Vice President, or members of Congress. Those videos will only be shown for the benefit of the twice impeached ex-President and his Cult of violent supporters. If this was a normal criminal trial the judge would rule the defense out of order for introducing evidence completely unrelated to the crimes of the defendant.

But as I said before, this is not a normal criminal trial, otherwise jurors wouldn’t be allowed to leave the courtroom during the proceedings or meet with the defense attorneys afterward as Senators Cruz, Hawley, and Graham did today in order to plan their defense strategy.

Impeachment was designed at a time when our founders and framers believed that Senators regardless of their political beliefs would be men of integrity and make their vote based on the evidence, not their political future. Now in the light of history and humanity, we know, that unless something miraculous happens that very few men and women Senators of the Republican Party will vote to convict based on the evidence and that they will sacrifice their sacred oaths, honor, and integrity to impeach and bar Donald Trump from ever holding public office again. Their moral cowardice will encourage and foster more violence, more death and anarchy, because they decided that their honor, oaths and integrity were of less value than shit.

The defense begins tomorrow. I hope to be back in time from Richmond to see it, though I might be able to listen to it on my Sirius XM radio in my car.

So, until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

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Filed under ethics, faith, History, impeachment, leadership, nazi germany, News and current events, Political Commentary

It is a Long Way to Tipperary: thoughts on Return from War and Betrayal

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today I am a bit tired and going to post something that basically is a rerun with a few edits. Twelve years ago stepped off a plane with the man who had been my body guard and assistant for the past seven months in Iraq. War had changed me more than I had every imagined that it would. Even though I was physically home I wasn’t home, the war remained with me, and in some ways it still does.

I have written about my struggles with what I sometimes describe as the “Demons of PTSD”.  I retired from the Navy at Midnight on December 31st, an occasion that I toasted in first with a glass of champagne with Judy followed by a couple of drams of 18 year old Glenfiddich Single Malt.

But the transition to retirement has been difficult. First was the ordeal of getting the Navy to get my DD-214 that statement of service that ensures that all service is credited, awards documented, and combat service documented for retirement, medical, and Veterans Affairs benefits. I was able to get the basics taken care of but so much was still missing, basically because the Navy probably has the worst system of documenting awards and service than any military branch. The I was told by the same people that our TRICARE medical insurance would remain in place until our identification cards were redone and our profiles updated in another system called DEERS. It was either a lie or something said in complete ignorance. Because of COVID-19 and the limited number of appointments available for new ID Cards we couldn’t get ours until 21 January. Since we were told we were covered during the interregnum we had no idea that our TRICARE  benefits had expired on 1 January until we found out Wednesday. I spent Thursday getting it fixed and the found out that evening the contractor for the Veterans Administration had screwed me on my VA Disability claim quite obviously not even reviewing the massive amount of evidence in my medical records. That sent me into a short tailspin where I actually thought about suicide. Once again I felt completely betrayed by representatives of our country.

Thankfully, I had a lot of friends, former shipmates and comrades come to my assistance. One a retired Navy Doctor who now works for the VA, another a retired Medical Corps Admiral who has friends at the highest levels who help military personnel when they run into problems with the VA, and another who is the personal friend of a high ranking Senator on the Veteran Affairs Committee. I received personal messages and phone calls from many friends and Monday we set about righting the wrong. I have been assured that this is an easy appeal, but the initial shock and sense of betrayal completely wore me out. Though I wanted to gather everything for my appeal today I was so emotional worn down that I couldn’t do anything. I am in a better place today, but I admit my anger at contractors who didn’t bother to really look at thousands of pages of documentation in order to minimize my experience with PTSD and so much else.

I still deal and suffer from PTSD, even if the VA contractor minimized it and did so with other conditions. Their audiologist even admitted that he never looked at my records before examining me. The psychologist didn’t say it but obvious had not examined my records.

However, the fact that I am a historian has allowed me to find connections to other men who have suffered from their experience of war, came home changed, and struggled for their existence in the world that they came home to.

The words of men who I never met, have helped me to frame my experience even in the darkest times often in ways that my faith did not. One of the things that I struggled with the most and still do is sleep. When I was conducting my research on the Battle of Gettysburg I got to know through biographies and their own writings a good number of the men who fought that battle who are now remembered as heroes. One of these was Major General Gouveneur Warren who has shattered by his experiences during the war. He wrote to his wife after the war: “I wish I did not dream that much. They make me sometimes dread to go to sleep. Scenes from the war, are so constantly recalled, with bitter feelings I wish to never experience again. Lies, vanity, treachery, and carnage.”  Those terrible nightmares and terrors continue. My panic attacks continue, my inability to understand speech remains, the pain in my hip, knees and ankles is such that I still need to use a cane to walk or drag myself up the stairs. But I digress…

About every year around this time I feel a sense of melancholy as I reflect on war and my return from Iraq. I didn’t get a chance to re-read it today, but a while back I read a number of George Santayana’s Soliloquies in England, in particular one entitled Tipperary, which he wrote in the time shortly after the First World War. The title is a reference to the song It’s a Long, Long Way, to Tipperary which was written by Henry James “Harry” Williams and co-credited to his partner Jack Judge as a music hall song in 1912. It became very popular before the war, but became a world wide hit when George Curnock, a correspondent for the Daily Mail saw the Irish Connaught Rangers  Regiment singing it as they marched through the Belgian port of Boulogne on August 13th 1914 on their way to face the German Army. Curnock made his report several days later, and soon many units in the British Army adopted it. It became a worldwide hit when Irish Tenor John McCormack recorded it in November 1914.

Interestingly enough the song, like the German song Lili Marlene is that it is a call back to home, not a call to battle.

I think that the first time that I heard the song was when I saw It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, where Snoopy as the World War One Flying Ace alternates between happiness and tears as Schroeder plays the song on his piano. In a number of later comic strips, Charles Schulz, had Snoopy refer to it a number of times, in one strip, exhausted by his march, a tired Snoopy lays down and notes: “They’re right, it is a long way to Tipperary.” I do understand that.

But, back to Santayana’s soliloquy, he comments on the wounded officers that he sees singing the song in a coffee house and he wonders if they understand how different the world is now. I love the song, the chorus is below.

It’s a long way to Tipperary
it’s a long was to go
It’s a long way to Tipperary
to the sweetest gal I know
farewell to Piccadilly
so long Leister Square
It’s a long way to Tipperary
but my heart lies there

Santayana wrote:

“It had been indeed a long, long way to Tipperary. But they had trudged on and had come round full circle; they were in Tipperary at last.

I wonder what they think Tipperary means for this is a mystical song. Probably they are willing to leave it vague, as they do their notions of honour or happiness or heaven. Their soldiering is over; they remember, with a strange proud grief, their comrades who died to make this day possible, hardly believing that it ever would come ; they are overjoyed, yet half ashamed, to be safe themselves ; they forget their wounds ; they see a green vista before them, a jolly, busy, sporting, loving life in the old familiar places. Everything will go on, they fancy, as if nothing had happened…

So long as the world goes round we shall see Tipperary only, as it were, out of the window of our troop-train. Your heart and mine may remain there, but it s a long, long way that the world has to go.” 

In the same work Santayana mused on the nature of humanity and war, making one of his most famous observation “only the dead have seen the end of war.”

In the United States we live in a world where war is an abstraction and the vast majority of people have no clue about it or its cost. When I hear former President Trump  make wild threats of war for four years before attempting to overthrow our own government and democracy on 6 January I feel betrayed by fellow Americans and veterans, but also the Veterans Administration and an overwhelmed and incompetent Naval Personnel Command. 

When I returned to the United States in 2008 it was incredibly hard to readjust to life in a country that knew not war. As a historian I was reminded of the words of Guy Sajer in his book The Forgotten Soldier. Sajer was a French Alsacian of German descent who spent nearly four years fighting as an ordinary infantry soldier on the Eastern Front. When he returned home he struggled and he wrote:

“In the train, rolling through the sunny French countryside, my head knocked against the wooden back of the seat. Other people, who seemed to belong to a different world, were laughing. I couldn’t laugh and couldn’t forget.”

A similar reflection was made by Erich Maria Remarque in All Quite on the Western Front:

“I imagined leave would be different from this. Indeed, it was different a year ago. It is I of course that have changed in the interval. There lies a gulf between that time and today. At that time I still knew nothing about the war, we had been only in quiet sectors. But now I see that I have been crushed without knowing it. I find I do not belong here any more, it is a foreign world.”

I have to admit that for the better part of the past thirteen years, when I get out of my safe spaces I often feel the same way. I don’t like crowded places, confined areas and other places that I don’t feel safe in. When I am out I always am on alert, and while I don’t have quite the hyper-arousal and hyper-vigilance that I once lived with, I am much more aware of my surroundings and always plan an escape route from any public venue that I happen to find myself. Likewise, I still deal with terribly physical nightmares and night terrors, more than one a month.

As I read and re-read Santayana words I came back to his observation of the officers that he saw in the coffee house and I could see myself in them:

“I suddenly heard a once familiar strain, now long despised and out of favour, the old tune of Tipperary. In a coffee-house frequented at that hour some wounded officers from the hospital at Somerville were singing it, standing near the bar; they were breaking all rules, both of surgeons and of epicures, and were having champagne in the morning. And good reason they had for it. They were reprieved, they should never have to go back to the front, their friends such as were left could all come home alive. Instinctively the old grumbling, good-natured, sentimental song, which they used to sing when they first joined, came again into their minds.

It had been indeed a long, long way to Tipperary. But they had trudged on and had come round full circle; they were in Tipperary at last.” 

I too am now in my own Tipperary on this side of the Atlantic. In a sense I have been reprieved, although I observe things every day that take me back to Iraq. The news from that unfortunate country continues to discourage me. Likewise, the indifference of our former President that talked much about the loving “his” military, but in his and his supporters actions often demeaned military personnel and gutted the medical and mental health systems of the military and the Veterans Administration. But that is an article for another time. Thinking about what has transpired in the last few days and weeks that indifference and betrayal seems so real.  When I see and hear them I remember the words of T. E. Lawrence, the legendary Lawrence of Arabia:

“You wonder what I am doing? Well, so do I, in truth. Days seem to dawn, suns to shine, evenings to follow, and then I sleep. What I have done, what I am doing, what I am going to do, puzzle and bewilder me. Have you ever been a leaf and fallen from your tree in autumn and been really puzzled about it? That’s the feeling.” 

But as Santayana noted So long as the world goes round we shall see Tipperary only, as it were, out of the window of our troop-train. Your heart and mine may remain there, but it s a long, long way that the world has to go.” 

It is that for me as I now go tilting after the Quixotesque Windmills that are such a real part of my life.

Until tomorrow, pray for me a sinner,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, healthcare, History, iraq, leadership, marriage and relationships, mental health, middle east, Military, News and current events, Political Commentary, PTSD, to iraq and back, Tour in Iraq, US Navy, Veterans and friends, world war one

“How can we hope for success to our arms or God’s blessing, while we as a people are so blind to justice?” Emancipation, Black Soldiers and the Continuing Scourge of Racism in the Aftermath of the Insurrection of 6 January 2021

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

February is Black History Month, it’s something that no American of any race, color, or creed should forget. African Americans, the decendants of slaves and slaves themselves fought for freedom that was only at best was in the promissory note of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Those men, and women in the case of Harriett Tubman and Sojourner Truth, paved the way for freedom for African Americans and all others who benefited from what they fought for: women, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and other Hispanics, Asian Americans, and LGBTQ Americans.

That promise being made then, must be kept today, to the descendents of  this men, as well as all who benefited through their sacrifice: even the Southern Whites who at the time did not know then, or all too often today, that they too needed emancipation.

Unfortunately in our day a major faction of what calls itself the Republican Party but in fact is nothing more that the rebirth of the Secessionist, Jim Crow, and Dixiecrat element of American political history. Add to this a Know Nothing element united with  Neo-Nazi and Fascist groups, all emboldened by Former President Trump to mount a violent insurrection and coup attempt against Congress on 6 January 2021.

Thousands of people took part in it and it resulted in the murder of Capitol Police Office Brian Sicknick who died defending the Capitol. Likewise over 140 other officers were injured, quite a few seriously. One officer, led attackers away from the Senate Chamber, his action probably saving the life of former Vice President Mike Pence. His name, Eugene Goodman, and by the way he is Black.

This is a chapter of my book “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory!” Racism, Religion, Ideology and Politics in the Civil War Era and their Continuing Importance.” In it I spend much time dealing with the importance of emancipation and the role of Black soldiers during the American Civil War. Tomorrow, at long last I will finish the photo credit page and get it to the publisher and my agent.

I think it is important to remember as we begin Black History Month just how important these men are to American history and for the civil rights of all Americans and that what they fought for is still up for grabs. The descendants of the Confederate cause, no longer confined to the South were in the forefront of the insurrection and coup attempt on 6 January. Confederate Flags, Neo-Nazi, White Nationalist, and Christian Dominionist/ Nationalist symbols and banners were prominent among the sea of Trump banners, as was a gallows that they brought to the Capitol. They are truly part of the all enemies foreign and domestic clause of my oath to the Constitution.

The title of this article comes from Colonel Edward Hallowell, the White Colonel of the Heroic, trailblazing Black  54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, when Massachusetts Governor John Andrew attempted to grant a State commission to Sergeant Stephen Swails, which refused to discharge Swails from his enlisted rank until after the war was over. Hallowell was enraged and asked:

“How can we hope for success to our arms or God’s blessing… while we as a people are so blind to justice?” 

I think that his indictment of the racism of his time is as applicable today, and maybe more. Since the organizers and most of the perpetrators of the insurrection against Congress who carried the Confederate Battle Flag through the halls of Congress and used the staffs of those flags to assault Capitol Police Officers remain unrepentant and legislators in various states are further restrict voting rights of Blacks whose votes were instrumental in turning Trump out of office.

I ask the same question Hallowell asked then today and I will fight for the rights of Blacks and all others that the White Nationalist, Neo-Confederate, and Neo-Nazi conspiracy theorist ruled GOP, who attempted to overthrow our Republic, Democracy, and Constitution did. and continue to do. I say: If not us? who? If not now? When?

Peace,

Padre Steve+

Emancipation and the U.S. Military

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Men of the 4th Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops

The war brought about another change to warfare in America. This was a societal and political change that has shaped American military history, culture and life ever since. The Emancipation Proclamation gave African Americans, both Freedmen and recently freed slaves the opportunity to serve in the Union Army. The change of policy instituted by Lincoln was revolutionary as well as controversial and it had strategic implications for the war effort. There were many doubters in the north whose attitudes towards African Americans were not much different than Southerners, especially among the Copperheads.

Prior to the Emancipation some Union commanders in occupied Confederate territory “had unofficially recruited black soldiers in Kansas and in occupied portions of South Carolina and Louisiana in 1862. But the administration had not sanctioned these activities.” [1] The issue for Lincoln in 1861 and 1862 was the necessity of keeping the Border-Slave Sates of Kentucky, Missouri and Maryland, which had not seceded from the Union. Lincoln repudiated the orders of General John Fremont, in Missouri, and his friend General David Hunter, who commanded the Department of the South regarding emancipation, not because he was in complete disagreement, but because he felt that the officers had overstepped their authority.

Lincoln understood that this might hurt him with the abolitionist wing of the Republican Party. While Lincoln was certainly sympathetic to their cause, he insisted that such decisions were not within the prevue of local commanders, but that any such proclamations had to come from him, as Commander-in-Chief. He told Treasure Secretary Salmon Chase, who supported the measures of Hunter and Fremont, “No commanding general shall do such a thing, upon my responsibility, without consulting me.” [2] Lincoln’s decision to reverse and repudiate the decisions of local commanders infuriated some in his cabinet and in the Congress. But Lincoln remained firm in that conviction due to the need to ensure the cooperation of the Border States the continued loyalty of which were absolutely vital to winning the war, without which no meaningful emancipation would be possible.

However, Lincoln did support the efforts of General Benjamin Butler. Butler commanded the Federal forces at Fort Monroe in Hampton Roads. Butler had been a former pro-slavery Democrat who learned that the Confederates were using slaves to construct fortifications and to support their army on the Peninsula. In May 1862 twenty-three slaves escaped to his lines and their owner, a Confederate Colonel, “demanded the return of his property under the Fugitive Slave Law! With as deadpan expression as possible (given his cocked eye), Butler informed him that since Virginia claimed to have left the Union, the Fugitive Slave Law no longer applied.” [3]Butler then declared that since the escaped slaves had worked for the Confederate Army that they were “contraband of war – enemy property subject to seizure.” [4] It was a solid argument, since Southerners themselves referred to African American slaves as property was subject to seizure. Lincoln and Secretary of War Cameron approved of Butler’s action and “eventually, the Congress passed a confiscation law ending the rights of masters over fugitive slaves used to support Confederate troops.” [5]

Salmon Chase and other strong abolitionists opposed Lincoln vehemently for this, but it would not be long until Lincoln made the decision for full emancipation. This was first accomplished by the Emancipation Proclamation, a military order that only applied to the states that had seceded. However, Lincoln would follow this by pushing for a constitutional amendment to end slavery.   The latter occurred when Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment was passed in January 1865. This amendment abolished slavery in the United States.

Lincoln had already decided upon emancipation in the spring of 1862, however, following the defeat of McClellan on the Peninsula he decided to postpone announcing it, Secretary of State Seward recommended against it until “until you can give it to the country supported by military success.” Otherwise the world might view it as an incitement for slave insurrections, “as the last measure of an exhausted government, a cry for help…our last shriek, on the retreat.” [6] The wisdom of Seward’s advice was profound, and Lincoln put off the announcement until after the Battle of Antietam.

McClellan, true to form opposed any such policy. When Lincoln visited him after his withdraw from the Peninsula, the defeated but still arrogant General handed Lincoln a memorandum on what McClellan viewed as the “proper conduct of the war.” McClellan advised Lincoln that the war “should not be a war looking to the subjugation of any State in any event…but against armed forces and political organizations. Neither confiscation of property, political executions of persons, the territorial organization of States, or the forcible abolition of slavery should be contemplated for a moment.” [7]

Lincoln was not seeking advice from his recalcitrant commander and put the letter in his pocket and simply told McClellan, “All right.” Interestingly enough just a few months earlier Lincoln would have agreed with McClellan’s views on the conduct of the war. However, with the passage of time and the realization that the Confederacy was fully committed to its independence as well as the continuance and even the expansion of slavery had come to the view that fighting a limited war with limited aims was foolish. He told another Unionist Democrat a few days after McClellan offered his advice that the war could not be fought:

“with elder-stalk squirts, charged with rose water….This government cannot much longer play a game in which it stakes all, and its enemies stake nothing. Those enemies must understand that they cannot experiment for ten years trying to destroy this government, and if they fail still come back into the Union unhurt.”[8]

From Slavery to Soldiering

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Gun Crew of 2nd Colored Light Artillery 

But as the war continued on, consuming vast numbers of lives the attitude of Lincoln and his administration began to change. After a year and a half of war, Lincoln and the closest members of his cabinet were beginning to understand that the “North could not win the war without mobilizing all of its resources and striking against Southern resources used to sustain the Confederate war effort.” [9] Slave labor was essential to the Confederate war effort, not only did slaves still work the plantations, they were impressed into service in war industries as well as in the Confederate Army.

Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Freemantle, a British observer who was with Lee’s army at Gettysburg noted, “in the rear of each regiment were from twenty to thirty negro slaves.” [10] The fact is that the slaves who accompanied the army remained slaves, they were not the mythical thousands of black soldiers who rallied to the Confederate cause, nor were they employees. “Tens of thousands of slaves accompanied their owners to army camps as servants or were impressed into service to construct fortifications and do other work for the Confederate army.” [11] This fact attested to by Colonel William Allan, one of Stonewall Jackson’s staff members who wrote “there were no employees in the Confederate army.” [12] slaves served in a number of capacities to free up white soldiers for combat duties, “from driving wagons to unloading trains and other conveyances. In hospitals they could perform work as nurses and laborers to ease the burdens of patients.” [13] An English-born artilleryman in Lee’s army wrote in 1863 that “in our whole army there must be at least thirty thousand colored servants….” [14] When Lee marched to Gettysburg he did so with somewhere between ten and thirty-thousand slaves in support roles and during the advance into Virginia Confederate troops rounded up and re-enslaved as many blacks as they could, including Freedmen.

 

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                                      Secretary of War Edwin Stanton

Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton; who was a passionate believer in the justice of emancipation, was one of the first to grasp the importance of slave labor to the Confederate armies and how emancipation was of decided military necessity. Stanton, “Instantly grasped the military value of the proclamation. Having spent more time than any of his colleagues contemplating the logistical problems facing the army, he understood the tremendous advantage to be gained if the massive workforce of slaves could be transferred from the Confederacy to the Union.” [15]

Lincoln emphasized the “military necessity” of emancipation and “justified the step as a “fit and necessary war measure for suppressing the rebellion.” [16] The process of emancipation now became not only a moral crusade, but now became a key part of national strategy, not just in a military means, but politically, economically and diplomatically as Lincoln “also calculated that making slavery a target of the war would counteract the rising clamor in Britain for recognition of the Confederacy.”  [17]

Lincoln wrote to his future Vice President, Andrew Johnson, then the military governor of occupied Tennessee that “The colored population is the great available and yet unavailed of, force for restoration of the Union.”[18] The idea of simply mollifying the border states was dropped and policy changed that of “depriving the Confederacy of slave labor. Mobilizing that manpower for the Union – as soldiers as well as laborers – was a natural corollary.” [19] Reflecting President Lincoln’s and Stanton’s argument for the military necessity of emancipation, General Henry Halleck wrote to Ulysses Grant:

“the character of the war has very much changed within the past year. There is now no possibility of reconciliation with the rebels… We must conquer the rebels or be conquered by them….Every slave withdrawn from the enemy is the equivalent of a white man put hors de combat.” [20]

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Ulysses Grant concurred with Lincoln’s decision. Grant wrote to in a letter to Lincoln after the assault on Battery Wagner by the 54th Massachusetts, “by arming the negro we have added a powerful ally. They will make good soldiers and taking them from the enemy weakens him in the same proportion as it strengthens us.” [21] William Tecumseh Sherman was supportive but also noted some facts that some radical abolitionists did not understand. He noted in his correspondence that, “The first step in the liberation of the Negro from bondage will be to get him and his family to a place of safety… then to afford him the means of providing for his family,… then gradually use a proportion – greater and greater each year – as sailors and soldiers.” [22] Lincoln wrote after the Emancipation Proclamation that “the emancipation policy, and the use of colored troops, constitute the heaviest blow yet dealt to the rebellion.” [23] The change was a watershed in both American history as well as for the future of the U.S. Military services.

In conjunction with the Emancipation Proclamation Secretary of War Stanton “authorized General Rufus Saxton to “arm, uniform, equip, and receive into the service of the United States such number of volunteers of African descent as you may deem expedient, not exceeding 5,000, and [you] may detail officers to instruct them in military drill, discipline, and duty, and to command them.”  [24] The initial regiments of African Americans were formed by Union commanders in liberated areas of Louisiana and South Carolina, and most were composed of newly freed slaves. Others like the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry regiments were raised from free black men in the north. Stanton’s authorization was followed by the Enrollment Act passed by Congress in March of 1863 which established the draft also allowed blacks to serve. By March Stanton was working with state governors to establish more black regiments. The units became known as United States Colored Troops, or U.S.C.T. and were commanded by white officers and organized into the infantry, cavalry and, artillery regiments organized on the model of white regiments. The U.S.C.T. “grew to include seven regiments of cavalry, more than a dozen of artillery, and well over one hundred of infantry.” [25]

Some Union soldiers and officers initially opposed enlisting blacks at all, and some “charged that making soldiers of blacks would be a threat to white supremacy, and hundreds of Billy Yanks wrote home that they would no serve alongside blacks.” [26]  But most common soldiers accepted emancipation, especially those who had served in the South and seen the misery that many slaves endured, one Illinois soldier, stationed who served in the Western Theater of war wrote, “the necessity of emancipation is forced upon us by the inevitable events of the war… and the only road out of this war is by blows aimed at the heart of the Rebellion…. If slavery should be left undisturbed the war would be protracted until the loss of life and national bankruptcy would make peace desirable on any terms.” [27]

Another soldier’s letters home show his conversion from being against emancipation to being fully for it. Corporal Chauncey B. Welton from Ohio wrote to his father after the Emancipation proclamation:

“Father I want you to write and tell me what you think of Lincoln’s proclamation of setting all the negroes free. I can tell you we don’t think much of it hear in the army for we did not enlist to fight for the negro and I can tell you that we never shall or many of us any how[.] no never.”

Following over two years of combat in which he served with Sherman’s army he became a vocal critic of the anti-abolitionist Copperheads in the North, especially former Ohio Governor Clement Vallandigham, as well as a strong proponent of abolition and opponent of slavery. By February 1865 his tone had changed “dear parents let us trust in Him that never forsakes the faithful, and never cease to pray… that soon we may look upon an undivided Country and that Country free free free yes free from that blighting curs[e] Slavery the cause of four years of Bloody warfare.” [28]

Even so racial prejudice in the Union ranks never went away and sometimes was accompanied by violence. It remained a part and parcel of life in and outside of the army, even though many Union soldiers would come to praise the soldierly accomplishments and bravery of African American Soldiers. An officer who had refused a commission to serve with a U.S.C.T. regiment watched as black troops attacked the defenses of Richmond in September 1864:

“The darkies rushed across the open space fronting the work, under a fire which caused them loss, into the abattis… down into the ditch with ladders, up and over the parapet with flying flags, and down among, and on top of, the astonished enemy, who left in utmost haste…. Then and there I decided that ‘the black man could fight’ for his freedom, and that I had made a mistake in not commanding them.” [29] Likewise, “Once the Lincoln administration broke the color barrier of the army, blacks stepped forward in large numbers. Service in the army offered to blacks the opportunity to strike a decisive blow for freedom….” [30]

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The Defense of Milliken’s Bend 

Emancipation allowed for the formation of regiments of United States Colored Troops (USCT), which were mustered directly into Federal service. In sheer numbers the U.S.C.T. formations soon dwarfed the few state raised Black Regiments.  However, it was the inspiration provided by those first state raised regiments, the heroic accounts of those units reported in Northern newspapers, as well as the unprovoked violence directed against Blacks in the 1863 New York draft riots that helped to provoke “many northerners into a backlash against the consequences of violent racism.” [31]

Despite the hurdles and prejudices that blacks faced even in the North, many African Americans urged others to enlist, self-help mattered more than self-preservation. Henry Gooding, an black sergeant from Massachusetts wrote the editor of the New Bedford Mercury urging fellow blacks to enlist despite the dangers, “As one of the race, I beseech you not to trust a fancied security, laying in your minds, that our condition will be bettered because slavery must die…[If we] allow that slavery will die without the aid of our race to kill it – language cannot depict the indignity, the scorn, and perhaps the violence that will be heaped upon us.” [32]

The valor of the state regiments, as well as the USCT units that managed to get into action was remarkable, especially in regard to the amount of discrimination levied at them by some northerners, including white Northern soldiers, and the very real threat of death that they faced if captured by Confederates. In response to the Emancipation Proclamation and to the formation of African American regiments the Confederate Congress passed measures that would make Union officers who commanded African American troops as war criminals and return any black soldier captured by Confederate forces return to slavery, if those blacks captured in battle were not summarily tortured by their captors or executed as happened at Fort Wagner, Petersburg, and at Fort Pillow.

In late 1862 Major General Nathaniel Banks was in desperate need of soldiers and received permission to form a number of regiments of free blacks. Known as the First, Second and Third Regiments of the Louisiana Native Guards they were primarily composed of former slaves who had escaped to Union lines, as well as some mulattos who were the children of prominent white citizens of the city. During an inspection, the white Colonel of the Guards told another officer:

“Sir, the best blood of Louisiana is in that regiment! Do you see that tall, slim fellow, third file from the right of the second company? One of the ex-governors of the state is his father. That orderly sergeant in the next company is the son of a man who has been six years in the United States Senate. Just beyond him is the grandson of Judge ______ …; and through all the ranks you will find the same state of facts…. Their fathers are disloyal; [but] these black Ishmaels will more than compensate for their treason by fighting in the field.” [33]

In May of 1863 Banks dared to send the First and Third Regiments of “Louisiana Native Home Guard regiments on a series of attacks on Confederate positions at Port Hudson, Louisiana” [34] where they received their baptism of fire. They suffered heavy losses and “of the 1080 men in the ranks, 271 were hit, or one out of every four.” [35] A white Wisconsin soldier commented that the black soldiers “fought like devils,”while a soldier of the 156th New York wrote, “They charged and re-charged and they didn’t know what retreat meant. They lost in their two regiments some four hundred men as near as I can learn. This settles the question about niggers not fighting well. They on the contrary make splendid soldiers and are as good fighting men as we have.” [36] Banks too was caught up in the moment and said of these troops in his after action report: “They answered every expectation…In many respects their conduct was heroic…The severe test to which they were subjected, and the determined manner in which they encountered the enemy, leave upon my mind no doubt of their ultimate success.” [37]

 

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54th Massachusetts at Fort Wagner 

But the most famous African American volunteer regiment was the 54thMassachusetts, commanded by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the “North’s showcase black regiment.” [38] Raised in Boston and officered by many men who were the sons of Boston’s blue blood abolitionist elite, the regiment was authorized in March 1863. Since there was still opposition to the formation of units made up of African Americans, Massachusetts Governor John Andrew authorized the formation of the 54th under the command of white officers, a practice that with few exceptions, became standard in the U.S. military until President Truman desegregated the armed forces in 1948. Governor Andrew was determined to ensure that the officers of the 54th were men of “firm antislavery principles…superior to a vulgar contempt for color.”[39]

The 54th Massachusetts first saw action in early June 1863 and at Shaw’s urging were sent into battle against the Confederate positions at Fort Wagner on July 18th 1863. Leading the attack the 54th lost nearly half its men, “including Colonel Shaw with a bullet through his heart. Black soldiers gained Wagner’s parapet and held it for an hour before falling back.” [40]Though they tried to hold on they were pushed back after a stubborn fight to secure a breach in the fort’s defenses. “Sergeant William H Carney staggered back from the fort with wounds in his chest and right arm, but with the regiment’s Stars and Stripes securely in his grasp. “The old flag never touched the ground, boys,” Carney gasped as he collapsed at the first field hospital he could find.” [41] Shaw was buried with his men by the Confederates and when Union commanders asked for the return of his body were told “We have buried him with his niggers,” Shaw’s father quelled a northern effort to recover his son’s body with these words: We hold that a soldier’s most appropriate burial-place is on the field where he has fallen.” [42] As with so many frontal attacks on prepared positions throughout the war, valor alone could not overcome a well dug in enemy. “Negro troops proved that they could stop bullets and shell fragments as good as white men, but that was about all.” [43]

Despite the setback, the regiment went on to further actions where it continued to distinguish itself. The Northern press, particularly abolitionist newspapers brought about a change in the way that many Americans in the North, civilians as well as soldiers, saw blacks. The Atlantic Monthly noted, “Through the cannon smoke of that dark night, the manhood of the colored race shines before many eyes that would not see.”  [44]

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55th Massachusetts being welcomed in Charleston SC 

In the African American 55th Massachusetts, which was recruited after the 54th, twenty-one year old Sergeant Isaiah Welch wrote a letter which was published in the Philadelphia Christian Recorder from Folly Island South Carolina:

“I will mention a little about the 55th Massachusetts Regiment. They seem to be in good health at the present and are desirous of making a bold dash upon the enemy. I pray God the time will soon come when we, as soldiers of God, and of our race and country, may face the enemy with boldness. For my part I feel willing to suffer all privations incidental to a Christian and a soldier…. In conclusion, let me say, if I fall in the battle anticipated, remember, I fall in defense of my race and country. Some of my friends thought it very wrong of me in setting aside the work of the Lord to take up arms against the enemy…. I am fully able to answer all questions pertaining to rebels. If taking lives will restore the country to what it once was, then God help me to slay them on every hand.” [45]

Like the 54th Massachusetts, the 55th would see much action. After one particularly sharp engagement in July 1864, in which numerous soldiers had demonstrated exceptional valor under fire the regiment’s commander, Colonel Alfred S. Hartwell “recommended that three of the black sergeants of the 55th be promoted to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.” But Hartwell’s request was turned down, and a member of the regiment complained, “But the U.S. government has refused so far to must them because God did not make them White…. No other objection is, or can be offered.”[46]

 


                                               Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, who had two sons serving in the 54th Massachusetts, understood the importance of African Americans taking up arms against those that had enslaved them in order to win their freedom:

“Once let a black man get upon his person the brass letters U.S… let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pockets, and there is no power on earth which can deny he has won the right to citizenship in the United States.” [47]

Douglass urged African American men to enlist to secure their freedom, even while noting the inequities still prevalent in society and in the military, in which they did not receive the same pay as whites, nor could they become officers. Appealing to duty and reality Douglass noted in a speech in Philadelphia urging black men to volunteer. In it he carefully defined the real differences between the purposes of the Confederacy which was to “nothing more than to make the slavery of the African race universal and perpetual on this continent,” which was “based upon the idea that colored men are an inferior race, who may be enslaved and plundered forever.” [48]

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     Sergeant William Carney 54th Massachusetts, Medal of Honor

But the premier leader of the African Americans of his day, who had himself suffered as a slave, did not stop with that. Douglass understood that winning the war was more important that to what had been the attitude of the Federal government before the war and before emancipation, “Now, what is the attitude of the Washington government towards the colored race? What reasons have we to desire its triumph in the present contest? Mind, I do not ask what was its attitude towards us before the war…. I do not ask you about the dead past. I bring you to the living present.” He noted the advances that had been made in just a few months and appealed to his listeners. “Do not flatter yourselves, my friends, that you are more important to the Government than the Government to you. You stand but as the plank to the ship. This rebellion can be put down without your help. Slavery can be abolished by white men: but liberty so won for the black man, while it may leave him an object of pity, can never make him an object of respect…. Young men of Philadelphia, you are without excuse. The hour has arrived, and your place is in the Union army. Remember that the musket – the United States musket with its bayonet of steel – is better than all the mere parchment guarantees of liberty. In your hands that musket means liberty…” [49]

Other African American units less famous than the illustrious 54thMassachusetts distinguished themselves in action against Confederate forces. Two regiments of newly recruited blacks were encamped at Milliken’s Bend Louisiana when a Confederate brigade attempting to relieve the Vicksburg garrison attacked them. The troops were untrained and ill-armed but held on against a determined enemy:

“Untrained and armed with old muskets, most of the black troops nevertheless fought desperately. With the aid of two gunboats they finally drove off the enemy. For raw troops, wrote Grant, the freedmen “behaved well.” Assistant Secretary of War Dana, still with Grant’s army, spoke with more enthusiasm. “The bravery of the blacks,” he declared, “completely revolutionized the sentiment in the army with regard to the employment of negro troops. I heard prominent officers who had formerly in private had sneered at the idea of negroes fighting express after that as heartily in favor of it.”[50]

The actions of the black units at Milliken’s bend attracted the attention and commendation of Ulysses Grant, who wrote in his cover letter to the after action report, “In this battle most of the troops engaged were Africans, who had little experience in the use of fire-arms. Their conduct is said, however, to have been most gallant, and I doubt not but with good officers that they will make good troops.” [51] They also garnered the attention of the press. Harper’s published an illustrated account of the battle with a “double-page woodcut of the action place a black color bearer in the foreground, flanked by comrades fighting hand-to-hand with Confederates. A brief article called it a “the sharp fight at Milliken’s bend where a small body of black troops with a few whites were attacked by a large force of rebels.” [52] In the South the result was chilling and shocked whites, one woman wrote “It is hard to believe that Southern soldiers – and Texans at that – have been whipped by a mongrel crew of white and black Yankees…. There must be some mistake.” While another woman in Louisiana confided in her diary, “It is terrible to think of such a battle as this, white men and freemen fighting with their slaves, and to be killed by such a hand, the very soul revolts from it, O, may this be the last.” [53]

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Louisiana Native Guards at Port Hudson 

By the end of the war over 179,000 African American Soldiers, commanded by 7,000 white officers served in the Union armies. For a number of reasons most of these units were confined to rear area duties or working with logistics and transportation operations. The policies to regulate USCT regiments to supporting tasks in non-combat roles “frustrated many African American soldiers who wanted a chance to prove themselves in battle.” [54] Many of the soldiers and their white officers argued to be let into the fight as they felt that “only by proving themselves in combat could blacks overcome stereotypes of inferiority and prove their “manhood.” [55]Even so in many places in the army the USCT and state regiments made up of blacks were scorned:

“A young officer who left his place in a white regiment to become colonel of a colored regiment was frankly told by a staff officer that “we don’t want any nigger soldiers in the Army of the Potomac,” and his general took him aside to say: “I’m sorry to have you leave my command, and am still more sorry that you are going to serve with Negroes. I think that it is a disgrace to the army to make soldiers of them.” The general added that he felt this way because he was sure that colored soldiers just would not fight.”  [56]

The general of course, was wrong, for “Nothing eradicated the prejudices of white soldiers as effectively as black soldiers performing well under fire. And nothing inspired black soldiers to fight as desperately as the fear that capture meant certain death.” [57]  In the engagements where USCT units were allowed to fight, they did so with varying success most of which was often attributable to the direction of their senior officers and the training that they had received. As with any other unit, well led and well trained regiments performed better than those whose leaders had failed their soldiers. When given the chance they almost always fought well, even when badly commanded. This was true as well when they were thrown into hopeless situations.

One such instance was when Ferrero’s Division, comprised of colored troops were thrown into the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg when “that battle lost beyond all recall.” [58] The troops advanced in good order singing as they went, while their commander, General Ferrero took cover in a dugout and started drinking; but the Confederate defenders had been reinforced and “Unsupported, subjected to a galling fire from batteries on the flanks, and from infantry fire in front and partly on the flank,” a witness write, “they broke up in disorder and fell back into the crater.” [59] Pressed into the carnage of the crater where white troops from the three divisions already savaged by the fighting had taken cover, the “black troops fought with desperation, uncertain of their fate if captured.”[60] In the battle Ferrero’s division lost 1,327 of the approximately 4,000 men who made the attack. [61]

Major General Benjamin Butler railed to his wife in a letter against those who questioned the courage of African American soldiers seeing the gallantry of black troops assaulting the defenses of Petersburg in September 1864: The man who says that the negro will not fight is a coward….His soul is blacker than then dead faces of these dead negroes, upturned to heaven in solemn protest against him and his prejudices.” [62]

In another engagement, the 1864 Battle of Saltville in western Virginia the troops of the 5th USCT Cavalry who had been insulted, taunted, and derided by their fellow white Union soldiers went into action against Confederate troops defending the salt works in that town. The regiment’s commander, Colonel Wade, order his troops to attack. Colonel James Brisbin detailed the attack:

“the Negroes rushed upon the works with a yell and after a desperate struggle carried the line killing and wounding a large number of the enemy and capturing some prisoners…. Out of the four hundred men engaged, one hundred and fourteen men and four officers fell killed or wounded. Of this fight I can only say that men could not have behaved more bravely. I have seen white troops in twenty-seven battles and I never saw any fight better…. On the return of the forces those who had scoffed at the Colored Troops on the march out were silent.” [63]

The response of the Confederate government to Emancipation and African Americans serving as soldiers was immediate and uncompromisingly harsh. “When in the autumn of 1862 General Beauregard referred the question of a captured black soldier to Davis’s latest Secretary of War, James A. Seddon, the later replied “…my decision is that the negro is to be executed as an example.” [64] Davis approved of the summary executions of black prisoners carried out in South Carolina in November 1862, and a month later “on Christmas Eve, Davis issued a general order requiring all former slaves and their officers captured in arms to be delivered up to state officials for trial.” [65] Davis warned that “the army would consider black soldiers as “slaves captured in arms,” and therefore subject to execution.” [66] While the Confederacy never formally carried out the edict, there were numerous occasions where Confederate commanders and soldiers massacred captured African American soldiers.

The Lincoln administration responded to the Confederate threats by sending a note to Davis that threatened reprisals against Confederate troops if black soldiers suffered harm. It “was largely the threat of Union reprisals that thereafter gave African-American soldiers a modicum of humane treatment.” [67] Even so, they and their white officers were often in much more danger than the officers and soldiers of all-white regiments if captured by Confederate forces.

When captured by Confederates, black soldiers and their white officers received no quarter from many Confederate opponents. General Edmund Kirby Smith who held overall command of Confederate forces west of the Mississippi instructed General Richard Taylor to simply execute black soldiers and their white officers: “I hope…that your subordinates who may have been in command of capturing parties may have recognized the propriety of giving no quarter to armed negroes and their officers. In this way we may be relieved from a disagreeable dilemma.” [68] This was not only a local policy, but echoed at the highest levels of the Confederate government. In 1862 the Confederate government issued an order that threatened white officers commanding blacks: “any commissioned officer employed in the drilling, organizing or instructing slaves with their view to armed service in this war…as outlaws” would be “held in close confinement for execution as a felon.” [69] After the assault of the 54th Massachusetts at Fort Wagner a Georgia soldier “reported with satisfaction that the prisoners were “literally shot down while on their knees begging for quarter and mercy.” [70]

                                                Fort Pillow Massacre 
On April 12th 1864 at Fort Pillow, troops under the command of General Nathan Bedford Forrest massacred the bulk of over 231 Union Soldiers, most of them black as they tried to surrender. While it is fairly clear that Forrest did not order the massacre and even may have attempted to stop it, it was clear that he had lost control of his troops, and “the best evidence indicates that the “massacre”…was a genuine massacre.” [71] Forrest’s soldiers fought with the fury of men possessed by hatred of an enemy that they considered ‘a lesser race’ and slaughtered the Union troops as they either tried to surrender or flee; but while Forrest did not order the massacre, he certainly was not displeased with the result. His subordinate, General James Chalmers told an officer from the gunboat Silver Cloud that he and Forrest had neither ordered the massacre and had tried to stop their soldiers but that “the men of General Forrest’s command had such a hatred toward the armed negro that they could not be restrained from killing the negroes,” and he added, “it was nothing better than we could expect so long as we persisted in arming the negro.” [72] It was a portent of what some of the same men would do to defenseless blacks and whites sympathetic to them as members of the Ku Klux Klan, the White Liners, White League, and Red Shirts, during and after Reconstruction in places like Colfax Louisiana.

Ulysses Grant was infuriated and threatened reprisals against any Confederates conducting such activities, he a later wrote:

“These troops fought bravely, but were overpowered I will leave Forrest in his dispatches to tell what he did with them.

“The river was dyed,” he says, “with the blood of the slaughtered for up to 200 years. The approximate loss was upward of five hundred killed; but few of the officers escaped. My loss was about twenty killed. It is hoped that these facts will demonstrate to the Northern people that negro soldiers cannot cope with Southerners.” Subsequently Forrest made a report in which he left out the part that shocks humanity to read.”  [73]

The bulk of the fanatical hatred of Forrest’s troops was directed at the black soldiers of the 6th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, which composed over a third of the garrison. “Of the 262 Negro members of the garrison, only 58 – just over 20 percent – were marched away as prisoners; while of the 295 whites, 168 – just under sixty percent were taken.”  [74] A white survivor of the 13th West Tennessee Cavalry, a Union unit at the fort wrote:

We all threw down our arms and gave tokens of surrender, asking for quarter…but no quarter was given….I saw 4 white men and at least 25 negroes shot while begging for mercy….These were all soldiers. There were also 2 negro women and 3 little children standing within 25 steps of me, when a rebel stepped up to them and said, “Yes, God damn you, you thought you were free, did you?” and shot them all. They all fell but one child, when he knocked it in the head with the breech of his gun.” [75]

A Confederate Sergeant who was at Fort Pillow wrote home a week after the massacre: “the poor deluded negroes would run up to our men, fall upon their knees and with uplifted hands scream for mercy, but were ordered to their feet and shot down.” [76] The captain of the Union gunboat Silver Cloud was allowed by the Confederate to bring his ship to the Fort to evacuate wounded, and to bury the dead was appalled at the sight, he wrote:

“All the buildings around the fort and the tents and huts in the fort had been burned by the rebels, and among the embers of the charred remains of numbers of our soldiers who had suffered terrible death in the flames could be seen. All the wounded who had strength enough to speak agreed that after the fort was taken an indiscriminate slaughter of our troops was carried on by the enemy…. Around on every side horrible testimony to the truth of this statement could be seen, Bodies with gaping wounds,… some with skulls beaten through, others with hideous wounds as if their bowels had been ripped open with bowie-knives, plainly told that little quarter was shown…. Strewn from the fort to the river bank, in the ravines and the hollows, behind logs and under the brush where they had crept for protection from the assassins who pursued them, we found bodies bayoneted, beaten, and shot to death, showing how cold-blooded and persistent was the slaughter…. Of course, when a work is carried by assault there will always be more or less bloodshed, even when all resistance has ceased; but here there were unmistakable evidences of a massacre carried on long after any resistance could have been offered, with a cold-blooded barbarity and perseverance which nothing can palliate.” [77]

The rabidly pro-slavery members of the Confederate press lent their propaganda to cheer the massacre of the captured blacks. John R. Eakin of the Washington (Arkansas) Washington Telegraph, who later became a justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court after Reconstruction, wrote,

“The Slave Soldiers. – Amongst there are stupendous wrongs against humanity, shocking to the moral sense of the world, like Herod’s massacre of the Innocents, or the eve of St. Bartholomew, the crime of Lincoln in seducing our slaves into the ranks of his army will occupy a prominent position….

How should we treat our slaves arrayed under the banners of the invader, and marching to desolate our homes and firesides….

Meanwhile, the problem has been met our soldiers in the heat of battle, where there has been no time for discussion. They have cut the Gordian knot with the sword. They did right….

It follows that we cannot treat negroes in arms as prisoners of war without a destruction of the social system for which we contend. We must be firm, uncompromising and unfaltering. We must claim the full control of all negroes who may fall into our hands, to punish with death, or any other penalty, or remand them to their owners. If the enemy retaliate, we must do likewise; and if the black flag follows, the blood be upon their heads.” [78]

However, when African American Troops were victorious, and even after they had seen their brothers murdered by Confederate troops, that they often treated their Confederate with great kindness. Colonel Brisbin wrote that following Battle of Saltville that “Such of the Colored Soldiers who fell into the hands of the Enemy during the battle were murdered. The Negroes did not retaliate but treated the Rebel wounded with great kindness, carrying them water in their canteens and doing all they could to alleviate the sufferings of those whom the fortunes of war had placed in their hands.” [79]

African American soldiers proved themselves during the war and their efforts paved the way for Lincoln and others to begin considering the full equality of blacks as citizens. If they could fight and die for the country, how could they be denied the right to votes, be elected to office, serve on juries or go to public schools? Under political pressure to end the war during the stalemate before Petersburg and Atlanta in the summer of 1864, Lincoln reacted angrily to Copperheads as well as wavering Republicans on the issue of emancipation:

“But no human power can subdue this rebellion without using the Emancipation lever as I have done.” More than 100,000 black soldiers were fighting for the Union and their efforts were crucial to northern victory. They would not continue fighting if they thought the North intended to betray them….If they stake their lives for us they must be prompted by the strongest motive…the promise of freedom. And the promise being made, must be kept…There have been men who proposed to me to return to slavery the black warriors. “I should be damned in time & in eternity for so doing. The world shall know that I will keep my faith to friends & enemies, come what will.”  [80]

The importance of African Americans cannot be minimized, without them the war could have dragged on much longer or even ended in stalemate, which would have been a Confederate victory. Lincoln wrote about the importance of the African American contribution to the war effort in 1864:

“Any different policy in regard to the colored man, deprives us of his help, and this is more than we can bear. We can not spare the hundred and forty or hundred and fifty thousand now serving us as soldiers, seamen, and laborers. This is not a question of sentiment or taste, but one of physical force which may be measured and estimated as horse-power and Steam-power are measured and estimated. Keep it and you save the Union. Throw it away, and the Union goes with it.” [81]

Despite this, even in the North during and after the war, blacks, including former soldiers faced discrimination, sometimes that of the white men that they served alongside, but more often from those who did not support the war effort. Lincoln wisely took note of this fact, and wrote that after the war:

“there will there will be some black men who can remember that, with silent tongue, the clenched teeth, the steady eye, the well poised bayonet, they have helped  mankind on to this great consummation; while, I fear, there will be some white ones, unable to forget that, with malignant heart, and deceitful speech, they have strove to hinder it.” [82]

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Lt Stephen Swails, First African American Officer of 54th Massachusetts 

Those rights would be fought for another century and what began in 1863 with the brave service and sacrifice of these African American soldiers began a process of increased civil rights that is still going on today. It would not be until after the war that some blacks were commissioned as officers in the Army. When Governor John Andrew, the man who had raised the 54th Massachusetts attempted to “issue a state commission to Sergeant Stephen Swails of the 54th…the Bureau of Colored Troops obstinately refused to issue Swails a discharge from his sergeant’s rank, and Swails promotion was held up until after the end of the war. “How can we hope for success to our arms or God’s blessing,” raged the white colonel of the 54th, Edward Hallowell, “while we as a people are so blind to justice?” [83]

The families of the free blacks who volunteered also suffered, especially those who still had families enslaved in Confederate occupied areas or Union States which still allowed slavery. One women in Missouri wrote her husband begging him to come home “I have had nothing but trouble since you left….They abuse me because you went & say they will not take care of our children & do nothing but quarrel with me all the time and beat me scandalously the day before yesterday.”  [84]

However, the Emancipation Proclamation transformed the war, and even jaded White Union soldiers who had been against emancipation and who were deeply prejudiced against blacks began to change their outlook as the armies marched into the South and saw the horrors of slavery, Russell Weigley wrote that Union soldiers: “confronting the scarred bodies and crippled souls of African Americans as they marched into the South experienced a strong motivation to become anti-slavery men…Men do not need to play a role long, furthermore, until the role grows to seem natural and customary to them. That of liberators was sufficiently fulfilling to their pride that soldiers found themselves growing more accustomed to it all the more readily.” [85]

A sergeant of the 19th Michigan who had already lost a stepson in the war wrote to his wife from Georgia before being killed in action during the Atlanta campaign; “the more I learn of the cursed institution of Slavery, the more I feel willing to endure, for its final destruction…. After this war is over, this whole country will undergo a change for the better…. Abolishing slavery will dignify labor; that fact will revolutionize everything…. Let Christians use all their influence to have justice done to the black man.” [86]

But even more importantly for the cause of liberty, the sight of regiments of free African Americans, marching “through the slave states wearing the uniform of the U.S. Army and carrying rifles on their shoulders was perhaps the most revolutionary event of a war turned into revolution.” [87]

battle_of_nashville_kurz__allison

At peak one in eight Union troops were African American, and Black troops made an immense contribution to the Union victory. “Black troops fought on 41 major battlefields and in 449 minor engagements. Sixteen soldiers and seven sailors received Medals of Honor for valor. 37,000 blacks in army uniform gave their lives and untold sailors did, too.” [88] To fully appreciate the measure as to the importance and significance of the numbers of African American troops serving in the Union ranks has to compare that number with the number of active Confederate troops serving toward the end of the war. The approximately 180,000 African Americans serving in Union ranks at the end of the war outnumbered the “aggregate present” in Confederate ranks on January 1st 1865 by over 20,000 men. Of these troops “134,111 were recruited in states that had stars in the Confederate battle flag, and the latter figure in turn was several thousand greater than the total of 135,994 gray-clad soldiers “present for duty” that same day.” [89]

Of the African American soldiers who faced the Confederates in combat, “deep pride was their compensation. Two black patients in an army hospital began a conversation. One of them looked at the stump of an arm he had once had and remarked: “Oh I should like to have it, but I don’t begrudge it.” His ward mate, minus a leg, replied: “Well, ‘twas [lost] in a glorious cause, and if I’d lost my life I should have been satisfied. I knew what I was fighting for.” [90]

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Flags of the 22nd U.S. Colored Troops 

After the war many of the African American soldiers became leaders in the African American community and no less than 130 of these former soldiers held elected office including in the U.S. Congress and various state legislatures. The liberating aspect of “the black military experience radiated from black soldiers and their families into the larger black community, so it spread into white society as well.” [91]  Many abolitionists who had served as officers, and officers who were assigned to the USCT or volunteered to serve with state raised African American regiments became leaders continued to be voices for expanding civil rights in the years following the war.

Following war’s end, the demobilized African American troops became the target of racial discrimination and violence, but even so, “black veterans continued to play a central role in black communities, North and South. The skills and experience black men gained during the war not only propelled many of them into positions of leaders and sustained the prominence of others, but it also shaped the expectations and aspirations of all black people. The achievements and pride engendered by military service helped to make a new world of freedom.” [92]

Sadly, much of the nation has forgotten the efforts of the Free Black Soldiers and Sailors who fought for freedom, but even so their legacy remains in the “contribution of black soldiers to Union victory remained a point of pride in black communities. “They say,” an Alabama planter reported in 1867, “the Yankees never could have whipped the South without the aid of the Negroes.” Well into the twentieth century, black families throughout the United States would recall with pride that their fathers and grandfathers had fought for freedom.” [93]

Notes 

[1] Ibid. McPherson Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief

[2] Ibid. Goodwin Team of Rivals p.435

[3] Ibid. McPherson Tried by War p.58

[4] Ibid. McPherson Tried by War p.58

[5] Ibid. Goodwin Team of Rivals p.369

[6] Ibid. McPherson Tried by War p.109

[7] Ibid. Foote, The Civil War, A Narrative Volume Two p.531

[8] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.503

[9] Ibid. McPherson Drawn With the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War p.101

[10] Ibid. Guelzo Gettysburg: The Last Invasion p.160

[11] Foner, Eric Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction Vintage Books a Division of Random House, New York 2005 p.45

[12] Ibid. Guelzo Gettysburg: The Last Invasion p.160

[13] Ibid. Glatthaar General Lee’s Army from Victory to Collapse p.313

[14] Ibid. Guelzo Gettysburg: The Last Invasion p.160

[15] Ibid. Goodwin Team of Rivals p.465

[16] Egnal, Marc Clash of Extremes: The Economic Origins of the Civil War Hill and Wang a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux New York 2009 p.318

[17] Ibid. Foner Forever Free p.48

[18] Ibid. McPherson Tried by War p.159

[19] Ibid. McPherson Drawn With the Sword p.159

[20] Ibid. McPherson Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution p.35

[21] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightning p.381

[22] Ibid. Dobak Freedom by the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops, 1862-1867 p.10

[23] Ibid. McPherson Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution p.35

[24] Ibid. Robertson Soldiers Blue and Gray p.31

[25] Ibid. Dobak Freedom by the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops, 1862-1867 p.11

[26] Ibid. Robertson Soldiers Blue and Gray p.31

[27] Ibid. Gallagher, Gary W. The Union War Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA and London 2011 p.103

[28] Welton, Chauncey B. A Union Soldier’s Changing Views on Emancipationin The Civil War and Reconstruction: A Documentary Collection edited by William Gienapp, W.W. Norton Company, New York and London 2001 pp.242 and 245

[29] Ibid. Robertson Soldiers Blue and Gray p.34

[30] Glatthaar, Joseph T. Black Glory: The African American Role in Union Victory in Why the Confederacy Lost edited by Gabor S. Boritt Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York 1992

[31] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.686

[32] Ibid. Goldfield America Aflame p.282

[33] Jones, Terry L. The Free Men of Color Go to War in The new York Times Disunion: 106 Articles from the New York Times Opinionator edited by Ted Widmer with Clay Risen and George Kalogerakis, Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, New York 2013 p.403

[34] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p.379

[35] Ibid. Foote The Civil War, A Narrative Volume Two p.398

[36] Ibid. Trudeau Like Men of War p.44

[37] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p.379

[38] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.686

[39] Ibid. McPherson Drawn With the Sword p.101

[40] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.686

[41] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening pp. 380-381

[42] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom pp.686-687

[43] Ibid. Foote, The Civil War, A Narrative Volume Two p.697

[44] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.686

[45] Welch, Isaiah H. Letter in the Christian Recorder 24 October 1863 in The Civil War and Reconstruction: A Documentary Collection edited by William E. Gienapp, W.W. Norton and Company, New York and London 2001 pp.225-226

[46] Trudeau, Noah Andre, Like Men of War: Black Troops in the Civil War 1862-1865 Little, Brown and Company, Boston, New York and London, 1998 p.262

[47] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p. 381

[48] Douglass, Frederick Philadelphia Speech of July 6th 1863 recorded in the Liberator in The Civil War and Reconstruction: A Documentary Collection edited by William E. Gienapp, W.W. Norton and Company, New York and London 2001 pp.220-221

[49] Ibid. Douglass Philadelphia Speech of July 6th 1863 p.221

[50] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.634

[51] Ibid. Trudeau Like Men of War: Black Troops in the Civil War 1862-1865p.58

[52] Ibid. Gallagher The Union War p.97

[53] Ibid. Trudeau Like Men of War: Black Troops in the Civil War 1862-1865 p.59

[54] Ibid. Gallagher The Union War p.92

[55] Ibid. McPherson Drawn With the Sword p.89 p.

[56] Catton, Bruce. A Stillness at Appomattox Doubleday and Company Garden City, New York 1953 p.227

[57] Berlin, Ira, Riedy, Joseph P. and Rowland, Leslie S. editors, Freedom’s Soldiers: The Black Military Experience in the Civil War  Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York 1998 pp.133-134

[58] Ibid. Catton A Stillness at Appomattox p.249

[59] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Three Red River to Appomattox Random House, New York 1974 p.537

[60] Ibid.Wert The Sword of Lincoln: The Army of the Potomac pp.384-385

[61] Ibid. Foote The Civil War, A Narrative Volume Three p.537

[62] Ibid. Robertson Soldiers Blue and Gray p.34

[63] Ibid. Berlin et al, Freedom’s Soldiers: The Black Military Experience in the Civil War  p.135

[64] Ibid. Weigley A Great Civil War p.189

[65] Ibid. McPherson Battle Cry of Freedom p.566

[66] Ibid. Goldfield America Aflame p. 280

[67] Ibid. Weigley A Great Civil War p.188

[68] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p. 377

[69] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p. 377

[70] Ibid. Goldfield America Aflame p.281

[71] Ibid. Weigley A Great Civil War p.189

[72] Ibid. Dobak Freedom by the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops, 1862-1867 p.208

[73] Grant, Ulysses S. Preparing for the Campaigns of ’64 in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War Volume IV, Retreat With Honor Edited by Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel Castle, Secaucus NJ pp.107-108

[74] Ibid. Foote The Civil War, A Narrative Volume Three p.111

[75] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightning p. 378

[76] Ibid. Foote The Civil War, A Narrative Volume Three p.112

[77] Ibid. Dobak Freedom by the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops, 1862-1867 p.208

[78] Eakin, John R. The Slave Soldiers, June 8, 1864  in Loewen, James W. and Sebesta, Edward H. editors, The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The “Great Truth” about “The Lost Cause” University of Mississippi Press, Jackson 2010 pp.210 and 212

[79] Ibid. Berlin et al, Freedom’s Soldiers: The Black Military Experience in the Civil War  p.47

[80] Ibid. McPherson Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution p.89

[81] Ibid. Glatthaar Black Glory: The African American Role in Union Victoryp.138

[82] Ibid. McPherson The War that Forged a Nation p. 113

[83] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightning p. 376

[84] Ibid. Goldfield America Aflame p.282

[85] Ibid. Weigley A Great Civil War p.192

[86] Ibid. McPherson For Cause and Comrades p.130

[87] Ibid. Weigley A Great Civil War p.191

[88] Gallagher, Gary, Engle, Stephen, Krick, Robert K. and Glatthaar editors The American Civil War: The Mighty Scourge of War Osprey Publishing, Oxford UK 2003 p.296

[89] Ibid. Foote The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Three Red River to Appomattox p.756

[90] Ibid. Robertson Soldiers Blue and Gray p.36

[91] Ibid. Berlin et al, Freedom’s Soldiers: The Black Military Experience in the Civil War  p.47

[92] Ibid. Berlin et al. Freedom’s Soldiers: The Black Military Experience in the Civil War pp.49-50

[93] Ibid. Foner Forever Free p.55

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“A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult!” The Second Trump Impeachment Trial and Judgement at Nuremberg

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rolfe

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am returning to an old article about the Holocaust, the Nuremberg Trials, the film Judgement at Nuremberg in the wake of the attempted Trump Coup of 6 January 2021 where his Cult, led by White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Neo-Confederates, Evangelical Christian Theocrats, unconstitutional and illegal “self-proclaimed militias,” True Believers of the QAnon Conspiracy Cult, were urged on by the former President, members of Congress, his family, and his personal lawyer to attack the Capitol. At the time Congress was meeting in its solemn task to finalize and certify the Electoral College Vote to certify President Elect Joe Biden, and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris as the next President and Vice President of the United States. The assault was the grossest violation of our Republic, Democracy, and Constitution in history, and it was done by Americans, many of whom were military or former military or law enforcement officers. Likewise, elected officials from several states took part in it while Republican members of the House are believed to have aided them from the inside. Despite the fact that Trump is out of office he still controls the GOP which at state and local levels is already conducting a Stalin like Purge of GOP officials from the party and are even threatening well respected elected and appointed officials including the number three Republican in the House of Representative, Liz Cheney. These are not Republicans, they little different than former German Conservatives who joined the Nazis following Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor. They have surrendered any principles they once held and have become swore their unconditional loyalty to Adolf Hitler, only now that loyalty is to Trump and Trump alone.

That means that the danger is not over and in the week leading up to Trump’s Second Impeachment Trial, during and after it means that our Republic and anyone who actually supports and defends the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic is in danger for their lives. This judgement is not some figment of my imagination but based on the words and actions of Trump and his Cult over the last five and a half years.

With that I take you back to a different time and different lan, but one not  so different of cultural and political distress. As I said this is an older article, now somewhat edited, which should send chills up the spine of anyone of any party who still believes in the American Experiment and those words of our Declaration “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…” and that this founding principle is the basis of an ever expanding definition of liberty for all people of all times who are blessed to live after Thomas Jefferson penned those words.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Pasre Steve+

I read and write a lot about Weimar and Nazi Germany as well as the Holocaust. They were the focus of my undergraduate major working under Dr. Helmut Heussler who served as a translator and interrogator at Nuremberg while I was a student at California State University at Northridge and later in my Masters of Arts in Military History. I read the documents, the histories, the narratives, and the reports both in English and German. I study the perpetrators, the victims, and yes the bystanders as well and there is not enough time in one man’s life to read all of them, but I will try.

Likewise I visit the sites where things happened in Germany, and every time that I make a trip to those places I learn more and believe me it is not comfortable.  When I visited the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg a few years ago I saw a picture of Dr. Heussler doing his work. Back then he was very young and it would be a number of years before he finished college and went on to his doctorate. When I saw his picture I remembered just how important he was in opening my eyes to the dark side of humanity; even those people that are not truly evil; those like most of us who exist between the shades of gray between sainthood and the devil.

The histories, the documents, the narratives paint a dark picture of humanity and the fallibility of people. The portrait that they paint a disturbing picture of the true nature of what is in all of us. When I look at the pictures and see the films I can see that the lessons of that time have not been learned. Dr. Timothy Snyder wrote:

“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.”

In the age where men who admire tyrants and authoritarians like Trump, Putin, Farage, Erdrogan, Assad, and so many others it is important that we try to learn the lessons lest we fall into the same trap as our ancestors and become perpetrators, victims, or bystanders. I often find myself wondering what will be said we Americans of our time in say fifty years or so. I have a feeling that it will not be favorable or sympathetic.

Such a fascination with the thoughts of others years after I am likely to be dead may seem unusually circumspect. But my call as a priest and a historian doesn’t allow me not to care about the future, or ignore present realities. The fact is that totalitarian regimes and events like the Holocaust are all too common in human history, one of those is the connection of humanity with its past and future, and that humanity being the constant in our history. Yehuda Bauer wrote:

“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.”

The fact is that there are very few true saints and likewise very few truly evil people. Quite obviously Adolf Hitler and many of his associates fell in the latter category. The rest of us, and for that matter most of the people on all sides during from the Nazi seizure of power until the Gotterdammerung of the Third Reich in in the flames of Berlin in 1945 fall somewhere in the gray area between the truly evil and sainthood. Yet, truthfully all of us given the right conditions are capable of becoming perpetrators, victims, or the worst, bystanders who turn their backs on evil because it doesn’t seem to affect us; but it does.

Admittedly this is a dark subject and as I always reminded my students “the one constant in history are fallible human beings.” 

During our recent blizzard and snow event my wife Judy was away, so one of the nights that I was alone I re-watched the film Judgment at Nuremberg. The film is profoundly disturbing not only because of the subjects that it deals with but also when we look at the great uncertainty time that we live and how similar it is to the world of the late 1920s and early 1930s. In one of the more disturbing scenes of the film, Maximillian Schell, who played Hans Rolfe, the defense counsel for Ernst Janning, played by Burt Lancaster gives a summation in the final defense of his client who has already admitted his guilt which is remarkable because he tells the truth about the guilt of everyone.

Rolfe’s summation of his defense following his client’s admission of guilt is damning. It is something that almost all of us do. It is how we look at the atrocities of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, the willful starvation of millions by criminal regimes; and then stand by saying little or nothing and doing nothing, sometimes even supporting the leaders or the regimes that commit these actions.

So please, no matter what your political point of view, take the time to watch clip or the whole film, and read the transcript of Schell’s speech below. It’s far easier than trying to do all the reading, study, and research that I have done.

“Your Honor, it is my duty to defend Ernst Janning, and yet Ernst Janning has said he is guilty. There’s no doubt, he feels his guilt. He made a great error in going along with the Nazi movement, hoping it would be good for his country. But, if he is to be found guilty, there are others who also went along, who also must be found guilty. Ernst Janning said, “We succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.” Why did we succeed, Your Honor? What about the rest of the world? Did it not know the intentions of the Third Reich? Did it not hear the words of Hitler’s broadcast all over the world? Did it not read his intentions in Mein Kampf, published in every corner of the world? Where’s the responsibility of the Soviet Union, who signed in 1939 the pact with Hitler, enabled him to make war? Are we not to find Russia guilty? Where’s the responsibility of the Vatican, who signed in 1933 the Concordat with Hitler, giving him his first tremendous prestige? Are we not to find the Vatican guilty? Where’s the responsibility of the world leader, Winston Churchill, who said in an open letter to the London Times in 1938 – 1938! Your Honor – “were England to suffer national disaster should pray to God to send a man of the strength of mind and will of an Adolf Hitler!” Are we not to find Winston Churchill guilty? Where is the responsibility of those American industrialists, who helped Hitler to rebuild his armaments and profited by that rebuilding? Are we not to find the American industrialists guilty? No, Your Honor. No! Germany alone is not guilty: The whole world is as responsible for Hitler’s Germany. It is an easy thing to condemn one man in the dock. It is easy to condemn the German people to speak of the basic flaw in the German character that allowed Hitler to rise to power and at the same time positively ignore the basic flaw of character that made the Russians sign pacts with him, Winston Churchill praise him, American industrialists profit by him! Ernst Janning said he is guilty. If he is, Ernst Janning’s guilt is the world’s guilt – no more and no less.”

Spencer Tracy who played Judge Dan Haygood in the film pronounced the guilty verdict in these words and in this film clip.

“The trial conducted before this Tribunal began over eight months ago. The record of evidence is more than ten thousand pages long, and final arguments of counsel have been concluded.

Simple murders and atrocities do not constitute the gravamen of the charges in this indictment. Rather, the charge is that of conscious participation in a nationwide, government organized system of cruelty and injustice in violation of every moral and legal principle known to all civilized nations. The Tribunal has carefully studied the record and found therein abundant evidence to support beyond a reasonable doubt the charges against these defendants.

Herr Rolfe, in his very skillful defense, has asserted that there are others who must share the ultimate responsibility for what happened here in Germany. There is truth in this. The real complaining party at the bar in this courtroom is civilization. But the Tribunal does say that the men in the dock are responsible for their actions, men who sat in black robes in judgment on other men, men who took part in the enactment of laws and decrees, the purpose of which was the extermination of humans beings, men who in executive positions actively participated in the enforcement of these laws — illegal even under German law. The principle of criminal law in every civilized society has this in common: Any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime, any person who is an accessory to the crime — is guilty.

Herr Rolfe further asserts that the defendant, Janning, was an extraordinary jurist and acted in what he thought was the best interest of this country. There is truth in this also. Janning, to be sure, is a tragic figure. We believe he loathed the evil he did. But compassion for the present torture of his soul must not beget forgetfulness of the torture and the death of millions by the Government of which he was a part. Janning’s record and his fate illuminate the most shattering truth that has emerged from this trial: If he and all of the other defendants had been degraded perverts, if all of the leaders of the Third Reich had been sadistic monsters and maniacs, then these events would have no more moral significance than an earthquake, or any other natural catastrophe. But this trial has shown that under a national crisis, ordinary — even able and extraordinary — men can delude themselves into the commission of crimes so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination. No one who has sat at through trial can ever forget them: men sterilized because of political belief; a mockery made of friendship and faith; the murder of children. How easily it can happen.

There are those in our own country too who today speak of the “protection of country” — of “survival.” A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient — to look the other way.

Well, the answer to that is “survival as what?” A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult!

Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.”

Sadly, little has changed in the character of humanity. If we do or say nothing, if we support those who do such things, if we close our eyes and pretend that it is not our problem, then we too are the guilty party.  As Hannah Arendt wrote: “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

Sophie Scholl, a young university student who died at the hands of the Nazis for daring to distribute leaflets telling the truth about Hitler’s regime 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.”

Whether I live one day, or another fifty years, I do not want to be a person who wants to be remembered as one who “just wants to survive,” or “left in peace,” or as Arendt said one “who never makes up their mind to be good or evil.” Nor can I be one who just goes along with things as Janning did, carrying out the orders of Hitler and the Nazi Regime in Judgment at Nuremberg, even though personally disgusted by them or be one for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature.” 

How many Republican officials and Trump appointed judges are doing just what Jannina did without any feeling of remorse of conscience? I would dare say more than any of us would think possible.

That being said, I will never stop speaking the truth regardless of the cost. That is the only way I know how to live. Life has taught me that not to do so is to countenance unspeakable crimes, and surrender to the whims of those of whom the words of the Declaration, the Preamble of the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address and Four Freedoms, Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, and speech at the Berlin Wall, King’s I Have a Dream and I Have Been to the Mountaintop speeches, Frederick Douglass’s Fourth of July Speech, and so many others have called us to. Will will follow in their step’s or those of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Laval, Petain, and so many other tyrants or would by tyrants like Trump?

That my friends is the question we all must ask ourselves today. It is actually a simple but potential soul rending question. The answer to it determines who you chose to serve and what you will defend, our Declaration, Constitution, Republic,  Democracy and Freedom, or the tyranny of “liberty for the few, slavery for the masses.”

That is the question. As Bob Dylan sang “It might be the Devil, it might be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody…”

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“To Forget a Holocaust is to Kill Twice” The Liberation of Auschwitz at 76

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Seventy-six years ago today the Soviet Red Army’s 100th Division liberated the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. There were somewhere between 7000 and 9000 prisoners left in the camp when the Soviet soldiers liberated it. The camp’s crematoria had been destroyed as well as most of the gas chambers. The SS had evacuated most of the surviving inmates and slave laborers by forced march to railhead miles away from the camp, in order to take them to other Concentration Camps deeper in Germany; Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, Ravensbruck, and others.

Even though Auschwitz was liberated, the Nazis continued to exterminate Jews at other camps. Likewise in vain attempts to cover up their crimes and keep killing Jews through forced labor conducted forced marches in freezing winter weather to keep them from being liberated. These marches were both deadly and inhuman. Even Heinrich Himmler the supreme architect of the policy of annihilation had forbidden them in order to escape justice at the hands of the Allies who he was already attempting clandestine contact. Many of these actions were the work of SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann who supervised the Holocaust after the death of his chief, Reinhard Heydrich. Even though the Third Reich was collapsing under the hammer blows of the Western Allies and Soviets, and the defection of critical allies like Finland, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria from the Axis fold.

Even Rudolf Höss the former Commandant of Auschwitz, who admitted to killing over one and a half-million Jews, was appalled by the senseless brutality of what he saw. Höss, the meticulous killer of millions, was shocked by the columns of emaciated and Jews, with no winter clothing or in many cases not even shoes that that he witnessed.  These were the people Eichmann marched from Budapest and other cities and camps to Austria and Czechoslovakia in late 1944 and 1945. to keep the Russians from liberating them, even against the orders of Heinrich Himmler himself.  But Eichmann felt the heartbeat of Adolf Hitler who remained determined to kill every last Jew in German held Europe as he led Germany into its Götterdämmerung.

There have been many episodes of genocide in human history, but none were more pointedly directed at a single group of people based on race hatred than the Holocaust of the Nazis and their allies against the Jews. While it is true that the Nazis exterminated millions of other people than the nearly six million Jews they dispatched during the Holocaust, but they were secondary targets of his race hatred. This is important, as the late Christopher Hitchens noted:

“We should not at all allow ourselves to forget the millions of non-Jewish citizens of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and other Slav territories who were also massacred. But for me the salient fact remains that anti-Semitism was the regnant, essential, organizing principle of all the other National Socialist race theories. It is thus not to be thought of as just one prejudice among many.” 

Hitchens was right, without the primary Nazi hatred and determination to obliterate the Jews from the face of the earth, their other atrocities would never occurred. Today, that rabid anti-semitism is again raising its evil head in Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East, and even in the United States. We have seen it in the resurgence of heavily armed and violent Neo-Nazi and White Supremacist groups in the United States whose ranks include current and former military personnel and law enforcement officers. The same is true in Europe. In the United States many members of these Anti-Semitic militant groups led the attack on the United States Capitol after being incited to do so by for ex-President Donald Trump.

Red Army officers and soldiers who had seen the worst of Nazi atrocities committed in Russia, the Belarus, the Ukraine and the Baltic states were unprepared for what they witnesses when the liberated Auschwitz:

Battle-hardened soldiers who were used to death were shocked by the Nazis’ treatment of prisoners. Red Army general Vasily Petrenko, commander of the 107th Infantry Division, remarked, “I who saw people dying every day was shocked by the Nazis’ indescribable hatred toward the inmates who had turned into living skeletons. I read about the Nazis’ treatment of Jews in various leaflets, but there was nothing about the Nazis’ treatment of women, children, and old men. It was in Auschwitz that I found out about the fate of the Jews.” 

Ivan Martynushkin, then a 21-year-old lieutenant recounted his experience at Auschwitz in 2015: 

“We saw emaciated, tortured, impoverished people…. Those were the people I first encountered. … We could tell from their eyes that they were happy to be saved from this hell. Happy that now they weren’t threatened by death in a crematorium. Happy to be freed. And we had the feeling of doing a good deed — liberating these people from this hell.” He told the Daily Mail: “I had seen towns destroyed…. I had seen the destruction of villages. I had seen the suffering of our own people. I had seen small children maimed. There was not one village which had not experienced this horror, this tragedy, these sufferings.”

He was not alone.

Commander Vasily Gromadsky was one of the first to enter the “death camp”:

There was a lock on the gate. I didn’t know if it was the main entrance or what. I ordered men to break the lock. There wasn’t anyone there. We walked another 200 meters and saw prisoners in striped shirts running towards us, about 300 of them.

We became wary, since we had been warned that the Germans could be in disguise. But they were real prisoners. They were crying, embracing us. They told us that millions of people had been killed there. I can still remember them telling us how the Germans had sent 12 wagons of baby carriages from Auschwitz.

Journalists from the 38th army Usher Margulis and Gennady Savin entered the camp after the soldiers. This what they remember:

We entered the brick building and looked inside the rooms. The doors weren’t closed. In the first room there was a huge pile of children’s clothes: little coats, jackets, sweaters, many of them with bloodstains. In the next room there were boxes filled with dental crowns and golden dentures. In the third room there were boxes with woman’s hair. And then a woman [a prisoner – Russia Beyond] brought us to a room filled with boxes with women’s bags, lampshades, wallets, purses and other leather items. She said: “All this is made from human skin.”

After Auschwitz was liberated, the Soviets appointed a new commandant was to administer the town, Grigory Yelisavetinsky. On Feb. 4, 1945 he wrote to his wife:

“There’s a children’s barrack in the camp. Jewish children of all ages (twins) were taken there. The Germans carried out experiments on them as if they were rabbits. I saw a 14-year-old boy whose veins had been injected with kerosene for some “scientific” purpose.

Then a piece of his body was cut off and sent to a laboratory in Berlin, while it was replaced with another piece of the body. Now he lies in a hospital all covered with deep rotting ulcers and nothing can be done to help him. There’s a beautiful girl walking around the camp. She’s mad. I’m surprised that not all the people here have gone mad.”

Eva Mozes Kor was 10 years old when she spotted the soldiers. She was one of a group of hundreds of children who had been left behind, and she had endured medical experiments during her imprisonment. She remembered how the soldiers gave her “hugs, cookies and chocolate….We were not only starved for food but we were starved for human kindness.”

The human kindness of the Soviet Soldiers characterized the liberation. The shocked soldiers helped set up hospitals on site, and townspeople volunteered to help. For months, Polish Red Cross workers labored to save the dying and treat the living, working without adequate food or supplies and helping prisoners get in touch with their loved ones. About 7,500 of those liberated on 27 January 1945 survived.

It is impossible for an objective person to deny these facts. Hate crimes against Jews are blossoming around the world like toxic mushrooms. The new perpetrators are the descendants of the former perpetrators, Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and secularists who embrace the same social Darwinism that motivated many of the Nazis and many are central to the ever growing core or Holocaust Deniers.

Or course the non-Muslim opponents of the Jews today also despise dark skinned minorities, non-Christians, not to mention atheists. secularists, and political liberals and progressives, even if they are White and Christian,  thus what Hitchens says is still as accurate as it was when he wrote those words.

So here we are, Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2021. The question is, will we allow it to happen again? The late Iris Chang, who documented the Rape Of Nanking noted: “to forget a holocaust is to kill twice.” Sadly, I believe that without a sea change in public opinion and knowledge about the Holocaust, genocide, and anti-semitism we will see it happen again. The attack on the Capitol was just a foretaste of what they would do if they even succeed in taking power.

But will we allow it to happen again? I would hope not, but I have to say that human nature and the course of events is leading me to believe that it will happen again, maybe even in our lifetime.

That may be difficult to accept, but it is reality. What is the alternative to telling the truth? Except to perpetuate a lie, except to take the side of the perpetrators, and those who would do the same today. That includes many of former President Trump’s most loyal supporters, Evangelical Christians who while outwardly allying with Israel, only do so in that their interpretation of Biblical prophecy might be fulfilled. That interpretation is that Christians will be raptured from the earth, and during a seven year Great Tribulation the Anti-Christ will conquer his foes and that in the end over two-thirds of all Jews will be killed, while the surviving Jews convert to follow Christ. Evangelical Christianity’s beliefs about Israel are not out of love or concern for Jews, the nation of Israel, but to use them to promote their own political and theological agendas. If I was a Jew of any kind I would reject any of their offers.

Honestly, I cannot deem such politicized and racist theology to be Christian, or respectful and considerate of the elder brother of the Christian faith, Judaism, without which Christianity wouldn’t exist. Let me repeat that. Without Judaism Christianity would not exist, and the treatment of the Jews by the Christian Church has been shameful for the majority of its existence. I say that as a Christian.

In the 1930s and 1940s the Nazis created the euphemism the Jewish Question in order to remove the aspect of humanity from their policy. It wasn’t about human beings, it was about people that they considered sub-human minority that they were able to demonize to expedite their elimination. Hitchens wrote:

“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.”

Thus, once one labels the Jews, or for that matter any other despised minority a question, or a problem, we place ourselves on the path to to Genocide. But the Trump administration and his followers did that since 2015 regarding Mexicans and other Hispanics, Arabs, Haitians, Sub-Saharan Africans, and too many others. Many died, women were forcibly sterilized by physicians employed or contracted by the our Border and Emigration departments.

That is why I cannot be silent. I have to proclaim the words of Ellie Wiesel:

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Silence it no longer an option, and to again quote Wiesel: “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”

We must bear witness, for if we do not it will happen again. Humanity is the one constant in history, and there are no exceptions once one begins down the path to labeling the fate of races, nations, and peoples a question or a problem which they can resolve with a solution, the more comprehensive, total, or final, the better. There are certainly plenty of people, including Trump’s closest advisors who would make draconian laws in order to enable the government to commit genocide.

Historian Yehuda Bauer wrote:

“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.”

In the wake of an number of situations that I have seen and have watched in morbid fascination be debated on my Facebook, and Twitter timelines, as well a potential Holocaust Denier who commented on my blog a year ago, I realize that with the prevailing attitudes being stoked by men like former President Trump, his media supporters, and sadly, far too many Conservative Christians, that a Holocaust not unlike Hitler’s will quite probably happen again, and the Jews, followed by the Trump Cult’s  liberal political opponents, American Blacks, Muslims, Mexican and Central American immigrants and refugees and a multitude of others find themselves the targets of first political and economic isolation followed by legal or extralegal means of political persecution, imprisonment, and extermination. Just read and listen to what members of the GOP, political pundits, and yes right wing political preachers say, preach, or write.

I will fight it, butI have no doubt of the power, passion, and petulance of people consumed by race hatred under the guise of patriotism. They are going to undercut any Constitutional liberties of their opponents and will misused the Constitution, our laws, or even Christian theology to bring on another Holocaust.

27 January is important, but the work of preventing even worse still remains. There are no “good Nazis or White Supremacists” today. I will be damned if I do not fight them by any means fair or unfair. I will identify them, show their faces and make them defend themselves and their beliefs in public, because they are indefensible. Such people should be publicly identified and shamed. If they commit crimes as they did on 6 January they should be prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law, and I include the former President, the Senators, and Representatives, state office holders, military personnel active, reserve, and retired, and law enforcement officers who aided and abetted that assault on our country, democracy, and Constitution. They are insurrectionists who are guilty of inciting sedition and rebellion against the United States, who are still intent on their revolution to overturn our government, a valid election, and our Constitution. They are worse than the Confederate rebels, they are no different than the Nazis, and any American of any political party, religious affiliation, or race should disavow them and oppose them at every opportunity.

This is a time to stand against these criminals masquerading as Senators and Congressmen, and oppose their attempts to destroy the American experiment for an authoritarian, fascist, racist, and theocratic dictatorship which will certainly bring forth another Holocaust, and yes, Jews will be the primary target before anyone else.

I do battle with Holocaust deniers and Neo-Nazis on an almost daily basis. Some have threatened my life and that of my family for over a decade and most of them also call themselves Christians. That I cannot allow to go unrevealed and I will expose them for who and what they are. I will not resort to violence, but if need be I will defend myself with whatever means necessary as I will my Jewish friends and anyone else’s whose lives are threatened by the current Neo-Nazi and White  Supremacist and others committed to perpetuating the lies and violence of America’s leading Fascist, former President Donald John Trump.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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“ The principle of criminal law in every civilized society has this in common: Any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime, any person who is an accessory to the crime — is guilty.” A Lesson from Judgment at Nuremberg Applicable to Trump and his Defenders


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Tonight I have just a short thought in light of the growing number of elected Republicans insisting that former President Trump not be tried for the charge of Incitement to Insurrection in which a mob of tens of thousands of his followers assaulted the United States Capitol Building which resulted in the murder of a Capitol Police Officer the wounding of two score more, and the attempted assassinations of Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocosio-Cortez, and as many Senators or Representatives they could, with the likely inside help of members of the House, Senate and Capitol Police Officers.

Senators Marco Rubio, John Cronyn, Rand Paul, and Tom Cotton  were among at least a half a dozen GOP Senators to oppose an impeachment trial. Their opposition speaks volumes about their lack of character, honor, integrity, or respect for the Constitution and law. This is despite the fact that even Senator Mitch McConnell stated that the actions of the President were clearly impeachable offenses. So far hundreds have been arrested or charged for their part in the assault but none of the people who stoked the fires of their anger for months or incited the attack 6 January has yet to be charged despite they are all were recorded on video, spoke on the House and Senate floor, in speeches, media and Twitter, Facebook, Parlor and a host of other platforms.

Since it is late I am going to end with one of my favorites monologues from the film Judgement at Nuremberg. In it Spencer Tracy sitting in judgement of Nazi Judges made these comments, which I think are rather pertinent to the men and women who incited the insurrection but never took a physical part in it.

You see in Nazi Germany there were many men who ever killed a Jew or political opponent, participated in killing the physically and mentally disabled in the T4 Euthanasia program, or the forced sterilization of such people. But nonetheless their words, speeches, and court judgements contributed to murder and genocide on a scale never seen before or since.

But there is no moral difference between those who assaulted the Capitol with the intent of overthrowing the Constitution and Republic, killing their opponents, those who incited them including former President Trump, Congressman Mo Brooks, Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr., and others cheered them on, the former President even saying that he would be there with them. However, unlike Hitler how actually led his stormtroopers in the Bier Hall Putsch until they were met by a company of Munich Police who stood their ground at Odeonsplatz, Trump went to a tent with his family to watch the attack rather than lead it. 

But, Donald Trump, Cadet Bones Spurs who dodged the draft five times would never put himself in any physical danger to support the people he sent into battle to support his illegal, unconstitutional, and used seditious acts to overthrow the government and remain in power, is now being defended by Senators who are more afraid of his cult than they are courageous enough to risk Trump and the cult’s fury by being honest and forthright.

In Justice at Nuremberg, Spencer Tracy’s character Judge Dan Haygood made the following statement regarding the Judges who sentenced people to sterilization, euthanasia, or imprisonment for their political, religious or social standing. Haygood spoke words that should send chills down the spines of Trump and his defenders today:

“The trial conducted before this Tribunal began over eight months ago. The record of evidence is more than ten thousand pages long, and final arguments of counsel have been concluded.

Simple murders and atrocities do not constitute the gravamen of the charges in this indictment. Rather, the charge is that of conscious participation in a nationwide, government organized system of cruelty and injustice in violation of every moral and legal principle known to all civilized nations. The Tribunal has carefully studied the record and found therein abundant evidence to support beyond a reasonable doubt the charges against these defendants.

Herr Rolfe, in his very skillful defense, has asserted that there are others who must share the ultimate responsibility for what happened here in Germany. There is truth in this. The real complaining party at the bar in this courtroom is civilization. But the Tribunal does say that the men in the dock are responsible for their actions, men who sat in black robes in judgment on other men, men who took part in the enactment of laws and decrees, the purpose of which was the extermination of humans beings, men who in executive positions actively participated in the enforcement of these laws — illegal even under German law. The principle of criminal law in every civilized society has this in common: Any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime, any person who is an accessory to the crime — is guilty.

Herr Rolfe further asserts that the defendant, Janning, was an extraordinary jurist and acted in what he thought was the best interest of this country. There is truth in this also. Janning, to be sure, is a tragic figure. We believe he loathed the evil he did. But compassion for the present torture of his soul must not beget forgetfulness of the torture and the death of millions by the Government of which he was a part. Janning’s record and his fate illuminate the most shattering truth that has emerged from this trial: If he and all of the other defendants had been degraded perverts, if all of the leaders of the Third Reich had been sadistic monsters and maniacs, then these events would have no more moral significance than an earthquake, or any other natural catastrophe. But this trial has shown that under a national crisis, ordinary — even able and extraordinary — men can delude themselves into the commission of crimes so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination. No one who has sat at through trial can ever forget them: men sterilized because of political belief; a mockery made of friendship and faith; the murder of children. How easily it can happen.

There are those in our own country too who today speak of the “protection of country” — of “survival.” A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient — to look the other way.

Well, the answer to that is “survival as what?” A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult!

Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.”

That my friends is what this boils down to, the simple matter of the law being supreme and no one, no matter how high their position is above it. The question is what do we stand for today? The Republican defenders of Trump have made their case clear. The former President and his actions are above the law and they will dishonor themselves by doing all in their power to prevent his trial or acquit him. The fact is they are co-conspirators in an attempt to overthrow our Republic, its Constitution, and who over a process of four years did all that they could to bulldoze the Constitutional guardrails that prevented the tyranny that our founders believed could happen if a man like Trump ever became President. They too through the processes of the Constitution governing the behavior or Senators and Representatives should be censured and removed from office by their respective houses.

That is all for now. I have a busy day that begins early tomorrow. So until next time.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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“There are only two sides to the question. Every man must be for the United States or against it. There can be no neutrals in this war, only patriots – or traitors” The Words of Stephen A. Douglas and Padre Steve for Today

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Sorry I have not written in the past few days but I’ve been trying to sort out all that is going on in our nation between the relentless Coronavirus 19 Pandemic and the threat to our Constitution and Republic posed by the domestic terrorists, so-called militias, White Nationalists, Neo-Nazis, fascist authoritarians, Conspiracy theorists, QAnon thugs, and Christian theocrats dedicated to the person of Donald Trump. Their assault on the Capitol, Congress, and Vice President Pence should have exposed Trump and these thugs to his anyone and the criminal he is. However, according to an AP poll some 80% of Republicans and identified Trump supporters refused to admit that he was responsible in any way for that terrorist assault that he organized and cheered before, during and after it.

Now instead of a normal celebratory inauguration the Capitol is locked down with about 25,000 National Guard troops and countless Federal police from a multitude of Federal Law Enforcement agencies. Meanwhile around the country similar precautions are being taken due to the FBI assessment of potential violence of these violent Trump Cultist groups attacking Statehouses, Governors mansions, and other government offices, Federal, State and local. I personally expect them to make attempts to seize military weapons and equipment from National Guard armories as well as Army and Marine Reserve Centers not located on actual military bases.

We are not in a good situation. We face raging pandemic coupled with the very real threats of declared enemies, weakened alliances, a crumbling economy, and a tremendously unstable and narcissistic sociopath President capable of unleashing any destructive and dishonorable actions in his last few days in office cannot be underestimated.

Thankfully nothing happened over the weekend outside of small protests by armed protestors in a number of state capitols. That doesn’t mean that there have not been upticks in chatter about possible attacks, but it is possible that the response of the FBI in identifying and arresting the terrorists who attacked the Capitol and killed and wounded Capitol and Metro Police, the investigations by Congress, the Capitol Police, and FBI into the real possibility that Republican members of Congress, staffers, and members of the Capitol Police might have aided the attack.

Likewise the strong the stand of senior military commanders ad the deployment of thousands of National Guard troops and units, 25,000 in Washington D.C. alone and thousands in State Capitols might have acted as a major deterrent despite the threats of some of the terrorists to begin another Civil War. They banners they flew in their attack on the Capitol showed just that. They are not conservatives even though many call themselves Republicans. The are anti-U.S. Government radical extremists who hate the Constitution, its limits on Presidential power who are willing to kill to overthrow the government. That is demonstrated by history.

They are anti-United States Government, so long as they hold the Presidency, and absolutely committed to overthrowing it if they don’t hold it. These traitors bet their all on Donald Trump to be their Führer and savior. But Trump failed. He sent them into an attack and the abandoned them. So long as they think he has a minute chance they still might storm the Capitol Wednesday and attack soft targets in other states. But with just a few exceptions over the weekend they remained curiously silent, as if waiting for another order to attack.

That being said given the opportunity or a word from Trump they might might make another attempt before he leaves Washington or to cause death and destruction at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. That too is a real possibility given the situation, there are some who have gone so far down the road of sedition and treason that they cannot turn back. Their only recourse is violence now, or violence later once they think they have a better opportunity.

I think that there is the possibility of both, but their failed Coup D’tat encouraged  by Trump and his surrogates for weeks failed and  more and more are being caught up charged, jailed and paraded before the world to see might tamper more large assaults. The more dangerous threats now are against individuals they identify as their enemies or raids or attacks on soft government targets, be the Federal, State, or local. That would include National Guard Armories and Army, Marine, or Navy Reserve Centers not located on an actual military base but those in the community where they might get inside help to seize military weapons. An up-armored HUMMV was stolen from a National Guard armory in Bell California over the weekend. Most of these armories or reserve centers have very few personnel on duty on non drill days, and an insider could facilitate the theft of weapons and vehicles that would facilitate further large or small scale attacks.

After Biden takes office I am more concerned about small terrorist cells or individuals making assassination attempts, kidnappings, and other violence against individuals or specific targets they believe to be vulnerable and which would send a statement. Terrorists of every kind resort to such tactics when defeated at the ballot box or military force. Our own history or Reconstruction and it’s subsequent defeat by Klansmen and other racist paramilitaries used such violence as to ensure that President Rutherford Hayes ended Reconstruction and threw newly freed and no enfranchised blacks to the wolves not only in the South but the entire country. After the failed Kapp Putsch and Bier Hall Putsch German right wing terrorists used individual assassination tactics throughout the 1920s instead of insurrection.

Like I said at the beginning of this article I apologize for not posting sooner. Even though I started this article days ago I had to wait complete it.

As always I have been getting threatened and harassed by Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and Christian Taliban and dealing with them and real life has been exhausting and I just didn’t have the energy to complete it.

Likewise, I put out a post on my Facebook page that if I found out that any member of my family or friends took part in or supported the attack on the Capitol that I would turn them in. Shortly after a cousin who I have sparred with many times because of his attacks on me his theocratic fascist beliefs, and unremitting support of Trump dropped and blocked me from his Facebook account.

I cannot prove it yet, but I believe that he might have be a conspirator or participant in this plot to overthrow the government. I plan on contacting the Norfolk FBI field office to let them know of my suspicions. I have his contact info and a recent photo to help the in their investigation. If he wasn’t involved I would be surprised.

Some would same that family ties should be stronger, but for me loyalty to the country, Constitution, and our democratic norms matter more. I cannot sit by and allow the Union to be overthrown by seditious traitors, regardless of the are family or friends. The American Civil War pitted brother against brother and so such threats against our Union pit me against anyone who threatens it.

I can only echo the words of Senator Stephen A. Douglas after he lost the 1860 Presidential election to Abraham Lincoln because his former Southern Democrat friends decided to splinter the party and torpedo his Presidential campaign by supporting a second Democratic ticket headed by James Buchanan’s Vice President and former Kentucky Senator John C. Breckinridge. Douglas, knowing he lost toured the South to try to convince Southern Democrats not to rebel or support secession. For doing so he was condemned. When the Confederates fired on Fort Sumpter, Douglas who had spent most of his political career brokering compromise said:

“There are only two sides to the question. Every man must be for the United States or against it. There can be no neutrals in this war, only patriots – or traitors”

Douglas, a man who had spent his entire career to further compromise with men who refused to do so finally recognized that the secessionist traitors were just that, and that there was not way to describe them as anything else. He was absolutely correct. Those who assault our Capitol, kill and injure police officers defending it, and calling themselves “Patriots” are not Patriots or freedom fighters. They are domestic terrorists, insurrectionists, and enemies of everything our founders believed was right and true. Honestly, I don’t care if the are blood relatives or long time friends. Anyone who attempts to overthrow this Union is my enemy. I did not spent nearly forty years in uniform swearing my sacred Oath to the Constitution not to tolerate or resist attempts by anyone regardless of their relationship to me to overthrow that Union and Constitution. I might be retired now, but I will remain faithful t my oath, and if any group ever launches an insurrection against the United States I will volunteer to my new State, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Federal Government to serve to defeat it, not as a Chaplain but as a line officer in any component of the State or Federal military who will accept my service. With my experience as a company commander, battalion, group and brigade staff office before I was ever a minister, and my advanced military education I could command a company, battalion, or regiment of volunteers willing to fight for the Union.

I am angered by the insurgents and terrorists who turned their backs on the Constitution and our country to support the Coup by Trump and his Cult to overthrow it on 6 January. They are traitors. If anyone I know or are related to or served alongside supports their attempted overthrow of of our Republic and Constitution, they are my enemy. There is no room for compromise. There are only two sides now.

So until Tuesday I wish you the best. I have to finish an article for the German newspaper Die Zeit about pastoral for the dying in mass casualty and pandemic events where combat triage, that is treating those most capable of surviving first and giving palliative care to those who cannot. The. I have to finish my photograph credit section of my book Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory! Racism, Religion, Ideology and Politics in the Civil War Era and the or Continuing Importance, to send to the publisher and my agent by Wednesday.

I have more work to do after that, but I won’t stop writing or telling the truth. I know too much about these people to from previous associations with them and listening to their propaganda three to nine ours a day before I went to Iraq. I feel for it from the time I was a teenager and while never an extremist by any means I never spoke up against the lies and conspiracy theories until I came back from Iraq in 2008 to find out that most of the GOP, and other supposed conservatives neither cared about the international law that we as a nation established against war crimes at Nuremberg, the country or people of Iraq, or the military personnel sent to either conquer, subjugate, or occupy that unfortunate country. By May of 2008 I knew the GOP war party had betrayed all of us. They bankrupted the nation, abandoned the troops, and the people of Iraq who initially welcomed us as liberators only to find that we were not liberators but another in a long series of occupiers, from the Assyrians, to the Persians, to the Greeks, the Sunni forces of Mohammed, the British and finally us. I saw the suffering there, I met our friends and allies, and I saw the destruction that we did to that country. If we were held to the standards of the Nuremberg trials our nations leaders would have easily been convicted of the crimes that we charged convicted, and either jailed or executed the Nazis for their crimes. With the exception of committing genocide our leaders and military forces could have been convicted of three of the four counts we convicted the Nazis.

So now, some 57 hours before Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take their oaths as President and Vice President and former President Trump holds some kind of seditious rally when he trundles down the steps of Air Force One for the last time, without any military honors as he departs Washington D.C. he doesn’t deserve any honors of any kind. He has again been impeached and this time he may well be convicted. Likewise, he is going to face a multitude of State and Federal charges. I hope that he is put in the dock and convicted of every one of them. He needs to spend the rest of his natural life in prison as a traitor to the United States, as do many of his violent seditious followers.

So, until Tuesday, peace, be safe, and turn in anyone suspected of attempting to overthrow our Republic, Constitution, or those who want to do harm to our validly elected leaders.

Again I apologize for my delay in writing.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Resist the Continuing Threat of Terrorist Insurrection by President Trump and His Cult


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am deciding to repeat and amplify the warning of the FBI that Trump’s violent cult of supporters including heavily armed illegal militia groups, the Proud Boys, other White Supremacist groups including Klansmen, Neo-Confederates, Neo-Nazis, Racist Skinheads, Militant Christian Theocrats, QAnon Conspiracy Theorists, and a host of other militant groups and individuals. Members of these groups include elected members of the Senate and Congress, elected members of various state legislatures, law enforcement officers, and most terrifying for me active and retired military officers, and active, reserve, former, or retired military enlisted personnel.

The FBI field office in Norfolk Virginia alerted law enforcement across the nation that they expected massive armed protests and violence against the Captitol and Congress on 6 January, but their warnings went ignored.

Now the FBI is issuing warning for more armed “protests” in Washington D.C., but let’s cut to the chase and call them what they really are, sedition and rebellion. The FBI has predicted a massive armed “protest” in Washington D.C. for which on 20 January for which as many as 15,000 National Guard personnel will deployed in addition to thousands of Metro Police, Park Police, Capitol Police, Secret Service, U.S. Marshalls, U.S. Coast Guard personnel, and other Homeland Security personnel.

That is just in Washington D.C. However, the threat the FBI warns us about is bigger than just what might happen on January 20th on Inauguration Day. They have warned that threat and attacks against all State Capitols, statehouses, Federal and State offices across the country beginning on January 16th, although in my considered estimation some attacks might begin before that.

I fully expect that the terrorists will attempt to seize National Guard armories and Army or Marine Corps Reserve Centers that are not on actual military bases in order to steal large numbers of M-4 and M-16 automatic rifles, Squad Assault Weapons (SAWs), Sniper rifles, M-240 series and .50 caliber machine guns and probably up-armored HUMMVS and any any other vehicles they can commandeer.  Likewise the could get large numbers of Kevlar helmets and military grade body armor, and even uniforms that could be used to deceive defenders into thinking they were actual Guard units.

To do so they will probably have inside help. Based on the numbers of police and military personnel who participated in the 6 January Coup attempt I imagine that they won’t have a difficult time finding at least a few willing Guardsmen or Reservists to help them. If they cannot get their cooperation they will capture, threaten, and maybe torture uncooperative personnel to try to get security codes or keys into the arms rooms and motor pools. The good thing is that very little ammunition is kept in the armories and ammunition for tanks or artillery pieces, even mortars are kept in ammunition depots on actual bases. However, the thought of these terrorists getting their hands on hundreds or even thousands of weapons for which ammunition is readily available on the commercial market is frightening, not to mention gaining control of vehicles resistent to most small arms carried by law enforcement, or even the M-4s and M-16s carried by Guardsmen. I hope that the Guard deploys Light Armored Vehicles armed with the 20mm and 30mm bushmaster rapid fire cannons to take out any commandeered up armored vehicles or even for that matter M-113 series Armored Personnel Carriers that could be stolen.

What I am saying is not far-fetched based on the facts. These people want to overthrow the government to keep Trump in office, and they have friends, allies and co-conspirators in most law enforcement agencies and sadly in the military.

I implore you not to dismiss my argument because I am a Priest. I am also a historian with an advanced degree. I am former Platoon leader, Company Executive Officer, and Company Commander in Cold War Germany. I am a school trained Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Defense Officer. I also served as brigade, group, and battalion staff officer before I ever became a Chaplain. I spent almost 40 years in the military including in combat.

Likewise I am a graduate of the Marine Command and Staff College, the Joint and Combined Warfighting School, and the Joint Forces Staff College Homeland Security Planners Course. My bachelors and masters level history focused on the social, political, and military dynamics at play in the Weimar Republic which Hitler capitalized on when he seized complete power following his appointment a Chancellor on 30 January 1933. I am a student of the relationship between the German military and Police before and after the Nazi takeover, the war crimes they participated, Holocaust and the involvement of almost every German government agency in it, as well as the bankers, businessmen, Churches and doctors, not only in Germany but the help given by collaborators in countries they conquered.

Thanks to Dr. Helmut Haeussler, my primary Professor at California State University Northridge who served throughout the Nuremberg Trials as an interrogator and interpreter, I came to know more about the Nazi Crimes against humanity, the Holocaust, the relationships of German civilian and military agencies with the Nazis and the problem of Holocaust Denial.

So, that being said I hate being pigeonholed as just another ignorant Bible wanking clergyman.  Besides I have never wanked my Bible, I am sure it might be a sin. But I hate to think of all those Right Wing preachers who wank their Bibles in public or in the darkness of their dimply lit studies, or bedrooms. The thought of it turns my stomach, especially if they are wanking to the Song of Solomon. King Solomon was supposedly the wisest ass who ever lived. He had so many wives and concubines , over 300, that he couldn’t keep up his Libido up all the time, and Viagra wasn’t out yet, so in order to catch his breath had to take some time to write about them. His literary allusions to love making in that tiny book of love poems could even raise President Trump’s penis from the dead, since everything he touches dies.

There has to be a law against wanking on the Bible somewhere, think of the honor and decency of the Sacred Scriptures that don’t want to be wanked. At least the Jews and Muslims have rules against wanking the Talmud and Koran.

But I digress, where was I? Since I retired and don’t yet have a job it is hard to tell what day it is. Never mind, I remembered. It was terrorism, sedition, revolt and the attempted violent overthrow of the United States by Trump’s cultist Nazi Wankers which which angers me a great deal and doesn’t titillate me in the least.

These seditionists and traitors need to be exposed, fought and defeated. Their plans have to be disrupted before they can even be set in motion. Their tentacles extend into the heart of Federal, State, and Local governments, and deep into law enforcement and even the military.

if you wonder how that happened It is the result of systematic propaganda that has been going on since we lost Vietnam, and that was not because of domestic protest, but because four Presidential Administrations decided that we needed to fight a war that we could not win militarily unless we were willing to completely mobilize the nation and all of its resources to do it. None would. Eisenhower who decided to take over the French debacle in Indochina, Kennedy who expanded it, Johnson who deepened our involvement until he realized it could not be won in the process crippling his plans for the Great Society.

Johnson was deceived by his military Chief’s and Defense Secretary into thinking that we could win militarily in Vietnam. See the late Neil Sheehan’s book A Great and Shining Lie, and General H.R. McMaster’s book “Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam.” Maybe they read the French journalist Bernard Fall’s books “Hell in a Very Small Place” and “Street Without Joy.” 

The answer in Vietnam wasn’t military, it was societal, completely reforming the South Vietnamese government because most of its people, even if they feared the Communists, feared their corrupt government far worse. Actual reformers in the Vietnamese government, military or police never held positions of influence, and were prevented from doing so.

During his presidential campaign Nixon torpedoed Johnson’s peace initiative in 1968. Nixon promised “peace with honor” and then extended the war into Cambodia and sold out the South Vietnamese government during the Paris peace talks brokered by Henry Kissinger. If you take out those killed during the Test Offensive and it’s aftermath in 1968, those killed after Nixon took office exceeded those killed from 1954 to 1967.

But afterward conservatives spread the lie of the stab in the back blaming those who opposed or protested the war at home for our defeat. It was exactly what German Nationalists did after the First World War. It was a lie that we are still saddled with today by the Republican Party, and the lie that continues to motivate veterans, especially Christians to destroy the very system of government that offers the most protections for them of any country in the world. Our system isn’t perfect by any means, but those who attempt to overthrow it by force and violence are either completely insane or criminally stupid and evil. Personally my money is on criminally stupid and evil.

This is a very dangerous moment in our nation’s history and some veterans and current military members are acting under the delusions of decades of propaganda dating back to Vietnam.

This seditious rebellion is being led by the President of the United States and many elected Republican leaders at the local, state, and federal level assisted by law enforcement, veterans, and sadly currently active and reserve military personnel.

Please do not dismiss what I say. I know many people who feel exactly like these terrorist insurgents. Sadly they are not bad people, but they tend to be men and women who have limited education, especially in history, philosophy, American government, and ethics who believe the unceasing bombardment of right wing politicians, pundits, and especially preachers more motivated by political and monetary power than they are in the tenants of their faith. I understand that because from about 1990 until 2008 I listened to Limbaugh, then Hannity, Fox News and others hours on end every day except when deployed or traveling to support the Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, Airmen, and other Federal officials assigned in harms way.

But when I returned from Iraq having seen what I had seen, listened to the news coverage of the war, and listened to politicians that I once respected I realized the big lie that I had bought since I was in Junior High School was bigger than I could have imagined. I believed it for almost thirty years. I ignored the evidence that the politicians whomI had voted for were waging war that under the conditions of the Nuremberg Trials were criminal and many of our actions could be classified as war crimes. My problem was that I ignored my education and my knowledge about propaganda and war crimes. Beyond that I was willing to call the opponents of our criminal war against Iraq traitors, communists, and worse. They were right and I was wrong and it took seeing the destruction and getting to know Iraqis up close and personal to realize it, but I digress.

Over the next few days and weeks our nation will endure a crisis that could bring about the fall of all of our founder’s dreams, hopes and aspirations for Liberty that would be ever increasing and available for all Americans and for people around the world. They warned of authoritarians and religious extremists trying to impose religious and ideological tests for citizenship and political rights.

That liberty is what we must fight for today, even of its opponents insist on violence and armed confrontation. If the opponents of liberty bent on overthrowing the Constitution, the Republic and a legal election resort to violence, then they deserve whatever consequences that flow from that, even their deaths. They won’t be martyrs they will be dead criminal terrorists, worthy of no honor, dignity, or respect. If they die in the battle they provoke, their ashes should be scattered over a toxic waste dump with no memorial to them. Those who survive should have Swastika’s carved into their foreheads to show exactly what they are.

My friends this is the moment of truth. Will we remain a nation devoted to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble of the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, the Four Freedoms, and Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” and “I have been to the Mountain speeches, or will we become the country of John C. Calhoun, Jefferson Davis, Benjamine Tillman, Strom Thurmond, Bull Connor, Charles Lindberg and the countless others who fought against liberty and espoused racist, fascist and authoritarian government.

President Trump and his cultist followers are the enemy regardless of who they are, and if more violence breaks out they alone are responsible and if they die in the attempt to overthrow the government, the Constitution and Republic they will deserve it.

So until the next time, be ready to resist even to the death. This is no simple political disagreement where compromise is possible. These people will not compromise. As Colonel Strong Vincent, who was mortally wounded  on Little Round Top on the Second day of the Battle of Gettysburg wrote after Chancellorsville:

“We must fight them more vindictively, or we shall be foiled at every step.  We must desolate the country as we pass through it, and not leave a trace of a doubtful friend or foe behind us; make them believe that we are in earnest, terribly in earnest; that to break this band in twain is monstrous and impossible; that the life of every man, yea, of every weak woman or child in the entire South, is of no value whatever compared with the integrity of the Union.”

His subordinate Colonel Joshua Chamberlain condemned those in the North who supported the Rebels during and after the war. Before he entered the Army he wrote:

“We have this war upon is & we want to stop it. It has cost us already too much precious blood. It has carried stagnation, starvation & grief in to too many villages of our fair land – brought death to too many noble hearts that we could ill afford to lose. But the only way to stop this war, is first to show that we are strongest…I feel that we are fighting for our country – for our flag- not as so many Stars and Stripes, but as the emblem of a good &  powerful nation – fighting to settle the question whether we are a nation or a basket of chips. Whether we shall leave our children the country we have inherited – or leave them without a country – without a name – without a citizenship among the great nations of the earth – take the chief city of the rebels. They will have no respect for us unless we whip them & and I say it in all earnestness….” 

That is what we face in the next week. Are we willing to fight for our Nation’s highest laws, values and ideals; or will we surrender to tyranny. There are times that the defense of the nation depends on being willing to fight for it to the death, even against fellow citizens who have abandoned and rejected those principles.

So until tomorrow or the next day I wish you health and safety, but be prepared to resist the terrorists. I am. My continuing Oath to the Constitution and Republic demands it.

Hope for the best but expect and prepare for the worst. If we are not ready to fight for our Constitution and Republic then we will lose it. That is a fact. It is undeniable and the threat remains, and our enemies around the world including Putin’s Soviet, Communist China, Iran, North Korea, ISIS, Al Qaida, and others rejoice. They want nothing more than the collapse of our nation being perpetrated by President Trump and his violent cult.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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“Any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime, any person who is an accessory to the crime — is guilty.” Bring Justice to Trump and all Connected with his Coup

 

 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It is time for justice in the matter of America’s most lawless, amoral, and savage President. For years I have warned about him. For years I was told that I was overreacting, being an alarmist or being histrionic. And for years I have been threatened even with death by his cultists, as well as White Nationalists and Neo-Nazis, not that there is that much difference between them. I have had his cultists in a Navy Chapel try to have me tried by Court Martial for preaching the Gospel, straight out of the Bible and undisputed Christian teaching.

I would like to say that my heart was big enough that I had grace enough to love and forgive them. Honestly, I did try but was met with rejection and further threats. Now I have to quote the Psalmist who wrote in Psalm 139:22 who wrote:

“I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.”

There was a time I could have not said that, or even quoted it out of fear of losing any sense of grace, mercy or humanity. I have not lost those, but Imam angry and I cry out for justice as did the prophets of the Old Testament, especially when the people committing and supporting the acts or terror are supposedly Christians. Their flags and banners were on prominent display throughout the assault. They were among the people shouting “hang Pence!” 

Many of them as well as Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists and others have attacked me personally and threatened me with death for a decade.  They attack my country and the Constitution for 40 years I swore to defend against all enemies foreign and domestic. They are domestic terrorists and enemies of our Republic, it’s Constitution and form of government and they have become my personal enemies.

Our system is not perfect and can be improved. Many of our elected officials use their offices for their political power and financial gain. But we have dealt with such issues since our founding. The answer is the ballot box and reforming the system. Many people have ideas of how to do that. I don’t presume to have the answer, but the answer is not mob violence committed by radical terrorist insurgents.

Yet, President Trump, Senators Mo Brooks, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, over 140 members of the House and Senate, members of the President’s family, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, at least 13 state representatives, and god knows how many more traitors attempted to overthrow our Republic and Constitution, endorsing their violent overthrow. That my friends fits the definition of sedition, and to being accessories to a terrorist attack and murder of a police officer in the performance of his duties. Do the math.

In the classic film about the Nuremberg Judges Trial, Judgement at Nuremberg, Spencer Tracy, playing Judge Dan Haygood made this comment in the declaration of guilt concerning the Nazi Judges in the trial: The principle of criminal law in every civilized society has this in common: Any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime, any person who is an accessory to the crime — is guilty.”

In the context of our time this includes Trump, his son Donald Jr., Rudy Giuliani, Mo Brooks, Lin Wood, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and over 140 other members of the Republican House and Senate. They all invested themselves in this attack which resulted in multiple deaths and injuries. The people who made the actual attack included elected officials, law enforcement personnel, as well as former or active military personnel. Every single one of them swore an oath to the Constitution which they not only broke, but trampled.  One cannot forget what Trump said on March 14th of 2020:

“I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad,”

Trump’s words were an open declaration of war on our people and political system. He spoke the words every true tyrant believes, and last week he acted on it as part of the Götterdämmerung of his final days, and his cult like followers followed his orders to the letter and will do so again.

These terrorists aided and abetted by the President Trump and many others  successfully attacked the largest symbol of our nation’s democracy, something nobody has done since the British burned it in 1814 during the War of 1812. Even the Confederate Army during the Civil War could not seize or damage it.

These traitors attacked the Capitol building with the intent of killing Vice President Pence, Leader McConnell, Senator Schumer, and Speaker Pelosi, not to mention others. The insurgents and terrorists included elected political officials, law enforcement officers from various states, and former or retired members of the military. They not only seized the Capitol after being exhorted by Trump, his son Donald Jr., Rudy Giuliani, and Mo Brooks to name a few, but planned to arrest and kill Vice President Pence, Majority Leader McConnell, Senator Schumer, and Speaker Pelosi. They even erected a gallows outside the Capitol. this was no spontaneous demonstration, it was a coordinated attack against our democracy for which the perpetrators deserve no forgiveness or mercy.

Even now these terrorists do not care about the lives that were lost, even those of their supporters. Those deluded individuals will probably be canonized like Horst Wesel, the Nazi thug killed in a street battle with German Communists. Likewise they murdered a Capitol Police Officer, who actually was a Trump supporter. However, regardless of his political beliefs he took his duty seriously enough to die in the pursuit of his duties. He is dead because people who defiantly claim to support police killed him just as they promised they would when they issues their call to arms weeks ago, they promised to “kill cops and security guards.” 

You see, to me someone’s political beliefs do not define them when they obey their oath and die in pursuit of their duty, in his case, defending the Senators, Congressmen, staff members, and the Vice President. You see so long as men and women obey their oaths and discharge their duties in the manner prescribed I don’t care what their political beliefs happen to be. Loyalty to the Constitution and country are more important in the long run than one’s particular political beliefs. The officer died in the line of duty, while many of his attackers and their propagandist enablers are free right now, including the President, Senators, and Congressmen who urged on this violence. Those who died in the attack from whatever cause brought on their deaths. The officer did not deserve to die, but his killers and their supporters do deserve to die for their crimes.

So, let us have the courage call these people from President Trump on down to the lowest of the thugs who attacked the Capitol what they are, terrorists, criminals, and insurrectionists. They are the most reprehensible form of humanity to exist. If they had been Frenchmen in 1940, they would have cheered the Nazi conquest of France and collaborated with the Nazis. As General Weygand the last commander of the French Army before France’s defeat in 1940 hated the French Republic and its democracy stated: “I didn’t get the Boches, but I got the regime.” No military commander could ever make such a treasonous comment. But this is exactly how Trump’s most bloodthirsty supporters think, it is who they are. They have no loyalty to the United States, their only loyalty is to Trump and as such nothing they do is illegal, as many rank and file Nazis proclaimed “Der Führerbefhle, wir folgen.” Or in English, “The Leader commands, we follow.”

These people honestly believe that Trump is above the law and those no matter what they do is legal. This is why they are and will remain dangerous whether Trump is in or out of office. That is the power of a death cult.

As such all of us need to shake off the shackles the blind us into not believing that what people, even pathological liars are capable of telling the truth. Hitler did, as did Donald Trump.

Dr. Timothy Snyder wrote something in 2016 that is completely valid in our present crisis:

Even when everything comes apart around them and their leader collapses they cannot admit that he was deceiving them. At the end of the war a German soldier told Victor Klemperer that “Hitler has never lied, I believe the Fuhrer.” Snyder writes: “The final mode is misplaced faith. It involves the sort of self-deifying claims the president made when he said that “I alone can solve it” or “I am your voice.” When faith descends from heaven to earth in this way, no room remains for the small truths of our individual discernment and experience. What terrified Klemperer was the way that this transition seemed permanent. Once truth had become oracular rather than factual, evidence was irrelevant.”

Snyder also warned us in 2016:

“The mistake is to assume that rulers who came to power through institutions cannot change or destroy those very institutions—even when that is exactly what they have announced that they will do.”

Two weeks before Trump’s election in 2016 I wrote on this blog:

As I watched and listened to Donald Trump before and after the third and thankfully final debate of the 2016 Presidential election, I was struck with just how viscous, vulgar, and venomous this man is. I cannot remember anyone in American politics at the national level, Republican or Democrat, or for that matter even Whig, who ever managed to immerse himself so deeply into the amoral, unethical, and undemocratic sewer that Trump has bathed himself, the Republican Party and this nation.

Trump’s toxicity is unparalleled in American politics. Everything and everyone who has ever had anything to do with him is poisoned by his touch. Wives, business partners, contractors, employees, political advisors, and supporters have all been stained by the Mustard Gas that Trump emits on a minute to minute basis. Maybe the most stained are the Evangelical Christian church leaders who have not only endorsed and defended Trump, but  who positively described his character as Christian and said nothing about Trump’s words and actions, which if an opponent had uttered, or had been accused, they would have excoriated with a particularly “Christian” self-righteousness.  Their actions have stained the witness of the church for at least the next generation and it is no wonder that young people are fleeing the church. I specifically use the imagery of Mustard Gas, not just because of its toxicity, but because of its persistence. The battlefields of World War One France and Belgium are still contaminated by it, and the toxic residue still injures people today. 

That my friends is the poisonous and corrosive effect of Donald Trump on this country.  He is a toxic and persistent threat to everyone, even his most devout followers. Race baiting, misogynistic, narcissistic, vulgar, and ignorant, Trump spews his vile venom of conspiracy theories wrapped in fiction, and coated in lies, and buttressed with near pornograpic misogyny in every direction. He has given his supporters in the heavily armed Alt-Right, the neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and White Supremacists the boldness to come out of hiding because he has normalized their hate, something that no Western statesman or politician has done since before the verdicts at Nuremberg. 

I have long felt that Trump reminded me of Nazi leaders, but frankly most of them, while every bit as toxic as Trump were both more intelligent and were better able to cover the darkness of their amoral souls with a modicum of respectability, with the exception of one; the publisher of the infamous newspaper Der Sturmer, and Gauleiter of Nuremberg, Julius Streicher. 

Robert Jackson, the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court who served as the Chief American Prosecutor at Nuremberg referred to Streicher in his summation:

“Streicher, the venomous vulgarian, manufactured and distributed obscene racial libels which incited the populace to accept and assist the progressively savage operations of “race purification.” 

Is that not exactly what Trump has done during his seventeen month campaign to stir up race hatred against Mexicans and Arabs, not to mention Asians and Blacks? Of course it is, which is exactly why the leaders of the Alt-Right claim him as their candidate, the man who in their perverted minds has made them respectable again and ready to assume their place in Trump’s new order. Anti-Semitism and racism runs rampant in the words of his closest collaborators such as the Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon, as well as Alt-Right Neo-Nazi and KKK leaders like David Duke, Richard Spencer, Jared Taylor, and Peter Brimalow. 

My friends, what you see in Trump is what you get. Unlike Hitler and Goering, but much like Streicher, Trump has no capability of maintaining any sort of respectability. He has been stoking the fires of violence by claiming that the election is rigged and pumping up his followers for violence if he loses.”  The link to that article for doubters is here: https://padresteve.com/2016/10/21/the-venomous-vulgarian-donald-trump-and-the-alt-right/

That will be all for tonight because we do not presume what tomorrow will bring from Trump and his Cult. It is the time of every American who believes in our Constitution, democracy, and the founding principles of our Declaration of Independence, the Preamble of the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, Franklin Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech, and Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” and “I have been to the Mountain” speeches.

I spent almost forty years in uniform supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, and though now retired I will not abandon that oath. As the German General Ludwig Beck, an opponent of Hitler who died in the attempt to kill that genocidal dictator said:

“Final decisions about the nation’s existence are at stake here; history will incriminate these leaders with bloodguilt if they do not act in accordance with their specialist political knowledge and conscience. Their soldierly obedience reaches its limit when their knowledge, their conscience, and their responsibility forbid carrying out an order.” 

Every man and woman who has sworn the Oath of Office of our country, especially those in positions of authority in the military, police, homeland security, or Justice Department need to remember and do over the next few weeks.

So, until tomorrow stay safe, remain vigilant and resist all who desire to overthrow our Republic and Constitution. They cannot be allowed to run free. They need to face justice and we cannot fear them, or they will win and we cannot allow that to happen. J

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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