Remembering My Dad on Father’s Day

                                                          My Dad, Aviation Storekeeper Chief Carl Dundas in 1967 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Just a very short post today. I have felt a bit melancholy this Father’s Day weekend. I lost my dad to Alzheimer’s disease seven years ago this week, though the infernal disease had taken him from us pretty much a couple of years before. I miss him and I owe more than I can imagine to him. I owe my love of the Navy and baseball to him, as well as my sense of right and wrong and my willingness to fight for what is right, even if it pisses some people off. 

My dad spent 20 years in the Navy. He retired in 1974 from the aircraft carrier USS Hancock, CVA-19. He served ashore in Vietnam at a city called An Loc in 1972, enduring the siege of the city which lasted 80 days. 

I miss him. I know that he would be proud of me and I’m sure that he would not always agree with me. I wish he was still around so I could watch ball games with him and have a beer together once in a while. My fondest moments with dad were playing catch in my back yard, and him trying to teach me how to pitch, catch, and hit a baseball, as well as the countless baseball games that he took me to. Before his Alzheimer’s disease got so bad that we couldn’t take him anywhere I made a visit home and took him to a Stockton Ports game with my brother and his boys. I guess that had to be just before I went to Iraq because after I came home his deterioration was rather shocking and I realized then that we would never play catch again. 

There’s an Irish proverb that says “We never get over our fathers, and we’re not required to.”  I won’t get over mine. He wasn’t perfect and I know that I often frustrated him, but he loved me and he let me know it. I may end up watching the movie Field of Dreams tonight because of how it speaks to me about my dad. There is a scene at the end of the film where Ray Kinsella played by Kevin Costner talks with a younger version of his dad on that magical field. 

Ray asks his dad “Is there a heaven?” His dad, who had passed away years before replied, “Oh yeh, it’s the place where dreams come true.” Seeing his daughter playing on the porch Ray replied “Maybe this is heaven.” 

I don’t have kids, we were never able to have any. But as I write this I see my wife Judy sleeping and have my Papillons Izzy and Pierre passed out on the bed, Pierre in a little ball and Izzy stretched out with her legs and feet in the air, with Minnie under the bed, I realize that this too might be heaven. 

So in honor of my dad, Carl Dundas, and all the dads who helped make their sons dreams come true. 

Until Monday,

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

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“Everything happens fast, but nothing actually happens…” The Trap of the News Cycle

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I came back from my trip to the Congressional Baseball game with my friend Vince Miller yesterday and as we came back we pondered and discussed a number of subjects. On of those was how we as Americans allow ourselves to be sucked into the media vortex surrounding any given crisis and how for the media every story is a “breaking news story.”

As we discussed the subject the words of historian Timothy Snyder came to mind. Snyder wrote:

“Everything happens fast, but nothing actually happens. Each story on televised news is “breaking” until it is displaced by the next one. So we are hit by wave upon wave but never see the ocean.”

I used to be a cable news junkie. I had CNN, Fox. or MSNBC on constantly, especially whenever a crisis occurred. In addition  to those I would also be checking every news source that I could. My motives we good. I wanted information, but instead I got sucked into stories that has no resolution and were quickly replaced with other stories. When I read Snyder’s words in his book On Tyranny they struck me to the core, because they rang true. The adrenaline rush and hyper-vigilence that I experienced from the continuous onslaught of each breaking news crisis wore me out and left me exhausted without any resolution.

This devotion to breaking news can become as much of an addiction as drugs or alcohol and the result is not good. We become slaves of the news cycle. While I always to to remain informed I now try to do it on my terms and instead of allowing myself to be bombarded by what I see on television. Instead I try to take some time, check the veracity of stories and examine them from different printed viewpoints and wait for more information to come out. By doing this I have found that I don’t get sucked into the news cycle and still live my life, appreciating friends, family, and even my Papillon dogs.

Likewise, by taking in information in this manner I can spend some time thinking about it and examining it in the context of history, philosophy, ethics, and theology without the hype and unrelenting drumbeat of “information” put out by television news. I find this is more helpful and healthy for me than siting in front of the tube as vapid hosts ask arrogant and often as badly informed analysts or talking heads questions of which can only be answered by speculation as the speed of the news cycle does not allow for well thought out answers or for that matter the truth to come out.

Anyway, I am going to be working around the house this weekend and taking some time to reflect on the events of this week as I continue to read through my current stacks of books.

So have a great day,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Repair Our Losses and Be a Blessing to Us: A Night at the Congressional Baseball Game


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
Baseball legend Bill Veeck once noted:  “Baseball?  It’s just a game – as simple as a ball and a bat.  Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes.  It’s a sport, business – and sometimes even religion.”

Baseball is essential to the American spirit, it is complex and for people like me it is a religion, a true Church in which I find refuge. Likewise, as I get older and more disillusioned with the Christian Church and religion in general I tend to agree more and more with Annie Savoy in Bull Durham when she says   “The Only church that truly feeds the soul, day-in day-out, is the Church of Baseball”


I, like many people turn to baseball in times of trouble. My frequent trips to the ball park after Iraq were places of solace where I could escape the terror of my PTSD.


Last night I went up with Chaplain Vince Miller to see the Congressional Baseball game at National’s Stadium in D.C. It was  a last minute decision. My friend messaged me Wednesday evening and suggested it. He got the tickets, we got permission from our bosses, rearranged our schedules and I got the hotel and drove up. When he contacted me Wednesday he felt that it was something that we needed to do, and I immediately agreed. There were two reasons for this; First some long overdue self care that you can only have from people who are friends who have lived the same kind of life you have, but second because both of us thought it was important in a deeper way. 

After yesterday’s attempted assassination of Republican members of Congress both of us felt it necessary to go to show our support for our elected representatives from both parties. Both of us felt the need to be there for the members of Congress as Americans because both of us still believe in the ideals and the promise that still resides in the people of this country. 

I believe that we can vehemently disagree about policy, but the answers are found at the ballot box and by deciding to become friends again. Likewise I believe that one of the best places for that is the baseball diamond where last night members of the Democrat and Republican Senate and House faced each other as friends during a baseball game, the proceeds of which benefited charities in the Washington D.C. Metro area. 


Wednesday’s attack was an attack on America itself, our institutions, and based on the violent rhetoric and intense anger of many people it could have happened to either team. So last night’s game was a balm for the soul of the nation and I hope a sign of better things to come. Maybe it took something like this to realize that we have ventured too far down the road of hate and intolerance to continue that direction.

Walt Whitman wrote that baseball is “our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”


The game was fun to watch both sides played hard but the sportsmanship, camaraderie, and friendship showed. From the crowd there were few boos or catcalls from either side of the nearly 25,000 fans of both teams. Before the game the members of both teams went to second base and took a knee praying for their colleague Representative Steve Scalise and the police officers wounded in the attack. Even President Trump struck the right note in his remarks which were broadcast on the center field scoreboard. Among the fans of both sides there was absolute courtesy that was so unlike the intense and often mean spirited partisanship that has consumed the nation for the past decade or more. I know that I can only hope that this will continue.

The Democrats overwhelmed the GOP with a barrage of hits while their pitcher Representative Cedric Richmond of New Orleans threw a five hitter, and struck out seven. GOP shortstop Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania who had been moved from third base due to the shooting of Scalise  showed excellent defensive prowess making a number of outstanding defensive plays.


But on another level this trip was good for me and for Vince as well. We had both thought it important to show our support by going and we likewise both knew that we needed the time together to take care of each other, but it became bigger than that. After the game we went for a nightcap at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant near the stadium. While we were there two members of Congress, Republican Congressman Mark Walker of North Carolina and Democratic Congressman Tony Cardenas of California came in and we both greeted them and thanked them for coming out to play the game after what happened yesterday. Ever gracious both autographed baseballs for us and Cardenas extended an invitation to visit him in his House office.

The fact is that we in the military deal with losing friends to senseless violence everyday, but this is not what normal people deal with, including the men and women who serve in the House and Senate. To go out and play a ballgame after your colleagues were attacked is not an everyday event and there had to be some amount of fear for anyone that went out onto that field, perhaps for the first time in a long time members realized that they too could be the target of political violence. I think that that shook many people to the core, and I believe that it took a measure of courage for them to play the game after the attack, but I digress… 

Our time with both of these Congressmen was important, they were surprised and pleased that two Navy Chaplains completely changed their plans and travelled 200 miles to watch them play baseball. It was also interesting because Vince is from North Carolina, and Representative Walker was a pastor for many years, and the family of Congressman Cardenas had been migrant workers around Stockton California, my home town. I’m not going to speculate but I am going to assume by how they treated us that it meant a lot to them that we and so many others stood with them last night. I think they realized as many others did, that this is about all of us, Democrat and Republican, and as I said before I hope and pray that this might signal a new and less hateful era in American politics. 

When we went back to the hotel we talked about the mystery that is the work of the Holy Spirit of God, not the fatalism of providence, but the mystery of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives and those around us. It was about more than us, and to quote Jake Blues “we’re on a mission from God.” 

So I’m going to leave you with the mystery of the Spirit that worked in the hearts of two Chaplains who needed some time to take care of each other had our lives intersect those of a lot of nice people, 

So anyway, let us try to all do better. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Dangers of Political Violence: The Lesson of the Reichstag Fire


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Yesterday a man named James T. Hodgkinson opened fire on members of the Congressional Republican baseball team as they practiced for their annual game against the Congressional Democrats which is a charitable event that helps a number of local agencies that help children. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was critically wounded and several police officers were wounded during the exchange of fire in which Hodgkinson was killed. I was shocked and infuriated by his actions. Political violence and the attempted assassination of any elected official in a democracy where we still have the ability to remove people or parties from office at the ballot box is never justified. I would call his act an act of terrorism just as I have other acts by so many others. 

But unlike other times when a white shooter killed or wounded multiple people based on their race, religion, or politics I was joined by many GOP leaders. Sadly, some like Newt Gingrich, Repreantive Steve King and a host of Right Wing pundits blamed it on “typical left wing violence” while ignoring the constant attacks and threats from Right Wing extremists including members of the militia movement, the KKK, and various new-Nazi and Alt Right groups and individuals. 

At least President Trump, for the first time in his presidency urged unity and extolled the best part of Americans working together. I was pleased to here his words which I think were genuine, and I hope that this will be a moment that defines his presidency in a positive way for all Americans. That being said I have reasons to doubt, not that I want to but because of his past actions which I will mention later in the article. 

From was we know Hodgkinson was very active politically and quite angry at the GOP and President Trump but until today no one, even friends who knew him well would have expected him to cross the line to commit political violence. The congressman from his district from Illinois said that Hodgkinson was angry in his communications about issues but never crossed a line for the office to think that he was potentially dangerous. However, he had a history of domestic violence, destruction of property and a number of other issues. One of Hodgkinson’s Facebook posts from 2015 was a editorial cartoon criticizing Scalise. Hodkinson had been in the D.C. area a couple of weeks and had been spending time at the YMCA near the ball field where the shooting occurred. The former Mayor of Alexandria saw him a number of times and reported that he appeared to be living out of a gym bag and had offered to help Hodgkinson get a job.

I’m sure that there will be more information about Hodgkinson coming out so I will not go into any more detail or speculate why he committed this act, but I will discuss the very real dangers to civil liberty and legitimate peaceful political dissent that his act could lead.

Despite my initial optimism about how the President Trump responded today and many of his advisors have shown spoken in very authoritarian language about political dissent, demonizing their opponents, first during their GOP opponents in the primaries, then all who opposed them during the general election and afterwards. The president even blessed violent acts committed by his supporters during the campaign. Any time a protester physically responded to bullying or intimidation at Trump rallies they were set upon and then were blamed for the resulting violence even if they were the victims.

But what I am afraid is that acts such as Hodgkinson’s will result in draconian measures to limit dissent. People forget that it was the action of a single Dutch Communist acting on his own to burn down the Reichstag that gave Hitler the ability to pass the Enabling Act in March of 1933. That act gave his government unprecedented authority to arrest and detail opponents without due process rights, as well as to shut down opposition newspapers. It was followed up by other laws during the course of the Third Reich which further restricted political opposition. Often people arrested in the round ups would be acquitted of any crime but then upon release would be taken by the SA or SS to concentration camps.

Another incident was the assassination of a junior German diplomat at the German embassy in Paris in November 1938. When he died Hitler gave Josef Goebbels permission to launch a pogrom against the Jews now known as Kristallnacht. Hundreds of synagogues were burned, thousands of Jewish businesses looted, and hundreds of Jews killed, with thousands rounded up and sent to concentration camps.

The problem is that individual acts of violence against leaders who are predisposed to authoritarian responses give those leaders license to suspend laws and civil liberties on what are called exceptional circumstances. The attack by Hodgkinson could easily be construed as an act of political terrorism. As Timothy Snyder noted in his book On Tyranny:

“Modern tyranny is terror management. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that authoritarians exploit such events in order to consolidate power. The sudden disaster that requires the end of checks and balances, the dissolution of opposition parties, the suspension of freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Do not fall for it.”

That is a warning to all who think that individual acts of political violence can be excused or tolerated, they end up threatening the liberties of all. While I do not think this particular attack is a Reichstag Fire moment, the next one might be and anyone who thinks that their act of violence will help the country is sadly mistaken. For that matter it is also possible that a group or individual sympathetic to Trump could create a false flag incident in order to prompt him to suppress legitimate dissent. 

Like I said we will find out more as the days go by about the shooter, the attack, and the possible executive or legislative responses to it, not to mention possible violence against protestors or politicians committed by armed Trump supporters who have often threatened to respond violently to any attack against Trump or the GOP.

This is a very dangerous moment. I do pray that Representative Scalise will recover from his wounds and hope that I will not see progressives rejoice regarding the crime committed by Hodgkinson. Likewise as I mentioned earlier in the article I am heartened by President Trump’s response yesterday and I pray that it will be something that defines the rest of his presidency. I may oppose many, if not most of his policies and actions, as well as hoping that the investigation of his advisers interactions with the Russians goes forward; but I will never continue to hope and pray for the best for our country and yes even for him. That being said I am very wary based on his past words and actions and will never give up my right as an American to speak openly and honestly. I learned that lesson from many great American military men including General Smedley Butler and Colonel David Hackworth. Dissent is still an act of patriotism no matter what some people claim. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Meme Wars: The Death of Facts, Reason, American Political Discourse and Democracy

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have been thinking about a political meme that I saw posted on Facebook last week and I have been thinking about the words of the most erudite thinkers and reading about how it reflects the death of American political discourse. The meme embodied the worst of what is happening in American politics and thought. While it was a “pro-Trump” meme I hate to admit that I have seen mirror images of it from the political left.

Memes are an incredible form of propaganda. They often use powerfully emotional images and combine them with a one sided barrage of half-truths and lies about their side and their political opponent. In this particular meme Republicans were contrasted with Democrats.

It listed what Republicans are supposedly for on one side with the Democratic response on the other. Republicans in this meme were to “Protect America” “Fight Terrorism” “Reduce Tax Burdens” “Reduce Regulations” “Drain the Swamp” and “Make America Great Again.” The Democrats only response was “Hate Trump.” Such propaganda noted American philosopher Eric Hoffer “does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves.” It bypasses the cognitive, intellectual, moral, and ethical components that make us responsible citizens who care about our country, its people and the world in favor of a desert of alternative truths or as they are better known, lies.
The Republican beliefs in this meme were simply age GOP talking points that bear little resemblance to what the GOP does when it has Senate and House majorities as well as the White House, now so more than ever. If actions speak louder than words these were farcical, a half-truth, wrapped in a lie, ensconced in myth. To say that what Democrats believe can be reduced to “Hate Trump” misses the whole point of the American political system and it is a statement that mimics totalitarian propaganda which is then reinforced daily by White House spokesmen, Cabinet members, legislators, Fox News hosts and the Right Wing media machine, thousands of supposedly Bible believing Christian pastors, and quite often from the President himself.

But it is possible dissent from the policies and actions of a President and still to be a patriot. It is patriotic to stand for the rule of law, human rights, the Constitution, to fight terrorism of all kinds (not just Islamic), to defend the country and not depart from the ideals embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the protections of the Constitution (including the separation of powers). What has happened in the modern GOP is that personal loyalty to a President who demands it is considered the standard by which patriotism is judged even as he tramples the Constitution and defies the ideals, norms and traditions that made the American system of government that people around the world admired and brought so many persecuted people to our shores. Honestly that includes most of our ancestors.

But in the meme world facts do not matter so long as they support the system of those that promote the propaganda contained in them. Hannah Arendt wrote that the “True goal of totalitarian propaganda is not persuasion, but organization of the polity. … What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part.”

That is why memes are so important to propaganda. Adolf Hitler was a master of understanding that art of manipulation through propaganda. He wrote in Mein Kampf:

“The receptivity of the masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.”

That is why these talking points have been harped on for decades by the GOP, its media, and religious allies. In the GOP’s meme propaganda the Democrats as well as independent liberals or progressives are not fellow Americans who simply disagree on policy but an enemy to be destroyed. Admittedly there are left-wing memes that are no better intellectually or morally than those on the right that make me cringe. Regardless of their political bias, political memes are quite truthfully described as propaganda and unless they are truly political satire, I refuse to post them on any of my social media accounts.

To want our nation to live up to its ideals is patriotic. To want our leaders to embody those ideals and to expand them is likewise patriotic. To speak out when they are trampled and decide to resist or dissent within the bounds of the Constitution and reason is also in the end patriotic. It is American. For a side, in this case a conservative activist group to use propaganda to demonize its opponents shows that they have become as intellectually and morally bankrupt as the German conservatives who allied themselves with Hitler as Germany slid into totalitarianism.

The meme culture is a spin-off of social media which in large part is dependent on what is shown on television since many people have forgotten how to read and are susceptible to belief anything lie and reject inconvenient facts if they do not line up with the consistency of the system and its political propaganda . On has to pull themselves out of the digital culture and withdraw from the endless barrage of propaganda being sold as news on television and read. We must rediscover truth and facts written with the eloquence of the great authors and orators, otherwise we will see our Republic die, and it won’t be because of a foreign enemy. It will be our own damned fault.

It is absolutely essential that we return to reading the classics, reading history, as well the great writings of the great statesmen and philosophers and throw the memes in the digital garbage can because the meme political culture is based on anything but facts and anything but truth. Those who propagate memes cultivate a culture of unreason, and a political culture in which truth does not matter. Timothy Snyder wrote: “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.”

The political meme culture is a big part of the problem.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Not Just Words but Actions: My Support for LGBTQ Civil Rights

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am often asked why I write on the topics of civil rights and human rights and why I have over the past few years gone beyond writing but speaking and engaging in peace public protests for these rights. I guess it is because I have to. Writing is easy for me and apart from the occasional death threat from a Neo-Nazi or KKK sympathizer there is little risk. However, getting out in public and speaking or marching with others in support of their rights is not without risk.

As a historian I have always impressed by the struggle for equality and resistance against tyranny. It matters not to me if the cause is that of the African American fighting against slavery, Jim Crow, and continued discrimination; the Native American against whom genocide was committed in the name of a supposedly “Christian American” Manifest Destiny; the Jew targeted by Nazi Race hatred and genocide, or so many others who due to their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or political beliefs have been targeted for subordination or elimination by governments, or mass movements.

One man who inspired me is Charles Morgan Jr., a lawyer in Birmingham Alabama had the courage to confront the people and the culture that allowed the brutal bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 that killed four little girls attending Sunday school and wounded many more. Morgan noted: “It is not by great acts but by small failures that freedom dies. . . . Justice and liberty die quietly, because men first learn to ignore injustice and then no longer recognize it.” I have embraced his example to speak out publicly when I see the rights of my fellow citizens and other human beings trampled by those who only care about their power and privilege.

On this site I have frequently written about those subjects. Likewise, within the confines of still being a commissioned officer in the United States Navy I continue to support those discriminated and oppressed by people whose political, religious, or ideological beliefs support policies, measures, and ideas that go against the basic guarantees of the United States Constitution, as well as the bedrock ideal of the American experiment, the belief written in the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights…” and reinforced by Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg address that this Republic was dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.” 

I know that there are many times that people wonder why I continue to write about and even take an active role in promoting the liberties of people who because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity are the targets of discrimination, legislative actions, threats, and violence. As such I write about these issues all the time, however, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I became an actual participant in rallies and marches on behalf of any persecuted group. In my case it was making a deliberate move to openly support my friends in the LGBTQ community.

My support of my LGBTQ friends has perplexed many people who predominantly knew me through church or military settings. The sight of a Christian Navy Chaplain and carer military officer supporting people who until 2012 were forbidden to even reveal under threat of criminal prosecution and discharge from the military that they were Gay, or condemned by the church to discrimination in this life and damnation in the next was anathema to many people who I counted as friends. Since I came out as a straight ally to my LGBTQ friends, many people who I believed were friends have long since written me off simply because my stand contradicted their religious beliefs. That bothers me by I have to move along. Likewise there are others who regardless of their beliefs have remained close friends and been supported even if they disagreed with me. That is a hallmark of true friendship. I honestly believe that if friendship is predicated on religion, political beliefs, or anything but on true care for one another it is not friendship.

It is interesting that almost all of my LGBTQ friends are people who I went to high school, college, attended church with, or served alongside in the military. In fact I didn’t know that most of them were Gay for years because the were closeted and that the act of coming out could cause them incredible harm. Over the years as I came to support them more and more have let me know that they were Gay, knowing that I would both protect their confidence and fully support them and they have come to trust me, and I cannot betray their trust by failing to support them in my words and in my deeds.

Knowing their stories and holding them sacred is important to me. I cannot imagine what it would be like to hold fast to the creeds of the church yet suffer the pain of excommunication because of my sexual orientation. I cannot imagine what it would be like to swear and oath to defend my country and go to war yet still be forced to be silent about the people that I love under the threat of punishment and discharge. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be evicted from my home or denied the opportunity to buy a house because I loved someone of my gender. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be able to be fired from a civilian simply because I was Gay. I don’t have to imagine what it would be like to have your best friends and your life partner forbidden to be with you on your deathbed, because as a hospital chaplain I have seen it happen even as the pastor of the man’s parents screamed at him to repent as he died with a ventilator in his throat.

Sunday I participated in the Equality March in Washington D.C. I was with friends and I represented friends that could not be there. It was important. I have been to D.C. many times but I have never experienced it in such a way, I never dreamed that I would be in any civil rights march that went past so many places that symbolize who we are as Americans including the White House and in front of the Capital building. On the way back home yesterday Judy mention how proud she was that I marched. That meant a lot to me, she is an amazing woman who cares so deeply about others that it humbles me. As we talked I remarked that had I been an adult in the 1960s I would have very likely been marching in support of the civil rights of African Americans.

John F. Kennedy said “The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.” This is something that I believe with my whole heart and now have decided to back my beliefs and words with action instead of sitting on the sidelines.

Yesterday I had friends who took part in the commemoration of the slaughter of 49 people, including an Army officer at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. It was a crime directed at them because they were LGBTQ people and Pulse was a place that they felt safe. Sadly they were not the first to die violently because of their sexual orientation in this country, nor will they probably be the last. That is a reason that I have to speak out. If I don’t I would be complicit in the crimes committed against them by my silence. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

I will not be a silent friend ever again. This week was for my LGBTQ friends, but I will do so for others as well. I cannot be silent in the face of hatred, even that legislated against already marginalized and despised people by supposedly Christian majorities in various statehouses and Congress. I remember all too well the words of the German pastor Martin Niemoller who wrote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

As such, I cannot be silent. To do so would betray all that I hold dear.

Until tomorrow.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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A March for the Civil Rights of LGBTQ People in the Nation’s Capital 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Yesterday I posted an article that I think is one of the most important that I have ever written and the heart of it came from the sermon of Rabbi Roland Gittlesohn, a Navy Chaplain serving with the 5th Marine Division on Iwo Jima. It is one of the most remarkable sermons that I have ever heard or seen. It says far better than I think I ever have just how important the rights of every American citizen no-matter what their race, creed, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or political beliefs have a right. It is the promise of the preamble of the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” That statement is the bedrock of the American ideal, an ideal that we as a people have often fallen far short of embracing too many times, but it is still the idea that was so revolutionary for its time that even Americans, especially slave owners condemned it. 


When one actually looks at those speeches and writings, by slave power proponents as well as others who legislated against liberty for anyone but White Protestant men, they are chilling. Sadly, the same philosophy of trampling the liberty of all but a few remains a part of our national fabric. We see that manifested daily by people, including politicians, preachers, and pundits in regard to people of color, Muslims, women, and of course the LGBTQ community. Alone of all minorities the LGBTQ community is often attacked by others who are also the victims of racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination, often because their religion informs them that Gays are deserving of damnation. Sadly those who do such things cannot see that LGBTQ civil rights are part of the same struggle that their ancestors pioneered and that they still face themselves. 


But the fact is, that if you are an American, that these rights have been paid for by the blood of Americans of every race, religion, and ethnicity, including Gays. Rabbi Gittlesohn said it so well at Iwo Jima. He spoke for the rights of every American at a time when many ministers, including his fellow Chaplains would never have the courage to do. He spoke for Protestant, Catholics, Jews, Blacks, Asian Americans, Mexican Americans, and Native Americans. He recognized that fighting for freedom and democracy” abroad does not automatically guarantee that those rights will be protected at home. He said: 

Any man among us the living who fails to understand that will thereby betray those who lie here dead. Whoever of us lifts his hand in hate against a brother, or thinks himself superior to those who happen to be in the minority, makes of this ceremony and of the bloody sacrifice it commemorates, an empty, hollow mockery. To this, them, as our solemn, sacred duty, do we the living now dedicate ourselves: to the right of Protestants, Catholics and Jews, of white men and Negroes alike, to enjoy the democracy for which all of them have here paid the price….

We shall not foolishly suppose, as did the last generation of America’s fighting men, that victory on the battlefield will automatically guarantee the triumph of democracy at home…. 

I am a Navy Chaplain, a career officer of almost 36 years of service. I am a Christian and I am a straight ally of my LGBTQ friends. I marched in the nation’s capital yesterday with and for my fellow citizens in support of full equality for my LGBTQ friends. I marched with Section 93 of the Key West Coast to Coast flag, the largest and most historic artifact of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. It is known by many victims of anti-LGBTQ violence and discrimination as The Sacred Cloth and it has symbolized the struggle for LGBTQ rights around the world. Today my friend Mark Ebenhoch will take it to Orlando to commemorate the victims killed in the massacre at the Pulse nightclub. It is a part of American history now, not just LGBTQ history. 

I have continued to read Rabbi Gittlesohn’s sermon over the weekend. Like him, I am determined not to let prejudices spawned by ill-informed minds not to stand in the way of equal rights for anyone. As Rabbi Gittlesohn and Abraham Lincoln noted, it is for all of us to labor for a new birth of freedom, one that encompasses every American as well as those people who come to the United States yearning to be free. If I cannot do that, if you cannot do that then we are a contemptible lot and do not deserve the liberties that far too many men and women have sacrificed their lives, reputations, and sacred honor to defend. 

This my friends is all about the liberties that so many others have done their best to defend. If someone wants to espouse the race based White Supremacy that has been a part of our nation since the beginning, that is their right: but history, liberty, and equality show that theirs is a misguided and immoral philosophy doomed for the ash heap of history. I cannot state that in any clearer terms. The rights and civil liberties of LGBTQ people need to be defended by everyone, even those that do not agree with their lifestyles or sexual preferences, especially those that will fight for their so called religious freedoms that they would deny to others simply because their faith or lifestyle is different. I believe that people who do this either have no concept of civil rights, the Declaration, or the Constitution, or that they fully understand them but willingly would trample them in order to secure their primacy. Either way it is not good.

I was pleased to march for civil rights with my LGBTQ friends yesterday. This really is the crux of them matter. If we believe in the American experiment it is either for all of us or none of us. Rabbi Gittlesohn understood that; the question today is will we? 

So until tomorrow I wish you the best.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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