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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

Silence In the Face of Evil Itself: A Dark Meditation of Resistance in Trump’s America

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote the words “silence in the face of evil is evil itself.”

This is a very difficult article to write because truthfully I believe that civility and mutual respect should be an ideal that we as Americans should not retreat from, as John F. Kennedy noted:

“So let us begin a new remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”

I have written about that a number of times, the last being on November 22nd 2016 shortly after President Trump’s election and on the anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination. However, since that time I have seen the President lead a descent into depravity that I fully comprehended then, though I hoped for a different outcome. In the past three and a half years the President has gone from bad to worse.

He cannot tell the truth about anything, so his staff and supporters invented something they called alternative truth, or alternative facts. Within months of his inauguration he was overturning civil rights protections for many Americans, those who had little power to resist. He went after the voting rights of Black Americans, the elderly, and the poor. He went after LGBTQ people’s basic civil rights, many of which were only recently won. He went after the human rights of immigrants, and refugees, even the children of people who came here decades ago, the Dreamers who were raised as Americans, who served in the military, and how had become contributors to the American way of life, though they were deprived of citizenship. He promised to build a wall to keep out Latin American refugees, though not completed he took actions that separated families and locked children in cages on concrete floors as he enriched the most wealthy with tax cuts, but in the process blew the budget deficit into realms never dreamed about before. He attacked patriotic Americans, including members of the military calling them traitors because they respected the Constitution more than worshipping him. He went after long time American allies and made himself a de facto ally of Russia’s Vladimir Putin. He made his presidency one of White Supremacy and the economy, but his Presidency was built upon smoke mirrors and lies. When the novel Coronavirus 19 was identified as an epidemic in China and then as a pandemic he ignored it and then minimized it time after time again. Then everything came apart on him with dire results for the country at large.

When COVID 19 finally began to hit the United States and kill people he finally acted, but far too late. Now over 118,000 Americans are dead, and that is the official count, which is certainly a large undercount, with two million more being infected and half of those still at risk of death. But it wasn’t until the economy began to tank and Wall Street crashed that he did anything. The virus is still here, with tens of thousands a day being infected, as he continues to push to reopen the economy to go back to a normal that cannot be restored, regardless of the number of lives lost.

Then there were a spate of targeted killings of Black men by Whites acting as vigilantes, and police brutality and excessive force. The men, and a woman who happened to be an EMT for the City of Louisville, can only be classed as murder. The straw that finally broke the proverbial camel’s back when George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his his neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds until he was dead. When massive protests broke out all over the nation he ordered maximum force to be used and tried to co-opt the military into becoming involved into his political fight for survival. In doing that he attacked peaceful protestors in Lafayette Park and at St John’s Episcopal Church. The assault, launched as he was speaking from the Rose Garden was brutal. Tear gas, pepper spray grenades, rubber bullets were followed rolled by an all out assault by Federal Police and National Guardsmen, including mounted units. When the square was cleared the President marched out for a photo-op displaying the Bible as a weapon. Military leaders reacted in horror and refused to support any more such actions.

Sadly, I could keep listing abuse after abuse of the law and Constitution by President Trump, but don’t think that I need to continue.

The fact is that the President has in his words, deeds, and tweets destroyed any hope of our political divide being healed, or of Americans of different viewpoints being able to reconcile their differences anytime in the foreseeable future. He stokes the hatred and division almost on an hourly basis, and of course his opponents having become wise to him are rolling up their sleeves and fighting back.

Too me that is an unfortunate situation that might become a tragedy for the United States and the world, as Abraham Lincoln noted “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” To the soon to be former GOP Congressman, Steve King of Iowa the sight and sound of Trump’s opponents is like “Harpers Ferry” and what comes next will be “Fort Sumter.” Since King proudly displays the Confederate Battle Flag in his office I know exactly what side of this fight that he is on.

The fact is that he and many like him seem to want blood flowing in the streets, they want a new Civil War, they want to remake the Union in a way that Jefferson Davis and his band of traitors failed to do. As a historian of the period with a book awaiting publication the fact is that in the end it comes down to the fact that Congressman King, many of the President’s supporters and quite probably the President himself are all White Supremacists. They want a full and complete return to White Man’s Rule and the subservience of all non-white races and non-Christian religions to it. They are the Know Nothings of the North and Slave Power Secessionists of the South rolled into one package of ignorance, incivility, and hatred.

I write often about comparisons of the attitudes and actions administration and its supporters to Nazi Germany, but truth be told there is a lot of dirty laundry in our own history that sheds light on Trump and his supporters.

The fact is that for nearly three decades the vast majority of Northerners were too polite to criticize the egregious actions of the Know Nothings in their midst or the Southern Slave Power Block that dominated the presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court for the three decades prior to the War of the Rebellion, also known as the American Civil War, or the War Between the States. Honestly, I think that the term ascribed to it by many Union Veterans in the Grand Army of the Republic after the war, the “War of the Rebellion” is the best.

Those opposed to the Know Nothings and Slave Power Block were condemned as being rude, impolite, and worse. Some were physical assaulted. In 1856 Senator Charles Sumner was attacked by Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina on the floor of the Senate for his speech against the Kansas Nebraska Act. Sumner was beaten until he was unconscious and Brooks’ heavy cane which he used to conduct the attack broke. Brooks continued to beat Sumner aided by Representative Lawrence Keitt also of South Carolina who brandishing a pistol threatened Senators coming to his aid. Sumner has proclaimed no threats of violence but only spoken the truth about the Act and those that supported it. So much for civility and now.

The scurrilous and overtly violent threats against minorities and civil rights advocates by conservatives, especially White Christian conservatives have continued unabated since from the ante-Bellum South and the Know Nothing North, through the War of the Rebellion, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, to the modern day. Whole political campaigns, including that of George H.W. Bush run by Lee Atwater turned on the demonization of African Americans. The same is true regarding the Republican revolution led by Newt Gingrich in the 1990s, and again even more so from the time that Candidate Donald Trump descended to the lobby of Trump Tower in 2015 until now. The President proclaims that White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis are “very fine people.”


The President and many of his followers including administration officials like Stephen Miller set the tone while former Presidential spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her successors deny that the President’s words and actions, and vilify anyone that bothers to disagree with the President or their blatant lies. So when Huckabee Sander is asked to leave a restaurant, or when Miller or former DHS Secretary Nielsen are shamed when trying to enter Mexican restaurants it makes makes my heart bleed. People who have no compassion, no sense of empathy and behave as sociopaths and then act the victim when the tables are turned only deserve scorn.


Their anti-immigrant and often blatantly racist tropes of the President, his administration, and his supporters on the Fox Propaganda Network, the Right Wing media, the Putrid Princes of the Captive Conservative Church, and his assorted sordid supporters should be condemned and opposed around the clock. If they are not then any of us who remain silent knowing the evil of these policies is as guilty as anyone that turned their backs on the Jews in Nazi Germany. The higher the office the greater the guilt and culpability.

That being said if had the chance to see any one of them in a public setting I would not resort to public shaming. I do not own a restaurant or business so I could not ask them to leave. However, that being said if any of them the President himself presented themselves to me at my old chapel or any civilian church that I might be celebrating the Eucharist I would deny them communion which from a Christian point of view is “a fate worse than a fate worse than death.”

In fact two years ago Wednesday, in my former Chapel, a parishioner, a retired Navy Officer attempted to have me tried by Court Martial for preaching basic Catholic and Christian social justice teaching that goes back to the Old Testament where the Psalmists cry out for justice against oppressors and the Kings, Priests, and rich who the Prophets condemned, and which at least in the Catholic tradition still remains. The man blatantly lied about what I said. He said that in the sermon I called the President Hitler, and the Border Patrol the Gestapo.

It was all a lie, but an investigation was launched. Instead of trusting my life and career to a brand new Navy lawyer, I reached out to Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who found me an experienced former military lawyer who had taken on high profile cases before. The investigating officer wanted to interview me, but I refused without legal counsel. So he interviewed half of the congregation that was present that day. None would corroborate the accusations but some said that they disagreed with my sermon because of their political views. I was exonerated and the investigation stopped there, but if I had retired out of that assignment, I would have probably never darkened the door of a church again. That experience confirmed the worst thoughts that I had about the Conservative Christians who make up the majority of President Trump’s Cult. They no longer care about Christ, the teachings of the Christian faith, but only care about establishing a Christian theocracy on the order of the modern Taliban, Calvin’s Geneva, or Torquemada’s Spanish Inquisition.

Bonhoeffer wrote:

“Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christian should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.”

As for me I must tell the truth and protest against the violence and the arbitrary pride of power exhibited by the Trump administration and its supporters. I could not live with myself if I didn’t do so. Some might think this political and in some sense it is, but it is entirely based on my understanding of the Christian faith and the very premise of the founders of this country, that phrase in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among them being life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

If need be I would die for that faith and that proposition and I will not be silent in the face of evil. In 1945 Captain Gustave Gilbert, a US Army Psychologist assigned room the major Nazi War Criminals noted that one thing tied all of them together, the absence of empathy. He would remark, that he had come to the conclusion that “evil is the absence of empathy.”

As I conclude this article I am reminded of the words of the German General Henning Von Tresckow, who died in the attempt to kill Hitler and destroy the Nazi State:

“The idea of freedom can never be disassociated from real Prussia. The real Prussian spirit means a synthesis between restraint and freedom, between voluntary subordination and conscientious leadership, between pride in oneself and consideration for others, between rigor and compassion. Unless a balance is kept between these qualities, the Prussian spirit is in danger of degenerating into soulless routine and narrow-minded dogmatism.”

I think we could easily substitute the United States for Prussia in his words. We have lost that balance that Tresckow described, and it will destroy us if we are not careful.

Sadly, the absence of empathy all too well describes the malignant narcissistic sociopath that is President Trump, his family, his inner circle, and his most faithful supporters appear to be. I could be wrong, but I know that I am not. I expect that things will get worse much worse before they get better. I say this because I truly believe that since they don’t believe in the promise of the Declaration that “all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” or the rights laid out in the Constitution including its amendments.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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