Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
Tonight I am re-posting an edited older article that I think is even more pertinent than it was when I first wrote it, maybe more so now. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg yesterday and Senator Mitch McConnell announced plans to hold immediate confirmation hearings on her replacement by whoever President nominates just 45 days from the election. Four years ago he denied President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Gerland a confirmation hearing over nine months before the election. Then he said that it was too close to the election and the “American people” should get the choice of electing a new President before confirming a new Supreme Court Justice. The hypocrisy is appalling, but I have come to expect it from the Republican Senator from Kentucky.
If McConnell pushes forward and Trump’s nominee is confirmed it will give Trump a 6-3 majority on the court that if Trump, who is trailing challenger Joe Biden contests election results and the case gets to the a Supreme Court he will win. It is one of the most nefarious tactics ever perpetrated on the American people.
Of course this comes on the heals of Trump’s Further division of the country using his incompetent and irresponsible actions regarding the COVID19 Pandemic, to blame Blue State Governors when he as President should have taken decisive action. And that was possible because he admitted in a recorded interview with Bob Woodward before the virus had reached the United States that it was deadlier than the flu and would be very bad. However, he did not direct any agency to prepare for it and for nearly a month and a half downplayed it because he didn’t want to create a panic. The result is that over 200,000 Americans are now dead from it and he refuses to take any responsibility because he couldn’t if the number was half a million or let’s say six million, I think he would actually brag about that.
Then there all of his racist tropes that he flings almost every day, and every day he works to undermine people’s faith in the fairness of our election process and to demonize his opponents, and to legitimize the QAnon Conspiracy Theory movement. I could go on, but what is the use? His Cult doesn’t care because he is doing exactly what they want.
Trump knows his base and really doesn’t care about bringing anyone else along. The base is a loyal Cult that no matter what he does will, that is why he can call any opponent an extremist. But as historian Timothy Snyder wrote:
“There is no doctrine called extremism. When tyrants speak of extremists, they just mean people who are not in the mainstream—as the tyrants themselves are defining that mainstream at that particular moment. Dissidents of the twentieth century, whether they were resisting fascism or communism, were called extremists. Modern authoritarian regimes, such as Russia, use laws on extremism to punish those who criticize their policies. In this way the notion of extremism comes to mean virtually everything except what is, in fact, extreme: tyranny.”
The fact is that many of Trump’s followers were prepared for his advent by years of highly politicized propaganda nationalistic covered with a very thin veneer of Christian jibber-jabber, most of which is at odds with 2000 years of the teachings of the Church going back to Jesus. But this propaganda has brought about a wave of hatred that consumes many of them to demonize those that they identify as enemies, and indifference to the victims of the policies that their political and clerical leaders espouse.
Historian Ian Kershaw wrote: “The road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference.” I find that comment all too real today when I look at the President, his propagandists, and those who follow him without question even when they know that he is lying to them. Not only that they go into the streets heavily armed and seeking to ignite a civil war, which at least some of Trump’s advisors seem to think would be a good thing.
The longer that I live the more that I understand how this happens. Today, as there were in 1930s and 1940s Nazi Germany, there are all too many hate-filled ideologues who desire to destroy or subjugate entire races and ethnic groups, or members of different religions or political ideologies. In the United States they have free reign to do speak and write freely about their goals and for many years we have regarded most of them as fringe characters who had no chance of ever enacting anything that they proposed.
Barry Goldwater, the true conservative scion of the GOP was frightened by the Christians who now form the core of the Trump personality cult. Goldwater said:
“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”
Many of these were and continue to be the most vocal supporters of President Trump, and see in him a man who will help them accomplish their desires as no President has done before. One of them, Steve Bannon who served as his chief policy adviser and strategist. Likewise, there are no shortage of civil rights opponents and proponents of a police state in his cabinet, including his first, Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, and his current AG, William Barr. While serving as AG before he was fired, Sessions, the top law enforcement official in the country joined a chorus of Republican youth chanting “lock her up” meaning former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. More recently Mr. Barr has moved to ensure that the Executive Branch achieves the primacy over the legislative and judicial branches that it is denied in the Constitution. More recently Barr has made threats to charge mayors, governors, and other Trump critics with sedition and made threats against the career prosecutors of his own Justice Department. Barr has gone full fascist in his latest speeches and statements.
Despite the myriad of actions taken by the Trump administration, its abuses of power, its probable connections to a hostile power, its attempts to shut down law enforcement probes of the Russia connections, its unabashed attempts to silence the press and all other opponents, and its nearly uncountable number of lies and distortions that it makes on a daily basis is that the vast majority of Congressional Republicans nor his supposedly Christian followers seem to care.
Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of opposition, but among his followers and the great number of people in the middle who prefer not to get involved there is little real opposition; moral, religious, ethical, or political to anything that he says or does, mostly because they do not understand how it effects them or their liberties, nor how toxic it is to the nation. It seems to me that they are not only apathetic to the abuses of power, but have no empathy towards the people that they are directed against.
But as I said at the opening of this article, the were prepared by decades of political propaganda covered with a veneer of Christian jibber-jabber. I know this because for a bit over two decades I was exposed to it and and believed it. Years ago I knew and went to church with Randall Terry, the former head Operation Rescue. He once said: “Let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good…” I have walked in the shoes of Trump’s “Christian” personality cult, and at one time I was as whipped into a frenzy of hate by those preachers, and their colleagues in right wing talk radio. That was before I went to and returned from Iraq. Thus I fully understand them and now I reject them and their intolerant creeds.
For the Trump supporters this is not a problem. He represents a chance for them to recover their greatness, just as Hitler did for many of his followers in the 1930s, including those who joined the Party late. One of the greatest film monologues that illustrated this phenomenon is that of Burt Lancaster in his portrayal of a Nazi judge who is on trial in the movie Judgment at Nuremberg. His comments remind me so much of what I see among many Trump supporters today:
“There was a fever over the land. A fever of disgrace, of indignity, of hunger. We had a democracy, yes, but it was torn by elements within. Above all, there was fear. Fear of today, fear of tomorrow, fear of our neighbors, and fear of ourselves. Only when you understand that – can you understand what Hitler meant to us. Because he said to us: ‘Lift your heads! Be proud to be German! There are devils among us. Communists, Liberals, Jews, Gypsies! Once these devils will be destroyed, your misery will be destroyed.’ It was the old, old story of the sacrificial lamb. What about those of us who knew better? We who knew the words were lies and worse than lies? Why did we sit silent? Why did we take part? Because we loved our country! What difference does it make if a few political extremists lose their rights? What difference does it make if a few racial minorities lose their rights? It is only a passing phase. It is only a stage we are going through. It will be discarded sooner or later. Hitler himself will be discarded… sooner or later. The country is in danger. We will march out of the shadows. We will go forward. Forward is the great password. And history tells how well we succeeded, your honor. We succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. The very elements of hate and power about Hitler that mesmerized Germany, mesmerized the world! We found ourselves with sudden powerful allies. Things that had been denied to us as a democracy were open to us now. The world said ‘go ahead, take it, take it! Take Sudetenland, take the Rhineland – remilitarize it – take all of Austria, take it! And then one day we looked around and found that we were in an even more terrible danger. The ritual began in this courtoom swept over the land like a raging, roaring disease. What was going to be a passing phase had become the way of life. Your honor, I was content to sit silent during this trial. I was content to tend my roses. I was even content to let counsel try to save my name, until I realized that in order to save it, he would have to raise the specter again. You have seen him do it – he has done it here in this courtroom. He has suggested that the Third Reich worked for the benefit of people. He has suggested that we sterilized men for the welfare of the country. He has suggested that perhaps the old Jew did sleep with the sixteen year old girl, after all. Once more it is being done for love of country. It is not easy to tell the truth; but if there is to be any salvation for Germany, we who know our guilt must admit it… whatever the pain and humiliation.”
While we have not reached the point that the Third Reich did between 1933 and 1938, it will not take much for us to get there. Trump is certainly not Hitler, but he is escalating his words and actions toward the establishment of an authoritarian state. We misjudge ourselves if we belief that such things cannot happen here.
Sinclair Lewis, who wrote the book It Can’t Happen Here as a response to authoritarian and Fascist movements in the 1930s wrote in it:
“A country that tolerates evil means—evil manners, standards of ethics—for a generation, will be so poisoned that it never will have any good end.”
Timothy Snyder wrote:
“The European history of the twentieth century shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary men can find themselves standing over death pits with guns in their hands. It would serve us well today to understand why.”
Reinhold Niebuhr, the great American theologian noted: “Ultimately evil is done not so much by evil people, but by good people who do not know themselves and who do not probe deeply.”
We should heed their warnings before we cross that precipice and head into the abyss.