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A Criminal Campaign and Compliant Generals: Barbarossa 1941

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The 78th anniversary of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 is approaching. The German war against the Soviet Union was unlike any in modern military history. It was not just a war to defeat the Soviets militarily or to overthrow Stalin’s regime of terror. It was a war conceived to conquer as well as to exterminate and enslave.

The Nazis believed the Slavic peoples of the Soviet Union to what the referred to as untermenschen or sub-human and the plan was designed to provide the German master race with the necessary Lebensraum, or living space. The plan called for ethnic cleansing, the extermination of the Jews and the deliberate starvation of 30 million other people in the Soviet Union. The destruction of the Jews of the Soviet Union, which the Nazis linked with Bolshevism, and the elimination of anyone associated with the Soviet government or Communist Party was paramount. It was an ideological war without mercy in which civilized norms that governed the conduct of war were defied and trampled.

The German war in the east would differ from any previous war.  Its underlying basis was ideological. Economic and geopolitical considerations were given importance in relationship to the understanding of the German “Master Race.”  Race and Lebensraum was the goal of the State that “concentrates all of its strength on marking out a way of life for our people through the allocation of Lebensraum for the next one hundred years…the goal corresponds equally to the highest national and ethnic requirements.” 

Hitler set the stage on March 3rd 1941 when he told confidants: “the forthcoming campaign is more than a mere armed conflict; it is a collision between two different ideologies…this war will not be ended merely by the defeat of the enemy armed forces” and that “the Jewish-Bolshevist intelligentsia must be eliminated….”

On March 30th 1941 Hitler addressed 250 Generals about the nature of the war to come:

Shortly before the order was issued, Hitler previewed it to the generals saying that the war in Russia “cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion” and that it would have to be waged with “unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness. Hitler told the Generals that they would have to “dispense with all of their outdated and traditional ideas about chivalry and the generally accepted rules of warfare: the Bolsheviks had long since dispensed with them.” He explained that his orders were beyond their comprehension, he told them “I cannot and will not change my orders and I insist that that they be carried out with unquestioning and unconditional obedience.” Few questioned the order and few protested, those that did were told by the Army Commander, Field Marshal Von Brauchtisch “the he would express their opinion to OKW and Hitler respectively.” 

But Von Brauchitsch refused to protest to Hitler and instead issued an order on his own authority “threatening dire penalties for excesses against civilians and prisoners of war” which he maintained at Nurmeberg “was sufficient to nullify the Commissar Order.” Yet Von Brauchitsch’s hands were not unsoiled and he later told his commanders to “proceed with the necessary hardness.” He knew what that meant as he was present.

General Franz Halder, Chief of the OKH, or the Army High Command took notes on Hitler’s speech. They are chilling to read as none present could have understood them in any other way than Hitler meant:

“Clash of two ideologies. Crushing denunciation of Bolshevism, identified with asocial criminality….We must forget the comradeship between soldiers. A Communist is no comrade before nor after the battle. This is a war of extermination….We do not wage war to preserve the enemy….War against Russia: Extermination of the Bolshevist Commissars and of the Communist intelligentsia….this is no job for military courts. The individual troop commanders must know the issues at stake. They must be leaders in the fight….This war will be very different from war in the West. In the East harshness today means leniency in the future. Commanders must make the sacrifice of overcoming their personal scruples.” 

General Erich Hoepner, commander of Panzer Group Four who would be executed following the attempt to assassinate Hitler in 1944, told his commanders that the invasion was “an essential part of the German people’s struggle for existence” and stated, “the struggle must aim at the annihilation of today’s Russia and must therefore be waged with unparalleled harshness”. Hoepner told his officers that they were fighting for “the defense of European culture against Moscovite–Asiatic inundation, and the repulse of Jewish Bolshevism … No adherents of the present Russian-Bolshevik system are to be spared.”

The German Army as well as the SS Einsatzgruppen and the German Order Police launched their attack in the early hours of June 22nd  and did not lack the hardness required to commit war crimes and atrocities that are unimaginable, and which can never be allowed to happen again.

I could go on but I will end for now.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under ethics, History, holocaust, leadership, Military, nazi germany, Political Commentary, world war two in europe

Europe on the Edge: France and Greece Point to Dangerous Times Ahead

New French President Francois Hollande

The people of France and Greece have repudiated the European Union’s austerity mandate and Europe stands on the edge of chaos.  Maybe not immediate chaos but chaos that will engulf the continent as country after country elects for its own history, culture, tradition and economic freedom.

This is nothing new. In fact the situation in Europe resembles the period of the early 1930s as the Great Depression brought about the rise of political extremist on the Right and Left in very new and fragile democracies, as well as more established democracies.  Parallels can be found in many European nations. In France the election of Francois Hollande of the Socialist Party over Nicolas Sarkozy sent a shiver through the EU. Combined with the implosion of the conservative and liberal coalition in Greece in and results of other European elections the reality is that the European Union could be on the verge of breaking up. The Greek situation is especially foreboding as any coalition government will have to deal with the election of both hard line Communists and Neo-Nazis to parliament.

Greek Neo-Nazis

Now how it breaks up is not pre-determined, however it is obvious that the most strident voices in many European countries are people and parties that in good times are relegated to the political fringe. However social crisis driven by long term economic problems, especially high unemployment and reductions in support to those displaced by the economy are things that have historically brought about revolutions and dictatorships.

The European Union: Can it Survive?

Despite the Socialist win in France the trajectory of Europe is toward anti-democratic, ultra-nationalist and Xenophobic regimes.  Such will bode ill for the world economy as well as peace and the treatment of ethnic and religious minorities. Europe’s long term record on these issues is dreadful and the ghosts of that record seem to rise up almost every time that you think it is safe to go out in the water.

Germany under Chancellor Merkel and her allies in Brussels are attempting to hold together a creation that can only hold together when times are good and money easy.  When the hard times come, nations as well as individuals return to their basest and most primal concerns, not any utopian ideal.

The Hitler apologist and radical conservative pundit Pat Buchanan seems to think that this is a good thing in his latest column. He seems to revel in the potential collapse of the European Union. But then for a man that defend’s Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939 and blames everybody but Hitler for the war this is not surprising.  While he may diagnose some of the problems inherent in the EU he also forgets that the EU held as its model the United States, the creation of a United States of Europe.

Nazi Election Poster

While I have always thought that the rush to admit nations to the EU in the 1990s and early 2000s was ill-conceived the threat posed by its break up is worse. This is simply because history shows us time and time again that such break ups are fraught with danger.

Likewise the same forces are at work in the United States. Long term economic difficulties are leading people to embrace extremes that in good times they would never consider.  We are not all that different from the Europeans in this. Looking back to the period before the Nazi takeover of Germany one observer told historian William Sheridan Allen that “Most of those that joined the Nazis did so because they wanted a radical answer to the economic problem. Then too, people wanted a hard, sharp, clear leadership- they were disgusted with the eternal political strife of parliamentary party politics.” (The Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town 1922-1945 Revised Edition, Franklin Watts Publishers, New York, London 1965, 1984 p.86)

These are dangerous times. It is not time to look to extremists of any stripe that promise simple and radical solutions to the solve the crisis. To do such is to make a deal with the devil.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, News and current events, Political Commentary

I Hate Appalachian Nazis: A Response to “Briar Cavendish”

Elwood Blues: “Illinois Nazis?”

Jake Blues: “I hate Illinois Nazis”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EoOZKjAjlk

I think I can safely echo the thoughts of Jake and Elwood Blues about Illinois or any other type of Nazis that skulk about the dark recesses of the American heartland attempting to blend in with decent Americans while peddling their hate on the internet.

If you read my post from last night and early this morning about what can only be described as an online assault on me by someone that calls himself “Briar Cavendish” you know that it shook me pretty bad. But I also said that I would not back down.  The words and thoughts of this Cavendish fellow who is too cowardly to use his real name but a rather a nom d’guerre is obviously pretty disturbed. So will endeavor to disturb him more to hopefully cause him to slip up and identify himself.

You see last night I went to bed very upset and didn’t sleep well.  The only thing that got me through the early part of the day at work was one hellacious workout for morning PT but apart from that I was pretty wiped out and in a funk through most of the day. It was only tonight that I decided to fight back.  I researched all that I could about him and it seems that he is most likely according to his IP address from somewhere between Johnson City Tennessee and Abingdon Virginia as both cities came up as the location. I’m presuming that he is in a rural area and that his internet service provider alternates him between cities or hat he lives in one and works in the other.  I had thought that he might be in Knoxville Tennessee but think that my initial hypothesis was wrong as the owner of the business using the name “Briar Cavendish” appears to be legit and pretty busy with real life to go around doing such things. The fact also that the ISP address is not in Knoxville kind of confirmed that.

But tonight as I researched him I found a plethora of pathetic posts on numerous sites. Evidently my admirer “Briar” is rabid Appalachian Nazi; he posts this stuff all over the place and seems to be sought out by like-mindless people on some of these sites. What amazed me was not that he was posting but just how many people like him spew this hate on these sites. Some call themselves White Supremacists, others American Nazis and a host of other titles. But the common thread is a hatred of African Americans, other non-white people, Jews, Muslims, established political parties, Christians that disagree with them and by the way need I say President Barak Obama and the belief that they represent the true spirit of America.  The have affiliated sites that cater to veterans, stay at home moms and pseudo-intellectuals.  They often stand should to shoulder with alleged “patriot” groups who while not in total agreement with the Nazis echo many similar themes.  The thing that freaked me out about my admirer “Briar’s” comments were how close some of them regarding minorities, immigrants, political parties especially the Democrats and Barak Obama are to e-mail that I receive from older friends and relatives who spam out e-mails that are full of lies, distortions, wives tales and are easily identified as such by going to Snopes.com.

I guess what bothers me is that many of the themes of the Neo-Nazis are echoed by well meaning people who are simply upset about the direction of the country and have been whipped into frenzy by the 24 hour news cycle and nonstop talk radio.  I think from my study of history, especially the Weimar and Nazi era, which was a specialization in my Masters Degree that I know a few things about what happens when passions become this inflamed in a polarized body-politic that the result is seldom good. It simply takes a crisis be it political, economic or military to push well meaning people who have been pushed to the edge over the cliff into the abyss of civil war and chaos. I can still see the bullet holes in a school that I helped to paint in Rijeka Croatia and the devastation wrought by the Iraq insurgency the mass graves of Bergen-Belsen and Barracks and Gas Chambers of Dachau to see what can happen when this happens.  In fact I think that is what frightened me most about the attack on me last night is that we appear to be sitting on a tinderbox in a sea of gasoline with idiots all about playing with fire.

So anyway, Briar so go ahead. Take your best shot and if you are a man identify yourself and enter into dialogue. If you don’t I have to assume that you are you simply a Hillbilly Hitler with bad teeth, no real reasoning skills and no writing ability.  You make me long for Joey Goebbels, despite being a Nazi thug at least could write, speak and wasn’t afraid to identify himself.  From now on if you post on Padre Steve’s World it will be on my terms and I will shut you down you racist, homophobic Hillbilly Hitler with delusions of dictatorship.  You see Briar you and cowards like yourself skulk about in darkness using pseudonyms to post your pathetic hate filled drivel using the freedoms that I and millions like me have secured for you since our nation came into being.  You’re a pathetic excuse for an American.

Go ahead, make my day,

Padre Steve+

PS. I know that this was not a very “grace filled” post but people like this need to be called out or they will doom themselves and the rest of us to a fratricidal conflict that will make our Civil War look like child’s play.

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Filed under History, leadership, philosophy, Political Commentary

Padre Steve a Marxist? Oh Please Give the Padre a Break

“You took a few well known history facts added some negroid glitz and glam, and arrogantly rest on your piss bucket of drivel as if you know something. You meinen Herr are a cretinous asshole of predictable disposition. I smell the ratty fumes of a Marxist lurking beneath your pebbled vskin.” Briar Cavendish

I had this interesting comment a couple of nights ago from an obviously devoted fan.  I have never met this fan but obviously he is sure that he knows me pretty well. I was surprised by the comments since they occurred in reference to a piece on World War Two and not anything to do with anything controversial that I have written.  What is strange is this devoted fan, let me call him Briar Cavendish who would have an e-mail address something like “briarcavendish@yahoo.com” decided to post the following as a comment on my article “Can Anybody Spare a DIME: A Short Primer on Early Axis Success and How the Allies Won the Second World War” located at https://padresteve.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/can-anybody-spare-a-dime-a-short-primer-on-early-axis-success-and-how-the-allies-won-the-second-world-war/#comment-1050

My admirer Briar, wow that rhymed! Maybe I should be a poet.  Anyway I digress; my admirer Briar penned this poisoned post in response to that rather innocuous article. Of course I must add, and I will add for the record that this rather innocuous article is in fact is so innocuous that any person with more than half a working brain would wonder what in it could be so onerous that my admirer Briar found it so objectionable.  Please help me here I beg you my readers. You must help me here because with the amount of venom spewed by Briar I have to wonder….I have to ask myself the questions “Why this? Why me? Why now?”  What have I done in this innocuous little article that would engender such a hateful response?  Why this article and not the one criticizing Glenn Beck? Why me, certainly there are bigger fish to fry, real Marxists and why now of all times?  Could it be that it is my admirer Briar himself who is a closet Marxist and lives his life in shadows afraid that he might be exposed like the Cretin, the Vulgar Latin type that he is not?  Perhaps he must do this because he is afraid that the NSA and its Carnivore program will uncover his dirty little secret. But I speculate.

Obviously my admirer Briar really doesn’t know me as well as he thinks that he does, however from the tone of his little love note I would dare say that he is obviously a person that hangs on the words of very popular talk show hosts like Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, G. Gordon Liddy and Josef Goebbels to name but a few.

I find it interesting that he first insults my work using racist language and then calls me arrogant and my work a “piss bucket of drivel.”  Actually I found this rather amusing except for the horribly blatant racial slur directed at African Americans which I thought was pretty hateful as I would expect most patriotic Americans would.  But since I attend a historically African American church I sort of take such comments rather personally as the folks at St James are my dear friends. Since obviously my admirer Briar is a racist and I’m not referring to someone who worships at the Church of NASCAR, Indy, Formula One or even the Kentucky Derby, but rather Klan kind of racist. Thus I must presume that my admirer Briar is a racist who doesn’t like black people and probably doesn’t like Mexicans, Asians, Jews or Moslems either but again this is purely speculation and I wouldn’t want to impugn my admirer Briar’s character.

As far as being called arrogant well, I cannot entirely claim innocence.  My friends I hate to admit that in some parts of my life the charge of being arrogant is true as my dear wife the Abbess can attest.  She can also attest to the fact that on occasion I can be an asshole a charge that that again it would be wrong of me to deny.  However I would patently object to being called “cretinous” as the term is used by my admirer Briar in a pejorative sense implying that I am some sort of deformed and retarded person.  However my admirer Briar then if you look at the actual definition of the word is comes from the Vulgar Latin term for Christians. The definition is here:

cre·tin (krtn) n. 1. A person afflicted with cretinism. n2. Slang An idiot. [French crétin, from French dialectal, deformed and mentally retarded person found in certain Alpine valleys, from Vulgar Latin *christinus, Christian, human being, poor fellow, from Latin Chrstinus, Christian; see Christian.] cretin·oid (-oid) adj. cretin·ous (-s) adj.

So obviously in the Vulgar Latin I would have to plead guilty to being “cretinous” since at last I recall I am a Christian and have papers to prove it, even wear a Cross on my uniform.  Likewise, as most people that know me can attest I certainly cannot be called “predictable” unless it is in my love of the one true religion of Baseball so my admirer Briar is just a tad off in knowing my habits.

I do like being addressed as “my Lord” as my paternal family hailed from Scottish nobility, although the correct use of the German should have been “Mein Herr” as that is the nominative masculine case instead of the masculine accusative case which would have been correct if he had said “Ich hasse Meinen Herr Padre Steve” or in English “I hate my Lord Padre Steve.”  So my admirer Briar is not good with German grammar but then how many people are outside Germany.

As far as being a Marxist such would be difficult as a Christian since I like believe in God which I believe that Marx, not Groucho, Harpo or Zippo but Karl called the “opiate of the masses.”  But even so such a characterization of this cuddly but miscreant Priest would be inaccurate as I am certainly not a Marxist sympathizer but rather a pretty middle of the road moderate American who has served his country for over 28 years and served in combat.  As far as “ratty fumes” I do confess to occasionally have some flatulence but usually do to the healthy salads that I consume which by the way chalked full of vegetables including plenty of banana and jalapeño peppers.  What can I say? I have turned over a dietary leaf.

Now as far as my skin goes most people would be proud to have my luxuriant skin which certainly cannot be called “pebbled” because the medical and biological description doesn’t wash.  My skin is pristine for my age, something that men and women would lust after and probably pay money to have. In fact it is so nice that in order to show more of it I shave my head which is a perfect shape to display my luxuriant skin which graces the top of my head like dome of the Jefferson Memorial.

I have no idea what my admirer Briar’s major malfunction is. Perhaps he is just a racist bigot who assumes that anyone who chooses to use their brain is a Marxist.  Why do it on this article I haven’t a clue.  Perhaps he is just a hate filled person mad because his party didn’t win an election.  Maybe he is a coward who has never served his country and to cover up his shame has to accuse someone who has served his country; someone who has been decorated for his service in Iraq who went unarmed into very dangerous situations because it was the right thing to do as being a Marxist.

I think this is reflective on the character of this man.   It appears that he is too much of a coward to do anything but do a drive by on my blog to attempt to do some character assassination and limp away like john Wilkes Booth.  Maybe my admirer Briar is a frustrated wannabe military historian or perhaps a hack who also happens to be a hack with no more than a high school education but presumes that because he has seen a few movies and read a few books that he is an expert in military history and theory.  Whatever he is I am sure that he does not have my academic credentials including being a graduate of the Marine Command and Staff College and having multiple graduate degrees in theology and military history. If he did he would not stoop to this kind of ad hominem attack.

You see I think that my admirer Briar is a poster child for the sick condition of political and intellectual debate in this country. I mean what the hell is going on? This isn’t the country that I grew up in.  In fact I believe that that my admirer Briar is symbolic of the vitriolic hatred that has consumed both sides of the political aisle.  Let’s face it voices like Briar’s fill the airwaves and the internet as pathological ideologues sacrifice civility, decorum and truth on the altar of gross political expediency defaming, maligning and using the basest language, actions and symbols to paint their opponents as Marxists, Fascists, Socialists or even Nazis. We don’t live in the United States of America anymore we have been transported through some sort of tear in the space time continuum back to the days of Weimar Germany. My Lord what’s next? Street battles between extremists consumed by such hatred that they would destroy the country in order to save it? God help us all.

In the interest of fairness I ask you my readers to write my admirer Briar at briarcavendish@yahoo.com and tell him what you think of him.  Please know this is the e-mail that he left with his approved comment on this site so please let him know what you think.  If you of course disagree with me the manner to do so is in the comments section.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under philosophy, Political Commentary

Why Baseball Matters….There’s nothing bad that accrues from baseball

“Baseball is a habit. The slowly rising crescendo of each game, the rhythm of the long season–these are the essentials and they are remarkably unchanged over nearly a century and a half. Of how many American institutions can that be said?” George Will

“I would change policy, bring back natural grass and nickel beer. Baseball is the belly-button of our society. Straighten out baseball, and you straighten out the rest of the world.” Bill “Spaceman” Lee

Bill Lee had it right.  In a world filled with the prognostications of politicians, preachers and pundits all with their agendas to “fix” what ails society baseball is the one constant in American life that somehow calls us back to a better time and allows us to realize that bad times don’t last, unless perhaps you are a Cubs fan.  Baseball when you come down to it has no agenda it is not just a game but it is life, American life the way it is supposed to be. Baseball has endured despite strikes and scandals because of what it is and what it embodies and baseball matters to America more than political social or religious ideology.  Baseball is more than a game, it is America.

You see baseball at all levels matters from the Little Leagues to the Major Leagues is a game where talent and hard work teach life lessons.  It is a game but unlike other games it is a game where the past, present and future all matter and as such baseball helps connect us to the reality of life.  It stands apart from the overwhelming cultural impulses of most other sports, the media and the entertainment industries. Winning matters but the integrity of the game matters more which is why when there is a scandal in baseball that the politicians, pundits and preachers all suddenly become experts even if they have never played an organized game of baseball in their life and couldn’t tell a infield single from a fielder’s choice.

So why does baseball matter? Well let’s start with all those politicians, pundits and preachers that promise to “fix” the country on a daily basis.

In the United States of this new millennium we live in a pressure cooker that is being turned up to higher and more uncomfortable levels every day and I think this is in large part due to politicians, pundits and preachers who intentionally play on people’s worst fears and suspicions. For many people there is no relief and no place to go for succor.  The political climate is toxic and destructive, politicians and pundits of all stripes beat the airwaves senseless with their non-stop propaganda and twisting of the truth and it seems that many of the politicians simply desire power for power’s sake rather than being interested in the good of the country.

Pundits make their money by stirring up controversy just as the pundits of the “yellow journalism” era did over a century ago.  Of course some preachers who desire earthy power, popularity and political influence doing the same stirring up the emotions and playing on the fears of their flocks as this keeps the money flowing.  I think that these relationships are incestuous and do more harm to the people of this country than good.  Thus I figure that very few of these people have any interest in bringing peace to the country. Whether it is the Left calling the Right Nazis and Fascists or the Right calling the Left Communists and Socialists, all of which have meaning loaded with fear and emotion the effect is the same on those who cannot escape the ceaseless bombardment of bad news.

Even the most popular sport in the country, Football is a game of the modern industrial age. It is a game of power and open violence fought like a war on a gridiron and bounded by the clock which constrains the game force the players, coaches and fans into a mentality of artificial urgency which often carries over into the way that people do life in general.

Baseball on the other hand is different.  It calls us back to our roots and reminds us that the poisonous ideologies of the politicians, pundits and preachers will not last and as James Earl Jones playing the character of Terrance Mann in Field of Dreams so stirringly put it “The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.” Baseball even in its controversies and scandals still hearkens back to times just as trying and poisonous as the present and reminds us that those things which serve to divide us and may for a time hold sway over individuals and society will pass away and that our country still has a future and hope.

Baseball does not rush us along. It teaches us to savor detail and get caught up in the nuances of the game and of life. It is not governed by artificial deadline and if needed takes us into extra innings. No game is ever out of reach and baseball shows us that no matter how far we may be behind that we can come back and there is a fairness in that people can’t just run out the clock on you but have to give you a chance at the plate.

Baseball teaches us perspective and humility for even Hall of Fame members are not perfect. It is the one sport that teaches us a key fact about life; that we will fail often more times than we will succeed…. unless of course you are Mariano Rivera.  It teaches us another fact of life that we need to plan for the long term as the baseball season like life is a long event with many peaks and valleys.  As Andy Van Slyke once said “Every season has its peaks and valleys. What you have to try to do is eliminate the Grand Canyon.” It teaches us that we don’t know everything about life or even what we do well in our chosen vocation as Mickey Mantle said “It’s unbelievable how much you don’t know about the game you’ve been playing all your life.” Likewise it teaches us to put things in perspective by reminding us that we don’t know everything. Earl Weaver once said “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Such an attitude keeps us humble and reminds us that there is always more to learn.  Baseball also teaches us that you can’t live your life in the hopes of making everybody happy by worrying about what people think of how you do what you are called to do.  Tommy Lasorda noted “if you start worrying about the people in the stands, before too long you’re up in the stands with them.”

Baseball calls us to be better by teaching us that teamwork and individualism can work together for the good.  It helps teach us that individually we can be better no matter where we begin our life journey from. Satchel Paige said. “Ain’t no man can avoid being born average, but there ain’t no man got to be common.” Likewise it calls us to community as Harmon Killebrew noted that “Life is precious and time is a key element. Let’s make every moment count and help those who have a greater need than our own.” It also call us to be better human beings in matters of civil rights and the public good, as the late Commissioner of Baseball A. Bartlett Giamatti said “On matters of race, on matters of decency, baseball should lead the way” something that it began in 1948 with Jackie Robinson well before the rest of America figured this out.

Baseball is about striving to do better and be involved in life as Jackie Robinson said “Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.”

Baseball is about community with the fans, players, owners, management and media all having an interest in the game. It is funny when there is a scandal in baseball it is often viewed more seriously by the public than almost anything else. There are no congressional hearings about pro-football, basketball or hockey because they exist in a different world than baseball. Baseball despite football’s immense popularity as a sport still represents what is traditionally American.  It is a sport where someone can work their way up from nothing and be an All-Star and a sport that takes better care of its players unlike football which has left former players and stars crippled with terrible injuries for life with little assistance from the league and game that they sacrificed their bodies for. Football may titillate our baser gladiatorial instincts but baseball helps define us as people and as a nation more than any institution or sport in the land.

Yes baseball has problems, it is not a game of perfection except for brief moments where a pitcher will throw a perfect game and there have only been 18 of those in the history of Major League Baseball.  That is why it still speaks to many people who can relate to a game that deals with the ups and downs of life better than any other sport. Nothing is guaranteed in life and life can change for the better or the worse in an instant. Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech after he had been diagnosed with ALS is a case in point:

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and I have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t have considered it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrows? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky. When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat and vice versa, sends you a gift, that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeeper and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies, that’s something. When you have a father and mother work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body, it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed, that’s the finest I know. I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. And I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”

Those are just some of the reasons that baseball matters.  This is why George Will can say that “Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.” Walt Whitman once said “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.”

I know of no other sport that can help bring healing to our land which like in times past needs something to cheer about and remind us what is really important in life. You can disagree with me all you want but if tell me if any of this is bad for us after all anyone can argue a call.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, philosophy, Political Commentary, Religion

Oh Lord Stuck in Lodi Again….Gordon Klingenschmitt does Lodi

gjkGordon Klingenschmitt after his Court-Martial Conviction (Virgina Pilot Photo)

Just about a year ago, I set out on the road,
Seekin’ my fame and fortune, lookin’ for a pot of gold.
Things got bad, and things got worse, I guess you will know the tune.
Oh ! Lord, Stuck in Lodi again.

“O Lord Stuck in Lodi Again” Credence Clearwater Revival, words and music by John Fogarty

Failed Navy Chaplain defrocked Evangelical Episcopal Priest, Convicted Criminal, Right Wing D-Lister and narcissistic professional protester Gordon James “Chaps” Klingenschmitt pops up in the most unlikely of places.   If it was not pathetic it would be really funny.

The reason that I write this today is irony of  Gordon getting stuck in Lodi and the my relationship to Lodi.  You see Gordon showed up at yet another protest in a small town to battle a city council about people praying “in Jesus Name” as part of official city events such as city council meetings.  The city is Lodi California, just up the road from where I went to junior and senior high school, where I got my one high school football tackle in a real game and where my dad is finishing his days in a nursing home going through the ravages of end-stage Alzheimer’s disease.  Lodi is a small town, with historic German and Italian communities which is famous for wines and sits in the heart of the San Joaquin valley.  It is the home of the very popular Lodi Grape Festival. It was a pretty conservative town; well let’s say it used to be a town that had strong ties to the John Birch Society and other ultra-conservative organizations.  It was not very welcoming to outsiders and minorities.  Well times are changing in Lodi.  It mow has significant Hispanic and Asian populations as well as other minorities including Moslems.  Lately tension has been building and once again a battle is going on about faith in the public square.

nuke the whales

Now I’m an easy guy.  I really don’t get offended by anyone praying in whatever name they choose to do so as long as they are respectful of others and don’t try to use the government to promote or enforce their particular religious views on others.  Unfortunately this happens all of the time and people who do it world-wide to be on the more evangelical and fundamental wings of their religion.  Personally  I wish the climate were such that anyone of any faith could pray in whatever name that they chose to do without everyone  getting their BVD’s in a wad.

opus & krishna

Until the advent of the Moral Majority and other conservative Christian political-social activist groups there was an understanding in the United States of getting along in the public square.  Protestant-Catholic-Jew we were all Americans.  Only groups such as the Ku Klux Klan had problems with this.  Our tolerance extended to others who came to this country as immigrants resulting in what was called the “Melting Pot.”  We were an amazing society and our ability to have people of widely differing religious and political beliefs living together in peace was the envy of the rest of the world.

Our societal demographics have changed.  Minority populations have increased and with them a corresponding increase of religions which were not part of the historical “Protestant-Catholic-Jew” paradigm of American religious and cultural life.  This has brought about a clash between the more conservative and fundamental Christians who see this as a threat to the United States being a “Christian Nation” and undercutting its historical and cultural foundation.  My purpose here is not to argue that at all.  I can see the positive benefits of and want to maintain the underlying western cultural foundation of our country. At the same time I want others to enjoy the right to practice their own religion freely and not have individuals of any religion use the government to enforce their religious or non-religious beliefs on others.  I think what made us such a great country was our ability work through these things peacefully.  The greatest example in my mind of religious people working together were the “Four Chaplains” of the troopship Dorchester when it was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in 1943. There were two Protestants, a Catholic Priest and a Jewish Rabbi on the ship.  At the time most Protestants either did not believe Catholics to be Christians and saw them as an Alien and possibly hostile religion. Catholics had not yet admitted that Protestants were “separated brethren” and Jews where just kind of tolerated.   When the ship was torpedoed and began to sink there were not enough life jackets.  So the chaplains gave theirs to soldiers in need and were last seen praying with arms linked as the ship went down.  Such actions as this are what made our country great.  We need men and women like the Four Chaplains and not Gordon “Chaps” Klingenschmitt.  On a side note to this you can call me a heretic but I doubt that God is sending any one of these men to hell because they did not fit somebody’s theology of how someone is saved when they died doing what Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NIV)  I think anyone who has served in combat understands this better than people who enjoy the fruit of liberty without ever having paid more than taxes for it.

four chaplainsThe Four Chaplains

I have served in an ecumenical setting with a wide variety of ministers for almost twenty years.  In the setting that I work mutual respect of each other as clergy, respect and toleration of differing views are essential to ensuring that those who serve together in war are not trying to kill each other in peace.  For the most part we do this pretty well and it is a joy to serve with clergy from different faiths and care for God’s people regardless of their faith.  I heard the story of a man who is a bishop in his church who when he was in Navy basic training received a phone call from his mother at the administrative office.  While talking to her she died.  He credits a Jewish Chaplain with caring for him and helping him through that difficult time.  When my dad was deployed to Vietnam and I had a Sunday school teacher tell me that he was a “baby killer” it was a Roman Catholic Navy Chaplain that cared for me and my family and helped me not give up my faith and a Latter Day Saint (Mormon) Chaplain who ensured that I didn’t get thrown out of the Army in Chaplain School due to my big mouth and temper.  In none of these cases did the clergyman attempt to use the opportunity of crisis to convert us or to denigrate our faith.  Unfortunately this is what Gordon did in his Navy career and other like him do in whatever environment the live and serve.

What I see happening today is that the extremes, be they religious fundamentalists or all varieties, strident secularists or aggressive atheists all want the government to enforce their beliefs on everyone else. Such is a recipe for disaster.  One only has to look to Nazi Germany, Theocratic Iran, Saudi Arabia, the former Yugoslavia and the ex-Soviet Union and post invasion Iraq to see what happens when one group or another chooses to use the government or violence to enforce or propagate their religious, political, social or racial beliefs on others.  Having been to the Balkans and Iraq I have seen the results of this.  If you go to the Rhine River Valley in Germany you can still see the ruins of castles destroyed during the 30 years war, a war based on governments using religion or region using government to enforce their will on others.  We are now seeing a rise in private militia groups and others who are arming themselves for conflict.  Likewise there are those stoking the fire by urging secession or even revolt and these include people who call themselves Christians.  A current of discontent kind of like the toxic sludge under New York in Ghostbusters II is bubbling under our feet and is now beginning to burst to the surface as people from the left and right clash at their Congressional representative’s town hall meetings.  The fact that these are turning violent means that we are crossing a line that we may not be able to turn back from.  Voices of moderation and those seeking compromise, accommodation and tolerance are being drowned out, just as they were in Wiemar Germany when Nazis and Communists battled in the streets and attempted to take over the power of government.

Now I do see how people can feel threatened when there is rapid sociological and demographic change in a country.  So in some ways I can understand why people are protesting in Lodi.  My problem is that the leaders of this “movement” are fringe players using fear to fan the flames of their cause.  This is the case with Klingenschmitt who has routinely obfuscated, distorted and spun things to promote a fiction that he has been persecuted for his beliefs when in fact he was constantly using his public office to promote himself, his personal (not even his church’s) beliefs and denigrate those of others while giving lip service to toleration.  Since being convicted by court-martial, not for “praying in Jesus Name” but for disobeying a lawful order not to speak at a partisan political event, Klingenschmitt has constantly painted himself as a victim of persecution and spokesman for a movement. In doing so he has engaged in character assassination of former commanding officers and command chaplains and launched a campaign of “imprecatory prayer” (prayers of harm and judgment) upon his opponents.  I am sure that he has significant financial benefactors who make these possible; benefactors who share his goals of a Christian theocracy among them the Ultra-conservative “News” site World Net Daily.

The irony and sadness of Gordon’s trip to Lodi is that like the character in the song Oh Lord, Stuck in Lodi Again he is stuck and will unfortunately pursue this until he destroys himself, his families and others.  Unfortunately, Gordon and those like him as well as his opposites on the extreme left are leading us to destruction as a society unless the moderate majority that wants to live in peace begins to stand up before it is too late. God help us all and bless our Great Country.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under History, Lies of World Net Daily, Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy, Religion

The Danger of Right Wing and Left Wing Extremism

“Let everyone regulate his conduct… by the golden rule of doing to others as in similar circumstances we would have them do to us, and the path of duty will be clear before him.”  William Wilberforce

The past two weeks have been a watershed in modern American History.  For the first time in memory we have had a series of ideological, political and religious murders committed by men who believed that their actions were justifiable homicide.  The first was the murder of a physician who had a fair amount of his practice devoted to abortions including late term abortions.  George Teller was killed by Scott Roeder a militant anti-government member of the Freemen and a fringe player in anti-abortion groups who was influenced by the militant anti-abortion group The Army of God which believes in justifiable homicide.  The murder was in Tiller’s church.  The clinic which Tiller operated is being shut down by his family.  Roeder believes it a victory but many in the pro-life movement are concerned that it will lead to crackdown on mainstream pro-lifers, and also that the closing of the Tiller clinic could lead to similar attacks by those emboldened by Roeder’s action.

The second killing was that of Army Pvt. William Long outside of a recruiting station in Little Rock.  The confessed murderer used an assault rifle to kill Pvt. Long and wound another soldier serving as home town recruiters prior to reporting to their unit following their initial entry training.  The suspects, an American convert to Islam named Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he didn’t consider the killing a murder because U.S. military action in the Middle East made the killing justified.  “I don’t think it was murder, because murder is when a person kills another person without justified reason.”  Mujahid Muhammad warned soldiers and their families in the US that they were also targets: “The battlefield is not just in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Muhammad says.  “A battlefield is anywhere we see you at.  And those people in the Army and those families of the people in the Army and the military and personnel all over the country, if you don’t want to die or get shot for this so called war on terrorism, war on Islam, then get out of the Army.  Get out of the Army and don’t walk, run.” This attack followed other attacks on recruiting stations including the bombing of the Armed Forces Recruiting station in Times Square last year.

The most recent attack occurred today as an 88 year old White Supremacist and Holocaust denier James Von Brunn walked into the Holocaust Memorial Museum killing a guard.  Von Brunn’s sites as well as other Neo-Nazi websites such as Stormfront prominently spew Von Brunn’s hatred toward minorities in the United States.   His book, “Kill The Best Gentiles,” embraces Adolf Hitler’s view that Jews concocted World War I as part of a scheme to stab Germany in the back — a myth the Nazis used to justify the Holocaust. He is called an “independent investigator by some and has issued statements on the citizenship controversy pushed by some on the far Right about President Obama’s eligibility to serve as President  and comments about the religion of then CENTCOM commander General Tommy Franks.

All three of these men evidently believe in justifiable homicide and are willing to kill for their ideological or religious beliefs.  What makes this sudden spike in assassination for ideological reasons significant is that the nation is polarized by the extreme Right and extreme Left which both see the world and their causes no matter what they are in black and white terms.  There is no intent by any extreme group to dialogue or find compromise with their opponents, even if such compromise would gain them at least part of what they want.  Instead, the rhetoric of the extremes has continued to increase and find airtime on supposedly “mainstream” media outlets both liberal and conservative.  This provides some manner of legitimacy to the extremist groups even as their more boisterous political and media supporters ratchet up the rhetoric.  This makes for an incredibly volatile situation which is fraught with danger for all as more and more people see violence, including justifiable homicide as a legitimate option to push their agenda.  In our country we cannot forget that John Brown, though right in his desire to end slavery engaged in tactics which helped push the country to civil war, a war that while freeing African-Americans from the yoke of slavery imposed a yoke nearly as heavy on them, know as Jim Crow laws that lasted until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King and the Voting Rights Act of 1964.  Even still racism is still a reality for many blacks and other minorities.  Brown’s desire to end slavery may have been righteous but he destroyed the political center which could have ended it peacefully in time just as William Wilberforce and his allies in Parliament had done in England.

The perilous situation that exists now is that which erodes the center on which all depend on to hold.  Neither Left Wing or Right Wing extremists give a damn about the majority who are somewhere in between.  As a passionate moderate I see this as a dangerous trend.  In Germany of the late 1920s and early 1930s both the Communists and Nazis polarized the nation.  The more moderate Social Democrats, Catholic Center Party and other smaller middle of the road parties were marginalized as time went on.  Eventually the Nazis won that power struggle with dire consequences which extended far beyond Germany.  As the rhetoric rises and those who justify violence be it against people, institutions or property are emboldened to act it will further fracture the middle.  It is imperative that the Center to hold, as Edmund Burke said: “All it needs for evil to prosper is for people of goodwill to do nothing.”

These actions could well be harbingers of things to come.  What is even more concerning as they take place at a time of worldwide economic crisis when we have hundreds of thousands of troops deployed to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Additionally, North Korea rattling sabers and several critical nations, some with nuclear weapons on the brink of collapse, failure or civil war.  I pray that men and women of goodwill and courage arise in the center and passionately advocate not for a particular party or cause, but the good of all.  People of faith need to pray not for a particular political resolution favorable to them, but for God’s peace and healing in our country.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under History, Loose thoughts and musings, Political Commentary