Tag Archives: COVID 19 pandemic

Ten Days In November: COVID-19 Winter Sets In

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

COVID-19 Winter is here. The past month was brutal. Between 14 October and 13 November the United States went from 8,188,931 total cases 11,064,164. That is almost three million more infections. During that time there was an increase of COVID-19 deaths from 222,247 to 249,975. The number of active cases went from 2,675,985 to 4,025,243. Texas and California both topped a million total cases and Texas will soon top 20,000 deaths.

Most states are reporting all time highs in terms of new infections, and the infections are leading to large numbers of hospitalizations and in many rural states hospitals are at or near capacity and their ICU units are full. Across the country the virus is spreading and the same thing is happening. Even worse, the shortage of trained and experienced doctors, nurses, and technicians is stressing the system even more, because those on duty are exhausted, many are becoming infected. It is so bad in North Dakota that COVID-19 infected medical professionals are being allowed to return to work.

The growth is exponential. If the past month was bad, the last ten days were worse, 1,235,146 new infections and 11,337 deaths. The average of those ten days is over 123,000 new infections a day and 1,130 deaths.

The good news is that an effective vaccine may be approved with distribution starting in January. Even so it will take months at best to vaccinate enough people to start making a substantial impact, and the caveat is that a person needs two doses.

That still leaves us with doing the basics and doing them well to slow the spread of the virus: wearing masks correctly, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and frequent hand washing. But unfortunately President Trump, much of his administration, Congressional supporters, Republican governors and legislators, and his cult like followers resist doing these things. Trump and his cult politicized public health and the result is disaster followed by worse. This will break our medical system. The corporate for-profit system that prioritizes procedures that make big money from insurance companies, which profit by charging people as much as they can, paying as little possible, and denying coverage for paying customers whenever possible has turned health care into a privilege for those that can afford it and pushes those that cannot afford  it into no-win situations.

When we were traveling in Germany two years ago my wife got a bacterial infection that sickened her. When we arrived at a friend’s house near Karlsruhe it was getting pretty bad. Our friend took Judy to her doctor who took time with her, and prescribed antibiotics. The cost of the visit was minimal, far less than would have been charged here, and the cost of the medication was negligible. If we had been without insurance here it would have such care it would have been very costly. No wonder so many people here, even those with insurance plans put off, delay or don’t seek treatment.

Two weeks ago I began a journey into an abyss that I have just about recovered. I had a molar in the back of my mouth crack from the top to the root. It started with a headache on Wednesday 28 October. The headache was bad enough to make me miss work. The next two days I had contractors in the house and on Friday 30 October the tooth started hurting with my pain level going up to 12 on a scale of 10 by Friday night. Since all the Navy dental clinics were closed I went to the Naval Medical Center Emergency Room with to hope of been to see the on call Dentist. I was examined by a very young Physician’s Assistant who gave a cursory look at my mouth, said that she could not see anything worth calling down the dentist, sent me home with pain killers and antibiotics, telling me to go to my clinic on Monday morning. I have been in the military forever, I have learned to suck pain up and not complain. I went home where despite the medicine my pain got much worse and the infection in my jaw became far worse. By the time I got to the dental clinic the first dentist I saw was in shock at what he saw. I was immediately referred to an Endodontist who determined that the tooth had cracked, the nerve became infected and died with the infection spreading throughout my lower jaw. The tooth was pulled, antibiotics injected into the socket and I was sent home with stronger antibiotics and more pain medication. But I am still feeling the effects. I am having TMJ like symptoms, I continue to suffer bad headaches and the swelling is not yet gone. I called today but just got the clinic and Endontist voice mail. I will have to try to contact them on Monday morning to see about follow up.

Sadly, if I was most of the people I know in the civilian world, they would have received less care and an exorbitant price, because most health care plans severely limit dental care. However, the infection in my jaw could have become life threatening. People die from complications to dental infections, but this does not seem to be import to our profit driven health care system. Our military provided medical insurance payments for dental care are so pathetic that many dentists refuse to accept it and demand payment in full, by the way unless we are stationed overseas our family members cannot be seen in military dental clinics. Compared to most people we are privileged. Is that any way to live? Does that promote any sense of life and liberty? I think not.

How can we ever claim to be a people that values life when we make it impossible for people to have the medical care, mainly preventive care in order to fully realize the premise of the Declaration of Independence, that “All men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

If people do not have a right to healthcare, they give up much of their unalienable rights to life, freedom and happiness. Unfortunately the choices our leaders have made for more than a generation have harmed our health care system and are directly impacting our response to the Coronavirus 19 Pandemic. We do not have enough physicians, enough nurses, or enough trained clinicians to take care of people in a holistic manner, we don’t have surpluses of beds, Reserve ICUs, or equipment because our hospitals and medical systems are based on maximizing profit, minimizing time in hospitals, and oppose traditional doctor patient relationships which at one time were based on doctors who knew their patients, sometimes for generations. Because of how hospital systems and insurers drive payments most doctors no longer have the time to actually know their patients and do what is best for them. This is not the fault of the doctors, most I know would love to have that luxury and are highly frustrated by the constraints placed on them by the insurance and corporate health care complex.

This has redounded to our current crisis. We don’t have the doctors, nurses, support staff, or reserve bed space because to do so is not profitable.

Our COVID-19 Winter Has just begun. Deaths could double. Hospitals will have to pick and chose who they will treat, guarantying that far to many will die and that even survivors will be subjected to lifelong illnesses.

Ten days from now I will write an update to this.

By the way, if you actually care about life you need to read historian Timothy Snyder’s latest book “Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary. It is not a long read, but it is very sobering.

That is enough for now, but ask yourself the question: “How important is life to me? Is it enough to consider that our lives and liberty depend on being healthy? Or does that not matter? It if it does not, then I would dare say that you do not value life, liberty, or anything that is supposed to be an anchor of who we are as Americans, especially if we claim to be Christians. your personal “liberty” involves endangering the lives of other citizens by disobeying the most basic public health precautions involved in the commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself” and opposing measures to ensure that every citizen has affordable and effective healthcare that does not leave them at the lack of mercy of our current corporate profit driven system, then I think your concept of the Declaration and what it means to be an American, and what it means to be a Christian is wrong. One cannot support our current policies and healthcare system and still say they support our nations foundational ideas, nor the teachings of Jesus.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under christian life, civil rights, Coronavirus, Coronavirus 19 Pandemic, COVID19, Diseases Epidemics and Pandemics, economics and financial policy, germany, healthcare, laws and legislation, leadership, natural disasters, Political Commentary

Pastors That Embody The Gospel and Don’t Use it as a Weapon: Thoughts from My Friend Fr. Kenneth Tanner


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

This is the latest Facebook post of my friend Father Kenneth Tanner,  Pastor and Priest at Holy Redeemer Church in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Before this he was on Staff and wrote for “Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity.” His blog is located at https://medium.com/@kennethtanner 

As for me after doing some work around the house, I went out to watch Maddy playing in her little wading pool and slipped, causing me to do the splits, land hard on my right knee, and further aggravate my right hip. I have my bilateral knee injections on Monday and will have to bring up this, and the number of times I have had my knee or ankle go out, and my increasing number of falls. Since I had my VA evaluation Tuesday I have to send them an update. I think I will go back to using a cane, because it is really getting old. So I am going to go back to editing “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory!”

Please have a good and safe day and read Fr. Kenneth’s Essay on being a pastor in a time like this. He is refreshingly honest and pretty much sums up why I will not be a Church pastor or fight the politics of institutional Chaplain ministry when I retire from the Navy in less than 100 days. But we do need pastors like him.

Peace,

Padre Steve+ 

Father Kenneth’s essay follows…

 

Those who follow my social media know that the vast majority of my stories and images are about Jesus—his authentic humanity and his vulnerable divinity, how his unique person is our salvation and the salvation of the world. I’m astonished by and obsessed with Christ.

This same Jesus, who embodies the law and the prophets, who became one of us—a frail human who’s not immune to hunger, thirst, pain, and death—in order to liberate captives and set the oppressed free.

Those who bear the name and work of Jesus as they lead the church are not allowed to remain silent about the illnesses effecting their societies. We are held accountable for silence and inaction.

Our nation’s war on drugs and on terror has slowly eroded civil liberties and presents us with a crisis about personal freedoms, police powers, incarceration, and so on, and black Americans have shouldered the cross of what’s wrong.

Jesus came to set prisoners free—actual prisoners.

Justice systems are corrupt, are punitive rather than restorative, and America is not immune.

The gospel seeks to upend all of that with a profound trust in the ability of humans to heal—to be forgiven and to forgive—a trust that’s not shared by our nation’s “survival of the fittest” mentality.

Jesus stands with the poor, the refugee, the prisoner—not the ideal poor, or employable refugees, or model prisoners but the kinds we find in the real world, just as they are in all their inconvenience—and he expects us to lift up their cause.

What’s happened lately is that the political Left and the political Right define a lot of what the gospel urgently calls us to embody and to do as “political,” as supporting the ends of political movements, figures, or parties.

For the Left, if you believe that pre-born children have the right to life, for but one instance, then you must be a Republican or a supporter of the President.

No, you are simply applying to our public life together ideas of humanity, creation, and personhood taught in the Scriptures.

For the Right, if you want immigrants and refugees welcomed and treated with dignity, for but one instance, then you must be a Democrat or a supporter of their leaders.

No, you are simply listening to the law and prophets of Israel and applying to our public life together their relentless and ubiquitous warnings about God’s wrath toward any people who do not welcome and care for strangers and sojourners.

Salvation is not only about life after death but about this world, about our time and place in this world, and God is often waiting for Spirit-empowered humans to bring the kind of salvation he intends for the world by living the gospel.

So while I do not speak out about most things that concern me—I would never stop speaking right now if I did that—I do speak out loudly when I feel compelled before God to do so (as in this week’s meme about Breonna Taylor and our society’s collective responsibility for her).

It is a high wire act and something like a personal siege to be the leader of a spiritual community in this moment.

I don’t know any pastor who’s not disheartened, burned out, and ready to quit. They won’t tell you about it, but I will.

I preached Jesus Christ to the folks at Holy Redeemer for 15 years but like every other church in this town (and around the country), our congregations are divided between those who want everyone to wear masks at church all the time or they won’t attend and those you don’t want to wear a mask at all so they won’t attend, some who think the pandemic is a hoax and others who think it’s real, along with so many other silly binaries that divide us, driven by a media and a political class that thrives on our separation.

It rips me up. Day and night. I/we won’t be one of them by the grace of God but a tidal wave of pastoral resignations and church closings is coming.

I *thought* we were all centered in Jesus Christ. I thought we were different at HR. It’s a MAJOR gut punch. I don’t even hear from families we served for more than a decade. Not a phone call, not a text, not a peep, even though we reach out consistently.

Then I read something from Eugene Peterson, in his “Eat This Book,” about 1982 and economic and racial tensions that were present and how disappointed he was, after 20 years of preaching, to see his congregation as divided as the world.

He started reading Galatians and the Corinthian letters and realized that Paul had the same troubles with his congregations in the first century, divided over truly dumb stuff.

It’s a human problem.

Eugene realized he was not a failure.

And he decided to double down on Jesus Christ.

And that’s how The Message was born.

I decided months ago to double down on Jesus, too. And my joy in preaching and leading has returned, even though far fewer people hear my sermons. They feel like some of the best of my life and some folks are hearing them. And that’s OK with me. It really is.

When I do address matters of public concern I address them not as a person with political interests but as one called to witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. That means that sometimes I sound like a “liberal” and sometimes I sound like a “conservative.”

And therefore a lot of times I am misunderstood by most everyone for all of the reasons I just laid out. And that’s OK with me, too. It really is.

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Filed under christian life, faith, leadership, Loose thoughts and musings, ministry, Pastoral Care, Political Commentary, Religion, spirituality

“Say I Slew Them Not” Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, and the U.S. Response to COVID19

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have to admit that the amount of ignorance in the defense of evil that I see daily is simply mind blowing. It makes me shake my head. But then I cannot be surprised anymore. Over the weekend I saw a poll in which nine percent of Americans said that holding White Supremacist or Neo-Nazi views and ideology was okay.

Now nine percent doesn’t sound like a big number or anything to worry about until you extrapolate that percentage into the numbers of people who hold that view. Based on the population of the United States that nine percent equals about thirty million individuals. Now I’m sure that many of these patriotic Americans are not card carrying Klansmen or Nazis, but the fact that they would turn a blind eye to the evil of both in the name of some incomprehensible moral equivalence as did President Trump after Charlottesville is quite disturbing. Perhaps it is his example that enables them to be so open about their acceptance of evil.

Yesterday on my Facebook page a friend of a friend commented on an article which discussed new research that indicates that the Nazis in their occupation of the Ukraine killed perhaps a half million more Jews than previously believed. That woman made the comment that there were others, and yes that is true. Had the Nazis won the war tens of millions more of the Jews as well as the Slavs who they referred to as Untermenschen or subhumans would have been killed, either directly or through a policy of intentional starvation. But make no bones about it, from the months that Hitler spent in Landsberg prison for his role in the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 writing Mein Kampf until the end of the war as the Red Army closed in on his bunker in Berlin, the Jews above all were the object of his personal hatred.

Close to six million Jews and millions of others were killed by the Nazis. Millions of Africans were enslaved in the United States and even after emancipation were by law treated as less than full citizens. Under Jim Crow they were discriminated against at every level of government including states that were neither a part of the Confederacy or not even States when the Civil War was fought, they were impressed as forced labor under the Black Codes and thousands were murdered, often in public by people who brought their children to watch Black men die.

But these people were not just numbers. It’s all to easy to blur them into a mass of dehumanized humanity by talking about the millions, when every single one was a human being, yes, I believe created in the image of God. We have to see their faces and we have to recognize their essential humanity as men and women, children, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives, whose lives were in the case of the Jews obliterated as if they never existed, and others like African slaves who were simply property.

I explained that in quite a few fewer words and told her that she shouldn’t challenge me on the subject, which of course she did. So I went into more detail and shot her argument down in flames, to the cheers of other commentators on the post. When you have spent much of your academic life studying a subject it really gets old hearing people make excuse for evil by trying to minimize that evil, especially against the targeted people.

It’s like Confederate apologists saying that the institution of slavery which enslaved millions of Africans was actually worse for White people. Yes it is true that many poor whites benefited little from slavery, but they were not bought and sold as chattel, sold away from their wives and children, whipped, and marched across country in chains to new owners, or yes even killed simply because they were not considered human beings but property.

Sadly, as Dr. Timothy Snyder wrote “The history of the Holocaust is not over. Its precedent is eternal, and its lessons have not yet been learned.”

So there are about 30 million Americans who believe that holding Nazi and White Supremacist beliefs is okay. A few years ago I would believed that the number was lower, but after seven months of living in Trump’s America I believe that it might be even higher than the poll indicated. I only say this based on the postings I see on various social media platforms, news comment pages, the proliferation of websites that cater to these beliefs, and the lack of real condemnation of such individuals by the majority of the GOP Senate and House majorities, and the outright defense of them by other GOP representatives at the Federal and State level. These people have not learned the lessons of the Holocaust, nor American slavery.

Again I don’t believe that the majority of these people are real card carrying Nazis or Klansmen. Most would probably be considered great citizens: they work, they raise families, they go to church, and many would claim that they have “a Black or Jewish friend” so obviously they cannot be racists. But that being said they turn a blind eye to the evil of race hatred and White supremacy, and sometimes join in on social media meme wars where they mock the victims. But no matter what, not condemning the purveyors of White Supremacist or Neo-Nazi ideology, or by using the arguments of moral equivalence to minimize those crimes against humanity makes these people as complicit in the past, present, and future crimes of Naziism as if they were.

They may be ordinary people, as seemingly normal as anyone else, but as Hannah Arendt noted about Adolf Eichmann and other Nazis who advanced the destruction of the Jews was that they were so normal. She wrote:

“The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.”

That my friends is as true as the day she wrote it after Eichmann’s trial, as it is today, and why we must constantly educate people in every forum possible that it is all too easy to become either a perpetrator or evil or a bystander. As Snyder wrote:

“It is less appealing, but morally more urgent, to understand the actions of the perpetrators. The moral danger, after all, is never that one might become a victim but that one might be a perpetrator or a bystander. It is tempting to say that a Nazi murderer is beyond the pale of understanding. …Yet to deny a human being his human character is to render ethics impossible. To yield to this temptation, to find other people inhuman, is to take a step toward, not away from, the Nazi position. To find other people incomprehensible is to abandon the search for understanding, and thus to abandon history.”

Since they were human beings the Nazis were not unique to history. In every era of history human beings have committed atrocities, many in the name of some kind of ethnic, religious, or nationalist ideology of supremacy that held other people to be less than human. That may sound harsh, but it is all too true based on history.

Yehuda Bauer wrote: “The horror of the Holocaust is not that it deviated from human norms; the horror is that it didn’t. What happened may happen again, to others not necessarily Jews, perpetrated by others, not necessarily Germans. We are all possible victims, possible perpetrators, possible bystanders.”

In the movie Judgment at Nuremberg the judge played by Spencer Tracy noted something important about the defendants in the trial. His words need to be heard today as well:

Janning, to be sure, is a tragic figure. We believe he loathed the evil he did. But compassion for the present torture of his soul must not beget forgetfulness of the torture and the death of millions by the Government of which he was a part. Janning’s record and his fate illuminate the most shattering truth that has emerged from this trial: If he and all of the other defendants had been degraded perverts, if all of the leaders of the Third Reich had been sadistic monsters and maniacs, then these events would have no more moral significance than an earthquake, or any other natural catastrophe.

But this trial has shown that under a national crisis, ordinary – even able and extraordinary – men can delude themselves into the commission of crimes so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination. No one who has sat through the trial can ever forget them: men sterilized because of political belief; a mockery made of friendship and faith; the murder of children. How easily it can happen. There are those in our own country too who today speak of the “protection of country” – of ‘survival’. A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient – to look the other way. Well, the answer to that is ‘survival as what’? A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult! Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.

We have not learned any of those lessons as Americans and it is being seen in the response of the Trump Administration, Republican Senators and Representatives, as well as many GOP state and local, officials to the Coronavirus 19 pandemic. This pandemic has already claimed the lives of over 170,000 Americans, with roughly two and a half million currently infected, with over 50,000 cases a day, a number that with the reopening of many schools is probably going to increase to 70,000 or more in the next few weeks with a death rate that will increase correspondingly a few weeks later. Despite that the lies of the Coronavirus 19 pandemic deniers, led by President Trump continue to deny and lie, as if the dead were not dead. As Justice Robert Jackson said of the defendants at the Major War Crimes Trial at Nuremberg, the blood of these people is on their hands

“They stand before the record of this trial as bloodstained Gloucester stood by the body of his slain King. He begged of the widow, as they beg of you: “Say I slew them not.” And the Queen replied, “Then say they were not slain. But dead they are ….” If you were to say of these men that they are not guilty, it would be as true to say that there has been no war, there are no slain, there has been no crime.” 


That is exactly what Trump and his racist and pandemic denying cult are guilty of, and they will continue to shed to blood of fellow Americans citizens until, and probably after when he leaves office. And every person they kill through their inaction, lack of empathy, and their willingness to share in the crimes of Trump, is very little different from Germans who said nothing as Hitler’s cult slaughtered the Jews and Millions of others in their dreams of a pure Aryan race, and Lebensraum or living space, even if it meant killing millions of innocent victims. American Army Psychologist Gustave Gilbert wrote in his book:

“In my work with the defendants (at the Nuremberg Trails 1945-1949) I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.”

The people of today who support the policies of Trump, the GOP, and their propagandists who are directly responsible through their words, policies, and lack of responsibility are no different than the supporters of Hitler who carried out the Holocaust and regarded their victims very much As such they are no different than Joseph Stalin who said: “The death of one man is tragic, but the death of thousands is statistic.”

It is high time that we learn that again and that we make up our minds to oppose the ideologies that made the Holocaust,  Slavery and our pathetic and often selfish response to the Coronavirus 19 pandemic possible. As Hannah Arendt observed: “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”  Those who defend the actions, take part in them, or remain bystanders and make excuses for themselves on demonstrate the depths of moral depravity they have sunk to, the depths of their narcissism, and their complete lack of empathy for the victims. In other words just what malignant sociopaths they are.

So until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under anti-semitism, authoritarian government, civil rights, Coronavirus 19 Pandemic, crime, crimes against humanity, healthcare, History, holocaust, Immigration and immigrants, laws and legislation, leadership, nazi germany, News and current events, Political Commentary, racism, Religion, state government agencies, White nationalism, women's rights

“Final decisions about the nation’s existence are at stake here…” America at the Tipping Point of Dictatorship and Democracy

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I started this article last night but could not finish it because of how upset I was after seeing President Trump’s speech last night where he threatened the use of active duty military forces against protestors, declared an unorganized amorphous group known as Antifa, as a terrorist organization on the order of Al Qaida, and launched into a tirade worthy of Hitler in a teleconference with the nation’s governors.

But what got me was what happened during his speech. He promised the use of dominating protestors, as he ended his speech tear gas was launched and a line of unarmed peaceful protestors near St John’s Episcopal Church were suddenly assaulted by heavily armed police in riot gear and officers mounted on horseback. An aid station was overrun and two priests handing out water assaulted. I do not know if National Guard personnel were involved in the attack, which was ordered personally by Attorney General Bob Barr, so the President could walk from the White House, through Lafayette Square, and have a photo op holding a Bible in front of the church. It was  an act of absolute violence just to take a propaganda photo.

The Episcopal Bishop for Washington DC, Bishop Mariann Budde almost immediately after the incident:

“ I am outraged. The President did not pray when he came to St. John’s, nor as you just articulated, did he acknowledge the agony of our country right now,” Budde told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360.”

“And in particular, that of the people of color in our nation, who wonder if anyone ever — anyone in public power will ever acknowledge their sacred words. And who are rightfully demanding an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country. And I just want the world to know, that we in the diocese of Washington, following Jesus and his way of love … we distance ourselves from the incendiary language of this President. We follow someone who lived a life of nonviolence and sacrificial love.”

While we were in Berlin a bit under two years ago I visited the German Resistance Memorial Center. The museum is located in what was the headquarters of the German Army in World War One, the Weimar Republic, and during the Nazi Era. On July 20th 1944, German Army officers attempted to kill Adolf Hitler, overthrow the Nazi regime, and end the war. Sadly, they failed in their attempt and most of those involved were tried and executed for what their criminal government considered treason.

Of course by the law of their times their act was treasonous, but morally it was all that men and women committed to the rule of law and human rights could do. Our founders even understood and enunciated that concept of liberty in their time.

One of the conspirators in the anti-Hitler plot was Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg was well aware of how their actions would be categorized under current German law. The man who planted a bomb and attempted to assassinate and overthrow Hitler noted:

“I know that he who will act will go down in German history as a traitor; but he who can and does not, will be a traitor to his own conscience.” 

He was correct by the law of the times. All of the officers involved had all sworn a personal oath of obedience to Adolf Hitler as the Führer and Reichskanzler of Germany in 1934. At the time most of the men who swore that oath did not anticipate what would come, as many of us who took our oaths the the Constitution could imagine ever having to possibly disobey criminal orders, lawfully issued by the President? Today, actually yesterday evening, President Trump threatened states and cities which could not control protests with military intervention.

Many of the older officers had served in the Imperial Army and sworn an oath to the Kaiser and their dynasties of the lands where they entered service. That changed in 1918 when the Weimar Republic came into existence and military officers as well as civil servants swore an oath to the constitution rather than a person. We don’t have that excuse, our military officers have always sworn our oath to the Constitution and not any President or political party.

However, one year after Hitler came to power as Reichskanzler, President Hindenburg died. Hitler, seized the opportunity used the occasion to swear the military, as well as the civil service to a new oath. This oath was not to the Constitution, or to Office of thePresidency or Chancellor, but to him personally as the Führer and Reichskanzler. Though there have been no changes to our oaths of office, the President acts as he is the law, and the law is his word, and overrides the Constitution, it’s prescribed checks and balances between the Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Judicial Branch, and the powers given under the Constitution to the States. Like Hitler, Trump has surrounded himself with yes men committed to serving him and ignoring the Constitution and law of the land.

Most German officers and civil servants, even those uncomfortable with Hitler’s policies, obeyed their oaths and simply stayed in their lanes and did their jobs, even when they had incontrovertible evidence of Nazi atrocities. They stood by as bystanders. Yehuda Bauer, Israeli historian and chronicler of the Holocaust, who with his family escaped Czechoslovakia on the day Hitler invaded it, and made their way to Palestine wrote these immortal lines: Thou shall not be a perpetrator, thou shall not be a victim, and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.”, thou shall not be a victim, and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.”

Yet there were others who for a number of reasons, in some cases noble, and in others pragmatic, or even base, decided to break the oath they had sworn to Hitler in 1934. Among these men was General Ludwig Beck. Beck noted:

“It is a lack of character and insight, when a soldier in high command sees his duty and mission only in the context of his military orders without realizing that the highest responsibility is to the people of his country.”

Beck also wrote something that is all to important to any military officer, intelligence and law enforcement officials, as well as diplomats in such times as we live today:

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

With the rise of legally elected authoritarian rulers in Europe and the Americas should concern men and women who have sworn to uphold the constitutions of their countries. These leaders campaigning against democratic institutions, and upon gaining power purge those institutions of opponents and use them to solidify their own power. The veneer of democracy is maintained while the soul of it is crushed, as it seems to be this very day as President Trump threatens and verbally insults governors, and uses the most heavy handed methods to crush mostly peace protests.  Almost all the Constitutional and institutional guardrails designed to prevent a President from assuming dictatorial powers have be rolled over and crushed. Too often those charged with guarding it are willing participants in its death, soldiers, civil servants, judges, and legislators. Such was the case in the Third Reich, and could well be the case here.

The problem is that President Trump as a malignant narcissistic sociopath who has no empathy for anyone, no respect for the Constitution or law, despite calling himself a “law and order president.” He has no scruples and there is no line he will not cause. His policies have been racist, homophobic, misogynistic, one sided to enrich the richest and impoverish everyone else. Though he bills himself as a defender of the Christian faith, he blasphemies its most sacred doctrines, scorns its command to love, carries a Bible for show, all to gain the allegiance of his most politically naive, theologically insipid, morally bankrupt, ethically challenged, and power hungry voting block in the nation, Conservative Christians. Russian dissident Gary Kasparov stated something that is burned into the DNA of President Trump:

“dictators & would be autocrats do not ask “Why?” when it comes to using power for their advantage. They ask “why not?”

With the COVID 19 pandemic still raging that he cannot control, and has simply abdicated his position to do anything constructive to solve; much less actually help the states with over 106,000 Americans now dead, over 40 million Americans are newly unemployed, businesses large and small are failing, and he does nothing. Even so the stock market is booming, even as he and the Republican Senate refuse to pass anymore aid to help those without jobs, small business owners who have lost everything, and those who will be soon evicted from their rental properties or have their homes foreclosed on in the next month or two. There is an obvious disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street. And finally, we have massive civil unrest which could have been prevent had President Trump simply been civil and decent, rather that rude, crass, and unfeeling. Rather than addressing the truth of what was going on he retreated into his cloud-cuckoo-nest of acting tough while hiding in a bunker. Kasparov was completely right about him.

That is what Beck understood as well. Beck was certainly not perfect. He longed for the return of the monarchy and had the same cultural anti-semitism of most German conservatives, but he did not act on it. Instead, resigned his office as Chief of Staff of the German Army in 1938 over Hitler’s plan to invade Czechoslovakia, became a member of the anti-Hitler resistance and died in the failed attempt on Hitler’s life on July 20th 1944. He was a career Army officer and a conservative, but he realized that there are limits to obedience in the face of evil.

Another officer, Colonel, later Major General Henning Von Tresckow noted: “I cannot understand how people can still call themselves Christians and not be furious adversaries of Hitler’s regime.”  We can now just substitute Trump’s name in that quote, for in the case of many supposed conservative Evangelical Christians, Trump has become a Messiah figure.

Tresckow also noted: “We have to show the world that not all of us are like him. Otherwise, this will always be Hitler’s Germany.” Again you can substitute Trump’s name in that quote. Tresckow also said: “It is almost certain that we will fail. But how will future history judge the German people, if not even a handful of men had the courage to put an end to that criminal?” The same is true in our day.

How harshly will history judge the American people if we allow this by our action, or inaction to keep going even as thousands of people a day continue to die of COVID19, more and more people losing their jobs, businesses and houses, and heavy handed police tactics claim the lives of more and more people, mostly Blacks and other people of color? Answer that question.

The more Trump says and does the more the world, and especially our oldest and most reliable allies wonder about us, and will seek ways to separate themselves from us if Trump remains in power. At the same time all of our real enemies like Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran salivate as we self destruct. In fact they willingly participate in our destruction by doing things that help Trump stay in power by playing Americans off against one another through malicious use of the internet and social media.

Historian 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.”

Over the past couple of decades we have seem American police officers, state troopers, and sheriffs kill unarmed people in cold blood, many times their actions being recorded on video, only to be acquitted or sentenced to little in the way of incarceration or punishment. Last week a Minneapolis police officer with a long history of misconduct charges killed George Floyd after arresting him for a non-violent misdemeanor. Three other officers assisted. They were filmed by multiple witnesses, and Mr. Floyd died six minutes into his killer’s knee cutting off his ability to breath, as he reportedly  told the officers “I can’t breath” as witnesses said the same. None of the officers paid any heed and it wasn’t until nearly the eight and a half minute mark, the officer finally removed his knee from Mr. Floyd’s neck, and Mr. Floyd was already dead. If that had been the only occasion of police brutality and over reaction, which now seems to be the standard operating procedure for many police departments, the application of the maximum use of force for any infraction, unless you are a heavily armed white man, in which case you get the benefit of the doubt.

This is not to say that probably the vast majority of law enforcement officers take their jobs seriously and are impartial dispensers of the law who go out of their way not to harm suspects. Sadly, there are a lot that do go out of their way to harm suspects, and with the support of political action committees and police unions laws are written to protect the bad actors from any repercussions from their misconduct.

Retired Admiral Mike Mullen, for Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote in The Atlantic today:

While no one should ever condone the violence, vandalism, and looting that has exploded across our city streets, neither should anyone lose sight of the larger and deeper concerns about institutional racism that have ignited this rage.

As a white man, I cannot claim perfect understanding of the fear and anger that African Americans feel today. But as someone who has been around for a while, I know enough—and I’ve seen enough—to understand that those feelings are real and that they are all too painfully founded.

We must, as citizens, address head-on the issue of police brutality and sustained injustices against the African American community. We must, as citizens, support and defend the right—indeed, the solemn obligation—to peacefully assemble and to be heard. These are not mutually exclusive pursuits.

And neither of these pursuits will be made easier or safer by an overly aggressive use of our military, active duty or National Guard. The United States has a long and, to be fair, sometimes troubled history of using the armed forces to enforce domestic laws. The issue for us today is not whether this authority exists, but whether it will be wisely administered…

I remain confident in the professionalism of our men and women in uniform. They will serve with skill and with compassion. They will obey lawful orders. But I am less confident in the soundness of the orders they will be given by this commander in chief, and I am not convinced that the conditions on our streets, as bad as they are, have risen to the level that justifies a heavy reliance on military troops. Certainly, we have not crossed the threshold that would make it appropriate to invoke the provisions of the Insurrection Act.

Furthermore, I am deeply worried that as they execute their orders, the members of our military will be co-opted for political purposes.

Even in the midst of the carnage we are witnessing, we must endeavor to see American cities and towns as our homes and our neighborhoods. They are not “battle spaces” to be dominated, and must never become so.

We must ensure that African Americans—indeed, all Americans—are given the same rights under the Constitution, the same justice under the law, and the same consideration we give to members of our own family. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy, and must never become so.

Too many foreign and domestic policy choices have become militarized; too many military missions have become politicized.

This is not the time for stunts. This is the time for leadership.

Admiral Mullen, though retired is a voice of conscience who understands the dangers of what the President, Attorney General Bob Barr, and their Congressional and media surrogates are doing. He is standing for all Americans, and though a White man who as he admits cannot fully understand the experience of Black Americans, he speaks truth. He is speaking prophetically to a President and Administration who though they attempt to appear to support the law of the land and represent themselves as the modern defenders of the Christian faith, even though all they do is antithetical to the Gospel.

Now, let’s say the active duty military, which is not trained in crowd control or riot control is unleashed on civilian protestors. I am sure that many soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen would refuse to follow unlawful orders, but then there are others who would shoot to kill with no reservations, especially since a President who has pardoned convicted war criminals gave the orders. This could fracture the military, and endanger national security. But it does not seem that this matters to the President, or most of his advisers and supporters. The SECDEF’s reference to the cities of the United States being battle space can easily lead to disaster. It doesn’t take a senior officer to order killings, just a nervous young squad leader, who after being told that he is in a combat situation and that anyone could be a terrorist, panics and orders his squad to fire on protestors. In that moment that squad could kill more Americans in minutes than the military killed terrorists in the last few years.

If the active duty military is committed to dominate the battle space, and kills people, the blood shed would forever stain the honor and reputation of the American military. We would be no different than the Wehrmacht soldiers who aided the SS Einsatzgruppen in the extermination of Jews in Poland and the Soviet Union during World War II, and we would be worthy of every condemnation, for even Hitler Refused to use the military for domestic police missions in Germany, he left that to the SS and the Ordungspolizei, which after Heinrich Himmler took over all internal police functions, fell under the command and control of the SS. 

I hate to put in those terms, but I have to ask this question. Will our military become an oppressor of our people when even Hitler forbade his to be?

The German Pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who ended up dying for his connection to the Herman conspirators against Hitler wrote:

“The fearful danger of the present time is that above the cry for authority, be it of a Leader or of an office, we forget that man stands alone before the ultimate authority and that anyone who lays violent hands on man here is infringing eternal laws and taking upon himself superhuman authority which will eventually crush him. The eternal law that the individual stands alone before God takes fearful vengeance where it is attacked and distorted. Thus the Leader points to the office, but Leader and office together point to the final authority itself, before which Reich or state are penultimate authorities. Leaders or offices which set themselves up as gods mock God and the individual who stands alone before him, and must perish.”

Bonhoeffer’s words are timeless and should send a chill through anyone who claims the Name of Christ, and supports what Trump is doing.

I leave you with that very disturbing thought for the evening.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

P.S. For the next few days I will be republishing articles on the Battle of Midway and D-Day in order to catch up on work for my book Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Race, Religion, Ideology, and Politics in the Civil War Era and Beyond. 

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