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“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!” The Second Trump Impeachment Trial and Judgement at Nuremberg

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am returning to an old article about the Holocaust, the Nuremberg Trials, the film Judgement at Nuremberg in the wake of the attempted Trump Coup of 6 January 2021 where his Cult, led by White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Neo-Confederates, Evangelical Christian Theocrats, unconstitutional and illegal “self-proclaimed militias,” True Believers of the QAnon Conspiracy Cult, were urged on by the former President, members of Congress, his family, and his personal lawyer to attack the Capitol. At the time Congress was meeting in its solemn task to finalize and certify the Electoral College Vote to certify President Elect Joe Biden, and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris as the next President and Vice President of the United States. The assault was the grossest violation of our Republic, Democracy, and Constitution in history, and it was done by Americans, many of whom were military or former military or law enforcement officers. Likewise, elected officials from several states took part in it while Republican members of the House are believed to have aided them from the inside. Despite the fact that Trump is out of office he still controls the GOP which at state and local levels is already conducting a Stalin like Purge of GOP officials from the party and are even threatening well respected elected and appointed officials including the number three Republican in the House of Representative, Liz Cheney. These are not Republicans, they little different than former German Conservatives who joined the Nazis following Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor. They have surrendered any principles they once held and have become swore their unconditional loyalty to Adolf Hitler, only now that loyalty is to Trump and Trump alone.

That means that the danger is not over and in the week leading up to Trump’s Second Impeachment Trial, during and after it means that our Republic and anyone who actually supports and defends the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic is in danger for their lives. This judgement is not some figment of my imagination but based on the words and actions of Trump and his Cult over the last five and a half years.

With that I take you back to a different time and different lan, but one not  so different of cultural and political distress. As I said this is an older article, now somewhat edited, which should send chills up the spine of anyone of any party who still believes in the American Experiment and those words of our Declaration “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…” and that this founding principle is the basis of an ever expanding definition of liberty for all people of all times who are blessed to live after Thomas Jefferson penned those words.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Pasre Steve+

I read and write a lot about Weimar and Nazi Germany as well as the Holocaust. They were the focus of my undergraduate major working under Dr. Helmut Heussler who served as a translator and interrogator at Nuremberg while I was a student at California State University at Northridge and later in my Masters of Arts in Military History. I read the documents, the histories, the narratives, and the reports both in English and German. I study the perpetrators, the victims, and yes the bystanders as well and there is not enough time in one man’s life to read all of them, but I will try.

Likewise I visit the sites where things happened in Germany, and every time that I make a trip to those places I learn more and believe me it is not comfortable.  When I visited the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg a few years ago I saw a picture of Dr. Heussler doing his work. Back then he was very young and it would be a number of years before he finished college and went on to his doctorate. When I saw his picture I remembered just how important he was in opening my eyes to the dark side of humanity; even those people that are not truly evil; those like most of us who exist between the shades of gray between sainthood and the devil.

The histories, the documents, the narratives paint a dark picture of humanity and the fallibility of people. The portrait that they paint a disturbing picture of the true nature of what is in all of us. When I look at the pictures and see the films I can see that the lessons of that time have not been learned. Dr. Timothy Snyder wrote:

“The world is now changing, reviving fears that were familiar in Hitler’s time, and to which Hitler responded. The history of the Holocaust is not over. Its precedent is eternal, and its lessons have not yet been learned.”

In the age where men who admire tyrants and authoritarians like Trump, Putin, Farage, Erdrogan, Assad, and so many others it is important that we try to learn the lessons lest we fall into the same trap as our ancestors and become perpetrators, victims, or bystanders. I often find myself wondering what will be said we Americans of our time in say fifty years or so. I have a feeling that it will not be favorable or sympathetic.

Such a fascination with the thoughts of others years after I am likely to be dead may seem unusually circumspect. But my call as a priest and a historian doesn’t allow me not to care about the future, or ignore present realities. The fact is that totalitarian regimes and events like the Holocaust are all too common in human history, one of those is the connection of humanity with its past and future, and that humanity being the constant in our 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.”

The fact is that there are very few true saints and likewise very few truly evil people. Quite obviously Adolf Hitler and many of his associates fell in the latter category. The rest of us, and for that matter most of the people on all sides during from the Nazi seizure of power until the Gotterdammerung of the Third Reich in in the flames of Berlin in 1945 fall somewhere in the gray area between the truly evil and sainthood. Yet, truthfully all of us given the right conditions are capable of becoming perpetrators, victims, or the worst, bystanders who turn their backs on evil because it doesn’t seem to affect us; but it does.

Admittedly this is a dark subject and as I always reminded my students “the one constant in history are fallible human beings.” 

During our recent blizzard and snow event my wife Judy was away, so one of the nights that I was alone I re-watched the film Judgment at Nuremberg. The film is profoundly disturbing not only because of the subjects that it deals with but also when we look at the great uncertainty time that we live and how similar it is to the world of the late 1920s and early 1930s. In one of the more disturbing scenes of the film, Maximillian Schell, who played Hans Rolfe, the defense counsel for Ernst Janning, played by Burt Lancaster gives a summation in the final defense of his client who has already admitted his guilt which is remarkable because he tells the truth about the guilt of everyone.

Rolfe’s summation of his defense following his client’s admission of guilt is damning. It is something that almost all of us do. It is how we look at the atrocities of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, the willful starvation of millions by criminal regimes; and then stand by saying little or nothing and doing nothing, sometimes even supporting the leaders or the regimes that commit these actions.

So please, no matter what your political point of view, take the time to watch clip or the whole film, and read the transcript of Schell’s speech below. It’s far easier than trying to do all the reading, study, and research that I have done.

“Your Honor, it is my duty to defend Ernst Janning, and yet Ernst Janning has said he is guilty. There’s no doubt, he feels his guilt. He made a great error in going along with the Nazi movement, hoping it would be good for his country. But, if he is to be found guilty, there are others who also went along, who also must be found guilty. Ernst Janning said, “We succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.” Why did we succeed, Your Honor? What about the rest of the world? Did it not know the intentions of the Third Reich? Did it not hear the words of Hitler’s broadcast all over the world? Did it not read his intentions in Mein Kampf, published in every corner of the world? Where’s the responsibility of the Soviet Union, who signed in 1939 the pact with Hitler, enabled him to make war? Are we not to find Russia guilty? Where’s the responsibility of the Vatican, who signed in 1933 the Concordat with Hitler, giving him his first tremendous prestige? Are we not to find the Vatican guilty? Where’s the responsibility of the world leader, Winston Churchill, who said in an open letter to the London Times in 1938 – 1938! Your Honor – “were England to suffer national disaster should pray to God to send a man of the strength of mind and will of an Adolf Hitler!” Are we not to find Winston Churchill guilty? Where is the responsibility of those American industrialists, who helped Hitler to rebuild his armaments and profited by that rebuilding? Are we not to find the American industrialists guilty? No, Your Honor. No! Germany alone is not guilty: The whole world is as responsible for Hitler’s Germany. It is an easy thing to condemn one man in the dock. It is easy to condemn the German people to speak of the basic flaw in the German character that allowed Hitler to rise to power and at the same time positively ignore the basic flaw of character that made the Russians sign pacts with him, Winston Churchill praise him, American industrialists profit by him! Ernst Janning said he is guilty. If he is, Ernst Janning’s guilt is the world’s guilt – no more and no less.”

Spencer Tracy who played Judge Dan Haygood in the film pronounced the guilty verdict in these words and in this film clip.

“The trial conducted before this Tribunal began over eight months ago. The record of evidence is more than ten thousand pages long, and final arguments of counsel have been concluded.

Simple murders and atrocities do not constitute the gravamen of the charges in this indictment. Rather, the charge is that of conscious participation in a nationwide, government organized system of cruelty and injustice in violation of every moral and legal principle known to all civilized nations. The Tribunal has carefully studied the record and found therein abundant evidence to support beyond a reasonable doubt the charges against these defendants.

Herr Rolfe, in his very skillful defense, has asserted that there are others who must share the ultimate responsibility for what happened here in Germany. There is truth in this. The real complaining party at the bar in this courtroom is civilization. But the Tribunal does say that the men in the dock are responsible for their actions, men who sat in black robes in judgment on other men, men who took part in the enactment of laws and decrees, the purpose of which was the extermination of humans beings, men who in executive positions actively participated in the enforcement of these laws — illegal even under German law. The principle of criminal law in every civilized society has this in common: Any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime, any person who is an accessory to the crime — is guilty.

Herr Rolfe further asserts that the defendant, Janning, was an extraordinary jurist and acted in what he thought was the best interest of this country. There is truth in this also. 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 at through 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.”

Sadly, little has changed in the character of humanity. If we do or say nothing, if we support those who do such things, if we close our eyes and pretend that it is not our problem, then we too are the guilty party.  As Hannah Arendt wrote: “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

Sophie Scholl, a young university student who died at the hands of the Nazis for daring to distribute leaflets telling the truth about Hitler’s regime wrote:

“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”

Whether I live one day, or another fifty years, I do not want to be a person who wants to be remembered as one who “just wants to survive,” or “left in peace,” or as Arendt said one “who never makes up their mind to be good or evil.” Nor can I be one who just goes along with things as Janning did, carrying out the orders of Hitler and the Nazi Regime in Judgment at Nuremberg, even though personally disgusted by them or be one for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature.” 

How many Republican officials and Trump appointed judges are doing just what Jannina did without any feeling of remorse of conscience? I would dare say more than any of us would think possible.

That being said, I will never stop speaking the truth regardless of the cost. That is the only way I know how to live. Life has taught me that not to do so is to countenance unspeakable crimes, and surrender to the whims of those of whom the words of the Declaration, the Preamble of the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address and Four Freedoms, Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, and speech at the Berlin Wall, King’s I Have a Dream and I Have Been to the Mountaintop speeches, Frederick Douglass’s Fourth of July Speech, and so many others have called us to. Will will follow in their step’s or those of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Laval, Petain, and so many other tyrants or would by tyrants like Trump?

That my friends is the question we all must ask ourselves today. It is actually a simple but potential soul rending question. The answer to it determines who you chose to serve and what you will defend, our Declaration, Constitution, Republic,  Democracy and Freedom, or the tyranny of “liberty for the few, slavery for the masses.”

That is the question. As Bob Dylan sang “It might be the Devil, it might be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody…”

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“They will have no respect for us unless we whip them & and I say it in all earnestness ” Thoughts on the Assault on the Capitol and the Continued Attempts to Destroy Our Republic after the Inauguration of President Biden

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I apologize for the long delay in getting this article online. I began it Wednesday but had a number of interruptions which culminated last night when most of the article was lost when it did not automatically save. I was almost ready to hit the publish button when I noticed so much was missing.

Wednesday I felt a tremendous sense of relief as President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn into office. It felt like the threat of dictatorship, a violent coup, and the destruction of our Republic by President Trump and his violent supporters led by Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and self-proclaimed anti-government “militias” had receded into the background, at least for the moment. It also felt incredibly hopeful as an incoming administration guided by what is best for the lives, health, and security of all Americans was taking charge. Watching the President and Vice President begin work shortly after the inauguration to begin to tear down the legacy of destructive tyranny and lawlessness built by Trump over the last four years was heartening.

i have to admit that I cried a lot on Wednesday, tears of joy and relief, tears that helped remind me that somehow we as a nation and our Constitution had survived the most malevolent President and his cult followers attempt to destroy it by every means possible including violence and murder.

The setting of the ceremony was almost surreal. Just two weeks before thousands of violent protesters, many armed stormed the Capitol, smashing windows and battering down the very doors that the new President, Vice President and members of Congress were now entering the West side of the building for the inauguration.

There was also the absence of millions of people who would have attended had the Coronavirus disaster been managed effectively by the outgoing Trump Administration. As of today over 25 million infections, many suffering long term dehabilitating medical conditions, and 420,000 deaths, millions of lost jobs, tens of thousands of businesses closed forever, shutdowns of schools, businesses and mass transportation systems that people depend on. I have to also mention how overwhelmed our hospitals, medical system, and the physicians, nurses and technicians who are worn out from trying to save the lives of dying  COVID-19 patients, many becoming sick or dying of COVID as they try to save their patients.

Likewise the threat of violence which had been promised by those who executed an insurrectionist assault on the Capitol building just two weeks before forced the deployment of Secret Service, FBI, Capitol Police, Washington Metro Police and 25,000 National Guard troops backed by specialized active duty troops to deter those threatened attacks. In addition to the unprecedented number of National Guard and police officer, there were the barriers, the blocking of major thoroughfares, and dividing the Capitol into Red and Green Zones.

That was unsettling but necessary. The seditious and treasonous mob which had been incited and encouraged on by President Trump, his son Donald Jr., his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama, and a number of others were ready to strike again, The terrorists who assaulted and breached the Capitol Police security killing and wounding police officers who they called “traitors” as they beat them with baseball bats, flagpoles with American, Trump, MAGA, Christian Flags, and of course the Confederate Battle , but most ironically the “back the blue” versions of the American flag.

I am sure that the massive show of force for the inauguration at the Capitol and in various State Capitols deterred another assault, but I don’t think the threat is over. The many disillusioned followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement are being actively recruited by anti-government, Neo-Nazi, White Supremacy groups for radicalization into violent for soldiers of a revolutionary movement that has much more in common with Hitler’s SA, or Stürmabteilung Brownshirts, than with the American patriots who fought for our independence in 1776. There is no comparison between those Trump’s Cult and their Neo-Nazi thugs and our founders. The ideology of the Nazis and our founders were and are polar opposites, and anyone who believes that the violent overthrow of the ongoing American experiment is a domestic enemy, and a supporter of terrorism. They are no better than Al Qaida, ISIS, MS-13, or any foreign enemy. Despite the return to normalcy their threat remains and decent people must oppose them to identify them for who and what they are.

Likewise the ignorance that helped fan the flames of radicalism that led to Trump’s election still remains. The comments on Facebook by rabid Trump supporters are worryingly absurd. They claim “the left and mainstream media bowing down to Biden” without any self reflection how they formed a personality cult around Trump in which they abandoned all the principles that they had once stood for, except perhaps White Supremacy. While they condemn actual media sources and reporters be they on television or print, they don’t actually read them or watch them. They simple take the carefully edited snippets given to them by the Fox News nightmare, or nighttime lineup, those of Newsmax or OAN, or radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh as gospel. They never do their own research in fact they are actively doing that. Basically they are like the Germans who unquestionably took the words of me like Joseph Goebbels and Julius Streicher as truth, especially after the Nazis shut down all opposition newspapers.

It was they who wanted to overthrow the Constitution, its protections, and the guardrails which provided the guarantees that regardless of which party won the Presidency or controlled Congress in order to make Trump a President for life and in the process crush any opposition to him or them. They were the ones who used executive orders and passed laws to disenfranchise people of color, to roll back the rights of women, LTBTQ people, immigrants, religious minorities, and political opponents. The aided and abetted antisemitism including attacks on Synagogues and Jewish community centers resulting in mass murder. They gave their blessing to attacks on Black churches, and those who peaceably protested the violence committed against and the murder of black men and women, the Black Lives Matter movement.

After the agonizing eight minute and 46 second long public murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer they cheered on brutal attacks by police, and armed white Supremacists on protestors, including one led by President Trump and a heavily militarized police and National Guard attack on peace protestors in Lafayette Park and St. James Church to the President could get a photo-op outside the Church with a Bible in hand. When Right Wing terrorists murdered police officers they said nothing. They said nothing when immigrant families and refugees were separated from their children at the U.S. Mexican border, when children were locked in cages without beds, toilets, and nothing by aluminum blankets. They said nothing when at least 500 children were separated from their families, sent to countries not their own, and cannot be found. They said nothing when contracted doctors at border detention facilities forcibly sterilized immigrant and refugee women. This makes me doubt the pro-life credentials of Right Wing Christians who voted, supported and marched against the Capitol because Trump was allegedly anti-abortion.

Finally his supporters overlook his incompetent and criminally malicious Non-response to the Coronavirus 19 pandemic which has infected two and a half million Americans and killed over 420,000. Those numbers are probably an undercount because of inconsistent accounting measures and the lack of transparency of the Trump administration and many GOP led state governments in providing the information, counting the numbers, and lack of attention in providing PPE, building up supplies of what medical personnel and first responders needed, and their willingness to let people die certainly qualifies as a Crime Against Humanity, and needs to be prosecuted as such.

Despite all of this and the urgency of the situation with COVID-19, the economy in massive crisis with so many businesses barely hanging on, some in a death circle that will create even more economic disaster, more job losses, more business failures, more Coronavirus infections and deaths, and maybe even the collapse of our medical system. This is a national emergency and National Security Crisis. Yet many in the Republican leadership, including members who actively supported and incited sedition and the overthrow of a valid election by force and violence, are fighting President Biden’s efforts to protect Americans, save the economy and protect our national security. In the process they are seeking to break our democracy, destroy the Constitution and bring about an authoritarian government based on minority rule. Even though Donald Trump is gone there are alt least two score Republican members of the Senate and House trying to be the next Trump. That doesn’t count many in state office who would like to do the same. These are all Mussolini’s in the making or worse embryonic Hitlers. Trump was to incompetent to fulfill their vision and many who still support him are very angry and ready to follow anyone who is more violent, radical and competent than him.

Senator Ted Cruz who Helped Incite the attack on the Capitol wearing a highly disrespectful “Come and take it” mask at the inauguration of Joe Biden. If he had any sense he would know that there was no correlation between the Goliad Flag and his treasonous attempt to overthrow the government and Constitution of the United States. 

Since they are now in the minority they must be defeated and the actions needed to save our country and help all Americans must be passed with or without their help. Senator Schumer the new Senate Majority Leader can end the filibuster, which due to the GOP is a filibuster in name only, a member on has to say he or she is filibustering a measure to stop action. It is not like the old days where Senators had to either make arguments against it or just keep talking, like the late Senator Robert Byrd who could do would simply begin reading a book, or even a phone book to keep the filibuster going. But it was the racist Dixiecrat turned Republican Strom Thurmond who set the record for the longest single speaker filibuster in the history of the United States in opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1957 speaking for 24 hours and 18 minutes. Trust me there is no one in the Republican Senate capable of speaking that long for anywhere close to that.

If enough Republicans fail to support bills that help their constituents that has been endorsed and is fully supported by the National Chamber of Commerce, perhaps the most conservative business organizations, as well as President Trump’s former top economic advisor, the House and Senate can resort to a process called reconciliation to pass the the Coronavirus and economic relief bills with a simple majority. The Republicans themselves have done this on more than one occasion.

President Biden and Democrats in the House and Senate should not repeat the mistake of President Obama who waited on key legislation, or modified it with conservative Republican ideas, such as the Hermitage Foundation’s health care plan used by Mitt Romney that became the Affordable Health Care Act or as it is better known “Obamacare” hoping for Republican support which never came. If the Republicans attempt to thwart the legislation, shut down the filibuster and move to reconciliation. To paraphrase Mitch McConnell, “elections have consequences, winners rule and losers go home.” 

It is not enough to sit back and feel good. Democrats have to show that they care about all Americans by pushing these laws through against the reticence of Republicans and the histrionic and vitriolic pundits like Sean Hannity and others like him. The GOP is not the party of the little guy, the small business owner, the worker who works for barely enough money to house and feed their families, without affordable health care, or any real pension or savings plans. They are the party of the rich and whenever they do a tax cut the majority always goes to the most wealthy as well as corporations that already use existing tax laws to pay nothing in taxes.

They are not the party of people trying to ensure that their kids have a solid education that provides a way to either get into college and afford it, or rediscover the necessity of public schools teaching vocational education for kids that prepares them for high paying technical jobs. We had those programs when I was in high school in the 1970s. Kids had educations that either prepared them for college or good paying jobs. That can be done again, but it means that local, state, and the federal government must invest in that education. It sure the hell is a lot more affordable than for profit colleges that take students for every dollar they can under federally backed student loans which are nearly impossible to pay back, for students who did not get those skills in high school or in public community colleges.

They are not the party of Public Health and basic preventive care that could prevent the need for expensive health care to treat conditions that could have been treated early. Under Republicans at all levels of government those services have been gutted. There is no safety net for healthcare, just as there is no safety net for the poor, those who lose their employment, those who cannot afford housing, or for that matter anything and mind you most of these people live in the poor rural regions of Republican governed states.

They are not the party that wants to invest in the infrastructure needed to ensure or economic and military security. That includes roads, bridges, power plants, electric and gas distribution networks, dams for hydroelectric power, wind farms, and solar power, and the hardening of the cast computer networks to protect us from hacking or even electromagnetic pulse attacks. They refuse to deal with sea rise which threatens our critical seaports, coastal communities, farmlands which are inundated when levees fail, and even major military installations along the coast and in hurricane zones. This isn’t fantasy, it is a reality that for more than a decade the Pentagon, the CIA, the NSA, and many other Federal agencies have warned us about for years.

I could go on, but unless the GOP and its leadership is willing to divorce itself from the conspiracy theorists, the anti-Constitutional terrorists, the science and climate deniers, the believers in voodoo economics, and be willing to go back to its roots as a party that promoted emancipation, suffrage, and equal rights. At one time they were the party of free labor and free land, the party that established the National Parks and Wildlife refuges, the party that invested in interstate highways and world class international airports. But they are not that anymore. They are a party of ideological nutcases, conspiracy theorists, religious theocrats who want to enforce their minority views of the Christian faith on all Americans using the police power of the state to do it, and a party without a platform which merely believes in the seizure of power and the willingness never to surrender it.

The beliefs of today’s Republicans were clearly enunciated by none other than Hermann Goering, Hitler’s number two man until April of 1945. Goering said:

“It was understood by all of us that as soon as we had once come into power we must keep that power under all circumstances. We did not want power and governmental authority for power’s sake, but we needed power and governmental authority in order to make Germany free and great. We did not want to leave this any longer to chance, elections and Parliamentary majorities, but we wanted to carry out the task to which we considered ourselves called. In order to consolidate this power now, it was necessary to reorganise the political relationships of power. That was carried out in such a manner that, shortly after the seizure of governmental authority in the Reich and in Prussia, the other States followed automatically and more or less strong National Socialist Governments were formed everywhere. Secondly, the so-called political officials, who according to the Reich Constitution could be recalled at any time – that is, could be dismissed – would naturally have to be replaced now according to custom by people from the strongest Party – as is everywhere customary…” 

However, Goering lied about the situation, even in a subsequent election following the Reichstag Fire the Nazi Party never had an absolute majority. It was their outlawing of the German Communist Party and temporary alliances with German conservatives that they later broke that gave them a majority in the Reichstag. A minority succeeded in overthrowing a divided majority. As the various German conservative and nationalist parties folded their tents and allowed themselves to be absorbed by the Nazis, the Catholic Center Party, also threw in the towel. The only party in Germany to go out with its honor intact was the Social Democratic Party which voted against the Enabling Act that gave the Nazis unlimited dictatorial power. Shortly after that final vote of protest the Nazis outlawed them, shut up down their newspapers, their affiliated labor unions, and murdered or placed their leaders in concentration camps. Given the chance and opportunity Trump’s radicalized supporters and those more violent than them would do exactly what the Nazis did, the 6 January assault was their attempt to do exactly what the Nazis did to their opposition.

Let me reassert that this is a time to be joyful that President Biden, Vice President Harris and their incoming team are in office and taking actions to try to save all of us from the steaming pile of rat feces that Trump has left them to deal with, and we cannot rest on the laurels of a hardy inauguration if the task before us it to be fulfilled.

You see to bring this article back to a more American setting let us go back to the inspiration for Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which in the light of the recent assault by seditious, treasonous rebels is more appropriate than his Second Inaugural Address because while one assault was turned back, the battle is not over because those who orchestrated it, including the former President and Republican members of the House and Senate embraced and supported the overthrow of the legally elected government remain at large, as do the leaders of the groups that served as their foot soldiers. So the battle cannot be considered won until these people return to the Constitutional norms and laws of how we govern. If they cannot do that, especially those who swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, they have betrayed their oath and are traitors who need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law or if they chose bullets over ballots, cartridges over the Constitution, or lethality over law then they must be fought to the death.

As Senator Stephen A. Douglas said when the new Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter “There are only two sides to the question. Every man must be for the United States or against it. There can be no neutrals in this war, only patriots – or traitors.” The Senator’s words are as correct now as he when he spoke them. He then pledged his loyalty to the Union and his former opponent President  Abraham Lincoln. He understood that he had policy differences with the new administration but placed his loyalty to the Republic and Constitution above party loyalty or his personal friendships with the men now leading the insurrection against the Union.

All of us have the responsibility, especially anyone who has sworn the oath to the Constitution to oppose such enemies of it, even if they are friends, family, or politicians we support. If we do not we betray our oaths despite the statements of the self proclaimed Oath Keepers terrorist group. Each of us has the choice to uphold the Constitution or to betray it by attempting to toppled our Republic and democracy.

Our Union means more to me than most people can imagine. My ancestors of both sides of my family fought to overthrow it in the War of the Slaveholders Rebellion, which I think is a far more honest name for the American Civil War. In reality that war was an internal rebellion conducted by men who determined to destroy the Union in order to maintain and expand the institution of slavery even into the Free States which had outlawed it, to all United States territories, and even into the Caribbean and Central America. For me those are unfathomable reasons to destroy the Union and fight the bloodiest war in American history. I will be damned if I allow such people to get away with sedition and treason killing police officers and attempting to kill the former Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and many other Republican and Democrat members of the House and Senate.

But getting back to the inspiration for Lincoln’s few remarks at Gettysburg we have to remember both the Declaration of Independence and the words of prominent thinkers who influenced his choice of words, for they call come down to the fundamental principle of all of American government, “we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Jefferson who wrote these words was a flawed man, he own slaves, but on the other hand he saw his words as an ever expanding principle of liberty for all people in all nations and in all times.

The Unitarian pastor, abolitionist, and leading Transcendentalist thinker, Theodore Parker wrote:

“Our national ideal out-travels our experience, and all experience. We began our national career by setting all history at defiance – for that said, “A republic on a large scale cannot exist.” Our progress since that has shown that we were right in refusing to be limited by the past. The practical ideas of the nation are transcendent, not empirical. Human history could not justify the Declaration of Independence and its large statements of the new idea: the nation went beyond human history and appealed to human nature.”

Parker’s words also prefigured an idea that Lincoln used in his address. Parker, like Lincoln believed that: “the American Revolution, with American history since, is an attempt to prove by experience this transcendental proposition, to organize the transcendental idea of politics. The ideal demands for its organization a democracy- a government of all, for all, and by all…” 

Likewise, George Bancroft the great American historian wrote words that also echoed in Lincoln’s address:

“The bill of rights which it promulgates is of rights that are older than human institutions, and spring from the eternal justice…. The heart of Jefferson in writing the Declaration, and of Congress in adopting it, beat for all humanity; the assertion of right was made for the entire world of mankind and all coming generations, without any exceptions whatsoever.” 

Barley five months after the battle, when less than a third of the dead had yet been buried and much of Cemetery Hill was marked with the physical scars of the battle Lincoln spoke these words following the nearly two hour long primary address by the eminent scholar, professor, and orator Edward Everett. Lincoln gave these brief remarks:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.[6]

We must continue the fight and we cannot abandon the principles of the Declaration, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Gettysburg Address, the Four Freedoms, and Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” his “I have been to the mountaintop” and “I have a dream” speeches.

President Biden echoed those words in his inaugural speech. It was not the dystopian fear presented by President Trump in his inaugural address, but a message of hope and unity tempered by reality. Since his inaugural address is available in full on the White House and other news sites I will not repeat it here.

Believe  it or not I began this post on Wednesday night but got involved in editing and expanding it to put it in the context of history. I was about ready to post it last night when half of it disappeared as my system updated unexpectedly. So I decided to finish it Saturday, which became early Sunday morning. But before I sign off for the night let me express my opinion about those who attacked the Capitol and those who supported, encouraged, incited, or enabled them. To that end I will quote the words of Colonel Strong Vincent who led his bridge and died in the defense of Little Round Top on the afternoon of 2 July 1863 at Gettysburg. Not long before the battle he wrote his wife words that I think that every man and woman who values our Union, our Declaration, and our Constitution:

“We must fight them more vindictively, or we shall be foiled at every step.  We must desolate the country as we pass through it, and not leave a trace of a doubtful friend or foe behind us; make them believe that we are in earnest, terribly in earnest; that to break this band in twain is monstrous and impossible; that the life of every man, yea, of every weak woman or child in the entire South, is of no value whatever compared with the integrity of the Union.”

Likewise his subordinate, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, who repelled the Rebel advance at the end of the Union line, and later rose to great fame wrote:

“We have this war upon is & we want to stop it. It has cost us already too much precious blood. It has carried stagnation, starvation & grief in to too many villages of our fair land – brought death to too many noble hearts that we could ill afford to lose. But the only way to stop this war, is first to show that we are strongest…I feel that we are fighting for our country – for our flag- not as so many Stars and Stripes, but as the emblem of a good & powerful nation – fighting to settle the question whether we are a nation or a basket of chips. Whether we shall leave our children the country we have inherited – or leave them without a country – without a name – without a citizenship among the great nations of the earth – take the chief city of the rebels. They will have no respect for us unless we whip them & and I say it in all earnestness….”

The words of all of these men need to be take to heart today against the men and women who fought then and now for the principle of rending our Union asunder and proclaiming a White Supremacist theocratic autocracy.

So until next time,  ready to fight the good fight against seditious traitors, murderers, and rebels who attempt to hijack the words of the Declaration and the Constitution to justify their crimes against those documents, our Republic and their fellow citizens, for they will not give up until they are completely whipped.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

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Resist the Continuing Threat of Terrorist Insurrection by President Trump and His Cult


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am deciding to repeat and amplify the warning of the FBI that Trump’s violent cult of supporters including heavily armed illegal militia groups, the Proud Boys, other White Supremacist groups including Klansmen, Neo-Confederates, Neo-Nazis, Racist Skinheads, Militant Christian Theocrats, QAnon Conspiracy Theorists, and a host of other militant groups and individuals. Members of these groups include elected members of the Senate and Congress, elected members of various state legislatures, law enforcement officers, and most terrifying for me active and retired military officers, and active, reserve, former, or retired military enlisted personnel.

The FBI field office in Norfolk Virginia alerted law enforcement across the nation that they expected massive armed protests and violence against the Captitol and Congress on 6 January, but their warnings went ignored.

Now the FBI is issuing warning for more armed “protests” in Washington D.C., but let’s cut to the chase and call them what they really are, sedition and rebellion. The FBI has predicted a massive armed “protest” in Washington D.C. for which on 20 January for which as many as 15,000 National Guard personnel will deployed in addition to thousands of Metro Police, Park Police, Capitol Police, Secret Service, U.S. Marshalls, U.S. Coast Guard personnel, and other Homeland Security personnel.

That is just in Washington D.C. However, the threat the FBI warns us about is bigger than just what might happen on January 20th on Inauguration Day. They have warned that threat and attacks against all State Capitols, statehouses, Federal and State offices across the country beginning on January 16th, although in my considered estimation some attacks might begin before that.

I fully expect that the terrorists will attempt to seize National Guard armories and Army or Marine Corps Reserve Centers that are not on actual military bases in order to steal large numbers of M-4 and M-16 automatic rifles, Squad Assault Weapons (SAWs), Sniper rifles, M-240 series and .50 caliber machine guns and probably up-armored HUMMVS and any any other vehicles they can commandeer.  Likewise the could get large numbers of Kevlar helmets and military grade body armor, and even uniforms that could be used to deceive defenders into thinking they were actual Guard units.

To do so they will probably have inside help. Based on the numbers of police and military personnel who participated in the 6 January Coup attempt I imagine that they won’t have a difficult time finding at least a few willing Guardsmen or Reservists to help them. If they cannot get their cooperation they will capture, threaten, and maybe torture uncooperative personnel to try to get security codes or keys into the arms rooms and motor pools. The good thing is that very little ammunition is kept in the armories and ammunition for tanks or artillery pieces, even mortars are kept in ammunition depots on actual bases. However, the thought of these terrorists getting their hands on hundreds or even thousands of weapons for which ammunition is readily available on the commercial market is frightening, not to mention gaining control of vehicles resistent to most small arms carried by law enforcement, or even the M-4s and M-16s carried by Guardsmen. I hope that the Guard deploys Light Armored Vehicles armed with the 20mm and 30mm bushmaster rapid fire cannons to take out any commandeered up armored vehicles or even for that matter M-113 series Armored Personnel Carriers that could be stolen.

What I am saying is not far-fetched based on the facts. These people want to overthrow the government to keep Trump in office, and they have friends, allies and co-conspirators in most law enforcement agencies and sadly in the military.

I implore you not to dismiss my argument because I am a Priest. I am also a historian with an advanced degree. I am former Platoon leader, Company Executive Officer, and Company Commander in Cold War Germany. I am a school trained Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Defense Officer. I also served as brigade, group, and battalion staff officer before I ever became a Chaplain. I spent almost 40 years in the military including in combat.

Likewise I am a graduate of the Marine Command and Staff College, the Joint and Combined Warfighting School, and the Joint Forces Staff College Homeland Security Planners Course. My bachelors and masters level history focused on the social, political, and military dynamics at play in the Weimar Republic which Hitler capitalized on when he seized complete power following his appointment a Chancellor on 30 January 1933. I am a student of the relationship between the German military and Police before and after the Nazi takeover, the war crimes they participated, Holocaust and the involvement of almost every German government agency in it, as well as the bankers, businessmen, Churches and doctors, not only in Germany but the help given by collaborators in countries they conquered.

Thanks to Dr. Helmut Haeussler, my primary Professor at California State University Northridge who served throughout the Nuremberg Trials as an interrogator and interpreter, I came to know more about the Nazi Crimes against humanity, the Holocaust, the relationships of German civilian and military agencies with the Nazis and the problem of Holocaust Denial.

So, that being said I hate being pigeonholed as just another ignorant Bible wanking clergyman.  Besides I have never wanked my Bible, I am sure it might be a sin. But I hate to think of all those Right Wing preachers who wank their Bibles in public or in the darkness of their dimply lit studies, or bedrooms. The thought of it turns my stomach, especially if they are wanking to the Song of Solomon. King Solomon was supposedly the wisest ass who ever lived. He had so many wives and concubines , over 300, that he couldn’t keep up his Libido up all the time, and Viagra wasn’t out yet, so in order to catch his breath had to take some time to write about them. His literary allusions to love making in that tiny book of love poems could even raise President Trump’s penis from the dead, since everything he touches dies.

There has to be a law against wanking on the Bible somewhere, think of the honor and decency of the Sacred Scriptures that don’t want to be wanked. At least the Jews and Muslims have rules against wanking the Talmud and Koran.

But I digress, where was I? Since I retired and don’t yet have a job it is hard to tell what day it is. Never mind, I remembered. It was terrorism, sedition, revolt and the attempted violent overthrow of the United States by Trump’s cultist Nazi Wankers which which angers me a great deal and doesn’t titillate me in the least.

These seditionists and traitors need to be exposed, fought and defeated. Their plans have to be disrupted before they can even be set in motion. Their tentacles extend into the heart of Federal, State, and Local governments, and deep into law enforcement and even the military.

if you wonder how that happened It is the result of systematic propaganda that has been going on since we lost Vietnam, and that was not because of domestic protest, but because four Presidential Administrations decided that we needed to fight a war that we could not win militarily unless we were willing to completely mobilize the nation and all of its resources to do it. None would. Eisenhower who decided to take over the French debacle in Indochina, Kennedy who expanded it, Johnson who deepened our involvement until he realized it could not be won in the process crippling his plans for the Great Society.

Johnson was deceived by his military Chief’s and Defense Secretary into thinking that we could win militarily in Vietnam. See the late Neil Sheehan’s book A Great and Shining Lie, and General H.R. McMaster’s book “Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam.” Maybe they read the French journalist Bernard Fall’s books “Hell in a Very Small Place” and “Street Without Joy.” 

The answer in Vietnam wasn’t military, it was societal, completely reforming the South Vietnamese government because most of its people, even if they feared the Communists, feared their corrupt government far worse. Actual reformers in the Vietnamese government, military or police never held positions of influence, and were prevented from doing so.

During his presidential campaign Nixon torpedoed Johnson’s peace initiative in 1968. Nixon promised “peace with honor” and then extended the war into Cambodia and sold out the South Vietnamese government during the Paris peace talks brokered by Henry Kissinger. If you take out those killed during the Test Offensive and it’s aftermath in 1968, those killed after Nixon took office exceeded those killed from 1954 to 1967.

But afterward conservatives spread the lie of the stab in the back blaming those who opposed or protested the war at home for our defeat. It was exactly what German Nationalists did after the First World War. It was a lie that we are still saddled with today by the Republican Party, and the lie that continues to motivate veterans, especially Christians to destroy the very system of government that offers the most protections for them of any country in the world. Our system isn’t perfect by any means, but those who attempt to overthrow it by force and violence are either completely insane or criminally stupid and evil. Personally my money is on criminally stupid and evil.

This is a very dangerous moment in our nation’s history and some veterans and current military members are acting under the delusions of decades of propaganda dating back to Vietnam.

This seditious rebellion is being led by the President of the United States and many elected Republican leaders at the local, state, and federal level assisted by law enforcement, veterans, and sadly currently active and reserve military personnel.

Please do not dismiss what I say. I know many people who feel exactly like these terrorist insurgents. Sadly they are not bad people, but they tend to be men and women who have limited education, especially in history, philosophy, American government, and ethics who believe the unceasing bombardment of right wing politicians, pundits, and especially preachers more motivated by political and monetary power than they are in the tenants of their faith. I understand that because from about 1990 until 2008 I listened to Limbaugh, then Hannity, Fox News and others hours on end every day except when deployed or traveling to support the Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, Airmen, and other Federal officials assigned in harms way.

But when I returned from Iraq having seen what I had seen, listened to the news coverage of the war, and listened to politicians that I once respected I realized the big lie that I had bought since I was in Junior High School was bigger than I could have imagined. I believed it for almost thirty years. I ignored the evidence that the politicians whomI had voted for were waging war that under the conditions of the Nuremberg Trials were criminal and many of our actions could be classified as war crimes. My problem was that I ignored my education and my knowledge about propaganda and war crimes. Beyond that I was willing to call the opponents of our criminal war against Iraq traitors, communists, and worse. They were right and I was wrong and it took seeing the destruction and getting to know Iraqis up close and personal to realize it, but I digress.

Over the next few days and weeks our nation will endure a crisis that could bring about the fall of all of our founder’s dreams, hopes and aspirations for Liberty that would be ever increasing and available for all Americans and for people around the world. They warned of authoritarians and religious extremists trying to impose religious and ideological tests for citizenship and political rights.

That liberty is what we must fight for today, even of its opponents insist on violence and armed confrontation. If the opponents of liberty bent on overthrowing the Constitution, the Republic and a legal election resort to violence, then they deserve whatever consequences that flow from that, even their deaths. They won’t be martyrs they will be dead criminal terrorists, worthy of no honor, dignity, or respect. If they die in the battle they provoke, their ashes should be scattered over a toxic waste dump with no memorial to them. Those who survive should have Swastika’s carved into their foreheads to show exactly what they are.

My friends this is the moment of truth. Will we remain a nation devoted to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble of the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, the Four Freedoms, and Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” and “I have been to the Mountain speeches, or will we become the country of John C. Calhoun, Jefferson Davis, Benjamine Tillman, Strom Thurmond, Bull Connor, Charles Lindberg and the countless others who fought against liberty and espoused racist, fascist and authoritarian government.

President Trump and his cultist followers are the enemy regardless of who they are, and if more violence breaks out they alone are responsible and if they die in the attempt to overthrow the government, the Constitution and Republic they will deserve it.

So until the next time, be ready to resist even to the death. This is no simple political disagreement where compromise is possible. These people will not compromise. As Colonel Strong Vincent, who was mortally wounded  on Little Round Top on the Second day of the Battle of Gettysburg wrote after Chancellorsville:

“We must fight them more vindictively, or we shall be foiled at every step.  We must desolate the country as we pass through it, and not leave a trace of a doubtful friend or foe behind us; make them believe that we are in earnest, terribly in earnest; that to break this band in twain is monstrous and impossible; that the life of every man, yea, of every weak woman or child in the entire South, is of no value whatever compared with the integrity of the Union.”

His subordinate Colonel Joshua Chamberlain condemned those in the North who supported the Rebels during and after the war. Before he entered the Army he wrote:

“We have this war upon is & we want to stop it. It has cost us already too much precious blood. It has carried stagnation, starvation & grief in to too many villages of our fair land – brought death to too many noble hearts that we could ill afford to lose. But the only way to stop this war, is first to show that we are strongest…I feel that we are fighting for our country – for our flag- not as so many Stars and Stripes, but as the emblem of a good &  powerful nation – fighting to settle the question whether we are a nation or a basket of chips. Whether we shall leave our children the country we have inherited – or leave them without a country – without a name – without a citizenship among the great nations of the earth – take the chief city of the rebels. They will have no respect for us unless we whip them & and I say it in all earnestness….” 

That is what we face in the next week. Are we willing to fight for our Nation’s highest laws, values and ideals; or will we surrender to tyranny. There are times that the defense of the nation depends on being willing to fight for it to the death, even against fellow citizens who have abandoned and rejected those principles.

So until tomorrow or the next day I wish you health and safety, but be prepared to resist the terrorists. I am. My continuing Oath to the Constitution and Republic demands it.

Hope for the best but expect and prepare for the worst. If we are not ready to fight for our Constitution and Republic then we will lose it. That is a fact. It is undeniable and the threat remains, and our enemies around the world including Putin’s Soviet, Communist China, Iran, North Korea, ISIS, Al Qaida, and others rejoice. They want nothing more than the collapse of our nation being perpetrated by President Trump and his violent cult.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Theirs is the Highest and Purest Democracy: Rabbi Roland Gittlesohn’s Eulogy at Iwo Jima

 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,,

This is an article I wrote for our workforce at the Naval Shipyard where I am honored to serve at as the Chaplain. I officially retire on August 1st but have been selected to remain in a retired and retained status until the end of the year, due to the COVID19 Pandemic. The shipyard which employs over 13,000 sailors, Navy civilians, and contractors is a key strategic asset for the country. It did not have an assigned chaplain for over a decade until due to medical issues which delayed my voluntary retirement last year, evolved into mistakes in how the retirements branch calculated my date for statutory retirement left me “homeless” so to speak as my relief was already in place.

So, the Naval region decided to put me at the shipyard where unlike my last assignment I was given a mission totally suited to me and how I do ministry, in which I have tremendous support, and made me far busier and gain fully employed. I am really happy to serve in such a diverse place in which about we have members of many religious , as well Atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers, from about every race and ethic group found in America. My job is to care for them, not convert them. It is also to inspire and encourage by my example. Since it is hard to get to know people who work multiple shifts 24/7 in person I mix inspirational messages which I work hard to craft to hopefully be able to reach all members of the workforce, not simply Christians. My basic thought is if they either wear the uniform of the country, or have sworn an oath to the Constitution, they have every right for me to care about all of them, without cramming My faith, religion in general, or the Bible down their throats. In fact that is the mission of a Chaplain, Chaplains are only employed by the government to protect people’s Constitutional right of “free exercise of religion, without violating the establishment clause.” I care for their spiritual, emotional, and a host of other concerns, and when I unable to perform the service or sacrament they need to help them find someone who can, while letting them know that I will do all I can to support them. I do my best to follow up later to ensure that they are getting the assistance they need, be it religious or secular, and if need be there to advocate for them.

The assignment at the shipyard has revived my faith and calling, which had taken a severe beating at my last assignment. Had I retired from there I would have probably retired bitter and angry. Instead, I have in a sense been reborn. Despite the danger of COVID19, the daily inane babbling of the malignantly narcissistic and sociopathic President, and all we are terrible things we are doing dealing with, I know I am where I am supposed to be, and I am doing what I am bound by both duty and love to do. I am happy and truly blessed. As Lou Gehrig said “I am the luckiest man alive”

But I digress…

This is my Memorial Day message To them, and also to you  for our COVID19 era. It involves a Navy Chaplain, and Rabbi, who served with the 5th Marine Division at Iwo Jima. Though I never met him, I would have loved to work with him, because he demonstrated what I think are the highest virtues of a Chaplain. His sermon has burned an imprint on my heart. I hope that it finds a home in your heart too. 

Peace,

Padre Steve+ 

Theirs is the Highest and Purest Democracy: Rabbi Roland Gittlesohn’s Eulogy at the Dedication of the 5th Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima. 

Memorial Day is one of the most solemn days in our national calendar. It is a true holiday, for by observing it we take the time to remember, reflect, and hold the lives of those who gave the last full measure of devotion of duty to our country as holy. It is as sacred as an secular holiday can be.

As such I want to share the words of Navy Chaplain and Rabbi Roland Gittelsohn, who served with the 5th Marine Division at Iwo Jima. Rabbi Gittelsohn was the son of a Rabbi from Cleveland, Ohio. He was a pacifist before the war, but believing it to be a just war he volunteered to serve as a Navy Chaplain with the Marine Corps and was assigned to the 5thMarine Division.

With the Division he landed at Iwo Jima, taking part in every day of the operation, ministering to the wounded and dying regardless of their faith, and helping the Navy Corpsmen and Doctors in the gruesome task of saving lives. During the battle over 26,000 Marines and Sailors serving alongside them were killed or wounded. Even before the battle was over, Admiral Chester Nimitz uttered the immortal words “Among the Americans who served… uncommon valor was a common virtue.” When the battle was over, the Marines recovered their dead from temporary graves and made a proper cemetery.

The Division’s Senior Protestant Chaplain, Warren Cuthriel, ordered Gittelsohn to lead an ecumenical memorial service and dedication of the cemetery. Sadly, reflecting the prejudices of the day, many Protestant and Catholic Chaplains objected to a Rabbi leading a service at a cemetery where mostly Christian Marines and Sailors were interred. Others objected to any ecumenical service no-matter who led it. Gittelsohn decided not to add fuel to the fire, so with Chaplain Cuthriel’s permission, he attended the main service and then conducted a separate service for the fallen Jewish personnel. After the service Chaplain Cuthriel obtained a copy of it and forwarded it to more receptive members of the chain of command. It spread like wildfire when it got to the United States. Pastors read it in their churches, newspapers printed it in its entirety, and radio commentators repeated it. Eventually it was read into the Congressional record.

The words invoke the ideals of an America and a Constitution that we all swear to support and defend. The sermon has a feeling like that of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and looked forward to a time when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would preach that one day people would be judged by the “content of their character.” Rabbi Gittelsohn’s words were revolutionary for their day, and ours alike. But they call us to aspire to all be better Americans. So this weekend we remember all of our fallen, from the Revolution until today, who died to preserve freedom and defend our nation. Their sacred task has been passed to us, as Lincoln noted at Gettysburg: “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Gittelsohn remained active in ministry and an advocate for civil rights until his death in 1995. His service and dedication as a Navy and Marine Corps Chaplain challenge me to be a better servant of God, our shipyard family, and country as we face our current crisis.

Here is his sermon.

This is perhaps the grimmest, and surely the holiest task we have faced since D-Day. Here before us lie the bodies of comrades and friends. Men who until yesterday or last week laughed with us, joked with us, trained with us. Men who were on the same ships with us, and went over the sides with us, as we prepared to hit the beaches of this island. Men who fought with us and feared with us. Somewhere in this plot of ground there may lie the individual who could have discovered the cure for cancer. Under one of these Christian crosses, or beneath a Jewish Star of David, there may rest now an individual who was destined to be a great prophet to find the way, perhaps, for all to live in plenty, with poverty and hardship for none. Now they lie here silently in this sacred soil, and we gather to consecrate this earth in their memory.

It is not easy to do so. Some of us have buried our closest friends here. We saw these men killed before our very eyes. Any one of us might have died in their places. Indeed, some of us are alive and breathing at this very moment only because men who lie here beneath us, had the courage and strength to give their lives for ours. To speak in memory of such men as these is not easy. Of them, too, can it be said with utter truth: “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here. It can never forget what they did here.”

No, our poor power of speech can add nothing to what these men and the other dead of our division who are not here have already done. All that we can even hope to do is follow their example. To show the same selfless courage in peace that they did in war. To swear that, by the grace of God and the stubborn strength and power of human will, their sons and ours shall never suffer these pains again. These men have done their job well. They have paid the ghastly price of freedom. If that freedom be once again lost, as it was after the last war, the unforgivable blame will be ours, not theirs. So it be the living who are here to be dedicated and consecrated.

We dedicate ourselves, first, to live together in peace the way they fought and are buried in war. Here lie men who loved America because their ancestors, generations ago helped in her founding, and other men who loved her with equal passion because they themselves or their own fathers escaped from oppression to her blessed shores. Here lie officers and [privates], [Blacks] and whites, rich and poor…together. Here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews…together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color. Here there are no quotas of how many from each group are admitted or allowed. Among these men there is no discrimination. No prejudice. No hatred. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy.

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

 To one thing more do we consecrate ourselves in memory of those who sleep beneath these crosses and stars. We shall not foolishly suppose, as did the last generation of America’s fighting, that victory on the battlefield will automatically guarantee the triumph of democracy at home. This war, with all its frightful heartache and suffering, is but the beginning of our generation’s struggle for democracy. When the last battle has been won, there will be those at home, as there were last time, who will want us to turn our backs in selfish isolation on the rest of organized humanity, and thus to sabotage the very peace for which we fight. We promise you who lie here; we will not do that. We will join hands with Britain, China, Russia—in peace, even as we have in war, to build the kind of world for which you died.

When the last shot has been fired, there will still be those eyes that are turned backward not forward, who will be satisfied with those wide extremes of poverty and wealth in which the seeds of another war can breed. We promise you, our departed comrades: this, too, we will not permit. This war has been fought by the common man; its fruits of peace must be enjoyed by the common man. We promise, by all that is sacred and holy, that your sons, the sons of miners and millers, the sons of farmers and workers—will inherit from your death the right to a living that is decent and secure.

When the final cross has been placed in the last cemetery, once again there will be those to whom profit is more important than peace, who will insist with the voice of sweet reasonableness and appeasement that it is better to trade with the enemies of mankind than, by crushing them, to lose their profit. To you who sleep here silently, we give our promise: we will not listen: We will not forget that some of you were burnt with oil that came from American wells, that many of you were killed by shells fashioned from American steel. We promise that when once again people seek profit at your expense, we shall remember how you looked when we placed you reverently, lovingly, in the ground.

Thus do we memorialize those who, having ceased living with us, now live within us. Thus do we consecrate ourselves, the living, to carry on the struggle they began. Too much blood has gone into this soil for us to let it lie barren. Too much pain and heartache have fertilized the earth on which we stand. We here solemnly swear: this shall not be in vain. Out of this, and from the suffering and sorrow of those who mourn this, will come—we promise—the birth of a new freedom for all humanity everywhere. And let us say…Amen 

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Justice Delayed is Justice Denied: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter From A Birmingham Jail in the Age of Trump

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Recently I posted an article that mentioned Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. 

I included the link to the letter in my article, but I realize that most people, unlike me we not follow a link to get to the original source of the information supplied.

For those that don’t understand, my position as a Priest, if I am actually to be faithful to my vows requires that I be faithful to the Gospel. Sometimes that vow requires stating things that some in denial of their own faith would condemn as partisan politics. But this is not partisan, it echoes both the Christian and American propositions that all men are created equal.

With that in mind here is the full text of King’s letter. It is worthy of your full consideration and contemplation, and for that reason I make no editorial comments, although last year I did find Vice President Mike Pence’s comparison of President Trump to Dr. King abhorrent, insulting, and damnable.

On Monday the 20th of January, we as a nation remembered Dr. King. Many politicians offered their laudatory, yet hollow words of praise for a man whose legacy they work to destroy through legislation at the local, state, and federal level. Such words, especially when they come from men and women who beat their chest and pray loudly in the public square to demonstrate their Christian Faith, is damnable.

Likewise, it matters as we watch leaders of the Senate surrender to Donald Trump in his impeachment trial and see the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court ist silently as his legal team commits outright perjury, saying nothing and doing nothing. The question now is, will the nation founded on the bedrock of the Declaration of Independence, and the rule of law of the Constitution, including the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Nineteenth Amendments as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1965, and every law increasing the rights of ordinary citizens, racial and religious minorities, women, and LGBTQ people, survive the Trump Presidency?

To make matters even more dangerous, thousands of alleged “Second Amendment” activists, many heavily armed with military grade assault weapons, massive amounts of ammunition, and wearing military and police grade protective gear marched protesting relatively minor changes to Virginia’s gun rights laws. Many of their words were aimed at threatening their opponents, and included in the mob of self proclaimed militiamen, were members of White Supremacy groups, including the KKK, Neo-Confederates, and Neo-Nazis. Since Dr. King was gunned down in cold blood by a White Supremacist, James Earl Ray, the participation of those groups in the march causes me to wonder why they stole a day commemorating an ambassador of peace, with their need for massive amounts of firearms. Debate still swirls around the contention that Ray had assistance from others, including people in the Federal Government, but I don’t consider myself knowledgeable to comment reliably on that.

Thus, it is fitting to read Dr. King’s unedited words from a letter from a Birmingham jail. Sadly, they are as applicable today as when he penned them. I can only hope, and pray that we survive all of this.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

16 April 1963

My Dear Fellow Clergymen:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle–have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger-lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, 

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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“If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

August 28th is the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have a Dream Speech. It is a speech and message that we cannot forget or continue to fight for if we want to see the promise of our founders fulfilled in spite of the power of those who prefer the rule of political and financial oligarchs, or simple dictatorship to our Republic and the democratic ideals of those imperfect, yet inspired men.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has always been one of my heroes. This time of year I always ponder the importance of his life and work for civil rights, and I wonder what might have been had this man of peace not been cut down in cold blood at the young age of 39 by James Earl Ray on April 4th 1968. He was an amazing and courageous man whose memory should not be let to one day a year.

Tonight I am happy to report that I had a number of good visits with doctors and that the exchange of the face mask for my BIPAP machine allowed me to sleep for the first time in a week. I saw my new sleep doctor and neurologist today and in that visit, which lasted more than an hour I learned a lot and felt better about my condition. I won’t go into details now, but will in the future because it deals with a host of issues that those suffering from PTSD, TBI, and other neurological, psychological, physical, and spiritual conditions contend with on a daily basis. But, I digress, that was an update and not really a part of this article.

We live in a world where a minority of voters elected a man as President who through his words and actions demonstrates daily that he cares not for anything that Dr.King stood for. Thus, we have to ensure, though our words and actions that it is not allowed to die. Doing that may involve a high cost as the President-Elect is not known for playing nice with his opponents and now that he will have the police power of the state and a compliant Congress at his back you can expect that opponents will be harassed, intimidated, and maybe worse.

Dr. King was a man of courage, a man of honor, a man of conviction. But he came of age in a time when many people were willing to maintain the status quo and play things safe, like many clergy, even African-American clergy. Many pastors of the era, remained quiet about the conditions of segregation, and the racism of the day. Their lack of action did not mean they were bad people, they just understood that if they spoke up, their lives, and the lives of their families and congregations could be in danger. As such many pastors just hoped to see things slowly improve, without rocking the boat, and without endangering themselves or their families. They had seen what happened to blacks who spoke up or confronted the evil, lynching’s, cross burnings, threats and murder. They had contented themselves with just trying to get along. At the beginning of the movement, many pastors did not support or gave only lukewarm support to Dr. King, Andrew Young, Fred Shuttlesworth, and Ralph Abernathy going into that critical year of 1963.

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King did not start out to become a Civil Rights leader. However, he was inspired to actively join the movement through the example of Rosa Parks, who defiance of the law for blacks to sit “in the back of the bus” in 1955. He led the Montgomery Bus Boycott which lasted for 385 days. The reaction among segregationists to King and his protest was against violent. King’s house was bombed, and his life threatened. But he refused to stand down.

King’s leadership of the boycott brought the young pastor to national prominence. However, by 1963 much of the Civil Rights movement and the African American community was despairing of the lack of progress. Many people had become disenchanted with King, not considering him bold enough despite his rhetorical abilities.

But in April 1963, working with other Civil Rights leaders in Birmingham Alabama King relit the fires of the movement. Montgomery Police Chief “Bull” Conner used his police force to violently attack the demonstrators. Conner ordered his men to unleash their police dogs on the protestors, and used high pressure water cannon against them, including women, children and the elderly. The violent reaction to the protests shocked much of America and the world.

King was arrested and in the Birmingham jail composed one of his most famous works, the Letter from the Birmingham Jail. The letter was a social, political and theological masterpiece. It was some of his harshest criticism was of white liberals, as well as black moderates:

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season”

King continued his activism until his assassination. In August 1963 he led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where before a crowd of an estimated 200,000-300,000 he gave his I Have a Dream Speech.

http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm

The crescendo of the speech was remarkable and is perhaps one of the most remembered speeches in American history.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

                Free at last! Free at last!

                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

King knew the dangers and the risks of appealing to a strategy of non-violence based on love of his enemies. King spoke to the world when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964:

“Here and there an individual or group dares to love, and rises to the majestic heights of moral maturity. So in a real sense this is a great time to be alive. Therefore, I am not yet discouraged about the future. Granted that the easygoing optimism of yesterday is impossible. Granted that those who pioneer in the struggle for peace and freedom will still face uncomfortable jail terms, painful threats of death; they will still be battered by the storms of persecution, leading them to the nagging feeling that they can no longer bear such a heavy burden, and the temptation of wanting to retreat to a more quiet and serene life. Granted that we face a world crisis which leaves us standing so often amid the surging murmur of life’s restless sea. But every crisis has both its dangers and its opportunities. It can spell either salvation or doom. In a dark confused world the kingdom of God may yet reign in the hearts of men.”  http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-lecture.html 

Dr. King understood how easy hatred could consume people and movements and urged  people not to follow the course of hate, he wrote:

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”

The day before his assassination in Memphis, Dr. King still recognized what he might face. His “I have been to the Mountaintop” speech http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkivebeentothemountaintop.htm recounted many of the things that he had encountered, including an assassination attempt in 1958 which had come close to killing him. It was an amazing speech and one wonders if having lived under threat so long that he almost had a premonition of his death the next day.

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

Dr. King’s dream is not dead and we who live today cannot allow it to die. There is still much work to see justice done for all Americans as well as those suffering from violence, persecution, discrimination and poverty around the world.

It is 2019. It has been 57 years since Dr. King sat in the Birmingham jail. Sadly, there are some who long for a return to the day of Jim Crow. In some states there have been and there are ongoing attempts to return it by stealth, especially through restrictions on voting that predominantly impact African Americans and the poor. Racism is not dead, nor are so many other “isms.” As Dr. King told us, “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy,” and “It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.”

Dr. King and many of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement have passed on. Likewise, many people today are complacent about the injustices present in our society, injustices experienced by many people. We need a generation of new men and women with hearts like Dr. King’s, who will be the conscience of the nation and confront these injustices.

Birmingham_campaign_dogs

Likewise we cannot ghettoize Dr. King’s accomplishments as being something that only helped African Americans. They have helped all of us. Dr. King’s courage in standing for Constitutional Amendments that many of his opponents despised, the 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th Amendments, as well as the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Acts is of fundamental importance to all Americans, even those that think they don’t matter.

President Ulysses Grant was absolutely correct when he pointed out the plight of white Southerners in the ante-bellum South. They were people so bound to the slavery system and their place in it that they could not see how badly it hurt them so long as they had a group, in this case African American slaves who were below them. Grant wrote:

“The great bulk of the legal voters of the South were men who owned no slaves; their homes were generally in the hills and poor country; their facilities for educating their children, even up to the point of reading and writing, were very limited; their interest in the contest was very meagre–what there was, if they had been capable of seeing it, was with the North; they too needed emancipation. Under the old regime they were looked down upon by those who controlled all the affairs in the interest of slave-owners, as poor white trash who were allowed the ballot so long as they cast it according to direction.”

That my friends is descriptive of how President Trump and the Republican Congress view those who put them in office. Trump supporters do not seem to realize that they will be hurt the most by the incoming administration and congresses policies. They too need emancipation and deliverance, thus we have to remain strong, for they too are our brothers and sisters.

Representative John Lewis, one of the original Freedom Riders was beaten numerous times during those protests. When leading the march across the Pettus Bridge in Selma, Lewis had his skull fractured by a State Trooper when he stopped to pray.  Lewis’s words call us to action today:

“If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” 

Representative Lewis is still speaking out, and enduring the attacks of President Trump, and we must join him. We cannot let Dr. King’s dream die. It would be fatal to our country and the promise of the Declaration of Independence if we did, and we would only have ourselves to blame.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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