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The Closet Of Anxieties

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today has been a pretty crappy day. I have been anxious and a bit depressed. A couple of months ago I found an old friend on Facebook. When I found him I was excited. In addition to being my supervisory chaplain, he was a mentor. I lost contact with him after I entered the Navy in 1999. But that initial joy was turned to pain when on an almost daily basis he intruded on my Facebook page, attacked my beliefs, and my character. He had become a complete Trumpite, with no regard for my beliefs, except to attack nearly every day. Most of those attacks involved issues of race and social justice. It seemed that he hadn’t met a White Supremacist that he couldn’t defend or member of a minority group that he couldn’t blame.

So I dropped him and blocked him, I also tightened my privacy settings, and I did receive a lot of encouragement and love from other friends.

Of course I am also anxious about the Platelet Rich Plasma treatment that I will be getting on my right knee tomorrow. I’m not afraid of the procedure, but I’m afraid that it won’t help with the pain that I have in that knee. I am less anxious and more confident in the arthroscopic surgery I am having next Thursday to repair the meniscus on my left knee. I am tired of having to walk with the assistance of a cane and not to be able to run, power walk, or even go for a leisurely stroll. I get jealous and upset when I see people my age out jogging. I feel useless and crippled.

So anyway, I’m tired and going to read some uplifting book about the perpetrators of the Holocaust. Of course, that last part is sarcasm. I hope that I don’t have another of my more frequent crazy dream or nightmares and go crashing out of bed. I don’t need another ER visit.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, remembering friends

Look Who’s Back (Er ist Wieder Da) A Comedy With a Far too Serious Message

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I just watched the German satirical comedy Er ist Wieder Da or as it is called in its English title Look Who’s Back, on Netflix.

The film is about Hitler who wakes up in a garden near the former Reichs Chancellory In 2014 with no knowledge of anything that happened in the intervening 50 years. He is befriended by a man that runs a newspaper kiosk, as well as a down on his luck television producer. Neither man believes that he is Hitler, but in the world of YouTube, Facebook, and Google, the Führer becomes a reality television celebrity.

I am not going to give away the story or or any spoilers. At times it is hysterically funny as it goes between scripted scenes to unscripted scenes done on the streets of Berlin and other German cities with people who are not actors. I guess that for me, the unscripted scenes were the most frightening, because regardless of whether the people were members of the AfD, the NPD, the CDU, the Greens, the SPD, or Die Linke, many were attracted to the the populist, anti-immigrant, and anti-democratic film version of spouted. It was like watching the Borat of the Third Reich.

However, there is one exchange of dialogue toward the end of the film that is far too troubling not to cite here, simply because it is not only appropriate to Hitler and Germany, but to France and Le Pen, Hungary and Orban, Turkey and Erdogan, the Philippines and Duterte; and if we don’t think we are so different that 1933 Germany, the United States and Donald Trump.

The television producer who helped bring Hitler back to fame says:

“Yes history repeats itself. You are fooling people with your propaganda.”

Hitler replied:

“Oh Sawatski. In 1933, people were not fooled by propaganda. They elected a leader who openly disclosed his plans with great clarity. The Germans elected me.”

The film is frightening, it might even be more so if I was German, but it is frightening enough in the United States.

That exchange between Hitler and Sawatski demonstrates exactly what President Trump and his base believe, otherwise he would never have remained in office despite everything. The fact is, that like Hitler, there are many people who love him and would do all they could to see his racist, authoritarian, and unconstitutional dreams come into being. In 2015 candidate Trump made the comment:

“You know what else they say about my people? The polls, they say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible.”

Like those that followed Hitler into the Bunker and flames of Berlin, Trump’s most loyal followers will do that today.

I have never laughed so hard at a movie that terrified me more than this. I have to say, that my friends is exceptional satire.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under film, History, holocaust, Loose thoughts and musings, movies, nazi germany, News and current events

Internet Trolls and Bullies Beware: I’m Not Afraid

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am posting this rather short but pointed post today because I was verbally assaulted by a local Facebook troll, a friend of a friend yesterday afternoon. The man ignored my warning to cease and desist and continued to attack, so I decided to stand up to him and I let him keep going. I challenged him, and called him out, I even told him where I was and challenged him to tell me what he said in person. I hate bullies and unlike some I don’t feel sorry for them, maybe a bit of ity and empathy, but not so much that that I will excuse their conduct or give in to them.

In my life I have habitually stood up for the weak against the strong. When I was a kid I got in a few fights defending the little guys against bullies. In the course of that I determined that I would never let a bully get the best of me, or anyone that I know. William Tecumseh Sherman said “It’s a disagreeable thing to be whipped.” and I will never allow a bully to whip me.

The man’s comments used the typical Right Wing language of demonization to call me all kinds of things, especially “libtard” which he could not stop from using along with differing variations of the F-bomb. The sad thing is that all too often these kind of people get away with what they are doing because people don’t stand up to them. One thing I learned from my dad is not to let bullies get away with their bullshit. He never let me back down from bullies and I don’t. I didn’t like bullies anymore now than when I was eight years old and I will never back down to them. Some people might disagree with me and urge the course of least resistance, but I think that they are mistaken. If good people don’t resist and allow these bullies to run over everyone including themselves by being silent then we are doomed. I won’t let that happen on my watch.

I’ve been to combat. I’ve been shot at. I’ve made 75 boarding missions in the Persian Gulf where I was the only unarmed person on the team as well as the only member without body armor because there wasn’t enough to go around. Likewise, I’ve had the muzzle of a pistol pushed to my skull in an armed robbery when I was 19 years old. I’m not afraid of trolls and bullies.

On this site I’ve been set upon by KKK, Neo-Nazi, and Alt-Right people on this site. Some have even threatened me with physical harm or death, but I say the hell with them and all who resort to threats and violence.

Yesterday I celebrated 34 years of commissioned service with two outstanding young Navy Chaplains and officers over beer at Gordon Biersch, my treat of course. But this guy had the unmitigated gaul to try to interrupt my time with these great guys. He didn’t spoil my afternoon, but I won’t let asshats like that local troll silence me, so I called him out. I told him where I was, and dared him to come to me.

But he didn’t respond, so I kept needling him because I figured that he was a coward hiding behind social media to say things that they would never say to someone face to face. He responded later by calling me to meet him a week from now at a bar I’ve never been to while still calling me all sorts of names. He’s no better than one of Hitler’s Brownshirt thugs and I’ll be damned if I let someone like that dictate what I say, do, think, or believe. He may be used to people rolling over and not confronting him when he threatens or demeans them as he did to my friend’s wife last month by putting pornographic images on her Facebook page to demean her, but I’m not that guy.

That being said I hoped that he would show up so I could confront him in person and maybe kick his sorry fat ass if he tried to assault me. It would have been worth it, I was almost having wet dreams about ducking his attack and then decking him. That being said since the man I confronted is local and I know what he looks like from his Facebook page I’ll be observant and watch my back, after all, dad didn’t raise a fool.

So until tomorrow when I plan on writing about something really interesting,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under leadership, Loose thoughts and musings

Meme Wars: The Death of Facts, Reason, American Political Discourse and Democracy

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have been thinking about a political meme that I saw posted on Facebook last week and I have been thinking about the words of the most erudite thinkers and reading about how it reflects the death of American political discourse. The meme embodied the worst of what is happening in American politics and thought. While it was a “pro-Trump” meme I hate to admit that I have seen mirror images of it from the political left.

Memes are an incredible form of propaganda. They often use powerfully emotional images and combine them with a one sided barrage of half-truths and lies about their side and their political opponent. In this particular meme Republicans were contrasted with Democrats.

It listed what Republicans are supposedly for on one side with the Democratic response on the other. Republicans in this meme were to “Protect America” “Fight Terrorism” “Reduce Tax Burdens” “Reduce Regulations” “Drain the Swamp” and “Make America Great Again.” The Democrats only response was “Hate Trump.” Such propaganda noted American philosopher Eric Hoffer “does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves.” It bypasses the cognitive, intellectual, moral, and ethical components that make us responsible citizens who care about our country, its people and the world in favor of a desert of alternative truths or as they are better known, lies.
The Republican beliefs in this meme were simply age GOP talking points that bear little resemblance to what the GOP does when it has Senate and House majorities as well as the White House, now so more than ever. If actions speak louder than words these were farcical, a half-truth, wrapped in a lie, ensconced in myth. To say that what Democrats believe can be reduced to “Hate Trump” misses the whole point of the American political system and it is a statement that mimics totalitarian propaganda which is then reinforced daily by White House spokesmen, Cabinet members, legislators, Fox News hosts and the Right Wing media machine, thousands of supposedly Bible believing Christian pastors, and quite often from the President himself.

But it is possible dissent from the policies and actions of a President and still to be a patriot. It is patriotic to stand for the rule of law, human rights, the Constitution, to fight terrorism of all kinds (not just Islamic), to defend the country and not depart from the ideals embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the protections of the Constitution (including the separation of powers). What has happened in the modern GOP is that personal loyalty to a President who demands it is considered the standard by which patriotism is judged even as he tramples the Constitution and defies the ideals, norms and traditions that made the American system of government that people around the world admired and brought so many persecuted people to our shores. Honestly that includes most of our ancestors.

But in the meme world facts do not matter so long as they support the system of those that promote the propaganda contained in them. Hannah Arendt wrote that the “True goal of totalitarian propaganda is not persuasion, but organization of the polity. … What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part.”

That is why memes are so important to propaganda. Adolf Hitler was a master of understanding that art of manipulation through propaganda. He wrote in Mein Kampf:

“The receptivity of the masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.”

That is why these talking points have been harped on for decades by the GOP, its media, and religious allies. In the GOP’s meme propaganda the Democrats as well as independent liberals or progressives are not fellow Americans who simply disagree on policy but an enemy to be destroyed. Admittedly there are left-wing memes that are no better intellectually or morally than those on the right that make me cringe. Regardless of their political bias, political memes are quite truthfully described as propaganda and unless they are truly political satire, I refuse to post them on any of my social media accounts.

To want our nation to live up to its ideals is patriotic. To want our leaders to embody those ideals and to expand them is likewise patriotic. To speak out when they are trampled and decide to resist or dissent within the bounds of the Constitution and reason is also in the end patriotic. It is American. For a side, in this case a conservative activist group to use propaganda to demonize its opponents shows that they have become as intellectually and morally bankrupt as the German conservatives who allied themselves with Hitler as Germany slid into totalitarianism.

The meme culture is a spin-off of social media which in large part is dependent on what is shown on television since many people have forgotten how to read and are susceptible to belief anything lie and reject inconvenient facts if they do not line up with the consistency of the system and its political propaganda . On has to pull themselves out of the digital culture and withdraw from the endless barrage of propaganda being sold as news on television and read. We must rediscover truth and facts written with the eloquence of the great authors and orators, otherwise we will see our Republic die, and it won’t be because of a foreign enemy. It will be our own damned fault.

It is absolutely essential that we return to reading the classics, reading history, as well the great writings of the great statesmen and philosophers and throw the memes in the digital garbage can because the meme political culture is based on anything but facts and anything but truth. Those who propagate memes cultivate a culture of unreason, and a political culture in which truth does not matter. Timothy Snyder wrote: “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.”

The political meme culture is a big part of the problem.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under News and current events, Political Commentary

Reordering Life under the New Order

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have taken most of the past week off and did little in the way of writing, but I did do much reading and reflecting over the Thanksgiving holiday. We spend most of the holiday out of town with friends near Washington D.C. in a very relaxed environment in which I radically reduced my time on social media to do a lot of reading and reflecting about the future that we are soon about to enter, a future that portends a radical departure from the historic norms of American democracy, polity, and social convention. We are about to enter a “new order” and it is important that we as Americans realize what this will entail.

However, I will come back to that later or in future articles. Today I will talk about what I am doing to keep my balance and to prepare for the difficult times that lay ahead for us. The problem for me is that as a historian who has devoted most of his life to studying the totalitarian Third Reich, and who also has a large amount formal graduate level education in theology, philosophy, and ethics that I see the gathering storm and am doing what I can to prepare personally as well as to be a beacon of rational thinking in a world that has gone mad.

The fact is that in less than two months a highly narcissistic megalomaniac authoritarian who appears to live in a cloud-cuckoo-land of delusional fantasy and paranoia will be the President of the United States. No recounts will change that fact, and unless members of the Electoral College actually do the job that the Constitution demands that they do, that Donald Trump will be President come January 20th 2017. That is a hard fact. One can talk about him not being their President all that they want but he will have the full power of that office in his hands and like it or not he will be making the decisions unless checked by Congress and the Courts. I do hope, probably against hope that those pillars of government rise to the occasion but I fear that they will not.

So over the Thanksgiving holiday I made some alterations to how I do life. First I have pulled back from social media. I still look at my Facebook and Twitter feeds at the posts of people whose intellect and desire to be truthful, but I am much more hesitant to comment on other people’s feeds, including people I dearly value as friends.

Likewise, I have become very selective about what I share. If I share something related to our current political situation I am first reading the article, checking its veracity, and looking at the track record of the author. As such, I am reading longer, more thoughtful, reflective and analytical articles that force me to think as I read them. Even then I will not necessarily share them on Facebook or Twitter unless I think they rise above the banter and chatter that inundates those platforms. Yes I am being more circumspect, but part of this circumspection is the realization that there are people who in the wake of Trump’s election are already are making “enemies lists” of professors, government officials, writers, and others that they would like to silence. Having been trolled and threatened for years I know that I am a potential target.

I am also much more discriminating in where I get my news. I am focusing on well-established newspapers in the United States and Europe where investigative reporting and substance matters while avoiding all American Cable News channels and sites that promote sensationalism or that thrive on unsubstantiated rumor or innuendo. The fake news business that was a fixture of the 2016 election is still going strong and is going to be used more and more to promote fear, distrust, and to pave the way for tyranny. As such I am not taking the bait when I see headlines posted on Facebook or Twitter which are solely designed to inflame passions and lead people respond emotionally without critical thinking or reflection.

As far as news and social media I have stopped looking at them after 10 PM. This is something that I should have done a long time ago. My regular readers know the difficulty I have sleeping do to PTSD and TBI and the memories of wartime and other traumatic experiences returning from war and I have found that many social media posts as well as the constant bombardment of news; real, fake, important, and unimportant only raises my nighttime anxiety and makes it far harder to sleep. Instead, I read or watch my favorite television shows or movies. I probably need to write an article dealing with this in the near future. There is something to be said about disconnecting from the insanity at night. 

I am going to be very careful when listening to politicians, and not just the incoming President, use terms such as “extremist” in describing individuals or groups that they oppose and “terrorist” to describe events that may or may not be terror related. Likewise, I will be careful when politicians using the pretext of an “emergency” describe “exceptional” circumstances to curb civil rights and individual liberties. Such methods are emblematic of authoritarian states and are the death of democratic states. The fact is that the Patriot Act and numerous already existing Executive Orders provide mechanisms for the Executive Branch to suspend civil liberties in reaction to certain emergencies.

I am going to limit what I say in e-mail and social media posts and try to do more through direct personal contact, sharing meals and drinks while discussing important issues. Likewise I am going to get out more, mingle more with real people, and also take time with Judy and our dogs. I really am coning to enjoy spending time with Judy and my walks with our dogs provide me a lot of relaxation and enjoyment, so they are getting longer and more numerous.

I am becoming much more alert to threats of violence and intimidation by some of Trump’s supporters as well as members of the “Alt-Right” which is nothing more than a bunch of rebranded Nazis and Klansmen. I will speak up against such people and organizations at every opportunity as to quote General George Patton “the Nazis are the enemy” and I don’t care where they come from, I will fight them.

I have a lot more to say on this, but that is all for now. Have a great day.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under civil rights, News and current events, Political Commentary

A Post Election Musing: What Now? 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Tonight I am writing from the outskirts of Washington D.C. as we gather with a group of Papillon dog owners. Our two girls are being very good and once she got used to everyone, Izzy is now trying to get all the other dogs to play. It is nice, I have really enjoyed getting to know some of the people here, especially our hosts. I’m hoping that I get a chance to visit the Manassas Battlefield Park this weekend, it has always been one of those places that I have always driven by but never have had time to stop and see, but I digress…

I have been trying for the last few days to stay off of social media for the most part. Too much of what is out there is just too toxic for me to deal with. Instead I have been reading more reflective articles analyzing the election instead of anything partisan, especially the kind of pseudo news from highly biased people and groups that populates Facebook and some other social media sites. I haven’t turned on the television since the election, there isn’t any baseball on and frankly I have been too busy and tired this week to even want to turn it on, especially cable news. Likewise, I have done some reading and I have a number of books that I am sifting through right now. 

But for me I have spent time trying to sort out what has happened and think about historical context and not just the 24 hour news cycle. As I mentioned Wednesday, I am not going to do to President Elect Trump what so many conservatives did to President Obam. While I disagree with almost all what Trump said his policy would be during the campaign, and while I will not give him a pass on his own conduct during the campaign, I think that as President he does deserve a chance to succeed or fail on his own merits, and the fact is that while Trump frightens me, the thought of a President Pence absolutely terrifies me. Thus when I read people talking about the possibility of impeachment already, including Republicans, I am not about to climb aboard that boat anytime soon. 

So over the next few weeks I will do some articles about what might happen during the Trump Presidency regarding civil rights, the environment, economic policy, healthcare, and foreign policy. I will also write some articles about what I think Democrats need to do to regain the trust of the American people, and not just well off white progressives. I will also delve in to the morass of the Alt-Right and its resurgence, and the rise in political and racial violence that seems to be accompanying the Trump victory. 

Anyway. Have a great Saturday and do not despair; for sometimes the greatest changes that actually shape the future come in the wake of defeat. This is something that we as progressives need to remember and then take concrete actions to enunciate in ways that people can understand. We don’t do that well and it showed during this election. 

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under News and current events, Political Commentary

History, Critical Thinking & Truth

  
Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Just a short note today as I continue to read, reflect and do some research and writing on my Civil War and Gettysburg Staff Ride text.

Yesterday I was adding books that I have read over the past few months to my “read” list on my Facebook page, and there were a lot more than I remembered as I worked my way through my stack. If you add things to your Facebook page, movies, books, music or television shows, Facebook will provide lists of suggested titles that you can browse. This of course includes books, and not surprisingly to me, most of the books that were suggested were various forms of fiction or children’s books. There were a few literature classics among the suggestions and a host of Bible books. What I noticed was there were few books on history, philosophy, political science, world affairs or even theology listed. William Hughes

I was troubled by this; not because I am against people reading fiction or children’s book by any means, but typically those books, with the exception of some of the children’s books are for entertainment, not learning. As entertainment they are fine, but since almost everything else in our culture is geared toward entertainment I wonder where people are being challenged to think critically, and not simply be sponges for the sound bites offered by the politicians, preachers and pundits who dominate so much of our airwaves and the internet.

Barbara Tuchman wrote, “Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.”

Sadly, many people in this country and around the world are sadly deficient in knowing any history at all, and much of what they do know is based on myth. This is dangerous, historian George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” But I think that Howard Zinn said it the best:

“History can come in handy. If you were born yesterday, with no knowledge of the past, you might easily accept whatever the government tells you. But knowing a bit of history–while it would not absolutely prove the government was lying in a given instance–might make you skeptical, lead you to ask questions, make it more likely that you would find out the truth.”

Have a great night,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, philosophy