Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
I have not written anything here for months, but the last few months have been so busy with teaching, and the finishing touches on Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory. Likewise I am dealing with a number of physical issues which still continue. I think I mentioned the Kidney stone, and maybe the Carpal Tunnel syndrome. I have follow ups coming for both. I had a CT scan of the Kidney this morning in preparation for the follow up appointment with the Urologist. I am concerned that they might not gotten all of it as I still suffer from pain there. The follow up with the hand surgeon next month to determine the next steps in dealing with it which will likely involve a more complicated surgery. But enough excuses, the fact is that my mind and body were fried, I have taken the ten days since school ended to rest and recuperate, make changes to the website, and work with the publicity team at Potomac Books and University of Nebraska Press.
I have wanted to write but have not had the time or energy to do it, but that changes tonight. After taking the time to watch the January 6th hearings, and with everyone else watching relived that attack and listened to compelling evidence from members of the Trump administration and his re-election team revealing damning information on Trump’s egging on of the attack and the encouragement of the Proud Boys and other insurgents to kill Vice President Pence because ”deserved it.” In fact, an informant from the Proud Boys told the FBI that they intended to kill the Vice President that day, and they got within 40 feet of Pence and his family as they fled.
Then there were the mass murders, one specifically targeting Blacks in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York by a exceptionally racist 18 year old man armed with an AR-15 type weapon, he murdered 11 people, mostly senior citizens. He picked the store because he knew it was the most heavily Black neighborhood he could reach, and he travelled almost 200 miles to get there. Also the killing of 19 fourth graders and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, also by an 18 year old with an AR-15 type weapon. There have also been two church shootings by older men, one a gun dealer.
But these are but symptoms of an increasingly violent, gun worshipping culture, with leaders of the MAGA GOP leading the charge. Eric Greitens, the disgraced former governor of Missouri, now running for the GOP nomination for the Senate released a campaign ad with him armed with a pump action shotgun and a group of men dressed as soldiers, all heavily armed and in full combat gear breaking into an ordinary home. Greitens encouraged supporters to get their ”RINO hunting license” which has no limits. A RINO is what used to describe Republicans who were not full in with the party’s agenda. Most of the time it referred to centrists, or those slightly left of center. the first target of this was New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller during the 1964 GOP nominating convention in San Francisco. At that convention, supporters of Senator Barry Goldwater treated Rockefeller as an apostate, and too gain the support of Southern Democrats and the Dixiecrats of South Carolina Senator Strom Thurman who were livid over the Civil and Voting Rights Acts supported by President Lyndon Johnson and a coalition of Democrats and pro-Civil Rights Republicans including future President George H.W. Bush. No matter how one looks at it the 1964 GOP Convention was the watershed moment that led us to today. Baseball great, Jackie Robinson, a special delegate, and friend and supporter of Rockefeller described the fanatical racist crowd in San Francisco’s Cow Palace, in his book I Never Had it Made:
Robinson wrote of his experience at the 1964 Convention:
“I wasn’t altogether caught of guard by the victory of the reactionary forces in the Republican party, but I was appalled by the tactics they used to stifle their liberal opposition. I was a special delegate to the convention through an arrangement made by the Rockefeller office. That convention was one of the most unforgettable and frightening experiences of my life. The hatred I saw was unique to me because it was hatred directed against a white man. It embodied a revulsion for all he stood for, including his enlightened attitude toward black people.
A new breed of Republicans had taken over the GOP. As I watched this steamroller operation in San Francisco, I had a better understanding of how it must have felt to be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.
The same high-handed methods had been there.
The same belief in the superiority of one religious or racial group over another was here. Liberals who fought so hard and so vainly were afraid not only of what would happen to the GOP but of what would happen to America. The Goldwaterites were afraid – afraid not to hew strictly to the line they had been spoon-fed, afraid to listen to logic and reason if it was not in their script.
I will never forget the fantastic scene of Governor Rockefeller’s ordeal as he endured what must have been three minutes of hysterical abuse and booing which interrupted his fighting statement which the convention managers had managed to delay until the wee hours of the morning. Since the telecast was coming from the West Coast, that meant that many people in other sections of the country, because of the time differential, would be in their beds. I don’t think he has ever stood taller than that night when he refused to be silenced until he had had his say.”
Likewise Belva Davis, then a young African American journalist wrote of her experiences at that convention:
While the Goldwater organization tried to keep its delegates in check on the floor, snarling Goldwater fans in the galleries around us were off the leash. The mood turned unmistakably menacing…
Suddenly Louis and I heard a voice yell, “Hey, look at those two up there!” The accuser pointed us out, and several spectators swarmed beneath us. “Hey niggers!” they yelled. “What the hell are you niggers doing in here?’”
I could feel the hair rising on the back of my neck as I looked into faces turned scarlet and sweaty by heat and hostility. Louis, in suit and tie and perpetually dignified, turned to me and said with all the nonchalance he could muster, “Well, I think that’s enough for today.” Methodically we began wrapping up our equipment into suitcases.
As we began our descent down the ramps of the Cow Palace, a self-appointed posse dangled over the railings, taunting. “Niggers!” “Get out of here, boy!” “You too, nigger bitch!” “Go on, get out!” “I’m gonna kill your ass!”
I stared straight ahead, putting one foot in front of the other like a soldier who would not be deterred from a mission. The throng began tossing garbage at us: wadded up convention programs, mustard-soaked hot dogs, half-eaten Snickers bars. My goal was to appear deceptively serene, mastering the mask of dispassion I had perfected since childhood to steel myself against any insults the outside world hurled my way.
Then a glass soda bottle whizzed within inches of my skull. I heard it whack against the concrete and shatter. I didn’t look back, but I glanced sideways at Louis and felt my lower lip began to quiver. He was determined we would give our tormentors no satisfaction.
“If you start to cry,” he muttered, “I’ll break your leg.”
It took another fifty two years for this evil wing of the GOP under the leadership of former President Trump to take control of the Republican Party. From the beginning Trump promoted violence against his opponents and was delighted to have the muscle of White Nationalist and Christian Nationalist paramilitaries like the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the III Percenters, the Prayer Patriots, and others including Neo-Nazis, and the KKK. When Trump told the Proud Boys in 2020, ”Stand back and stand by“ they knew what he meant. On January 6th they were in position at the Capitol to breach the outer police lines before Trump urged the masses to march to the Capitol and called Mike Pence out as a coward and stated his disappointment with Pence. The threats made toward Pence, Speaker of the House Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Schumer, and others in Congress, of both parties were so malignant that they beggar the imagination.
These threats have not stopped. Congressman Adam Kitzinger, a very conservative Republican who voted with Trump 90% of the time finally voted to impeach Trump in the Second Impeachment proceeding and is now one of two Republicans on the January 6th Commission received a hand written death threat targeting him and his family. Many GOP members have either shut up and become complicit through their silence, others who have actively aided him, and still more like Greitens who are not only aiding him but are encouraging violence and killing of all their opponents, Republican or Democrats. They are being aided and abetted by the propagandists of Fox News, Newsmax, One America News, Infowars, and other toxic spreaders of lies and disinformation. Of course there is the Dark Web where the mind numbing conspiracy theories of QAnon and other groups provide an endless supply of misinformation and lies through sites like 4Chan and 8Chan, and many others. Many of these sites aid in the targeting of opponents, and in abetting threats against them.
In light of how violent the GOP has become it is hard not to to believe that it will not get worse. Every indicator, the words and actions of GOP leaders, the targeting of racial, religious, and gender minorities by the GOP, especially in states like Texas and Florida in highly orchestrated campaigns to disenfranchise people, threaten them, or actively legislate punitive laws that target the civil rights, voting rights, and religious rights of racial, religious, or gender identity of citizens.
Since I am a historian of American racism, slavery, Jim Crow, as well as the Nazi crimes of the Holocaust, I cannot not see where this violent, authoritarian, theocratic and venomous MAGA is going. Since I believe that assassinations, mass killings, bombings and targeted killings of those opposed to Trump and MAGA will become commonplace in the next few months leading to the 2022 and 2024 elections, I will leave those who actively or passively support such violence with the words of Spencer Tracy playing Judge Dan Haygood in Judgement at Nuremberg:
“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.”
That will be all for tonight but expect more, and more often.