Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” and depending who you are or where you live it could have been one, the other or both. For me it has been one of those, not that there is anything wrong with that, and truthfully as rough as it has been at times, I cannot discount the importance of these events in my life. Back in October I wrote an article that kind of sums up how important each of these threads is in my life, Tapestry: The Importance of Just One Thread.
The year was difficult, but we have made it through, and all of the threads of this year are now part of the tapestry of our lives. I am still dealing with PTSD, chronic insomnia and trimmings, but on the whole doing better than I was a year ago. We lost our wonderful dog Molly, a dog who more than once save my life in the years after Iraq, but that being said, the ghost of Molly is still around and doing some of the same things that she did when I was at my lowest, if you want you can read about that here, Ghost Dog Central. Though we lost Molly we still have Minnie Scule who was joined by Izzy Bella, our now one year old Papillion. They are both great dogs, totally different in personality, and Izzy is a lot like Molly in temperament and personality.
The same day we lost Molly, my wife Judy found out that she had an abnormal pap-smear and was diagnosed with Endometrial Cancer. She went through surgery and a long post-surgical recovery, but her doctor says she is now cancer free, though she gets regular checkups to make sure that it does not come back.
On a lighter side we also made our second trip to the real Oktoberfest in Munich, and a side trip to Salzburg, Austria where we discovered that the hills really might be alive, but I digress… I was also able to see some groups as musical artists from my bucket list. I saw a combined Chicago and Earth Wind and Fire concert as well as the legendary Boz Skaggs.
But 2015 was eventful, in a very dark way….
Terrorism of a number of varieties seemed to dominate much of the year. In January there were the Charlie Hebdo attacks made by radical Islamists in Paris, Je Suis Charlie: An Attack on Freedom, Do Not Give in to Fear: #Je Suis Charlie. If that attack had been all it would have been enough, but terrorism, mostly committed in the name of God, or racist ideology seemed to be everywhere. Of course there were the continued attacks of Islamist militants in sub-Saharan Africa, in places like Nigeria, Kenya, and Mali. The Horn of Africa, including Somalia and the Sudan; and North Africa, in Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, and Egypt. Those attacks, and incidents are too numerous to be listed, but sadly in the west, or the industrialized areas of Asia, no one seems to take note of them. Truthfully, the only thing the west and countries like China care about in Africa are the natural resources, dead Africans don’t seem matter as long as we get our resources.
But there were terrorist attacks in the United States as well. There was a murder of three young Muslim UNC students in Chapel Hill North Carolina A Time to Stand Against Hate; a clash between incendiary Muslim and anti-Muslim groups in Garland Texas, Hate vs. Hate: A Clash in Garland.
Of course the massacre of the pastor and other members of the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina, by a young White Supremacist named Dylann Storm Roof Call it Terrorism: Massacre at Emmanuel AME, When Ideology Kills Kindness: Dylann Roof at Emmanuel AME.
Then terror returned, in the space of two weeks a Russian airliner was downed by a bomb most likely planted by sympathizers of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or DAESH Can You Live with It? War, ISIL & a Downed Airliner; an attack by DAESH in Beirut Lebanon which killed 43 people, and then a massacre that stunned the world in Paris, Terror in Paris, The Lamps are Going Out: Paris & the End of the Illusion of Peace. The latter seems to have spurred the west into doing more to fight DAESH and it appears that the war that DAESH has desired with the west is now an accomplished fact.
But this terror came to the United States not long after when a DAESH inspired couple massacred people gathered for a holiday party in San Bernardino and the chilling thing was that they were the co-workers of the man, True Believers & Terrorism. I ended up reflecting on all of these attacks in a number of articles, including Power Hungry Religionists Will Inherit the Wind, Faith & Terror, and Accessories to Murder: The Propagandists who Inspire Terror.
These attacks caused me to write a number of articles about racism, propaganda, ideology, politics, mass movements and genocide. I think this article Dehumanization & Genocide helps to bring a certain historical perspective to these subjects, as does this one, Civilization Is Tissue Thin: Holocaust & Genocide as Warning. I also decided to frame some of the current fear of terrorism and the hateful invective being hurled at many American Muslims through the lens of Star Trek in these articles, Your Fear Will Destroy You and The Belief in a Devil. Another article which brought chills to me as I wrote is was just how easy it seems for some people to rationalize genocide, Just Following Orders: The Rationalization of Genocide and for ordinary people to take part in them Vast and Heinous Crimes: Ordinary Men & War Crimes.
Religion did not only inspire terror in 2015, but it was more closely than ever a part of American politics, and not necessarily for the good. As such I spent a lot of time on the intersection of church and state issues. This was especially true when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in the Obegfell v. Hodges decision and much of the Christian Right including prominent Republican presidential candidates went haywire. There were times that their reaction reminded me of the great film Inherit the Wind.
Since I firmly believe in religious liberty, and the separation of Church and State I wrote a number of articles dealing with that subject, including these, Religious Liberty or Tyranny?, this, Religion & State: The Less Mixed the Better and one about one of my heroes, the Virginia Baptist, John Leland, Exploding the Myth of Christian America. That crossed into some political commentary in this article Strike Down the Sinners: The Politics of the Christian Right.
Since much of the focus on religious liberty in 2015 revolved around the recalcitrant county clerk of Rowan County Kentucky, Kim Davis, and her political allies to deny legal rights to gay couples to marry I ended up writing a good number of articles during that political circus. If you want to read those just put her name in the search box. But as the dust cleared I wrote an article about a man who though he was a Christian, did not allow religious propaganda and hate to trump his sworn duty. The article about the late Dr. C. Everett Koop should be required reading for those who take an oath to uphold the Constitution, even when it conflicts with their religious beliefs, Separate Ideology & Religion from Sworn Duty: The Legacy of Dr. C. Everett Koop.
Political commentary based on historical analysis has become more important to me, and I try to shy away from the more bombastic and partisan that I see and instead focus on rational comparisons that can help us understand events, and hopefully do better than our ancestors. One of these articles compares the political implosion of the Democratic and Whig Parties in the 1850s and what is currently transpiring in the Republican Party, a party that I belonged to for 36 years before leaving it in 2008. When Political Parties Implode: The Battle over the Lecompton Constitution and its Relevance Today. Unlike some on both sides of the political chasm, I do not see what is happening as good, and I wrote this article to emphasize the importance of reason in political debate, Reason, the Salvation of Freedom. Interestingly enough, well before Donald Trump became the frontrunner in the GOP presidential campaign I wrote this little article, with a great cultural reference to a Bloom County comic strip published over 20 years ago, There Comes a Time… A Bloom County Reality Check.
Finally, a lot of what I wrote on the site was intensely personal and dealt with my battle with PTSD, my struggles with faith and belief, as well as my continued religious, social, and political transformation. These included My Faith: A Journey and Mission, but I think that one of the better articles I did about this process is It Fitted In: A Personal Reflection on Propaganda. I also wrote a number of articles for Memorial Day and Veterans Day which reflected my thoughts regarding my own military service and some social and political commentary related to who we as a nation deal with veterans and go to war, one of those was done just before Veterans Day, They Thanked Us Kindly: Reflections on Veteran’s Day 2015. My journey also brought new insights as I studied iconic Civil War heroes from the battle of Gettysburg, some of those articles included Tragic Heroes of Little Round Top,
I wrote a number of articles dealing with depression, suicide, PTSD and other issues that veterans and others struggle, I think this article sums up how I think we should treat those who struggle, Try to Understand: The Kindest, Noblest, & Best Thing You Will Ever Do. I also tried to bring attention to the continued crisis of veteran suicides in The Uncounted Cost of War: Veteran Suicides. I wrote about PTSD and the things that never seem to go away after war in this article, There Will be Nightmares: PTSD & Memories of War.
Of course there was more, police shootings, the Syrian refugee crisis, and too much more to cover today. But be assured I will continue to write and do my best to present all of these events the best I can in the light of history. I may end up sounding like Spencer Tracy’s characters in Inherit the Wind and Judgement at Nuremberg, but what I can I say?
I am continuing to learn through all of the evil being perpetrated by so many, is that the perpetrators have no ability to empathize with people. It is the one defining characteristic that they all share. Captain Gustave Gilbert, “In my work with the defendants (at the Nuremberg Trails 1945-1949) I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.” I find that more true every day.
Well, just one more day until we usher in 2016, and I do hope it will be better for everyone. By the way, a friend was able to get me a site over that the Daily Kos where I do some writing, and also post modified versions of what I write here as the mood hits me. The link to my blog there is, http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Padresteve
Have a great day and hopefully a Happy New Year.