Tag Archives: realists

Look Who’s Back: A Film Far too Pertinent in Europe and the USA “At Their Core they are Just Like Me” The Trump and Hitler Cults

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

A bit earlier we watched, and I re-watched the German film Look Who’s Back (Er ist Wieder Da) which is about Hitler rising from his bunker in 2014. It is a very dark comedy where the actors mingle with regular people, and the actor playing Hitler mingles with them, but no-one really believes that he is really Hitler, but many are willing to make public support of Hitler’s policies. Finally, the amateur filmmaker who discovered Hitler realizes that the man he thought was an actor is really Hitler, and the following conversation ensues:

Hitler: I was wondering when you would show up.

Sawatski: It’s you. You’re him.

Hitler: I never claimed to be anything else. History repeats itself. I guess it’s my fate to have to part with my dearest companions.

Sawatski: That way. Yes, history repeats itself. You’re fooling people with your propaganda.

Hitler: Oh, Sawatski. You don’t understand. In 1933, people were not fooled by propaganda. They elected a leader, one who openly disclosed his plans with great clarity. The Germans elected me.[At gunpoint, Hitler takes the elevator to the top of the building and walks out on the rooftop, standing close to the edge.]

Sawatski: You’re a monster.

Hitler: Am I? Then you have to condemn those who elected this monster. Were they all monsters? No. They were ordinary people, who chose to elect an extraordinary man, and entrust the fate of the country to him. What do you want to do, Sawatski? Ban elections?

Sawatski: No. But I’m going to stop you.

Hitler: Have you never asked yourself… why people follow me? Because at their core, they are just like me. They have the same values. And that’s why you won’t shoot.

[Sawatski shoots, and Hitler falls backward off the rooftop. Sawatski looks over the edge and sees no body.]

Hitler: You can’t get rid of me. I’m a part of you. A part of all of you. And look; it wasn’t all bad.

The film should be required viewing, not just in Germany but in Trump’s America.

Being an ideologue of any kind is easy, you adopt an ideology and then use it to interpret the world. That is why there are so many of them of so many different varieties: right wing, left wing, religious and so many more. In fact if you take a look at the most strident supporters of any ideology, politician, or religious leader you can see that they are little different from one another. But in terms of the ideologies they espouse the most enduring of them, and the only to have ever been the foundation of state power or those dealing with economics such as the Soviet Union; or race such as Nazi Germany or the American Southern Confederacy. Hannah Arendt wrote:

“For an ideology differs from a simple opinion in that it claims to possess either the key to history, or the solution for all the “riddles of the universe,” or the intimate knowledge of the hidden universal laws which are supposed to rule nature and man. Few ideologies have won enough prominence to survive the hard competitive struggle of persuasion, and only two have come out on top and essentially defeated all others: the ideology which interprets history as an economic struggle of classes, and the other that interprets history as a natural fight of races. The appeal of both to large masses was so strong that they were able to enlist state support and establish themselves as official national doctrines. But far beyond the boundaries within which race-thinking and class-thinking have developed into obligatory patterns of thought, free public opinion has adopted them to such an extent that not only intellectuals but great masses of people will no longer accept a presentation of past or present facts that is not in agreement with either of these views.” 

The fact is that there is a difference between people who lean a certain way politically or religiously, and the people Eric Hoffer called, the “true believers,” the people who chose a side and never wrestle with the hard choices of life. They simply declare all who oppose their ideology or theology to be unworthy of life. If one is honest one has to admit that all kinds of ideologues of various persuasions, right wing, left wing, religious, atheistic, or racist have committed crimes which are incomprehensible and abhorrent. History shows that this is truth, but then when a regime decides to censor the past, as the Trump Administration is currently doing, and many other regimes have done, all bets are off. Likewise, when a government decides to admit to what its predecessors have done, as has Germany has done with World War II and the Holocaust, there will always be people who wish for a fictional better time, and either deny the truth, or seek to bring back the horrors of the past.

I am a liberal and a progressive, but I often find left-wing ideologues to be as off putting as militant right wingers. I guess that is because despite everything I am a realist. I wake up every day to try to do the hard thing of deciding what is right and what to believe.

My favorite television character, Raymond Reddington, played by James Spader in The Blacklist once said “I know so many zealots, men and women, who chose a side, an ideology by which to interpret the world. But, to get up every single day and to do the hard work of deciding what to believe. What’s right, today? When to stand up or stand down. That’s courage.” The fact is, no matter how stridently they espouse their beliefs, ideologues are by definition not courageous, because courage takes critical thinking, something that ideologues of any persuasion are incapable of doing. I see examples of this every day, especially in my Twitter feed and on Facebook.

While I’m sure that many, if not most of these people are good and well meaning people, they seldom display any originality of thought or true character. A while back I had one left wing Twitter follower attack repeatedly me because to her I was supposedly a sellout. I have had right wing religious friends and followers on social media do the same, as well as making actual death threats.

While they attack me and each other from different ends of the political spectrum, the intellectual commonality they share is the fact that they are ideologues and zealots; and while they espouse different beliefs they are almost indistinguishable from each other in their inability to think critically and that wears me out, but I refuse to stand down.

I guess that is one of the things that bothers me the most about so much of what I see going on in the United States today. Too many ideologues, not enough critical thinkers. Too many people who value absolute consistently of thought without asking if what they preach is still true today, or if it might be tomorrow, and far too many more who are unwilling to by more than apathetic bystanders waiting to see which way the wind blows before deciding on a position.

Of course there are also the people who would be the victims of ideologues of any type, and the ideologues will be the perpetrators. At this time, after the Senate voted to acquit Trump, the President has mounted a campaign of revenge against his opponents. My money is on the Trump ideologues to take the first shot.

From the beginning of his campaign he never hid what he believed or who or what he is. In the process he has built a cult following around himself, taken over the Republican Party, used all media, but especially that of the Right Wing media to propagate his hateful ideology. He has bulldozed the Constitution, the law, and the institutional guardrails that protected our Republic for over two centuries; and must of his cult like supporters, just like Hitler’s won’t abandon him, but will become more violent in their actions toward his opponents. Likewise, he will use the organs of the State to implement his policies, as he is doing with the Border Patrol, INS, and every other part of the executive branch that his Cult controls. Against this I don’t think that left wing ideologues, who often are a mirror image of their right wing cousins have a chance; but men and women of conscience must make a stand.

One thing that I have learned over the past decade or so is that I have to ask what is right today, and make a choice of when to stand up, or to stand down. Sometimes, I don’t like those choices, but I make them. As Sophie Scholl said:

“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.”

I guess that is why I like reading about the lives of complicated and often conflicted people; men like T.E. Lawrence, William Tecumseh Sherman, Henning Von Tresckow, Ludwig Beck, and the fictional Raymond Reddington so fascinating. I find much to admire and to criticize in all of them even as I empathize and understand each one of them. Interestingly, each of my heroes all have feet of clay. As Reddington said, “We become who we are. We can’t judge a book by its cover… But you can by its first few chapters, and most certainly by its last.” 

But in such a perilous time, how can we not see what Trump has openly proclaimed he would do when he became a presidential candidate, and since his election. However, we cannot blame it all on Trump. He was clear in what he would do as President, and as the fictional Hitler asked “Have you never asked yourself… why people follow me? Because at their core, they are just like me. They have the same values.” 

Have a great day, until tomorrow.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

4 Comments

Filed under ethics, film, germany, History, leadership, movies, nazi germany, News and current events, Political Commentary

The Courageous Versus the Ideologues

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today is a bit of a detour following my last two articles dealing with the Reichstag Fire and Reichstag Fire Decree, but it does have some ties to them and I will pick up on the Reichstag Fire theme tomorrow.

Being an ideologue of any kind is easy, you adopt an ideology and then use it to interpret the world. That is why there are so many of them of so many different varieties: right wing, left wing, religious and so many more. In fact if you take a look at the most strident supporters of any ideology, politician, or religious leader you can see that they are little different from one another. But in terms of the ideologies they espouse the most enduring of them, and the only to have ever been the foundation of state power or those dealing with economics such as the Soviet Union; or race such as Nazi Germany or the American Southern Confederacy. Hannah Arendt wrote:

“For an ideology differs from a simple opinion in that it claims to possess either the key to history, or the solution for all the “riddles of the universe,” or the intimate knowledge of the hidden universal laws which are supposed to rule nature and man. Few ideologies have won enough prominence to survive the hard competitive struggle of persuasion, and only two have come out on top and essentially defeated all others: the ideology which interprets history as an economic struggle of classes, and the other that interprets history as a natural fight of races. The appeal of both to large masses was so strong that they were able to enlist state support and establish themselves as official national doctrines. But far beyond the boundaries within which race-thinking and class-thinking have developed into obligatory patterns of thought, free public opinion has adopted them to such an extent that not only intellectuals but great masses of people will no longer accept a presentation of past or present facts that is not in agreement with either of these views.” 

The fact is that there is a difference between people who lean a certain way politically or religiously, and the people Eric Hoffer called, the “true believers,” the people who chose a side and never wrestle with the hard choices of life. They simply declare all who oppose their ideology or theology to be unworthy of life.

I am a liberal and a progressive, but I often find left-wing ideologues to be as off putting as militant right wingers. I guess that is because despite everything I am a realist. I wake up every day to try to do the hard thing of deciding what is right and what to believe.

My favorite television character, Raymond Reddington, played by James Spader in The Blacklist once said “I know so many zealots, men and women, who chose a side, an ideology by which to interpret the world. But, to get up every single day and to do the hard work of deciding what to believe. What’s right, today? When to stand up or stand down. That’s courage.” The fact is, no matter how stridently they espouse their beliefs, ideologues are by definition not courageous, because courage takes critical thinking, something that ideologues of any persuasion are incapable of doing. I see examples of this every day, especially in my Twitter feed and on Facebook.

While I’m sure that many, if not most of these people are good and well meaning people, they seldom display any originality of thought or true character. I had one left wing Twitter follower attack repeatedly me because to her I was supposedly a sellout. I have had right wing religious friends and followers on social media do the same.  While they attack me and each other from different ends of the political spectrum, the intellectual commonality they share is the fact that they are ideologues and zealots; and while they espouse different beliefs they are almost indistinguishable from each other in their inability to think critically and that wears me out.

I guess that is one of the things that bothers me the most about so much of what I see going on in the United States today. Too many ideologues, not enough critical thinkers. Too many people who value absolute consistently of thought without asking if what they preach is still true today, or if it might be tomorrow.

One thing that I have learned over the past eight years or so is that I have to ask what is right today, and make a choice of when to stand up, or to stand down. Sometimes, I don’t like those choices, but I make them.

I guess that is why I like reading about the lives of complicated and often conflicted people; men like T.E. Lawrence, William Tecumseh Sherman, and the fictional Raymond Reddington. I find much to admire and to criticize in all of them even as I empathize and understand each one of them. Interestingly, each of my heroes all have feet of clay. As Reddington said, “We become who we are. We can’t judge a book by its cover… But you can by its first few chapters, and most certainly by its last.” 

Have a great day, until tomorrow.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

1 Comment

Filed under ethics, philosophy, Political Commentary

The Courageous vs. the Ideologues 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Being an ideologue of any kind is easy, you adopt an ideology and then use it to interpret the world. That is why there are so many of them of so many different varieties: right wing, left wing, religious and so many more. In fact if you take a look at the most strident supporters of any ideology, politician, or religious leader you can see that they are little different from one another. 

The fact is that there is a difference between people who lean a certain way politically or religiously, and the people Eric Hoffer called, the “true believers,” the people who chose a side and never wrestle with the hard choices of life. They simply declare all who oppose their ideology or theology to be unworthy of life. 

It’s funny, I am a liberal and a progressive, but I often find left-wing ideologues to be as off putting as militant right wingers. I guess that is because despite everything I am a realist. I wake up every day to try to do the hard thing of deciding what is right and what to believe. 

My favorite television character, Raymond Reddington, played by James Spader in The Blacklist once said “I know so many zealots, men and women, who chose a side, an ideology by which to interpret the world. But, to get up every single day and to do the hard work of deciding what to believe. What’s right, today? When to stand up or stand down. That’s courage.” The fact is, no matter how stridently they espouse their beliefs, ideologues are by definition not courageous, because courage takes critical thinking, something that ideologues of any persuasion are incapable of doing. I see examples of this every day, especially in my Twitter feed. While I’m sure that many, if not most of these people are good and well meaning people, they seldom display any originality of thought or true character. I had one left wing Twitter follower attack repeatedly me because to her I was supposedly a sellout. I have had right wing religious friends and followers on social media do the same, but the intellectual commonality they share is the fact that they are ideologues and zealots, and while they espouse different beliefs they are almost indistinguishable in their inability to think critically. 

I guess that is one of the things that bothers me the most about so much of what I see going on in the United States today. Too many ideologues, not enough critical thinkers. Too many people who value absolute consistently of thought without asking if what they preach is still true today, or if it might be tomorrow. 

One thing that I have learned over the past eight years or so is that I have to ask what is right today, and make a choice of when to stand up, or to stand down. Sometimes, I don’t like those choices, but I make them. 

I guess that is why I like reading about the lives of complicated and often conflicted people; men like T.E. Lawrence, William Tecumseh Sherman, and the fictional Raymond Reddington. I find much to admire and to criticize in all of them even as I empathize and understand each one of them. Interestingly, each of my heroes all have feet of clay. As Reddington said, “We become who we are. We can’t judge a book by its cover… But you can by its first few chapters, and most certainly by its last.” 

Have a great day and weekend.

Peace,

Padre Steve+ 

3 Comments

Filed under philosophy, televsion

The Promise of Riots 

 

  
Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

A short comment on the results of Super Duper Tuesday and the dangers that the day brings for both the Democratic and Reupublican parties. My words are certain to offend the sensibilities of partisans of every candidate in both parties currently fighting to win their party nomination for President, and I really don’t care, because I care more for the country than any candidate, and for the peaceful preservation of the Union and Liberty more than the short term political gain of any party, faction, or individual candidate. 

The Super Duper Tuesday primaries are over. On the Democratic side Hillary Clinton swept states in play. While the results in Missouri and Illinois were close she won each primary and in the popular vote outpolled Bernie Sanders by around 900,000 votes in the four states at play. She also increased here Delaware count in both pledged delegates and Super Delegates. Let it be known that I am not a big fan of the Super Delagate system, but that is the system that the Democratic Party has used for decades, but all the candidates know that going in, even Bernie Sanders. 

But compared to the Republican race the Democratic primaries are positively civil, boring, and mundane. Sanders has made things interesting, and probably made Hillary a better candidate, and Hillary should do her damnedest to reach out to Sanders and his supporters if she wants their support in the general election. Truthfully I like Bernie Sanders a lot, and agree with most of his positions on the issues. His Democratic Socialism is little different that Franlkin Roosevelt’s New Deal. But the fact is Sanders owes his success to the Democrat who did not run, Senator Elizabeth Warren. It was her true populist voice in economic issues and her refusal to run that gave Sanders his opening. At the same time like Hillary, but I am not blind to her faults and some of the things in her past that give people reason not to fully trust her. What does that make me? I guess an unpopular realist who because I am serving in a Federal office cannot publicly endorse any candidate, but I can comment on policy, history, and what I believe. 

Likewise, Sanders supporters who say they are progressive but would vote for Trump to spite Clinton if she wins the nomination are fools, and not at all progressive if they believe what they actually say and then do that. True progressives understand the value of realism and pragmatism and getting what you can get; for sometimes progress is slow, but it if you keep working you achieve it, ithout handing victory to people who hate you. Those Sanders supporters who call themselves “progressives” but would be willing to vote for Trump to spite Clinton are like the German Communist Party members in Weimar Germany who worked against the Social Democrats and gave Germany to Hitler. A pox on them if they do that. The same would go for Clinton supporters who if she lost the nomination to Sanders did something similar. Since I don’t see any way for Sanders to win the nomination short of a total Clinton meltdown or scandal so big that would turn the Super Delagates against her, I don’t see the latter happening, and if there was such an event the Democratic Party would rapidly coalesce around Sanders, or maybe rally to nominate Warren. 

But I digress…

No matter what happens with the Democrats, the really interesting thing is what s going on in the GOP. Trump won a crushing victory in Florida as well as convincing victories in North Carolina and Illinois. He won a very narrow victory in Missouri over Ted “nobody likes me” Cruz, and lost in Ohio to John Kasich because the Repulicans allow “winner take all” primaries means that Kasich won every delegate in his home state, without even winning a majority of the vote. And that is how the GOP hopes to defeat Trump? Give me a break. That is cloud-cuckoo-land thinking. 

That has set up an interesting scenario. The GOP “establishment” has been doing everything that they can to try to stop Trump from winning the nomination outright. Many have actually gone on record with that stirring the ire or Trump and his most vocal supporters on conservative talk radio, media, and the Internet. Prominent leaders of the right wing media including Rush Limbaugh, and Coulter, and Breitbart News are all in for Trump, and they are hammering the GOP establishment, and people still listen to them. It doesn’t matter what Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Reince Prebus, Mitt Romney, or even George W. Bush has to say; they are all weak or even traitors if you ask Trump and his most ardent supporters. In response you have Glenn Beck and many other conservative pundits and politicians  doing all that they can to fight Trump. This is a civil war and existential struggle for the GOP, and truthfully I don’t see it surviving in any form that we once knew, and as a former Republican who spent 32 years as a party loyalist, in my opinion, as much as I hate what the GOP has become, that is not a good thing, and Republicans have only themselves to blame just as the Democrats were for what happened to them in 1860 and 1968, the Republicans in 1964, and German conservatives in 1932 and January of 1933. They all destroyed themselves with little help from their opponents. Thant my friends is history, that is reality. 

What portends is an absolute disaster for the GOP. If they fail to stop Trump from winning a majority, he wins. If they stop him, and keep him from an outright majority, even though he will likely have 400-500 more delagates at the convention than eith Cruz or Kasich, they will have achieved a Pyrrhic victory. Trump is not your run of the mill boring Republican. It is his money and brains in stoking the anger of Republicans, not only against the Democrats and Obama, but the GOP establishment that has brought him thus far, and he is not done. 

He has tacitly endorsed violence against opponents, and journalists, even conservative journalists who get in his way. On Wednesday he said that there “would be riots”  if the GOP tried to deny him the nomination, even if he was short of the majority needed to win the nomination at the GOP convention in Cleveland outright. He is not joking. His supporters have almost as little love for the GOP as they do the Democrats. He and they will not accept what they see as being cheated out of the nomination, and frankly, while I am not a Trump supporter by any means I would have to agree with them if I was in their shoes. The current GOP is Republican in Name Only. It is not the party or Lincoln, not the party of Ulysses Grant or Teddy Roosevelt, not that of Dwight Eisenhower, or even Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan. It has become a proto-fascist party run for the most part by Christian radicals bent on establishing a theocracy, embodied by Ted Cruz, that is now collapsing on the weight of unfulfilled promises to people that they have made for decades. Frankly, Trump’s supporters are declaring war against the GOP establishment, and if they don’t win that war they will leave the GOP as a smoldering ruin of hubris as they destroy it in their way out. 

Maybe my analysis of both parties is wrong. As a historian I don’t think it is, but I could be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time and certainly won’t be the last. But as Mark Twain is reported to have said, “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”  

But then maybe I’m just too much of a realist and have too much understanding of people and history for any ideologue or radical of any persuasion to take what I have to say seriously. But then as bad is this all is maybe it is what we all need to cause us to wake up and re-embrace the promise of of the words spoken by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, “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 shall not perish from the earth. ” 

Until tomorrow, 

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

2 Comments

Filed under News and current events, Political Commentary