Tag Archives: samuel adams

To Stand Up Against Zealots

 

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am not a fan of ideologues or the “fundamentalists” of any point in the political, ideological or religious spectrum. Their lack of courage, stunted intellectualism, and inability to see things from outside their limited field of view does not allow them to face really difficult questions that confront us today.  They claim to hold the keys to the universe but sadly are hold nothing more than the key to their high school gym locker.

The Iranian novelist Salman Rushdie who has been on the run from Iranian fundamentalist ideologues since he wrote the supposedly heretical Satanic Verses once noted:

“The moment you say that any idea system is sacred, whether it’s a religious belief system or a secular ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.”

I believe that we are at yet another crossroads in Western civilization. This time a crossroads where the classic liberalism that was the basis for democratic societies is being stampeded by zealots of various persuasions who guided by the supposed infallibility of their ideological belief systems, deliberately and without remorse seek to destroy the institutions that are the guardians of liberty.

In my honest opinion I think that the worst of these are the conservative Christian theocrats and their seemingly ideological enemies the Ayn Rand following Social Darwinist “conservative libertarians.” They have no shame, their respective ideologies blind them to truth and turn them into sociopaths that only give a damn about their power and profits and they latched on to President Trump, prostrating themselves and the Republican Party to him in order that they might triumph.

Of course I will be the first to admit that there are some leftists who would be the first to put a bullet in the head of Lady Liberty to further their own cause.  But they are not the danger. They control nothing that would allow them to succeed and most cannot even agree among themselves to work together, they have nothing on Lenin, Stalin, Mao, the Iranian Mullahs, or even Hugo Chavez; may God give rest to his chubby cheeks.

Say what you want about him but President Trump is not an ideologue, he can’t be, he’s too much of a self-absorbed narcissist to be an ideologue. All he wants is the adulation of his audience and the power and wealth that come with it. He may be a sociopath but it is not for the sake of any ideology. If the issue was the President alone we could survive him; but his supporters of the Christian Right and the Ayn Rand Social Darwinists of the GOP are much more dangerous, because they are true believers who actually control many of the apparatuses of government at the local, state, and federal level.

We have seen the results of such movements in history before and each time they succeed in gaining power they have brought disaster to nations, and sometimes the world.

Proponents of ideological purity assume that their ideological bias is equivalent to sacred truth, be it a religious or secular truth. The promoters of such systems promote something more than their opinion, as Hannah Arendt noted: “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.”  

As such, ideology is not based on knowledge, but is distinct from it and the enemy of knowledge for it binds the mind in a straitjacket in which all thought must be submitted to the truth of the ideology. As Arendt noted such ideologies must be handled with caution as they “pretend to be keys to history but are actually nothing but desperate efforts to escape responsibility.”  

An ideology protects the true believer from having to think for himself, it allows the insecure to grasp at the protection that it allegedly provides, and allows the believer to deny reality, and to by definition declare everything that contradicts the ideology to be heretical, and opponents to be aligned with the devil himself, allowing the believer to hate the opponent. As Eric Hoffer noted, “Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.” 

As I have mentioned the past couple of days 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.

That is why knowledge and critical thought even when they are uncomfortable and take us out of our comfort zone are so much more powerful and important than ideologies that are followed blindly. My words to the ideologues of the Christian Right and the Ayn Rand followers of so many in the Republican Party is that of Samuel Adams who said:

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.” 

It takes no courage to be an ideologue, and once a person surrenders to an ideology as his or her reason for existence, they sacrifice the ability to reason, the ability to think critically, and the capacity to acquire knowledge and in doing so they surrender to tyranny and servitude though they think they will end up on top.

That is the danger of the blind ideologies that are consuming our world today and why as long as anyone who cares about freedom has a breath in them they must be opposed.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under civil rights, ethics, faith, History, News and current events, Political Commentary

Fly the Friendly Skies of PTSD: Padre Steve Takes to the Air Yet Again

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“There are only two emotions in a plane, boredom and terror” Orson Welles

So once again my air travel begins with an adventure, thankfully I am doing better and have learned a few things about traveling with PTSD over the past few years.

Air travel, especially having to go through crowed airports still terrifies me. Today I am traveling to Houston for a chaplain training symposium, part of which will deal with PTSD treatment. While there I will be touring to VA Medical Center and I have been tasked by my Commanding Officer to see what they are doing in regard to dealing with Peer Support to PTSD injured personnel and to their families.

The family piece has been slow to develop and the military, VA and others are now just beginning to wrap their heads around the issue of how to deal with the impacts of PTSD on the family. I think that part of the reason for this is that the military has had to figure out PTSD all over again since the current wars began in 2001. Since most of our previous experience came out of Vietnam where the majority of soldiers were single draftees who left the service after doing their time we did not really have much experience dealing with what happens when a soldier makes multiple deployments, is traumatized and has to deal with family issues while remaining in the high stress world of the military.

Of course I can testify that it does have a huge impact on the family. My marriage was in bad shape after Iraq as Judy and I both tried to figure out what the “new normal” was in our marriage. Even when I started to get better the process of re-setting the relationship was incredibly difficult and required a lot of adjustment. Since we have known each other for close to 35 years and been married for almost 30 I can only imagine what a newly married couple, or a couple married just a few years with young children go through. I see a lot of these young men and women in my work and know their stories and difficulties so my interest in this is quite personal on a number of levels.

Anyway, returning to the trip. I got to my flight and of course it was overbooked. That is par for the course, at least the Norfolk airport was relatively sedate today. However, they airline needed to board a flight crew and was getting ready to force passengers off the plane. They offered a $500 voucher and meal coupons and promised to get me to my destination this evening. Since the flight that I was booked on was running late and my connection time was next to nothing at Dulles Airport in Washington DC I volunteered to take the voucher. Most of my worst experiences flying have occurred at Dulles and I never enjoy making a connection there. They booked me on a later flight that goes through Newark which puts me in about 5 hours later than I would have arrived if I was able to make my connection. The layover allows me to relax a bit between flights and not rush. I can handle that.

When I fly I am almost always in a panic mode. I no longer enjoy it. Air travel today is like being a steerage passenger on the Titanic unless you have lots of money to fly First Class. Crowded flights, bad baggage service and less than friendly airports are the norm. If I had the time to take I would drive almost anywhere rather than to fly. I have flown First Class a couple of times, but only because the airlines upgraded me. The best was a British Air flight from Madrid to London where I flew with former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. They actually give you really metal eating utensils, plates and glasses.

My last couple of flights have been filled with more drama than I would like, so in light of the fact that I was having to connect through my least favorite airport in the world I don’t mind the delay.

You ask me how I cope with air travel now. Don’t say that you didn’t I heard you. Now the fact that I have raging Tinnitus and my speech comprehension is in the lower three percentile, meaning that even most deaf people understand speech better than me has nothing to do with it. I know what you said.

So how do I cope? The answer is simple. Beer, a good microbrew or if one is not available maybe a Sam Adams, Yuengling or Stella. I could take a Xanax. My Doctor prescribes them for me, but they taste terrible and don’t fill me up. Besides, even though beer is loaded with carbs it is a fat free meal.

In addition to beer I try to make sure that schedule my flights whenever possible, if no direct flight is available to go through airports where there is good food, good beer and if I do get delayed or forced to overnight it, a place where there is something to do. I have learned in such cases to pack a pair of underwear and a clean shirt appropriate to the time of year and weather in my backpack just in case I get delayed. I went through Dulles once, had to overnight it and was forced to go to a mall that triggered every living nerve in me just to get underwear and a shirt. That my friends sucked like a Hoover.

So at the moment I am sitting at the airport bar having a half liter of Sam Adams and a bowl of Chicken Tortilla Soup while waiting for my flight. A man sitting next to me said that flight is now delayed. More from Newark or Houston as the trip develops.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, PTSD, travel

A Weird Day, a Great Team and Some Fractured History

Today was one of those weird days for me, very busy, pretty good work and good intellectual stimulation n an ethics committee meeting.  I’m also still pretty tired from the past few weeks, not feeling bad but I know that I need to pace myself while we are short staffed in our department this summer.  It is a good thing that I have the boss that I have as he is making sure that I am okay on a pretty regular basis.  He knows that I will push myself hard until I hit the wall, which I did about a week and a half ago.  The thing is it is not just me that is feeling the strain. All of us on our staff have been pushed hard caring for folks during the recent deaths of two military staff members, regular work on our wards, administrative tasks as well as the extra load imposed by being short staffed.  But this is what we do as chaplains.  The good thing is that we are doing our best not just to look after our flock, but to look after each other.  We have a great team which I am proud to be a part.

Thus today my mind was a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.  In fact it was awash in so much that I should have written them down.  The mind is like a sieve sometimes.  Since it is late I am going to stick with a few observations from this day in history which seems to still have significance today June 17th.

On this day in 1579 Sir Francis Drake sailed his ship the Golden Hind into San Francisco Bay.  Immediately he was picketed by anti-imperialist and environmentalist protesters who had come down from Haight Ashbury in their Birkenstocks.  Ignoring them Drake’s crew hit on women and some men in Golden Gate Park, had lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf and took in a Giants game.  At least that’s what they wanted to do, but they were 400 years or so too early.  Instead they sat around wondering why it was so cold in the middle of summer as they repaired their ships, had the chaplain celebrate Eucharist and then claimed everything in sight for England calling it New Albion.  The Spanish realtors in the area took umbrage to this and never recognized the claim.

On this day in 1775 was fought the battle of Bunker Hill or more appropriately Breed’s Hill.  The American soldiers defending the hill gave a good account of themselves against the British who were trying to drive them off of the hill.  An American commander on the front line uttered the cry which did not become in military history “Don’t fire until you can smell the Redcoat bastards.”  The insensitivity of the comment regarding the Colonial’s British Cousins body odor, which wafted over the battlefield, offended some of in the snior commanders who had a hard time smelling the gunpowder over their own body odor.  When the Pentagon heard about it the offending officer was sent to Ft Polk Louisiana and the utterance was officially changed to “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.”  After the clash the surviving unwounded opponents gathered at Sam Adams pub where they consumed vast amounts of his original Boston Lager beer as they played darts and argued the merits of English versus American Football.  Some went to the Yankees Red Sox game at Fenway later in the evening.

On this day in 1815 Commodore Stephen Decatur commanding a Task force from the 6th Feet conquered the Algerian frigate Mashouda in an action that finally helped bring an end to the Barbary Wars and drove the Barbary Pirates from the Mediterranean.  Within 48 hours of defeating the Mashouda he was in Algiers harbor exacting peace on the Dey of Algiers.  This ended the period of where  Barabry Pirates excercised domain over the Mediterranean. Getting with British sailors on liberty in town with which they had recently been at war, the Americans and Brits spent the evenings at Murphy’s Irish pub drinking Guinness and Kilkenney with Irish and other expats while watching Arsenal play Bayern München on pay per view.

On this day in 1856 Republican Party opened its 1st national convention in Philadelphia.  Immediately Randall Terry demanded equal time to speakers demanding the end of slavery while Ron Paul was ignored.  Others lobbied for the Flat Tax until they discovered that there was not yet an income tax.  Up and coming Illinois legislator Abraham Lincoln gave the keynote address recommending a bigger Federal role in solving disputes between states while Newt Gingrich presented a “Contract with the Union” to deal with the various tensions.  Fox News covered the event

On this day in 1916 US troops under General John Pershing marched into Mexico to bring Pancho Villa and others into custody.  The expedition was not successful as many troops were inflicted with Montazuma’s revenge while KBR failed to get the porta-poties in place in a timely manner.  The Easern European sub-contractor walked out and KBR replaced them with men from the Indian Subcontinent area who had each paid $4000 to an agent for the job and recived $300 a month working 16 hour days 6 days a week.  However the campaign  did give US troops experience operating in harsh climates which would serve them well when stationed in Texas over the next century.  General Phil Sheridan had once said of Texas that “If I owned Hell and Texas I would live in Hell and rent out Texas.”

On this day in 1938 after conducting military operations against the Chinese for over 5 years the Japanese declared war on China.  Chinese leaders Chaing Kai Shek and Mao Tse Tung issued a joint statement agreeing to work together and declaring “It’s about damned time they admitted that they are at war with us.”

On this day in 1940 the French after having their asses handed to them by the Germans yet again asked for surrender terms.  General Charles DeGaulle immediately departed for England to continue the war against both the Germans and his fellow Frenchmen.   Upon his arrival DeGaulle immediately complained about the bad food, plain women and miserable weather.  He was embraced by Winston Churchill who got him drunk, left him passed out in a brothel and blamed the Vichy government for it. Churchill wrote afterward, “that man is a pain in the ass.”  DeGaulle always doubted Churchill’s version of events every time he looked at the tatoo of a German tank on his ass.

On this day in 1944 Iceland declared independence from Denmark.  No one noticed until 1953.

Most importantly on this day in 1960 Ted Williams hit his 500th home run. and today the Nationals beat the Yankees and the Orioles beat the Mets.

Peace, Steve+

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