Tag Archives: sikh temple shootings

Murderers, Evil & the Absence of Empathy

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Like so many people this week I was stunned, shocked and sickened by the execution style murders of Roanoke Virginia reporters Allison Parker and Adam Ward by former reporter Vester Flanagan. Then later in the week the same type of murder of Houston Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth by a man named Shannon Miles. The first was particularly upsetting as a local news station had a story on it early in the day with a video, which I thought was their coverage, but instead it was the live video which had been broadcast at the moment of the shooting. Then I saw the pictures published by the New York Daily News taken by Flanagan as he shot Allison Parker. Those pictures which showed Flanagan’s view down his gun sight as he aimed, fired and aimed again were chilling. They are so troubling that I will not post them here.

I think it was so because I have been on the other side of the gun barrel. Back in 1979, when I was first starting to date Judy we were out with her parents and help up at gunpoint. I had a .38 caliber revolver to my head, the criminals took our wallets, the women’s purses and as they left the one on the other side of the car ripped Judy’s glasses off of her face and ground them into the pavement. I thought about trying to get the gun from the man on my side of the car but realized that if I failed fired that Judy or her parents might have been killed. If I had my own gun, which I did not I would have probably not been able to get a shot off without getting them killed. Likewise, on a number of occasions in Iraq, serving as an unarmed chaplain, I was under enemy small arms or rocket fire. Thus when I think about what happened to the victims there is a certain amount of kinship I feel.

They reminded me of a picture that I saw of a member of a Nazi Einsatzgruppe individually killing women who had survived a mass execution in Russia during the German invasion. In one picture a woman, appears to be trying to rise up to crawl away from the piles of bodies, and a tall SS man walking up a few feet away with a sub-machinegun aimed at her.

I wondered how people of any sort could be so cold as to look someone in the eye and commit such brutal crimes. It was horrifying. I was up that night thinking about so many others that have happened in this country in just past few years. Dylann Storm Roof going to a Bible Study at the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church and then murdering the people there because they were African-American and he was a White Supremacist. There was Frazier Glenn Cross, a former KKK leader and militant white supremacist that killed three people near a Jewish Community center in Overland Park Kansas on the Eve of Passover, 2014. He claimed, “I had no criminal intent, I had a patriotic intent to stop genocide against my people,” and “I hate Jews…. They are the ones who destroy us.”

Then there was Neo-Nazi Wade Page who walked into a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek Wisconsin and killed six people in cold blood. There was James Holmes who went into a crowded theater in Aurora Colorado and killed twelve and wounded fifty-eight more in a mass killing spree. Holmes was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Of course there was the Boston Marathon Bombing, and other killings committed by the Tsarnaev brothers, and twenty-year-old Adam Lanza who murdered twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. Then there is George Zimmerman, a man in a league of his own, who killed an unarmed black teenager  and got away with it, much like so many murderers of so many others, not just in this country, but others as well.

Of course this is nothing new, we can look back that the 9-11 hijackers who killed almost 3000 people; Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols who killed 168 and wounded hundreds more when they bombed the Murrah Federal Building; as well as the terrorists of ISIL who routinely look into the eyes of their victims and then kill them.

The list can go on and on, and the murderers span the spectrum of American. Native born and immigrants, whites, blacks, Latin Americans, Asians, well educated men such as Holmes, children of privilege, Christians, Moslems, Jews, various other religions as well as atheists and agnostics. Some seemed to be motivated by some kind of intense hatred, religion, ideology, race; others apparently with some kind of mental imbalance or sense that they, or their race were the victims of the people that they killed.

Whether people murder others in cold blood, be it in large numbers or by looking them in the eye and pulling the trigger, no matter what their motivation for doing so, there is a common factor. It is not the weapons, though I do think the easy availability of so many lethal weapons is a factor, and that we need to tighten the requirements and even limit the types of weapons and amount of ammunition one can legally have, there were over 11,000 gun related homicides in the United States in 2014, I have left out suicides, which were close to 20,000 and justified defense using a gun which are so few that they don’t hit the chart. That number for one year dwarfs the number of all Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I digress…. I am not against people owning guns, I will probably get myself a carbine for marksmanship practice someday, preferably a bolt action World War II Mauser if I can find one in good shape, but again I digress…. The easy access to guns too, is just a part of the equation.

It is not religion, ideology, or political differences, while that certainly plays a part, they are just contributing factors; the same is true of mental illness.

But there is something else, something that an American Army psychologist assigned to the major war criminals noted at the Nuremburg trials: “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.” 

If you look at the video evidence provided by the killers, their writings, their Internet postings, or the testimony that any of them who survived long enough to go to trial; there is one thing that comes through loud and clear. None of them, not a one have any empathy for their fellow human beings, and as such when they look the people that they are about to kill in the eye do not feel anything.

It does not matter if they are men who perpetrated genocide or killed, or enslaved hundreds of thousands or even millions of people in the name of their religion, ideology, or political-economic systems; or if they are mass murderers or terrorists not connected with a state; who kill in the name of God, race, or ideology; or simply those who hate others and kill to avenge a real or perceived wrong against them. or even those who can look their victim in the eye and then murder them, they all lack the ability to feel for their victims.

The lack empathy, the totality of narcissism, the inability to see others as valued human beings; that it the definition of evil; and there is so much of it in our world. When I saw those pictures that the New York Daily News posted I was reminded of that; and I have had a hard time sleeping since.

I realize all too well that Gustave Gilbert was right; evil is the absence of empathy. The fact is that almost anything else is solvable, but the absence of empathy is the one characteristic that cannot be solved by humanity, and it may be the instrument of our demise as a species.

I say that because there are men and women who would not hesitate to unleash the hell of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons of mass destruction on their enemies and the world. Despite their differences of their belief systems, religion or ideology, these people all display a certain absence of empathy; and that my friends makes them dangerous. Those who can look a single person, or a number of people in the eye and kill them are no different than those who have the ability, or desire the ability to kill millions; for none of them truly believe that their victims are worthy of life. Life unworthy of life, that is how the Nazis referred to their victims, and how those without empathy see their victims.

I’m hoping that his will not be the case and I’m hoping that I will be able to sleep,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under crime, History, Political Commentary, terrorism

When Ideology Kills Kindness: Dylann Roof at Emmanuel AME

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Dylann Storm Roof has confessed to the terrorist action committed against the people of Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina. He went to the church with the intent of killing blacks. However, he almost did not do it. According to NBC News:

“Roof, 21, told police he “almost didn’t go through with [the shooting] because everyone was so nice to him,” sources told NBC News’ Craig Melvin. But he ultimately decided to “go through with his mission,” the sources said.”

That cold blooded admission sent chills through my body. It reminded me of the way that many Nazis went through with killing the Jews during the Holocaust. For most of them it was not personal and many knew Jews, some who had even befriended them in their early years. But still, blinded by their ideology and belief that the Jews were less than human and were taking over their county, these men, like Dylann Roof committed atrocities that beggar the imagination.

Yet Dylann Roof killed those nine innocent and defenseless people, most of whom were elderly with cold blooded precision, none of the people he shot survived, that if you do the math is a 100% kill ratio.  He coldly told his victims “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

In writing about the actions of those in the Holocaust, in particular Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt wrote: “it was of great political interest to know how long it takes an average person to overcome his innate repugnance toward crime, and what exactly happens to him once he had reached that point. To this question, the case of Adolf Eichmann supplied an answer that could not have been clearer and more precise.”

For Eichmann this took years, but for Dylann Roof this took one hour of sitting with people who show him kindness before he decided to go through with his mission. Sadly there are other people in this country who harbor the same kind of ideology as Roof and while a minority a lot of their though is seeping into the mainstream through alleged “think tanks” and “new organizations” posing as mainstream but which instead argue for the systematic exclusion of blacks, other racial and religious minorities, women and gays in society. Their spokesmen routinely show up as “experts” or “commentators” on the various cable news channels and talk radio and very seldom are confronted by the hosts of these shows.

The purveyors of this type of ideology play on the fears of people who feel they are “losing their country.” They play on the worst stereotypes to increase that fear and loathing and the result is what happened on an unmatched scale in Germany and for us on Wednesday a large scale. Like the German judge being tried for his part in the Holocaust played by Bert Lancaster such people are swept up in that fear, as Lancaster’s character said:

“There was a fever over the land. A fever of disgrace, of indignity, of hunger. We had a democracy, yes, but it was torn by elements within. Above all, there was fear. Fear of today, fear of tomorrow, fear of our neighbors, and fear of ourselves. Only when you understand that – can you understand what Hitler meant to us. Because he said to us: ‘Lift your heads! Be proud to be German! There are devils among us. Communists, Liberals, Jews, Gypsies! Once these devils will be destroyed, your misery will be destroyed. It was the old, old story of the sacrificial lamb. What about those of us who knew better? We who knew the words were lies and worse than lies? Why did we sit silent? Why did we take part? Because we loved our country! What difference does it make if a few political extremists lose their rights? What difference does it make if a few racial minorities lose their rights? It is only a passing phase. It is only a stage we are going through. It will be discarded sooner or later. Hitler himself will be discarded… sooner or later. The country is in danger. We will march out of the shadows. We will go forward. Forward is the great password. And history tells how well we succeeded, your honor. We succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. The very elements of hate and power about Hitler that mesmerized Germany, mesmerized the world! We found ourselves with sudden powerful allies. Things that had been denied to us as a democracy were open to us now…”

It does not take long before a culture can be poisoned by such ideology and become a place where no person is safe. Dylann Roof is not an isolated case. Craig Stephen Hicks killed three Moslem students who lived in his condominium complex near the University of North Carolina. Wade Michael Page, a Neo-Nazi murdered six people in an attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek Wisconsin. Scott Roeder, a militant anti-abortionist walked into a church and gunned down Dr. George Tiller who was a doctor who provided abortions at his clinic. Jim David Atkisson walked into a Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville Tennessee during a children’s play, he killed two and wounded seven and said that he was motivated by a hatred of liberals. Eric Rudolph committed two bombings to stop abortion, one at the Olympic Park in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics which killed one person and wounded 111 people, and that other at a Birmingham Alabama abortion clinic in 1998 which killed a police officer and wounded a nurse. Of course the biggest act of terror committed for political reasons by an American was the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal Building in Oklahoma City. In that act Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people and wounded more than 600. That bombing was motivated by his hatred of the U.S. Government.

The problem is that there are many more just like these guys, who for various reasons who given the opportunity would do exactly what Dylann Roof and these other terrorists did when they committed their crimes. Some of these men were motivated to kill based on their supposedly “Christian” beliefs, others not by faith at all but due to their unbending political and ideological hatred of the government, minorities, or political opponents. In the film To Kill a Mockingbird Atticus Finch played by Gregory Peck noted “Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of another… There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”

Likewise, the ideology of hatred, of racial and religious superiority be it Christian or not, even the atheistic nihilism of Timothy McVeigh will claim many more lives, unless we as a society wake up and fight back. It is not enough to pray, we have to speak up and be counted, or this Red White and Blue, supposedly patriotic American non-Islamic terror will become more commonplace.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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

Hate vs. Hate: A Clash in Garland

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“We think we’ve come so far. Torture of heretics, burning of witches it’s all ancient history. Then – before you can blink an eye – suddenly it threatens to start all over again.” Jean Luc Picard Star Trek the Next Generation – the Drumhead

Well the direct confrontation and collision between radical Moslems and their most radical opponents has finally happened. American Moslem Jihadists attack a gathering where those who hate Moslems are doing their best to incite Moslems to violence in Garland. Hate met hate and sadly, I fear this is just the beginning.

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Elton Simpson

The attackers, one named Elton Simpson from Phoenix who had previously been convicted about lying about his involvement with terror groups and a second who was likely his room-mate were killed when they opened fire outside the event wounding a security guard in the ankle. Just prior to the attack Simpson sent out a twitter message with the hashtag #texasattack stating “May Allah accept us as mujahideen.”

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AbuHussainAlBritani

Over the past few week various members of the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) have encouraged attacks on this particular gathering. The attacks were cheered by AbuHussainAlBritani (@_AbuHu55ain) on Twitter who may also have helped direct them. Four hours before the attack he tweeted: The knives have been sharpened, soon we will come to your streets with death and slaughter! #QaribanQariba . During and after the attack he continued to tweet:

My friends, if you ask me those are fighting words that need to be taken deadly serious.

The event Simpson and his accomplice attacked was sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative headed by well-known racist and Moslem baiter Pamela Geller who has determined that all Moslems are the enemy. Like the Southern Poverty Law Center I believe that it is a hate group, but that being said even hate groups have free speech rights and should not be violently attacked.

The event supposedly promoted standing with “free speech” rights and was dedicated to standing in solidarity with the staff of the Charlie Hebdo magazine which was slaughtered by Islamic terrorists in January. Critics said it was an anti-Moslem gathering and there is some truth in that statement and I am inclined to classify it as such because I know what Geller stands for. It included a speech given by Dutch right-wing, anti-Moslem and some would say Fascist politician Geert Wilders. However, the highlight of the event was the completion to draw a cartoon image of the Prophet Mohammed, which is considered blasphemous by Moslems. The prize was $10,000 for the best rendition of the Prophet. Of course by “best” I would assume this would be the most hateful, inflammatory and derogatory defection, without the often brilliant satire of the murdered staff of Charlie Hebdo. There is a difference between hate and racism versus satire and I’m sure that knowing Geller and those devoted to her cause that this was not satire, and was probably more like Julius Streicher’s depiction of Jews in Der Sturmer. The irony that Geller, a Jewish woman would employ the hatred and racist pornography of the Nazi Streicher in her attacks on Moselms is not lost on me. 

Now as much as I despise Geller and her ignorant and hate filled screeds against all Moslems I stand with her in regard to free speech, even that with which I disagree. I also know that for Geller that free speech is a one way street. Likewise I question the wisdom of conducting the event, knowing that it might provoke a violent response, but I do not think for a moment that such speech should be banned, and no civilized person or group would ever violently attack such a gathering. Sadly Geller’s actions play right into the hands of the Moslem extremists. 

 

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Stéphane Charbonnier of Charlie Hebdo- Murdered in Cold Blood

Over the past couple of years and especially over the past few months we have seen an increase in such attacks by radicalized Moslems on those who they believe have blasphemed the Prophet. Charlie Hebdo in Paris, an attack on a coffee shop in Australia, and an attack on a free speech event in Copenhagen Denmark. After the Charlie Hebdo attack the Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) group claimed credit for the attack. One of its leaders, Sheikh Usama (RA) said in his message to the West: “If there is no check on the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions.” 

Of course such words are a declaration of war against free speech.

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Anders Behring Breivik killed 69 and wounded 110 mostly children

Likewise there have been attacks by right-wing and often allegedly “Christian” people against Moslems, or people who just happened to look like Moslems. Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian went into action to kill the enemies of Western Civilization and Christian culture on July 22nd 2008.  In an assault that included a car bomb which killed 8 people and wounded 209 and an attack on a youth camp which killed 69 and wounded another 110, almost all of them children.

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Wade Page

Wade Page, a neo-Nazi and White Supremacist attacked a Sikh Temple, confusing it with a Moslem gathering killed 6 people and wounded many more who had simply come to worship before he was killed by police.

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In February three America students at University of North Carolina were gunned down execution style in their home by Craig Stephen Hicks. According to those who know Hicks hated all religion and was quite angry at the Christians and Jews who participated together with Moslems and others in the ecumenical memorial services after the attacks of September 11th 2001.

The key ingredient in all of these attacks no matter who is conducting them is a hatred of the other, a passionate hatred that Eric Hoffer noted “can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. These people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance.”   

The sad thing is that I believe that this is just the beginning. The whole purpose of those radicalized to hate other with such passion to bring about an ideological-religious war between Islam and the West. The cycle of violence will increase until it boils over as it is incited by extremists of all types, Moslem, Christian, Jewish, Atheist, you name them. Real honest debate and dialogue has been replaced by the most base and vitriolic attacks and violence and that my friends is why this is just the beginning.

I am a realist and I fear for what happens when eventually people connected to the Islamic State conduct a strike on an America city or event with a nuke, dirty-bomb, chemical agent or biological agent which causes mass causalities and destruction. Mark my words it will happen no matter how hard we try to prevent it. When it happens the Geller’s of the world will use it to justify all means of attacks and persecution of Moslems in this country, the vast majority of whom are innocent, law abiding and loyal Americans. It will be worse that what we did to American citizens of Japanese descent after Pearl Harbor, and I would not be surprised Moslems rounded up and their property vandalized or seized.

I for one am glad that the terrorists did not succeed and were killed but there will be more and they will undoubtedly will be more competent and deadly than Simpson and his accomplice ever dreamed of being.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under civil rights, faith, national security, Political Commentary, terrorism

Padre Steve’s Look Back at 2012: The Year that Was and Still Can Be if You Have Access to Time Travel

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“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
~T.S. Eliot~

Well my friends it is my time to look back at 2012, the year that should have been the end of the world had the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. However the Mayans couldn’t see that possibility and life goes on. With that in mind I decided to look back at the more that 300 articles that I have written since the the babe wrapped in Champagne soaked clothes and lying in Times Square gutter belched out his first words… “Is this live?” 

If we lived in the Star Trek World things could be different. We could find an alternate universe, find a time portal at the City on the Edge of Forever or if need be whip the Enterprise around the Sun to throw us back in time.

However we don’t have that ability yet and the year of our discontent began in January. It was a year filled with political carnage, war, man made and natural disasters including the BCS Championship, the athletic drama of human competition, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Much of the year was consumed by the American 2012 General Elections and Presidential primaries and campaigns. It was a year where we thought things might be different but sages like me looking back on the wisdom inscribed in my Bloom County Comic Strip Collection knew was not.

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Back to the Future in Iowa: A Bloom County Redux

It was not just politics as usual it was also media as usual something again that I predicted was the case by looking back at history.

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Doing the Sidestep: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and American Politics and Media

But as the campaign season snaked its eerie course through the hills, dales, bayous and valleys of our fair fruited plains the rest of the world experienced joy and pain, triumph and tragedy.

It began in this country as all things do when the University of Alabama, a fully accredited school of higher learning won the BCS College Football Championship game, something that the University of Phoenix will never do.

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Alabama wins the Boring Pseudo-National Championship Game…aka the BCS BS Championship Game

Not to be outdone the Italian Merchant Marine got into the act when Captain Francesco Schettino while joy riding in hie massive 115,000 ton Cruise Ship, the Costa Concordia  managed to hit a rock and sink the ship.

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Sinking the Costa Concordia: A Lesson in Hubris and Cowardice

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In February we saw the renewal of of love affair with television commercials as the Super Bowl XLVI: Commercials, Madonna and a Football Game as Madonna lip synced between the halves as the New York Football Giants defeated the New England non-Tea Party Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, pronounced “Exlivy” in the original Latin.

Politics continued in March with the indecisive “Super Tuesday” Primaries:

Super Tuesday Agony: Indecisive, Inconclusive and a Portent of Things to Come

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But thankfully for all baseball returned in April bringing some sense of normalcy back to a world gone mad. Opening day brought me back to an even keel and the fact that it coincided with Holy Week made it more special to me. Opening Day and Holy Week and being able to attend a home opener was nice. A Home Opener and thoughts on Rick, Ozzie and George

But even in the midst of this there was perfection, in fact perfection done several times in Major League Baseball one of those being when Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants pitched a perfect game on June 13th.

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The Mark of Cain: Matt Cain Pitches 22nd Perfect Game in MLB Historyand Johann Santana did the same for the otherwise hapless New York Mets 8020 Games and Finally….a Miracle for the Mets: Johan Santana Pitches First No-No in Mets Historyand “King Felix” pitched his first perfect game for the Mariners The Perfect King: Felix Hernandez Pitches Third Perfect Game of 2012while Phil Humber of the Tigers threw a perfect game against the Mariners Perfect! Phillip Humber Joins Legends as He Pitches Perfect Game against Mariners

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Baseball produced other surprises this year but probably none bigger than that of the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles, underdog and underfunded teams that surprised everyone with their playoff runs and playoff appearances. September Surprises: O’s and A’s Shake up the American League

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The Major League Baseball playoffs were filled with amazing comeback stories but none more than that of the San Francisco Giants who played on the brink of elimination in both the NLDS ( Giants Sweep Red’s in the River City: On to NLCS ) and NLCS ( Raining on a Parade: Giants Make Giant Comeback to Win National League Pennant ) before sweeping the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. SWEEP! GIANTS WIN SERIES!

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But around the world and away from the rich green baseball diamonds there were other events. In April Kim Jong Un #1 the new dictator for life in North Korea shot a rocket in the air, and where it landed he knew not where Missile Impotence: Kim Jong Un’s Rocket Launch goes Splat even as an American preacher turned fake historian became the star of the Religious Right Faux Fact Factory: The Twisted World of Fake “Historian” and “Hero of the Faith” David Barton  Not to be outdone a Roman Catholic Bishop made his own bad history comparisons Bishop Jenky’s Obama and Hitler, Stalin, Bismarck and Clemenceau Comparison: Bad History, Bad Theology and Bad Politics

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Meanwhile in the background Europe and the European Union faced their own problems. Economic and political crisis engulfed the continent. Europe on the Edge: France and Greece Point to Dangerous Times Ahead

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The Middle East was not to be left behind in the the political tumult. Syria continued its post-Arab Spring plunge into the abyss of full out civil war. Fear and Loathing in Damascus eventually bringing the deployment of NATO Patriot Missiles in Turkey. NATO Patriots to Turkey as Syria Teeters on the AbyssIn the broader Middle East War threatened on almost every front The Gathering Storm: Shades of 1914 as War Threatens in the Middle East and the Arab Spring heated up again Arab Spring Fever: The Revolution Begins Anew in Egypt as Syria Begins to Melt Down

In June the United States saw something akin to what our European cousins were going through when my home town, Stockton California declared Bankruptcy. When City Dreams Become Nightmares: Stockton California to Declare Bankruptcy

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But Britain was able to celebrate as Queen Elizabeth marked her 75th year on the throne in June  The Diamond Jubilee: All Glory is Fleeting and hosting the XXX Olympic Summer Games in London in July and August

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British Humor: Bond, Bean, Poppins and The Queen Kick Off XXX Games , Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” Goodbye London: XXX Olympics End on Musical Note

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After a bitterly contested primary campaign Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney lost the General Election to President Obama. Obama Wins….Now the Real Work of Healing the Wounds Must Begin However that healing didn’t begin and as of today the nation stands at the brink of political and economic crisis that could harm everyone in this country and sink the world economy. Fiscal Cliff Notes: There are Always Results

Then there was the senseless violence of massed murders, some obviously motivated by some kind of insanity while others simply due to hatred of people different.

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The Hatred of “the Other”: White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Politics and the Oak Creek Massacre

Man of Murderous Mystery: James Egan Holmes and the Aurora Dark Knight Massacre

The worst of these was just a couple of weeks ago in Newtown Connecticut A Cry in Newtown: Anguish after a Massacre

The War in Afghanistan dragged on while no politicians really addressed the subject even though the toll in American lives passed the 2000 mark and casualties at the hands of our Afghan allies rose to unthinkable levels. Likewise the crisis in the rise of suicides among active duty and reserve troops as well as Veterans continued unabated.

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The Afghanistan Quagmire and the Escalation of “Green on Blue” Attacks

Why Aren’t Any Politicians Talking About the War and Why don’t Voters Care?

Padre Steve Remembers 9-11 and the Forgotten War

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Natural disasters were not absent from the news this year, the biggest as far as the news went was Hurricane Sandy which struck the week before the US Presidential Election and devastated large parts of New Jersey, New York, the Mid-Atlantic and New England. A Massive and Deadly “Freak” Storm: Sandy Hits the USA while in the forgotten country of Bangladesh a fire at a clothing factory claimed over 100 lives A Juxtaposition of Contradictions: Thanksgiving, Black Friday and the Bangladesh Clothing Factory Fire

There were deaths of noted people this year:

Disgraced former Penn State College Football Coach and legend Joe Paterno died in January barely 2 months after his final game.

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The Death of a Tarnished Legend: Joe Paterno dead at 85

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Singing great Whitney Houston died of what appeared to be an accidental overdose One Moment in Time: Rest in Peace Whitney Houston 1963-2012 

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Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon passed away in August One Giant Loss for Mankind: Neil Armstrong Dead at 82

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1972 Democratic Presidential nominee, war hero and Senator George McGovern died in October A Loss for the Country and the World: A War Hero and Prophet of Peace George McGovern Dead at 90

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Iconic General H Norman Schwarzkopf, victor of the First Gulf War died just this week The Loss of an Icon: General Norman Schwarzkopf dies at 79 

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Of course much more happened over the course of 2012 including the end of the world that didn’t happen The Failed Mayan End of the World Prediction and the Chicago Cubs 

There are other things that I might have or should have written about but looking back over the past year if I was a full time writer. However I don’t think that I did too bad for being just one person who has a day job and who is maintaining two residences in different states. Besides as much as I want I still don’t have access to Warp Drive, transporter beams or time travel.

So I write today hoping for a good end to 2012, a better 2013 and peace on earth.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under News and current events

Tolerance versus Intolerance: I Despise Nazi Bullshit

American Nazi Party Rally at Wisconsin State Capital 2006

I am pretty much tolerant of people’s beliefs and practices but I find that there are a decent number of people especially conservative religious people that are not very tolerant of mine. On the other hand there are some people that I have lost all tolerance for, American Nazis, Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists are number one on the list.

My first encounter with the Neo-Nazis was in college when they and other Holocaust deniers went about spouting their poison. Then in 2000 when serving with a Marine Battalion a racial incident occurred involving a group of white Marines tattooing another with Nazi symbols. I had to research the Neo-Nazi and White Supremacist world as I was in charge of conducting briefings regarding the incident and I worked with one Marine who led the assault who recanted his views at his court martial when he saw the depth of the hatred of the Nazi leaders he was following.

If there is a literal hell I think that Nazis and their sympathizers have s special place in it.   Yesterday I took some incoming on this site from an East Tennessee Neo-Nazi who attempted to terrorize me a couple of years ago. Then he was menacing enough and specific enough in his threats via e-mail that I turned the information over to the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center investigators.

This time I refused to approve the vile comments of this man and consigned them to the trash but they got to me and I am still a bit stirred up because I never did anything to this guy, and from his web history I see that he does this to others as well. He has a presence on a number of neo-Nazi, white supremacist and militia movement websites and claims to be a former “paratroop officer.” He goes by several internet monikers but all have the same or similar IP addresses and physical locations.

Neo Nazi Wade Michael Page of the Sikh Temple Massacre

To quote Patton “Nazis are the enemy.” There is nothing redeeming in the Nazi message or similar messages of American Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, Skinheads and those like them. And sadly these American Nazi bozos don’t even have the cool uniforms of the German Nazis, at least the actual Hitlerites got style points for cool uniforms.  I wish our Nazis wore their uniforms in public so we could see them in all of their thuggish buffoonery, especially their leaders, those same men that try to ingratiate themselves into the political mainstream and wear nice suits and ties. Since they try to blend in there are times I wish there was a real life Lt Aldo Raine out there giving them an insignia that they cannot remove.

David Duke

The numbers of these American Nazis are comparatively small, but growing and becoming both more violent as well as trying to worm their way by stealth into the fabric of the conservative movement, the Republican Party and some local Democrat party levels if they find an opening to run.  In the latter case a neo-Nazi did exactly that to win a Democrat race in East Tennessee because no one else was running. Last month the Neo-Nazi group Stormfront hosted a nationwide conference in the area of Sevierville Tennessee, the same place as my Nazi nemesis has his internet IP address. Heck they even had former KKK Grand Wizard and GOP Congressional Candidate from Louisiana David Duke do a nature walk with them in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park.

Naziism and its ideological cousins are a poisonous evil that thrives when its leaders can prey on the fears of people in difficult times. Now I don’t think that we are in danger of any kind of Nazi takeover but they are dangerous. Just ask the victims of the neo-Nazi at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

I will be tolerant of people but I will not be bullied by Nazi thugs nor will I be silent when I see them endangering others or threatening me.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Wade Page Nazi Thug versus the Respectable Nazis

Wade Page, the gunman who walked into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek Wisconsin and opened fire killing 6 members of that community was a Nazi thug. A member of the “Hate” music scene Page was a virulent racist and anti-semite. Even some of the bigger Neo-Nazi groups condemned Page’s action. However, that does not mean that they disapproved of what happened, just that the blatantness of Page’s action embarrassed them.

Page and his thuggish brothers are much like the Brownshirts, the Nazi bullies that intimidated anyone who stood in their way prior to the Nazi seizure of power and in its immediate aftermath.  They were useful tools of smarter and more respectable Nazis but often proved an embarrassment to the party. When the Sturmabteilung, the SA Brownshirts became a political liability Hitler and the SS made an alliance to eliminate the SA leadership and sharply reduce that organization’s power in the Third Reich. Men like Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich who planned and executed the Holocaust  held such thugs in contempt.

Page has put Neo-Nazi leaders and sympathizers on the spot. While Neo-Nazi and others like them believe and preach White Supremacism, anti-Semitism, and racism they at least publicly distain murder of people at worship. It is very hard for them to defend him to do so would be to expose themselves. However, I wonder if the victims had been Moslems if they would have condemned the action at all.

Despite the brutal nature of Page’s massacre of the Sikhs, his type of White Supremacist or Neo-Nazi is less dangerous to society than the “respectable” Nazis. In the 1920s and 1930s the quiet and “respectable” Nazis remained in the background. The were lawyers, judges, economists, police officials, teachers, engineers and physicians. They mingled with the mainline conservatives, nationalists and even monarchists. They served as civil servants, education or in the private sector and remained in the background. They were the respectable front of National Socialism. Many kept their party membership hidden from colleagues even as Hitler built bridges with industrialists, bankers and brought their party to the forefront of the German political scene.

After the seizure of power they were the men that drafted the Nuremberg Laws and the Enabling Act. They wrote laws on forcible sterilization, they ran the political, economic and bureaucratic organizations that used slave labor to power their economic machine. They sat around a table at Wansee and dictated the Final Solution to the “Jewish problem”  They were the men that engineered the Holocaust. But unlike the Brownshirt “thugs” of the SA they were respectable and tried to keep their hands clean.  Without them Hitler could not have succeeded in gaining absolute power or keeping it.

It is the respectable Nazis who hold back their more virulent ideas for the time that they can use the political system that they despise to gain power and government agencies that they rail against to enforce their agenda. This is exactly what National Socialist Movement leader Brian Culpepper of Tennessee advocates. He said “We insert ourselves into the infrastructure of other established parties due to the bias against us and the difficulty of third parties getting ballot access….” and that “We have people working with the most recent incoming class of freshmen in the House,…And they don’t even know it.”

The Wade Page type of Neo-Nazi or White Supremacist is easy to spot and until they do something heinous like Page did in Oak Creek most of us don’t take them seriously. Covered in racist tattoos and playing in bad bands they hardly seem a credible threat until they are caught committing a serious crime or murder.

However, people that hold similar views but are more subtle in their methods and presentation are much more dangerous. Just as men like Wilhelm Frick, Hans Frank, Wilhelm Stuckart, Ernst Kaltenbrunner and Otto Olhendorf were in the Third Reich these men and women are often well educated, come from good homes and mingle quite well. They lead think tanks, write commentary in national and local publications, websites and even provide commentary on cable news programs. They promote fear and pedal conspiracy theories involving those that they distain, accuse opponents of trying to destroy the country and refer to their opponents as liberals, socialists or communists or in league with radical Islamists. They publicly disavow violence but their ideology is that which those that commit violence use as justification for their acts.

Wade Page is a troubling figure but even more troubling those that hold the same views  and given the right circumstances have the money and political capital to bring them to fruition. One only has to look at the history of the Weimar Republic to see how easily this can happen.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Hatred of “the Other”: White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Politics and the Oak Creek Massacre

A Sikh man Cries outside the Temple in Oak Creek Wisconsin

We don’t know much yet but when we do my guess is that we will not like what we see.

Today a yet unnamed gunman who according to the FBI had White Supremacist tattoos on his body walked into the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek Wisconsin. The man killed 6 people and wounded many more who had simply come to worship. When police responded he shot and wounded an officer who returned fire and killed him.

Because of the tattoos FBI and police believe that the man may be White Supremacist of some sort. The have made no concrete announcements about the motive or if the man was a member of a White Supremacist or Neo-Nazi group but it appears that the investigators are looking strongly in that direction. We will find out more about him in the coming days but if the initial reports are accurate it paints a chilling picture of a movement that is becoming more widespread and more violent.

Sikhs are one of the earliest non-European immigrant groups to the United States. From the Punjab area of India they have frequently been attacked because they look different. Observant Sikh men do not cut their hair, keep a beard and wear a turban. As such they are often believed to be Moslems and since the September 11th 2001 attacks have suffered much abuse as well as been the victims of violence including murder.

Sikhs along those that they are commonly mistaken, Moslems and Arab Americans in general, as well as Indians, Pakistanis, and other non-European ethnicity Americans are often looked upon with suspicion, mistrust and hatred. This is fed by frequent attacks in right wing media demonizing them as “the enemy within” and the ravings of certain McCarthyesque politicians and pundits.

Sikhs, though peaceful and law abiding citizens often get caught in the Xenophobic hatred of “the other,” they are not “real Americans.” The fact is Sikhs look different. They are a very visible expression of ‘the other” that politicians, pundits and preachers of the American right wing love to demonize. It doesn’t matter that they are not Moslems and had no part in 9-11, they just wear turbans and loose fitting clothes and are a bit darker than most of us.

But going beyond the now normal xenophobia which is more driven by hate mongers that stir up fear and loathing is the absolute hatred for non-white minorities exhibited by White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis and Skinheads.

There are over well over 1000 known hate groups spanning ranging from traditional groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis to the Nation of Islam. The numbers, especially in White Supremacist groups has risen dramatically since 9-11, roughly 69% since then. Violence has been a long established tactic of these groups. When one takes the already existing hate group ideology and marries it to the xenophobic rantings of the Unholy Trinity of Politicians, Pundits and Preachers who rail against anyone who is not like them it is not surprising that attacks like this occur. I am just surprised that they don’t happen more often. But then again maybe this is just the beginning.

Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists are also beginning to make a push to get elected to local political offices and to grow their political power from “the ground up” according to Don Black, the  founder of the Neo-Nazi group Stormfront. Brian Culpepper of the National Socialist Movement in Tennessee claims that his group is entering the political process by stealth: “We insert ourselves into the infrastructure of other established parties due to the bias against us and the difficulty of third parties getting ballot access….” and that “We have people working with the most recent incoming class of freshmen in the House,…And they don’t even know it.” Black of Stormfront notes that many White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis followers are involved with the Tea Party movement but don’t feel that Tea Party leadership “is skittish when it comes to talking about racial realities.” He believes that this will mean that White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis may have to go it alone.

Today a lot of people, thankfully across the political spectrum are denouncing the brutal attack and murder of the members of the Oak Creek Sikh community. Hopefully it cause us to remember that words and ideology do have meaning and can bring people to do heinous crimes. We quite readily condemn the actions of Moslem extremists and terrorists. However we should condemn all that preach and practice the art of hate. The fact is that all hate groups and other terrorists regardless of their ideology are the same kind of animal. The sooner that we realize that the better.

Having been accosted and threatened by Neo-Nazis in the past I find this troubling. This is not an innocent movement. It grows by sowing fear and hatred. The Nazis in Germany singled out the Jews and linked them to every imaginable evil including Socialism and Communism. If you read the histories of the Nazi period, especially their political and propaganda campaigns in the 1920s and 1930s before they came to power one can see many similarities with the growing numbers of people taking part in or tacitly approving of the racist hate messages being spouted today.

Hopefully this will serve as a wake up call to those that have for whatever reason succumbed to the message of the hate mongers and help bring us back to a sense of shared American values of tolerance and community.

We will find out more in the coming days. Right now we know little about the man or his motivation for killing the Sikhs of Oak Creek.  But if the attacker was indeed a member of or sympathizer with a Neo-Nazi or White Supremacist as early reports suggest who is also linked to the mainstream political right it suggests a bigger problem than we want to think about.

There will be more on this to come I’m sure and I don’t think that we will like when we find out.

Peace

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