Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
The past couple of weeks have been somewhat surreal. The continued revelations of former President Trump and his allies to attempt a coup to keep him in power, the decision of the Trump appointed majority on the Supreme Court to destroy the Establishment Clause in two cases, and to overturn Roe v. Wade by using poor history and case law to destroy any legal precedent regarding the Fourteenth Amendment after when it was ratified in 1868, when women had few rights to property, civil rights, rights to their medical treatment and the right to vote, the last which was enshrined in the 19th Amendment, 51 years after the 14th Amendment. While Roe v. Wade gave women some choice regarding their reproductive rights, and control of their bodies, the Equal Rights Amendement was never ratified, leaving women with far fewer Constitutionally protected rights than men.
That being said, I thought that rewriting an article from our last visit to Munich in 2018 worked very well considering the most recent actions of the court and Republican state legislatures to crush the civil rights of women ad blacks, uphold the rights of people to arm themselves to the teethe with military grade weaponry with few safeguards as to how they can be purchased. The understanding of settled law and precedent has been demolished such that no protections after 1868 can be safeguarded, based on the perverted legal doctrine of ”Originalism,” which is much like the various Christian Fundamentalist doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy, which though unprovable tries to deduce the meanings of the writers, without the tools of hermeneutics, historiography, or the Christian tradition and reason. The doctrine of originalism depends on interpreting the Constitution as if the Founders intended it to be enshrined as scripture rather than a compromised document that most felt at the time would need to be changed.
Now I am 62 years old. Many people of my generation and my parents generation elected these madmen. Those who will save us from tyranny have to be young people of ideals, integrity, and who believe in the founding principle of the Declaration of Independence, enhanced by the words of Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address, who also believe in the protections of the Constitution.
So I leave you with this for tonight. Please, read it and share it.
On one of our trips to Munich we had breakfast and then since Judy’s knees were not up to a lot of long walks or standing took our rental car out to see a couple of places that we had not visited. We went to the grave of the anti-Nazi martyr Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and friend Christoph Probst who were executed in February 1943 for publishing anti-Hitler, Nazi, and war pamphlets. Following that we went to the BMW Museum and BMW World. The first was sobering, the second interesting because I like fast cars, but the visit to the cemetery was far more important.
I won’t write about the BMW Museum, that is something for true automotive enthusiasts. Instead I will write about that visit to the Friedhof at Perlacher Forst in Munich where Sophie Scholl is buried.
The cemetery is adjacent to the Stadelheim Prison where she was held before her trial and executed on February 22nd 1943. I have written about her and the White Rose resistance movement before. The year before I visited the White Rose Museum and study center at the Ludwig Maximillians University of Munich but last year I didn’t get the chance to make a pilgrimage to her gravesite. I made it a priority this visit.
Visiting a memorial or museum is one thing. However, I find that visiting the gravesite of a martyr, or the mass gravesites of the victims of the Holocaust, other mass killings, or cemeteries where those killed in battle, engenders something of a personal or spiritual connection.
We parked on the street outside Stadelheim, which is still an active prison surrounded by tall walls and guard towers. While Judy waited with the car I walked to the cemetery and then to the gravesite which is on the opposite side of the cemetery from the main entrance. It is a very peaceful place, with many trees and the sections cordoned off by carefully trimmed grapevines.
When I reached the gravesite I paused, and remained for about ten minutes contemplating the cost of real resistance to tyranny. She and her companions had no political, military, or economic power. They were students, and a number had served as medics on the Eastern Front before resuming their studies.
Unlike the men who launched Operation Valkyrie 17 months later they had no connections to any kind of power: they were not part of the movement of German conservatives and militarists who initially supported Hitler and then had second thoughts. When Hitler came to power they were children. They resisted because they found what was happening to go beyond any sense of ethics, morality, or in some cases, like Sophie, their Christian faith.
At her trial she told the notorious President of the Nazi People’s Court, Roland Freisler:
Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.
While I was their I tried to imagine her courage as she testified to the truth and went to her death. The woman who shared Sophie’s cell wrote of her final words before going to her execution:
How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?
Many people today are being faced with the same questions that Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and friends, including Christoph Probst who was executed the same day had to make. Thankfully, for the most part the future imitators of Hitler have not yet seized full power in Europe or the United States, but it wouldn’t take much for that to happen. Too many people, and not just conservatives, would be willing to sacrifice freedom in the name of security if a major war, terrorist attack, or natural disaster that threatened their well being and/or their economic or social status occurred. Likewise, we Americans have a pretty lousy history in dealing with suspect minorities and dissenters in times of crisis.
In such a situation, how many people would allow their government to oppress and terrorize people that they distrusted due to their race, ethnicity, or religion? I think that the numbers are a lot higher than we would want to admit. The preservation or self and wealth is often more of a motivation than faith, or the rights and liberties of others.
During the Nazi era many non-Nazis supported the Nazi programs because they thought that they benefited them. The same is true in any authoritarian State regardless of the ideology that it subscribes and its people hold dear.
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.
An addendum for tonight,
My question to you, and me is hers. If you think you are “safe,” you are only kidding yourself, no matter what your political or religious belief may be. Men like Trump or Boris Johnson, Orban of Hungary, Erdogan or Turkey, Bolsonaro Of Brazil, Marcos of the Philippines, Putin of Russia, or Kim Jun Un of North Korea have no real friends or allies. Their supporters, even the most loyal, are like those of Hitler and Stalin only are safe until they realize their mistaken trust in their leader.
As I write this more and more creditable and documented forensic evidence emerges during the various investigations into the crimes of former President Trump and his militant followers who attacked the Capitol Building on 6 January 2021 with the intent to stop the final ceremonial counting of the Electoral College Vote, even threatening to hang Vice President Mike Pence and murder many members of Congress.
It’s up to you young people. I’ll fight as long as I can, as will other older veterans and resisters. But the long term fight belongs to you. What way will you choose to burn?