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“It is unbelievable, to what extent one must betray a people in order to rule it.” The Second Letter of the White Rose Resistance

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Last night I posted about the first letter of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Resistance movement. Tonight the second. It is also from the Holocaust Education Archives Research Team.  Their website is  http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/toc.html 

I highly recommend it.

Let me make one thing clear, we in the United States have not reached the point that the Third Reich that Sophie Scholl and the White Rose wrote about. It is my belief that it would not take much to get us to that point, the fact that the President, his administration, and the GOP Senate are allowing the separation of children from their families, incarcerating refugees and separating them from their families, deporting them to authoritarian regimes; pardoning war criminals, aiding enemies while damning allies; attacking political opponents and the press, and calling the enemies of the state; rolling back civil rights of American citizens, while in supposedly in protecting Jews, he opens the door to them being considered something different than American citizens and opens the Pandora’s Box of who is, and who is not a Jew. The list could go on. Like Hitler and other authoritarian leaders, he has built a cult of personality around himself. There is no logical debate with his cult like followers.

I have found that true with people I know in real life as well as on social media and from some comments on this website. Well before Trump came about I had been threatened so specifically by a White Supremacist that I had to report it to the FBI, after which his threats, and his social media entries disappears. That was almost a decade ago.

The Trump cult was already waiting for him then, though they had no ide then that they would swear their lives to him, only someone like him. Trump just happened to fit the bill, and even his 2016 primary opponents have surrendered to him, lock, stock and barrel; even the ones who said he was not qualified and would be a threat to the United States, like Senators Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz.

Considering the letter itself, it revealed the ghastliness of the Nazi War Crimes against the Jews, and the Poles, though the numbers of those exterminated by the Nazis were far less than we know now. But such is the case when the media is state controlled and one’s only real information is provided by personal friends and witnesses to the crimes.

So my comments end here for now, and now I ask you to read, consider, and share the letter or people far more acquainted to living in a tyrannical and authoritarian state than me, Sophie Scholl and the White Rose movement.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

The Second Leaflet

It is impossible to engage in intellectual discourse with National Socialist Philosophy, for if there were such an entity, one would have to try by means of analysis and discussion either to prove its validity or to combat it. In actuality, however, we face a totally different situation. At it’s very inception this movement depended on the deception and betrayal of one’s fellow man; even at that time it was inwardly corrupt and could support itself only by constant lies.

After all, Hitler states in an early edition of “his” book (a book written in the worst German I have ever read, in spite of the fact that it has been elevated to the position of the Bible in this nation of poets and thinkers): “It is unbelievable, to what extent one must betray a people in order to rule it.” If at the start this cancerous growth in the nation was not particularly noticeable, it was only because there were still enough forces at work that operated for the good, so that it was kept under control.

As it grew larger, however, and finally in an ultimate spurt of growth attained ruling power, the tumor broke open, as it were, and infected the whole body. The greater part of its former opponents went into hiding. The German intellectuals fled to their cellars, there, like plants struggling in the dark, away from light and sun, gradually to choke to death. Now the end is at hand. Now it is our task to find one another again, to spread information from person to person, to keep a steady purpose, and to allow ourselves no rest until the last man is persuaded of the urgent need of his struggle against this system. When thus a wave of unrest goes through the land, when “it is in the air,” when many join the cause, then in a great final effort this system can be shaken off. After all, an end in terror is preferable to terror without end.

We are not in a position to draw up a final judgment about the meaning of our history. But if this catastrophe can be used to further the public welfare, it will be only by virtue of the fact that we are cleansed by suffering; that we yearn for the light in the midst of deepest night, summon our strength, and finally help in shaking off the yoke which weighs on our world.

We do not want to discuss here the question of the Jews, nor do we want in this leaflet to compose a defense or apology. No, only by way of example do we want to site the fact that since the conquest of Poland three hundred thousand Jews have been murdered in this country in the most bestial way. Here we see the most frightful crime against human dignity, a crime that is unparalleled in the whole of history. For Jews, too, are human beings – no matter what position we take with respect to the Jewish question – and a crime of this dimension has been perpetrated against human beings. Someone may say that the Jews deserve their fate. This assertion would be a monstrous impertinence; but let us assume that someone said this – what position has he then taken toward the fact that the entire Polish aristocratic youth is being annihilated? (May God grant that this program has not yet fully achieved its aim as yet!) All male offspring of the houses of the nobility between the ages of fifteen and twenty were transported to concentration camps in Germany and sentenced to forced labor, and all the girls of this age group were sent to Norway, into the bordellos of the SS!
Why tell you these things, since you are fully aware of them – or if not of these, then of other equally grave crimes committed by this frightful sub-humanity? Because here we touch on a problem which involves us deeply and forces us all to take thought. Why do German people behave so apathetically in the face of all these abominable crimes, crimes so unworthy of the human race? Hardly anyone thinks about that. It is accepted as fact and put out of mind. The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals; they give them the opportunity to carry on their depredations; and of course they do so. Is this a sign that the Germans are brutalized in their simplest human feelings, that no chord within them cries out at the sight of such deeds, that they have sunk into a fatal consciencelessness from which they will never, never awake? It seems to be so, and will certainly be so, if the German does not at last start up out of his stupor, if he does not protest wherever and whenever he can against this clique of criminal, if he shows no sympathy for these hundreds of thousands of victims. He must evidence not only sympathy; no, much more: a sense of complicity in guilt.

For through his apathetic behavior he gives these evil men the opportunity to act as they do; he tolerates this “government” which has taken upon itself such an infinitely great burden of guilt; indeed, he himself is to blame for the fact that it came about at all! Each man wants to be exonerated of a guilt of this kind, each one continues on his way with the most placid, the calmest conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty! It is not too late, however, to do away with this most reprehensible of all miscarriages of government, so as to avoid being burdened with even greater guilt. Now, when in recent years our eyes have been opened, when we know exactly who our adversary is, it is high time to root out this brown horde. Up until the outbreak of the war the larger part of the German people was blinded; the Nazis did not show themselves in their true aspect.

But now, now that we have recognized them for what they are, it must be the sole and first duty, the holiest duty of every German to destroy these beasts. If the people are barely aware that the government exists, they are happy. When the government is felt to be oppressive they are broken. Good fortune, alas! builds itself upon misery. Good fortune, alas! is the mask of misery. What will come of this? We cannot foresee the end. Order is upset and turns to disorder, good becomes evil. The people are confused. Is it not so, day in, day out, from the beginning.

The wise man is therefore angular, though he does not injure others; he has sharp corners, though he does not harm; he is upright but not gruff. He is clearminded, but he does not try to be brilliant.
Lao-Tzu.

Whoever undertakes to rule the kingdom and to shape it according to his whim – I foresee that he will fail to reach his goal. That is all. The kingdom is a living being. It cannot be constructed, in truth! He who tries to manipulate it will spoil it, he who tries to put it under his power will lose it.

Therefore: Some creatures go out in front, others follow, some have warm breath, others cold, some are strong, some weak, some attain abundance, others succumb.

The wise man will accordingly forswear excess, he will avoid arrogance and not overreach. Lao-Tzu.

Please make as many copies as possible of this leaflet and distribute them.

 

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The Lure of Trump’s Cross of Gold

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

In the post-election euphoria of the prosperity preachers who very Donald Trump as a political savior, and the President Elect’s stacking of his cabinet with billionaires of the first order, most of whom have no experience in the cabinet positions or are opposed to the missions of the departments they are to head one wonders what the 80% plus of self-identified Evangelical of Conservative Christians were thinking. But then, the answer is not that hard to find. For decades many of these people have been taught by their leaders that government policies that actually protect and benefit them are evil, and that God himself is basically a survival of the fittest Social Darwinist, that is basically the Gospel that they have been taught for decades. I used to be a clergyman in a denomination where many people believed and practiced such a faith.

So let me ask if you remember when conservative Christian politicians and preachers actually supported working people? I am not kidding, there was a time when some did exactly that and did so in the highest reaches of their political parties. Unlike today’s preachers they were not just lobbying for more tax cuts for the most wealthy, and extolling the job “creators” over the the people whose labor actually produces products, instead they spoke boldly on behalf of regular people. Sadly today all of the major political figures as well as most of the minor ones who claim to be “conservative Christians” have more in common with the greedy Robber Barons than one of the most celebrated conservative Christian politicians who has ever lived.

William Jennings Bryan was one of the most influential politicians of his era. Bryan served as Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson, he was a Senator and three time Presidential Candidate. He was also a very conservative Fundamentalist Christian perhaps most famous, or perhaps infamous now as one of the prosecuting attorneys at the Scopes “Monkey” Trial of 1925. In fact I can find that Bryan’s handling of that case played to the basest religious and social hatred of his day and though he thought that he was defending “Biblical” values  ended up making Christians look but small minded, intolerant and hateful. The movie Inherit the Wind, though a fictional account of that trial, shows how decent Christians can become consumed with hatred in the name of righteousness.  It is a sad thing that Bryan is most remembered for the Scopes Trial than when he bucked the political system of both the Republican and Democratic parties to speak up for workers and small businessmen. Personally I cannot imagine Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio or any other supposedly Christian political leader, especially the President Elect doing what Bryan did.

Whether one agrees on Bryan’s fundamentalist religious doctrine regarding the creation of the earth or the manner of how God created the earth,  one has to admit that of pre-Great Depression politicians he was quite amazing. Especially in how he saw through the Godlessness of unbridled capitalism and the devaluation of workers by valued capital over the people that actually produced anything.

As an American and a Christian I have to look at the body of work and life of a man. I don’t have to agree with all that they stood for or did and though I find much fault in Bryan and his supporters in the Scopes Trial I do not throw out the good things that he did and got right.

I think the apex of Bryan’s political thought is encapsulated in his speech at the Democratic National Convention of 1896, what is now called the Cross of Gold Speech.

When one looks at it now it really is timeless. Bryan saw through the charade that was being played out by politicians and the big money Wall Street types that they represented with great verve. It was a speech that one might have heard come from a prophet in the Old Testament.

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I am just going to quote a couple of pertinent sections from the speech to trigger the thought of anyone reading this article. I think that they could be spoken today in light of the way that many conservative Christians both Evangelical and Fundamentalist Protestants, Roman Catholics and those that preach the so called “Prosperity Gospel” have thrown their support behind ideas that are nothing more than unvarnished, crude materialism of the worst kind. In fact I believe that it is nothing more than the “baptism” of such thought by Christians are among the biggest reasons for the massive exodus of people from the churches and the rise of the “Nones,” or those with no religious preference.

Bryan said:

“We say to you that you have made the definition of a business man too limited in its application. The man who is employed for wages is as much a business man as his employer; the attorney in a country town is as much a business man as the corporation counsel in a great metropolis; the merchant at the cross-roads store is as much a business man as the merchant of New York; the farmer who goes forth in the morning and toils all day, who begins in spring and toils all summer, and who by the application of brain and muscle to the natural resources of the country creates wealth, is as much a business man as the man who goes upon the Board of Trade and bets upon the price of grain; the miners who go down a thousand feet into the earth, or climb two thousand feet upon the cliffs, and bring forth from their hiding places the precious metals to be poured into the channels of trade are as much business men as the few financial magnates who, in a back room, corner the money of the world. We come to speak of this broader class of business men.”

His words are striking in their directness and honesty. They are not only Christian but they are deeply American. He called on his Democratic party, which had been as bad as the Republicans during the age of the unregulated Robber Barons who used the Gold Standard to manipulate the markets and eliminate silver as currency to their benefit to be different:

“Upon which side will the Democratic Party fight; upon the side of “the idle holders of idle capital” or upon the side of “the struggling masses”? That is the question which the party must answer first, and then it must be answered by each individual hereafter. The sympathies of the Democratic Party, as shown by the platform, are on the side of the struggling masses, who have ever been the foundation of the Democratic Party.”

His arguments could be called true Christian populism. Bryan talked about two ideas of diametrically opposed types of government and economics:

“There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that, if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.”

He concluded his speech with this statement.

“Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world, supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests, and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for a gold standard by saying to them: “You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns; you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

When I hear the unholy trinity of politicians, pundits and preachers who extol the virtue of capital over labor and the worship of wealth as the highest good I wish that there would be some that would remember that the people who actually make things, grow things, fix things and maintain things are not just human capital, but people.

Despite his rigid anti-science beliefs, as well as his often pro-Jim Crow positions, one almost wishes for the day that a man like William Jennings Bryant spoke for Christians rather than seeing Christians throw themselves at the feet of a man who has pulled the wool over their eyes, emasculated them, and will doom them and their churches to irrelevancy as more and more people abandon the the Christian faith.

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Today that unholy trinity is poised to take over every branch of the Federal Government because of the fact that Evangelical and Conservative Christians abandoned all principle to elect a man who despite his words during the campaign has a history of standing against everything that they believe. And after all, it is people that matter and sadly that doesn’t seem to matter to the sycophants who cheer every word of the President Elect even as he and his billionaire cabinet members enact policy after policy that will destroy them.

That is something to think about.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Prelude to Tyranny


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Was amazed last night when Senator Ted Cruz; a man I have never had anything good to say about; went into the seething, hate filled arena in Cleveland hosting the coronation of Donald Trump and made a speech that probably destroyed his political career. Standing firm as delegates screamed angry and even violent epitaphs at him, he refused to endorse Trump. Instead, he told Republicans to vote their conscience. Some delegates became so enraged that Cruz’s wife had to be escorted out for her own safety. 

Now personally I wouldn’t give a bag of donuts for Cruz, and I have frequently criticized his very theocratic vision of America, but I admired his courage last night. During the campaign Trump did all that he could to destroy Cruz, even accusing Ted’s nutcase father of being connected to the assassination of President Kennedy. Cruz had nothing to gain from what he did had he even given a weak endorsement he would have saved his career in Trump’s GOP, a party that no longer resembles that of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, or Ronald Reagan. But had he done that, he would have been safe.

But he didn’t and I applaud his Trump has recreated the GOP in his image, and Cruz will have no place in it. Nor will any Republican who has raised a voice against him. They are considered traitors by Trump and his loyalists, and those who attempt to placate him should they have second thoughts about their opposition, will find that they will pay a heavy price, even if Trump loses the election. Trump and his stalwart base will never forgive or forget, and the words that some of his supporters which threaten violence, will likely be followed with real violence. This is not normal. It is not what our founders intended, it is the nature of an anti-democratic and violent mass movement. 

You might wonder why I say this, after all we are more advanced in this country than to stoop to such actions, but to people who nurse fanatical grievances, this is quite normal. American philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote, “Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus 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. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both.” For many of Trump’s followers, especially the religious ones, the Trump candidacy has become a holy crusade and all opponents within and outside the GOP are agents of the Devil himself, while those who are faithful are the elect, who lose themselves in the movement, for it and its leader are greater than them, which excuses them from personal responsibility for any violence. This was true in Revolutionary France, Nazi Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and the Soviet Union. 

Hoffer wrote, 

“There is also this: when we renounce the self and become part of a compact whole, we not only renounce personal advantage but are also rid of personal responsibility. There is no telling to what extremes of cruelty and ruthlessness a man will go when he is freed from the fears, hesitations, doubts and the vague stirrings of decency that go with individual judgment. When we lose our individual independence in the corporateness of a mass movement, we find a new freedom—freedom to hate, bully, lie, torture, murder and betray without shame and remorse.”

The responses among the faithful, especially some conservative who I know on social media to what Cruz did is frightening. Just a few months ago many of them saw Cruz as their political savior, a man who was going to bring the Christian Dominionist agenda into the Presidency. Now he is called a traitor, a liar, and worse by the same people, who now have transferred their allegiance to Trump just as quickly as conservative German Christians dumped their political affiliations in old line conservative parties, including those which were political wings of churches for the Nazis. 

Since I have already read the leaked text of Trump’s speech I will wait until tomorrow to discuss it. But for what I see it is filled with lies and distortions to instill fear and unite people behind him as the only person who can fix it. It is the same line of attack used by Hitler to vault into the Chancellorship, and well, you know the rest. Hitler had his conservative opponents jailed, including opponents in the Nazi Party, sent to concentration camps, or murdered as quickly as he did others, even faster than he did to the Jews. So if I was Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham or one of the others GOP leaders who have criticized Trump, I would watch my back. 

So if you plan on watching Trump’s speech I suggest that you start drinking heavily. As for me I am following Andrew Sullivan’s live blog over at the nymag.com as I watch the speech, which reminds me of Triumph of the Will without the Hitlerian charm. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Trumped: The End of the GOP as We Knew It


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today I have just a few quick thoughts on the end of the GOP’s #NeverTrump campaign. 

It came as I thought with the crushing defeat that the Donald dealt Ted Cruz and John Kasich in Indiana last night. Now I really expected one or both to stay in the campaign to try and deny Trump a first ballot nomination in Cleveland, but the campaign to stop Trump seemed to end today when Ohio Governor John Kasich ended his campaign.

It started last night when “God’s Annointed One” for the Presidency, Ted Cruz ended his campaign to establish a theocratic state based on the theology of Christian Dominionism. Though he tried to cast himself as a successor to Ronald Reagan’s conservative mantle in the #NeverTrump movement, that was nothing more than a charade, Reagan would have never considered Cruz a real conservative, nor would have Barry Goldwater, the true ideological father of the now dead modern conservative movement. In fact Goldwater detested and distrusted the Christian Right. The end of Cruz’s campaign was also the death kneel of the Christian Right which expected that one of its own, Cruz, Huckabee, or Ben Carson, would be the GOP nominee this year. It is funny, back in October or November Teddy of last year was one of the favorites to win the nomination while Trump was considered a long shot outsider at best. 

However, the problem for Cruz and the other candidates of the Christian Right was threefold. First the influence of the Christian Right is declining. It’s leaders are old and increasingly ignored inside and outside the GOP, with the exception of people like Cruz. The polling numbers on this are incontrovertible, and the fact is that the incredibly partisan and hardline policies of leaders of the Christian Right is contributing to the rapid loss of young people in churches and the growth of the demographic known as the Nones, or those with no religious preference.  Second, there were too many of them in the race, and they bled votes from Cruz in the early primaries. The third was brought on by Cruz himself, nobody, even in his party likes him. He is viewed as creepy, Nixon without the charm, and former Speaker of the House, John Boehner summed up what many people feel when he  said that Cruz was “Lucifer in the flesh.” That fact was demonstrated in the Iowa caucuses when Cruz’s campaign used dirty tricks and torpedoed the campaign of Ben Carson, making thousands of phone calls the day of the caucus to tell caucus voters to vote for Cruz since Carson had dropped out. It was a bold faced lie and it enabled him to steal a win there. 

As far as Cruz goes, and everything that he represents, I can only say good riddance, and I hope you lose your next senate race. 

What this signals for the GOP is yet to be determined, but like many others I beleive that it signals the end of the GOP as we have known it. The party leadership may attempt to unify behind him and to control him, but it will be an uncomfortable alliance, and one which Trump holds the winning cards. The GOP is broken, it ignored the advice of those who wrote the post-mortem of the 2012 defeat of Mitt Romney, and now they have been “Trumped” so to speak. Trump’s negatives are such that even if he wins the general election, which based on current polls that pit him against either Clinton or Sanders show him losing hardly, the GOP may well lose the Senate, and many seats in the House. The fact is that Trump does not give a damn what Reince Priebus and GOP leadership think, he will do what he needs to win and if he does win, he will take the credit and do as he pleases. Some influential members the GOP conservative media base are already saying that in spite of the collapse that they will not support Trump. 

At first the GOP dismissed Trump. Then they tried to marginalize him, then when it was too late attempted to stop him. At every turn Trump outmaneuver end them, appealed to the anger and frustration of GOP voters, harnessed that energy, and “Trumped” the GOP leadership at every turn. It was quite fascinating to watch, and if I wasn’t a historian and well aware of the kinds of emotions Trump is playing to I would laugh it off. 

But as I have Sid since November, Trump cannot be underestimated, and if the Democratic nominee and party underestimate him, they too may end up being Trumped. So if there are Democrats or progressive out there feeling a sense of satisfactory schadenfreude in this, don’t celebrate too soon. 

So anyway, enough for today. Have a great evening. 

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The End of the Republic?

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today Donald Trump will likely bury his Republican competitors in Indiana nearly ensuring that he will win the GOP nomination, and in doing so he will have defied the logic of the GOP leadership by channeling the rage and anger against the status quo that they themselves have fomented over the past four decades. As he does this he will move on, and while some people assume that he will be swept away in November by the Democratic Party nominee, there is no guarantee of that, and those who are wise should not underestimate Trump, or the movement forming around him. The great American philosopher, Eric Hoffer once wrote, “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.”

Hatred is an amazing emotion. I have been almost overwhelmed by the amount of hatred being posted on social media, blogs, much of it by supposedly Christian preachers, politicians and pundits. Of course if you want find a politician, pundit and preacher all wrapped into one person look no further than Baptist preacher, conservative media pundit, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, or the “anointed one” Ted Cruz. But these charlatans of the Christian right pale in comparison to Donald Trump in their ability satiate the desire for a savior of people who are angry and fearful, people that feel cheated, that they have lost their country or their status in it.

This is scary, as it possibly portends the end of our great experiment as a nation. For unlike love, hatred is easy to conjure up. It is kind of like what you need to build a fire; fuel, oxygen and heat. To generate hatred on a massive scale all you need is a disaffected populace, a convenient target, and an agent to ignite the mixture.

Shrewd politicians, preachers, and pundits do this well. Honestly, I think that most effective politician doing this today this is Donald Trump, a man who is lavishly rich, but connects with regular people by speaking their language, and channeling their anger. The situation is much like Germany in 1930 when became a true national party capitalizing on the frustration and anger of Germans at the flailing and failing Weimar Republic. Richard Evans wrote about that in his book “The Coming of the Third Reich.”

“Voters were not really looking for anything very concrete from the Nazi Party in 1930. They were, instead, protesting against the failure of the Weimar Republic. Many of them, too, particularly in rural areas, small towns, small workshops, culturally conservative families, older age groups, or the middle-class nationalist political milieu, may have been registering their alienation from the cultural and political modernity for which the Republic stood, despite the modern image which the Nazis projected in many respects. The vagueness of the Nazi programme, its symbolic mixture of old and new, its eclectic, often inconsistent character, to a large extent allowed people to read into it what they wanted to and edit out anything they might have found disturbing.” 

It does not matter to many of Trump’s followers that his policy propositions in terms of ending alliances, building walls around the border with Mexico paying the bill, massive deportations of people, trade wars to end the deficit, and total bans on travel to this country based on religion, are quite literally impossible. But as Hoffer noted Trump’s followers, like those of any frustrated group and marked by a “facility for make-believe, a readiness to hate, a readiness to imitate [and] credulity, a readiness to attempt the impossible.”

Mass movements, like the one that Trump is building before our very eyes, demonize the target group or population and then let the hatred of their disaffected followers flow. The leaders need that disaffected and angry base in order to rise to power; such was how Hitler, Stalin, and so many other despots gained power. They took advantage of a climate of fear, and found others to blame. For Hitler it was the Jews; while for Stalin it was various groups like the Ukrainians, or the Poles who were the devil to be feared and destroyed. Timothy Snyder in his book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin wrote:

“Dead human beings provided retrospective arguments for the rectitude of policy. Hitler and Stalin thus shared a certain politics of tyranny: they brought about catastrophes, blamed the enemy of their choice, and then used the death of millions to make the case that their policies were necessary or desirable. Each of them had a transformative utopia, a group to be blamed when its realization proved impossible, and then a policy of mass murder that could be proclaimed as a kind of ersatz victory.”

Snyder is quite correct, demonizing a people and making them some kind of “other”, “they”, or “them”, is a wonderful way to blame a group of people for the ills of society. It is also a good way to deflect the blame for the corporate failures of societies and governments onto a convenient scapegoat; and to blame others for the personal failures and petty jealousies of the people doing the demonizing. It also allows people to abandon ethics and the simple notion of the Golden Rule an engage in genocide.

Mass movements and their leaders love to use this technique; especially when using it against those of other races or religions. The technique is not at all new, it has been used from antiquity but has become much more dangerous in the modern era with the spread of instant communications technology. History shows us all too clearly how it has happened and how easily it can happen again. Witch hunts, slavery and Jim Crow, the extermination of the Native Americans which inspired Hitler in his campaign of genocide and the Holocaust; the Soviet gulags and ethnic cleansing, the Rape of Nanking, the Chinese Communist “Cultural Revolution” the Rwandan genocide, Srebrenica, the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, and the current crimes against humanity of the so called Islamic State. Sadly, the list can go on and on.

All of these events simply required the elements of a disaffected population, a devil or scapegoat to blame, and a leader or leaders to ignite the volatile mixture; fuel, oxygen and heat. Hoffer was quite correct that “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.” The really successful leaders of such movements understand this. For Hitler it was the Jews and other untermenschen; for American Southerners after the Civil it was the Blacks and their white supporters. For the American “Know Nothings” of the 1840s and 1850s it was immigrants, especially Irish and Germans who were Catholic; for Stalin it was non-Russian ethnic minorities. For the leaders of the Islamic State, it is Jews, Shi’ite Moslems, less than “faithful” Sunnis, Christians and well for that matter anyone who does not line up one hundred percent with them on every issue. The examples are so plentiful to support this fact that it is almost overwhelming.

The problem is that when any society, or government begins to label or stigmatize a race, religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, or political ideology, and then in the process demonize those people to the point that they become less than human we have reached a tipping point. Trump has been doing that for his entire campaign. We are very close to the point where we are just one crisis away from all of those crimes against humanity that we believe that we are no longer capable of doing.

But sadly, we human beings are not nearly as evolved as we think and I think that the tipping point in the United States may be far closer than we could ever imagine. In fact, Andrew Sullivan wrote today that “right now, American is a breeding ground for tyranny,” and that “Trump is not just a wacky politician of the far right, or a riveting television spectacle, or a Twitter phenom and bizarre working-class hero. He is not just another candidate to be parsed and analyzed by TV pundits in the same breath as all the others. In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event. It’s long past time we started treating him as such.”

I really do not think that we are too far from some tipping point where the politicians, pundits and preachers; especially those of the political right and the media whores who are more concerned about market share than truth, decide that their “devils” must be exterminated and Trump, is the man to make this happen. Of course when he does, his supporters will claim a higher moral, religious, or racial, purpose; or perhaps use the language of Manifest Destiny, the Lost Cause, or the Stab in the Back or some other historical myth that suffices to justify their actions.

As I have said before, Trump’s GOP and potential Democratic opponents would be wise not to underestimate Trump and maybe even form common cause to stop him before it is too late. If they do not the tipping point will have been reached and we will move on into real tyranny.

In the Star Trek the Next Generation episode entitled The Drumhead Captain Picard has to warn his security officer, Lieutenant Worf about the dangers of rampant paranoia. Worf starts: “Sir, the Federation does have enemies. We must seek them out.”
 

Picard pauses and then notes:

“Oh, yes. That’s how it starts. But the road from legitimate suspicion to rampant paranoia is very much shorter than we think. Something is wrong here, Mister Worf. I don’t like what we have become.”

To claim Picard’s words for myself, I have to admit that I don’t like what we have become either.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Post New York Thoughts

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have just a few short thoughts about the New York primaries and the massive victories recorded by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

My gut feeling, looking at the results, as well as polling data available for most of next week’s primaries in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut and Rhode Island is that this marks the end of any real chance for Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination, and the same for either Ted Cruz or John Kasich to come back and have an outright win against Trump.

On the Republican side the best Trump’s opponents can hope for is that he falls short of the needed number to win on the first ballot and that uncommitted delegates do not support him. If it goes to a contested convention, turn out the lights on the GOP. I still expect the GOP establishment will throw in everything to try to stop Trump, and they may yet succeed, but New York was a massive blow against their hope to stop him.

As for the Democrats, the New York results showed how formidable that Hillary is, she not only trounced Sanders by close to 300,000 votes, but collected about 200,000 than all the Republicans combined. The primary wasn’t close and the complaints of Sanders and his supporters that the primary was rigged against them make them sound like sore losers. The next series of primaries play to Hillary’s strengths and I expect her to add to her delegate lead, and after New York I don’t expect any upsets.

Honestly, I think that Sanders made a huge mistake by going so negative against Hillary, and that is actually going to turn people away from him. He is at his best when he is positive and talks about his ideas, and looks like a crotchety old man when he goes negative, and his attacks on Clinton are not likely to win him the support of the Super-Delegates. The fact that he hasn’t been able to go into details about his plans, and the fact that he appears unprepared and defensive when interviewed about them, does not help his cause with voters that want specifics. As I have said many times before many of his ideas resonate with me, but just having ideas with no plan of how you will get them through a potentially hostile Congress is a non-starter.

I am pragmatic, and I think that Bernie needs to figure out what his campaign can do realistically and decide on a realistic course of action. If he continues to go negative and tolerate his supporters making asses out of themselves by doing the same he not only risks his campaign, but damages the one person who might get at least some of those good ideas through Congress. If he plays that game he only helps the Republicans.

A historical analogy is how the Independent Socialists, who joined with the Communist Party after the German Revolution at the end of the First World War, torpedoed the Majority Socialist’s attempts to promote a progressive agenda during the Weimar Republic. They accused the Social Democrats of being worse than the Nazis and during the Republic’s crisis of 1928-1933, they cooperated with the Nazis to collapse support for the Social Democrats and bring down the government, with disastrous results for Germany.

Anyway, that’s all for now,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Men Who know too Little

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I am on the way to Houston for my annual denomination Chaplain training symposium and as you have gathered from what I wrote last week I spend a good amount of time doing some reading and reflection.

One thing that I seem to be noticing in the current presidential race is the nearly blind certitude of most of the candidates, especially Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and this reminds me of something that I read. Barbara Tuchman wrote, “No one is so sure of his premises as the man who knows too little.” When I look at Cruz and Trump, I am struck by how this resonates. Now to be sure they are not alone, but they stand out because of the way that they talk about foreign and domestic policy, demonize all that oppose them, and act as if they, and they alone are the political messiah who can save the world, and to borrow Trump’s campaign slogan which is on every Chinese made baseball hat, “Make America Great Again.”

This particularly concerns me in matters of foreign policy and national security. Trump seems to be ready to destroy alliances that do benefit us a nation and to demean the leaders of allied nations even as he brags on totalitarian leaders like Russia’s President Putin. Cruz on the other hand, according to his speeches is willing to “carpet bomb our enemies” seems to be ready to begin a policy of total war to achieve his goals. Honestly, I would be more scared of Cruz than Trump, simply because Cruz masks his ignorance and blind hatred in a belief, that he is anointed by God to lead the United States.

Tuchman wrote, “Strong prejudices in an ill-formed mind are hazardous to government.”

I think that is at the root of many of our political maladies, and not just on the political right, where they their proponents, who show not an ounce of empathy; are stoked by hatred of the other, encouraged by religious intolerance, and bolstered by the power of myth masquerading as fact are incredibly dangerous and proto-fascist.

But to be fair, when I read what many supposed progressives write, they seem more like angry revolutionaries willing to destroy systems at any cost, without replacement systems ready, and without thinking of second, third and fourth order effects on society as a whole. Some seem to be as intolerant of debate and compromise as are their opponents on the political right.

I am a progressive; my beliefs about the banking systems, economic inequalities, universal health care, civil rights, gay rights, women’s rights, and the use of national power in foreign relations, are all progressive. But I am also a pragmatist, you have to think before you act and you have to do things one thing at a time and sometimes, in a democracy that takes time and true political wisdom is to sense the time.

As my real progressive hero Franklin Delano Roosevelt noted in words that seem as pertinent today as when he spoke them during the Great Depression, “From the end of the World War twenty-one years ago, this country, like many others, went through a phase of having large groups of people carried away by some emotion–some alluring, attractive, even speciously inspiring, public presentation of a nostrum, a cure-all….There always exists in a democratic society a large group which, quite naturally, champs at the bit over the slowness of democracy; and that is why it is right for us who believe in democracy to keep the democratic processes progressive–in other words, moving forward with the advances in civilization. That is why it is dangerous for democracy to stop moving forward because any period of stagnation increases the numbers of those who demand action and action now.”

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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