Tag Archives: witch hunts

Disgusting, Disgraceful, and Dishonorable: Trump’s Pathological Need to Belittle those Who Sacrifice for the Country 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Three words: Disgusting, disgraceful, dishonorable, is how I have to characterize how Donald Trump and his campaign treats those who serve, those who have served, and the families of military personnel. 

Ever since the parents of Army Captain Humayun Khan so eloquently spoke, and criticized Donald Trump at the Democratic National Convention there has been a full court press by Trump, his aides, and his most strident supporters to demonize the Khans in the most cruel, senseless, and even evil ways. What they have done and continue to do is so offensive that it drew the official rebuke of many veterans groups, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans Association. 

Trump is the ultimate bully and crybaby. He went to Twitter to complain of their “vicious attacks,” of course ignoring how has made a career of not only making vicious, and even libelous attacks on people of all walks of life. But then, like I said he is a bully and a crybaby. His assault on military personnel and veterans knows no bounds. He went out of his way to insult, attack, and demonize the Khans, and some of his aides and advisers have insinuated that they are connected to the Islamic Brotherhood, and demanded that they condemn Islamic militants, like losing their son in the battle against them doesn’t count. He mocked John McCain who spent years in a North Vietnamese POW camp, as well as others who have been POWs. He equates his high school years at an elite military prep school as being better than having actually served in the military. He says that he knows more than Generals about how to defeat ISIL. He stated in his acceptance speech that the military was “a disaster.” This list could go on, but even more despicable is the fact that while he claims to “have made sacrifices” he used five deferments to dodge the draft, something that he seems proud of doing. 

He claims to have made millions of dollars in donations to military charities but there are no records, he will not name the charities, and he will not reveal his tax returns. He biggest bragging point is his participation as a co-chairman of the New York Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commission, in which he claimed credit for its construction is also full of deceit. In 1984 he was exposed by fellow members for only showing up at two or three of the twenty meetings. When asked by the Washington post about this he played down the military service of the other commissioners saying “They’re very small thinkers. They’re stockbrokers that were in Vietnam and they don’t have it.” 

The farcical comments by one of the head of his political action committee, that his sacrifice included losing two marriages because he was so committed to his business, conveniently leaving out the part about his constant affairs that led to the break up of those marriages. Some sacrifice. 

Why Trump acts this way might be a mystery to some, but I have a theory. Trump actually feels inferior to the men and women he is insulting because he knows that his avoidance of serving in Vietnam was cowardly. So he has to tear down McCain, he has to say he knows more than the generals, he has to go after the parents of a fallen hero. He is pathological in his need to prove his superiority, but as much as he blusters, Trump knows that he cannot live his own dishonor down, and so he must actively continue to belittle the sacrifices of, and even attempt to destroy the lives and reputations of those who actually did serve. 

Truthfully, the man has no honor, and neither do his henchmen in the Christian Right who have been the loudest and most vicious critics of the Khans, simply because they are Muslim, and who have demeaned Captain Khan’s sacrifice to protect his troops from a terrorist car bomber. Some even said that he was not a hero. To see people who claim to be “Christians” act in such a manner defies the imagination and brings to mind the images of the burning of heretics, witch hunts, and more recently in American history the lynching of blacks by the supposed Christians of the Ku Klux Klan, the Red Shirts, and the White Leagues. 

But truthfully I am surprised at none of this. Many American Evangelical and Conservative Christians only care about the military and the men and women who serve in it so long as it fits their political and religious agenda, and they ruthlessly attack anyone who dares to criticize that agenda. I know this because it has happened to me on quite a few occasions. 

The whole affair has both sickened and angered me as a thirty five year veteran of the Army and Navy, as a combat veteran, and as a Christian. When I see the venomous nature of Trump, his campaign, and many of his supporters I fear for the country. A a Mike Pence speech the mother of a current Air Force member asked Pence about Trump’s attack on the Khans and was booed by the attendees, and he made no attempt to stop it. 

The campaign being waged by Trump reminds me of the 1932 campaign of Hitler against Paul Von Hindenburg. In that campaign war veterans of non-Nazi parties were attacked, derided, and sometimes murdered by Nazi Brownshirts. The violence of the Trump campaign language being used against the Khans and others who disagree with Trump could easily lead to physical violence against Trump’s enemies. Don’t say it can’t happen, violence was a central feature of Trump supporters during the primaries and as the election draws closer I would not be surprised to see an uptick in the number of acts of violence against those who oppose Trump. 

So anyway. That will be all. Have a great Tuesday. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, civil rights, faith, iraq, Military, News and current events, Political Commentary

Mass Movements, Devils & Tipping Points

anti-jewish poster

The Nazis made the Jews their “Devil”

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

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 the day and a half that I have been home from Europe I have been almost overwhelmed by the amount of hatred being posted on social media, blogs, and 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, but I digress…

It is funny when you even mildly disconnect from this climate for even a week, just how overwhelming returning to this can be, and how easy it would be to respond in kind, because 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. They 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; of which the contemporary “Christian Right” is one, 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 cleansings, 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. We reach 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.

Those that follow my writings on this site know how much I love the various Star Trek television series and movies. There is an episode (The Siege of AR-558) of Star Trek Deep Space Nine where the Ferengi bartender Quark, makes a truly astute observation during a battle for survival at an isolated outpost:

“Let me tell you something about Hew-mons, Nephew. They’re a wonderful, friendly people, as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts, deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers, put their lives in jeopardy over an extended period of time and those same friendly, intelligent, wonderful people… will become as nasty and as violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon. You don’t believe me? Look at those faces. Look in their eyes.”

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. Of course when they will do they 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.

In the Star Trek the Next Generation episode entitled The Drumhead Captain Picard has to warn his security officer, Lt 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 after being somewhat off the grid in Europe the past week and having come home to the fusillade of hatred being spewed forth, I have to admit that I don’t like what we have become either.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under ethics, faith, History, Political Commentary, Religion