I Hate to Say I Told You So, But…My Article: “The Rebirth of American Nativism: Trump and the Know Nothings” August 23rd 2015

Back in 2015, I was still laughing at the prospect of a television clown running for the highest office in the land. So sure was I that it was a joke, that there was no way this ‘person’ could ever become president. Padre Steve, on the other hand, was doing his homework, researching and thinking, listening to the dull roar from the bigoted masses, and his own predictions were more accurate than my own. Today, he revisits his thoughts from 5 years ago and assesses where we stand today in a post that is well worth taking the time to read. Thank you, Padre, for your words of wisdom!

The Inglorius Padre Steve's World

american-patriot

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Well I have to say it, though I hate to say it, but well before Donald Trump was even the nominee of the Republican Party I wrote this article on August 23rd 2015. I am posting it again as it was written on that day. In fact you can verify the veracity of what I write now by simply going to the original post which is found at this link. https://padresteve.com/2015/08/23/the-rebirth-of-american-nativism-trump-and-the-know-nothings/

This was just over two months after Trump announced his candidacy for the GOP Presidential nomination. Though I didn’t really pay that much attention to him before he was nominated, as I have a certain distance for celebrities with no real talent, I rapidly deduced that he was bringing out the very worst demons of the American experience. He was consumed with racism, White Nationalism, and an anti-immigrant bias that perplexed me. But within…

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“But Your Friends are Fewer Now” Milton Meyer’s “They Thought They Were Free” and 2020 America

More than a few times I have wondered how the Germans in 1933 did not see what was coming. Surely the signs were all there, surely at least some were intellectuals who should have been able to foresee and act to stop the madness. Padre Steve’s post from a few days quotes a chapter from Milton Mayer’s book, “They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-1945” that sheds a bit of light on how the Germans failed to see what was coming in the early days. It is a bit lengthy, but well worth the time to read. Thank you, Padre!

The Inglorius Padre Steve's World

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

This article is basically a rerun because I thought it was pertinent and instead of doing much online I was catching up on correspondence with a number of people including friends in Germany and and trying my best to write in the best German that I could. Today was a remarkable day at our shipyard as our commander dealt directly with the dual disasters, COVID19 and the murder of George Floyd. It was inspiring. I had a part to play, but it was behind the scenes, and that is totally okay with me.

The article tonight is a chapter from Milton Mayer’s “They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-1945.” Mayer was a visiting professor at the University of Frankfurt in the 1950s and lived in a small Hessian town near the city. The book is about the relationships that he built with…

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“Final decisions about the nation’s existence are at stake here…” America at the Tipping Point of Dictatorship and Democracy

As we see the threat of an authoritarian regime becoming increasingly real, comparisons to the start of Hitler’s regime in the 1930s come to mind. Last night, I read this post by Padre Steve, a historian whose views I value. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read his wise words, and understand why it is so important that we take action to change the course the U.S. is currently on. Thank you, Padre.

The Inglorius Padre Steve's World

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I started this article last night but could not finish it because of how upset I was after seeing President Trump’s speech last night where he threatened the use of active duty military forces against protestors, declared an unorganized amorphous group known as Antifa, as a terrorist organization on the order of Al Qaida, and launched into a tirade worthy of Hitler in a teleconference with the nation’s governors.

But what got me was what happened during his speech. He promised the use of dominating protestors, as he ended his speech tear gas was launched and a line of unarmed peaceful protestors near St John’s Episcopal Church were suddenly assaulted by heavily armed police in riot gear and officers mounted on horseback. An aid station was overrun and two priests handing out water assaulted. I do not know if National Guard personnel were involved in…

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Wise Words

Many of us, this writer included, have chafed at the invisible bonds of stay-at-home orders, lockdowns, and the rest. Many of us finally accepted that this was the only way to save lives and we’ve made our peace with it, though still we sometimes whine. Our friend Hugh shared a piece today that made me sit back, take a deep breath, and think, put our troubles of today into an entirely new perspective. Is the glass half-full, or half-empty? Each of us will have our own take on that. Please read this short piece … and realize that what we are going through today is NOT the end of the world, and that this, too, shall pass. Thanks Hugh! We all needed this, I think!

hughcurtler

I have no idea who wrote the following piece, but it strikes me as worthy of wider dissemination than it has had so far. My son sent it to me the other day and said, simply, “it was written by a co-worker.” It strikes me as particularly important given the fact that we are all feeling fed-up with the coronavirus and all that it entails. We simply cannot wait until things go “back to normal” — refusing to admit to ourselves that there may be no return to normal and that the “new normal” will be like nothing we have ever experienced.

In any event, we wallow in self-pity since few of us has ever had to deny ourselves much of what we want. This is, after all, the “Age of Entitlement” not only in the schools but in the homes as well. We buy on plastic and run up…

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A Bit Of Borowitz …

It’s another of those holiday season days when there is more to do than resources (time & energy) to do it all.  I have two posts in the works, but not enough time to finish either right now, so I thought a bit of humour in the form of Andy Borowitz might make up for my shortfall.


Andrew Johnson Horrified That History Books Will Mention Him in Same Sentence as Trump

Valentine’s Day Cards of Yore …

Valentine-MaxineToday is February 14th, otherwise known as Valentine’s Day.  In modern culture it is a day for romance, for flowers, cards, candy hearts and chocolates.   Even this ol’ hag awoke to a lovely card in my inbox this morning that started my day with a smile.  But throughout history, Valentine’s cards have sometimes taken a dark turn …

In the mid-1400s, Charles Valois, the Duke of Orleans, penned a Valentine poem for his wife. Considered to be one of the earliest Valentine’s poems, Valois’s missive is far from an ardent declaration of marital passion. Instead, the sombre wording reveals a 21-year-old who is already ‘sick of love’.

I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine,
Since for me you were born too soon,
And I for you was born too late.
God forgives him who has estranged
Me from you for the whole year.
I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine.

Why such a bleak tone on a day intended to celebrate love? The circumstances in which the verse was penned may shed some light on Charles’s sense of desperation. Having already lost one wife, Valois was still only 15 when he married 11-year-old Bonne D’Armagnac in 1410. Their time together was short-lived: Charles was captured by the English at the battle of Agincourt in 1415 and held captive for 25 years. The above verse was penned during a period of imprisonment in the Tower of London. Alone in a cell, having outlived one wife and been involuntarily separated from another, Valois’s solemnity might be excused.

The unfortunate pair were never reunited: Bonne had died by the time her husband was released. This fascinating letter is held in the manuscript collections at the British Library, though sadly there is no record of any reply.

While it was common practice to exchange letters and love tokens in February, the first ‘cards’ were not sent until the late 18th century. Lack of technology meant that early cards were handmade, with lovers decorating paper with flowers and romantic symbols. Pamphlets were available designed to assist those who struggled to express themselves. The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, published in 1797, offered a selection of poems that could be copied out and sent to the beloved.

In Britain, the oldest surviving Valentines card is thought to date from 1790. The recipient had to work to discover their valentine: the card was a puzzle that had to be unfolded in a particular way in order to reveal delicate illustrations and the verse hidden within. Known as a ‘puzzle purse’, this unusual example is among a collection of 800 Valentines held in the archives of the Postal Museum’s archives.

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A ‘puzzle purse’, a popular type of card from the Georgian period that had to be unfolded in a particular way to reveal the hidden verse within. 

The sending of cards became more common during the Victorian era, with the development of new printing techniques and reductions in the cost of paper. Handmade efforts, often featuring lace paperwork, flowers and love knots, continued to exist while mass-produced cards flooded the market.

I think I might be a little offput to receive this handmade Valentine containing a taxidermy canary …Stuffed-canary-Valentine

Then there were the ‘Vinegar Valentines’: cards designed to point out faults in the recipient and demonstrate the sender’s desire not to claim their love. Although the nature of the card often lent itself to its immediate destruction, sufficient numbers survive to suggest that Vinegar Valentines were not gender specific.

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An 1870s “vinegar Valentine”, the sender Repelled by his “glitter”, the sender rejects the snakelike gentleman, preferring to remain alone than live a “bitter” life in his company.

Some cards offered women the opportunity to comment anonymously on personal appearance, with scathing words and demeaning sketches. Others, commenting on the recipient’s habits, reflect societal concerns of the day.

Valentine's Card

The text at the bottom reads: “The kiss of the bottle is your heart’s delight,/ And fuddled you reel home to bed every night,/ What care you for damsels, no matter how fair!/ Apart from your liquor, you’ve no love to spare.”

Valentine's Card

“Pray do you ever mend your clothes/ Or comb your hair? Well, I suppose/ You’ve got no time, for people, say,/ You’re reading novels all the day.”

The Valentine card traveled across the Atlantic during the 19th century, but printed cards were often too expensive for the average American. Things changed dramatically in 1913, when the Hall Brothers produced their first Valentine card. Becoming Hallmark cards in 1928, the company is now considered a key player in the commercialization of Valentine’s Day with more than 1,400 varieties of card now in circulation.

Despite popular belief, not all 20th-century cards featured the romantic symbolism we see today. Some cards employed fruit or animals to suggest lewd intentions, and others were used as marketing opportunities by Walt Disney and McDonald’s.

Not all cards were so benign. Overtly racist cards depicted cannibals preparing their loved ones for the pot, claiming to be “all a stew for you”, while others played with cowboy imagery to suggest the recipient’s capture.  And then there was the truly macabre …valentine-card-skunk

I hope you all have a fun Valentine’s Day!  To all my friends, I wish you a …Happy Valentine's Day

There Is No Isolation On The World Stage — A Guest Post By Roger Jacob

Earlier this week I shared a guest post by John Fioravanti about the current administration’s policy of isolationism, to segregate the U.S. from its allies and downgrade our standing on the global stage.  I asked if anybody else from outside the U.S. would be interested in writing a guest post to add perspective and add to the conversation.  Our good friend Roger, aka Woebegone but Hopeful, eagerly took up the gauntlet and has written about his perspective of our current policy from the UK point of view.  Many thanks to Roger for taking the time, for he is busily working on his latest book!


Roger Jacob

Roger

There was a fable which circulated in the old USSR in the 1980s.

Stalin, Khrushchev and the then leader Brezhnev are sitting in a train as it makes its way across the USSR. Suddenly the train lurches to a halt; after half-an-hour Stalin stands up and announces he will sort this out. He walks over to the front of the train where the driver and engineer are standing.

‘What is wrong comrades,’ he demands.

‘Comrade Stalin,’ the engineer says, ‘The machinery has broken, the part we need has not been available for months now and we’re trying to figure out what to do.’

‘Nonsense!’ storms Stalin. ‘Such a thing cannot happen in the Soviet Union,’ he points at the engineer. ‘You are spreading lies and are an enemy of the state,’ Stalin draws a gun and shoots the man dead, goes back to the carriage and sits down.

After another half-an-hour Khrushchev stands up and says he will sort it out, he walks to the front of the train, looks at the body and the terrified driver and asks what has happened. The driver nervously relates what Stalin did. Khrushchev looks at the body.

‘Ah,’ he says to the corpse. ‘You were a victim of ill-judged decisions. You, comrade, are pardoned of these crimes and reinstated,’ and returns to the carriage and sits down.

After another half-an-hour Brezhnev stands up and says, ‘I know. Let’s draw the shutters down on the windows and pretend the train is moving.’

It is in the nature of governments to place facts in the best light for them. We can also expect governments to make decisions which we personally do not like, and we are sure will be the wrong ones. This is nothing new. You can look back to the ‘Standard of Ur’ of 2600 BC (ish) which depicts the achievements of Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia.

Many are the regimes which have had their day, when they seemed unassailable, then they fell. Either because something they had not expected happened or through hubris were convinced of their own infallibility, or bitter internal divisions tore at their foundations and as we know a House Divided against itself cannot stand.

We ignore this oft repeated lesson of History at our peril.

Because there is no avoiding the forces which have shaped human activity throughout the ages. Before recorded time, reason dictates these forces were in action it’s simply that there were no recording systems.

Thus, we come to the present era of the early decades of the 21st Century and we examine just one nation: The United States of America. Contrary to some arguments the USA did not invent all the evils in the world, no more is the USA responsible for every destructive or violent action taking place. Currently, through the forces which history records, having survived the first great test of the Civil War of 1861-1865 and remaining united a nation rich in resources both natural and human, the USA was bound to have its time of grandeur and influence upon the World Stage. Exactly when this started is something for historians to have fun discussing, but for the sake of brevity let us say at the end of WWI when President Wilson endeavoured bring forth a vision of a world peace in which even small nations had their say. Since then, 1919 to date, there has been THE USA, nearly 100 years. In the scheme of things, not very long really. For example, the British, French and Spanish averaged 300 hundred years each before combinations of Wars, Economics and competing nations shoved them off their places on the stage.

In the latter half of the USA’s time the nation has experienced that heady mix of being the dominant power to whom all others looked for aid, in envy or in competition. If you took one part out of context, say from 1950 to 2010 almost unassailable, although as others before, suffering isolated humiliations and set-backs.

Now comes the testing era.

The time when the USA, as other nations before, is yet again riven with bitter divisions. The turbulence of groups feeling long marginalised looking for equality, set against them a minority who has long and jealousy guarded its ephemeral superiority frantically inventing its own brand of victimisation to justify its stance. The House is Divided. And as is the case when a nation is not united come the rivals. Which is always the case in history as one power weakens another seeking to secure its own boundaries will move in. So come the enigmas of China and Russia, the former a mystery which despite constant pressures over the centuries is never subsumed, the latter a brooding 500 year old nation ever suspicious of all who sees buffer states as a defence. They do not suffer the same depth of division and they see advantages, albeit ones with risks, but nothing in internal diplomacy comes easy.

There never are simple solutions. There never were.

Of course, in this situation the rational response would be for the nation to look to a strong leader, who with a degree of delicate ruthlessness would bring all the squabbling parties together with the message of co-operation. This has sometimes worked in the USA, but in such a young nation still heady with its staunch belief in the independence of the individual and suspicion of central government, this does not come easy and requires a leader of judgement, discernment and one who has steeped themselves in the history of their nation who understands the drives, the fears and the wishes. Not just of a few but of ALL.

Now any nation’s leadership with an ounce of perception is cautious and calculating of the World Stage. They realise a matrix whose complications and interactions allow even one small turbulent state to bring into its circumstances larger powers and cause their downfall. Ask the dead of 1914-1918. Any nations looking for long term prosperity and survival appreciate the worth of allies, agreements and also understandings with nations it does not really care for. It also needs to invest in the goodwill of smaller folk. For as the old showbiz saying goes ‘Be nice on the way up. You’ll never know who you’ll meet on the way down.’

To those who feel a pride in the part the USA played in the reconstruction of the world after WWII there would be a sense of justifiable unease should their nation withdraw from the World Stage. Such vacuums are not filled by large, powerful, esoteric, benevolent groups whose existence can only be imagined in novels. History teaches us only powerful and less than charitable forces are likely to move in. Ask folk of the Middle East about the Sykes-Picot agreement.

Then there is Trade. Never forget Trade. Many was the Empire forged on Trade and not force of arms (apart from imposing will on weaker folk). Trade is, whether any socialist likes it or not, vital to the World Stage.

So, The Internal, The External and The Responsible. All have come calling upon the folk and the leadership of the USA, whether you like it or not. For there is no escaping The World Stage, ask any Aztec or Polynesian.

And to repeat, there are no simple solutions. Ask any professional diplomat of long service.

However, what does the USA have? Through the quirks of its voting system forced through by the fears, the disillusionments and confusions of a mobilised minority led by their vain messianic or scurrilous venal captains. Why, it has a simplistic child of privileged background, whose experience is in the shallow end of the entertainment sector and the nebulous world of high-end property development. A fellow who can only bluster and bully, whose attention span is woefully insubstantial for the World Stage. A person who makes no attempt to unite the nation or negotiate, who can only rant and rage for the entertainment of his voter base. Someone who thinks the World will do as the staff of any of his transitory companies would have done. This person whose legacy will at best be an argument against the Electoral College and a source of employment for historians of the popular sort.

Unto you then, folk of the USA, has come another challenging time. To rid yourselves of this ill-balanced, untalented and deluded group who are not suited to the unchanging complexities of the world. Who have not even bothered to read the History of this World. Those whose petulance, self-aggrandisement and woeful lack of subtlety will only serve to damage the long- term status of the USA. These little folk who pull down the shutters and pretend their train is moving.

On this sad day

As frequently happens, I am a day behind (I took a 4-day hiatus and am still playing catch-up), but my blogger-friend Carolyn Dennis-Willingham who writes as CD-W, Author Flawed to Perfection, wrote this post two days ago, a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. Yesterday, April 4th, was the anniversary of King’s assassination, a sad memory for those of us who remember King. Throughout the history of this nation, there has never been another who did as much for Civil Rights as Dr. King, nor has there been another who was able to speak as eloquently to make his point. Dr. King was an activist, yes, but he believed in change through non-violent means. Please take a moment to read this brief tribute to a great man whose life ended far too soon. Thank you, Carolyn, for this post and for permission to re-blog!

Author Perfectly Flawed

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Yesterday, April 3rd, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his last sermons in Memphis.

“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop…And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”

On this day, April 4th, he was assassinated.

God Bless You, Dr. King.

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Are We Doomed to Repeat the Past?

History is indeed cyclical and history does sometimes repeat itself, despite our best efforts to learn from the past. There are a number of not-so-shining examples around the globe today that may ultimately prove this point.

  1. With anti-Semitism seemingly on the rise in much of Europe, Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf is being re-published (the new version is 2,000 pages compared to the 800 page original) and it is reported that the German Teachers Union is in support of the new, annotated edition being used in German schools.  I am conflicted about the re-publication of the book, as I certainly do not advocate the banning of books, however I am not eager to see this book on shelves at my local bookseller.  I don’t think there is any danger of your average citizen grabbing it up and adopting the ideology of Hitler.  However, I do not see a reason to re-publish the book in the first place … it is nothing more than a treatise on anti-Semitism … and I am thoroughly against using it as a teaching tool or as required reading in schools.  When I hear the phrase “we will not forget”, whether in reference to the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, 9/11, or any other historic episode, I wonder whether that is true.  Certainly those of us who lived through any of those events will never forget, but what about future generations?  Has enough time passed that we have actually forgotten the lessons of Hitler’s domination and of the Holocaust?  Very few Holocaust survivors are still alive today, and those are 70+ years old.  In another twenty years, there will be none left to remind us.  Certainly there are enough books and films, but is that enough?  Is it possible that we might forget the lessons and be lured once again into the mentality of bigotry, narcissism and racism that was Hitler’s dark legacy?  I hope not, but I am not sure.  To use Mein Kampf in teaching school children seems a recipe for disaster.  Despite an overall decrease in the number of members of “official” neo-Nazi groups in Europe, neo-Nazi propaganda and activities have nearly doubled in the last three years. (Felicity Capon, Newsweek, 24 March 2015)
  2. It is becoming increasingly obvious that Vladimir Putin, President of Russia and a former KGB officer, is working toward a goal of resurrecting an empire similar to the USSR of yore.  In an address to the nation in April 2005, he is quoted as saying “ …we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century.” In March 2014, Putin annexed Crimea, then a part of the Ukraine, saying that “Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia”. He has also made statements that Ukraine and Russia are “one nation” on more than one occasion.  More recently, in September 2015, Putin lent military aid to support the crumbling al Assad regime in Syria.  (Colum Lynch, Foreign Policy, 7 October 2015).  Due to falling oil prices, the Russian economy is already crumbling, and yet Putin has somehow seen fit to involve his country in the war in Syria.  One must ask the question:  WHY?  It is a situation that bears watching.
  3. At here in the U.S., racism is yet again on the front lines.  A 2015 poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in conjunction with CNN found that 49% see racism as a big problem, as compared to just 28% four years ago.  Another 33% see it as “somewhat” of a problem, while only 12% think it is either a small problem, not a problem at all, or don’t know/don’t care.  Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s rhetoric in his bid for president seems to have given a boost to white supremacist groups such as Stormfront, a white supremacist group referring to themselves as “white nationalists”.  Much of today’s racism against African-Americans can be seen in events such as the murder of Trayvon Martin and the exoneration of his killer under Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody in Baltimore, Maryland as well as numerous others. The question becomes, are these events a cause of increased racism, or the effect?  I do not know the answer to that question, but before it goes any further, lawmakers, police departments and courts need to analyze and, in the words of Donald Trump, “figure out what’s going on”.  We cannot tolerate a return to the racist environment of the Civil Rights era, and that appears to be precisely where we are heading.

None of the above examples, taken at face value, indicate a return to the past.  There is still a long way to go until a neo-Nazi party comes to power in a European nation, or the Soviet empire returns to power in Eastern Europe, or the United States returns to the Civil Rights era of the 1950’s-1960’s.  But these are indicators that the winds may be blowing in that direction and I think it is prudent to realize this, be ever-vigilant and carefully elect leaders who will use their power to stop any further progression toward a return to a past that holds nothing but shame … a past that is made of “we will never forget” moments.