The House Select Committee hearings are studies of character. What we have seen seems courageous. It takes courage to bear witness to the truth when thugs are threatening your life over and over and over again, and when you can’t use your name any longer because it might bring harm to your mother, your grandmother, and yourself. But what we are looking at goes deeper than courage.
Integrity in high and low places
We have been looking at the integrity of those who did the right thing under pressure from the highest rung of American power. Integrity is the still point from which courage comes. Character that is true to itself was once expressed in the adage, “A man’s (sic) word is his (sic) bond.” Integrity is the alignment of word and deed, the plumb-line of conscience and responsibility. Almost two centuries ago, American writer Charles Caleb Colton wrote,
Straightforward and Simple Integrity
We have witnessed straightforward and simple integrity in high places — Secretaries of State Rusty Bowers (AZ) and Brad Raffensperger (GA); former Attorney General Bill Barr; the President’s daughter, Ivanka; leaders of the US Department of Justice, the White House Attorney — and in low places where most of us live and do our jobs without public recognition, people like Ms Shaye Moss and her mother, “Lady Ruby,” in Fulton County (GA).
Integrity and trustworthiness are the brick and mortar that keep a house from falling. Tricks and duplicity, like termites and carpenter ants, slowly destroy the foundations and eat away the framework of the house we take for granted. The infestation — Donald Trump’s Constitutional mischief; the once-upon-a-time Grand Old Party’s steadfast complicity in promoting of the Big Lie; three Supreme Court justices who were confirmed only after well-scripted assurances that they regarded Roe v Wade as settled precedent, and, as such, would not overturn Roe v Wade— is eating away the trust and respect without which a house creaks and crumbles.
Securing the House: “I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to”
Moments before Rep. Bennie Thomson gaveled the June 21 hearing to order, Republican Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bower received a letter from the 45th President of the United States of America “remind” Mr. Bower of something he never said. Speaker Bower testified under oath that he had never, ever, at any time, anywhere, under any circumstances said the election was rigged. The reminder was a lie.
Mr. Bower’s resistance to repeated pressure from the White House was an act of integrity. “It’s a central tenet of my faith,” he said.” Violating the Constitution is foreign to my very being. I will not do it.” In his diary he had written, “It is painful to have friends…turn on me with such rancor.” But “I do not want to be a winner by cheating. I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to.”
“I know sage, wormwood, and hyssop, but I can’t smell character unless it stinks.
edward dahlberg, “On Human Nature,” Reasons of the Heart, 1965.
The View from Above and the View from Below
Some people view the world from above. They see through eyes of power, possession and privilege. Most of us see life from the lower places of the dis-enfranchised, the dispossessed, the powerless, the forgotten, and those who feed their children, struggle to make the month’s rent, pay the utility bills, find a doctor or a warm blanket in a homeless shelter. They do not call attention to themselves.
Among those who see the world from below are Ms. Shaye Moss, an election worker for the past 10 years in Fulton County, Georgia, and her mother “Lady Ruby,” whose lives were turned upside down by a phone call from the President to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
When asked what had passed between them at the poling site, Shaye Moss, looking over her shoulder at Lady Ruby and smiled. She answered, “A ginger mint.”
Gordon C. Stewart, public theologian, author of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (2017 Wipf and Stock), writing from Brooklyn Park, MN, June 22, 2022.
A crowd of students gathers on the university plaza at 11:00 p.m. for a parade to a bonfire. They walk by torch-light with drums drumming through the streets of the city, followed by a truck, on their way to the Opera House where a huge pile of wood is waiting. By the time they arrive, the crowd has grown to 30,000, eager for the match to be struck.
A voice thunders across the plaza:
The age of arrogant Jewish intellectualism is now at an end! . . . You are doing the right thing at this midnight hour — to consign to the flames the unclean spirit of the past. This is a great, powerful, and symbolic act. . . . Out of these ashes the phoenix will rise. . . . O Century! O Science! It is a joy to be alive!
The date was May 10 of 1933. The speaker was newly appointed Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. The event was part of “Action Against the un-German Spirit,” a program developed in April by the German Student Union’s Office of Press and Propaganda. At midnight of May 10, 1933, the sights, sounds, and scent of bonfires filled the air of every university town in Germany.
A member of the SA throws confiscated books into the bonfire during the public burning of “un-German” books on the Opernplatz in Berlin.” — United States Holocaust Museum.
The Twelve Theses
“Action against the un-German Spirit” was accompanied by another product of the Student Union leader gathering on April 8. “Twelve Theses,” 12 short statements designed to appeal to German Lutherans’ celebration of Martin Luther’s posting of 95 thesis on the Wittenburg Church door. The “Twelve Theses” were published and posted everywhere. In spirit and tone the “Twelve Theses” was the fitting companion of “Action Against the un-German Spirit.”
The students described their action as a “response to a worldwide Jewish smear campaign against Germany and an affirmation of traditional German values.” The following excerpts illustrate the tone.
"Language and literature have their roots in the people. It is the German people’s responsibility to assure that its language and literature are the pure and unadulterated expression of its Folk traditions.” “Purity of language is your responsibility!” “Our most dangerous enemy is the Jew and those who are his slaves…. "A Jew can only think Jewish. If he writes in German, he is lying. The German who writes in German, but thinks un-German, is a traitor!”
“We want to regard the Jew as alien… The unGerman spirit is to be eradicated from public libraries.” "At present there is a chasm between literature and German tradition. This situation is a disgrace." “We demand of German students the desire and capability to overcome Jewish intellectualism and the resulting liberal decay in the German spirit.”
On the List
The list of “unclean spirit”…”un-German”… or “anti-German” literature was long. Among the 4,000 books to be purged were the works of Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann, Hellen Keller, Jack London, H.G. Wells, Karl Marx, Erich Maria Remarque, Sigmund Freud, and Heinrich Heine.
Heinrich Heine was a widely-read 19th Century German poet, journalist and essayist whose prescient line in Almansor: A Tragedy, published a century before in 1823, hit too close for comfort in 1933.
“Where they have burned books, they will, in the end, burn people, too.”
–Poet Heinrich Heine, 1823
February 1, 2022, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota in the U.S.A.
At dawn I take the dog out and bring in the paper. “Campaign to ban books spreads across the U.S.” leaps from the front page, as had a report two days ago —“School Board in Tennessee Bans Teaching of Holocaust Novel ‘Maus’” NYT, Jan. 27.” The Tennessee school board had voted to remove the novel “Maus” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Art Spiegelman because it contains swear words, according to the board minutes. The vote was unanimous.
When Art Spiegelman learned that “Maus” — his Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about his family’s experience during the Holocaust — had been banned by a Tennessee school board, he told the Washington Post exactly what he thought of the antisemitic decision:
“It’s part of a continuum, and just a harbinger of things to come. This is a red alert.”
Art Spiegelman to Washington post re: censorship
Book burnings, censorship and purging have a history. Most often the books are judged as unclean, not pure, unpatriotic, unChristian, un-this and anti-that, un-American and anti-American, etc. Yesterday’s NYTimes article (Jan. 31, 2022) on book-banning cites a poignant quote by Lauri Halsi Anderson, contemporary author of young adult books.
"By attacking these books, by attacking these authors, by attacking the subject matter, what they are doing is removing the possibility for conversation. You are laying the groundwork for increasing bullying, disrespect, violence and attacks."
Letter to Benjamin Franklin, September 24, 1765
Correspondence between “Founding Fathers” Charles Thomson and Benjamin Franklin is preserved in the National Archives. Thomson’s letter to Franklin now feels as prescient in the U.S.A. as Heinrich Heine’s line was for Germany.
“The Sun of Liberty is indeed fast setting, if not down already, in the American colonies: But I much fear instead of the candles you mention being lighted, you will hear of the works of darkness.” — Charles Thomson: letter to Benjamin Franklin, September 24, 1765 .
At the time of Thompson’s letter, “the Sons of Liberty” were turning to violence and intimidation in response to the Stamp Act. Franklin was a principled Quaker committed to reason, civility and non-violence. Franklin would likely have chuckled at Thomson’s play on words, but not at the warning of the works of darkness.
Conroe, Texas, U.S.A – January 30, 2022
“If I run and if I win,” declares Donald Trump to a cheering crowd in Conroe Texas,”we will treat those people from January 6 fairly. And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons because they are being treated so unfairly.”
He accuses Black prosecutors of racism. “These prosecutors are vicious, horrible people. They’re racists and they’re very sick, they’re mentally sick. They’re going after me without any protection of my rights from the Supreme Court or most other courts. In reality, they’re not after me, they’re after you…. If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protest we have ever had in Washington, D.C, in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere.”
A little gray Maus who’d been shooed off the stage quivers and squeals to the audience, “This is a red alert!”
Gordon C. Stewart, public theologian, author of “Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness” (2017 Wipf and Stock), Brooklyn Park, MN, Feb. 3, 2022.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a pre-emptive statement declaring their refusal to put boots on the street in the event the Commander-in-Chief declares Marshall Law. Even so, President Trump is not left without options. He has other troops, like the stormtroopers who stormed through the Capitol, threatened to hang the Vice President, kill the Speaker of the House, and succeeded in driving Congress into a secure bunker, while their commander-in-chief watched the news coverage and observed an unholy silence.
More dangerous than the motley mob believes the election was stolen are later intelligence reports of the presence and front-line leadership of soldiers well trained in military tactics, whether a random collection of ex-military personnel, or something more organized, like the “silent professionals” of Blackwater/Xe and other privately owned security companies. Click Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army for Jeremy Scahill’s Polk Award book (2007, Nation Books), or take a look at this excerpt from a New York Times Worst Seller List author.
The Minnpost article was written eleven years ago. It bothered me then. It bothers me more now. I have no evidence that Blackwater/Xe or some similar “security” and training center was involved in the planning and execution of the January 6 insurrection. All I have is questions about “silent professionals” and the memory of a question asked in 2019. Within days of the Capitol attack, intelligence sources identified trained professionals as leaders who led those untrained in military equipment and tactics.
Pardons and Shadows
Blackwater/Xe, pictured here in Afghanistan (since re-branded Academi) still operates in the shadows under government contracts with the U.S. Department of State to protect U.S. embassies and with the DOD in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But there are moments — like the presidential pardons of four Blackwater “guards” found guilty of a massacre of 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad — when Blackwater comes into public view. Following Trump’s pardon, the lawyer representing the victims’ families in Baghdad spoke to an NPR reporter.
The Slaughter of Innocents
“This was Baghdad’s Bloody Sunday,” she said. “This was the slaughter of innocent civilians who were merely going about their day when a Blackwater convoy rolled through a traffic circle after having violated orders to stand down and not exit the Green Zone — and began firing indiscriminately into cars that were carrying people going to work.” A member of a victim’s family lamented pardons, calling the Blackwater guards “criminals, murderers and thugs. expressed his shock. “Today we were surprised that the American president issued a decision to pardon these criminals, murderers and thugs. I’m really shocked. … The American judiciary is fair and equitable. I had never imagined that Trump or any other politician would affect American justice.”
Pardoned Felon Gen. Mike Flynn returns as Trump confidante and advisor
Retired General Mike Flynn, the 25th U.S. National Security Advisor, fired, indicted, and convicted felon, later pardoned as a “great patriot,” has the president’s ear again. According to multiple news reports, Flynn and Sidney Powell have advised the president to invoke Marshall Law to order the confiscation of voting machines in the states he claims to have won. Given the president’s state of mind and knowing that he will face multiple criminal indictments and civil suits after vacating the Oval Office, and knowing the nationwide civil unrest his supporters will create this weekend, is it far-fetched to imagine him declaring Marshall Law under the guise of preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic?
Privatizing the War in Afghanistan
Eight years after selling Blackwater/Xe in 2009, Erik Prince broke the silence of silent professionals in 2017 with an op ed in the Wall Street Journal. “The MacArthur Model for Afghanistan” (May 31, 2017) criticized the DOD’s restrictive Rules of Engagement and proposed appointment of a Viceroy with freedom to privatize the war in Afghanistan as he saw fit. The Viceroy would report directly to the President, thereby by-passing the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
By the time of the WSJ column, Mr. Prince had sold Blackwater/Xe, and founded Project Veritas, a private intelligence company that recruits former British spies and CIA agents to conduct secretive intelligence-gathering and infiltrations of the Democratic Party, Black Lives Matter, liberal movements, groups, and labor unions hostile to the Trump agenda. Among the botched Project Veritas cases targeted was the American Federation of Teachers. Erik Prince is the younger brother of Betsy Prince DeVos, the Trump Administration Secretary of Education until her recent resignation.
Blackwater/Xe and Project Veritas are two among a host of right-of-center “security” companies that hire out trained military, intelligence, and police personnel through public and private contracts.
Days before a second wave of domestic terror hits the US Capitol and state capitols this Martin Luther King Day and the January 20 Inauguration, does any of that bother you?
Donald Trump’s long-time lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen reminded Congress during the first impeachment hearings that his old boss doesn’t talk like us.
“That’s not how he talks. He talks in code.”
The Code of Insurrection
President Trump’s silence in the wake of the cyber attack on America national security seemed to speak as loud as words. He stayed silent, as he had after George Floyd’s murder until clearing a lawful protest from Lafayette Park to hold up and Bible and proclaim himself our law-and-order president. The Capitol on January 6 was not protected, raising the question of how that happened.
“The plan was a failure,” by every account. Was it? The appearance of white supremacist thugs on January 6 was not an accident. It happened by the president’s invitation. It was the president who then told them to march up to the Capitol during the normally ceremonial Congressional vote to approve the Electoral College’s certification. It was Roy Cohn’s apprentice and Michael Cohen’s old boss who spoke by silence when his supporters breached the security of the building where the Constitution is meant to be preserved and protected. The president failed to defend it. He and his closest advisors watched the attack on television, smiling and laughing like guys at a frat beer party.
What was the plan? Was it a failure? Or had “the plan” been a rousing success? Why was the security presence so much less than it was the day the Administration violated the First Amendment-protected peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration in Lafayette Park? Who refused Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s offer of the National Guard to help secure the Capitol, and why was it refused in the midst of a national crisis? Why did some Capitol Police Officers seem to enjoy taking selfies with insurrectionists? Why was there no word from the White House or anyone in the Trump Administration while MAGA marauders rampaged through the Capitol?
Where were the Homeland Security special forces without identification that had mysteriously descended on a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Portland, Oregon? Why did Homeland Security wait until the shards were being swept from the Capitol floor to show up?
A Page from an Old Playbook
“Whether he realizes it or not,” wrote Jeffery C. Billman (Orlando Weekly, September 9, 2020), “Trump has borrowed a page from the fascist playbook.
This is the truth: Whether he realizes it or not, Trump has borrowed a page from the fascist playbook. I’m not referring to his well-documented authoritarianism or even his willingness to steal the election if he can’t win it legitimately. Nor am I suggesting that Trump is planning a genocide. I’m talking specifically about inciting violence against leftist protesters. That’s how fascists claimed power in the 1920s and ’30s. The Nazis sent Brownshirts to left-wing gatherings to provoke street fights and instigate chaos, most famously the Red Wedding rally in 1927, in which more than 100 people were injured. They then portrayed themselves as victims of leftist anarchy. Sound familiar?
Like Jeffery Billman, Views from the Edge has called attention to the borrowed playbooks, Mein Kampf and The Speeches of Hitler, perhaps too often. But I’m old. I remember. I am still in part the three-year old sitting around the dinner table with my mother and grandparents, listening to the evening radio broadcast. I was my grandson Elijah’s age, fearing my father would not make it home from his air base n the South Pacific. My grandparents were conservative Republicans. They didn’t like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but he was their one and only President pledged to defend the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke complete sentences and paragraphs from his wheelchair. He didn’t give instructions by code and silence. It would not have occurred to them that the president they didn’t like could be Domestic Enemy Number One.
By reason of Insanity and by reason of cowardice
Between now and January 2021 a man who belongs in the hospital for the criminally insane remains the only human being on the planet sworn to defend the U.S. Constitution against himself. More than 100 Members of the House of Representatives and six Senators who cannot plead “Not guilty by reason of insanity” will plead innocent return to their seats in the Capitol they have failed to preserve and protect. Given the opportunity to take action to remove their party’s leader, they will fail again to keep their oaths of office.
January 17, 2021
If January 6, 2021 was unprecedented and horrifying, January 17 may be worse.January 17 is the day the Proud Boys and Trump supporting comrades will return to the nation’s Capitol. The social chaos produced by ramped-up mob attack will become the president’s public reason to save the nation by invoking Marshall Law.
Cabinet Invokes 25th Amendment
What happens next is anybody’s guess. What might have happened appeared in a June, 2018 Views from the Edge commentary. Click Trump Cabinet Invokes 25th Amendment for a tongue-in-cheek description that was, in fact, fake news.
Today Martin Luther King Jr’s successor was elected to the U.S. Senate. It was also the day Senators and Representatives wore gas masks in their chambers of the nation’s Capitol. Yesterday’s elections of Rafael Warlock and Jon Ossof in Georgia is an historic moment never to be forgotten by historians. Whether it will become a footnote depends in part on the Trump far-right occupation of the Capitol where the work of representative democracy tales place.
“We’re still fighting, and you’re going to see what’s going to happen.”
Donald J. Trump to rally in Dalton, GA, Monday, January 4, 2021.
Today we saw what was going to happen
“Liberate Michigan,” “Stay back and stand by (Proud Boys)”, and get ready for “trial by combat” (Rudy Giuliani today) beg for answers. How and why was the U.S. Capitol security left so insecure?
The President was silent until a tepid text and video that stoked the fire he lit. Where was Homeland Security? Where was the U.S. Attorney General? Where were the federal agents who cleared Lafayette Park so the president could hold up a Bible the book in front of the Saint James Episcopal Church, and return to declare himself “your law-and-order President”?
The violent insurrection that invaded the U.S Capitol today is an act of domestic terrorism orchestrated by domestic enemy #1 and supported by 12 cowardly senators and 100-plus representatives who broke their oaths of office.
Stopping it now
May Congress re-convene tonight to finish its constitutional responsibility of approving the Electoral College certification of the 2020 election. But do not stop there. Ask how and why the Capitol was so unprotected, and move now to remove the president before he does worse in the two weeks he will remain at the desk of the Oval Office: Declare Marshal Law as the guardian of law-and-order, a military attack on Iran’s nuclear research sites, and who knows what else.
Who needs foreign enemies when you have a law-and-order domestic terrorist inciting a coup d’etat in the homeland? Do it now. Before it’s too late. Do it, members of the House and Senate, before America becomes the cuckoo’s nest. Impeach him and send the men in white coats before the country loses its soul to Mein Kampf.
This commentary has been in process for days. It hasn’t been posted here because I find it impossible to keep up with the news –anything I might say is already passé — or because sources like Heather Richardson’s daily Letters from an American do what I attempt to do better. But this period of social turmoil has led to me to see what should have been obvious. I write from a faith perspective that seeks to writeI from a faith perspective but not to a faith perspective. I write as a public theologian; write for anyone who cares to listen.
Encountering the Diabolical
You don’t have to believe in a Devil with horns and a pitchfork to recognize the diabolical. The Greek word in the New Testament is diabolos. The diabolical is “characteristic of the Devil, or so evil as to be suggestive of a Devil” (Oxford online dictionary). Synonyms include fiendish, heinous, hellish, vicious, vile, cruel, wicked (Thesaurus.com). Like the calls to action from Conservative Direct that confused me for a friend.
December 10, 8:42 A.M.
We will not bend.
We will not break.
We will not yield.
We will never give in.
We will never give up.
We will never back down.
We will NEVER, ever surrender!
We are Americans, and our hearts bleed RED, WHITE, AND BLUE.
The Left is trying to TAKE the White House from YOUR President, and, for the sake of our Country’s future, I need YOU to step up and help us SECURE THE SENATE!
THE LEFT WILL TRY TO STEAL THE ELECTION!
PRESIDENT TRUMP NEEDS YOU TO FIGHT BACK
[photo of angry DJT]
Please contribute ANY AMOUNT IMMEDIATELY to FIGHT FOR AMERICA and to PROTECT the Senate from the Radical Left.
Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
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The gift of Mistaken Identity
I don’t know how Conservative Direct put me on its email list, but I’m glad they did. Now I know. The emails to Donald Trump’s “Friends” and “BEST Supporters” provide a look inside a narrative that helps explain how good people get caught swept up in what the Bible calls the demonic, the diabolical, the satanic twisting that turns goodness into evil.
I meet diabolos every day. in heinous tweets and news clips. The list of the diabolical speech and action is long and endless. (“It’s a hoax. The coronavirus is a Democrat hoax,” he says to the American public while telling Robert Woodward he knew but didn’t want the American people to panic. “I don’t know the woman. I’ve never met the woman. You’ll have to ask Michael.” “I don’t know anything about that. Ask Rudy.” “There’s no quid pro quo.” “I won the election! It was stolen.” Iconic Civil Rights leaders Elijah Cummings and John Lewis go unacknowledged while the First Lady drapes the medal over Rush Limbaugh to loud applause from the Right side and the silence of disbelief from the other. And that’s doesn’t begin to tell the story.
Echoes from Narcissus and Joe McCarthy
The Conservative Direct emails call conscientious patriots to fight against Leftists — people like me — while echoing the desperate cry of a thirsty Narcissus in the snarly tone of Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn whose early ’50s campaign saw Communists like Pete Seeger hiding in the entertainment industry, the U.S. military, and government offices until Army defense counsel Joseph Welch stood up to McCarthy with the rebuke that rang out across the American public in Edward R. Murrow’s nightly news broadcast.
Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild … Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator; you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
Joseph Welch to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, June 9, 1954.
Earlier that same day, Welch had challenged Roy Cohn, McCarthy’s staff attorney, to give the FBI and Department of Defense McCarthy’s list of 130 alleged subversives “before the sun goes down.” McCarthy fired back, claiming that Fred Fisher, a young member of Welch’s law firm, had Communist ties. Welch called out McCarthy in words that many American citizens wish we could say to the President and elected representatives of the GOP who fear being on Mr. Trump’s hit list:
“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. … I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think I am a gentle man but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me.”
Joseph Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy after McCarthy sullied the character of Fred Fisher.
Roy Cohn later tutored a young Donald Trump and signed on in the capacity later held by Michael Cohn. Like Michael, Roy was thrown under the bus when he was no longer useful.
Diabolos and Democracy
A week ago the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear arguments in the frivolous lawsuit alleging fraud in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 2020 election. The Court’s unanimous decision without comment was a sharp rebuke by all nine Justices, included Mr. Trump’s three appointments to the Court. Yet the public relations legal charade did not end there. The narrative continued with the Texas Attorney General’s suit against the States of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia. Seventeen other GOP State attorneys general filed amicus briefs and 106 GOP Congressional Representatives put their names on the Trump support list knowing full well that no state has legal standing to challenge another state’s election process, let alone void other States elections.
Tonight the Supreme Court put an end to it. The U.S. Supreme Court — six Justices appointed by Republican presidents and three by Democratic presidents — did its job. They exercised their oath to maintain the rule of law in faithfulness under the U.S. Constitution.
The president refuses to acknowledge his defeat. He is delusional. So is his party. Every member of the U.S. Congress — every Senator and Representative — owes it to the American people to fulfill their oaths to uphold the Constitution — not to seditious Commander-in-Chief or his party. To stay silent while the president eviscerates the institutions on which democracy depends, firing competent public servants and replacing them with incompetent sycophants loyal to him is to be guilty of aiding and abetting treason.
A Leech and a Wrecking Ball
Every day that passes is another day we hear the clanging of the wrecking ball. Every day we wonder whether you, the members of Congress, hear it too. We hope against hope that you stand up for us, for democracy, and for yourselves, that you have the courage to remove Diabolos, the leech that is sucking America dry. That you will do what the president has failed or refused to do: “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies foreign and domestic.” You will be on the list, but you will stand tall as a patriot. No foreign country has the power to incite violence on American soil or to invoke Marshall Law to restore law and order to void an election. Only a domestic enemy can do that.
It’s not over til it’s over
The Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois, Wolverine Watchman, Aryan Brotherhood, other well-armed white supremacist, and, God forbid it should become so, Blackwater Xi, the private for-hire mercenary “security” operation whose employees former U.S. special forces personnel — click here for Views from the Edge’s previous Minnpost commentary on Blackwater Xi — are staying back and standing down, waiting for the whistle to take the streets.
Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, author of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (Wipf and Stock, 2017) and host of Views from the Edge.
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American historian Heather Cox Richardson summarizes the latest political developments. Each morning she draws from multiple news sources, but she speaks only for herself. She has no need to shout. No need to draw attention to herself. Like a neurosurgeon in an operating room, she speaks softly while opening the patient’s skull in hopes of healing. What she finds in America today is life-threatening. She also offers hope. We re-post her reflections from last Monday. Click the link below to read it online.
Letters from an American
September 6, 2020
Heather Cox Richardson
Earlier this week, New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo warned that American democracy is ending. He pointed to political violence on the streets, the pandemic, unemployment, racial polarization, and natural disasters, all of which are destabilizing the country, and noted that Republicans appear to have abandoned democracy in favor of a cult-like support for Donald Trump. They are wedded to a narrative based in lies, as the president dismantles our non-partisan civil service and replaces it with a gang of cronies loyal only to him.
He is right to be worried.
Just the past few days have demonstrated that key aspects of democracy are under attack.
Democracy depends on the rule of law. Today, we learned that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who rose to become a Cabinet official thanks to his prolific fundraising for the Republican Party, apparently managed to raise as much money as he did because he pressured employees at his business, New Breed Logistics, to make campaign contributions that he later reimbursed through bonuses. Such a scheme is illegal. A spokesman said that Dejoy “believes that he has always followed campaign fundraising laws and regulations,” but records show that many of DeJoy’s employees only contributed money to political campaigns when they worked for him.
Democracy depends on equality before the law. But Black and brown people seem to receive summary justice at the hands of certain law enforcement officers, rather than being accorded the right to a trial before a jury of their peers. In a democracy, voters elect representatives who make laws that express the will of the community. “Law enforcement officers” stop people who are breaking those laws, and deliver them to our court system, where they can tell their side of the story and either be convicted of breaking the law, or acquitted. When police can kill people without that process, justice becomes arbitrary, depending on who holds power.
Democracy depends on reality-based policy. Increasingly it is clear that the Trump administration is more concerned about creating a narrative to hold power than it is in facts. Today, Trump tweeted that “Our Economy and Jobs are doing really well,” when we are in a recession (defined as two quarters of negative growth) and unemployment remains at 8.4%.
This weekend, the drive to create a narrative led to a new low as the government launched an attempt to control how we understand our history. On Friday, the administration instructed federal agencies to end training on “critical race theory,” which is a scary-sounding term for the idea that, over time, our laws have discriminated against Black and brown people, and that we should work to get rid of that discriminatory pattern.
Today, Trump tweeted that the U.S. Department of Education will investigate whether California schools are using curriculum based on the 1619 Project from the New York Times, which argues that American history should center on the date of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to Chesapeake shores. Anyone using such curriculum, he said, would lose funding. Government interference in teaching our history echoes the techniques of dictatorships. It is unprecedented in America.
Democracy depends on free and fair suffrage. The White House is trying to undermine our trust in the electoral system by claiming that mail-in ballots can be manipulated and will usher in fraud. While Trump has been arguing this for a while, last week Attorney General William Barr, a Trump loyalist, also chimed in, offering a false story that the Justice Department had indicted a Texas man for filling out 1700 absentee ballots. In fact, in 2017, one man was convicted of forging one woman’s signature on a mail-in ballot in a Dallas City Council race. Because mail-in ballots have security barcodes and require signatures to be matched to a registration form, the rate of ballot fraud is vanishingly small: there have been 491 prosecutions in all U.S. nationwide elections from 2000 to 2012, when billions of ballots were cast.
Interestingly, an intelligence briefing from the Department of Homeland Security released Friday says that Russia is spreading false statements identical to those Trump and Barr are spreading. The bulletin says that Russian actors “are likely to promote allegations of corruption, system failure, and foreign malign interference to sow distrust in Democratic institutions and election outcomes.” They are spreading these claims through state-controlled media, fake websites, and social media trolls.
At the same time, we know that the Republicans are launching attempts to suppress Democratic votes. Last Wednesday, we learned that Georgia has likely removed 200,000 voters from the rolls for no reason. In December 2019, the Georgia Secretary of State said officials had removed 313,243 names from the rolls in an act of routine maintenance because they were inactive and the voters had moved, but nonpartisan experts found that 63.3% of those voters had not, in fact, moved. They were purged from the rolls in error.
And, in what was perhaps an accident, in South Carolina, voters’ sample ballots did not include Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, although they did include the candidates for the Green, Alliance, and Libertarian parties. When The Post and Courier newspaper called their attention to the oversight, the State Election Commission, which is a Republican-majority body appointed by a staunch Trump supporter, updated the ballots.
Democracy depends on the legitimacy of (at least) two political parties. Opposition parties enable voters unhappy with whichever group of leaders is in power to articulate their positions without undermining the government itself. They also watch leaders carefully, forcing them to combat corruption within their ranks.
This administration has sought to delegitimize Democrats as “socialists” and “radicals” who are not legitimate political players. Just today, Trump tweeted: “The Democrats, together with the corrupt Fake News Media, have launched a massive Disinformation Campaign the likes of which has never been seen before.”
For its part, the Republican Party has essentially become the Trump Party, not only in ideology and loyalty but in finances. Yesterday we learned that Trump and the Republican National Committee have spent close to $60 million from campaign contributors on Trump’s legal bills. Matthew Sanderson, a campaign finance lawyer for Republican presidential candidates, told the New York Times, “Vindicating President Trump’s personal interests is now so intertwined with the interests of the Republican Party they are one and the same — and that includes the legal fights the party is paying for now.”
The administration has refused to answer to Democrats in Congress, ignoring subpoenas with the argument that Congress has no power to investigate the executive branch, despite precedent for such oversight going all the way back to George Washington’s administration. Just last week, a federal appeals court said that Congress has no power to enforce a subpoena because there is no law that gives it the authority to do so. This essentially voids a subpoena the House issued last year to former White House counsel Don McGahn, demanding he testify about his dealings with Trump over the investigation into the ties of the Trump campaign to Russia. (The decision will likely be challenged.)
On September 4, U.S. Postal Service police officers refused Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) entry to one USPS facility in Opa-Locka, Florida and another in Miami. Although she followed the procedures she had followed in the past, this time the local officials told her that the national USPS leadership had told them to bar her entry. “Ensuring only authorized parties enter nonpublic areas of USPS facilities is part of a Postal Police officer’s normal duties, said Postal Inspector Eric Manuel. Wasserman Schultz is a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
And finally, democracy depends on the peaceful transition of power. Trump has repeatedly suggested that he will not leave office because the Democrats are going to cheat.
So we should definitely worry.
But should we despair? Absolutely not.
Convincing people the game is over is one of the key ways dictators take power. Scholars warn never to consent in advance to what you anticipate an autocrat will demand. If democracy were already gone, there would be no need for Trump and his people to lie and cheat and try to steal this election.
And I would certainly not be writing this letter.
Americans are coming together from all different political positions to fight this attack on our democracy, and we have been in similar positions before. In 1858, Abraham Lincoln spoke under similar circumstances, and noted that Americans who disagreed on almost everything else could still agree to defend their country, just as we are now. Ordinary Americans “rose each fighting, grasping whatever he could first reach---a scythe---a pitchfork-- a chopping axe, or a butcher's cleaver,” he said. And “when the storm shall be past,” the world “shall find us still Americans; no less devoted to the continued Union and prosperity of the country than heretofore.”
Click HERE and scroll down to review the sources for this issue or to SUBSCRIBE to Letters from an American.
Some might call it treason and mistreason to do and to ignore what they cannot help but know: the strategic sabotage of a constitutional democratic republic some “losers and suckers” (DJT) still serve and some of us still pray and sing.
With thanks to Heather Cox Richarrdson,
Gordon C. Stewart, Views from the Edge, Chaska, MN, September 9, 2020.
Good cartoons pack a wallop. They go to the heart of the matter. They squeeze book into a small picture frame. Steve Sack’s “GOT A LIGHT?” in Saturday’s Star Tribune does that. As we enter the home-stretch toward Election Day 2020, “Got a light?” cuts through the smoke and mirrors to issue a warning: “Don’t be stupid!”
Don’t strike the match that fuels the Trump campaign. Don’t be stupid!
White Supremacy dressed in Black: “Umbrella Man”
The backdrop for “Got a Light?” is the moment alleged to have turned a lawful citizen protest following George Floyd’s murder into a lawless scene of window-breaking, looting, and torching of the Third Precinct headquarters of the Minneapolis Police Department. A cell phone video preserved the provocative behavior of an unidentified white man dressed in black, wearing a gas mask, and holding an open umbrella on a sunny day. The video went viral.
The StarTribune reported that, before he smashed the store windows on Lake Street with a 4-pound sledge-hammer, “Umbrella Man” had spray-painted “free [expletive] for everyone” on the doors of AutoZone. Who was the white provocateur who lit the match that turned a peaceful protest into a riot? Why was he there so conspicuously?
"Investigators finally caught a break when a tipster e-mailed the MPD identifying him as a member of the Hells Angels biker gang who 'wanted to sow discord and racial unrest by breaking out the windows and writing what he did on the double doors.'
“Subsequent Investigation claims his association with the Aryan Cowboys Brotherhood, ‘a small white supremacist prison and street gang based primarily in Minneapolis and Kentucky.'”
Whether or not those claims are true, one thing is certain. The white man dressed in black holding an open umbrella on a sunny day appeared suddenly, shattered windows, and casually slipped away. He came from somewhere. He returned to somewhere. Umbrella Man was not a demonstrator. He did not come to protest the killing of George Floyd. He was a provocateur.
Both “agent provocateur” and the shortened “provocateur” can refer to someone (such as an undercover police officer or a political operative) whose job is to incite people to break the law so that they can be arrested, but only “provocateur” is used in English with the more general sense of “one who provokes.”
American White Alt-Right nationalist provocateurs like Umbrella Man may seem strange, but they are not new. The difference is they longer wear white hoods, carry torches, or burn crosses on the lawns of Black houses. They have no need to work under cover of darkness. The occupant of the White House permits encourages them to light matches in broad daylight to provoke the civil unrest that will rally an electorate to heed his call to establish law and order.
During the press conference the eve before his visit Kenosha, a President of the United States of America again refused to denounce the lawless abuse of power that killed Jacob Blake. Today, defying the expressed request of the grieving family, the mayor, the Governor and other Wisconsin elected officials, the president made his appearance, praising the police and adding further insult by answering a journalist’s question directed to the grieving parents of Jake Blake. The president again stoked the fires of white supremacist lawlessness, encouraging white men holding umbrellas on a bright sunny day to create the civil turmoil that will get him re-elected. “I am your law-and-order President!” “Russia, if you’re listening . . .
Provocateurs and the Rise to Power
The Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler rode to power on the civil unrest created by the Sturmabteilung (SA), the Nazi Party’s paramilitary, whose acts of violence they blamed on Leftists, anarchists, traitors, and non-Aryans created a climate that would welcome the Strong Man.
Once in office, Hitler no longer needed the SA or their commander, Ernst Röhm, whose loyalty he had come to doubt. When Herman Göring and Heinrich Himmler alleged that Röhm was organizing a coup, Hitler authorized and led the covert operation that became known as the Night of the Long Knives, the murder of SA leaders, including Röhm, whom Hitler had ordered to gather at a hotel in Bad Wiessee, a small town far from public notice. Eighty-five SA officers were murdered on the spot, or, like Röhm, taken to Berlin to be executed.
Cruelty Does Not Stay Masked Forever
Some things cannot be kept quiet. When the press began to learn of the purge, Reich “Minister Without Portfolio” Joseph Göring ordered newspapers not to publish the names of the dead, and ordered police stations to burn “all documents concerning the action of the past two days.” Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda Hermann Goebbels went on the radio to announce to the nation that Hitler had prevented traitors from overthrowing the government and throwing the country into turmoil. Eleven days later (July 13, 1934) Hitler gave the nationally broadcast speech to the Reichstag (the German equivalent of the U.S. Congress) in which he conflated the nation and himself. The strong man who has promises to make Germany great again proclaimed himself “the Supreme Judge of the German people” and called those who opposed him traitors.
If anyone reproaches me and asks why I did not resort to the regular courts of justice, then all I can say is this. In this hour I was responsible for the fate of the German people, and thereby I became the supreme judge of the German people. I gave the order to shoot the ringleaders in this treason, and I further gave the order to cauterise down to the raw flesh the ulcers of this poisoning of the wells in our domestic life. Let the nation know that its existence—which depends on its internal order and security—cannot be threatened with impunity by anyone! And let it be known for all time to come that if anyone raises his hand to strike the State, then certain death is his lot.
Adolf Hitler, broadcast speech to the Reichstag, July 13, 1934.
Concerned with the potential resistance of the Reichstag and the courts, Hitler’s cabinet pasted a veneer of legality over the purge: “The measures taken on June 30, July 1 and 2 to suppress treasonous assaults are legal as acts of self-defense by the State.”
Germany Then and America Now
There is no official equivalent of the SA in the USA. But neither the president nor his storm troopers need a command structure to carry out the mission they share. Provocateurs like Umbrella Man need the the Commander-in-Chief to stay silent and shift the blame to the non-Aryans among us.
Is it unreasonable to suppose a president with no moral compass, fearful of losing his bid for re-election, at risk of losing his fight to keep his tax returns from public scrutiny, and facing multiple felony indictments after leaving office would use the provocateur’s playbooks his first ex-wife and the co-author allege to have been only books in his bedroom, Mein Kampf and The Speeches of Hitler?
During 3+ years in the Oval Office, Donald Trump has succeeded in doing what no president before him had accomplished. He’s told more lies than the cumulative lies of all his predecessors, an accomplishment that history will remember as his singular achievement.
The stories we tell about ourselves shape our reality. Facts may or may not matter. Objective reality may or may not matter. The trustworthiness of the story-teller may or may not matter. It’s the narrative that matters. Even the best convictions are vulnerable to burglary.
Burglars rob houses that belong to other people. They don’t claim to own the houses they’ve burgled. They don’t occupy the houses they burgle. They don’t break tradition by making nationally televised speeches on the lawn of the house they’ve burgled.
The 2020 Campaign Speech — a Burglar’s Narrative on the People’s Lawn
Last night some owners of the burgled house on Pennsylvania Avenue heard the “law-and-order” candidate for re-election sound the alarms against “violent anarchists, agitators, and criminals” who threaten to occupy the house he thinks he owns.*
*There were no chairs on the South Lawn for former National Security Advisors Michael Flynn, H.R. McMaster, and John Bolton, Defense Secretary “Mad Dog” Maddox, long-time attorney-fixer Michael Cohen, old friends Jeffery Epstein (RIP) and Ghislaine Maxwell, family members Mary Trump (niece) and older sister Maryanne, grieving relatives of police shootings and of the 175,000 Covid-19 dead, or Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Some stories never happened but are always happening. Like the Matthew and Luke stories of the 40 day temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. If everything in Christian scripture should become lost, except for the narratives of the wilderness temptation, we would still have the story that succinctly describes what it means, and does not mean, to be human.
The narratives of Jesus in the wilderness are a kind of Cliff Notes on the ways mortal life gets twisted. They condense the challenges of all of us. The Devil (Diabolos) is a Trickster, the Liar, twisting the good out of shape. We live with the diabolical.
Is it about power? Or is it about splendor?
As many times as I have read and preached about them, the word “splendor” seemed incidental to the temptation of power. Or so I thought until this life in 2020 drew my attention to splendor.
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if . . . .”
Gospel according to Matthew 4:8-9 NRSV
The genius of scripture is that it brings fresh things to light that speak to new socio-reliigious-political circumstances. Perhaps it is the dark and darkening skies of 2020 that drew my eye to the “splendor” of the kingdoms (nations). The Greek word is δόξαν (appearance, glory, splendor) is the same as the church’s song of praise, the Doxology: “Praise God from Whom all blessing flow; Praise God all creatures here below….”
Power is not an end, but a means to the end: self-glorification. The Gospel writers knew what the privileged often remember only after it has vanished into nothing. “Glory is like a circle in the water/ which never ceaseth to enlarge itself/ till by broad spreading it disperse to naught.” — William Shakespeare, Henry VI.
The Lure of Splendor
The lure of power is reserved for the privileged. No such illusion is found among the separated mothers, fathers, and children sweltering in crammed detention camps at our southern border. They are reminded hour by hour of their powerlessness. Nor is it a temptation among the suffering and dying patients or the doctors, RNs, LPNs, and orderlies in senior health care centers, homeless shelters, and hospitals overwhelmed by the new covid virus pandemic. Nor among the suddenly unemployed waiting in the miles-long food distribution center lines, holding fast to whatever shreds of hope and dignity remain while those with power and control, absorbed in themselves. discount their reality,
It is no accident that ‘splendor’ caught my attention last winter when powerful privileged man addicted to splendor trampled on the public trust with daily updates from the White House. I was watching the Third Temptation unfold with an altogether different ending than the one Matthew’s and Luke’s narratives described.
“All these [kingdoms] I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him
Gospel of Matthew 4:9-11 NRSV
Prayer for Public Officials
Walter Rauschenbusch’s “Prayer for Public Officials” is preserved by Prayers of the Social Awakening, published in 1909.
We give the thanks that by the free institutions our country the tyrannous instincts of the strong may be curbed to the patient service to the commonwealth.
Strengthen the sense of duty in our political life. Grant that the servants of the state will feel ever more deeply that any diversion of their public powers for private ends is a betrayal of their country. Purge our cities and states and nation of the deep causes of corruption which have so often made sin profitable and uprightness hard. Bring to an end the stale days of party cunning.”
Walter Rauschenbusch, “For Public Officers,” Prayers of the Social Awakening, 1909.
– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, Minnesota, First Sunday of Lent, March 1, 2020.