What follows below is a slightly truncated & edited email I sent to Rev. Bert M. Farias in response to a 5-4-16 article of his concerning the ever-growing embrace of Donald Trump by many Republicans, evangelical Christians and others.
Good Thursday (May 5, 2016), Rev. Farias!
I perused your 5-4-2016 Flaming Herald entry titled How Cruz’s Dropout Exposes the Corruption of the American Soul and thought you might welcome some feedback on it.
First off, I have no doubt but that some of your readers and even supporters (especially any diehard Trump supporters) will take exception with your article and make an exit, stage far right (of course). As you yourself stated, “I know I may lose followers, readers and even friends over this article, but that’s OK”.
I am not a Trump supporter or fellow traveler — quite the opposite actually (I’ve been a democratic socialist since 1986). But even if I were, I would not head for the door after reading your article. One of the things I discovered early on in my work as a theorist is that truth, not only in science but in most other areas of life, is arrived at haltingly in the form of what famed astronomer Edwin Hubble characterized as “successive approximations”.
Anthony G. Payne
Reports are beginning to surface indicating that retail sources for emergency preparedness or survival gear, dehydrated foods, seeds and such cannot keep up with demand. It isn’t hard to figure out why with articles and tweets and such appearing almost every few minutes on what is happening or lies ahead in term of climate spawned global upheaval, tectonic activity that is triggering volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and other calamities, fracking induced quakes, super droughts and massive wildfires, epidemics, increasing social conflict & unrest and gun violence, economic instability in nations great and small, the unrestrained barbarity of ISIS, not to mention terrorist acts taking place worldwide by people of every extremist stripe, and a seemingly endless litany of calamities both human-made and natural that are sending millions of refugees streaming into Italy, Hungary, and elsewhere. And this hardly begins to scratch the surface of how many ways life is now making various doomsday movies, books and such that appeared in the 1950s, 1960s and beyond almost prophetic.
Judging from articles such as this, this and this, there is now almost a mania sweeping the land to remove every vestige of the Confederacy (Even TV Land got swept up in this by cancelling airing of old “Dukes of Hazzard” episodes) . Don’t get me wrong, I understand why so many people are incensed by Confederate flags and monuments on public lands. And although my ancestors on both the European (paternal) and American Indian (maternal) sides of my family tree lived in the CSA and in some instances served in its armed forces, I have never displayed a Confederate flag in any form anywhere at any time. Nor was the N-word ever uttered by my parents or any expression of religious, ethnic or racial bigotry or elitism. And as for my Civil War era forbearers, most were simple farmers and none owned slaves. As a boy I was told by various relatives that those who donned the grey in our family did so to repel Northern aggression and preserve the rights of individual states to chart their own destiny.
If you stayed awake though your high school or college history of western (or world) civilization courses, you may recall lessons concerning the many instances in which ambitious, sometimes wantonly evil leaders probed for weakness in those they opposed and acted decisively when they found it. In light of these dark chapters in the human experiment, what do you think of our administration’s penchant for striking deals with regimes and groups whose expressed political and territorial ambitions are nothing short of one day obliterating those they consider their nemeses?
I am a political liberal, a democratic socialist since 1985, and am perplexed and distressed to see many of this country’s leaders working frantically to appease evil at almost every turn. No, I am no fan of war but I’d be pretty stupid not to realize that evil men tend to sit tight or retreat when confronted by armed opponents who will not back down. Don’t think this is so? Let’s jump in the Wayback Machine for a moment and set the dial to early 1936:
Nazi Germany’s leader (Fuehrer) Adolf Hitler ordered his army to remilitarize the Rhineland but later remarked that “The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my life. If the French had then marched into the Rhineland we would have had to withdraw with our tails between our legs, for the military resources at our disposal would have been wholly inadequate for even a moderate resistance”. No one stood up to Hitler. Afterwards he made territorial demands on one country after another, always threatening war but confident that his enemies would do little or nothing to stop him beyond saber-rattling talk while frantically appeasing him in order to avoid war.
A lot of people are wrestling with how this country should deal with militant Muslims in our midst. I think most of us have no issue with American Muslims who do not advocate for anything at odds with our US civic virtues and democratic traditions and practices. Concerns naturally arise with US-based Muslims who post, preach and otherwise advocate for the things we hear being said by members of the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL) and other radical Muslim groups. Many advocate deporting anyone who engages in this sort of thing. Of course, we have homegrown militants in our midst, among them neo-Nazis and Klansmen who preach things that inspire hatred and sometimes violence on the part of their members and sympathizers. One could argue are they are citizens and enjoy certain legal and constitutional protections which renders deportation or “quarantine” a nonissue, but then some extremist Muslims in the US also are citizens (Some born here). Deporting a US citizen to the country their ancestors came from might be emotionally satisfying to some folks but it would open a door that could quickly be abused by the state.
At the tail end of Stanley Kubrick’s satirical and brilliant 1964 anti-Cold War movie “Dr. Strangelove” the wheelchair bound German scientist (played by Peter Sellers) manages to stand up and take a step or two forward and then excitedly proclaim, “Mein Fuhrer! I can walk!” (This was reportedly an unscripted improvisation on the part of actor Peter Sellers) People in the throes of extreme excitement, passion or even religious ecstasy sometimes yell out to God, their mate or, in the case of Dr. Strangelove, to his leader (The American President whom he not infrequently calls “Mein Fuhrer” during the course of Kubrick’s cinematic masterpiece).
I suspect Sellers added the dramatic final touch not as an expression of the neurologic malady which landed his character in a wheelchair but, rather, as an upwelling of Dr. Strangelove’s impossible to suppress fascist sentiments and loyalty to Hitler.
In addition, I would offer a slightly different take on Dr. Strangelove’s outburst: I believe it was meant to represent the transcendent march of evil across time. That is, Seller’s was acting out the fact that evil, like death, haunts humankind and is impossible to totally suppress, manage or banish. Of course, we all know that those who do not resist and oppose evil not infrequently find their lives overshadowed by it.
The late writer-director-producer Rod Serling actually captured this theme very adroitly in a 1963 episode of the Twilight Zone titled “He’s Alive” (“He” being Hitler) that focuses on a “bush league Fuhrer” named Peter Vollmer.
Of course, we all are cognizant of the fact that evil permeates the human experience and has countless modern day incarnations. It is certainly one wheel that gets reinvented without ever showing much wear or loss of perpetrators and victims. Sometimes, though, the expressions are so continuous across time they appear to come out of some kind of historical-cosmic Xerox® machine. Click these links and reflect for a moment:
OK, so evil is perennial. What we can do about it? Laugh at and ponder comic portrayals such as Seller’s, yes, but never make the mistake of viewing evil people as clowns or easy to control (A mistake many German pre-Nazi leaders made with respect to Hitler and his cronies). But above all learn everything we can about the nature of evil and its subtlest expressions and then work to expose and oppose them.
The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty by Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen
Copyright 2013 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.