If we don’t know our history, we are destined to repeat it

I read this week from an UPI article that 60% of millennials and Gen-Zers are unaware that 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust by the Nazis in World War II. I use the word “exterminated” as that is what the Nazis did by gassing Jews after they rounded them up. If the brashness of this statement offends – I apologize for the needed candor. It is meant to wake people up.

But, the Nazi genocide of Jews is among too many persecutions around the world and over time. The United States has had three persecutions of groups of people, two of which leading to many deaths. We should never forget these sad parts of our history or white-wash (word intentionally chosen) them away.

– European settlers of the US over time seized land from, killed many and moved Native Americans over the course of three centuries. Even today, Native Americans have to go out of their way to protect the rights granted when they were forced to move or areas dear to them were protected by law. It seems the pursuit of fossil fuel acquisition and transport usurps rights.

– Slavery of blacks in the US is well known and was the principal reason the Civil War was fought. Even the reason for the war was white-washed and taught as a battle for states’ rights in too many class rooms. This propaganda was to get poor whites to fight the battles of landowners to allow their richer neighbors to keep slaves. Slaves were treated and abused as property. Yet, after the reconstruction period was legislated away years later, an ugly era of Jim Crow laws began to suppress blacks and make/ keep them as second class citizens. I encourage you to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” or listen to Billie Holiday sing “Strange Fruit” about black bodies swinging in the trees regarding this hateful period.

– To protect them (and other Americans, as a stated reason), FDR ordered the encampment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. These folks and their families were taken from their jobs and homes and imprisoned in camps during the war. They were not killed, although maybe some were while trying to escape, yet their rights were taken away.

Outside of North America, USSR premier Josef Stalin rounded up and killed far more people as enemies of the state than Adolph Hitler ever did. Yet, it did not get the notoriety of Hitler’s heinous crimes of the holocaust. In the 1990s, Radovan Karadzic and the Bosnian Serb military commander, General Ratko Mladic, were among those indicted for genocide and other crimes against humanity as they captured and killed about 8,000 Bosniaks.

In 1994, a planned campaign of mass murder in Rwanda occurred over the course of some 100 days. The genocide was conceived by extremist elements of Rwanda’s majority Hutu population who planned to kill the minority Tutsi population and anyone who opposed those genocidal intentions.

More recently, in Iran the Sunnis felt left out of the largely Shia governing body in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was toppled. They made the mistake of inviting in Daesh to help them. Daesh conducted genocide against all who stood against them, with beheadings and terror, until they were contained.

Sadly, there is so much more. Often the conquering power or the group in power will suppress people in their own lands. The leaders of the Mongols, Romans, Spaniards, Greeks, Brits, Syrians, North Koreans, Russians, Chinese, etc. have put down dissidents or dissident groups or made them disappear. There is an old saying – winners write the history – so, written history may be kinder than oral history to the strong-arming

These sad events involve two themes – power and fear. The first theme is obvious. The second is an age old practice. Tell people to fear another group, tell them these groups are the reason for your disenfranchisement and the people will do what you tell them.

How do we avoid this? So-called leaders who tell us whom to fear, should be questioned. This is especially true if the voice is not one of reason or veracity. Fear is a lever to divide and conquer – we must guard against its wielders.

Bare Naked Ladies song has a line for the US president

In two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward’s book “Fear” which is based on 750 hours of interviews with White House staff, the impetuous and impulsive nature of the president is well documented. This nature is echoed in other books and by White House reporters.

History reveals this flaw of the president’s as he often changes his mind, sometimes within the hour or the next day. There are examples when he has refuted his first argument by the end of one of his stream-of-consciousness rants.

There is a line from the song “One Week” by Bare Naked Ladies that seems apropos to this president. It appears twice (although the second line varies some) in the song about a couple fighting and the motions they go through before they make-up. Many people call the song “Two weeks” as a line says it is “still two weeks til we say we’re sorry.”

The song line that reminds me of the impetuous and impulsive president is:

“I have the tendancy to wear my mind on my sleeve
I have a history of losing my shirt”

The examples are in the hundreds, but he did it again at the end of last week. On Thursday, he talked about a plan to reopen the economy, spoke respectfully (as much as he can) of governors, and came a little closer to being presidential, whether you agreed with his policy or not.

By the next day, he leaped on the extreme members of his tribe who were protesting the shelter-in-place laws in various states encouraging them. Some noted he is fomenting a rebellious attitude. So, he took a step forward up the slide and then slipped back down. Trying to walk up a slide to leadership, then sliding back down, is a good metaphor for the president.

The book “Fear” speaks of the advantage of being the last person to speak with Trump about an issue. If done in a flattering way, he will respond better and could be led down the path you want. He is also keen on parroting what he sees on the opinion shows on Fox News, sometimes within minutes. In the above example, since he thinks first of making himself look good, he seized on the rebellious folks as a good storyline.

Many things trouble me about this president. He wants to come across as a leader, but the idea of him actually acting liking a leader is not second nature to him. He could have been more like the leader we need in January and February by speaking candidly with Americans about the pandemic risk and setting in motion some planning efforts. Instead, he returned to form and lied. Lying is second nature to Donald J. Trump, leadership is not.

What I have witnessed about Trump, is his underlying nature will not change. His actions will change if the press or optics are poor and he cannot alter them. He cannot alter people getting sick and dying. So, his “new shirt” has him saying he never said the things he did and it is WHO and China’s fault. Yes, the latter could have done better. But, so could you, Mr. Trump. So, could his sycophants who keep giving him clean shirts with white-washed messages.

Forget the original Jesus, follow the new savior

It saddens me the US president is the most corrupt and untruthful president in my lifetime, including Richard Nixon. It further saddens me that some Christian leaders are whitewashing his indecency saying he is God ordained. Really?

At the National Prayer Breakfast last week, the US president followed a speaker who rightfully shared the teachings of Jesus about loving your enemies. He was followed by the US president, who forewarned the first speaker that he might not like what the president was about to say.

The president then proceeded to trash and ridicule all of his critics. With disdain, he took aim at Senator Mitt Romney denigrating his use of a faith to come to a conclusion the president did wrong. He then ridiculed Speaker Nancy Pelosi for saying she would pray for the president.

Conservative author and pundit David Brooks has described the president as lacking empathy and common decency. When we need someone to galvanize Americans or lament over a tragedy, he is not up to the task. He has followed the Machiavelian tactics of dividing and conquering. Even at a prayer conference.

I am not alone in saying the president is a threat to our democracy, running the country in a regal fashion. Yet, he is also a threat to the teachings of Jesus that Christians adhere to.

What may have been even more sad than a corrupt and indecent person trashing and ridiculing his enemies are two things. First, Mitt Romney delivered a heartfelt speech about voting his conscience following his religious upbringing. Second, after the president trashed Romney, people at the prayer conference cheered.

Jesus said to treat people like you want to be treated. The new savior said to make people fear you and destroy your critics.