Tuesday, January 24, 2017


   Let me begin by saying that I don't believe America will actually become another Nazi Germany or Communist Russia.  But I am afraid of what we could become.  I have the same eerie feeling that I had twice before in my life.

   In the summer of 1962 when I was studying for my doctorate in Spirituality in Rome, I went to Germany to study German.  After the course I wanted to spend some time with a German family, and my teacher sent me to live for two weeks with her family.

   She sent me with a letter telling her family not to discuss religion with me because I was a Catholic priest and they were Lutherans, and not to talk about the war because I was an American.  In spite of her instruction, one evening her father stayed up with me and told me about his experiences in the war.  He was an officer in the German army who fought--and was wounded--on the Russian front. 

   With a very heavy heart he told me of the way the German people had been propagandized by the government.  He pleaded, "Please understand.  Every day we heard Joseph Goebbels telling us the same things over and over again.  In time we all believed what he was saying."  

   As I listened to him I felt an eerie feeling as I realized as close to first-hand as possible, the human damage that Hitler had done to this man, to Germany and to the rest of the world.

   Fast forward to 1973.  Having resigned from the clergy, I was in the process of setting up a Community Mental Health/Mental Retardation facility for Jefferson Medical University.  I hired a psychiatrist who, with his wife, who was also a physician, had escaped from Communist Hungary.  He told me, "We had to escape.  We had to come to realize that we were never going to hear the truth again."

   So he and his wife arranged for friends who lived in a town on a lake across from the Austrian border to send them a letter asking them to come there because an illness had broken out and they needed doctors.  Taking just a suitcase of clothing and documents proving that they were physicians, they went to the town.  At midnight their friend took them to the lake where a man in a row boat was waiting for them.  In absolute silence they got into the boat and the man began rowing. There was no moon.  It was December and very cold.  The man rowed until just before dawn and then said he was lost.  As soon as they could see the outline of the shore he rowed over to it.

   They got out and hid in some bushes.  At dawn, they looked up and saw that they were still in Hungary and under a Communist watch tower.  They stayed still in the December cold until dark and started out again.  This time the man succeeded in getting them to the opposite shore.

   With deep feeling, he said to me, "Tony, you Americans have no idea how fortunate you are that you have the right to vote as you please.  On our election days,we were rounded up and marched to the polls where we were forced to vote for the Communist party."  

   For the second time, I felt the frightening, eerie feeling of people being deeply damaged by an authoritarian government.

   Now to the present day.  During his campaign, Donald Trump used Hitler's method to win votes.  As Hitler did with Germany, Trump declared that America was weakened, and as Hitler blamed the Jews, Trump blamed scapegoats for America's weakness:  immigrants, Muslims, blacks, the LGBT community,  "elite" liberals, and the media.  Hitler persecuted the disabled.  Trump mocked them. Hitler wanted to make Germany great again.  Trump wants to make America great again.  Sadly, many people who voted for Trump blindly agree with him and enthusiastically hate the "enemies" he has named.  I fear they can become our American equivalent of the Nazi party, going along with President Trump and not caring what he does while they wait for the jobs he said he would create for them..

   So I am again experiencing that eerie feeling that twice turned my heart cold years ago.  

   Beginning from day one of his Presidency, Trump lied to us and has continued to lie on a regular basis.  And his presence at a hallowed spot at the CIA was a disgraceful display of unfeeling-for-others narcissism.  I fear that his cabinet may be forced to follow his lead.  The Fox TV channel is profitably doing its imitation of Joseph Goebbels.  And Kellyanne Conway is offering "alternative facts" to explain what Trump is saying and doing.  If it wasn't so serious, it would be laughable.

   A particular thought troubles me:  Goebbels and the Soviet propagandists knew they were lying.  I strongly believe that President Trump does not know he is lying.  Nor does he care.  As he has already done, e.g., with the crowd count at his inauguration and the non-existent illegal immigrants who gave Hillary Clinton her 3 million vote advantage over him, he will make up reality to suit his purposes.  If he can't be stopped, he must be contained.  This is a serious spiritual problem.  Our American integrity and identity are at stake.

   We must work to create a vision of America and the world that is peaceful and all-embracing without being naive.  I suggest we go back to our Founders and begin with the opening words of our Constitution, noting how well they match the intent of the Lord's prayer for establishing the Kingdom of God on earth: 

       We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity--hereby offer the following all-inclusive vision and programs to heal our divisions and foster our common good with a special option for the sick, poor, vulnerable and outcast.     

   Early signs of a new American vision are promising.  The wondrously large number of women who marched this past Sunday were justly demanding an all-inclusive, wholistic vision for our country.  May they actively continue putting forth their blessed vision! All Americans must now keep in incessant touch with their government representatives, justly demanding that they legislate what is true and just for all.

   The media need to point out loudly and clearly every Trump lie, and call his "alternative facts" the lies that they truly are.  Kellyanne Conway and Press Secretary Sean Spicer need to be vigorously corrected every time they lie.  

   Democratic--and hopefully at least a few Republican--legislators must respond truthfully to the people's vision and just expectations.  And even to Trump's populism.  He says he is for the people.  They must push him to mean what he says. 

   All those Americans who call themselves Christians need to discover anew the true vision and teachings of Jesus and proclaim freedom, peace and justice within God's infinitely abundant love for all people without exception.

   We are at a critical spiritual point in our history--one that I never dreamed I'd experience.  The immediate future of our country is up for grabs.  We will either be led backward and downward by Donald Trump and his allies, or forward and upward by those who have the discernment and will to put forth healing, wholistic ideas and programs for the good of all the American people.  Every step of the way, it is of vital important that we the people play our active role in the fight.




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