Monday, July 4, 2016

Trump Is Not Hitler, Not Mussolini, But Is Dangerous


NOTE***After I posted the following essay, three very smart people showed me a big thing I missed in asserting that Trump is neither Hitler nor Mussolini.  That is, Trump sets up the conditions for tyranny and appeals to people who want authoritarian government. So even if Trump does not become a dictator himself, he sets up the conditions for tyranny.  Really, he is doing so now by stoking anger for his own purposes when a sane leader would aspire to lead the entire nation.  It's well to remember in this connection that Hitler never had the support of more than a third of Germans before his power grab in 1933.  The SS and the Gestapo raised his "popularity" after that.
Trump, in one friend's view, is the "gateway drug" to tyranny.  I  think he is right.***

The New York Times Sunday Review recently had yet another article comparing Donald Trump with Adolph Hitler.  Trump also gets paired with the Italian dictator of the same period, Benito Mussolini. These comparisons make some sense given the horrible things Trump says, but miss an essential difference between Trump and these 20th Century dictators: physical courage.

During World War 1 Hitler volunteered to be a courier in the trenches, one of the most dangerous jobs in a war of mechanized slaughter.  Mussolini was 33 years old when Italy entered the war.  He volunteered to be a private, a front-line soldier.  Mussolini was in the trenches on the front lines with young men half his age.  Then he was badly injured when the howitzer he was assigned to exploded.  He went through a long and painful recuperation with many operations to remove shrapnel from his body.

Both Mussolini and Hitler served jail time for their grabs at political power and when it came time to take power, they both were resolute at holding out for full power, not compromising.  Also, Mussolini took power in Italy at age 39 in 1922.  Hitler took power when he was 44 in 1933.  

By contrast Donald Trump hid from the draft and never missed a cocktail hour for his political views.  Physical courage and relative youth made Hitler and Mussolini even more dangerous than their lust for power and horrible beliefs.  By contrast, Trump is a flaccid old man who let another man serve in his place during the Vietnam War and expresses his manhood with lawsuits.

Hitler and Mussolini are two of the worst people ever to disgrace the human race, but they were not cowards.  When their countries were at war, they signed up to be on the front lines. When Donald Trump’s country was at war, he signed up for college and let another man go in his place. 

Cowards are haunted by their cowardice.  When Trump slammed John McCain and all Prisoners Of War, Trump was acting as any coward would.  By tearing down someone truly brave, Trump could tell himself he is better.  Trump may sound cynical or crazy, but much of what he says is just the self-talk that bubbles out of the cauldron of insecurities in his craven guts. 


Even if he does not become a tyrant himself, Trump inspires people who want authoritarian government and he paves the way for their evil designs.  Trump may not be Hitler or Mussolini, but he is dangerous.

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, Book 16 of 2016

C.S. Lewis in 1917

There are two kinds of people in this world: 
  • Those who think prayer is a monologue. 
  • Those who think prayer is a dialogue.
[If you are thinking, 'What about people who don't pray at all?' they are in group one.  If no one is listening, then prayer is a monologue.]

I have been both at different times in my life.  So has C.S. Lewis.  The picture above was taken just before he volunteered to serve in World War I.  He was 19 years old and did not have to go.  Lewis is from Northern Ireland and would not have been drafted.  Lewis had recently become and atheist and would remain one for another decade until he became a believer in 1929 and a Christian shortly after.

At about the same age as Lewis, I volunteered for the Vietnam War.  Lewis served in that horrible war and was twice badly wounded.  He remained an atheist as he recovered from shrapnel wounds.  I never got closer to the Vietnam War than western Utah.  But like Lewis I was injured in an explosion.  His was hit with German artillery fire.  I was close enough to a missile interstage detonator explosion to be blinded by shrapnel and almost lose two fingers.  

We both recovered, but in the course of my recovery, I came to faith.  The experience of blindness, and not being sure I would see again, made the universe look vast and me feel as small as an oxygen atom.  

As I recovered I became a believer and then a Christian.  They are very different.  Over the four decades since I first believed, I have never stopped being a believer, but have had many struggles with being a Christian. It is not belief in Jesus that was a problem, or the basic principles of faith expressed in the Creeds of the Church for nearly 2,000 years.  

My problem was with the culture that has surrounded Christianity in America and through most of western history since Christians took political power.  I came to faith in a Baptist Church in Utah.  The members of that Church saw themselves as a resistance movement against all the sins of the world and most of modern science and philosophy.  The Evangelical Church in America in all of its expressions is anti-intellectual.  And in the past half century it has become almost incredibly materialistic, given the life of Jesus.  

I quickly became discouraged with trying to be part of a culture that seemed collectively delusional.  Just when I was ready to give up completely, a military chaplain on our base in Germany gave me a copy of C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity."  The day I got the book our unit was going to Heidelberg to watch fireworks.  I read the book on the bus, then ignored the fireworks and read the book on the bridge where we went to watch.  

Reading that book convinced me to leave the Army at the end of my enlistment and go to college full time.  I wanted to be a Christian with a brain like Lewis.  

I did go to college and eventually read all of the 40 books C.S. Lewis wrote, many of them several times.  This reading of "Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer" might be the fifth time I read this wonderful, practical book.  

Most of us feel the urge to pray and then feel modern life and thinking fight against the urge.  Does prayer for the sick really make sense?  Could any sane parent keep her sick child at home and pray instead of going to a doctor?  In a series of "letters" to a friend on prayer, Lewis talks about how he prays.  He also talks about how and why he struggles with prayer. 

Of course, the book has nothing to say to people who do not believe in God, but it does show how a sane and brilliant man who fervently believes in God prays.


SPQR and America

Senatus Populusque Romanus The Senate and People of Rome Some of the soldiers I served with in Iraq talked about getting an SPQR tat...