The Face of Hate

In college I took an ethics seminar taught by a man who had survived imprisonment in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.  He was a Belgian political prisoner, subjected to the daily casual cruelties and murders committed by the guards, the starvation diet, the backbreaking work of a slave laborer and the exposure to infectious diseases like typhus and cholera.  As a non-Jew he was not subjected to selections and systematic, industrial slaughter of the death camps and Einsatzgruppen.

One of the books used in this course was Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.  Since Donald Trump won the Electoral College in November I have found myself reflecting on that class a great deal and my lifelong reading on the history of the Holocaust. This weekend the news and Twitter are filled with images of the neo-Nazi/KKK violence and murder in Charlottesville Virginia.   There were many pictures of the predominantly male, entirely white crowd attending this Nazi rally and my immediate thought on seeing these images was of Rudolf Höss.

There are a number of pictures of Mr. Höss that show him with his family – a wife and 5 kids. There are pictures of him playing with his children or on family picnics, as well as this family portrait.


He looks like a man you might see today at a youth soccer game or little league – just a regular family guy.  For those of you unfamiliar with SS-Obersturmbannführer Höss, a good day at the office for this regular family guy would result in the untimely death of 7,600 people. SS-Obersturmbannführer Höss was the commandant of Auschwitz.

I thought about photos like this one when I looked at the pictures on Neo-Nazis rallying and rioting in Charlottesville, VA.



With polo shirts and khaki pants they look like the staff of some corporate IT help desk, not the latest incarnation of the evil that brought the United States Jim Crow and lynching.

Hate wears normalcy as camouflage.  No one thinks of themselves as evil.  These men did not get out of bed this weekend, note they were going to an evil neo-Nazi rally and put a pinky in the corner of their mouth a la Dr. Evil. When Rudolf Höss was questioned after the war, one of the Americans on the interrogation team noted that he talked like a manager who had been given a tough assignment and excelled. What was so bone chilling about the man was the fact that he was completely normal, entirely bland, except for the mass murder, of course.

If asked, I am sure these men would not see themselves as evil or hateful. How often have we heard “I don’t hate anybody” from the lips of such people? I am sure most hold jobs or go to school, go to church and maybe coach some youth sports for their kids – just regular guys. 

Yet evil is the only word to describe these actions. Sinful is the only word that describes their outlook. They are supporting the notion that others are subservient to them because their ancestors came here from Europe and because they consider themselves “Christian” (though most certainly they are not).

In Genesis we find “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” Genesis 1:27(NRSV). This evil, this sin is the failure to see Imago Dei, the image of God, in every person they encounter.  It is, in fact, the same way of thinking that led to the enslavement of black Americans, the lynchings of the 19th and 20th centuries, Jim Crow laws, today’s voter suppression and even the Holocaust.   It is a philosophy that says you must serve me because I am white and “Christian” and you are not. It is the sin of saying that White Christians were made Imago Dei and everyone else is not and therefore a lesser being.

Evil does not come into this world with a long red tail and horns.  Mephistopheles, Apollyon, Beelzebub or Satan – however you name it – does not make himself manifest and obvious anymore then these Neo-Nazis show the evil hiding in their hearts at a PTA meeting. 

Gandhi was right. “The only devils in this world are those running around in our own hearts, and that is where all our battles should be fought.”

Mike Coffman's 1 August 2017 Town Hall

On Tuesday 1 August Representative Mike Coffman held a town hall meeting.  For those of you not familiar with Mr. Coffman he is the representative of Colorado’s 6th Congressional District and a Republican.  Donald Trump lost this district while Mr. Coffman retained his seat, yet he votes with the Trump administration about 95% of the time when last I checked. 

Mr. Coffman said a number of things I think most progressives could get behind, a number of things that need improvement and a good number of things that, not to mince words, are just plain awful.  These are my opinions and I am hoping other OFA members will post their thoughts as well.  I should note these are my impressions on issues I am most concerned about.  Other issues, immigration in particular, were raised and I will leave it to an OFA colleague to cover these if possible.

The Good

1.       He held a town hall and did not screen questions or just look for softballs. He is showing a good deal more courage in that regard than a number of elected Republicans and is certainly doing far better than Colorado’s GOP Senator, Cory Gardner.  The only time Mr. Gardner’s face is seen by his constituents is when activists bring out “Cardboard Cory”

2.       Towards the end of the gathering Mr. Coffman mentioned providing medical care and treatment to veterans with less than honorable discharges, specifically mentioning the high number of suicides in this population.  Often these veterans have brain injuries or PTSD received in combat. The resulting behavioral changes often lead to their less than honorable discharge status and this, in turn, prevents them from receiving care from the VA.  The suicide rate among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are far too high.  We have a sacred duty “to care for him who shall have borne the battle” as Lincoln said. This is something that we can all agree on.

Needs Improvement

There was really only one item I would place here. Mr. Coffman reiterated his statements about the need for special counsel to investigate Russian interference with the last election and possible collusion from the Trump campaign with the Russians.

Progressives can agree with this, but it should be recognized that a special counsel’s writ does not begin to cover all of the issues raised by Russian interference. The current special counsel, Robert Mueller, can only focus on whether a crime was committed and the prosecution of the perpetrators of that crime. In addition, we need an independent blue ribbon commission similar to the 9/11 commission to investigate the Russian hack and separate bi-partisan committee to look into Trump’s use of the Oval Office to enrich himself and his family.

This does not come close to covering all of the additional issues raised by Russian interference in the last election.  To list just a few:

·         How did this happen?

·         What can we do to defend ourselves from this interference in the future?

·         Are the sanctions sufficient and appropriate?

·         Is anyone else, such as Iran, North Korea or ISIS, taking a page from the Russian playbook and trying this themselves?

Moreover, special counsel Robert Mueller is charged with investigating Russian interference only, not the self-dealing, the financial conflicts of interests, emoluments clause violations and outright graft of Mr. Trump and his family. 

Since the election, we have seen Mr. Trump has spent an extraordinary amount of time at the properties he still owns. Various federal agencies such as the Secret Service and the Defense Department must pay Mr. Trump’s companies to access these facilities with the profits going directly into the Trump family’s wallets. Jared Kushner’s companies have been selling real estate to Chinese investors with the promise of favorable immigration treatment. Administration spokespeople have hawked Ivanka Trump clothing during interviews. Anyone seeking to curry favor with the Trumps makes it a point of staying at the Trump hotel in Washington or holding events there. Indeed, we were treated to the head of the EPA hosting a meeting with oil company executives at that hotel. Greenpeace and the Sierra Club were left off the guest list.

In short, the Trumps have turned our government into a banana republic. Mr. Mueller does not have the authority to look at these matters. It is for Congress to deal with these abuses of power, emoluments clause violations and conflicts of interest.

I had a specific question that I have put to all my representatives from Colorado and I have yet to get a straight answer. If my brother, an American soldier, is sent into combat will it be for the good of the country, the good of Russia or the good of Trump’s finances?  Without an independent blue ribbon commission, how can you be sure of your answer?

Just Plain Awful


While Mr. Coffman voted against the repeal of the ACA he is convinced that the ACA should be repealed and these measures left to the states.  He seemed to accept that healthcare is a right but distinguished that from health insurance, which (he claims) is not a right.

This position is absurd, cruel and inhumane.

How are the poor supposed to receive healthcare if it cannot be paid for? Mr. Coffman appears to believe that they should not receive care.

What should the family of an elderly person suffering from dementia do when the money runs out? Should nursing homes just boot such people to the street to die? Mr. Coffman seems to think that would be an acceptable solution.

Why should families be forced into bankruptcy because of medical expenses? “Because health insurance is not a right” appears to be Mr. Coffman’s answer

Is it not cruel and inhumane to pile financial worries and issues onto those already sick, infirm or disabled?  Mr. Coffman apparently finds this to be an acceptable outcome

The Border Wall with Mexico

Mr. Coffman is in favor of it.

The border wall is a huge expenditure of money on something that will not work but will cause extensive environmental damage. Need we say more?

Not Covered

A number of issues were not covered, but I am hopeful that they will be during Mr. Coffman’s next meeting

1.       Global warming and environmental issues

2.       Voting rights

3.       The degradation of the office of the President by Trump and his family, including the conflicts of interests, emoluments, and self-dealing.

4.       Trump’s constant lying to the press and public (from inauguration crowd size to his most recent lie about a call from the Boy Scouts)

5.       Trump’s insulting and alienating our allies and a foreign policy that may politely be described as “bumbling”

An open letter to Senator Cory Gardner. ACA repeal is evil madness

Dear Senator Gardner:

Once again, I am writing to insist that you vote against Trumpcare and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

First and foremost, the process for this bill can only be described as surreal. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that you do not even know what you are voting on.  There have been no hearings; there has been no input from the insurance industry, health care providers or patient advocacy groups; there has been no attempt to seek input from your colleagues in the Democratic body.  One would think that the world’s greatest deliberative body would want to take those steps. 

Donald Trump is insisting that you vote on a bill that you have not seen, that will impact 17% of the economy without any understanding of the bill’s impacts. What could possibly go wrong?

We should never pass a law that will have this big an impact on the economic health of this country without some understanding of the expected impact.  The very idea is absurd, yet that is what Trump insists you should do.

Second, the very idea of this bill is deeply immoral.  Based on studies of Rommneycare in Massachusetts and people who received Medicaid as part of the ACA’s expansion of that program, we can expect an increase of 20,000 deaths per year.  To put that in perspective, the highest number of Americans killed in action during the Vietnam war in a single year (1968) was 16,592. It boggles the mind to think that any member of Congress would vote in favor of a bill guaranteed to cause the deaths of fellow Americans that is not a declaration of war.  There is only one word for such a law – evil.

The repeal of the ACA will guarantee that 23 million Americans will go without insurance, and therefore without meaningful medical care. It is not possible for a Christian to vote for a measure that will so increase the suffering of so many people.  As a Lutheran, you should consider well the position of the Evangelical Lutheran Church

“We of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have an enduring commitment to work for and support health care for all people as a shared endeavor. Our commitment comes in grateful response to God’s saving love in Jesus Christ that frees us to love and seek the well-being of our neighbor.”

 We simply should not be the only industrialized country in the world without universal health care. We provide significant aid to Israel and they provide universal care.  Botswana and Costa Rica provide for such care.  Would you return us to the days when Homer Simpson was right when he said “America's health care system is second only to Japan, Canada, Sweden, Great Britain, well ... all of Europe. But you can thank your lucky stars we don't live in Paraguay!”

Trumpcare is an evil madness. I urge you to vote against it.

Yours most sincerely and respectfully

Michael J. Sexton

Why I Resist

By Mike Sexton, OFA Volunteer
“Thus says the Lord GOD, "Enough, you princes of Israel; put away violence and destruction, and practice justice and righteousness. Stop your expropriations from My people," declares the Lord GOD.” - Ezekiel 45:9

I have repeatedly stated on Twitter that one can be a patriotic American; one can be a good Republican; one cannot be both. I should add that one can be a good Christian; one can be a good Republican; one cannot be both.

Even with the best intentions of the best of conservatives the Republican party (not conservatives) has become an institution that stands solely on the three pillars of greed, ignorance and bigotry. The policy goals Republicans now pursue will result in the hungry going without food, the thirsty without drink, the naked without clothes and the sick and imprisoned with no comfort. Donald Trump is but an extreme example of the principles.

It is the duty of all who seeks to do the will of God to resist evil. It is the duty of anyone who follows the teaching of the Buddha to seek to reduce the world’s pain and suffering. It is the duty of a rational human to fight ignorance and hate. A government controlled by such a political party, a government that rests on the three pillars of greed ignorance and bigotry, a government that pursues as its’ sole goals policies that will result in harm or death to thousands of Americans and tens of thousands world-wide while seeking only to further enrich those who are already obscenely wealthy – that government is evil. The Republican party has transformed the government of the United States and the governments of over 30 states into such institutions. To add to the injury, they have allowed the Executive Branch of the Federal government to be turned into a kleptocracy, rife with graft, nepotism, bigotry and gross incompetence.  They have accepted Russian control over the office of the President.

I do not reach this conclusion lightly. The Republican party has provided us with at least two of our best Presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. In my lifetime, Republicans have given us Dwight Eisenhower, who did so much to enforce Supreme Court desegregation orders and Gerald Ford, a man of simple decency who did so much to lift the country after the damage done by Nixon.

If I am to conclude that an institution that has done so much for us has embraced as foundational principles the very things a Buddhist would call the roots of suffering; if I am to say that the Republican party pursues policy goals that so blatantly violate the words of Jesus in Matthew 25, “a decent respect to the opinions of [my fellow Americans] requires that [I] should declare the causes which impel” me to resist the Republican party in its’ current form, to resist the government that was formed on those principles and seek to throw off such a government and to provide new advocates for the security, health and welfare of all.        

To paraphrase again from the Declaration of Independence “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes… But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is [our] right, it is [our] duty, to throw off such Government…” Such has been the patient suffering of America’s workers and poor and such is now the necessity that compels us as patriotic Americans to throw off the oppression imposed upon us by the current governing party of the United States.

The recent history of the Republican party is a history of repeated assaults upon all that is good and decent in the United States. As was done in the Declaration of Independence to prove the justice and rightness of our cause, let the American people and the world judge these facts

They seek to enact laws that will deny 23 million Americans (or more) access to healthcare so they may further enrich the extremely rich.

They have restricted voting rights with laws that “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”

They have enacted repressive laws to deny the poor and people of color the right to vote and will return us to the era of Jim Crow.

They have encouraged violence and the threat of violence to remove opposition and quash dissent.

They have created legislative and congressional districts specifically designed to thwart the will of the majority of Americans and deny representation to people of color.

They have allowed the introduction of poisons into our atmosphere and water supply.

They have proposed budgets and laws that will cause thousands of Americans to go hungry or become homeless.

They have refused to accept scientific facts and damage both the planet and the American economy by their withdrawal from the Paris climate accords and refusing any action to mitigate global warming.

They have guaranteed gun violence and mass murder with laws that allow those with the most serious mental illnesses to purchase and use firearms.

They have destroyed good tax paying families and damaged the American economy by deportation and restrictive immigration laws.

They have cruelly withheld permission for refugees fleeing repressive regimes and war to enter this country.

They advocate the use of torture.

They have imposed upon women unequal pay through the revocation of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order.

They have endangered the health of women, children and the unborn by a global gag rule, budget cuts to women’s health and maternity care providers.

They have expressly stated that they will not enforce laws that allow handicapped children access to education.

They deny children the food they need by cutting food stamps and school lunch programs.

They jeopardize military and civilian government employees abroad by the release of classified intelligence and cutting security budgets for the State Department.

They have damaged our relationships with key allies, insulted them and placed in jeopardy a system of arrangements and treaties that have kept us safe and prosperous since 1945.

They have endangered homeland security and intelligence operatives in the field by betraying secrets provided to us by foreign government intelligence services.

They have refused to support mutual defense obligations we have had with our NATO allies, a cornerstone of American foreign policy and world peace for every American administration since Truman’s and despite those NATO allies coming to our aid and sacrificing their soldiers to defend the United States after 9/11.

They have provided recruitment tools for terrorist organizations and demonized 20% of the world’s population with ignorant and bigoted statements about Islam, including members of congress who have stated we should “kill them all”.

They have elevated the forces of racial bigotry and anti-Semitism to high government office and prominent positions in American life.

They have refused to begin a credible, non-partisan investigation into a foreign government’s interference with American elections and continue to sabotage and subvert any effort to perform such an investigation.

They have allowed continuing blatant violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause by the current occupant of the Oval Office.

They have refused to give the American people access to financial and tax records needed for them to determine if the Executive Branch is compromised by financial ties or conflicts of interest.

They have awarded high government positions and security clearances solely based on nepotism and have allowed White House staff to use their positions for personal enrichment and promotion of private businesses.

They have allowed the Trump family to enrich themselves at the expense of the American people.

They have allowed members of the administration to continue to hold their security clearances and receive classified information after having lied about their contacts with Russia to the Senate and on security clearance documents.

They have attempted to halt criminal investigations of employees and former employees of the executive branch.

They have allowed employees of the administration to ignore ethics and conflict of interest laws that guarantee that American government employees serve the American people and only the American people.

They seek to imprison our fellow Americans and enrich private companies that provide prisons through the draconian enforcement of antiquated drug laws and immigration laws.

They have made normal human reproduction a “pre-existing condition” that will increase the cost of health care and health insurance for women.

They have refused to investigate the impermissible influence Russia has over the occupant of the Oval Office.  Americans must ask if our troops have been deployed for the best interest of the United States or because Moscow does not wish to see Russian soldiers coming home in body bags.

They have placed into the Oval Office a man who has bragged about his ability to commit sex crimes with impunity, mocks the disabled, routinely engages in racist rhetoric, insults our allies, embraces the most reprehensible authoritarian regimes and flippantly provokes crises that could lead to war or nuclear war.  

They have allowed the occupant of the Oval Office as well as the majority leader of the Senate and the Speaker of the House to repeatedly issue the most damnable lies to the American people on a regular if not daily basis.

These are the position espoused or at least accepted by every Republican holding elective national office. Not one has stood in opposition to such evil.

Progressives have made many attempts to reconcile with Republicans. We have appealed to their sense of justice, their stated adherence to the Gospel and the common bonds forged in the crucibles of the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War II and the Civil Rights era, all to no avail. They have been deaf to the twin calls of the rule of law and God’s call to do provide for the least among us and care for all His creation.

Republican policies oppress our people, poison our water, land and atmosphere, trample the freedoms so many have died for and risk the destruction of the planet’s eco-system all so that they may enrich the rich, comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted.

Despite the best intentions of the best conservatives, in the end the Republican party must deny us the right to vote, separate us by race and religion and lie to us in order to rule us.

This is the modern Republican party.

This is an institution of oppression, immorality and evil that must be resisted. And that is what I intend to do. Simple, non-violent resistance to this evil until they themselves see the wisdom of returning to their former greatness and abandon this unjust course of action. When Republican elected officials seek to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, provide for the poor and lift up the oppressed; when they care for all God’s creation then and only then will our moral duty to resist this evil infecting our body politic be satisfied.