Burning down the house

EDITMustBurn (1)This morning a friend sent me an op-ed from the Washington Post. It was written by Marc Thiessen; in full disclosure I am not a fan of his work. Thiessen, a former speech writer for President George W. Bush, wrote a book defending “enhanced interrogation methods.” Most of us would call that torture, and it does not square with Catholic teaching, and Thiessen is Catholic. So that is where I stand on him; needless to say I did not love this column and its distinctly not Catholic gloom and doom outlook.

Today I also read a column by the editor of the Albany Times Union, Rex Smith. It too was about burning churches, but took an entirely different tack. In full disclosure once more, I first met Rex in the Albany airport in 2007, when I walked up to him and introduced myself, much to Mark’s chagrin! And years later I began to post my blog as part of the paper’s blogging platform, something I continue to do. Continue reading

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American Dreams, American Lies

federalcontact-_imailAs a culture, the United States does not at large value the labor movement. In fact it excoriates it for existing in general, with images of lazy union workers and corrupt union bosses. In this country we “value” individual hard work and being a “team player” – with the team always being management with a focus corporate profits. We value people who work hard and are always busy, because they are the people will reap what they earn. Our history reminds us however, that at one point a person could defy birth class, work hard, and rise up to another socio-economic group. It became the American dream, but mostly it has become the American lie.

Lots of jobs that were once protected by unions are non-existent or they are not part of a service industry that is handled by contractors. For example, think of the numerous janitors, food service, security guards, and other low-wage federal workers. They work for a contractor who gets paid by the government, then they pay their own employees. It is not a great system. But it sure makes it look like we have fewer federal workers! And while a strike means a lot of criticism of workers who strike, the shutdown was capriciously brought forth because of the demands and actions of one person.

During the shutdown one would often hear cries of “oh, they’ll get paid when it is over!” But the problem is that the contractors most likely will never see any back pay. They lost two paychecks which has been devastating for so many of them. This article in the Washington Post was painful to read. There is a bill (that may go nowhere) but if enacted would get back pay for those contractors. We can’t ignore that another shutdown may be right around the corner thanks to the unpredictable behavior coming out of the White House.

blank email headerRight now I am doing a lot of thinking about work, overwork, underpaid work, and economic inequality and injustice. I’m also thinking about how we say our government can’t afford certain things, but we somehow can afford other things. I’m not sure where my thoughts will lead me, but I can tell you this much… justice for those at the lowest rungs, the people who are often told to “work harder” to get ahead, always seems out of their reach. And that does not make America very great at all. It makes the once cherished American Dream into an American Lie. May our elected leaders find their way back to helping those who elect them and not those who line their pockets with money and promises of power. We need more dreams becoming reality and less lies.

I’m reminded of the words of Isaiah, a reminder of God’s justice. May those who are in need, may those who were robbed of their ability to work be compensated fairly.

All you who are thirsty,

come to the water!

You who have no money,

come, buy grain and eat;

Come, buy grain without money,

wine and milk without cost! – Isaiah 55:1

 

UPDATED Innocence and perspective

See below for update!
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Things on my mind today… how we easily pick and choose those for whom “the dignity of all human life” matters for and who it does not matter as much for, and also Odoardo Focherini. The phrase “dignity of all human life” no doubt brings forth images for you, and meaning.  I’m guessing that you may have never heard of Focherini, unless if you, like me, read about him in today’s Give Us This Day.  Reading about him on today’s Feast of the Holy Innocents reminded me that perspective and context are everything, and that makes picking and choosing our moral precepts problematic.

Liturgically in the church today is the day when we recall the massacre of the Holy Innocents by Herod. Enraged to learn that the magi had deceived him, old Herod decided it would be a good idea to just go ahead and murder the children of Bethlehem. You know, he was throwing a wide net “just in case.” We wouldn’t want any dangerous babies around, would we?

Obsessed as I am with matters of immigration debate, the irony is not lost on me and I find myself with a bitter taste in my mouth. Last week on December 21 it was reported that the White House was considering a policy where children would be separated from their parents in cases of undocumented human beings crossing the border illegally. You can read about that here. Honestly, reading terms like “family units” or “unaccompanied alien children” (also known as “UACs“) makes me sick to my stomach. This is how dehumanizing human beings, all born with the dignity of human life in them, takes off.

If you find yourself feeling Continue reading