Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Bernie Sanders and the Pope chatted briefly at the Vatican: What do you suppose they talked about?

Bernie Sanders and Pope Francis met briefly in Rome last weekend. What do you think they talked about? Do you suppose Bernie stole a line from Fiddler on the Roof and said something like, "You're a good man, Your Holiness. It's too bad you're not a Jew."

Probably not. Their meeting was very brief, dignified and perfectly appropriate. No photo ops, no press releases, no sound bites from the Pontiff.  The two may have spoken briefly about social justice. As Bernie said later, in response to a reporter's question, "I conveyed to [Pope Francis] my great admiration for the extraordinary work that he is doing all over the world in demanding that morality be part of the economy." And they may have said a few words about climate change, about which they hold very similar views.

Pope Francis himself played down his fleeting encounter with Bernie and Jane, saying that their exchange was merely a sign of good manners:
When I came down, I greeted them, shook their hands and nothing more. This is good manners. It's called good manners and not getting mixed up in politics. If anyone thinks that greeting someone means getting involved in politics, they should see a psychiatrist.
Of course, Bernie and Pope Francis disagree on some things: same-sex marriage and abortion, in particular. But that did not prevent the two from greeting each other with respect and courtesy. 

Perhaps this brief meeting between Bernie and the Pope provides a model for how Catholics and our nation's political leaders should interact. It is now quite clear that the United States is not a Christian society; it is a postmodern society. By and large, our nation has rejected Catholic values concerning the dignity of life and the sacred nature of the family. As Catholics we must accept this fact.

But our nation's political elites should at least treat Catholics and our Catholic faith with respect--as Bernie did when he bumped into Pope Francis last weekend. During the last eight years, President Obama has barely concealed his contempt for the Catholic Church and the basic tenets of our Catholic religion.

But Bernie, by interacting respectfully with Pope Francis, implicitly signaled his respect for American Catholics and for our faith. And he also acknowledged areas of agreement between his progressive values and our Catholic values. 

This is all Catholics can ask of a presidential candidate, but we are at least entitled to that. Unfortunately, if Hillary is elected President, we can expected to be treated with the same dismissive contempt that Barrack Obama showed us. And that is one of the reasons I voted for Bernie in the Louisiana Democratic Primary.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Bernie Sander's Tax Returns: Bernie's family actually made less money than my family last year, and that's one reason I am voting for him

Bernie Sanders and his wife Jane made about $200,000 last year, according to Bernie's recently released tax returns. This compares to what Hillary and Bill raked in 2014: $28 million! Or to put it another way, Bernie's income last year was less than Hillary made in a single speech to the big shots at Verizon.

It seems then that I have finally voted for a presidential candidate whose family makes less than mine does--and it feels good! And if the American voters choose wisely in the next primary elections, perhaps I will vote for him again on election day in November.

When I contemplate Bernie's political platform, I am constantly brought back to the life of Dorothy Day and to her unfailing commitment to the poor. This is what Dorothy wrote:
Yes, the poor will always be with us--Our Lord told us that--and there will always be a need for our sharing, for stripping ourselves to help others. But I am sure that God did not intend that there be so many poor. The class struggle is of our making and by our consent, not His, and we must do what we can to change it. 
And of course today, we have many kinds of poverty. We have the very poor, millions of faceless people we don't often see. But there is another kind of poverty as well. How many people with good incomes are working their lives away to meet their house notes, make their car payments, and pay down their credit card balances? As Dorothy said many years ago, "The fact is we are no longer a nation of homeowners and apartment renters. We are a nation of people owing debts and mortgages, and so enslaved by these and by installment buying that families do indeed live in poverty, only poverty with a new face."

Or to paraphrase one of Dorothy's Catholic Worker colleagues, it's gotten expensive to be poor!

Of course, if Bernie is elected President, he won't turn our country around overnight. But at least we will have a President who is not bought and paid for by the banks and the financial industry. At least we will be headed toward health care as a basic right and not a bureaucratic maze wired together to please the medical profession and the insurance industry. Perhaps we might even have a country where men and women working full time at Walmart won't have to rely on food stamps just so they can feed their families.

And that would be something, wouldn't it?

Image result for bernie sanders


Dorothy Day. Loaves and Fishes. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1963.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Trump, Clinton, Cruz & Sanders: "The Grace of God is in Courtesy"

Of Courtesy, it is much less
Than Courage of Heart or Holiness,
Yet in my Walks it seems to me
That the Grace of God is in Courtesy.
Hilaire Belloc

I became profoundly uneasy about Donald Trump when I saw him treat Jeb Bush so contemptuously, mocking him on the debate stage. It seemed to me then--and seems to me now--that a person who publicly humiliates a political opponent with school-yard taunts does not have the temperament to be President.

And Mr. Trump has done nothing to alleviate my doubts about his character in the months following his first Presidential debate. And now we are presented with the disgusting spectacle of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz (or their supporters) insulting each other's wife. Even the most bare-knuckle ward boss knows that there is one line that cannot be crossed--no politician with any claim to decency can disparage an opponent's spouse.

We must have a president who is honest and not venal, and Hillary Clinton does not qualify by either standard. But we also must have a President who is not a bully.

Increasingly, I am swayed by Hilaire Belloc's profound little poem, Courtesy. Surely Hilloc is right: the grace of God is in courtesy. And by that measure, the only top contender who is qualified to be our President is Bernie Sanders, who declined, perhaps to his disadvantage, to scold Hillary Clinton for her email scandal.

Hilaire Belloc
"[T]he Grace of God is in Courtesy."