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Issue Date:  October 1, 2004

From the Editor’s Desk

Hope inside zones of tensions

One must be careful when speaking about hope because too often, I think, it conjures up the wrong image of some ethereal zone free of all tension and conflict. Isn’t real-life hope worked out somewhat differently, inside those zones of tensions, in the places where perhaps not everything is clear and free of clutter and competing forces?

So I cautiously recommend what I think are some signs of hope in this issue. One would be the success of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, an Ohio-based union, in their negotiations with the North Carolina Growers Association. Not insignificant to the victory, which will improve life for thousands of immigrants who do the backbreaking labor that puts food on our tables, was the support by Raleigh Bishop F. Joseph Gossman. As Patrick O’Neill reports, Gossman took some heat in his diocese for his pro-union stand. The ink was hardly dry on the agreement, though, before Gossman was looking at the next challenge. “Now we have to work on those that are undocumented. They’re the ones that are the worst treated.”

Another hopeful piece is the essay by Richard K. Taylor. I have talked to countless Catholics during the past two years who are feeling exhausted, worn out by the news of scandal and even more beaten down by what they perceive to be the incompetent response of the hierarchy. I know, anecdotally, that a lot of people, including a lot of women, are simply leaving. Not in the angry, confrontational ways of an earlier era. No, they’re going because of the accumulated weight of it all, and many aren’t really going anywhere. They’re just taking a break outside, because they can’t take it anymore inside. If you’re one of them, or if you’re a Catholic on the verge of a breakout, read Taylor. It may calm your soul; it may help you see hope in the current circumstance. It will certainly, at least, give you something to think about.

~ ~ ~

I like to think that this paper’s reporting does a tiny bit at times to help yank the curtain away from the wizard, to expose the gap between who we are in America and who we think we are. It is difficult to articulate, but I found a brilliant synopsis of the condition in a Sept. 21 column by author and Boston Globe columnist James Carroll.

“To the mounting horror of the world, the United States of America is relentlessly bringing about the systematic destruction of a small, unthreatening nation for no good reason. Why has this not gripped the conscience of the country?” he writes.

“The war policy of George W. Bush -- ‘preventive war,’ unilateralism, contempt for Geneva -- breaks with tradition, but there is nothing new about the American population’s refusal to face what is being done in our name. This is a sad, old story. It leaves us ill-equipped to deal with a pointless illegal war. The Bush war in Iraq, in fact, is only the latest in a chain of irresponsible acts of a warrior government, going back to the firebombing of Tokyo. In comparison to that, the fire from our helicopter gunships above the cities of Iraq this week is benign. Is that why we take no offense?

“Something deeply shameful has us in its grip. We carefully nurture a spirit of detachment toward the wars we pay for. But that means we cloak ourselves in cold indifference to the unnecessary suffering of others -- even when we cause it. We don’t look at any of this directly because the consequent guilt would violate our sense of ourselves as nice people. Meaning no harm, how could we inflict such harm?”

It represents, as Carroll finally puts it, “our great moral squandering.”

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, October 1, 2004

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