Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Colbert on the Nuns, Stewart on Romney and Causasiastan

Two recent video clips that make, to my way of thinking, valuable points in humorous ways--and if we don't need humor to make valuable points go down smoothly in midweek, when do we need it?:

Stephen Colbert interviews Sr. Simone Campbell of NETWORK, and how the good sister does go on  talking about Jesus and insisting on her right to do so.  As if she and the sisters somehow own Jesus, when the Catholic hierarchy keep wanting to make it perfectly clear to us that they and they alone own Jesus and will decide when, where, and how to dispense him to the faithful: 

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Radical Feminist Nuns - Simone Campbell
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And then John Stewart notices that Mr. Romney's campaign ads seem to overlook a significant (and growing) sector of the American population--people who don't look precisely like Mr. Romney and all the Caucasian Americans to whom he appears intent on selling his presidency more than to anyone else:

As I watch the second clip, I can't help thinking of several things I've read lately about Catholic swing voters and their possible influence in determining the outcome of the 2012 elections.  George Marlin is one among several political commentators and journalists now insisting that the Catholic swing vote in rustbelt states may be decisive in choosing the next president of the U.S.*  Marlin thinks that vote is moving heavily in the direction of Romney, because Romney stands for good old-fashioned family values and against abortion.

It's clear to me that many of those writing in this vein are touting the GOP as the only possible choice for "good" Catholics in 2012, and that they also hope to nudge the Catholic vote to the Republican side of the ledger by writing these prescription-as-description articles.  But I'm also interested in what this analysis does not say about many of the Catholic swing voters who, we're told, have no choice except to swing right on moral issues.

This analysis doesn't pay any attention at all, for instance, to the not inconsiderable racism that informs the voting choices of many Catholics in swing states, especially when an African-American candidate is running for office.  When I read many of those commenting on Tony Magliano's recent fine article in National Catholic Reporter on how Congress is failing to hear the cries of the poor, I cannot help feeling deeply ashamed at the almost palpable depths of racism among many American Catholics these days--and at the lack of good catechesis among American Catholics, many of whom appear to think that the preferential option for the poor is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition as we form our conscience and make our political decisions.

Read the comments responding to Magliano, and the racism that is just beneath the surface among many American Catholics jumps out at you; the totally unfounded assertions that welfare programs have never been anything but handouts to the undeserving (read: black and brown) poor, who game the system; the astonishing attacks on the public school system; the attacks on foreign aid (read: to nations with black and brown populations), etc.

The men ruling the church, who are the same men who want these undereducated Catholics who have bought totally into the welfare-queen myths of the Reagan and post-Reagan period, have done pitifully little to educate American Catholics about what it's like to be poor in the United States.  Or to be black in the United States.  And to be poor and black . . . . 

And about what moral obligations it lays across our shoulders to recognize the burdens of the poor and the burdens caused by deep historic racism in our society . . . . 

If, as one reader to one of the recent discussions of these issues at the NCR blogs says, the bishops succeed in throwing the 2012 elections by manipulating the racism of low-information conservative Catholic voters in key swing states--if the bishops succeed in putting the Republican candidate into office and assuring the domination of Congress by Republicans--will the bishops then own the damage done to the nation and the world when these folks ram through budget plans that do absolutely nothing to aid the poor while giving money away hand over fist to those who are already obscenely rich?

I seriously doubt that they will own any such moral responsibility if their religious freedom war succeeds in achieving these goals--goals they appear to me and many others to be pursuing very actively.  

Neither party is anywhere near the ideal, when it comes to hearing the cries of the poor or to addressing racism in our society.  But the moral choice between the two major parties in the U.S. is also not anywhere nearly so clear-cut as the bishops ask us to imagine, as they focus obsessively and exclusively on abortion and gay marriage.  There are other significant moral considerations to be taken into consideration as we cast our votes as informed Catholic voters.

Those considerations are nowhere apparent in the anti-Obama rhetoric that now dominates the thinking of the U.S. Catholic bishops--to the peril of the planet and, in particular, to the poor of the world.

*H/t to Dennis Coday for the link to Marlin's article in Coday's "Morning Briefing" column at National Catholic Reporter yesterday.

P.S. Since both Colbert's and Stewart's video clips have embed codes available to readers, I'm assuming it's not inappropriate for bloggers to embed the videos in blog postings.  If that's not correct and any reader can set me straight on this point, I'd appreciate it.

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