“Confirm thy soul in self-control” these lyrics from America the Beautiful seem to very pertinent as we observe this 4th of July. As we celebrate life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and equality under the law and the long road that we have had to travel to really get there as a nation, we seem to be backsliding some. Events lately have the vomit inducing taste of the days when things like, “we don't serve your kind here” and “know your place, boy” were all too common.
What happened to the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, when she was refused service at a Lexington, Virginia restaurant, is that it was not the color of her skin that got her disinvited but rather political affiliation. I guess Virginia isn’t for lovers anymore. Mrs. Sanders apparently forgot her place and had to be humiliatingly reminded that her kind need to sit at another lunch counter and use a different water fountain. Strange how so many of the same people who have schooled us recently on the principle that a place of public accommodation must serve all comers are now applauding this denial of service. Maybe it is a case of inconsistent application of principles or just outright hypocrisy. Normally it would be identified as invidious discrimination.
This incident, along with other vile threats, speak to the fact that the neutral places in our society are evaporating. This is one of the reasons the NFL has been embroiled in controversy. Sporting events have been neutral places, where regardless of your political affiliation or where you come from or how you speak or what you look like, everyone can come together for a time and unite around their team. Once politics began to infiltrate the sports world it quickly became a turn-off for many people. Neutral public spaces, places of public accommodation are needed so that we focus on what unites us and where diverse people can share something in common such as a sports game, good meal, comedy or theatrical show and now frighteningly they are becoming sources of division that people avoid.
Things have gotten dramatically uglier in the last week. Those who oppose the President have become more open in their advocacy of violence - and in actions that are precursors to violence. Peter Fonda's ugly rant, urging people to kidnap Barron Trump and put him in a cage with pedophiles, that they rape and murder Homeland Security Secretary Kirsten Nielsen...Occupy Wall Street putting out a brochure on how to murder ICE agents, then putting their names and addresses online - and urging people to kidnap their kids...the chasing of Nielsen from a restaurant by an angry mob, none of these are good signs nor are they the way that we normally handle political and policy disagreements in the US. While these tactics maybe whipping up their base it doesn’t seem to be winning to many converts to their cause.
In all the years of protesting abortion only a handful of people called for and carried out acts of violence. Whenever that did happen the entire Pro-Life community and beyond condemned it immediately. Unfortunately, we are not hearing that kind of condemnation at this moment from the progressive left leadership. In fact, the silence can be taken as a way of sending the signal that violence and hateful rhetoric are acceptable.
Right now, we are seeing the use of violent, hateful rhetoric amplified many times too loudly by social media and the 24-hour news cycle. At any point this can spill over into actual violence and mob action. It is a difficult moment. But despite the darkness that surrounds us, we are still expected to be the light of the world. American Catholics have a big role to play yet in our society. God chose us to live in these times and therefore there is a part for us to play. Whether it is the lead role, supporting cast or behind the scenes stage hand, know your lines and your parts. Don't expect a standing ovation, you might be booed off the stage, given the hook, but you will have played your role with resolve.
Our Sunday Mass readings recently had St. Paul remind us that we walk by faith. As such, at times we can only see a few feet in front of us but still we walk with the certain knowledge that God has a plan for our renewal and not our destruction. As we walk we should try our best to internalize the prayer of St. Francis so as to live it especially in the ugly circumstances we face.
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
So Christians, let’s make sure America continues to be the home of the brave.
Fr. John B.