Ebola. The Family Disease.

 

It’s been cooking for months.

The question now is whether it will get out of the box.

“It” is the long-smoldering Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The box, of course, is West Africa itself.

Will a disease vector — meaning, an infected person — manage to infect someone else who is going to, say, Sudan, who infects someone else who is going to Egypt, who manages to get on a plane and end up in Instanbul?

There are many routes this disease could take out of that box. In this age of air travel and high mobility, disease can spread at the speed of a jet engine. But that is the worst one I can imagine. If, through one of the many routes available to it, this thing ends up unnoticed in Istanbul, the potential for it to go on to the airport in Frankfurt, and from there to the whole wide world is enormous. Istanbul is the roadway between Africa and Europe. Always has been.

That’s the nightmare scenario. It’s the one that tantalizes us like a real-life disaster movie as we watch this unfold. I’ve been reading about this killer disease as it has slowly built itself into an out-of-control epidemic for a long time now. The death toll kept rising, the affected area kept spreading. But it was slow. It sludged from one godforsaken arm pit of a country to another and nobody much cared.

The world has become inured to horror stories from Africa. We don’t know what to do about these things, and it beats us up to watch them. So we watch, feel bad for a moment, and then go on. What else can we do?

Ebola

But the trouble with these human horror stories is that, if they are allowed to fester, they reach a critical mass and begin to spread. It doesn’t matter much if the illness is terrorist serial killers posing as religios, or an actual virus that we can only see with an electron microscope, the death and sickness will fester and smolder like a fire in the attic until it bursts out and takes somebody’s house down in a conflagration.

Ebola is out of control in West Africa. I read today that Sierra Leone is using troops to quarantine the sick. Medical teams from all over the world, but most especially the United States, are out there fighting the fight in their hazmat soldier suits. At the same time, frightened villagers have been known to turn on the docs and even burn down aid stations.

I’m guessing that these villagers have their reasons for feeling this way. But I don’t know enough to speculate what those reasons might be.

All I know for sure is that there’s a fight going on to stop a virus before it gets out of the box and begins a run down pandemic highway, killing a huge percentage of humanity as it goes.

I honestly think that the boys and girls in the hazmat suits will shut this thing down. It’s almost never the thing we see coming that gets us. It’s the blind-side that takes us down.

But the lessons in this horror story are obvious. You can’t consign any part of humanity to the waste bin and get away with it. Not forever. Like it or not, these people in West Africa are part of the human family. That’s why their long-smoldering virus scares us. Because what kills them will also kill us, and — here’s the big one — what kills them will spread to us just as if we were the same as them. 

Which, of course, is the point. We are the same as them. Same DNA. Same human body. Same human immune system. We are them. They are us. These aren’t a bunch of infected bats or monkeys. These are human beings. Just like us.

And what kills them, can and will kill us.

There’s a moral here, and it’s not hard to find. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the blight of inner city neighborhoods, drug cartels in Central America or a killer virus in Africa, what happens to other people will come around and happen to us if we ignore it.

Take, for instance, the blight in inner city neighborhoods. Much — not all, but much — of that soul-killing blight is linked to the use of addictive and illegal drugs. These drugs come from South of the Border. The drug cartels south of the border, who are financed by our drug use north of the border, kill and terrify whole populations, who in turn head up north to get away from the violence and hopelessness. We, in turn, stand at the border with signs, yelling at them and telling them to go back where they came from.

We’re all connected. What happens to them, will bite us too.

A virus in the poorest and most hopeless countries on the poorest and most hopeless continent in the world is cooking up a storm that will kill a lot of us if we don’t shut it down. The immediacy and the terror of this virus has our attention and we’re doing what has to be done to get it stopped. We are racing against time. Hurrying to get this thing pinned to the ground before that one infected person takes a pickup ride into the Sudan and meets someone else who goes to Egypt, who talks to someone who decides to take a short flight to Istanbul.

Because if that happens, we’re staring down the gun barrel of a conflagration.

We. Are. One. Highly-Dysfunctional. Family.

That is not poetry. It is absolute biological fact.

Ebola 1

The Catholic Bishops Aren’t ‘In Bed’ with President Obama. They’re In Court with Him.

 

 

I hate it when I have to spend my good time sweeping up the refuse from idiotic, politically-motivated attacks on our Catholic religious leaders.

Today, I’m going to address attacks from the right side of unreason, and to be honest, I’d rather not. Have to, that is. I’d much rather I didn’t have to keep doing this.

I’m not so pleased when I have to do the same thing for with the left side of unreason, either.

But … duty calls.

There have been a smattering of articles and combox vitriol floating around the internet accusing the Catholic bishops of all sorts of nasty things because they don’t/won’t/aren’t-going-to hate on Mexicans. After all, we’re deep into our bi-election brown-skin hate-off right now and every red blooded American is called to abandon all reason and blindly join in.

The cable news networks are discussing (they never report, they only discuss) the issue of large numbers of children coming over the Rio Grande. I watched a brief thingy on one of them Saturday night. They were proclaiming that one in four of these kids are “criminals” and that “gangs” are meeting them at the border to recruit them.

I know lots of people who’ve come over that border. Some of them are bad dudes. True. But most of them fall into the salt of the earth category of family-loving, deeply-religious goodness. You can hate me for saying it, but it’s just a fact.

To get back to the talking heads and their endless talk-talk on this border situation, I have one main point, and that point is …

They do this every single bi-election year.

I’m not saying that the problem with people flooding our Southern borders isn’t real. I am also not saying that this country should not control its borders. Far from it. A country that can’t control its borders is in big trouble.

What I am saying is that the this wall to wall reporting that has you so whipped up and miserable right now is politically-motivated. The cable news does this every bi-election The constant drumbeat of hysterical talk-talk-talking about “illegals” will stop like turning off a tap as soon as the votes are counted in November.

In the meantime, the good people of this country will have been ripped around and worked up into an emotional pitch for nothing. Again.

Because, you see, nothing is going to happen that will stop the flood of illegal immigrants coming over the border. Think about it. This big outrage has been whipped up every bi-election since the turn of the century. What good has come of it? Republican President/Democratic President/Republican Congress/Democratic Congress it doesn’t matter. Nothing changes.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops are doing their Jesus thing and insisting that these children are people and must be treated as people. If you will read the Bishops’ statements on this issue, they plainly support efforts to control the country’s borders. But they can’t very well drop kick the Gospels just to make the right wing side of unreason like them.

So … they get hit with the usual claptrap from the vicious pharisees to the right. I won’t go through the whole tired litany of hate talk. I’m going to focus on one bizarro statement that I’ve seen repeated enough to know it has traction in certain internet nut bins. That statement is the ludicrous claim that the Catholic bishops are “in bed” with President Obama.

That is so stupid that it deserves a trophy of some sort or other.

Have any of the little hive minds that are passing that around totally forgotten the dozens upon dozens of lawsuits filed against the HHS Mandate? How about the bishops’ requests for religious exemptions to ENDA and the fight brewing there? Who do you think was working against the Hobby Lobby vote last week?

The bishops are in bed with President Obama? Puleez.

What the bishops are doing with their support of the human rights of immigrants and their refusal to join in with the great bi-election immigration hate-off, is following Jesus.

You know, the Jesus Simeon said would be a “sign of contradiction.”

What Simeon didn’t prophesy, but which Christ the Lord promised when he said If they persecute me, they will persecute you, is that people who follow the Gospels, especially in a a post-Christian society such as ours, are also going to be signs of contradiction. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say that our vocation as Christians in this post-Christian culture is to be signs of contradictions.

The bishops are succeeding in that vocation in a grand fashion. They are, for instance, being sued directly for their teaching that abortion is wrong. That’s from the left side of unreason.

Now, they’re being accused of pandering to our anti-Catholic president by insisting that people are people, no matter their legal status. That’s from the right side of of unreason.

What we are dealing with here is two sides of the same God-is-Made-in-My-Image coin. When people cut the Gospels down to fit their politics, they stop being a sign of contradiction to the sins of the world and become the sin’s enablers. They are salt that has lost its savor.

The followers of the politically-trimmed Gospel that does not allow for the sanctity of human life or marriage on the one side, and that tries to enforce economics as a morality-free zone on the other, are both examples of fallen and useless Christians. When I say “useless” I mean they are useless to God in His great work of Kingdom building.

Is there anything worse I can say about a Christian than that they are useless to God?

Jesus told us cannot follow two masters, and I think He meant it. When we trim our faith to suit our politics, we are running away from the cross, just like Peter, Andrew, James, James, Matthew, Philip, Thomas, Nathaniel, Simon the Zealot and Thaddaeus.

The Apostles repented of their shameful running away. They gave their lives for the same Jesus they had abandoned.

We can too.

I am not saying that we should not be concerned about the flood of illegal immigrants that have been coming over our borders for the past decades. This country needs to secure its borders. Period.

I am saying that we should stop letting ourselves be jerked around by the bi-election carrying on that happens so predictably that you could set your calendar by it.

This isn’t about shutting down our borders. In fact, the same corporatists who own the news outlets that are pushing this hysteria are themselves ardently opposed to shutting down the borders. They like and employ the cheap, off-the-books labor. I’ll write more on that in a day or so.

What this reporting and whipping Americans into a xenophobic hysteria are about is the universal goal of power politics: Getting power and keeping power.

Nobody is going to fix this problem, come November. The day after the elections, the talking heads will start talking about something else. Just like they do every bi-election.

In the meantime, the right-wing-of-unreason crowd will have scarred and defamed the name of Christ with their claims to be Christian while they say things that come straight from the pit.

The bishops are right about this, just as they are right about marriage and abortion and human trafficking and a whole host of other things.

They are being attacked because they are the sign of contradiction in American public discourse.

They get attacked from the left and right because they are not acolytes to either the right or left. Their job isn’t to give moral support to the immorality of power politics. Their job is to proclaim the Gospels and teach us what living for Christ means in this world.

When they tell us to treat immigrants as people, they are teaching us how the Gospels apply directly to us, in our current world. They are setting the cross before us and asking us to take up the unpopular position and lift the cross onto our shoulders and follow Him.

The Catholic bishops are in bed with President Obama? The plain facts of recent history make that charge ridiculous.

The fact that otherwise intelligent folks are bandying it about simply points to how nutty following the gods of this world can make people.

I am writing this with one goal, and it’s not to call in the lightning on my own head, although I will probably get a bit of that. I am writing it to urge you to regain your reason.

Think straight. Look at the simple fact that this happens every bi-election. Consider what that means in real life.

Look also at the fact that the bishops are hated on by both the right and left of the political spectrum. Consider for a moment that perhaps this is because they are actually being the “sign of contradiction” that we all should be.

If you follow Jesus, you’ll be treated the same way He was. That’s what’s happening to the bishops. It’s also what should be happening to you and me.

Use your minds and think people. Do not be whipped around by talking heads with a political agenda. Think. Connect the dots.

And support our bishops.

Playing Politics with America’s Welfare. This Time It’s Immigration.

My husband and I had supper at a local hamburger joint about a week ago.

It is one of those places where they have tvs mounted on the walls, blaring away while you eat. This particular tv was right behind my head, so I had to listen to it.

It was tuned to one of the cable news networks and the story they were not reporting but talking about (cable news does not report news, it talks about it) was the number of child migrants coming over America’s border. The entire conversation boiled down to two points: (1) President Obama caused this. (2) We should all hate President Obama.

The discussion was just hate, hate, hate, directed at President Obama.

That, my friends, will not solve this problem or any other. It is evil. It does enormous damage to our country.

Both sides of the political divide go into endless hate mode as soon as the votes are counted in November. They shamelessly encourage their followers to hate the person who was elected and to attack him or her, no matter what they do or say. I quit watching cable news except for once in a while during a disaster because it (1) doesn’t report any news (2) is blatant propaganda and (3) is so full of hate that it gives me indigestion.

I don’t know enough about the current border problem to either diagnose its causes or to affix blame. I could listen to these so-called news channels 24/7 and I still would not know.

I do have a couple of observations, both of which are going to anger quite a few of Public Catholic’s readers.

First, the Republican Party and their talking heads on “their” cable news shows ramp up the immigration debate in every off-year election. This has been happening consistently since the turn of the century.

The campaign ads here in Oklahoma that came from the Republican Party’s candidates four years ago were flat-out racist. They showed hispanic people in dark night-time scenarios, being arrested, and in other degrading ways with voice overs about how the candidate the ad was backing would stop “illegal immigration.”

Two years after that, when hispanic people all over the country held their noses and voted for the presidential candidate who was against their personal religious and moral beliefs, they were accused of abandoning their faith. My reaction then was simple: What did you expect? They had to vote this way. To do anything else would be to deny their own humanity.

So, when I saw that the cable news was following their regular pattern of reporting the immigration thing in an off-election year and hating on President Obama, my first question, was How political is this story?

I have looked at statistics, and there has been a surge — a big surge — in numbers of minors coming across the border in the past few months. Based on that, (and I haven’t looked deeply at these statistics, so it’s a kind of preliminary opinion) I am guessing that the “crisis” they are reporting actually exists.

Notice how carefully I word that. The reason I tiptoe around it so carefully is that (1) It’s an off-election year, (2) They do this every off-election year (3) The “reporting” I’ve heard seems to be focused on hatred of the President and little else.

There is a debate going on right now as to how much money Congress should appropriate to this “crisis.” The problem is that our elected officials want to use the question as a political football to gain power for themselves in November. So they are, once again, holding America hostage.

I’m withholding judgement about what is causing this situation and how we should handle it in the long term. I will say that I am reasonably confident that the reporting on the crisis will end once the votes are counted in November. Then, we’ll go on to the next hate-reporting thingy.

I will also say without equivocation that I do not believe that the Republicans in the House of Representatives want to fix the “crisis.” They are talking about how the President has asked for “too much” money to deal with it.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

But I am absolutely certain that their true objections are not fiduciary. If one of their corporatist handlers wanted this amount of money for themselves, it would pass without a single question. I am not saying that $$ for judges and intensified border patrol is the long-term answer. I don’t think it is. What I am saying, is that the objections to this request and the refusal to act are politically motivated.

The Rs want this “crisis” to continue because of the November elections. The good of this country does not matter.

Many of Public Catholic’s readers are going to romp all over me for saying that. But it’s the plain truth. If we want to deal effectively with the onslaught of illegal immigration, we need to end the practice of using it for a vote-getter every two years and deal with it intelligently.

On the other hand, this sudden surge of children coming over the border must be organized, and not by President Obama. These children are being used, but I don’t know by whom. No one seems to be asking questions about who is organizing this migration of children south of the border. In fact, what we are getting by way of explanation is sound bites that don’t make sense because they aren’t connected to anything.

If I can get Public Catholic’s readers to look at these two parties dispassionately, I will have accomplished a lot. We’re going to have to stop letting them jerk us around like this, both for our personal mental health and for the health of this nation.

We serve Christ. We need to eschew hate-filled invective and use the fine minds that God gave us to think.

I’m going to put a few videos below to help us all — including me — think this through. Don’t knee jerk. Defy the talking heads. Think for yourself.

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

 

Archdiocese of Oklahoma City Opposed Anti-Hispanic Law

Archbishop Eusebius Beltran

I was never more proud to be a Catholic than when my archbishop, Archbishop (now Archbishop Emeritus) Eusebius Beltran and the priest’s council signed this pledge. They were willing to face criminal prosecution for refusing to obey this unjust law which passed the Oklahoma Legislature in 2004. The debate and vote on this bill was one of those times when I hated my job, but was very glad that I was there to fight the losing battle against it.

Archbishop Beltrane also marched with Martin Luther King when he was a young priest in Georgia. He did this at a time when doing so was, as this was, highly controversial, even among Catholics, and downright dangerous.

The Catholic Church has stood with the poor, the downtrodden, the weak, hungry and helpless for 2,000 years.

Anyone who supported this law should be ashamed of themselves.

Here is a copy of the pledge they signed. The emphases are mine.

Archdiocese announces resistance to forthcoming anti-illegal immigration law

Ben Fenwick
October 26th, 2007
The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City announced a pledge to resist House Bill 1804, Oklahoma’s new anti-illegal immigration law due to take effect Nov. 1. Archbishop Eusebius Beltran and members o…

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City announced a pledge to resist House Bill 1804, Oklahoma’s new anti-illegal immigration law due to take effect Nov. 1.

Archbishop Eusebius Beltran and members of the Council of Priests supporting this statement will present the following signed pledge of resistance to the law to Gov. Brad Henry on Friday, according to the Archdiocese:

PLEDGE OF RESISTANCE
“This letter has been authorized and signed in response to the recently approved law HB 1804. This law is fiercely anti-immigrant and does not reflect values that respect people or families.

With the advent of this new law, we unite ourselves in opposition and defiance of this unjust and immoral law. This law makes it a felony to aid, assist or transport any undocumented person in the state of Oklahoma and ‘on violating the provisions of subsections A or B of this section shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for not less than one (1) year, or by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment.”

Our faith teaches us to do good to all people. There is no exemption clause for those persons who do not have documentation of their citizenship status. We will not show partiality against those who are in need of humanitarian assistance. Because this law is overly punitive and makes a felony out of the act of providing humanitarian assistance to an undocumented person in need, we the undersigned clergy, religious leaders and lay people of conscience will not and can not obey this law. We will continue to aid and assist all people regardless of their legal citizenship status, with charitable care and spiritual counsel.

We people of faith and conscience refuse to allow ourselves to be intimidated by Oklahoma’s law which makes those who serve others into felons. To the contrary, as persons of faith, hope and love, we call for the repeal of this anti-immigrant law and for immigration reform that provides justice for all God’s children. We are united in solidarity and in defiance of this law because of our allegiance to a higher law, the love of God and humanity.”

What Happened With the “Catholic Vote?”

I have read and heard lots of comments saying that President Obama “won” the Catholic vote. This is misleading.

President Obama won the Hispanic vote heavily. Far more than half of Hispanics are Catholics. Based on the Hispanic people I know, they are devout, church-going, family-oriented people.

I have also witnessed and fought against the repeated, racist attacks on hispanics by Republican politicians here in Oklahoma. The Republican Party used the issue of illegal immigration as a wedge issue in at least three of the elections in the past 10 years. They referred to “illegals” as if they were insects rather than people. They passed laws here in Oklahoma that tried to deny hispanic people access to basic services and their civil rights. 

They did all this despite the fact that there were plenty of laws on the books already to handle illegal immigration. These laws just weren’t being enforced. The main reason they weren’t being enforced was because the business interests that pay for Republican campaigns did not want them enforced.

Hispanic people are not stupid. They know all this. So when they voted heavily to re-elect President Obama, they were not voting against their church. They were voting against the discrimination and racism which the Republican Party had callously directed against them to win elections earlier in this century. 

Now, we are faced with pundits and commenters who keep saying that “Catholics voted for Obama” as if this was a repudiation of the Church by its own people. In truth, for the Catholic vote to have been as close as it was, and for hispanics to have voted for President Obama in the percentages they did, most other Catholics must have voted heavily for Governor Romney.

Before you go off condemning your fellow Catholics for deserting the Church, remember that statistics can be used to lie. At the very least these statistics are not be used to represent the facts in a way that would lead anyone who reads them to draw accurate conclusions.


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