Monday, September 28, 2015

In the Wake of The Pope's Visit

Pope Francis has ended his much ballyhooed visit to the United States.

While here, he preached a little sermon to the U.S. Congress about its duties:

“Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.”

Of course, the hypocrites of the House and Senate applauded these and other lines delivered by the leader of the world’s Catholics.  So did the Catholics of the Supreme Court, including the  Opus Dei  member Antonin Scalia, who thinks corporations are people and that women should be kept barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. This is called “family values.”

I suspect that even the Pope realized that his speech to the Congress was an exercise in futility, that what passes for minds in those chambers could not be changed even by his persuasive rhetoric. And, as some critics have pointed out, much of that rhetoric rang somewhat hollow, coming from someone who only reluctantly acknowledged that bishops were guilty of “wrongdoing” when for eons they shielded from prosecution the priests who sexually abused children, honored with sainthood a priest who had been among the worst debasers of native Americans in Spanish colonial America, and who himself was mute in his Jesuit leadership when thousands of citizens were “disappeared” in his native Argentina.

None of this diminishes the importance of his messages about climate change caused by human activity, criminal economic inequality in the capitalist world, government guilt in the worst refugee crisis to confront humanity since the last great war, the blood-gorged oligarchs of an arms industry that feeds on human death and suffering, or a human society that increasingly dismisses the Golden Rule as old-fashioned nonsense.

And these are the messages that his applauding audience in congress choose to ignore.  They would defund the organization that does the most in our society to provide medical services to women too poor to get them otherwise.  They would deny black Americans the right to vote.  They would provide military weapons to police officers who shoot unarmed men with their hands up, or in wheelchairs, or with their backs turned, simply because those men are black, or wearing ‘Fros, or hoodies. They would  impose an intolerable tax burden on its working poor while collecting virtually nothing from its greed-gorged oligarchs and obscenely profitable corporations. They would blindly pursue a policy of endless war, endorse Israel’s genocide against Palestinians and hurl fusillades of lies against those who dare to try to take tiny steps toward peace somewhere in a benighted world.

They applauded the Pope even as they plotted new methods of debasing “those in situations of great vulnerability or risk.”

They are scum.

What Passes for Whale Vomit Stateside?

“Lump of whale vomit sold at auction in U.K..” reads a headline on the BBC news website.

I asked an ex-pat friend in England about this seemingly odd transaction.

“Not surprising, i assure you,” he writes from the garden of his country home near Maidstone, Kent.   “Like all my neighbors, i myself have several fine lumps of whale vomit on my mantelpiece.  My wife wears one on a chain.”

This suggests to me the existence of a lively trade in whale vomit amongst our cousins across the pond.  How, I wonder, do the whale-vomit shops and auction houses verify the authenticity of the specimens? Might the winning bidder at the recent auction have actually bought, say, a lump from a round of gorgonzola that went down with the Andrea Doria?  Is there an odor test? Must there have been witnesses to the actual act of whale puking?  It’s rare enough for a landlubber like me to have seen a whale breaching, let alone to have observed one voiding its plankton.

I first supposed that the election of the likes of Maggie Thatcher, Tony Blair and David Cameron might account for this odd British interest in whale vomit.  The Establishment’s reaction to Labour’s election of Jeremy Corbyn to head the party does suggest some form of animal waste, but nothing quite as exotic as whale vomit. 

And if whale vomit collecting reflects a society’s political discourse, one would expect that United States voters would be imitating their British cousins, perhaps embracing specimens from more typically American animals.  Bear scat?  Mule turds?  Turkey poop? (Benjamin Franklin, remember, much preferred the turkey to the eagle as an American symbol.)

If what spews from the craw of, say, David Cameron, stimulates whale vomit-collecting, then the bile from the mouths of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio et al ought to trigger at least an outbreak of road-kill collecting. Bovine excrement has also been suggested, of course, but it somehow lacks the panache of whale vomit.

Now that they’ve brought down John Boehner, what sort of mantelpiece trophies might the Tea Party crowd like to collect to rival the U.K. Tories’ taste for whale vomit?

Not many of the modest ranchers in, say, Rowan County, Ky., even have mantelpieces.  So what else might good, conservative Republicans do with their political keepsakes?  Door stops?  Knick-knack shelves?  Garden ornaments?

’Tis a puzzlement.

Also, on further reflection, I realize that my friend in Kent is apolitical, certainly not Tory.  The specimens on his mantelpiece are simply whale vomit, no more, no less. Read no political meaning into them.

But do keep an eye on what’s being auctioned these days in red states.  You never know!