The National Catholic Review
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Waiting for Gaga

Bob Dylan turned 70 on May 24. Joan Baez turned 70 in January. Paul Simon will do the same in October, Art Garfunkel three weeks later. Paul McCartney just turned 69.

Sadly, the times are not a-changin’, and one finds no answers blowin’ in the wind or anywhere else. The voices that inspired the hopes and articulated the rage for a generation still make fine music, but—Joan Baez excepted—seem to have nothing to say about the nation’s wars today. The sounds are only silence.

The issues, of course, still abound. The outrages of 40 years ago do not go away; they simply turn into clichés. The nation’s leaders still turn to violence to show the world that its values are highest, that its ideals are noblest, that it will do anything for the oil it craves. This nation still sends its young to die in Asian backwaters for reasons it cannot explain. This nation still bombs and fires missiles at innocent women and children to get some phantom bad guys.

By now, though, the leadership has learned. It has taken away the fear: the fear of every young man turning 18 that he was about to go off to Asia to kill or be killed, the fear of his family for what might be. And it has taken away the images of horror: the nightly news stories with body bags and flag-draped coffins and taps drifting mournfully across a graveyard. And it has taken away the cost: no new taxes; let future generations pay for what the country spends now.

Where are the prophets the country needs to challenge war today? Who will write the anthems to rally for peace? Has it all come down to Lady Gaga?

That Other Minority

You can see them everywhere—driving taxis, staffing convenience stores, serving as orderlies, nurses and physicians in hospitals. They are a distinguished presence in corporate boardrooms in suits or pantsuits, but they also roam research facilities in lab coats. One of them (Michelle Rhee) served as chancellor of the Washington, D.C., public school system until a year ago. Their young are disproportionately selected to give the valedictory and salutatory addresses for graduation. They are that other minority group—actually several groups—known collectively as Asian Pacific Islanders. Numbering about 5 percent of the U.S. population, they include people with ethnic ties to East Asia (notably China, Japan and Korea), South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka), Southeast Asia (Vietnam, the Philippines, Laos and Cambodia) and the Pacific Islands (especially Tonga, Samoa and Micronesia).

Only a few make headlines, some on the sports pages as professional athletes. Troy Palomalu (the defensive linebacker from Samoa) and Hines Ward (the part-Asian running back) are both stars for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tongans and Samoans, usually rugged and big-boned, have long been a force in the sports world, but others in this minority cluster are just as likely to be designing computer software or doing advanced engineering. In numberless areas these Americans have made their mark. Without them our public health systems would be crippled, our science research poorer and our schools far less challenged to perform better.

They do not receive the public attention other minorities get, not even from this magazine. May, celebrated as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, came and went without attracting much notice. So let this be a well-deserved acknowledgment of the contributions that these ethnic groups have made to their adopted country. The United States is richer for them.

A Brother Journalist

In the Gospel story of the mustard seed (Mt 13:32-34), the seed grows to have impact far larger than its tiny size suggests. That is what journalists do. They observe life and tell what they see. The word spreads. Sometimes, as a result, the world changes.

The Gospel reading at the funeral Mass for Joseph Feuerherd, age 48, editor and publisher of The National Catholic Reporter, in the chapel of the Theological College at Catholic University on June 1, was chosen by Joe himself to proclaim his—and our—life’s mission. From the day in 1984 when as a Catholic University junior Joe became an intern at N.C.R., his life belonged to that publication, even though he did other jobs on Capitol Hill. He became editor and publisher in 2008. Independence from church authority, he believed, was essential to the paper’s success. He exposed scandals in the church he loved and in which he and his wife Becky raised their three children. He compared the paper to a “good city newspaper reporting the foibles of the mayor and city council as they award that latest garbage contract to a favored vendor.” But he toured the country talking with public figures, rebuilt the paper’s staff and expanded its Web presence to an average of 1.5 million visitors a month. At his funeral the celebrant, Anthony T. Pogorelc, S.S., summed him up: He was a historian, a journalist and a teacher. The church that profited from his leadership mourns his loss. Our job as fellow Catholic journalists is to keep planting those seeds.

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Christopher Plasencia | 6/30/2011 - 7:05pm
Earlier this week an 8-year-old Afghan girl died when she was given a bag with a bomb inside and told to bring it to a police outpost. Were the Taliban insurgents who gave the girl the bag among the "phantom bad guys" that you refer to in this editorial?
C Walter Mattingly | 6/18/2011 - 10:23am
Interesting, Ed. I wonder what the response would be if he asked them who Michelle Rhee was?
ed gleason | 6/16/2011 - 12:44pm
One of my sons does political stand up in san francisco. He has asked his audience.. "who was the SF mayor last year' They answer Gavin Newsom..Then... "Who was mayor last year in Oakland' They answer Jerry Brown Then.. who is Mayor in Oakland now?  They answer.." some Chinese woman.' [Jean Quan]
Who is mayor of San Francisco now? .. they answer..' some Chinese guy'  [Edwin Lee..]

He ends with ... racists..
NORMA NUNAG | 6/15/2011 - 9:53pm
Thank you for noticing and devoting a paragraph on the contributions of The Other  Minority. 
Brien Kinkel | 6/14/2011 - 8:13am

Amy Chua is an Asian-American (Chinese-Indonesian) whose contributions to political science and educational theory are timely and huge.  Her World on Fire is my favorite book on US foreign policy, and her Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother challenges us to think outside the Western box when we consider how we educate our daughters and sons. 

C Walter Mattingly | 6/13/2011 - 12:13pm
We need wait no longer for Gaga; that lady's moniker has provided us with the perfect adjective to describe the argument of this lead editorial piece.
Not that there is not truth here-the nation's leaders have turned to violence when it was the only feasible avenue to oppose genocidal monsters.  The silence that proceeded our nation's and the world's inaction before Tony Blair could convince Bill Clinton to oppose the genocide that Milosevic and his army was visiting upon Albanian Muslims resulted in 10's of thousands of unnecessary civilian slaughterings. Belatedly we acted violently, and in doing so at least prevented perhaps a hundred or two hundred thousand further mass executions if civilians. Likewise in Iraq, the Butcher of Bagdhad, following the tactics of his mentor, Stalin, quite efficiently by cutting off the water supply to starve to death his people, as well as sarin gassing them, stealing the Oil for Food resources at a cost of Iraqi lives the UN estimated to be 800,000, mostly the young and old, etc.  And the phantom bad guys, you know, the ones who pulled off that illusion of 9/11 and the Twin Towers, that orchestrated deception of invading Pakistan and blowing away the Bin Laden phantom, and other such Spielbergian illusions. But our editorialists should take heart: we did not interfere with our arrogant American ideals of freedom, democracy, and the value of human life in the Tutsi/Hutu conflict. And there, we can take solace by our peaceful noninvolvement with the sounds of silence that resulted: the million plus macheteed, burned, gunned down we shall never hear again; they are perfectly mute, every one. Not so, however, the hundreds of thousands of women raped who now are infected with HIV by the unopposed perpetrators.
Perhaps one reason that many of the old protestors of the 60's no longer sing their songs of protest is that they have grown up and become wiser, and that they have learned that all that is necessary for evil to triumph in the world, as Prime Minister Chamberlin and his followers did not learn from his fellow Briton Edmund Burke, is for enough good men to do nothing.
The silence of failing to oppose evil, by force if necessary, can be deafening.

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