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.