Obama’s Missed Opportunity
Re “Steering the Ship of State,” by Robert David Sullivan (6/6): This is not an objective look at our president’s legacy. President Obama has represented this country with grace, style and, for the most part, magnanimity. I have been grateful for his presence at all international events and for his contribution to race relations.
His Keynesian economics, however, have left much to be desired. He scared the market and fettered it with constraints and reduced the growth needed to lift incomes. He left us with a staggering debt. The stimulus did not support workers; it was a slush fund for bureaucrats. Obamacare is too complicated, too expensive and too much stick and not enough carrot. His bailout of the auto and green industries interfered with the working of a market that is much smarter and less biased. I suspect we would have been better off in the long run going through the natural business cycle and letting the market clean itself.
All in all, he is a good man who could have been a great president, if he had been a president for all and not just for progressives.
I was prepared to criticize “The Other Campaigns,” by John Carr (5/23), for what I thought early in the piece was the author’s lionization of House Speaker Paul Ryan. I was glad to read further on that he takes a dim view of Mr. Ryan’s ideas for addressing poverty, so-called entitlement reform and the social safety net.
I do disagree with what I consider Mr. Carr’s fantasy of President Obama and Paul Ryan intellectually wrestling and coming to some kind of policy agreement on the issues of immigration and poverty. Mr. Obama unfortunately can’t wrestle policy with anyone whose leadership position is intimately bound to his party’s policy. And the Republican policy was once notoriously expressed by Senator Mitch McConnell: to make Mr. Obama a one-term president. That didn’t happen, but Republican Party policy never deviated from that attitude, even after Mr. Obama’s re-election. That was the tragedy of the last eight years in American politics, one that, ironically, may have birthed the Trump candidacy.
Horrors of History
In “Blaming the Stranger” (5/16), Brett C. Hoover cites a Pew Research Center report that found that 55 percent of white (i.e., non-Hispanic) Catholics see immigrants as a “burden” on our society, and “more than a third of white Catholics do not think undocumented immigrants should be permitted to stay.” Donald J. Trump has emphasized right up to the present that he intends to forcibly round up and transport 11 to 12 million men, women and children who are in the United States illegally.
After the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact during World War II, Germans deported Poles and Jews from Nazi territories, and the Soviets deported Poles from areas of Eastern Poland to Siberia and Central Asia. Needless to say, many did not survive. The Khmer Rouge, when it took control of Cambodia, moved most of the urban population into the countryside. At least two million people were involved. Most did not survive. There were about two million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire before World War I. After Turkey finally ended mass expulsions, some estimates are that approximately 1.5 million of Turkey’s Armenians were dead.
These are just some of the historical occurrences of forced mass expulsions. One does not have to be a historian or even a college graduate to be able to follow the reasoning of the solemn promises of Mr. Trump to their logical conclusion. Nor does one, in view of the Pew statistics cited, have any reason to think it impossible that a determinedly willing participant in one of these horrors might be next to me in church.
Re “Colombia’s Long Road to Peace” (Editorial, 5/16): Events in Colombia are hopeful, but much work lies ahead. An important breakthrough and perhaps the biggest obstacle to peace and reconciliation is the task of transitional justice. The agreement struck last year affirmed that crimes by all armed actors against humanity, genocide and serious war crimes cannot be legally pardoned and will be prosecuted. In addition, the 7.6 million victims must receive justice, and guerrillas must surrender weapons and be reincorporated into society within 60 days after the termination of the conflict. FARC rebels must accept the authority of the Colombian state and the concept of alternative sentences that will restrict the movement of ex-guerrillas.
This is a creative peace process that recognizes the realities in Colombia. The concern is about the future: Will the various elements of the peace be implemented effectively, given the weakness of Colombia’s institutions and the hard feelings that have accumulated for generations?
He Lived the Gospel
Re “Daniel Berrigan (1921-2016)” (Current Comment, 5/16): Thanks to America for its solid coverage of the death and life of Daniel Berrigan, S.J., a true American hero. Today many U..S. citizens are searching for a revolution by looking to Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders. Father Berrigan participated in a revolution that started 2,000 years ago.
Many Americans continue the chant “God Bless America”; they pass currency with “In God We Trust”; and they go to church to hear the Gospel. Dan Berrigan, S.J., lived the Gospel and went to prison for doing so. Thank you, Father Berrigan, for making our country better and keeping open a place in the Catholic faith for many like me.
The One-State Solution
Re “The Two Israels” (Editorial, 5/9): The “two-state solution” is now utterly unfeasible, and the only “solution” is a pluralist, democratic and nonsectarian Israel-Palestine, with equal rights, including a modified “right of return” for all citizens. No Israeli government, whether of the left or the right, is going to countenance the uprooting of the settlements, which by themselves make a unified, geographically contiguous Palestine a hopelessly unmanageable and economically unfeasible project.
In the course of the last decade, I have had many conversations with recently demobilized young Israeli soldiers. They are almost unanimously dispirited young men and women with very clouded consciences regarding what they have been forced to do by Israeli politicians, and they are very clear about the harassment, the evictions and the brutal “irregularities” that they have been ordered to perpetrate. When I have discussed with them the hopeless qualities of Palestinian leadership and its failures to pursue the only potentially successful campaign of liberation from oppression of the Palestinian people—namely, nonviolent disobedience and lawbreaking—they have been utterly candid in stating that popular sentiment in Israel now would support “shooting the nonviolent resisters” down in the streets.
Are defenders of Israel unaware that for a large segment of the Israeli public the soldiers who do this kind of thing, or the settlers who torment Palestinian kids on the way to school, are actually treated as heroes, whether or not the Israeli justice system administers tepid punishments?
Edward W. Schmidt, S.J., offers a thoughtful column on Jesuit education and values (Of Many Things, 5/9). This spring, however, Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, was invited to speak at a student-run, university-funded lecture series at Georgetown University. I understand that the university took the Pontius Pilate approach, arguing that the invitation was a matter of student autonomy and free speech.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, rebuked the university: “It is neither authentically Catholic nor within the Catholic tradition for a university to provide a special platform to those voices that promote or support” actions clearly condemned by the church. “Students, faculty, and the community at large are all impoverished, not enriched, when the institution’s Catholic identity is diluted or called into question by seemingly approving of ideas that are contrary to moral truth.”
Are Jesuit values Catholic values?
Re “Canada’s Liberal Orthodoxy” (Current Comment, 5/9): In response to a new bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Canada, the editors write, “Catholic Charities and other religious groups should be allowed to continue their life-affirming ministry to the dying without any government interference.”
Frankly, I oppose assisted suicide laws because I foresee a grave risk of people being pressured or encouraged, subtly or overtly, to die for financial reasons. That being said, authorization for doctors to prescribe life-ending treatments in no way interferes with any religious group’s ability to provide life-affirming ministry to the dying and their families.
Re “Acts of Penance,” by Margot Patterson (6/6): Margot Patterson’s warm tribute to the Georgetown Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation is itself a tribute to the value of an Ignatian outlook, which leads to a real willingness to engage our personal and communal sins, without being paralyzed by them. In the spirit of collaboration, one correction to her text: There is one museum in the United States devoted completely to the enslavement of African-Americans. The Whitney Plantation in Wallace, La., is well researched, deeply felt and worth an afternoon’s visit for anyone who would like to reflect more deeply on the experience of slavery.