Goodbye Trump

Goodbye Trump

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by Bill Droel

Don Trump is out. Don Quixote is in. Worldly self-regard is out. Regard for others is in. That’s the analysis of this Working Catholic blog no matter what happens in the polls or in state primaries. It’s percolating; though it is not evident to many of the new tycoons, or to so-called celebrities, or to many people in media. It emerged after the collapse of our individualistic marketplace in 2007-2008. It temporarily resides in both the disillusionment and the dreams of many young adults. Soon it will guide young adult behavior—not all of them, but at least the powerful 2% who will, in turn, change the world.

Young adults—in ones and twos and eights—are seeing through the gimmickry culture of corporate Amazon, of the phony success of ragged individualists and the selfish privileges of the media darlings of the moment. Instead, these young adults seek something that Don Trump can never have: credibility.

That’s why young adults are attracted to Pope Francis in whom they sense an alternative worldview. That’s why they get involved with causes like Fight for $15 or Black Lives Matter; why they look for jobs with NGOs or in city schools or among the intellectually disabled and the like. They don’t have all the specifics yet. They are at an ambivalent stage. But many young adults, in whole or in part, increasingly feel that the pursuit of wealth in itself is no longer exciting and worth their total investment.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) wanted his students to make a lifestyle out of their sporadic positive impulses. It happens, he said, as people acquire virtue. To do so requires progress on parallel rails.

On one rail are, in Aristotle’s term, intellectual virtues. They come by way of theatrical productions and by reading literature, history and biography. Try Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1802-1885). Its protagonist, Jean Valjean, is continually misunderstood, loses all his possessions, and is accused of terrible deeds. He is someone Trump might scorn, yet he is heroic.

Try any novels by Charles Dickens (1812-1870). The heroes, though flawed, are the children and workers that the Scrooges of this world rob of dignity.

Go back a long way and read about St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), using one of the handful of newer biographies that leave off a sugar-coating. Francis was born into privilege, then inwardly he was conflicted and then he spent all his remaining years in downward mobility.

And then there is the other Donald, the total flop who tilts at windmills in the novel by Miguel de Cerantes (1547-1617). If the nearly 1,000-page Don Quixote seems forbidding, try a similar story by Graham Green (1904-1991), Monsignor Quixote. On Don Trump’s TV show, Don Quixote would surely hear, “You’re fired!” But to describe him as a person who doesn’t succeed is, of course, to miss the point. He takes the scenic route to unassailable dignity; he fails big but with a pure heart.

On Aristotle’s other rail are the moral virtues. These, he said, are acquired only through habit. According to Aristotle, it does little good, for example, to participate on Saturday in an anti-hunger walk. The key is to volunteer at a food pantry the following Saturday and then next month to look for a career with an NGO involved with community improvement.
There is a tension between how things are now and how idealists want things to be. To put it all together a young adult needs a friend. Not someone on social media, but someone who, over coffee or beer, will reflect on this tension. Those two friends then need the steady companionship of four or five others—people who want to stay in the tension between how things are and how they could be. These are friends who want to realistically act on behalf of others.

It is not easy because mainstream culture is no longer based on face-to-face solidarity, on neighbor-to-neighbor community. For now the way has to emerge among young adults one adventure to the next, one Sancho Panza and Don Quixote duo at a time, one small group here and another there. No matter. Trump and what he represents are done. You read it here.

Droel edits a newsletter on faith and work, INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629)

New Labor Schools

New Labor Schools

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by Bill Droel

Bishop Blasé Cupich received several invitations to speak with union groups after he arrived in Chicago in November 2014. He declined for a time. But after nearly one year Cupich went to Local 130 Plumbers Hall this past September at the request of the Chicago Federation of Labor. There he delivered a 50-minute, pro-union address. The next-day’s newspapers highlighted Cupich’s challenge to what he accurately called “so-called right-to-work laws,” as favored by our Illinois governor and others. “The Church is duty bound to challenge such efforts by raising questions based on longstanding principles,” the bishop said. “Lawmakers and others may see it differently, but history has shown that a society with a healthy, effective and responsible labor movement is a better place than one where other powerful economic interests have their way and the voices and rights of workers are diminished.” Read more

World Series

World Series

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by Bill Droel

Here is Rev. Martin Luther King (1929-1968) writing from jail in Summer 1963. The intended audience is fellow ministers. The topic is church leaders’ opposition to King’s direct advocacy for integration.

“In spite of my shattered dreams of the past, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and with deep moral concern serve as the channel through which our just grievances could get to the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed… Read more

After Protest

After Protest

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by Bill Droel

This column is hardy ready to endorse Hillary in 16. But Clinton is correct in her reaction to Black Lives Matter activists with whom she had an off-stage exchange early in August. They probed her how she will change hearts to eliminate racism. “How do you actually feel that’s different,” they asked?

“You can get lip service” from some people, Clinton replied. Some people will respond to your protest and say: We get it. We are going to be nicer. “That’s not enough, at least in my book,” she asserted. “I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate.” Her point, reports Maggie Haberman in New York Times (8/20/15), is that “deeply felt emotions” have to be translated into “meaningful lasting change” because “movement politics gets you only so far.” Read more

Papal Visit – Part II

Papal Visit – Part II

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by Bill Droel

Where does Pope Francis get his ideas on the economy? The same place as every other informed Catholic. Like other Christian traditions, Catholicism says God’s truth is revealed through the Bible. Like other Christian traditions, Catholicism says Jesus Christ is God’s unique self-revelation. Catholicism also says God’s One Truth is mediated through reason (philosophy, social science and physical science) and through collective experience. Many Christian traditions agree with this method, but some do not.

Catholic social doctrine is premised on the God-given absolute dignity of each person—from womb to tomb. Further, says Catholicism a person is by God’s design a social being. Therefore, God expects society to enhance personal dignity. A good family makes it easier for its members to be holy. A just society makes wholeness or holiness possible. Read more

Pope’s Visit

Pope’s Visit

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by Bill Droel

Is the pope a socialist? During this month’s papal visit to our country a few vocal critics raise the question.
Why would someone call Pope Francis a socialist?

First, there is still a strain of anti-Catholicism in corners of our society. Socialist conjures up abhorrent communism. The socialist label is thus a covert slur. In addition, there are a few disgruntled U.S. Catholics who over the past 40 years have not liked many Catholic leaders, including the current pope.

A further source of the socialist label is worth more comment. Many people in our society follow an ideology of individual liberty. They—be they moderately rich or be they working class–mostly think about life in relation to their individual situation, usually in monetary terms. Pope Francis is quite clear in condemning this individualism and this consumerism. Read more

Rules Part II

Rules Part II

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by Bill Droel

Chris Matthews supplies several rules for public life in Hardball: How Politics Is Played (Free Press, 1988).

One chapter explains why “it’s better to receive than give.” Such surprising rules make Matthews’ book a classic. “Contrary to what many people assume,” he writes, “the most effective way to gain a person’s loyalty is not to do him or her a favor, but to let that person do one for you.”

Take for example a college graduate’s job search. The typical approach is well-described in another classic, What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles (Ten Speed Press, 1972). The young adult makes a list of potential employers (probably using the Internet) and sends each a confidence-flavored resume and an assertive cover letter lightly peppered with exclamation marks. A few more preliminary research hours and a more supplicating approach are probably more effective. Is there someone in the young adult’s circles who might have a weak-link connection to the prospective employer? Might your research uncover that your dentist with whom admittedly your link is weak or maybe the neighborhood funeral director have some connection to a board member of the bank or hospital where you seek employment? Ask a favor of your dentist. Maybe she feels too remote from the bank officer to comply, but she is now invested in your search. The circle of weak-link contacts is growing. Read more

No Rules

No Rules

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William Droel 

Saul Alinsky (1909-1972) could not tell less experienced organizers more loudly or more frequently: There are no rules. Creative life is for fluid people.

Alinsky’s insistence caused cognitive dissonance in many of his novice disciples. They read his Rules for Radicals (Random House, 1971) and concluded there really are rules for public life. They memorized his adages: “The action is in the reaction,” or “Reconciliation means one side gets power and the other side gets reconciled to it,” or “Personalize the target and polarize the issue.” Each of Alinsky’s so-called rules was supported by examples from his reading of history, his contact with John L. Lewis (1880-1969) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations and his own pioneering organizing efforts. Read more

Free Choice?

Free Choice?

Droel_pictureby Bill Droel

Rebecca Friedrichs doesn’t want to pay her union dues. And indeed, because our culture is premised on individualism some workers can now legally opt out of their dues. Friedrichs, whose workplace is represented by California Teachers Association, wants something more. She wants no payroll deduction for what is called agency fee or fair share service fee. This is an amount between $350 to $400 a year given to a union for negotiating her contract and handling any grievance she may have. Friedrichs doesn’t want the union speaking for her in the public sphere at all and she thinks an agency fee is a violation of free speech.

Friedrichs does not have a moral objection to any union position in the sense that a particular topic touches on her religious liberty—a matter like abortion or, let’s say, marriage policies or even evolution. Her objection covers anything the union says about classroom size, teacher evaluation, the merits of charter schools and the like. The union, by the way, is not allowed to leave Friedrichs off its lists, allowing her to handle any situation on her own. Read more

Action First

Action First

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by Bill Droel

Young adults do not so much need a meaning in life as an experience of living. Despite or because of our cosmopolitan culture and global economy, too many young adults get caught up in a small circle of co-workers and friends while communicating mostly about small comings and goings.

Meanwhile, many young adults are disaffected from churches. Could it be perhaps because, at least in part, churches don’t offer an experience of living? Some churches deliver moral standards and dogmas in a compassionate, pastoral fashion. Other churches, more or less, serve up entertainment in the form of snappy hymns and stylized self-help preaching.  Upbeat hymns, good preaching and fellowship over robust coffee are well and good. But a rousing prayer service or a church’s sensitive staff cannot alone contribute to a young adult’s experience of living. Read more