Friday, June 29, 2012

The Scapegoating Pandemic

Let us begin with the definition of a scapegoat, so we're all on the same page here:

Scapegoat - 

  • a : one that bears the blame for others
  • one that is the object of irrational hostility

Still with me?  Good, 'cause if not, I might be tempted to worry.  ;)  Okay, enough silliness.

Please take a moment to acquaint yourself with this video.  I will explain why in a moment.

I will explain why at this moment.   In the video above Father Barron talks quite a bit about the idea of scapegoating, it's place in human history, and the ways in which Catholicism prevents it, or at least is capable of preventing it.  I found this all to be quite interesting and thought provoking.

Hold that thought because we will come back to it.

Skip ahead a few months after I watched this video, I was walking with my boyfriend and was talking about the US Supreme Court's decision to uphold President Obama's HHS mandate in it's entirety.  Let me be clear here, I am both disappointed and dismayed at this decision.  That said, our conversation eventually turned to some of the reactions to this decision and distressing situations in general.

I've heard a lot in recent years about how Islam is taking over the world, how "Liberals" and Atheists are evil, power hungry, Catholic-haters, Obama is the anti-Christ (yes, I really have heard it), and how homosexuals are unraveling the fabric of our society.  In light of the Supreme Court's decision, a lot of very well-meaning Catholics have been thrown into a state of panic, cynicism, despair, and anger.  Some people are saying that they always knew this would happen and anyone who thought differently was foolishly naive because the US is a sinking ship anyway.  Others have boldly marked this as the end of freedom in the US.  Others are preparing for a persecution on the scale of that from the Emperor Diocletian and trying to decide if they'll be able to bring themselves to the point of bearing arms.

Hold your horses, everyone.

I am quite young and inexperienced, but the more I listen to this the more I feel a concern that we are missing something in all of this.  Perhaps things really are as bad as everyone says.  Perhaps we (Catholics) are about to be persecuted in a serious way.  Perhaps liberty is being murdered in America.  My natural optimism causes me to be reluctant to agree with this point of view, but I am willing to acknowledge that it is not entirely out of the realm of possibility.  In the words of Nellie Forbush, "I just can't work myself up to getting that low."

Do I believe that our liberties and our faith are under attack.  Absolutely.  Always.  As long as sin and evil persists we will be under attack.  

Okay, let's take a step back now to the scapegoating idea.  Fr. Barron tells us that the Catholic Church acts as a barrier to scapegoating.  This does not by any means mean that Catholics are immune from scapegoating.   So, I guess the point of this blog is a warning not rooted in my wisdom (I'm often found wanting in that department), but in my deep concern during these troubling times: beware of the scapegoating pandemic.

Anytime a specific group or person is singled out as the cause of our problems, be suspicious of that.  It's probably an oversimplification and can lead to very dangerous measures in order to protect ourselves from said threat.

A great example of this is the whole Japanese American internment fiasco.  This was a measure taken by the United States to protect itself from a group that had been identified a "the enemy".  Many, many innocent people were affected in a major way by this measure.  If we believe that their were no Catholics involved in this scapegoating, then we are fooling ourselves in a big way.  This was action taken out of anger and out of fear.

Are the events of late a serious threat to our liberty and a cause for concern?  Absolutely.  Is the natural conclusion to this line of thought that anyone who supports or is pleased by these event is necessarily evil, anti-freedom, and/or anti-Catholic.  I submit that it is not.  This world is made up by individuals whose lives are written by an incredible number of circumstances and decisions, most of which we will never know.  Sometimes we cannot even truly see what motivates us, so why on earth do we feel compelled to speculate about and comment on the decisions and motivations of others?

Don't mistake this for the relativistic notion that everyone's ideas are so much their own that we should not concern ourselves at all with any sense of right or wrong or some sort of intervention when those ideas lead to actions that might harm others or ourselves.   That is not what I am saying.  There are some things that are right and some things that or wrong and to reject that idea is not only dangerous it is a logical paradox.  I am simply saying that we ought to exercise caution, restraint, and love when discerning how to respond to such situations as those we are facing.

We must chose our words carefully and with kind, honest, and unashamed love (to be clear, by love, I mean it as defined by the Catholic Church, mainly, willing the good of the other as other - which sometimes involves saying, "no, that's not true/right/etc.").   We should also fight to keep that sense of faith and hope alive.  

We as Catholics are called to be a beacon of hope to the world and this simply cannot be if we surrender to being the voice of doom and despair.  Even if it is true that the US has turned into a place void of liberty and against Catholicism, there is still hope.  And what shall we do?  We shall hunker down as our predecessors have done, continuing to pray, fast, minister, surrender (to Christ), and wait for the day that this evil shall pass as all the others have done before it.  We shall be obstinately hopeful, kind, patient, humble, giving, and Catholic until we earn the martyrs crown in the spiritual sense and if necessary in the physical sense.

Now is not the time for fear, anger, and scapegoating.  Now is the time for hope, courage, and vigilant prayer.  To quote the great Mikey Walsh, "Down here, it's our time.  It's our time down here." So let's make it count. When we look at the events of our times, let us focus in on the individuals who need our love and support to the best of our broken ability rather than lumping them in with a movement or ideology they support.  

To tie this all back together, I would like to go back to my starting point with another idea in The Hunger Games series.  This idea is embodied in something that Haymitch says to Katniss before she...




...reenters the arena in Catching Fire.  He says, “Katniss, when you are in the arena,you just remember who the true enemy is.”

So, yeah, remember that our enemy is not "the liberals", "the homosexuals", "the Muslims", "the Atheists", Obama or any other group of or individual human.  Our enemy is Satan, sin, and our own disordered love for sin.  We must be vigilant against that enemy and the one in ourselves first and foremost, lest we overlook the plank in our own eyes while seeking out the speck in the eyes of our brothers.

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading.  You may use the soap box now, if you like.  ^_^

God bless, y'all!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

An Unexpected Journey

A year ago today, I left home and set out to spend an indefinite amount of time living abroad for the purpose of studying and general character building.  I came here because I felt that I needed to grow up.   I came here because I didn't want my three years of foreign language study to go to waste.  I came here to make myself more marketable for jobs in the future.  Most of all, I came here because I believed then as I do now, in my heart of hearts that God was leading me here.

When I first arrived, I did a fairly good job of keeping a travel journal.  Here are some excerpts:

June 18, 2011
"Right now I am sitting in the common area of the hostel in hopes of meeting some of my neighbors, but it's only 8:22 in the morning, so most of them are just now getting ready for the day.  It's interesting to me how quickly I become an introvert when I'm out of my comfort zone.  Hopefully, it won't take me too long to adjust.
"I've already been in contact with my family and a few friends from back home, but talking to them has only emphasized the fact that I need to start working on my life here.  Part of living in the present moment - I've come to realize - is living in your present environment.  Internet offers an easy escape from that, but time zones do not.
"So, that is my resolution for today: Live in the here and now."

June 23, 2011
"Interviewing for jobs in a foreign country is scary.  It's not scary for the same reasons as when one applies for a job at home (e.g. will they like me? will I get the job? etc.) although those elements are certainly present.  The biggest fear, for me, comes when the time arrives to make a decision.   Will I accept this job and sign a contract to stay here for a year?  A year.  365 days.  365 days until I can see my family again.  What a crazy arrangement.
"Granted, it isn't entirely unlike going away for school.  Still, it seems so permanent.  365 days.  How will I ever bear the separation?"


Well, good news, folks!  I did bear it.  I bore it and then I came to find ways to make things betters.  I have made so many wonderful friends here.  I have learned so much about myself and about this extraordinary country and the many different kinds of people who live here.  And now that a year has passed, my eyes are once again turned towards home.

My dear friends and family, both here and there, thank you so very much for your love, kindness, support, joy, and consolation.  Now, no matter where I am in the world, I will always be missing someone because my loved ones are everywhere.  Thank you all for an incredible year!