As an immigrant son, growing up in the working class Bronx, I was grateful for my Catholic education…first with the Sisters of Charity and the Christian Brothers at St. Raymond’s and later with the Jesuits at Fordham Prep.
Gratitude is not without its limits.
When a Pennsylvania grand jury issued their report on August 14, 2018 charging that over 300 priests (in that state alone) have been credibly accused of sexually abusing over 1,000 child victims, memories returned. Those memories were rooted in the special and unlimited trust our families placed in the consecrated people of God who taught us. In many cases, that trust was well-placed. In some, it was terribly abused.
This is my first blog in over 10 months. It is different from my previous postings. With the sharing of this personal story, I am hoping to continue blogging on a more regular basis.
This morning – like most other folks – I saw this video of United Airlines’ forced removal of a passenger for being on an overbooked flight.
It reminded me of two stand-out experiences I had had with United…among many. It seems like a good time to revisit them.
The more recent took place a few years ago. I was boarding a plane and saw a short older woman struggling to lift her bag into the overhead compartment. She was a couple of passengers ahead of me and I couldn’t reach her to help. There was a flight attendant directly in front of her, watching her. I called out and said, “Can you help her?” She looked at me calmly and said, “That’s not my job.” I replied, “A perfect motto for United” while closer passengers realized the woman’s problem and began to help.
Many years ago, while I was living off-campus at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, I became friendly with the woman who ran the commuter services office. One day, she gave me a quote that I carried in my wallet for many years. I’m embarrassed to say I remember neither the exact words nor the name of the person who wrote them…but the message continues to ring clear.
It was this: As societies grow in population and become more complex, people tend to stumble into one another more often. That is, the actions of one person or group – often unintentionally – impact the lives of others, sometimes with great consequence.Continue reading “The interdependence of us all…”
Adrienne Dern was the first vice-president I hired at the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. PHA was much smaller when she joined us but had grown to the point that Pathlight, our newsletter, needed to move to a staff-edited publication. The patient volunteers who had edited it since it was launched in 1991 had done a remarkable job in creating a quarterly that made a difference in people’s lives. They gave news how others were living with this rare and incurable disease….and, from that, they gave hope. Adrienne knew that transitioning the publication in-house had peril. Pathlight was the soul of the organization and if patients were no longer editing it, their lives needed to be reflected. It could not be abstract. During her six years at PHA, Adrienne accomplished that task through the editors she hired and the thoughtful way she trained and supervised them.
Today, I’m pleased to post a brief but pointed guest blog from Adrienne. I have also included a recording of the speech from which Adrienne quotes as a reminder to us all of how the President of a great nation, the United States of America, used to speak and inspire and move us toward each other, rather than apart.
Filmed in 1939 and directed by John Ford, Stagecoach is a wonderful character study of 9 people – mostly unconnected to each other – traveling together from Tonto, Arizona Territory in 1880. They are on a dangerous journey through hostile Apache territory. They range from poor outcasts to society’s elites.
Mr. Gatewood (played by Berton Churchill), is one of the elites. He is the town banker who meets the departing Stagecoach on the outskirts of town. Since his bank is on Main Street, the drivers are surprised. He says he had a last minute telegraph message causing him to rush home and pack a bag.
Today I’m back to the movies, looking at the same issues through the 2015 Dutch historical film, Admiral (Dutch with English subtitles).
The Admiral opens with these words…
In the 1600’s the Netherlands is the only republic in the world.
The surrounding monarchies see the young republic as a threat to their own political and economic power.
The Dutch country divided between Republicans, currently in power, and Orangists who want the country to become a monarchy.
In the midst of this internal struggle and the external dangers, Johan de Witt – a Republican – becomes the new prime minister.
In his opening address to his contentious legislators, divided between the Republican Holland and the provinces supporting the Prince of Orange. de Witt says…
I understand your concerns. I do.
There is no one in this country who understands you more than I do.
My father was imprisoned for disagreeing with the Orangists.
I found out what it means to live in a country where you cannot say what you are thinking.
Do you want to live in such a country? I don’t.
I don’t think you do, either.
Let me pose you a question.
We’re a nation of merchants. We sail the seas with 20,000 ships. In trade we all work together…to get better prices and to help each other. And what do you think? Does this work or not?
Some members became so successful they hardly fit in the benches.
When you do business in the East or the West do you do so as Orangists or Republicans? And why are the English trying to block our shipping routes? To disrupt trade.
Is that because you’re an Orangist or a Republican?
No, the English want to wage war against us because we’re Dutch. Free Dutchmen.
Large monarchies consider our small nation too rich. and too free. and on top of that, we’re a republic. In which all men are free to live their own lives. We decide how we worship God.
No leader is more important than the country itself.
The English begrudge us our freedom. Our freedom frightens them. Because we’re prepared to die for our freedom. Because we paid for our freedom with our own blood.
And I’m asking you. Haven’t you lost a relative to the Spanish or the English? And was that Republican blood or Orangist blood?
No. It was Dutch blood. It was our blood.
Your freedom is my freedom.
I’ll defend this freedom until my last breath.
As the movie progresses, the Orangists who seek to make the Prince of Orange the monarchist head of state, distribute lies to weaken de Witt and make him the enemy of the people, who eventually murder him and his brother. It is left to the king to send The Admiral – the brilliant strategist Michiel de Ruyter – on a suicide mission. After defeating the English and the French, he Admiral’s crime was becoming more loved than the King. The King describes his act as leadership.
Admiral is a film worth watching (it’s on Netflix) as we go through our own crisis of leadership in the U.S.
As I continue to try to understand Donald Trump’s assault on the country I love, I find myself exploring many sources. This blog and the next I will post are about moments in movies I have seen.
You can judge their relevance to today.
Gladiator was released in 2000. Directed by Ridley Scott, it won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year. Russell Crowe won Best Actor for his role as Maximus, a Roman General whose family was destroyed by the Emperor Commodus, a disruptive and demented figure.
The struggle in the Gladiator is for the soul of Rome, whether it will be governed by a Senate cleansed of corruption, as representatives of the people or by an emperor.
[translates: You can kill me but my ideas will never die.]
Many years ago, I took a college course on the rise of fascism in Italy.
It was a particular interest to me since my father grew up in that nation during that period and I had visited Italy three times in the early to mid-1960’s. It was hard for me to understand how fascism could rise among those I saw as a good people.
As discussed in the course, a turning point toward Italian fascism was the murder of Giacomo Matteotti.
In 1922, Benito Mussolini became the Italian Premier. This followed The March on Rome.
The March was the result of dissatisfaction with the socialist and moderate coalitions that had been democratically governing the nation. The middle class feared a socialist revolution. There was also anger at being badly treated, despite promises from their allies on the winning side, during the World War I peace settlement. Their economy was severely damaged.
In the face of the Fascist Blackshirts who were preparing to enter and take over Rome, the king and parliament lacked the strength to stand up to the threat. Fearing civil war, they offered Mussolini leadership of a coalition government. By the time they realized that wasn’t enough, it was too late.