Sunday, November 18, 2012

Selvaggio on a Sunday Morning

News stories that grate, like finger-nails drawn across the proverbial chalk board, sometimes draw me into reading them or, in some cases, push me hurriedly beyond them, virtually tearing the page free as I furiously pass on to the next page. Are any of them worth mentioning? Or worth sharing?
by Charlie Leck

Israel Widens Offensive
I’m quite frustrated as I take a pass on reading this story. I know it. This time it features a brilliant and horrifying AP photograph of clouds of dark smoke and fire rising up behind the slim, delicate towers of a temple on the Gaza City skyline. Humanity knows, I think, that people can be kept in poverty and hopelessness only so long. At some point, for terrorizers, they become easy to organize, demonize and use as weapons. The old, wise, careful observers of history have seen it in Watts and Newark and Johannesburg.

One is terribly tempted, by the fear of such things, to refer to the violence in Gaza as religious in nature. Israel is a terribly wealthy nation surrounded by people in the chains of economic catastrophe. And, unfortunately, I think, these suppressed and hungry people come from a culture that speaks about all historical and economic events in a language that finds its translation in religion and faith.

When the reader turns quickly away from that story, he only sees the companion pieces about “the Arab world” and how it watches carefully and angrily the developments in Gaza; and another about the longer range rockets, manufactured in Iran, now in the hands of Hamas. Iran? It is like watching the all too obvious plot of a cheap western movie at the cinema-12-plex; that is, you know where it is going and the clock moves inevitably toward high noon.

Another short story at the bottom of the page has a familiar headline, Israel has right to defend itself President says! Yes, there it is again. How many times have I read it over the last sixty years?

I turn the page!

Thousands March for Abortion Rights in Ireland
This is probably not a story about a nation, but about that nation’s Church – don’t you suppose? I will not find out because I turn the page. Savita Halappanavar was denied an abortion that would have saved her life. Instead, the doctors let her bleed to death. The Roman Church is stupid, ignorant and out of touch with the Christ they claim to proclaim. I have torn-up a half dozen blogs I’ve written about “the Church that knows not Christ!” They won’t do any good. I wrote them and got some of the poison out of my veins. Why publish them and hurt so many blind believers?

Jobs vs. Climate Change
Are my grandchildren so doomed? Is it impossible to live in peace with our climate and with nature? There are so many law-makers who want to do the just and right thing; but they are pressed hard by the need for jobs and gasoline. I know this story all-too-well – Oil Industry Pushing Hard for Keystone XL Project. I’ve read it dozens of times over the years. The outcome is always the same. Mother Earth Loses!

Think of the Poor as part of the Solution
I paused when I saw Joe Selvaggio’s name below the title of the opinion piece. I know Joe and admire the heck out of him. I met him in ’68 – you know, that year in history that changed everything! He’s a good guy – this Catholic priest who has always been just a little out of touch with the chain of command within this institution – and has remained among the poor and needy of our urban area for the last four decades. Joe is the kind of priest with whom the guy on the street – even the businessman on the top floor and the farmer who tends the richest soil – can identify. I’ll read this column and likely
recommend it to you.

Joe argues that we can afford to help the poor (I hear the under-argument that says we cannot afford to ignore them). He claims that it is a mistake to see the poor as a problem and not as an opportunity – as a solution to problems.

“The poor are the last big block of people who are either unemployed or underemployed. We should start thinking of them as a resource, a potential asset, not a liability looking for entitlements.”

I’ll fill my coffee mug with hot java and settle in with this one. Let’s see if Joe can make sense out of all this.

He does and it is worth reading it. It will argue that the rich are, at the very base of economic argument, correct about the poor. The things we do – setting up food shelves, handing a buck to the peddler who hovers near the busy entrance to the freeway, supporting shelters for the homeless, supporting government food stamps and medical care centers – are all important when it comes to temporarily alleviating the suffering of the poor; but we need things done that will dig deep into the heart of poverty and drag people out of the condition toward something more hopeful.

“Entitlements seem to be anathema to the right, left and center. But job-training programs are politically acceptable to right, left and center. The private nonprofit sector has proven that they work, but philanthropy can’t do it alone. Now it’s time for the government to put its muscle behind them.”

Joe is correct. So was Obama when he proposed such things in 2008 (but they never happened – you know, because we keep arguing about “spending” and think hardly ever about “investing”). We’ll never really make inroads against poverty until we see it as this large pool of workers who could be trained to produce for corporation after corporation, dragging themselves out of poverty at the same time. Read Joe’s piece and you’ll see how correct he is!

Joe Selvaggio is currently the Executive at MicroGrants. He founded PPL (Projects in Pride for Living) and also the One Percent Club (which he convinced me to join because it’s a simple idea that challenges people of wealth to give 1 percent of their net worth away each year). The number of people who’ve joined over the years is truly impressive.
You can watch a 7 minute video about MicroGrants that I think you’ll find it inspiring…

150 Thousand Trees Lost in New York City Metro
Trees are important and this kind of loss is staggering. I’m more worried, however, about the thousands of homes that were destroyed and people who’ve somehow got to rebuild from the bottom up. I’ll slip past this story. I lost about 25 trees around the house here in a storm last summer – an unbelievably fierce straight-line wind that just broke them off and then moved on. We’re still cleaning up.

Election Over, Young Immigrants Leave the Shadows
I breeze through this one, reading the lead sentences in each paragraph and I get the jist. Now that the election is over and the results known, there seems less to fear for illegal immigrants and they come out of hiding and seek some legal relief and a way to stay in America. It’s an old, old story. It’s the story of America and how we made it. “Send me… those yearning to be free!”

The weather looks good through Thanksgiving. Beaucoup le Monde will arrive in a couple of days. Furniture has been cleared from the living room and a giant dining table is set up there. A big, fresh, free-ranging turkey has been ordered and a prime rib-roast of beef, too. Grandkids under foot – just what grandma likes – and sons-in-law who I shall once again observe and whose worthiness I shall one more time consider. My favorite holiday – the one weekend when I would never be anywhere else but here in Minnesota.

I close the newspaper and give some thought to a late-morning nap, just before the football game begins. Will someone make Gaza go away?

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1 comment:

  1. Gaza is not evanescent(had to show off a new word I learned). Lets hope Bibi is.