Saturday, December 1, 2007

"Don't make me a saint"

Dorothy Day's anarcho-Catholicism: The way of love

28 Nov 2007

By Joshua Snyder 

 
November 29th marks the anniversary of the passing of Dorothy Day, the foundress of the Catholic Worker Movement. Mark the date on your calendar, because this radical pacifist who had been a member of the I.W.W., met Leon Trotsky, had an abortion, and raised a daughter as a divorced single mother may be the next American canonized a saint in the Catholic Church.

Born in Brooklyn in 1897, she became a Greenwich Village Bohemian by the late 1910s and '20s, and was active in the radical socialist politics of the day, promoting women's rights, free love, and birth control along with the rights of the workingman. After two failed common-law marriages and an abortion, the birth of her daughter Tamar Teresa and the desire to have her baptized led her to formally embrace Catholicism. She converted in 1927.

In 1933, she founded
the Catholic Worker movement with the itinerant French illegal immigrant Peter Maurin, a sort of modern Holy Fool in the mode of Saint Francis of Assisi. The Catholic Worker, which still costs one cent, adopted a neutral, pacifist, and anarchist stance as the world's leaders drifted toward war in the 1930s.

By US entry into World War II, there were more than thirty Catholic Worker communities, "houses of hospitality" in cities and communal farms in the countryside. But Miss Day's uncompromising pacifism and opposition to the draft during the war cost her a lot of support as even Americans sympathetic to the work she was doing were caught up in wartime hysteria and jingoism. Subscriptions to the newspaper and support for the communities fell drastically.

By the 1960s, Miss Day was again a figure with whom to be reckoned. Abbie Hoffman called her "the first hippie," a title she gladly accepted. (Another title she never accepted: "Don't make me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed that easily.") She welcomed the antiwar, civil rights, and social justice movements of that decade, but never embraced the sexual revolution, having survived one herself in the 1920s, the period she wrote about in her autobiography,
The Long Loneliness.

However politically heterodox
Dorothy Day was, she was always religiously orthodox, saying, "When it comes to labor and politics, I am inclined to be sympathetic to the left, but when it comes to the Catholic Church, then I am far to the right." She also said, "If the Chancery ordered me to stop publishing The Catholic Worker tomorrow, I would."

That day never came, not even in 1949 when she clashed with Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York City over the strike by unionized grave diggers of
Calvary Cemetery. She, of course, publicly sided with the workers and took up their cause. But this only earned the Cardinal's respect for the politically radical but theologically traditionalist rabble-rouser. (One is reminded of the pope's decree during the Papal States period that other states could wage war against him but remain in good faith, since they would be waging war with him as a temporal, not spiritual leader.)

In fact, she was embraced by the Church hierarchy up to the Vicar of Christ himself. Pope Paul VI honored her with the Pacem in Terris ("Peace on Earth") Award in 1972. Dorothy Day was never a fringe figure on the Catholic left. The conservative aristocratic English novelist and fellow Catholic convert Evelyn Waugh made it a point of seeking an audience with her on a visit to America. But not all were impressed; William F. Buckley spoke of the "anti-Catholic doctrines of this goodhearted woman," strange coming from a man whose heretical "Mater Si, Magister No" (mother yes, teacher no) statement about the Church paved the way for a generation of neo-conservative Catholics to ignore
Catholic Social Teaching.

By the time of Dorothy Day's death in 1980, the Catholic Worker Movement was global, and there are now over 100 communities worldwide (including one in the author's Archdiocese of Taegu, South Korea, which provides for the Filipino migrant laborer community). In 1983, the
Claretian Missionaries proposed that she be sainted, and in 2000, Pope John Paul II gave Archbishop John O'Connor of New York City permission to open her cause. Along with Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, her cause was opened and she received the title Servant of God. She is now on her way to veneration, beatification, and eventual canonization.

Dorothy Day's mission was simple: to perform the
Corporal Works of Mercy as commanded by her Lord as articulated by her Church. And she went about doing this without government aid, support, or even permission. In this remarkable statement, she explains why her movement never registered with the Internal Revenue Service for non-profit tax-exempt status:

Christ commanded His followers to perform what Christians have come to call the Works of Mercy: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the harborless, visiting the sick and prisoner, and burying the dead. Surely a simple program for direct action, and one enjoined on all of us. Not just for impersonal "poverty programs," government-funded agencies, but help given from the heart at a personal sacrifice.

On another level there is a principle laid down, much in line with common sense and with the original American ideal, that governments should never do what small bodies can accomplish: unions, credit unions, cooperatives, St. Vincent de Paul Societies.
Peter Maurin's anarchism was on one level based on this principle of subsidiarity, and on a higher level on that scene at the Last Supper where Christ washed the feet of His Apostles. He came to serve, to show the new Way, the way of the powerless. In the face of Empire, the Way of Love.

We believe also that the government has no right to legislate as to who can or who are to perform the Works of Mercy. Only accredited agencies have the status of tax-exempt institutions. After their application has been filed, and after investigation and long delays, clarifications, intercession, and urgings by lawyers - often an expensive and long-drawn-out procedure - this tax-exempt status is granted.

No, the Catholic Worker knows the dangers of becoming a State-sanctioned faith-based organization. It has been said that America did not establish a State church; she established thousands of them. She did so through the IRS. And while many on the Left worry about Church influence over State, Dorothy Day knew the dangers when the State exerts its muscle on the Church.

Her
Christian Anarchism was born out of her exposure to Wobbly anarcho-syndicalism and her reading of Peter Kropotkin, and, above all, Leo Tolstoy's non-fiction magnum opus, The Kingdom of God Is Within You. Anarchy need not mean a descent into chaos and violence, a nightmare world where the strong prey off the weak. To prevent this, institutions providing moral clarity and "mutual aid" were needed.

Dorothy Day understood the importance of the "voluntary associations"
Alexis de Tocqueville found in America, the "unions, credit unions, cooperatives, St. Vincent de Paul Societies" that she mentions. These corps intermédiares range from the most immediate, the family and community groups, to the most universal and transnational, such as the Geneva Conventions or the Catholic Church. Local or global, they serve as a buffer between the individual and absolute Statist power. State Socialism and State Corporatism both destroy these by atomizing society, leaving individuals defenseless against Tyranny.

Thus, Dorothy Day took issue with the New Deal not because she was against helping the poor ─ this was her life's work, after all ─ but because she knew that once the State took on the functions of the family and the other corps intermédiares, these, not the State as Karl Marx asserted, would "wither away."

There was a time when conservatives wrote books with titles like
Our Enemy, the State. But conservatives ignored Karl Hess, Barry Goldwater's speechwriter who later worked to bring toward unity between the Old Right and the New Left, who said, "Vietnam should remind all conservatives that whenever you put your faith in big government, for any reason, sooner or later you wind up an apologist for mass murder." Now that conservatives have added the "neo-" suffix, big government is the order of the day, fromNo Child Left Behind to the USA PATRIOT Act to The Global War on Terrorism.

As we head into the 2008 presidential race, the candidates in both parties (a.k.a.
The War Party) are giving us promises of what the State will do for us (and the world, whether they like or not). Each of the major Republicrat wing candidates leans toward one end of what Murray N. Rothbard called the Welfare-Warfare State. All are talking about expanding the role of the State, with the notable exception of Dr. Ron Paul.

"There is no political solution," begins
Spirits in the Material World by The Police, a song released in the year after Dorothy Day's death. Wherever we find ourselves on the political spectrum, we would be wise to look to one of America's great "spirits in the material world" and, instead of seeking a "political solution" from the State, follow her example: "In the face of Empire, the Way of Love."

Servant of God Dorothy Day, pray for us.

An American Catholic son-in-law of Korea, Joshua Snyder lives with his wife and two children in Pohang, where he serves as an assistant visiting professor of English at a science and technology university. He blogs at The Western Confucian.
 

Nader: 'The Lost Art of Family Traditions'

by Ralph Nader

They are free, valuable, personal and too often not mentioned or used. I speak of the insights, wisdom and experiences of families over several generations.

Now that Thanksgiving weekend is over, how many families recounted some of their traditions for their children and grandchildren to absorb and enjoy? It is highly probable that electronic toys, music and videos received more than a little attention over those four days.

That is a problem. Many youngsters are spending about 50 hours a week watching screens-television, video and computer-for the most part as spectators or engaged in trivial pursuits such as endless text messaging or fiddling with their Facebook profile.

Yet in the overall picture of family upbringing, it is what families do together, participate with one another and their friends or relatives in their neighborhood that significantly shape character and personality.

Earlier this year, I wrote a book called THE SEVENTEEN TRADITIONS about how my mother and father raised their four children in a small factory town in Connecticut during the Thirties, Forties and Fifties.

The seventeen traditions marked the ways we were raised-learning to listen, how to think independently, how to learn from history and from our siblings, how to work, care for our community, respect our parents and relish simple enjoyments needing our engagement, for example.

The reaction to this book from around the country was uniformly positive, making this the only book I have written that everyone loves.

Why? Besides the helpful sayings and problem-solving ways of my parents (such as getting us to eat right) the book was well received because these pages often resonated with their own family memories and made people more aware of their great-grandparents, grandparents and parents at their best.

Sadly, the transmission of these best sayings, insights and experiences are not being set down, notwithstanding the plethora of recording equipment. Pictures galore, yes. But my sense in speaking with hundreds of people, during my book tour is that recognition of these family gems is not often accompanied by their being written or recorded for transmission to the next generations.

It is too easy to procrastinate and then, suddenly it is too late for granny or grandpa and this priceless inheritance is lost forever to the children and grandchildren.

Coming from the forebears or ancestors, these traditions mean a great deal for these youngsters and even more when they grow older. The same wisdom, song, poetry, proverb (my parents disciplined us with proverbs, not believing in corporal punishment) coming from other sources is just not as memorable, repeatable or meaningful.

Mother and father raised two girls and two boys who enjoyed civic activity. They taught us the tradition of civics and how to form our civic personality of resilience and critical thinking by the force of their own example. They regularly participated in community activities enhancing justice, safety (eg. from floods) and charity.

Today, the commercialization of childhood by hundreds of companies saturating children directly with advertisements for things and programs which are generally not good for them-junk food, violent and salacious programming and so forth-has undermined parental authority and taken advantage of the days when parents are away commuting to and from work.

Yet, it is the family structure which is indispensable to a strong, self-confident people that relates to community and work with a resourcefulness that places important civic values over the relentless drive for profits or commercial values.

Every major religion many centuries ago warned its adherents not to give too much power to the merchant classes. The stomping on other societal values by powerful greed caught the attention of the early prophets more through daily observation than through revelation.

For some months, we have asked families all over the country to send us a tradition or two-an insight or experience-to get the ball rolling for preserving their own family collection. The website for such examples is Seventeentraditions.Com.

Jo wrote us recalling that during the 1960s and 1970s, she and her husband had a rule for their daughter that “she could not have anything she had seen advertised on TV, because the price of an advertised product would be inflated to pay for the advertising that made her want it in the first place…. The lesson was one of both cost-consciousness and awareness of advertising manipulation.”

As a teaching prod and a discussion starter, this tradition of Joy’s family came filled with thought-provoking, peer group resistant, health advancing benefits. The vast majority of products advertised for children on television are easily avoidable or replaceable once critically appraised.

So, send us a “best practice” or a penetrating insight from your family history for placement on Seventeentraditions.Com. Have this holiday season be the occasion for starting up these wonderful and helpful recollections to enrich and protect the family from the corrosive and damaging predatory forces which surround families from so many directions.

In the book, I recount one day when, at age ten, I came home from classes and my father asked me: “Well, Ralph, what did you learn in school today, did you learn how to believe or did you learn how to think?”

Need more be said?

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book is The Seventeen Traditions.

http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/11/27/5461/

Public sentiment for impeachment expands

By John Kaminski and Gary Higginbottom, Brunswick Times Record, Brunswick, Maine

The percentage of Americans favoring impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney is approaching the percentage who favored impeachment of President Nixon in 1973-74.

Public opinion has reached this high level even before Congress has started any impeachment investigation of the Bush-Cheney administration. The public is way ahead of Congress, suggesting that it is time for the U.S. House of Representatives to move forward with the impeachment process.

In October 1973, a Gallup Poll results showed only 28 percent favored Nixon's impeachment and removal from office. That was after a summer of well-publicized Senate Watergate Committee hearings.

Just nine months later, the day before Nixon resigned, nearly two-thirds of Americans believed there was enough evidence for an impeachment trial, and 55 percent thought Nixon should be removed from office.

That is how drastically opinion shifted once Congress acted and revealed the full extent of Nixon's abuses of power.

Now, without any impeachment investigation by Congress, we already see the public's desire for impeachment action approaching the level that led to Nixon's departure from office.

Now, 55 percent of Americans believe that "President Bush has abused his powers as president, which rise to the level of impeachable offenses under the Constitution," and 34 percent believe he should be removed from office.

For Vice President Cheney, 52 percent believe he committed impeachable offenses, and 43 percent believe he should be removed.

Perhaps most telling is that 64 percent of Americans believe that President Bush has abused his powers, and 70 percent believe that Cheney has done so. Polling was conducted by American Research Group Inc., on Nov. 9-12.

Maine people feel much the same way. According to a recent poll by Critical Insights Inc., 40 percent of Maine adults say they favor "the U.S. House of Representatives beginning impeachment proceedings against Vice President Cheney," and 38 percent against President Bush.

Not surprisingly, Maine Republicans and Democrats differ substantially on this matter. Among Maine Democrats, 58 percent favor impeachment proceedings against Cheney, and 54 percent against Bush.

One in six Maine Republicans favors impeachment proceedings against Cheney, and one in eight against Bush.

Maine independents are about evenly split on the impeachment of both Bush and Cheney.

By any historic gauge, the nation clearly believes that we have a major problem with our president and vice president, although the Democrats in control of Congress have refused to even start an impeachment investigation. They are dismissing the sizable portion of citizens calling for Congress to act as the Constitution directed to keep presidential power under control.

The Constitution gives Tom Allen, Mike Michaud and Congress the tool of impeachment to address the problem that a majority of Americans now recognize. This impeachment tool is designed to keep our rulers' power in check — to prevent drifting into a situation of absolute power by an individual or a small controlling group.

Impeachment is the tool being demanded by 43 percent of Americans who not only recognize the problem, but even call for the drastic action of removing Cheney from office.

House Democratic leadership is acting in a timid and irresponsibly political fashion. Likely, they want to keep the Republican executives in power and all Republican politicians "on the ropes" until the 2008 elections. Or perhaps they misguidedly believe that there are more important activities for Congress than heeding this historically strong demand to address these obvious abuses.

Whatever the motivation, Democratic congressional leaders continue to shirk their oaths of office by allowing the executive branch to ignore laws and plan expanded warfare without congressional authorization.

Public opinion and Constitutional responsibility are commanding congressional Democrats Tom Allen and Mike Michaud as strongly as in Nixon's day.

Will they recognize the strength of public sentiment and the dire condition of our nation and take the required corrective action of impeachment investigation? Or will they choose to ignore the call and allow present and future presidents to control the people and their representatives — an authoritarian power that the Constitution directed Congress to prohibit?

John Kaminski is a Topsham resident and chairman of Maine Lawyers for Democracy. Gary Higginbottom is one of the founders of the Maine Campaign to Impeach.

http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/?q=node/29053

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