By Arthur H. Gunther III
Always in an age, a theme. In 2013 it is the words and non-words from Rome and Washington. What the new Pope Francis is saying is not being said in D.C. The theme is survival of the middle.
The pope is trying to regain the Roman Catholic middle, the core that is the engine for the church’s mission. In Washington, no one — the GOP, the Democrats and especially the Tea Party — is courting the middle, that class which rose largely post-war and which drives the American (and world) economy, which assures stability for achievement and human progress and which, most of all, protects democracy from the wackiness and jaw-boning of mostly non-accomplishing rightists and leftists. The middle class is the hope of the lower and the check for the upper.
Francis offers a message to the church: Lose the pomp and regalia, think forgiveness, empathy, giving, humility, simplicity, which is the message of Christ. It is also pragmatic since the wish is that the lapsed middle’s ears will hear and hopefully agree, and then act on such faith. And, if it does, the entire world, not just the Roman Catholic church, will benefit, leaving behind the decades of “me” and excess.
In our nation’s capital, no one is courting the middle class save the false voices from talking heads, largely propped by the puppeteers of special interest, who care not a whit for the workers, citizens and families that offer stability and who can carry the banner toward an ever-new American frontier. In a “governing” system that is so broken that it must be re-invented, a handful of strange politicoes has seized the great Congress, our Congress. And, we the people seem as impotent as were the good German citizenry following the burning of the Reichstag.
The crazies tell us Obamacare will bankrupt a nation already spending beyond its debt limit, rescued only by printing more money. They want large entitlement cuts; reversal of laws protecting gays, lesbians and women’s reproductive rights; abandonment of environmental protection to drill for oil (for China); and severe limits on federal budgeting, pushing a balanced spending plan but one that first grants banks and super corporations tax perks which no one in the middle class would ever see.
As with all messages that galvanize one section of the public or another, there is some truth in our overspending, in sometimes mismanaged entitlements, but in this time so long past the Founders’ declarations on the American mission, the social progress, the betterment that has been the American Dream must not be abandoned to let the odd ones win their hollow, selfish argument. We have to figure out ways to provide opportunity and show humanity, but without overcharge, special interest, mismanagement and personal irresponsibility. There are riches for all in such selfless pragmatism, financial and otherwise. But first, the middle must hear the call to action. And there is but a whimper in D.C.
Pope Francis may prove disarming. His humble message, so welcome in a world that seems off its nut, may in the end be rhetoric, however earnest the man. Still, his is the language of hope. In Washington, there is no such tongue.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any part or all of this essay may be reproduced at will, with credit given.