There is an old adage that is attributed to virtually every culture in history that developed any form of language. I first heard it from an old man whose daily rounds included a stop at Leo Matus’ newsstand where I worked (on Public Square in sunny funny downtown Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania), where he would buy a newspaper and some inexpensive cigars from me. He told it to me as ancient Lithuanian that meant, “Speak truth and run.”
That phrase has been remade time and again, although always retaining its core truth. For instance, as recently as 1996, it popped up in a documentary film by Rick Goldsmith,Tell The Truth And Run: George Seldes And The American Press. The movie looks at muckraking (that’s a compliment) journalist George Seldes, a “noted foreign correspondent who became America’s most important press critic.” It was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Documentary Feature.
The new pope speaks truth and righties run amok!
For the past few weeks, the Catholic world’s new Pope Francis seems to have adopted “Speak truth and run” as his modus operandi. At the very least, he certainly knows how to get under some folk’s skin. In fact, he seems almost hellbent on making some enemies:
“Pope Francis attacked unfettered capitalism as ‘a new tyranny.’ He beseeched global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality, in a document on Tuesday setting out a platform for his papacy and calling for a renewal of the Catholic Church. In it, Pope Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the ‘idolatry of money.’ ”
These words are Rush Limbaugh’s accurate encapsulation of some of Pope Francis’ words in his major address to the world this past Tuesday (November 26, 2013). Alas, Mr. Limbaugh was not pleased with the Papal concern for the trodden upon and beaten up of laissez faire, capitalism—or, as some refer to it, vulture capitalism. The ever-loquacious Mr. L continued:
“Up until this, I have to tell you, I was admiring the man. I thought he was going a little overboard on the ‘common man’ touch, and I thought there might have been a little bit of PR involved there. But nevertheless, I was willing to cut him some slack.
I mean, if he wants to portray himself as still from the streets of where he came from and is not anything special, not aristocratic, if he wants to eschew the physical trappings of the Vatican, OK, cool, fine.
But this that I came across last night—I mean, it totally befuddled me. If it weren’t for capitalism, I don’t know where the Catholic Church would be. Now, as I mentioned before, I’m not Catholic. I admire it profoundly, and I’ve been tempted a number of times to delve deeper into it. But the pope here has now gone beyond Catholicism here, and this is pure political.
I have been numerous times to the Vatican. It wouldn’t exist without tons of money. But, regardless, what this is . . . somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him. This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope. Unfettered capitalism—that doesn’t exist anywhere.”
Now “unfettered capitalism” is all but synonymous with free-market capitalism—you know, that form of economic policy and activity that dominates the industrialized nations of the world and every single trans-national/global corporation in existence.
You know, the “hands-off” policies that have the neo-liberal, the Libertarian, and the supposedly conservative elements of the political spectrum of America trickled pink—I mean, tickled pink.
(Ever wonder about the origin and nature of that bit of idiom? It is apparently of British origin and “isn’t the light stroking of the skin—it’s the figurative sense of the word that means to give pleasure or gratify. The tickling pink concept is of enjoyment great enough to make the recipient glow with pleasure.” – The Phrase Finder)
You know, the ideology which we can read about every single day of our lives in papers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post and other liberal (sic) journals and The Wall Street Journal and periodicals of like ilk.
You know, that unfettered/free-market/hands-off/laissez faire capitalism. Which, according to Rush, just doesn’t exist anywhere!
The passages quoted above were taken from an article titled “Rush Limbaugh Attacks Pope for Acting Like Jesus” by ProgLegs for Daily Kos (December 1, 2013). The writer finishes up the article by stating that “Now, as a caveat, I should say I personally don’t buy the narrative that Pope Francis is Dennis Kucinich with a beanie. He still holds many views that I believe are inconsistent with the words and actions of Jesus Christ.”
For more on the topic of Francis and the American right, I suggest you click on over to Daily Kos and read “A Progressive Pope is Driving the Wingnuts Batty” by Vyan (November 28, 2013). “As Pope Francis comes more and more out of the Progressive Closet he begins to gain more and more pushback from the Rightwing who have long claimed that their unrepentant greed was Godly. Unfortunately it isn’t, and the Pope has been most clear on this.”
I call this to your attention simply to point out that for the majority of ratiocinating human beings in the world, a hint of condescension let alone actual condemnation from history’s highest paid talk-show host is high praise indeed! The old saw about “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” holds true in all things political, especially when dealing with demagoguery.
Once again, it’s personal anecdote time!
If there is one guaranteed way to attract attention in an institute of higher learning, make sure that everyone is aware of the fact that you—and no, not just you alone, although it may feel that way—are there because you genuinely want . . . to learn. To advance your knowledge. To actually understand things about the way the world works, whether it is history or biology or math or even French symbolist poetry of the 19th century!
When I escaped high school (“the horror, the horror”) and entered college in 1969, I believed that all that I had endured for the previous ten years or so had come to an end. I was in college, academia! Lots of books and lectures and questions asked and questions answered and no more teenage cliques and social pettiness and bullying (well, for me, being bullied), etc.
Alas, such was not the case. At least not at Wilkes College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in the early ’70s: real learning was a daily chore and the I’m-in-with-the-in-crowd attitude flourished, even if it did not dominate as it had in high school.
I was aggressively pursuing a higher education and was becoming highly aroused politically—radically transformed might be accurate—by the Vietnam war (a small “w” because we never actually declared war on the tiny nation thousands of miles and millions of lives lost away) and the openly corrupt Nixon administration. Not yet having developed the sense to keep me mouth shut, I instead spouted off to all comers.
Consequently, I ended up a habitué with my own spot—a large round table (appropriate, n’est-ce pas?) in the far corner of the college commons. This was a building on campus devoted to coffee, soup and sandwiches, and conversation. My table became a haven for fellow students who agreed with me and needed someone to (angrily) articulate their thoughts/feelings.
My table also attracted those who felt the opposite: students who were gung-ho about the war while safely ensconced in college with a 2-S student deferment. (And we might consider coining a new phrase to describe that state of being—like a “Cheney Pass,” which gives the bearer a free pass from any activity in behalf of one’s country that could prove dangerous to the bearer’s being.)
One day, I had a rather vitriolic exchange with a campus leader of what would eventually become known as the “chickenhawks,” and I came off the obvious winner. Afterwards, an older student (by older, I mean I was 18 and he was 32) who had sit quietly by as an ‘innocent bystander’ to the verbal violence introduced himself as one Jack Jarecki. He was a vet, recently returned from ‘the Nam’ and he asked if he could join my group.
I was floored and flattered: what would someone his age and with his experience want with a someone who was still only a few year past being knee-high to a grasshopper? And I quote—although it’s probably a paraphrasing based on decades-old memory but, hey!, who’s to gainsay me—“You have the extraordinary ability to make enemies of all the right people. It’s a rare trait and I hope you never lose it.”
We became fast friends, chess mates, drinking buddies (always Jack Daniels), and budding writer buddies. So, JJ, if you’re out there and reading this, contact me, man. I miss you!!!
So, am I comparing my once seeming innate ability to make enemies of the “right people” with those of the sitting pope? Nah, it’s a coincidence and not really all that rare a trait, as Jack believed. (Of course, there is the part that the pope’s chosen name and mine are the same . . .)
Finally, is this the third and final part of Me And Francis — The Papal Trilogy, or is it merely the latest installment in my unintentionally ongoing series that I may have to call The Francis Chronicles?