THERE ARE SOME OLD SAYING that are attributed to many cultures. I first heard it from an old man whose daily rounds included a stop at the newsstand where I worked in 1969. The old guy would buy a newspaper and some inexpensive cigars and hang around the store. He told me an old Lithuanian, “Speak truth and run,” and said it was both advice and warning.
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 journalist George Seldes, a “noted foreign correspondent who became America’s most important press critic.” 1
For the past few weeks, 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 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 the Pope’s words in his major address to the world this past Tuesday (November 26, 2013).
Pope has gone beyond Catholicism
Rush was not pleased with the Papal concern for the downtrodden and those beaten up by laissez faire/free market capitalism—or, as some refer to it, vulture capitalism. Limbaugh rushed on:
“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, okay, 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.”
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.”
Driving batty wingnuts battier
Now “unfettered capitalism” is essentially synonymous with free-market capitalism—that form of economic policy and activity that dominates the industrialized nations of the world and every single trans-national/global corporation in existence.
It is the “hands-off” policies that have the neo-liberal, the Libertarian, and the supposedly conservative elements of the political spectrum of America tickled pink. It is the policy that crushes unions, avoids paying any taxes, eviscerates the working class, and shifts the wealth of the many into the hands of the few. 2
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.
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.”
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.
Making enemies of the right people
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 Vietnam 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 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. 3
One day, I had a rather vitriolic exchange with a campus leader of what would eventually become known as chickenhawks. 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 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? He said, “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.” 4You have the ability to make enemies of the right people—it's a rare trait. Click To Tweet
1 While the terms muckraking and muckraker sounds dirty, it is not: “The term muckraker was used in the Progressive Era to characterize reform-minded American journalists who attacked established institutions and leaders as corrupt. They typically had large audiences in some popular magazines. In the US, the modern term is investigative journalism—it has different and more pejorative connotations in British English—and investigative journalists in the US today are often informally called muckrakers.” (Wikipedia)
2 The odd idiom tickled pink 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)
3 We might consider coining a new phrase to describe that state of being where an otherwise eligible piece of cannon fodder is endlessly passed over—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.
4 Jack and I became chess-mates, drinking buddies (always Jack Daniels), and budding-writer buddies. So, Jarecki, if you’re out there and reading this, contact me, man. I miss you!!!