Thursday, June 25, 2015

Downpours in the news

By kunal (kunal.vicky) via Wikimedia Commons
CC-BY-SA 3.0
Late Tuesday afternoon I sat at my desk upstairs and watch the sky grow darker, the wind more furious.  The lights dimmed, then dimmed again, but somehow did not go out. The rain arrived, from the first flecks on my window to torrential downpour was a matter of a minute.  A line of thunderstorms swept through, leaving behind a sci-fi flick sky:  an odd shade of gold with clouds that looked like small cottonballs stuck to the underside of still grey thunderheads.  It was hard to know what to make of it all, other than it was clear we'd been tempest-tossed.

The current news cycle feels very much the same.  Charleston.  Laudato Si'. ACA. Tim Hunt.  Rachel Dolezal. More vitriol.  More finger wagging and hand wringing.  Sorry, not sorry. There are lots of words, flying as fast and furious as the storm, but very little in the way of broad based sustained response.  We're tempested.

I struggle in places to see any hope.  What can I say to people who flat out reject the dignity of huge swaths of humanity, who see themselves as better, more deserving than the majority of humanity, that would move them an inch, a micrometer?   Yet how can I say nothing?

As I read Laudato Si' I keep hearing the underlying questions about how we define progress, whose lives does it improve, what are the risks to the most vulnerable. We live now in a moment when demographics rule, where marketers construct homunculi from bits of information: where we live, who we vote for, what we buy, what websites we visit. We confuse these constructs, built entirely from surface markers, with living breathing human beings with the capacity to think, to love, and, alas, to sin in things both mundane and horrifying. Knowing that I'm a grey-haired Catholic woman in her 50s who receives Communion in the hand, uses a hyphenated name (in some contexts) and eschews make-up may tell you about the next pair of shoes I will buy, but it does not tell you who I am, who and what I love.

How does our cultural reliance on demographics feed into racism, sexism and not-so-random acts of discrimination?  We sort people into ever smaller boxes, so are we surprised that the conversation becomes ever more divisive, our contacts contracting into ever tinier circles?


  1. Beautiful Michelle, just beautiful... thanks always for your wisdom, insights, and grace.

  2. This phrase struck me: "...Catholic woman in her 50s who receives Communion in the hand..." as an somewhat odd marker of who you are, but it also prompted to remark on a pet peeve of my own which is the tendency of the NLM traddy types to prefer reception on the tongue. I do not understand this preference they seem to have. I guess they view it as more reverent, but as an old school former altar boy (no girls allowed, then) I was responsible for manning the paten, and had extensive schooling in my responsibility in the event of slippage. I have enough reverence to want to avoid slippage; place the host in the middle of my palm and I will gladly see that It is safely reposed.