Friday, December 9, 2016

Irish Yam?

Notre Dame, our Mother
Tender, strong and true
Proudly in the heavens,
Gleams thy gold and blue.
Glory’s mantle cloaks thee
Golden is thy fame,
And our hearts forever,
Praise thee, Notre Dame.
And our hearts forever,
Love thee, Notre Dame.

~~ Notre Dame Alma Mater

The University of Notre Dame has a tradition of asking sitting Presidents to speak at their commencement ceremony every spring. They don’t always accept but most of them do.

The president of the university, Father John Jenkins, is struggling with whether or not to invite Trump. Apparently, he feels that Trump has exhibited a lack of Christian charity in his words and deeds. In fact, Father Jenkins has reassured all undocumented students who are there under DACA that they will be safe there and continue their studies; he has also considered designating Notre Dame a “sanctuary campus.”

Father Jenkins isn’t unfamiliar with controversy. He got a lot of flak for inviting President Obama to give the commencement speech in 2009. The Democrats’ pro-choice stance is antithetical to the teachings of the Catholic church, and there were many protesters in the city that weekend. He defended his decision by saying that as a University, they are committed to open discourse and discussion of all points of view. He got in some trouble with the Archdiocese, but he stuck to his guns.

I’m not a Catholic and I’m not even religious, but I’ve always admired Father Jenkins for his open-mindedness in the pursuit of truth, knowledge, and justice. I feel that Notre Dame does good things in our community and in our world and that they are committed to racial and social justice. Father Hesburgh was a vocal and active supporter of the Civil Rights movement. So while I don’t subscribe to the tenets of the Catholic church (or any church, for that matter), I give credit to anyone who seeks to help others and alleviate pain and suffering in their fellow human beings.

Heck, you don’t have to be religious to feel that way.

The student Democrats at Notre Dame have written a letter that will be sent to Father Jenkins urging him to not invite Trump to speak at commencement in 2017. It is worth a read because it says quite eloquently my feelings on the matter. Although I am not an alumna, I signed the letter as part of our community. I grew up here and have had a lifelong connection in that way, so I felt justified in signing.

While I share Father Jenkins’ commitment to open discourse, the reason I am opposed to Trump speaking at commencement is that what he says and does is not just antithetical to Catholic teachings; it is antithetical to basic human decency. The moment that I came to the conclusion that he is a contemptible person is when he mocked the disabled reporter. That is vile behavior and it shows a complete lack of empathy, charity, and kindness. His subsequent actions only added to my feelings, including his attitude towards women.

I am proud to be from South Bend, and a big part of that is Notre Dame. We love taking out-of-town visitors to see the campus, which is absolutely beautiful. I feel a certain pride of place about Notre Dame and I feel that Trump’s message would sully the good name—and the mission—of the University.

If Father Jenkins does invite him to speak, and he accepts, I plan on voicing my opposition by protesting and I have many friends who feel the same way.

See you on the protest line!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Lost in the Supermarket

I’m all lost in the supermarket
I can no longer shop happily

~~ “Lost in the Supermarket” by the Clash

I spotted this at the grocery store today and of course, I had to have it. While I’m looking forward to reading it and I’m sure the articles will be excellent, I think there is an element of wanting to hold on to him and never let him go. I find myself feeling increasingly bereft as his time in office nears its close. There is also a sense of impending doom as the next administration nears, and I know I’m not alone in that feeling.

I feel fortunate to have lived during the eight years of Obama’s presidency. We have had our ups and downs but there is no denying (at least among the rational) that he is a good, decent, extremely intelligent man who has the best interests of the country at heart. So buying this special issue was my little way of falling to the ground, grabbing him around the knees and wailing, “NO! Please don’t go! Don’t leave me this way!”


But since it looks like he’s not going to declare martial law in order to set himself up in the Oval Office for life, I know he has to say goodbye.

It seems that I’m not the only one who is experiencing this feeling of loss. At the checkout line, the clerk rang it up and slid it to the end of the lane for the bagboy to put into a bag. As she did it, she glanced at it and read the headline: “The Obama Years.” The bagboy looked sad and said, “I’m going to miss him.”

The clerk said, “Me, too.”

Naturally, I chimed in with, “Me, too!”

Here is where it gets really interesting. The clerk, who is an older lady I see there often (I won’t mention her name for privacy reasons), seems to be close to retirement age. She is sometimes a little gruff, but mostly just all business. She seemed in a good mood today and was quite a bit more talkative than usual. She said to me, “I fear for my life now,” and flashed me a little smile that didn’t seem to quite reach her eyes. The bagboy, a youngster who could possibly have been of Hispanic heritage, murmured, “Yeah,” and I said, “I think a lot of us are concerned.”

The bagboy put the magazine into a bag and said, “He’s been great.”

The clerk wasn’t done. She said, “Like my daughter says, grab your picture ID and run for your life!”

At that point, we all did chuckle a little bit, but I would describe it as “rueful chuckling.” As in, “We have to kind of laugh about this, right? Even though we are scared and sickened by what is happening?”

I found this encounter intriguing on several levels and it has stuck with me all day.

First, not everyone in the Midwest is onboard the Yam Express to Hell. There are plenty of us right here in Indiana who are unhappy about this.

Second, it goes beyond just being unhappy. I’ve been unhappy with election outcomes before. We are now in the Fear Zone. Here were three disparate people: an older woman close to retirement, a young man of uncertain ethnic origin (I don’t mean that in a bad way...I just have no idea what his ethnicity was, but I could tell he wasn’t total whitebread like me) who is just starting his life’s journey, and middle-aged me who worries about erosions of civil liberties and about setbacks in all the progress that has been made in the last several decades.

Three very different circumstances, but a common sentiment: we are all afraid.

Afraid of what is going to happen to retirement funds and Medicare; afraid of what is going to happen to our gay friends and family; afraid of what is going to happen to women’s reproductive rights; afraid of what kind of life is going to be waiting for any young person when they get out of college—if they can even afford to go to college. We were all feeling afraid enough that we actually talked about this a bit in a place of business. I think we all are trying to find comfort where we can, and perhaps my purchase of this magazine reassured the clerk and the bagboy that there are people out there who are feeling the same way. I hope so. I hope that gave them a little boost today. Hearing their words sure gave me one!

It also made me feel angry. Because we shouldn’t have to feel afraid of the leader of our government and what he is going to do to our country and to the world. None of us. I’m not going to say that it’s unfair, because I know that life isn’t fair. I think it’s reasonable to say that it is unjust, though. It is unjust that a significant portion of our population is now living in fear. I remember being afraid of nuclear war a few decades ago. I feel that same pall over my life now and it seems that my compadres at the supermarket are feeling it, too.

Finally, it makes me think that the coalition is still there. The Democrats just need to figure out how to bring us all together so that we can work on progress for all, not just a select few.

I just hope that by the time they figure it out, it’s not too late.

This song is going out to the current Commander-In-Chief. You may not be in the Oval Office soon, sir, but you’ll always command my heart...and my respect.