On Thursday “in the land of the free and the home of the brave” Pope Francis addressed the World, challenged Congress and provoked America to break out of its cycle of rampant apathy fostered by politics, corporate interests and a media which encourages polarization on our one small world bleeding from hatred, greed, poverty, pollution and willful ignorance!
By Eileen Fleming
Pope Francis said:
I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams, which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams, which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people…I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton…
A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.
Dorothy Day was a prolific writer and 20th century Made in the USA Catholic Christian anarchist. Day co-founded The Catholic Worker newspaper on May Day 1933 with Peter Maurin to educate the public about the social justice teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Day said the word “Worker” in the paper’s title referred to “those who worked with hand or brain, those who did physical, mental, or spiritual work. But we thought primarily of the poor, the dispossessed, the exploited.”
In her early twenties, Dorothy hung with playwrights, socialists, communists, anarchists, bohemians, chain-smoked, drank and wrote an autobiographical novel based on her passionate love affair that broke up the day she had an abortion and rebounded into a marriage to a man sixteen years her senior which broke up when she realized she was using him.
As an unwed mother she shocked her progressive friends when she announced she was entering the Roman Catholic Church but she agitated church as much as state in her writings. In the penny a copy paper, Day proclaimed her faith and commitment to the poor, to seek social justice and struggle for a green revolution and a new society “where it is easier to be good.”
Day understood that only the works of mercy could lead to justice and peace and she readily challenged the works of war. The works of mercy include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the needy, visiting prisoners, sheltering the homeless and caring for the ill.
Day noted that “all our problems stem from our acceptance of this dirty rotten system” and it disturbed her deeply that more was done to provide a degree of relief for victims of social evils then was ever done to rid society of those evils.
Day wrote, “There were day nurseries for children, but why didn’t fathers get money enough to care for their families so that mothers would not have to work? Men with all their manhood drained out of them by industrialism [and debt.] Where were the saints to try to change the social order, not just minister to the slaves but to do away with the slavery?”
Day used labels like “pacifist” and “anarchist” in describing herself. By pacifist she meant a rejection of all war and by anarchy she meant taking personal responsibility and NOT expecting the government nor needing the state to solve our problems. Her concept of anarchy was a “religious one stemming from the life of Jesus on earth who came to serve rather than be served.”
Anarchy for me means Rebellion against UNJUST laws. The Yang/male force of anarchy resists authority and causes disorder and is socially and politically incorrect by the norms of the status quo for it seeks the higher ground of justice. The Yin/feminine force of anarchy births a new order out of the chaos and chaos is creativity in action.
Dorothy Day worked “as though everything depended on” her and prayed, “as though everything depended on God.”
On the day after the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor Day stood at a microphone and announced:
There is now all this patriotic indignation about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Japanese expansionism in Asia. Yet not a word about American and European colonialism in this same area. We, the British, the French, and others set up spheres of influence…control national states-against the expressed will of these states-and represent imperialism.
We dictate to all to where they can expand economically and politically, and we declare what policy they must observe. From our nationalistic and imperialistic point of view, we have every right to concentrate American military forces [everywhere we chose].
But I waste rhetoric on international politics-the breeding grounds of war over the centuries. The balance of power and other empty slogans inspired by a false and flamboyant nationalism have bred conflict throughout ‘civilized’ history.
And it has become too late in human history to tolerate wars which none can win. Nor dare we quibble about just wars. All wars are, by their very nature, evil and destructive. It has become too late for civilized people to accept this evil. We must take a stand. We must renounce war as an instrument of policy.
Evil enough when the finest of our youth perish in conflict and even the causes of these conflicts were soon lost to memory. Even more horrible today when cities go up in flames and brilliant scientific minds are searching out ultimate weapons.
War must cease. There are no victories. The world can bear the burden no longer. Yes, we must make a stand. Even as I speak to you, I may be guilty of what some men call treason. But we must reject war: Yes, we must now make a stand. War is murder, rape, ruin, death; war can end our civilization.
I tell you that within a decade we will have weapons capable of ending this world as we have known it.
In the spring of 1955, a New York state wide civil defense drill “Operation Alert” was announced with a warning that anyone refusing to take shelter-such as going into subways, basements, or under school desks-during the drill would risk a year in prison and a $500.00 fine.
Day was among a few other pacifists who converged in front of City hall in lower Manhattan on the day of the drill, “In the name of Jesus, who is God, who is Love, we will not obey this order to pretend, to evacuate, to hide. We will not be drilled into fear. We do not have faith in God if we depend on the Atom Bomb.”
As 679 warning sirens wailed and millions of New Yorkers ducked and covered, Day and a few others who dissented from partaking in a rehearsal for a nuclear war pretending that such a war would be survivable, were arrested. Bail was set at $1,500.00 for “defying the White House, Pentagon, governor, the national mood, the habit of war and refusing to get ready for war.”
Day explained, “Silence means consent and we cannot consent to the militarization of our country without protest. Since we believe that air raid drills are part of a calculated plan to inspire fear of the enemy [instead of the love which Jesus told us of] we must protest these drills. It is an opportunity to show we mean what we write when we repeat over and over that we are put on this earth to love God and our neighbor.”
Day and others were arrested annually as growing numbers of individuals and groups throughout the state refused to comply. When the media finally reported the war drills were “an exercise in futility” Civil Defense officials and politicians admitted defeat and ended the compulsory drills.
A December Catholic church policy paper stated:
Finally, it must be admitted that the very possession of nuclear weapons, even for purposes of deterrence, is morally problematic. While a consensus continues to grow that any possible use of such weapons is radically inconsistent with the demands of human dignity, in the past the church has nonetheless expressed a provisional acceptance of their possession for reasons of deterrence, under the condition that this be “a step on the way toward progressive disarmament.” This condition has not been fulfilled—far from it. In the absence of further progress toward complete disarmament, and without concrete steps toward a more secure and a more genuine peace, the nuclear weapon establishment has lost much of its legitimacy.
Dorothy Day preached, “Love is not the starving of whole populations. Love is not the bombardment of open cities. Love is not killing…Our manifesto is the Sermon on the Mount, which means that we will try to be peacemakers.”
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