A cause that should bridge political, ideological divides

Stop the abuse of women and girls.

This is like the incidence of some sickness getting reported in different locations, which rapidly erupts into a wider outbreak, then quickly turns into a plague. Only this is man made and man caused. And it’s been going on for a very long time, but surfacing only recently. More every day, it seems.

Today, it was NBC’s Matt Lauer. As this Time piece concludes

Lauer was on his way to becoming a TV legend; instead, now, he’s just another name on a long list.

Long list of what, of whom? Abusers, men accused of sexual misconduct, taking advantage of women when they could and because they thought they could.

Women, girls, didn’t want to tell because they were ashamed, frightened, threatened, paid hush money, or didn’t think they would be believed. The men who abused them, of whom Lauer is the latest at this writing, (along with Garrison Keilor on the same day) were well known and powerful, in different ways. Some are Hollywood and media celebrities, some are major journalists, and some members of government. These men initiated unwanted sexual encounters of different sorts with females ranging in age from teenagers to adult women.

Judge Roy Moore.

Moore is the Republican Senate candidate. A series of women have said he sexually assaulted or pursued relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Some of those women were under the age of consent at the time, as young as 14.

Democrat Al Franken.

…”the reason I want to say something is if someone sees that I said something, maybe it would give them the courage to say something, too.”

John Conyers, longest serving Democrat in the House of Representatives and a powerful one, made private settlements with women over a long period of time. This came out when news started breaking about him.

Last week the Washington Post reported that Congress’s Office of Compliance paid out $17 million for 264 settlements with federal employees over 20 years for various violations, including sexual harassment. The Conyers documents, however, give a glimpse into the inner workings of the office, which has for decades concealed episodes of sexual abuse by powerful political figures…

 

One former staffer, who did not want to be named, said she was frustrated by the secretive complaint process.

“I don’t think any allegations should be buried…and that’s for anyone, not just for this particular office, because it doesn’t really allow other people to see who these individuals are,” said the former staffer. “When you make private settlements, it doesn’t warn the next woman or the next person going into that situation.”

When it was veteran television host Charlie Rose, eight women came out with allegations, after fearing to speak out individually. Rose was fired by CBS.

CBS News President David Rhodes said “What may once have been accepted should not ever have been acceptable.”

There it is. Buried in countless pages of news text, analysis and columns, endless broadcast news reports of correspondents and commentators, so simple a truism states the obvious. Once this all came out, everyone could finally see the stark, beastly truth about predatory behavior and degraded victims of it keeping quiet for fear of the consequences of speaking out. Rhodes’ message, simply put, is this: ‘What has until now been accepted should never have been acceptable’.

But it was, until suddenly, it wasn’t. All at once. Celebrities in Hollywood and Big Media swiftly got removed. Even the New York Times’ own White House correspondent.

We’re in a unique and very rare moment in our nation of nearly unanimous agreement on intolerance of all unwanted sexual encounters of any sort.

So this should be the time, finally, when cover ups of sex trafficking, especially of minors, is stopped. Reports of it are rampant. Live Action provides proof.

An encounter with any health care worker should be an opportunity for trafficking victims to get help to escape from slavery.

But abortion clinics are covering it up. And cover ups of other forms of sexual abuse of minors. Live Action President Lila Rose told me on radio that “the day for reckoning has to come soon” for the industry that has profited from women and girls in crisis or despair, many of whom are now suing abortion clinics that worsened their plight. And the lawsuits are providing revelations of abuse and illegalities in those clinics.

Congress has investigated Planned Parenthood and allegations of illegal activities committed by that taxpayer funded abortion giant, and how to shift federal dollars to comprehensive health clinics that provide better care for women and families. Now, some powerful members of Congress are part of the problem of abusing women.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, member of the House Judiciary Committee, said this:

“This is a watershed moment where, finally, the country seems to be waking up and realizing we need to have a zero tolerance policy toward sexual harassment. We cannot pick and choose. Democrats cannot lambaste Trump and Moore, and then turn a blind eye to our own who face credible charges against them.

 

“No one ever wants to believe that someone they respect and have regarded as a champion for civil rights issues would abuse their power to harm and harass women. On top of that, sexism colors everything. Women just aren’t generally believed. Period. Even more complicated is that sexual harassment is extremely difficult to prove in any court of law. That means that efforts to stop harassment must recognize that there will be gray areas. Women will come forward and men will deny. The question is: What is society’s response? To truly change norms and cultures, we need to start believing women from the get-go.

National Review online considers why it’s harder to hold politicians accountable for their misdeeds than other abusers.

The bottom line is that virtue — rightly understood — is hard. Defending a culture of integrity, respect, and honor means sometimes taking a short-term loss for the larger win. It means sometimes being willing to sacrifice for the greater good. It means that 51–49 is preferable to 52–48 if that one extra seat would have meant that a likely child abuser was in the Senate. Keith Ellison (or another progressive) is preferable to Al Franken if it means that our political culture is finally getting serious about respecting women. Alabama voters and Democratic senators are in control of an important moral moment. Are they serious enough about character and integrity to make even the smallest political sacrifice to shore up a fraying national culture?

This is a question for us all, far beyond Alabama. We are indeed in an important moral moment.

‘Thoughts and prayers’ are now political

Of course. Everything else is these days.

I remember when tragedies brought even political opponents together in what seemed potentially like a learning moment about our shared humanity being larger than the differences of opinions, beliefs and ideas that divide us. Certainly that happened after 9/11, and it seemed that whatever renewed sense of unity and solidarity members of government shared with locked arms in appearances before the nation in those days soon after, and complete strangers shared with bowed heads and tear streamed cheeks on the steps of churches and cathedrals as the crowds poured out the doors for days after that horror, would last long enough to change our nation for the better. It didn’t last that long.

Nor did it when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and eighteen others were shot in a Tuscon, Arizona supermarket parking lot in January 2011 during a routine gathering of citizens meeting their congressional representative. One of the six people who died in that shooting was a nine year old girl who was born on September 11, 2001. President Obama referred to her several times in his speech at the Together We Thrive: Tucson and America memorial on January 12, 2011.

Preparing for that speech, Obama conferred with a Pentecostal clergyman, the head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. White House staffers conferred with religious advisers about biblical passages the president might use in the speech to speak to a nation jarred to the core. But at the core there was still – at that point in our relatively recent history – the need to connect worldly events with spiritual aspirations.

Obama decided to quote from the Book of Job and Psalm 46.

And he did so to acknowledge and grieve the occasion when six people were killed and Rep. Giffords was shot in the head while “gathered outside a supermarket to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and free speech.” That is clearly close to the occasion of the Texas massacre last week when people were gathered inside a church to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and freedom of religion.

In his remarks after the tragedy in January 2011, Obama remarked that people were seeking to make sense out of the senseless by debating issues like gun safety laws and the breakdown of the mental health treatment system.

He urged that the polarized national debate be conducted “in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.” Quoting the Book of Job 30:26, Obama said “terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding.” Urging Americans to avoid using the tragedy as “one more occasion to turn on one another”, he called for a new civility in the nation and political and public discourse. He recommended humility, empathy and especially reflection, urging people to consider whether they have “shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives”.

Obama said “we are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this Earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame -– but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better.”

And he closed the speech with a blessing.

This is good to remember as we go through tragedy after mind-numbing tragedy, and political discourse is growing more unkind, uncharitable, accusatory, harsh, intolerant, divisive, and scornful of religion.

As Wall Street Journal columnist Bill McGurn sees it, for many politicians in President Obama’s party, and media sympathizers, GOP leaders offering ‘thoughts and prayers’ after the Texas massacre is ‘deplorable’.

“Thoughts & prayers are not enough, GOP,” wrote the Massachusetts Democrat. “We must end this violence. We must stop these tragedies. People are dying while you wait.” In short, if you are a Republican praying instead of passing gun control, you’ve got blood on your hands.

 

The Huffington Post devoted an entire piece to the phenomenon, under the headline “People Fed Up With ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ Demand Action After Texas Church Massacre.” It featured tweets from celebrities and gun-control advocates who believe they had discovered something big: Prayers aren’t always answered…

 

Surely it is possible to make the case for gun control without mocking prayer. But as with Mrs. Clinton and her infamous remarks about Trump voters—not only deplorable but irredeemable—those denouncing Messrs. Trump and Ryan’s offer of prayers don’t really want an argument. They want to express their feelings of moral superiority.

 

Michael Brendan Dougherty said something similar in his National Review Online piece, asserting that prayer is not a distraction. But the outrage expressed by progressive politicians is.

The effect is increasing the ambient background level of contempt and hatred in American society.

This is precisely what we need less of, especially right exactly now.

In the moments after a tragedy, the fact is we have no idea whether the killer would have been deterred by stricter gun-control laws, whether he broke existing ones, or whether he would have sought to circumvent them the way mass killers do in other countries. We often have no idea how any particular gun-control policies we would like to see implemented would have changed these events. And so attacking the prayers of politicians in fact substitutes for thought and reflection. It is a way for those who favor more gun control, as I do, to express a sentiment about gun violence, without actually putting forward a policy that addresses the issue at hand. If anyone is using “prayer” as a distraction in the wake of a mass shooting, it is those who want gun control but have no idea how their policy preferences could be implemented, and how those policies would have changed the events.

He zeroes in on the point.

The anti-prayer tweets aren’t encouraging a debate about gun control; they are discouraging expressions of shock, sympathy, and mourning. That is, they are discouraging statements about the inherent value of the lives lost that address the real grief of the bereaved. Often that is the only thing we can sensibly offer in the minutes after awful news breaks across our screens. By discouraging these expressions, they are also inadvertently boxing pro-gun-control politicians into talking about the victims of mass shootings in a purely instrumental way, a less human way — thereby reducing such deaths to having no other public meaning beyond another reason to pass legislation that these politicians already wanted to pass. Without being able to offer a plain expression of sorrow and anger, even pro-gun-control politicians are deprived of a means of offering human respect before engaging in politics. This opens them to the charge of disrespecting the dead by using their deaths to promote views to which the dead would object.

 

So even if you are frustrated with America’s permissive gun rights, it isn’t the prayers offered to the dead that are the problem. Let people mourn the dead. Let them say the human thing first. And then engage in vigorous political debate afterward.

Columnist Bill McGurn reminded us that

…Barack Obama offered his “thoughts and prayers” as often as any president, such as after a 2013 shooting in Washington when he said, “We send our thoughts and prayers to all at the Navy Yard who’ve been touched by this tragedy.” No one complained then, either because they were comfortable that Mr. Obama didn’t really believe in prayer or his faith in gun control was absolute.

 

Over the next few weeks, the surviving members of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs will wrap their fallen in love and lay them to rest. What these survivors may individually believe about gun control is anyone’s guess. But it’s hard to believe that the way to their hearts is by mocking offers of prayer, even from Republicans.

For the most part, the right to life has become an extremely partisan issue over the past few decades. That battle will continue to be fought in the legislature, the courts and the arena of public ideas. In the Texas massacre, one of the victims authorities included among the dead was an unborn child, and naturally so.

Let prayers be offered in peace and goodwill, by all who claim to care the most for the true good of humanity. As President Obama urged, in a time of tragedy, conduct public debate “in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.” And Democrats would do well to remember his words” “we are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this Earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame -– but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better.”

Faith, hope and love are stronger than death

We need this reminder.

Lately, Pope Francis has been talking about death in messages like this one just over a week ago.

Noting that death is a reality that modern civilization “tends, more and more, to set aside” and not reflect upon, Pope Francis said that for believers death is actually “a door” and a call to live for something greater.

Christians endearingly celebrate All Souls Day and ‘Commemoration of the Faithful Departed’, remembering their deceased loved ones in special prayers and liturgies, for their ‘eternal rest’ and ‘life everlasting’. Some populations celebrate it as Día de los Muertos, a day when families create traditional altars in honor of their beloved departed, with photos, memorabilia, their favorite foods and traditional Pan de Muerto, or ‘bread of the dead’. These altars are set up at cemeteries throughout the world including Mexico, Central and South America and Europe, with processions and music taking the faithful from one to another.

In northern Romania, one of Europe’s last remaining peasant cultures still observes a similar centuries-old tradition on this occasion. Villagers decorate and light candles on graves, many with already lavishly carved wooden grave markers in the ‘Merry Cemetery’. It’s a celebration of life, faith and hope in resurrection.

They observe these traditions because they live what they believe, that life is sacred and eternal. It’s distinctly counter-cultural to prevailing forces pushing a utilitarian ideology of human existence that exalts abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide as a ‘choice’ to eliminate suffering and inconvenience when each diminishes us all.

Pope Francis told people to prepare for death, which had to be a startling message for the current culture. And on Wednesday, when he greets and addresses the large crowd assembled in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly address, he shared what he would be doing on All Souls Day, inviting anyone willing to join him.

Before concluding his address, the Pope reminded the faithful that he would be travelling to the American Cemetery of Nettuno, South of Rome and then to the Fosse Ardeatine National Monument on November 2nd to mark the feast on Feast of all Souls. Pope Francis, said,” I ask you to accompany me with prayer in these two stages of memory and suffrage for the victims of war and violence. Wars produce nothing but cemeteries and death: that is why I wanted to give this sign at a time when our humanity seems not to have learned the lesson or does not want to learn it.”

(Emphasis added.)