While a new Congress relentlessly pursued its ideological agenda to trim government and reward its big-money patrons, a vastly more complicated world intruded:
- In Maryland, a bishop reportedly driving drunk struck a bicyclist, fled the scene while he lay dying and, according to some reports, returned only after a church official told her she had to do so.
- In Paris, a handful of religious terrorists defended the Prophet Muhammad by slaughtering the staff of a satirical magazine.
- In Nigeria, the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram intensified its systematic massacring of Nigerian citizens.
- In New York City, police officers wanting more respect from the new mayor waged a childish campaign of disrespect against the mayor and against the people of New York.
- In Washington, the latest jobs report showed more jobs being created but no gains in pay. That means the lower and middle classes continue to be dragged down by up-with-wealth political actions.
All this in a week’s time, all while Congress was pursuing a stale ideological agenda dating back to the 1930s. In that agenda, legislators would gut Social Security (take that, FDR), reward big oil with a new pipeline (thanks for the patronage, Koch brothers), chip away at Affordable Care (gotcha, Barack) and appease social conservatives.
They would treat the world as a simple place where government must shrink, people must suffer and the precious few must get richer.
The disconnect between what Congress wants to do and what the nation needs done is vast and bizarre. Programs that are working would be undermined because their success undermines ideological purity. The right wing’s penchant for bullying would be given free rein.
Meanwhile, the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland is leading the nation in a long-overdue consideration of what addiction truly is about.
Write that script even larger, and you have France trying to sort through a desire to be both free and diverse, while not giving murderous rein to a medieval crush-the-infidels agenda or to a neofascist reaction.
You have Europe, now a continent teeming with dark-skinned immigrants and plagued by racist and nativist backlashes. How should nations seared by fascism eight decades ago handle its resurgence today?
Do Western nations have any useful role to play in Africa and the Middle East as surging religious extremists wage war on their neighbors? This is far more complex than giving Big Oil its Keystone pipeline and has far more to do with the nation’s future welfare.
Recent crises in urban policing go far beyond dueling police officers and city officials in New York City. Law enforcement everywhere is being scrutinized as the gun lobby has succeeded in getting cop-killer weapons into police hands and as a deep-seated racism and bullying instincts erupt in police-driven violence.
This isn’t a simple good guys vs. bad guys scenario. The past year’s revelations of violence, both against police and by police, raise wrenching questions about safety and power.
The continuing erosion of the middle class is as critical as anything in threatening American values, home life, religious life and marketplace. Democracy itself is at stake.
Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant, and Episcopal priest based in New York. Via RNS.
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