Summer of Trump Yields to Autumn of Francis

And I can hardly wait.

Because it’s been a really long summer. And that’s coming from a man – an old, white man, at that. Makes me wonder how women and people of color must be feeling.

But still, it’s been grueling. It’s not just the narcissism, or the rudeness, or the stupidity, or the frivolity. It’s this: That constant drumbeat that we need to keep them out, suppress them, even kill them.

Them. You know, THEM.

Maybe they’re rapists and criminals. Maybe they’re terrorists. Maybe they’re stealing our jobs. Maybe they want us to acknowledge that their lives matter. THEM.

We need to build walls against THEM. We need to deport THEM. We need to stop THEM from devaluing their currency. We can’t let THEM vote.

I wish it were just Trump. But it seems almost everyone wants to make sure he’s not out-Trumped by anyone else. It seems to be the easiest ticket to popularity in an American election season: Make sure everyone hates and fears the dark and sinister THEM.

Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped)But while I hear it every night on the news, during the day I’ve been reading Pope Francis’ wonderful letter “On Care for Our Common Home,” or “Laudato Si’ (Be praised, my Lord).” If there are more striking polar opposites, I can’t think of any more pronounced than the message peddled by Trump (and Trump wannabees), and the hopeful message of Francis.

And that’s because – at least in part – Francis doesn’t recognize that any of us are THEM. The title of Laudato Si’ gives you the first clue: “Care for Our Common Home.” OUR home. Our COMMON home. It’s not an American home over here, and a Mexican, Syrian or Chinese home over there. It’s one home, shared by everyone, protected for everyone, or polluted for everyone. Treasured for everyone, or debased for everyone.

“We need to strengthen the conviction,” says Francis, “that we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference.”

“Whether believers or not, we are agreed today that the earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone. For believers, this becomes a question of fidelity to the Creator, since God created the world for everyone.”

But back here in the Summer of Trump, we’re treated nightly to plans to build a 2,000-mile wall to keep THEM out. “Nobody builds better walls than me, believe me,” says the orange-haired fellow. Never mind that net migration across that particular border is actually ZERO.

But for Trump and the keep-THEM-out crowd, their worst fears are about to be realized. They are – in fact – coming. THEM. But in this case, THEM is a smiling, one-lunged, Argentinian priest and his collection of bishops from all over the world.

He’s going to be greeted by throngs that will put to shame the pitiful little crowds that cheer and sneer for Trump. And Francis is not just going to comfort his audience with assurances that we are all common creatures of one loving Lord and Father. He’s got some tough love for us: We, on THIS side of the border, owe a staggering debt to THEM, on the other side.

“A true ‘ecological debt’ exists,” he has said, “particularly between the global north and south, connected to commercial imbalances with effects on the environment, and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries (you know who he’s talking about, don’t you?) over long periods of time.”

In effect, we’ve been polluting the whole world’s atmosphere for so long, and gotten so rich by doing so, that we are far worse than mere equals of our poorer migrant brothers. We are, Pope Francis points out, deeply in hock to those who are suffering the global effects of our 200-year fossil-fuel binge.

So when Francis speaks publicly in Philadelphia or Washington, I’ll find a way to be in the crowd. I don’t expect to be entertained. I know that all quarter-million of us on the National Mall will be among the “twenty percent of the world’s population” that “consumes resources at a rate that robs the poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive,” according to Francis.

I expect him to tell us that we need to consume and pollute far less for the sake of our children. “The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes,” he has written. “Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice.”

I don’t expect it to be all that much fun. But I plan to be there. Because maybe, just maybe, the summer of stoking fear of THEM is finally yielding to the autumn of US.

If so, I want to be part of it.

J. Elwood

Download Laudato Si’ Digest : our own thumbnail version of Pope Francis’ letter “On Care For Our Common Home.”

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