Building a Bridge over Troubled Waters
By Rev. John J. Raphael, SSJ
(Article: Page 2 of 5)
So, imagine me now watching some of these programs; seeing some of the local celebrities who remained in the media after integration, but seeing them for the first time in their original environments. Imagine, for the first time seeing the commercials and those to whom they were directed. My, how "white" New Orleans was
on television at least! How excluded from public society were my people. Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" immediately comes to mind. I began to understand more why our most celebrated native son, Louis Armstrong, never wanted to come back to his home town after he returned to reign as King Zulu. All around the world, he was the "Ambassador of Goodwill," but when he returned to New Orleans, he was just another
! It is ironic-in a good sense-that we have named our airport and that wonderfully historic park after him! Psychologically, these nostalgia shows have hit me like a ton of bricks, because though I didn't grow up during these times, I now see in a far more tangible way, what my parents and grandparents attempted to convey to me as a child.
Coming from this background-and this example only barely scratches the surface of the collective experiences of African Americans-the overwhelming symbolism and the experience of triumph in the election of Barack Obama, or of any African-American, to the presidency cannot be dismissed or ignored, and its legitimacy should not be rejected or denigrated. America has taken a huge step forward in moving beyond a painful past of racial inequity. A collective "alleluia" has indeed been shouted because of this! Just as Italian Americans continue to celebrate Christopher Columbus, despite the fact that according to some, there were terrible consequences for the native peoples of the Americas as a result of their encounter with Europeans, African-Americans have every right to celebrate this event which for many of them was unthinkable for the first half, third, or quarter of their lives.
Can a pro-life person acknowledge this symbolism and the legitimacy of this response and remain true to his or her commitment to the protection and defense of life from conception until natural death? The answer is yes, in my opinion, because this is only one part of the story.
Now to the other part. Countries are not governed by symbols, they are governed by people-politicians, to be exact, and our country and this election are no exception. Having acknowledged the monumental symbolism of this election-which affects all races and ethnicities, not just Blacks and Whites-it is equally the responsibility of all citizens-especially citizens of faith-to look at the specific positions of the person chosen to govern and to examine those positions in the light of faith and sound human reasoning. At this point, the best principle to be invoked is that provided by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., namely that we are to judge a man not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character. Note the key word here is "judge." For what can be legitimately judged in another person is the moral character of his or her actions. So if, indeed, I have asked the pro-life community to step out of itself and to attempt to "see" the African American perspective on this election, I must now ask the African American community to step out of itself to "see" the pro-life perspective regarding the contemporary state of abortion in America.
Some have suggested that the Church has been particularly harsh with President-Elect Obama, after all, he is not the first "pro-choice" politician, or president. Some have even implied that there may be racial undertones to the bishops' approach. I heartily disagree with these suggestions for the reasons below.
First, the Church has been teaching and speaking out publicly on this issue since 1973. The public battles over who can or cannot receive Holy Communion did not begin with the 2008 election cycle, they were just as heated in previous presidential elections when there was no African American candidate. Our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, have made the topic of abortion and the promotion of a Culture of Life central in their visits and messages to the people of the United States.
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