The Reverend Anton Jacobs, a good friend, recently wrote an article which he titled, “Tis the Season to be Outspoken.” In the article he wonders if perhaps we in the U.S. are not suffering from what he calls “cultural pollution.” He asks, “Have we so filled the air and our minds with lethal doses of vitriol that we have lost the capacity to think critically?” To paraphrase a prominent politician who has contributed his share to the verbal smog, “Have the adults left the room?” We seem to have reduced everything to a sports metaphor and made it all a game of winning and losing. Success is measured by ratings, opinion polls and money.
In this hectic U.S. political season words become missiles flying fast and furious with little regard for their accuracy and even less concern for so-called collateral damage. One vituperative barrage simply invites another as people compete for airtime, media attention and money. The exchange escalates as political candidates and their surrogates search for new and more compelling ways to sharpen their attacks and raise record amounts of money. The money does not “buy” votes. There is no quid pro quo. When politicians claim that their votes are not for sale, I believe them. They are voting their conscience. But that does not mean that money does not buy access and influence. It does. Politicians know what their major donors think about issues and they are sensitive to donor concerns when it comes to writing legislation. When it is time to cast their vote the politician votes his or her conscience, which has been formed and informed by what other people who know the issues and who are well- known say about it.
All of these hypothetical situations actually happened and Hayes documented each of them. The last scenario referenced a Mitt Romney commercial that featured blue collar union members who were obligated to pose for the picture with the candidate. Romney did not object. In fact he is smiling in the commercial. Which leads me back to the beginning, “Have we lost our ability to think critically?” Have the adults left the room?
With the passage of time the theistic ethic of ownership proclaimed by Bishop Ambrose and other spiritual guides of the Patristic Period was either forgotten or it became what Avila calls “an uncrucifiable generality.” In today’s culture of winners and losers it is one of the church’s best kept secrets; but it need not remain so.