Left Behind: Working Class Families and Communities

Last night, Georgetown University hosted an event on the economic realities, political impact, and moral dimensions of the national neglect of working-class families and communities. The event featured Tim Carney, columnist for the Washington Examiner; Bill Fletcher, Jr., a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; author and political analyst Thomas Frank; Fr. Clete Kiley of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies; and moderator John Carr, ounder and director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University. Joe McCartin, a professor in the Department of History and the director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University, provided introductory remarks. Here are some highlights from the panel:

The Power of Redemption: He Joined a Gang at 10, But Now He’s Free

img_2568“It’s easier to be part of a gang than to go to school.” That’s what a young man, who I’ll call Daniel (for his safety), told me when I met him in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The Egan Fellows and the rest of the CRS delegation had weaved our way up into the hills that surround the heart of the city, windows rolled down so that those looking out would be able to identify us and permit our safe passage. As we traveled on these winding dirt roads, I couldn’t help but wonder what jobs were available in this area, where businesses seemed largely absent and the homes were exceptionally modest. The beautiful view from the hills sharply contrasted with the poverty in the neighborhood.

Daniel joined a gang when he was 10 years old. He was in 4th grade. The gang gave him marijuana and cocaine to sell inside his school. He needed the money. Once he started dealing, he found that not only could he now provide for his basic needs, he could even help out his friends.

Looking back (and describing what he sees presently), he describes this type of recruitment as an epidemic. Gangs prey on vulnerable, naïve young boys who often don’t understand the dangerous path they have taken. When kids are playing on the soccer field, gang members stand in the corner or they approach them on the street, telling them how easy it is to earn a little money. Little by little they are drawn in, doing more tasks for the gang, and then they really start to move up in the gang “when they start killing people.”

Daniel continued to deal drugs in his school for a year and a half until his promotion. He became a “flag.” Flags keep lookout over a certain area, keeping tabs on everyone, always keeping an eye out for “strange people.” Daniel’s watch lasted until 4 AM. He kept an eye out for rivals, but also for the police, so that incriminating items could be hidden before a raid.

Some members of the police were on the gang’s payroll. They would call in advance of a raid so that they would have time to hide everything. Nevertheless, the raids often involved shootouts.

Daniel wasn’t there for one raid that turned violent. His 13-year-old friend was shot and killed. When he found out, he ran to see his bullet-riddled body. It was a devastating moment. But his first response was the desire for vengeance. Daniel doesn’t sugarcoat his state of mind at the time. He doesn’t pretend that he was more conflicted or struggling with reconciling his lifestyle and his values. He admits that he was immersed in a world of violence and the values that accompany it. Even with his close friend killed, he still felt “big and protected.”    Read More

Questions to Consider as the Election Approaches

Mike Jordan Laskey has a new article at NCR. He writes:

I have not spent as much time praying and reflecting around this election as I have shouting, complaining, and eye-rolling. So, borrowing in part from the three groups I met, here are some questions I’d like to wrestle with over the next two weeks….

Which candidate do I think would be better for unborn children, immigrants and refugees, racial and ethnic and religious minorities, prisoners on death row, the unemployed and the underpaid, the homeless, the hungry, parents struggling to provide for their families here at home and around the world, those living in war zones, and others on the margins? What do I do if no candidate gets all of it right?

Are my expectations of a president realistic? Or do I think of our president-to-be as a sort of supreme monarch? Do I put too much hope in political leaders? Too little hope?…

Do I blame others or “the system” for the vitriol of this election season? Have I played a role in perpetuating a politics of anger and suspicion? Have I done anything to build up a politics of love? How are racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, and other -isms at work in my heart?

If the candidates aren’t talking much about issues that are important to me, what can I do about that? How can I engage constructively in the political process after the election has come and gone?

Ten years from now, when I tell my now 15-month-old daughter about this election and my participation in it, what will my story be?

You can read the full article here.


Around the Web

UntitleddddddewqeCheck out these recent articles from around the web:

A Disabled Life Is a Life Worth Living by Ben Mattlin: “I decided long ago that if I’m going to like myself, I have to like the disability that has contributed to who I am. Today, my encroaching decrepitude is frequently a source of emotional strength, a motivator to keep fighting, to exercise my full abilities in whatever way possible.”

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Child-Care Problem by Elizabeth Dias: “Across the U.S., families are struggling with this everyday need. Nearly two-thirds of mothers with children under age 6 work, and families with a working mother spend nearly twice as much on child care as they did 30 years ago, according to the U.S. Census. In 33 states and Washington, D.C., it costs more to put an infant in day care than it does to pay in-state college tuition and fees at a four-year public school.”

‘I Am Very Afraid I Will Die Tonight’ by Nicholas Kristof: “So far, Obama’s paralysis has been linked to the loss of perhaps half a million lives in Syria, the rise of extremist groups like the Islamic State, genocide against the Yazidi and Christians, the worst refugee crisis in more than 60 years and the rise of ultranationalist groups in Europe. Aleppo may fall, and lives like Bana’s hang in the balance. If we don’t act after half a million deaths, will we after one million? After two million? When?” Read More

Stop Pretending Trump is a Strong Ambassador for Christian Values

Today on Fox News, I debated Donald Trump’s evangelical advisor.

Though he argued that Trump has been transformed since he recently “gave his life to Christ,” I argued that his behavior doesn’t show it.

This is a man who praises a dictator and calls the pope a “disgrace.”

This is a man who mocks the disabled, belittles veterans, and bans Muslims.

After being accused of multiple instances of sexual assault, Trump denied the charges this week saying that the women “weren’t attractive enough” to assault.

This is a man who thinks belittling and shaming women makes him bigger.

This is a man who told the nation last night that he’s too proud to accept losing a free and fair election in the world’s oldest democratic republic.

You can vote for Trump, but you shouldn’t do so by pretending he’s a strong ambassador for faith values.

Because time and again, he shows that the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson are true: “who you are screams so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.”

You can watch the video here:


Cardinal Sean Leads Interfaith Fight against Marijuana Legalization

via the Boston Globe:

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley met with more than 40 interfaith leaders Tuesday to discuss strategies to defeat a state ballot measure that would legalize recreational use of marijuana.

The Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston warned that making marijuana legal would exacerbate the opioid epidemic, entice more children to use drugs, hurt poor neighborhoods, and threaten public safety.

“To me, this is greed trumping common sense and also undermining the common good,” he said in an interview after the meeting. “It will change the culture of this state if this legislation is passed.”

The gathering, at the archdiocesan headquarters in Braintree, included priests representing Greek and Coptic Orthodox, Episcopal, and Armenian Catholic congregations. It also included the Black Ministerial Alliance, evangelical and Pentecostal pastors, local imams, and others. The archdiocese said that Jewish leaders were invited but could not attend because of Sukkot, a holiday celebrating the fall harvest.