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a Justpeace editorial +++

Congress, the Presidency, and the Culture of Death

Two dark moments in the U.S. Senate these past few days, both reflections of the preferential option for the culture of death that reigns so strongly these days. On Tuesday the Senate turned down a proposal to raise the minimum wage by $1.00 over the next two years. A few days before that, the same Senate refused to override the president's veto of the partial birth abortion ban.

Republicans loudly proclaimed their allegiance to some life in the abortion vote, and then most of them turned right around and denied Christ three times before the rooster crowed with their votes on the minimum wage. Senator Santorum conveniently ignored the plain teachings of the magisterium on this matter, while Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah declaimed loudly that he had himself worked for the minimum wage in the past, as though that actually proves what? Meanwhile, most of the Democrats did the opposite; they voted their allegiance to life in the minimum wage vote, and opted for politically expedient infanticide on the other, including some notable Catholics.

The Republicans justified their minimum wage vote with the same hoary old claim we've heard since the first proposal to set it at 25 cents an hour -- "raising the minimum wage increases unemployment" -- despite the objective fact that there has never been an increase in the unemployment rate following a hike in the minimum wage in the U.S. It's an argument based on deductive logic. I often use deductive logic myself and it is a powerful -- but also seductive -- tool. It must be regularly checked against real world happenings, lest it lead you/us/me astray -- one such reality check is the experience of a woman I recently met who works full time for a government agency here in Kansas City as a cook, and she has worked there for 17 years, and she makes the minimum wage.

National Public Radio's All Things Considered of September 22, 1998 said that there was no chance for the passage of the bill without strong support from Bill, and as we all know, he has been greatly distracted.

So the elite fiddles and the people gawk.

Maybe it's about time we United Statesians stopped investing so much emotional energy in the President of the United States and the members of Congress as the Lords and Emperors of the Known Universe.

In an age when the rulers and judges and legislators are firmly in the grip of the culture of death, we must remind ourselves that no one human political male or female is going to save us from the consequences of our voluntary actions.

To expect these politicians in white hats to do so for us is to be idolatrous; it is the offering of mega-holocausts on the altars of the most vicious gods and goddesses in human history. Most of all, it is pernicious because it allows us to believe that our own personal greed and materialism and conspicuous consumption don't matter, because somehow, sometime, someone will get elected President and then everything will be fine, and best of all, I will personally benefit financially from the election of this great man.

So we organize ourselves into gangs and contend ritualistically for the possession of physical places and powers, and we expect that we will be rewarded for our support of the victors. Our support can also be gained by scaring the you-know-what out of us about what might happen if somebody else got elected. We will then ignore any amount of whatever that isn't relative to our interests, so long as the politician delivers or is reasonably working towards delivery of the promised goods, or keeps someone else from doing something we perceive as being harmful to our interests.

The incessant targeting of political commercials at the basest of human motivations and fears, the denial of the common good, the rising tide of violence, the centralization and globalization of wealth and power, when does enough become enough?

We need to redeem, and failing that, we must restrain, the large structures of the world that threaten doom over people, place, and community. In some cases, we need to replace them with alternative structures of justice and peace. We need to pay a lot more attention to what is happening in our very own neighborhoods -- mine and yours and anybody else listening in. To redeem the top, we begin at the root -- our own personal conversion, our families, our neighbors, the people in our geographical community, the people in our cyber-communities.

It is said that the ruler is the mirror of the people. Maybe that's the real problem with Le Affair Clinton and the Republican Ascendancy in Congress -- when we look at them, we see America reflected back at us, and we truly do not like what we see.

Robert Waldrop

Justpeace webservant

Access to Catholic Social Justice Teachings

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