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Dorothy spoke. She talked about our unity in God, and of our obligations to each other in Him. She talked about poverty and the Catholic Worker and Blessed Martin House. She made an appeal for us, for volunteers and other help. She talked about theobligations of the rich, and quoted in that regard some strong words of Our Lord, beginning: 'Woe unto you rich...you have had your reward.' She quoted Peter Maurin's reminder that we take with us when we die only what we have given away in Our Lord's name, while we live....I watched the faces of those who listened. Some were deeply interested and became more and more thoughtful or alive. Some were closed and dead and remained so. Some grew red and angry, and I could see the effort it cost these people not to speak until she had finished. Some never understood. The colored people were awed and unbelieving at all this from a white woman. There was new hope in some of their faces, and a nameless delight. They would never forget what she had said. For one moment they had been lifted by her out of our little world."

from NOT WITHOUT TEARS by Helen Caldwell Day,
Sheed and Ward, 1954.
Catholic Worker odds & ends - Blessed Martin House/Memphis/1951

I read this for the first time today in personalist  's journal.  The author (no relation to Dorothy Day) is describing a speech given at a
catholic Worker facility in Memphis in 1951; the contrast between Black "delight" and White "anger" struck me powerfully,

As we come close to the biannual autumn ritual which, without a smirk, we refer to as an election, i am more sad and pessimistic than usual.  I am sad becase i have lost the potential to be either angry or hopeful about the American political process..  Its not just that my guys wont get elected.  My "guys" never get elected; and as an anarchist, i shouldn't have any "guys" in the process anyway.    It is that i feared that conservative Americans had become even more extreme, deceitful and/or ignorant, paranoid, and vicious than ever before.

The saddest thing (and i don't know whether this is deceit or stupidity) some of them actually act as though they thought they were speaking truth to power.  Then i realized from this little snippet from 59 years ago, things really haven't changed that much;  The angry whites who could hardly wait for Dorothy Day to finish (at least they waited!) probably thought they were going to speak their truth to her power, perhaps not realizing that what they really intended to do was speak power to her truth.

The speech was given in a Catholic Worker facility, middle and upper class people don't just wander into these places.  I have to assume they were there because they "cared."  They wanted to "help" the poor, deserving or not with a hot meal and a rousing sermon.  They did not want to hear that the poor have rights and that the rich have obligations which are not always self defined.
I don't mind acknowledging your rights and my obligations provided i get to define what those rights and obligations are.

The tea party "rebels" imagine that they are ordinary citizens confronting an oppressive government.  Both the congressional candidates who claim to want to represent me say they will stand up for me against the Speaker of the House and the President of the United States

Condeming unemployed people, illegal immigrants, the uninsured, and at risk children is certainly not speaking truth to power.  When truth is spoken to power, power makes the speaker pay.  Whether the tea party succeeds or fails in this election, they have little to lose and they are risking little.  They will return to jobs, homes, status.  Even embarrassment will elude them.  Who will care in 2015 what happened in 2010.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
amaebi
Oct. 22nd, 2010 11:32 am (UTC)
Oh, yes, that's beautiful. And "speaking power to truth" will, I think, become a very useful phrase for me. Thank you!
bobby1933
Oct. 22nd, 2010 08:04 pm (UTC)
And thank you!
elainegrey
Oct. 22nd, 2010 04:01 pm (UTC)
I read some of this out loud this morning to Christine. I've been reading about some issues in the progressive/feminist science fiction community where a scheduled guest of honor at a convention has been disinvited because of her demeaning remarks about Muslims in a 9/11 blog post. Christine's responded with the issue about a NPR reporter being fired after disparaging Muslims on Fox, and Palin leading a charge to get NPR defunded.

"When truth is spoken to power, power makes the speaker pay."

There's something in these 2010 stories that show a small shift in truth-speaking having some power (you will not be guest of honor at our convention; you will not report on our network), but the power still lies elsewhere.
bobby1933
Oct. 22nd, 2010 08:02 pm (UTC)
"the power still lies elsewhere.."
Yes, yes, i believe that tool
But lord, lord, the wicked do flourish.

(oh, wait) i misread your last paragraph. Yes, the powerful can still stop what they really want to stop. There were times, off and on, between 1930 and 1970 when it looked like things might change. I think the labor movement had a lot to do with that. I think there is plenty of individual heroism even today, but nobody seems to be able to get it organized without corrupting it. That might be "the nature of the beast" (the beast being organization)

Edited at 2010-10-22 08:23 pm (UTC)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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