Fr. Madigan Is Not A Good My-Team Player

Tea Partiers want to "take back our country". After all, (some of) our ancestors stole it from the Native Americans, instituted registration of private property so that they could legally prove ownership of what they'd stolen, and contemplated contentedly the prospect of never having to share it with anyone not on their team.

The system wasn't perfect, alas. Some of our ancestors had stolen a bunch of people, too, and brought them here as more legally-owned property, to work, but the ingrates struggled for their freedom, and some ancestors actually thought that legally owning people was carrying the system of your-life-is-what-you-own a tad far, and before 200 years of saying, "The Bible treats slavery as a fact of life, therefore it is a holy estate," or the simpler "But they're mine! I paid for them!" had gone by, those people were free. Well, technically.

Not letting them own anything much, taking their property away and giving it to a team member when they had managed to acquire some, limiting their educational and employment opportunities and not allowing them any say in making the legal system which controls who is entitled to what did provide some excellent controls on their freedom for many decades.

Then too, some of those Native Americans insisted on hanging about the place, despite their reduced numbers being chivvied from their homes to lesser lands repeatedly. So, in spite of the laws about not letting not-our-team people into the country except to build our railroads and wash our shirts and stuff, over time our team kind of expanded.

But it worked out okay so long as those not-us types who weaseled their way in proved how devoted to the team they were by immediately turning around and condemning as evil and sure to be the destruction of our team anyone not-us-or-almost-us was.

Unfortunately, not all of those ungrateful jerks recognize their responsibility to do this. Sometimes you get one of these bleeding heart-types who says, "I didn't enjoy being treated like that, and I don't want to treat anyone else that way." Or even something so ridiculous as, "We're all in this together, and weapons turned on you can be turned on me." And, of course, if that's already happened, it may seem even more plausible.
Many New Yorkers were suspicious of the newcomers’ plans to build a house of worship in Manhattan. Some feared the project was being underwritten by foreigners. Others said the strangers’ beliefs were incompatible with democratic principles.

Concerned residents staged demonstrations, some of which turned bitter.

But cooler heads eventually prevailed; the project proceeded to completion. And this week, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Lower Manhattan — the locus of all that controversy two centuries ago and now the oldest Catholic church in New York State — is celebrating the 225th anniversary of the laying of its cornerstone.
And thus, the Rev. Kevin V. Madigan, current pastor of St. Peter's — which is located two blocks from the proposed Muslim community center and place of worship which has drawn outraged protests, along with displays of political cowardice from those who say that of course, 1st amendment, blah, blah, but maybe the developers should move it anyway, to avoid upsetting bigots — has written and preached to his congregation on the parallels of the history of their church with that of the Muslim center, Park51.

Regrettably, in his defense of the Muslim group developing the Park51 center, the priest is quoted by the NY Times as saying that, "Park51’s organizers would have to 'make clear that they are in no way sympathetic to or supported by any ideology antithetical to our American ideals, which I am sure they can do'.”

As this requirement is imposed on no one developing a site for the use of any religious group other than Muslims, I see no reason why it should be an expectation here. I assume Fr. Madigan is just being "practical" and thinking that the mob must have some assurance from the Park51 developers that they are just as good Americans as the bigots themselves.

But Fr. Madigan also says
Catholic New Yorkers have a special obligation to fulfill.

The discrimination suffered by the first Catholics in America, he said, “ought to be an incentive for us to ensure that similar indignities not be inflicted on more recent arrivals."
I think we all have an obligation to prevent the mistreatment of others. But I also think that, when you know yourself, or others like you, to have experienced suspicion, discrimination and abuse based on being seen as Other, you do have an obligation to recognize that this was not unjust simply because it affected you, that the many faces of injustice stem from the same source, and the many faces of the victims of injustice can include your own, or those of people you care about — that injustice allowed to feed freely on bigotry will grow too big to direct only at those whom you consider satisfactory targets, or to whom you are simply indifferent.

When you see that the target could be you, you have a choice: Join the team feeding the beast of bigotry, or simply try to blend in with them and hope to escape its appetite, or recognize that the risk of speaking for justice may seem more immediate and scarier than the risk of encouraging the beast while hiding behind it, but that there is risk each way, and you can share that risk with bigots and haters, or with those working against such things who, in my view, make better companions, anyway.

And if there is any part of yourself with which you have not yet made peace, which you fear may seem alien or unwelcome to others — not harm you have done, but simply who you are — then, especially, trying to blend in with the my-teamers is surely a losing move. When you are finally ready to claim that part of yourself, or when hiding it is no longer possible, if you are among those constantly fighting the Other, you may lose your every place in their world.

Whereas, if you are among those fighting for equality, you will already have the friends you will need.

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