This is a review of recent winners and losers, of saints and sinners, starting with the wonderfully impressive Pope Francis, the Argentine newly in the Vatican, himself as much a work of art as the paintings there by Michelangelo, or no, much more a work of art.
When he washed the feet of young prisoners on Maundy Thursday, as just one example, he radiated love you could feel halfway around the world.
To me, the selection of the pope was mainly an issue for Catholics, no kibitzing needed from an Episcopalian, though, in my mind, all Christians had reason to believe something big was at stake here. In so much of the world, the faith limps while in other parts the possibilities of still more growth are enormous, and the right pope could be both remedy and inspiration.
I feel that’s what we got in this humble man, more servant than master but still someone whose own relationship with holiness could make him a mighty voice for a mighty message of goodness and caring.
Now we come to a loser, Bill Maher, someone who once said the last pope had been a Nazi and described the church as a child-sex ring. He has also said the only reason priests don’t use birth control is that altar boys don’t get pregnant, and there’s much, much more, some of it worse, and I wonder whether, at nighttime, the TV comedian dons a white robe and joins with others in the Ku Klux Klan on missions of burning crosses in front yards.
Some may not know — does Maher know? — that the Klan, in addition to being anti-black, has also been anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic. I don’t believe Maher would burn crosses or lynch, but neither do I think the fact of his own former Catholicism somehow negates a bigoted, outspoken, decisively humorless viciousness as bad as some of the racism I’ve encountered in my life.
Let’s stay with the celebrity crowd for a minute, and visit with screen actor Jim Carrey, who has made me laugh in the past but never will again because, after seeing his video assault on gun owners, I will never watch him again.
Calling itself “social satire,” the crudity-filled video mocked rural Americans as idiots and the deceased actor Charlton Heston as a violently inclined egomaniac. By the time the theatrics were done, any viewer the least bit sensitive to the kinds of minds needed to produce something like this had to be far more worried about anti-gun nutcases than about gun owners.
Now, swerving halfway around the world again, this time in the other direction, we come to North Korea and Kim Jong Un, that country’s new dictator and someone working hard to be something even more monstrous than an enslaver helping to keep millions in misery.
He is also talking loosely about nuclear war. And even if he is a tool of others, as is suggested by a face advertising vacancy within, the stench of the diabolical surrounds him. The possibility, of course, is that the real objective is to bluff us into handing over more foreign aid, but blustery guff can lead to horrific bloodshed, and stupidity is no excuse. The evil here is about as evil as evil gets.
Turning to positive notes for a conclusion, I first off congratulate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., whose filibuster on drones was moral, courageous and seems to be a factor moving the administration toward a more responsible stance, one perhaps less likely to eviscerate the innocent.
And finally, I proffer thanks to David Stockman, the former Reagan aide who has written a book — “The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America” — that unblinkingly sums up our current economic malaise and predicts far worse as a consequence of government-business cronyism and vast fiscal and monetary irresponsibility.
There’s clearly room to dispute portions of his analysis, but we’re ill-served if those in power fail to take major steps to evade prognostications that could easily enough come true if they keep playing political and ideological games instead.
Jay Ambrose is the former Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers.