Carbon is the basis of our chemical human composition. Three main elements orchestrate our bodies: oxygen (65 percent), carbon (18 percent), and hydrogen (10 percent). As similar as our makeup may be, however, our personal traits differ from person to person politically, socially, culturally, religiously, you name it. We are different from one another.
It’s a beautiful fact. I cherish my many liberal friends that can challenge my views and I can (hopefully) challenge theirs. The issue at hand is the degree to which one holds a view. There is certainly nothing wrong with being liberal or conservative, but there is definitely something wrong if someone demonizes the other and calls him or her names because of their beliefs. Intolerance intoxicates discussions, hinders intellectual growth and asphyxiates mutual understanding.
Look at our politics. The society we live in loves to divide itself. Our country loves to box people with terms such as conservative, liberal, libertarian, Democrat, Republican. It’s an obsession. Once we generalize someone then that individual is no longer an individual, that person becomes part of a political concept facilitating prejudice and fueling intolerance.
There is plenty of that on the radio from both sides of the aisle. I would argue that members of the “conservative entertainment complex” such as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin engage in this obsession. As a conservative, it’s hard for me not to pay attention to their language. They tend to ostracize people who hold different different points of view and scoff others who don’t hold their radical views. Mr. Levin is well-known for excommunicating conservative columnist George Will categorizing Will as being part of the “so-called right.”
The obsession from talk radio became crystal clear when Time Magazine canonized Pope Francis as the latest “Person of the Year.” Glenn Beck found it repulsive. He complimented the pope for his understanding of Jesus Christ, but he categorized His Holiness as a “Marxist” because of his focus on poverty and his criticism of capitalist economies, far from a compliment. He believed that Time should have picked the bombastic Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, instead of the Argentine pontiff.
I’m going to have to disagree with Mr. Beck. I believe Pope Francis is a very positive force in the Holy Catholic Church and the world overall. He definitely earned Time’s praise. Pope Francis doesn’t live up to Beck’s negative Marxist label. Let me add here that both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II, far from Marxists, criticized capitalism extensively rebuking its greed, individualism, and consumerism. Even the founder of capitalism, Adam Smith criticized individualism and held communitarian views writing on the individual responsibility to take care of one another.
Pope Francis’s appeal lies in his humanity, he is after all the “People’s Pope.” He connects with many Catholics and non-Catholics alike through his humility and down to earth style. He lives an austere lifestyle that connects with the poor and those struggling to make ends meet. His style is transforming the image of the papacy from elegant and wealthy into rugged and real.
Francis is opening the church to everyone especially those who have been traditionally neglected by the church. For example, women cannot be ordained, but he washed the feet of a female Muslim on Holy Thursday. Gays cannot marry in the Catholic Church, but Pope Francis declared that if a gay person is searching for God’s will, then “Who am I to judge?” Again no change in Catholic dogma, but there is a change in tone. People like his style, American Catholics recently awarded him with an 88 percent approval.
Rugged political styles pay off. Republican Governor Chris Christie from New Jersey is similar to the pontiff. His tone is definitely not as loving as Pope Francis’s, and is often characterized as bullying, but Mr. Christie shares Pope Francis’s populist style. It’s that kind of style that makes him an appealing and welcoming chum. He’s the kind of guy that you would like to have a beer with, no matter what his views may be. No matter how much he may demonize someone, the governor sits down with them and gets things done.
He’s opening the doors of Trenton to some unlikely characters: Democrats. Considering the toxic climate, the media and many in the political world were shocked to see Christie working with President Obama, for example, taking care of residents that were hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy.
The Sandy aid wasn’t perfect, and did have some wasteful spending according to Senator Tom Coburn. However, at the end of the day, people liked the governor’s bipartisan style. They like that he cared about them more than politics. He may not have the dashing looks from Governor Romney, or the physique of Congress Paul Ryan, or the ideological purity of conservative stalwarts, but he has the blue-collar demeanor that grabs people’s attention.
The governor is in crisis, however. The media can’t stop talking about “bridgegate,” but there is no proof that ties him to the scandal. The jury’s still out. After all, if he were such a controversial and bad governor, why was he reelected with 60 percent of the vote?
Pope Francis hasn’t closed any bridges yet, but the bottom line is people appreciate compassion. They appreciate personalities like Governor Christie and Pope Francis and not pure ideology. They appreciate that human element that transcends divisive beliefs be it religious or political. And, that should be Washington D.C.’s goal for 2014. Politicians should concentrate on the compassion of individuals and not on the differences. Quite simply, people crave to see compassion and good will.
My own spiritual guide, Father Walter Dziordz, said on Christmas Day Mass that when someone looks at the baby Jesus in the creche, he or she is looking at a reflection of their humanity, their love and compassion. As a result, people keep coming back to Christmas mass to celebrate that reflection of God’s love.
People like to see that love in others, especially in our leaders.
Alex Uzarowicz | Knox College | @AUzarowicz