Letters | Endearing anarchists, careless language

Readers Write

VISION QUEST

Thanks to Wayne Sheridan for the Tom Cornell interview in the September 12 issue which provided a compelling snapshot of Tom and the Catholic Worker movement over the years. It showed how much the movement depends on the commitment of its members and supporters. The Catholic Worker has always been about individuals coming together to create new communities in a radical faith. It is extraordinary how endearing radical anarchist Catholics like Tom can be, on the one hand, and how challenging and visionary on the other.

I had the pleasure of working with Tom in the early 1970s at the Catholic Peace Fellowship (CPF). Nixon’s air war against North Vietnam was intensifying. Tom and Jim Forrest had started the CPF as a response to the war. I was a sociology doctoral student at the City University of New York Graduate Center at the time. I was dissatisfied with the sterility of academics while the world seemed to be burning. When I walked into the CPF office on Lafayette Street, Tom, in true Catholic Worker style, never asked me who I was or what I wanted. He merely asked if I would start making phone calls to garner support for the CPF’s anti-bombing campaign. I spent the next two years working with Tom and the CPF staff. During that time I met his wife Monica, the Cornell family, and, of course, Dorothy Day.
I’ve moved some distance away from those pacifist, anarchist days but still carry with me the vision of a better world in which people are moved deeply by faith and an unfathomable commitment to love.

Robert M. Oliva
Floral Park, N.Y.

 

BAD GUYS

Whatever the merits of the line of reasoning in your editorial “Reluctant Rescue” (September 12), I am disturbed by your choice of language regarding so serious a matter. It suggests insensitivity at best.
Recall that what is transpiring currently in the Near East follows a century of military, political, and economic adventurism there on the part of the West that has aggravated and distorted life since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. The increasingly inept intervention of the United States has produced a further deterioration. The spectacular failure of our policy would be comic were it not so tragic.

Under such circumstances it seems absurd to endorse the United States “working with the bad guys” when that is what we have been doing all along. From our Shah in Persia to our Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the Saudi and Jordanian monarchies, Egyptian and Libyan strongmen—these are “bad guys” indeed, and we have supported them all. Now when the elements of resistance to us base themselves on a revival of Islamic fundamentalism (ISIS), we label them “terrorists.” But “terror” is usually the human response of the militarily weaker party, growing from its inability to resist otherwise. Beheadings are indeed “gruesome,” but are they more so than the slaughter of women, children, and old men from twenty-thousand feet just because we do not see their blood or hear their screams?
One might also be careful about the use of the ambiguous term “homeland,” which has become so popular in an increasingly militarized United States. Vaguely alarming to a population as naïve and spoiled as our own, it may help justify further aggressions on our part. On the whole, one expects more careful use of language on the part of a magazine usually so notably “literary.”

Bernard F. Reilly
Broomall, Penn.

Published in the October 10, 2014 issue: 
Also by this author
Dignity & the Death Penalty

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads

Politics
Culture
Books