Monday, October 19, 2020

Knights and Damsels

Seeing the U.S. as giver and receiver of global solidarity


Can you handle yet another homily on politics? Don’t worry, only two more to go. My preaching today will not be “political” as much as it will be “historical.” What does that mean? Well, I believe the best way to approach the subject of “global solidarity” is historically, that is, to see how often in the past other nations have come to the assistance of the United States, as well as us helping them. Solidarity, in other words, is not a one-way street. The United States has not only been the “benefactor” of global solidarity (the givers), we have frequently been its “beneficiary” (the recipients). At times we have been the “knight in shining armor,” while at other times we have been the “damsel in distress.”

Today’s homily is the seventh in a series of eight homilies dealing with difficult political issues prior to the presidential election. I have tried to provide a spiritual perspective as we have consider six topics so far, namely, (1) abortion and prolife, (2) racism, (3) marriage and the LGBTQ community, (4) immigration, (5) the environment, and (6) healthcare. Today we turn our attention to “global solidarity.” The United States Catholic bishops, in their document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” wrote this: “The increasing interconnectedness of our world calls for a moral response, the virtue of solidarity.” They continue: “The United States has the responsibility to take the lead in addressing the scandal of poverty and underdevelopment. Our nation should help humanize globalization addressing its negative consequences and spreading its benefits, especially among the world’s poor” (Forming Consciences, 90).

If I may be so bold as to slightly correct our bishops, this “interconnectedness” is not as new or recent as they allege. Rather, “interconnectedness” (I prefer interdependence) has determined human history from its outset. Adam and Eve’s original sin trickles down to us and deprives us of grace. We depended on our first parents, and suffer for their sins, just as children suffer for the sins of their parents today. John Donne, the 17th century English poet, expressed global solidarity in his memorable “Meditation 17,” writing: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” The phrase “no man is an island” is a visual and vivid way of saying “global solidarity.”

I would like to describe global solidarity with the images of “knight in shining armor” and “damsel in distress.” The Catholic bishops of our country are asking the United States to be the knight in shining armor – a hero on the world stage – because much of the world today is suffering as the damsel in distress. When we look back at our history, however, we see how we have played the role of the damsel in distress as well, when we needed someone to save us. When we see how we depended on others yesterday, we can help those who depend on us today.

I am convinced that world wars have a way of showcasing mutual dependence among nations; wars are all about knights and damsels. I would like to outline briefly four wars in which we depended desperately on the aid and armies of other nations, and how they direly depended on us. World wars prove that, just like no man is an island, so no nation is an island either. Our first war was the Revolutionary War or the “War of Independence,” because we sought our independence from Great Britain. But war of “independence” is a misleading name because we were very much “dependent” on France and Spain to help us. We would not have gained our “independence” from Great Britain without our “dependence” on our allies and their armies. During the American Revolution, we were the “damsel in distress,” France and Germany were our “knights in shining armor.”

The two “great wars” were World War I and World War II, both of which you will remember the United States entered reluctantly. We didn’t want to be the hero, we wanted to stay home. In World War I, we fought alongside soldiers from England, France, Russia, Italy and Japan. In World War II our allies were Great Britain, Russia and China against Germany and Japan. In the two World Wars, therefore, the United States wore the mantle of the “knight in shining armor” saving Europe and Asia, the two “damsels in distress.” Japanese Admiral Yamamoto foresaw and feared American power and predicted: “I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.” The U.S. bishops would like to awaken Americans today who are asleep to the plight of the poor around the world and fill us with the terrible resolve of “global solidarity,” and rescue modern-day damsels in distress.

The fourth war was the complicated “Cold War” that was fought on many fronts, most notably in Korea and Vietnam. In other words, we tried to rescue the democracy-loving people of Korea and Vietnam from Communist rule, but sadly saw only limited success. The knight does not always save the damsel. Today, North Korea is Communist and South Korea is a Democracy, one people and one peninsula divided by the 38thparallel. All of Vietnam is a Communist country. By the way, that is one reason so many Vietnamese fled their home after the fall of Siagon in 1975. Many even settled in Fort Smith. Sometimes the damsel in distress marries the knight in shining armor. Wars are all about knights and damsels.

May I share a note from my personal history? My family came to the United States 45 years ago, and we were definitely the “damsel in distress,” looking for a better life and brighter future. My parents sacrificed to send three children to Catholic schools, put us through college, and now they sponsors poor children in orphanages in India. They send money every year to a little girl named “Annie,” and she writes back with letters and sends pictures. I have pretty great parents, don’t I? But did you see what my parents did? They came as the damsel in distress, but now they help others as the knight in shining armor. They have accepted their role as “heroes” on the world’s stage.

The Catholic bishops summarize the notion of “global solidarity” stating: “Defending human life, building peace, combating poverty and despair, and protecting freedom and human rights are not only moral imperatives – they are wise national priorities that will make our nation and world safer” (Forming Consciences, 90). Why do we share global responsibility for one another? Because sometimes you are the “knight” and sometimes you are the “damsel.”

Praised be Jesus Christ!

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