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Opinion

Opinion

Sister delivers a powerful message

September 9, 2012

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— Let’s talk about the other speech.

Yes, Bill Clinton delivered a 48-minute stemwinder to the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night that was so mesmerizing even Republicans praised it. But after the huzzahs for Clinton fade, save a little nod of affirmation for Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a Roman Catholic social justice group. She did not speak long — about seven minutes. Her delivery was not particularly powerful. But with the moral authority of her calling, she did something that has sorely needed doing for some weeks now.

She rebuked “I built that.”

Granted, the rebuke was only implicit: she never specifically mentioned the new GOP slogan of rugged individualism. But it was no less powerful for that.

As should be obvious to any fair observer, this latest spasm of feigned outrage is built upon a lie, i.e., that in a speech in Roanoke, Va., President Obama told business owners they did not build their businesses, that their success was not a product of their own initiative: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.”

What Obama actually said in 170 words or so is the same thing Martin Luther King used to say in four: “All life is interrelated.” So if you built a business, said Obama, part of its success is due to the fact that “there was a great teacher somewhere in your life” or that someone sacrificed to “create this unbelievable American system” that allowed you to thrive, or to the fact that “somebody invested in roads and bridges” over which your inventory traveled. Contrary to the GOP narrative, he didn’t deny the importance of initiative. “The point,” he said, “is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

Of course, if it’s true Obama’s comment has been mischaracterized, it’s also true that, contrary to what an inarticulate ad lib and the Democratic spin machine would have you believe, Mitt Romney doesn’t “enjoy firing people.” No surprise there. Building mountain ranges out of sand grains is part and parcel of politics.

What’s vexing, then, is not that the GOP lied but that it seems to believe its own lie. On signs, websites, buttons and T-shirts from the streets to the Web, to the convention hall, “I built this” has become the party’s new war cry.

Enter Sister Campbell. This nun, whose social activism has put her at odds with the Vatican, did not talk business. She talked about the “nuns on the bus” tour she undertook to contest cutbacks to services for vulnerable Americans that would be necessary under the budget envisioned by Romney and his running mate. And about the people she met along the way.

Like the 10-year-old twin boys in Toledo who act as sole caregivers for their bedridden mother. Like “Billy,” from Milwaukee whose job has cut back his hours and who could not make it without food stamps. Like “Jini” in Cincinnati whose sister Margaret lost her job, lost her health insurance and so, lost her life when she was diagnosed with cancer.

“I am my sister’s keeper,” said Campbell. “I am my brother’s keeper.” Can you remember when that went without saying?

This was Obama’s point. In a recent song, Bruce Springsteen put it like this: “We take care of our own.”

And we do. Or at least, we should.

Rugged individualism is great. But in shredding social safety nets while chanting, “I built this,” the GOP doesn’t celebrate individualism so much as deny the interconnectedness of life, scorn the notion of a social covenant or greater good, exile conscience from the public arena. “There but for the grace of God” becomes “Every man for himself.”

On Wednesday, a nun gently reminded us of what should be obvious: “We are better than that.”

— Leonard Pitts Jr., is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com.

Comments

juma 1 year, 7 months ago

Woundedsoldier, for once I agree with you on the term Semite. On the virtues on Islam!? It is a joke , sad joke, of a religion and should be viewed with extreme caution.

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jayhawklawrence 1 year, 7 months ago

The younger generation coming up is going to change the status quo in Kansas.

It may take time but all Brownback is doing with his exploding Kansas economy mythology is creating the foundation to get rid of his right wing ideology.

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tbaker 1 year, 7 months ago

“Rugged individualism is great. But in shredding social safety nets while chanting, “I built this,” the GOP doesn’t celebrate individualism so much as deny the interconnectedness of life, scorn the notion of a social covenant or greater good, exile conscience from the public arena. “There but for the grace of God” becomes “Every man for himself.”

Someone needs to define what "shredding" means in this context.

I hope it means actually preserving the safety net for their originally intended (and noble) purpose and ending their current use as a career choice for millions of people who are being incentivized not to take care of themselves. I’m all for government being there as the last resort for those folks who need a temporary hand-up so they can get back on their feet and return to a state where they are taking care of themselves. If that’s the definition, then I say fire up the shredder.

Suggesting conservatives want to end to these programs is yet another demonstration of clumsy, amateur hubris and ad hominine BS Pitts is known for. Baseless crap like this does not contribute to a real solution and just makes the problem harder to solve. There is nothing wrong with restoring the idea that people are supposed to take care of themselves. Enabling them to do that, clearing a path for them, setting the most favorable conditions possible for them, being ever-vigilant to ensure everyone’s rights are protected and all of us have the same opportunity to prosper is our government’s role – not providing a lifetime of handouts.

Everyman should be for himself. A person’s first duty should be to take care of himself and his family and not expect and depend on others to do it for him.

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mycatsrightorwrong 1 year, 7 months ago

I know there's evidence that you Tea Party people are just mobilized members of the autism spectrum (http://www.yourmorals.org/blog/2011/10/the-tea-party-and-compromise/; proof = liberty275: "I'm not your brother, nor do I want to be. If you need to keep anything, try starting with your collectivism, and keep it to yourself and your herd. If I want something, I'll pay for it")

However, I'm gonna ask this question anyway, b/c I think anyone who claims to be a Christian or human needs to answer. How are taxes the biggest issue we face now? I mean who really cares about whether our tax rate is 33% or 25%? That's the difference between tyranny and liberty, really? How do you write a check to government, knowing you're paying a cop or teachers salary, and feel bitter... shouldn't you feel good about employing people that do a public service, or are you that greedy, selfish, petulant, spoiled, heartless... We're ranked 21st in education, we've gotta war going on in Afghanistan, our life expectancy is 38th, and we've gotta 8% unemployment rate (and before you crazies say something about taxes or regulation, really think with your tiny brains about whether a sane person could claim either of these caused the recession. Now think about how corporations are flush with profits, the stock market is the highest its been in four years, and theres still no jobs. That may be b/c your so-called job creators don't create jobs, they hoard wealth. Hopefully you'll all take an econ class someday and realize jobs come from 2 places, consumers and taxpayers).

I get it, dependency bad, sharing bad, blah blah blah. And i get the pro-life stuff, but do you really believe that public workers dependency destroys the fullness of their life... that a teacher, prosecutor, cop, or city clerk lives a life of slavery b/c she's paid by taxes? At some point you all have to wake and realize you've been had by rich people... Charles Koch took you into the alley, and just like Don Draper, had his way with you.

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jayhawklawrence 1 year, 7 months ago

If there were more Catholic priests and nuns like this wonderful nun, I might still be one.

Unfortunately, the Catholic Church is an organization made up of imperfect people that owes it's long term relevance to reformers like Sister Campbell and her "Nuns on a Bus".

It is a battle between moral truth and a misguided bureacracy and I hope she wins.

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msezdsit 1 year, 7 months ago

"What’s vexing, then, is not that the GOP lied but that it seems to believe its own lie."

Vexing but not surprising. Just look at all the faux news robots posting on these threads. Fox knows all they have to do is spin the lie and the robots will follow unfettered.

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Liberty275 1 year, 7 months ago

"“I am my sister’s keeper,” said Campbell. “I am my brother’s keeper.”"

I'm not your brother, nor do I want to be. If you need to keep anything, try starting with your collectivism, and keep it to yourself and your herd. If I want something, I'll pay for it.

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Agnostick 1 year, 7 months ago

Were all Republicans born in log cabins they built themselves?

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Getaroom 1 year, 7 months ago

Wind up the Pitts Haters and watch them spin and spin and spin..........................

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WristTwister 1 year, 7 months ago

“Thus do we praise you for the gift of life. Grant us to defend it. Life, without which no other rights are secure. We ask your benediction on those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected,” Dolan said in prayer delivered immediately following President Obama’s address accepting his party’s nomination.

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/09/cardinal-timothy-dolan-gives-pro-life-prayer-at-dnc/

http://www.lifenews.com/2012/09/06/cardinal-dolan-lectures-democrats-on-promoting-abortion/

^ This after the Democrat elite "forced" God and Jerusalem into the platform and Caroline's attack on the Catholic Church. Is Jack rolling over in his Arlington grave?

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Mixolydian 1 year, 7 months ago

I watched the convention and also listened to the talking heads and I took away that the liberal pundits thought Clinton gave a great speech, but the conservative reviewers thought it only the best speech of the convention. That's not necessarily praise for the speech from the right wing. But in the end, they're all just speeches. We don't live in a high school debate class.

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Armstrong 1 year, 7 months ago

A couple things came to mind reading Lenny today. # 1 the high point of the convention but absent quotes in Lennys piece from Julian Castro about rugged individualism in Texas and pulling yourself up by your boot straps. Julian is really a Dem, talk like that should have him run out of the party. # 2, this one I called last week before the convention started. Here is the personal stories of citezens ...... caregivers for relative...... So D's which are you, rugged individuals who can pull yourselves up by your boot straps or victims because the mean govt won't take care of you or your relatives.

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Flap Doodle 1 year, 7 months ago

How is it that George Obama is still living in dire poverty if "we take care of our own"?

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geekin_topekan 1 year, 7 months ago

Sorry Falsie but having "skin in the game" does not make you a better player, a better citizen, afford you more rights than the bum on the street. Get over it.

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sprucegoose 1 year, 7 months ago

Those early settlers sure must have been happy to see all those roads and bridges when they arrived. If you want to know what came first, the chicken or the egg, just look at some old photos of downtown Mass st. Educators, coaches and parents gave us the tools to build our lives and we can be thankful for that, but they did not build it. This topic is just another distraction from the real issue. I know what Obama meant so I just ignore all the Republican spin on the comment. The real issue is the 23 million unemployed if you don't have a job, you can't build anything.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

I don't think Romney "enjoys" firing people. But I think he, and pretty much anyone else connected with the equity business, is completely indifferent towards the layoffs they bring about. For them, it's just cracking a few eggs so they can eat very expensive omelets-- the laid off workers, they just get cake.

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geekin_topekan 1 year, 7 months ago

Falsie, that 50% are consumers just like you and me. They work, spend their money and are most likely what keeps this nation from falling into irrelevance. If you are judged only by your dollar value then take yours and go away. We don't need you. It's only as complex as you make it make it out to be.

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Ragingbear 1 year, 7 months ago

The platform isn't about rugged individualism. A more fitting slogan would be "You're on your own."

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FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 7 months ago

If that is the 'case' Pitts. Why are there 50% New Americans with "No Skin in The Game?"

Is it because the government teachers, or that someone sacrificed to “create this unbelievable American system” that allowed you to thrive, or to the fact that “somebody invested in roads and bridges” over which your inventory traveled,.... not doing their job?

Not doing their job Pitts?

Hey Pitts! They not doing their job??

lol... you complex Liberal ideologues are 'helpless' when it comes to helping people "thrive"

"thrive" lol...that is a complex 'knee slapper' Pitts. heh, heh

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