It does Trump opponents no good to disparage Trump supporters. Or for Trump supporters to disparage those who oppose his policies. Nor does it do Trump supporters any good to disparage immigrants for taking jobs, draining our social and education programs or focusing on immigrant’s, so called, criminal activity such as coming here illegally, bringing drugs or acting as terrorists.
To do so plays, intentionally or not, into the very goal of those who benefit most from this division: to divide and conquer. In doing so, the real beneficiaries of such tactics reap enormous profits, wealth and control while the rest of us fight each other for the scraps that remain.
This is not a new phenomenon. Fr. Dehon himself, grew up and ministered in the early stages of the industrial revolution which wreaked so much havoc on so many and the environment. In this unregulated, free-market environment, Fr. Dehon became the apostle of social justice, one who spoke for the downtrodden and dispossessed. Regrettably, this system has maintained its prominence, albeit with minor regulations, up to the present day.
However, beginning in 1970’s the oligarchy in the U.S. began to work to convince Americans that government was the cause of all that ailed us, and unfettered capitalism was the solution. In addition, they cut taxes (especially for themselves and corporations) and social programs and gave vast fortunes to weapons makers and for wars. Such continues to this very day. This has made it ever more difficult for government to find the resources to pay attention to the common good.
THE TRUMP ERA
The Trump ascendency is the culmination of this strategy because it radically alters the balance of power and solidifies the presence of what now must be called “the corporate-state.” This corporate-state is poised to set in stone the divisions in our society and the control of our common life which will close the political space from which many, like Fr. Dehon, have struggled for so long to achieve even modest gains. While the mainstream media distracts us by focusing on Trump’s state of mind or his tweets and constantly changing positions, in the background, political-corporate leaders are busy reshaping the country and the world in a morally misshapen image. Some say we are moving inexorably toward “neo-fascism,” that is, wherein all power resides in this corporate-state.
Trump supporters, many of whom are “the forgotten majority”, “traditional Americans”, and those who pay taxes but reap little benefits of the “welfare state”, have been gradually manipulated into the role of apologists for the corporate-state and its rulers. Meanwhile, Trump opponents play their assigned role by impugning Trump supporters, enjoying the benefits of the status quo and look for the day when Trump can be voted out or impeached and we can return to the hey-day of the real America -- as if that would really make the difference. Those who insist upon the continuation of the welfare-state ensure, by default, the continuation of the status quo.
All the while, the real culprit, unfettered capitalism, lurks in the background, ever ready to shift tactics, as the time demands, through the efforts of its priests, minions and pundits.
I am not speaking here of the “mom and pop” type capitalism if such ever truly existed. Moreover, I recognize that, for many, capitalism seems to be a very beneficial system creating wealth, development and the reduction of poverty, to name a few such benefits. And, yes, I know that many if not most persons acknowledge its flaws but see no other alternative.
When viewed more closely, however, we can see that unfettered capitalism or monopoly capitalism is the world’s dominant economic order. It is ruled by mega-corporations and their political partners, pays allegiance only to itself, transcends every nation and seeks to devour all competitors.
This capitalism has a life of its own, demands obedience to its tenets and richly rewards those who have learned to do so. And we, the majority, who comprise the victims of this social and economic system, pay our homage to those who succeed under its tenets and imagine the day when we too will sit in such exalted places, perhaps dolling out our charity to the deserving poor.
Unfettered capitalism is based upon three very seductive, fundamental tenets which we worship and give our very lives, intentionally or not:
It is crucial for us to realize that Jesus’ execution by the revered institutions of church and state became, by his nonviolent, self-offering love, an expose of the fundamentally violent basis of all institutions. Thus was the sin of these institutions revealed and their downfall begun. Hence, Fr. Dehon calls us to work for the reign of this Heart of Jesus in Souls and Society.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Our goal is to recognize and oppose the divisions fostered by this system itself which, as I said earlier, has reached a new level of depravity, has a life of its own, and which lures all into its web. Fr. Dehon advises us that our common goals must be sint unum (our unity) and adveniat regnum tuum (the reign of the Heart of Jesus in Souls and Societies). We must find ways to work in harmony with one another to change, as Dorothy Day would say, this “filthy rotten system.”
Is some form of socialism, as practiced in many developed countries, an answer? Perhaps. Is capitalism inherently flawed? Carried to its present logical extreme, Yes. I am very skeptical that this form of capitalism can ever be regulated to the point where it is not a grave threat to many persons in the world and the earth itself.
At this critical moment, which is marked by the fusion of the political and corporate structures, we must work to reclaim our communion with one another and the earth of which we are part. Not to do so is to lose the little political space we have which has been carved out by such luminaries as Fr. Dehon. We must do everything in our power to help everyone, including the champions of this system, to step back from the brink of ecological and nuclear extinction and to find another way based upon the common good, care for all creatures large and small, and the earth which sustains us.
Or so it seems to me.