Friday, February 19, 2016

Walls and Bridges: The Inspiration of Architecture and Infrastructure

This political season just keeps giving me gifts--and anxiety, but let's focus on the gifts.  I was fascinated yesterday to hear the pope's recent comments on whether Christians are more likely to build bridges or walls, to see how the media reports his comments, and to hear the responses.

What did the Pope say?  Here's how NPR reported it on their website:

"'A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel,' the pope said, according to the Catholic News Agency."

As an English major, I understand what he's trying to say.  But I also suspect he was not speaking as an English major.  He was not speaking symbolically.

No, he was making a political statement, about the world's poor and the world's wealthy.  And clearly, he was making a judgment about the politicians who want to build these walls.

The pope occupies an interesting place:  he's both a prophet, in the traditional sense, speaking truth to the powerful.  But he's also one of the powerful.  His words move across the world in a way that the words of a modern Micah or Nehemiah or John the Baptist would not.

I was also interested in the response--the bluster of Donald Trump, the idea that ISIS sees the Vatican as its ultimate goal.  The idea of Muslim fundamentalists launching an attack on a walled city in Europe makes my jaw drop--but 15 years ago, my jaw was dropping at the actions of a different set of Muslim fundamentalists.  The times we live in remind me daily not to dismiss any possibility.

I think of all the classes I might teach where the rhetoric of both men might be interesting to parse.  And it's fascinating to see the coverage.  The pope did not name Donald Trump, but it seems clear that he was talking about Trump's comments.  But perhaps the pope was acting in that time-honored tradition of taking a sound bite and using it as a larger teaching moment.

I am not in any classroom where I'm creating curriculum, so I will not be using this material as a teaching moment.  But I'm having fun using the politics of the day in my Purgatory project, and perhaps I'll create a Jesus in the world poem that deals with all of it.  Hmmm. 

Today I have the day off--my school celebrates Presidents Day today, instead of Monday, so that we don't lose 2 Mondays of teaching time.  Maybe I'll write a poem out of this and get it to Rattle's weekly Poets Respond feature.  I'd have to do it by midnight tonight.

Let me go to spin class and see what my various consciousnesses spin out of this material.

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