The pope, the president and the public schools

Sometimes progressives don’t agree with conservatives, and the gist of the differences are about policy issues. Other times, one or perhaps both sides of a disagreement have a visceral dislike for the other side. In such situations, rationality seems to be thrown out the window in favor of demonizing the other side.

There is a third way to look at the disagreement: for either the “combatants” or an outside observer to try to figure out what’s going on psychologically. More and more “neutral” observers see Democrats as fairly reasonable and with a healthy dose of compassion. It is Republicans who are difficult to understand. It’s come to a point where we now have a cottage industry studying the Republican brain.

Chris Mooney, who studies science in politics, has written a book on “The Republican Brain.” Among other things, he contends that many Republicans have difficulty dealing with science as well as the use of logic to process facts. While some are kind in their personal lives, they seem to have almost complete disdain for compassion in the public arena.

There is a Calvinistic thread running through many Republicans in which the rich are rich because they deserve to be so, and the poor are poor because they are not among the “elected.” Very few Republicans are theological Calvinists, but psychologically, they are comfortable with the division of the “deserving rich” and the “depraved poor.”

In a recent letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch entitled “The pope, the president, and the Post-Dispatch,” Paul E. Schroeder of Maryland Heights, MO writes:

Barack Obama, Pope Francis and the Post-Dispatch have dropped their faked compassion for the downtrodden and revealed what we already knew. They are the progressive socialist elite who know what’s best for each of us.

Pope Francis’ distortion of Scripture is only surpassed by Barack Obama’s corruption of the Constitution. Both men describe a world in which mankind would be wards of the state, relegated to only what the state allowed. Men and women would no longer be in charge of their own destinies because they are not capable of making the right choices.

The history of man and the history of our country do not align with anything of what either of these two arrogant leaders proclaim. The travesty that Pope Francis foists upon the faithful in the Catholic Church goes beyond misinterpretation. Jesus never suggested that the government mandate compassion. The essence of mankind is the freedom of conscience to freely make decisions — to be compassionate or not. There is no love if there is no choice.

Pope Francis would have all Catholics throw their wallets into the offering plate and then by his supreme judgment decide who should receive what. Similarly, Barack Obama would heavily tax those who have been successful and with those confiscated funds, redistribute others’ wealth to his cronies, with a few crumbs possibly left over for the needy.

God endowed every man and woman with certain inalienable rights that no pope nor president can steal from them. The socialist agenda of this president, this pope and this newspaper will certainly leave its scar upon this community and this nation.

The good news is our forefathers foresaw the possibilities of corruption, even at the highest levels of leadership. We will survive this ordeal via future elections, but our children will now bear the enormous weight of intentional fiscal sabotage and social delusion designed to make families irrelevant.

In his first sentence, Mr. Schroeder condemns President Barack Obama, the Pope and the Post-Dispatch for their “faked compassion” for the downtrodden. I’m not quite sure what he means. What is “faked compassion?” Perhaps it is “talking the talk” of compassion but not “walking the walk.” But President Obama has not only spoken about income inequality in the U.S. and around the world, he has consistently proposed legislation to help those who economically deprived. Pope Francis has literally walked with the poor (something President Obama also did as a community organizer). The Post-Dispatch is generally guided by the words of founder Joseph Pulitzer, who in 1907 wrote that the Post-Dispatch will always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor.

Schroeder goes on to say, “God endowed every man and woman with certain inalienable rights that no pope nor president can steal from them.” But those rights lose marginal value if someone cannot put food in his or her mouth or provide shelter for his or her family.

So what can we do about conservatives who seem to demonize public compassion and shroud their opinions in a cloak of certainty that sometimes in frightening? The answer is not that we can do nothing. You can look in The Republican Brain for some answers, and I’ll just propose one here. Let our schools be much more compassionate, with far less homework and testing. Let them being settings where students and teachers  can enjoy learning and seek ways to use it to better serve themselves as well as society at large. It’s not the whole answer, but it’s a good place to start.