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Actions [+ El Salvador memories]

So, one of PayPal's co-founders is a big Trump supporter. Time to close my account? This will be very inconvenient, but I WILL draw the line. OTOH someone elsewhere notes that he's currently on Facebook's board, and to some extent I am still using Facebook for information and to stay in touch with people I don't interact with in other ways. So I will need to think some more about how to navigate that issue in line with my values.

I have reinstated a New York Times subscription. Just the digital version so I don't kill too many trees, hopefully.

Lastly, a thing I've been thinking about a lot, lately. The largest, most important part of my Catholic upbringing has been a commitment to social justice issues. I grew up in a church that prioritized social justice. Even when the odds against an issue have been very long, members of the church would decide to take a stand on critical issues and voice their perspective. In addition to the coffee, donuts, and socializing that typically happen during the Coffee Hour after Mass, there would often be a table for letter-writing about various specific social issues. That, right there, is a huge power of a religious community, but it's also something that doesn't have to be exclusive to a religious community.

Two subjects that received particular attention were the School of the Americas and the ongoing situation in El Salvador. Did you ever learn about the School of the Americas while growing up? Members of the Catholic Church across the US have protested against the SOA for a very, very long time. Note the portions of the Wikipedia entry that talk about the SOA's involvement in training Latin American dictators and in teaching torture techniques in its curriculum. It was involved in training the government military leaders in El Salvador who led the suppression of civilians during the civil war there.

When I was young, our church established ties to communities in El Salvador, to support people especially as the hardest-hit refugee communities worked to rebuild after the war ended in 1990. Here's a summary about the Civil War in El Salvador.

What conditions led to the Civil War there? Socioeconomic inequality. I see that Wikipedia phrases this as 95% of the country's income being restricted ton only 2% of the population. I'd remembered this in terms of 95% of the land being owned by 3% of the population, but the net consequences would be very similar, eh? This is an unjust situation.

The Catholic Church's involvement in the resistance movement was far from inevitable. Originally, Oscar Romero's appointment as Archbishop was celebrated by the repressive governmental regime because he was a conservative and they figured he wouldn't speak out. But Romero experienced a huge change of heart and call to speak out against the injustices occurring in El Salvador after a friend of his was murdered.

Part of our church's ties to El Salvador included establishing relations with a sister parish, Nueva Trinidad, and sending down delegations to visit with the sister parish and help with rebuilding efforts there. When I was 14, our church decided that it would be a good idea to send down a youth delegation in particular. I was fortunate to get to go - my first time ever traveling to a foreign country.

We saw a LOT of things on that trip. We visited an impoverished neighborhood in San Salvador that was built on top of a landfill, where the water source was a river full of raw sewage. We visited the Universidad Centroamericana and saw the memorial to the Jesuit priests and housekeeper who were murdered there, including a horrible graphic photo album of how things looked when the priests were found murdered with their brains removed from their corpses to make a vicious political statement.

We visited our sister parish in the countryside and saw what a struggle it can be to rebuild after a civil war. We also saw how much hope the children had, and how the Catholic Church played a pivotal role in community-building.

So. The United States has a long history of doing horrible things. Consider, too, the country's beginnings via a mass genocide and its continued troubling relationship with Native sovereignty. Never, EVER forget that the history books get written by the winners, because yes, words have power.

Personally, I came to understand that I am a pacifist, but also that the one thing I cannot ever do is fail to speak out and act against injustice. Regardless of the popularity of the cause or the odds against it.

Religious communities can be powerful in terms of providing support and space for addressing social justice issues. On the other hand, the Catholic Church has its own terrible history and terrible elements that persist today. I have to pursue alternative avenues. And regardless, I must live my life in line with my values, whether those values are popular or not, and I will continue to do so.


( 6 remarks — Remark )
Nov. 15th, 2016 05:21 pm (UTC)
When I was in California I was a member of the Unitarian church which was very active in social justice. I never joined the (much smaller) group here, but now I am really missing the community around social justice. I wonder if such groups are getting a surge of new/reactivated members. I am considering it (though I am rarely around).
Nov. 15th, 2016 10:33 pm (UTC)
I had not thought about the SOA in a long time. I remember knowing nuns who protested against them on a regular basis. (and nuns who had spent time in central america working with the people -often risking their own lives.)

I have been thinking about the paypal issue as well. I am debating it. It is always about small steps. Like making the easy decision not to buy new balance shoes anymore, but the fiddlier ones where the choices are limited... I have to think long and hard about it.
Nov. 16th, 2016 02:30 am (UTC)
Acting against injustice
Your sharing of your pacifist stance makes my heart happy! Me-thinks you have captured one critical positive essence of Catholicism (and I "get" your not wanting to be part of that institution, since much of the Catholic monarchy/patriarchy has little to do with endeavoring to live as Jesus did... as if we know much about how he lived anyway).
Nov. 16th, 2016 02:52 am (UTC)
I was aware of the SOA, but as with so many other things, feel like there is nothing I can do to make any difference in our support of such an evil institution.
Nov. 16th, 2016 08:01 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing! I knew about the SoA (I wonder if it's a grew-up-Catholic thing?), but I never went to El Salvador or did any in-person work on the issue. I appreciate hearing from someone who had a closer perspective than I did.
Nov. 16th, 2016 10:53 pm (UTC)
I don't know that he's still associated with Paypal at all. I don't know if that makes any difference for you, either.

I've been seeing calls to boycott companies like Amazon or Zappos, because they carry Ivanka Trump's brand. That seems like pushing it a bit far to me - I'm on board with not buying shoes the brand itself, not that I've ever wanted to, but then would I also have to boycott hotels.com if they list any of the Trump hotels as a place to stay? Or anyone who's ever stayed there? It's especially a concern when you're talking about a company like Zappo's, a company I'd otherwise want to spend money with because of how they treat both customers and employees.
( 6 remarks — Remark )

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