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This is the America most of us long for

Patricia McCarthy, CND

There is a true story in the book ”Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed” which relates the efforts of Le Chambon, a small village in occupied France during World War II. Unlike most of Catholic France at the time, it was primarily Huguenots, a Protestant sect. They had a pastor, Andre Trocme, who faithfully preached Jesus’ teaching of love of enemies. So when the SS guard of the Nazi regime set up headquarters in their town, the teaching took on a new challenge. Under the spiritual and practical leadership of Pastor Trocme and his wife Magda, the entire town resisted them nonviolently in hundreds of creative ways. They never raised the Nazi flag in the town. In the same building as the SS guard there was a printing press for forged documents to rescue Jewish people. Over 2,500 Jewish adults and children passed through the town to Sweden. They were housed in the homes of all the people of Le Chambon under the eyes of the Vichy government. One example of resistance was the town’s response to a parade put on by the Germans to honor one of the visiting commandants. No one in the town showed up for the parade. There was a response of silence. This silence had nothing to do with passivity in the face of evil. The people constantly refused to cooperate with their occupiers while doing them no harm. After the war one soldier commented that the conspiracy of goodness in that town paralyzed the Nazis.

I wonder what would happen if whenever white supremacists marched, no one attended even to protest, if the media refused to cover their rallies, if Americans ignored them unless they broke the law. If their hateful shouts were met with silence, if their bullying tactics were ignored, would they lose the power of the moment?  As the people in the village in France did with the German army, positive actions also have to be taken. Churches, synagogues and mosques need to gather their congregations to create communities of diversity and acceptance of all races and creeds. Their people need to be taught to pray for their enemies, to pray for the white supremacists while working against the hatred they invoke.

Most Americans don’t want to be racists even while we have to admit that racism exists. The biggest barrier to end racism is for people one by one to refuse to judge by the color of skin or ethnicity. Hurricane Harvey showed the other side of America from Charlottesville. People reached out to people with no thought of social standing or color, No one was checking the immigration status before helping others. Rowboats, inflatable boats, motor boats, rafts were used by ordinary people to get their neighbors or perfect strangers to safety. Reminiscent of World War II when 400,000 soldiers were rescued from Dunkirk by flotillas of citizens using their own boats to get to shore for the stranded soldiers because the large battleships couldn’t get there. Hurricane Harvey was not a battlefield but it was a disaster affecting hundreds of thousands of people. Love conquered fear in a dire situation. At extreme personal risk, individuals tried to save others.

This is the America most of us long for: an America where children are children, not white or black, fair or dark, rich or poor, legal or illegal. We long for an America of civility and justice. As Catholics we long for a Church that teaches the life and message of Jesus Christ in its entirety: where love of enemies is central to our daily lives as it was to his, where we live to risk our lives for others day in and day out, not just in times of crises. It is up to us to create such a Church where we expend all our efforts to raise our children in the way of Jesus which is the way of justice and charity toward all, friend and enemy alike.

Article first published by the Rhode Island Catholic

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