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An essay donated by Contributing Editor Susan Humphreys

Seeing Each Other in Dialogue:

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An article in the Religious News Service website left me shaking my head in disbelief, incredulousness, and ultimately sadness. I thought: how out of touch, how naive can one person be.

The article is "Seeing each other in the public square: The lessons of Covington Catholic" by Rev. William Muller. 1 It discusses the recent confrontation between a group of male youths from this Catholic high school, a Native American, and others who attended the recent "March for Life" rally on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

I thought, at first, great! Someone is addressing this issue honestly and seriously -- not just repeating the sensational accusations and photos. But that thought quickly faded.

He opened by reporting how folks in Zimbabwe great each other when they pass on a road. One person says, in one of the country's 16 official languages: "I see you." The other replies "I am here."

When I meet someone on the street or a walking path, II simply acknowledge the other person’s presence. I smile and say hello, or good morning, or lovely day, or nasty day if the weather is awful. I simply acknowledge the other’s presence. Most people respond in kind. Some don’t.

He goes on to say that people "want to know they belong, that they have value". He is absolutely right, and it takes so little effort to smile and say hello.  He goes on to say "So we call attention to those who are not seen, who don’t know they belong, who do not have a voice to stand up and shout "I am here."

That is the reason why I write for this web site:

  • To speak up for those who can’t or won’t speak up for themselves, and

  • To acknowledge and bring out into the open uncomfortable "truths:" Issues that most people don’t want to talk about.

However, I feel that Rev. Muller showed his total disconnect abd lack of understanding in the rest of his article.

I have two points to make here:

1. He said: "That’s what the March for Life, the annual pro-life rally on the National Mall, is all about: that all be seen, recognized, noticed. ..."

If ONLY that were so.  

Until the pro-life marchers:

  • can begin to understand what it must be like for the woman who tries to enter a family planning clinic and gets accosted with cries of "murderer;"

  • can begin to understand what it must be like for the woman who feels that her ONLY or her LEAST WORST option is to get an abortion;

  • can recognize that these women seeking abortions and family planning services deserve to "be seen, recognized, noticed" (and I would add valued) for who they are as human beings -- with needs, and real life problems;

then the claim that the March for Life is all about acknowledging that "all belong to our crazy and wonderful human family" rings hollow.

The Right to Life folk show more concern for an embryo or fetus than they do for the pregnant woman who finds herself  having to make profoundly difficult choices.

2. Rev. Muller offers a defense for the Covington Catholic High School authorities that authorized the boys' trip to Washington for the "March for Life". He said:

"Their teachers must have hoped that the March for Life would be an opportunity for these young men to get beyond their school environment to learn to balance social and political points of view, to see others and be seen, to participate in discourse that leads, if not to agreement, then to mutual respect and a desire for reconciliation."

Honestly, by attending an anti-abortion rally (which is how Pro Choice folk view the "March for Life" rally) they thought the students would "participate in discourse that leads to reconciliation"? They thought that discourse could take place in a mob?

Rev. Muller ends by stating:

"This is why we march, after all. Demonstrations like the March for Life offer participants and onlookers alike the chance to confront differences with a view to a common ground to stand on.

The education of the whole person requires engagement with those we agree with and those we don’t agree with -- to say "I see you, I am here."

We confront differences, participate in discourse, enter dialogue find reconciliation in small groups, not in mobs. Representatives from both or all sides need to be present.

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Reference used:

The following information source was used to prepare the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. William Muller, "Seeing each other in the public square: The lessons of Covington Catholic," Relion News Service, 2019-JAN-23, at: https://religionnews.com/

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Author: Contributing Editor Susan Humphreys
Originally posted on: 2019-FEB-12
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