adventures in dysthymia

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Oppressed

It is not something that is so common now, but I am old enough to remember when Catholics faced prejudice. Yes, seemingly ordinary ‘white Christians,’ the sort of folks who would be seen as part of the ‘establishment’ these days, had their problems in an earlier America.

By the time I was growing up, that had faded somewhat but I still came up against it as a kid — mostly young people parroting stuff their parents might have said at home. But it was far worse in earlier generations. In part, that was a matter of many immigrants, Irish, Italians, being Catholic, but it also goes to traditional Northern European hostility to the Church. Especially strong in England, of course, caught between their old enemy, Catholic France, and those unruly Irishmen.

I can’t claim to be an oppressed minority these days — well, not as a Catholic anyway. Maybe my grandparents could or maybe I would need to go a generation or two further back (before that, the Catholics in my family tree would have been in Europe*). But prejudice does still exist, particularly against those who truly practice their faith. We should remember that Catholics were among those specifically targeted by the Ku Klux Klan.

Those who truly practice their faith, I say; most modern-day Catholics are pretty much indistinguishable from the secular/Protestant mainstream around them. They have the same values, for better or worse. Despite not being a practicing Catholic anymore (nor for a very long time), I may well think and act more Catholic than most of those who are. It is ingrained in me, part of my identity, and always will be.

And I am, despite myself, a ‘Catholic author.’ It is there in the novels,** if one looks for it. It is there in the poems. So be it.

Oppressed minorities — can I claim kinship, despite my own straight*** white male status? Every person who has been bullied or mistreated knows something of oppression and persecution. That would be most of us, wouldn’t it? But not all make the leap to empathy; some turn to fear and hatred.

I suppose that is inevitable, humans being human. Most of us have the ability to overcome the evil within us (and I do believe in evil). But we are also easily led astray, twisted to wrong purposes. Few truly look into themselves and recognize their mistakes. Now there is an argument for the Catholic confessional! Or at least for the sort of self-examination that is part of that heritage.

If anything, I probably take too broad a view. I know all things pass, that cultures are constantly in flux. Today’s prejudices might seem ridiculous in a generation or two, just as those against Catholics mostly do now. And perhaps there will be new prejudices to replace them. We can only attempt to do what is right, as always, and know we shall sometimes fall short.

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*They were German Catholics, who came to this country from Switzerland. Whether that was their origin or they passed through on their way here, I do not know nor particularly care.

**Especially the Cully Beach novels, where I made my protagonist a semi-practicing Catholic.

*** Reasonably so

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