By Alan Bean
When I watch the government-shutdown-saga unfolding in slow-motion, I can’t get Father Gregory Boyle out of my mind.
Why are so many people so opposed to the Affordable Care Act that they are willing to resort to a weird kind of legislative terrorism? What is it about this unwieldy blend of free market capitalism and social democracy that is so offensive? Sure, Obamacare is a compromise stacked on a compromise; a sort of best-deal-we-could-get phenomenon that leaves no one elated. But that isn’t why the program has stirred so much primal emotion.
We are dealing with two fundamentally different ways of responding to poor people and their needs.
And that’s why Father Boyle is on my mind.
I hadn’t heard of Boyle until I heard him speak a couple of weeks ago in New Orleans. Now I find that his book, Tattoos on the Heart is the assigned reading for the JustFaith class I am teaching.
“In 1992 Homeboy Bakery is launched,” Boyle tells us, “but seven years later, in October of 1999, it burns to the ground.”
Homeboy Bakery was created with some white-guilt donation money, to create work for Latino gang-bangers in Los Angeles. When the building went up in flames, Boyle initially suspected arson.
“When I say this, people often presume I mean that gang members did it. I never thought that. Homeboy Bakery stood as a symbol of hope to every gang member in the county. That they would destroy this place of second chances didn’t make sense.”
It’s the next remark that comes to mind when I think of the train wreck in Washington: (more…)