Monday, May 2, 2016

“Gentlemen! You Can’t Fight in Here – This is the Institute of Peace!” - Column

Mack Hall, HSG

“Gentlemen! You Can’t Fight in Here – This is the Institute of Peace!”

Daniel Berrigan has died, which will mean little to most people under fifty, who never heard of him and so didn’t know he was alive. Fr. Berrigan was a fashionable 1960s the-church-of-what’s-happen’-now priest who became famous for being against things. And in many of those things, including conscription and the undeclared war in Viet-Nam, he was right. Conscription is antithetical to the concept of a free nation, and Section 8 of Article 1 of the Constitution clearly states that only Congress is empowered to declare war. So is it fair, then, to wonder at Fr. Berrigan’s motives?

St. Thomas More wisely reminds us that we do not have a window to look into another man’s soul. Even so, Fr. Berrigan often seemed to be more anti-American than pro-justice, and appears to have ignored the deaths and sufferings of his fellow human beings under the various Communist regimes. Thousands of priests and millions of lay Christians died before Communist firing squads, on Communist scaffolds, and in Communist death camps, and one wonders if Father Berrigan, busy with his teach-ins and protests and all the other look-at-me-nesses of the 1960s, sympathized or was even aware.

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Folks living in rural Newfoundland had better read about Father Berrigan while they can. The provincial government is closing 54 of 95 public libraries in that island, and adding another 10% provincial tax on books. Books are already taxed at 5% by the federal government, so now15% of the price of a book will be in taxes. This is part of a scheme called The Harmonized Sales Tax. It doesn’t seem especially harmonious.

The closing of libraries and setting a punitive tax on books are in a province where approximately 30% of the residents never finished high school. It almost seems that the government of Newfoundland does not want literacy among its subjects, um, citizens. If people start reading and writing, they might start thinking for themselves.

Beyond that, rural libraries also serve as community centers where local meetings can be held, information exchanged, and notices posted. With the closing of 54 libraries, 54 communities, who have already lost their schools and their post offices, will continue to erode, losing their histories and cultures, and becoming little more than road signs.

One commentator defending the library closings said that people could just as easily access books via the intergossip.

That’s true for only a few. Newfoundland has never been a land of milk and honey, except for the factors who controlled the fishing industry and more recently the oil. The province is one of the poorest in Canada, and the internet is both slow and expensive. Many people make a visit to the library a part of their infrequent shopping trips to town so they access to the wifi as well as books. Now the unemployed, who cannot afford the ‘net, will lose two significant contacts with the outside world.

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Without access to the intergossip, how can people in Newfoundland learn that Warren Buffet, an 85-year-old America gazillionaire, credits his long life to drinking five cans of Coca-Cola every day and eating a diet rich in fudge and peanut brittle?

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A certain famous retail chain is said to be considering using robot employees. Perhaps the idea is that the robots will be able to hide from customers even more efficiently than its human employees do.

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The Reverend Al Sharpton avers that elements of the recent White House Journalists’ Dinner were in “poor taste.” And you know, who is more authoritative in matters of taste?

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After the correspondents’ dinner a couple of correspondents got into a fight at an MSNBC party at the U.S. Institute of peace. A fight. At the U. S. Institute of Peace.

Oh, Stanley Kubrick, thou should’st be living at this hour!


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