Tag Archives: machine politics

Quotations worth sharing from Irish, Irish-American and Catholic life

May 22, 2011

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Overlook Press paperback bursting with quotations that are keepers.

Words put together with craft, with wisdom, with wit scream “Hey, pay attention here” to me, and I end up highlighting clusters of them where ever I find them printed.

Peter Quinn’s “Looking for Jimmy: A Search for Irish America” (Overlook) is a rich vein of memorable and I thought share-able quotations – some by writers we know, some by people we never knew, and many from Quinn himself, a former speech writer for New York governors Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo.

Enjoy.

“Tell us, doctors of philosophy, what are the needs of a man. At least a man needs to be notjailed notafraid nothungry (sic). . . not a worker for a power he has never seen . . . that cares nothing for the uses and needs of a man.”

John Dos Passos, “The Big Money”

“There was no damned romance in our poverty.”

Eugene O’Neill, “Long Day’s Journey into Night”

“There are only three types of men: Bullies, lackeys and them who refuse to be either.”

Patrick Francis Quinn

“He’ll be the last man out of purgatory, if, God willing, he was lucky enough to get in.”

Gertie Quinn

“When I consider how my life is spent,

I hardly ever repent.”

Ogden Nash

“Of all our passions and appetites, the love of power is the most imperious and unsociable nature, since the pride of one man requires the submission of the multitude.”

Edward Gibbon

“It is enough to know that children are poor to know that they need help.”

Peter A. Quinn, U.S. Congress, (D-NY)”

“If I thought less of my saliva, I’d expectorate in your face.”

Peter A. Quinn

“No Catholic breaks with Rome easily.”

John O’Hara, “BUtterfield 8”

“He, then, is perfect who does the work of the day perfectly, and we need not go beyond this to seek for perfection.”

John Henry Cardinal Newman

“Bishops come and go. The city continually molts its old self and renews its pursuit of the extravagant. But amid the whirlwind of ambition and celebrity, the need will always be great for institutions and congregations whose mission stays the same: to heal souls as well as bodies, comfort the sick and dying, welcome the stranger, shelter the homeless, defend the poor and disenfranchised, and insist on the God-given dignity of every person. to the degree that the Church and its members seek their perfection in this work, the future will never be in doubt.”

Peter Quinn

“Crumble, crumble

Voiceless things;

No faith can last

That never sings.”

Lascelles Abercrombie, “The Stream’s Song”

“For Catholics, sin is ubiquitous. But so is forgiveness. Hell exists. But it might be empty. Evil is real but mingles with good, and no human being is either all good or all evil. We are mixtures of both, and who is saved or damned is beyond our knowing.”

Peter Quinn

“In the end it comes down to the old story that we are sinners, but that this is our hope because sinners are the ones who attract to themselves the infinite compassion of God.”

Thomas Merton

“We feel the water and oil used in the sacraments, taste the bread and wine, not just to enjoy them for what they are, but to plumb our belief that they aren’t just what they seem to be but, in ways that defy the limits of language, signs of God’s real presence among us.”

Peter Quinn

“Although agnostic in spirit, the secular left . . . treats the mystery of divine love as a harmless myth; at worst, as a dangerous delusion that can impede human progress, particularly in the medical sphere. Secularism claims toleration as its central tenet. But it’s a qualified toleration. It says, Go ahead and believe what you will, just as long as it has no effect on any significant part of your public life, is never asserted outside of church, and remains a private eccentricity.”

Peter Quinn

“Christians’ belief in the eternal significance of every human life is a bulwark against a Malthusian ethic of reproductive profligacy that robs the individual of any meaning other than in furthering the survival of the species.”

Peter Quinn, paraphrasing Gabriel Marcel

“A man becomes a saint not by conviction that he is better than sinners but by the realization that he is one of them, and that all together they need the mercy of God.”

Thomas Merton, “New Seeds of Contemplation”

“The current huffing and puffing over gays in the priesthood can’t negate the fact that there were, are, and will always be homosexual priest whose piety, probity, and loyalty deserve respect and gratitude rather than slanderous distrust and squalid witch hunts.”

Peter Quinn

“Those descended from the Famine Irish have a special responsibility to look past the current evocation of innumerable, anonymous aliens threatening our borders, or the latter-day recycling of theories of ethnic and racial inferiority, and to see in today’s immigrants a reminder of our ancestors: those hungry ghosts who, though dispossessed and despised, passed on to us their faith and their hope.”

Peter Quinn

“Despite our differences, we Americans are hopelessly (and hopefully) entwined with one another, our histories, ancestries, stories, songs, dreams, and lives wrapped around each other like dual strands of DNA.”

Peter Quinn

“What we need most times is not the courage of our convictions but the courage to question our convictions . . . the willingness to see the world afresh, to throw over old presumptions and consider new possibilities, to abandon routine and renew a sense of wonder.”

Peter Quinn, paraphrasing Nietzsche

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How Protestants — and Nixon — tried to keep JFK out of the White House

April 29, 2009

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“The Making of a Catholic President:
Kennedy vs. Nixon 1960″
by Shaun A. Casey

Protestants and Republicans failed, but they did their damnedest to try to keep a Catholic from becoming president of the United States.

This incredibly detailed account proves — with the hard evidence of preserved letters and memoirs — that under the guise of fighting to preserve the principle of separation of church and state, large Protestant denominations and influential Protestant leaders teamed with the Republican Party and its nominee in the 1960 election — Richard M. Nixon — to feed anti-Catholic prejudice among the large Protestant voting majority.

Famous names like the Rev. Billy Graham and Norman Vincent Peale are uncovered as joining in, nay, leading the charge, in order to keep the Catholic Kennedy from the White House.

Casey’s research shows how Protestant ministers and church leaders used their pulpits and their printing presses to blatantly state that no Catholic could ever be trusted to uphold the U.S. Constitution as president.

The anti-Catholic bias came out via the preaching sermons that attacked JFK, airing radio and television programs that did the same, running lengthy articles against Kennedy in Protestant magazines like Christian Century and Christianity and Crisis, and printing and distributing hundreds of thousands of pamphlets in an attempt to sway the election Nixon’s way. Leading the chorus of anti-Catholicism was the Republican National Committee.

Nixon involvement uncovered
If only the American public had known about the duplicitous ways of Richard Nixon during the 1960 presidential campaign, the country may never have heard of a bungled burglary at the Watergate complex because Nixon’s credibility would never have allowed him to even run for the presidency later, no less be elected or approve of criminal activity to try to win re-election.

While publicly vowing not to raise the issue of a candidate’s faith, Nixon surreptitiously had former Missouri congressman O.K. Armstrong working the anti-Catholic bias angle across the country with Protestant church leaders and especially the anti-Catholic group Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Armstrong recruited organizations like Citizens for Religious Freedom, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Assemblies of God and the National Council of Churches to use speeches and printed material to show how a Catholic president would undermine the country.

Armstrong worked under the guidance of Albert Hermann of the Republican National Committee, who was the organizer of anti-Catholic forces for Nixon.
Bias clouded issues
Casey points out that the issues of the day in 1960 were public funding for Catholic schools, the appointment of a U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, a supposed threat to separation of church and state, and especially the fear that the Vatican would direct a Catholic president in how to govern the country. What comes through the historical evidence is first the fear by Protestant elites that the United States would no longer be a “Protestant nation,” and second that both Protestants and Republican leaders feared Catholic voting power.

Interestingly, President Dwight Eisenhower had won the majority of Catholics in both the 1952 and 1956 elections.

In going after the anti-Catholic vote, Nixon took up a suggestion from Rev. Billy Graham, who wrote in a letter to the then vice president, “when the chips are down I think the religious issue would be very strong and might conceivable work in your behalf.” Graham in fact shared his mailing list with the anti-Kennedy efforts.

Nixon, however, had a problem of his own: Civil rights. In order to gain Protestant votes, he had to win a large percentage of conservative white southern voters, so he could not be seen as progressive on race and have any chance at the southern vote. In hindsight, that foretold the Republicans’ “Southern Strategy” that took electoral voters from the formerly Democratic “Solid South” camp for election after election in the later part of the 20th Century.
Kennedy and his faith
“The Making of a Catholic President” shows how the Kennedy camp came to realize the serious threat that JFK faced from anti-Catholic bigotry and how he and his strategists determined to confront the issue directly.

Kennedy sought out and listened to Protestant leaders and then addressed their fears.

Over and over during the primaries and the general election campaign JFK voiced his opposition to tax dollars for Catholic education, his opposition to an ambassador to the Vatican, and his commitment to the constitution of the country over the dogma of his faith.

He entered the West Virgina primary, winning the votes of that overwhelmingly Protestant populace, then into the lions’ den of the Houston Ministerial Association, where he gave a speech and answered questions from that hostile Protestant audience.

That event may be the most often recalled remarks by Kennedy about the impact of his religion on his actions in office.

“Whenever an issue may come before me as President . . . I will make my decision . . . in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.”

Kennedy’s statement echoed a quote that appeared in a Look magazine feature on him Feb. 16, 1959: “Whatever one’s religion in his private life may be, for the officeholder, nothing takes precedence over his oath to uphold the Constitution in all parts — including the First Amendment and the strict separation of church and state.”

At the time, Kennedy was chided by writers in Catholic magazines like the Jesuit’s America and lay-run Commonweal “for yielding too much ground to the Protestant worriers,” as
author Casey put it.

What is more interesting, and which deserves similar book-length treatment, are thoughts Casey brings up in his epilogue.

For further reflection
JFK carried 83% of the Catholic vote in 1960, 34% of the white Protestant vote, and 50% of the regular-attending black churchgoers, but won the electoral votes of hugely Protestant Texas, perhaps in part thanks to running mate Lyndon Johnson.

But Casey asks: “What was the nature of Kennedy’s Catholicism?”

The answer according to one priest who knew him well was that he was a conventional Catholic of his day who understood the structures and traditions that were the church of 1950s Boston.(That priest was a certain Father John Wright, a confidant of then-Senator Kennedy who offered extremely valuable advice about how to handle the issue of his faith. The priest later became the Bishop of Pittsburgh and a John Cardinal Wright.)

Even is one disavows some of the alleged moral failings that have come to light about JFK in the years since his assassination, considering the current climate of pressure on Catholic candidates from some of the American hierarchy and other corners of the church, one has to wonder if today JFK would be able to pull 83% of the Catholic vote, or if the fact that we now have had a Catholic president would take the cachet off electing a Catholic for Catholic voters.

Still more to think about
Casey’s epilogue offers cause for reflection for other, more important issues for today’s Catholic.

In pointing out how JFK sought understanding from Protestants, not endorsement, Casey says:

“As religion has increasingly become connected to the political divide in this country, it has reinforced a gulf among faith communities such that members of the religious Right and the religious Left routinely demonize one another and, in doing so, ape the worst aspects of American political culture.”

He adds two more thoughts:

First, the political independence of faith communities is good for both the faith communities and the nation. Second, endorsements of politicians by faith communities are usually misguided.

“The Making of a Catholic President” should be read by every Catholic — and every Protestant — eligible to vote. — bz
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Try a slice of politics, Chicago style

March 19, 2008

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“Windy City,”
by Scott Simon

My wife, Barb, who grew up in central Illinois farm country, used to say that my Chicago friends and I were afflicted with the same disease: “You guys think that Chicago’s the only place to live.”

At the time, her diagnosis was spot on.

Chicago can spoil you, and until you take the antidote of living elsewhere, love for Chicago is a tough illness to shake.

Obviously I’m not completely cured, despite having lived away from the Windy City for more than 25 years. When I spotted Scott Simon’s book, “Windy City,” at a bookstore, I didn’t think twice before plopping down $24.95.

The novel starts with the city’s long-serving mayor found dead at his desk, his face in a prosciutto and artichoke pizza. Finding the killer or killers is part of the unraveling, but to be honest, solving the crime is really only background music. A whodunit this ain’t.

The plot? Chicago politics. In the raw.

The characters? Chicago’s aldermen. In all their humanity, all their sins, all their antics, all their shenanigans, all their deals, all their in-fighting, all their “character.” How they work with and around one another in complex relationships that can’t be described as all bad– but they aren’t all good, either.

What keeps you turning the pages, ostensibly, is the storyline about who will become the next mayor, since the City Council must elect a replacement until the next general election.

One aldermen recommends that another vote for a certain candidate because she “knows how to express her appreciation,” wink wink.

But Simon, the host of National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition,” has put together a package that combines accurate descriptions of Chicago’s ethnic variety — ward by ward — with an inside-baseball view of Chicago’s City Council and its city government operations. He captures life as every Chicagoan will tell you is exactly the way it is.

It’s the speeches at the Museum of Lithuanian Civilization, the Baptist church and the wedding reception in a Chinese neighborhood, the flashbacks to how the now-dead mayor forced Chicago to live up to its motto as “The City That Works,” and insight into machine politics — aldermanic votes are dependent not upon who is best for the job but who will agree to put a police station in their neighborhood or vote for a tax enhancement zone in their ward. You get to keep you seat on the council if you do two things: fill the potholes and clear the snow off the streets.

“Windy City” was a fun read for me because I was able to identify with so many of the locales that Simon takes his readers to and with the ethnic mix that has such an impact on politics in Chicago.

Others will love the circus-like atmosphere in the City Council chambers that Simon portrays perfectly, almost historically!

There’s really great writing, too. Simon doesn’t just say an alderman is “in bed with” one of the city’s unions, he “shares bedbugs” with it. When a City Hall worker commits suicide from a high-rise apartment, the police officer involved admits his investigation hasn’t produce any reason. He tells an alderman, “All we know for sure now, sir, is that he wasn’t Peter Pan.”

The amazing thing about “Windy City” is that Simon doesn’t involve the cardinal-archbishop of Chicago in the story — not in any way. In this day and age, an author deserves a plenary indulgence for resisting the urge to take a cheap shot or to pile on the hierarchy and the church.

The most religious action in the whole story comes just before Chicago’s 50 aldermen are to vote on the mayoral replacement. Because the Rev. Jesse Jackson is unavailable, an alderman who is also a rabbi is asked to do the invocation for the council session. And there’s a bit of good old Chicago pride that seeps through, as you’ll see in this excerpt:

“May God give us wisdom today. And if we don’t choose the best or the brainiest candidate, please let us at least find a good man or woman who loves this city and will grow wise in the job.”

Now for the worst part of “Windy City” — the jacket design. A weather vane with a donkey, an elephant and an American flag, plus convention-type boater hats. Please. Chicago politics isn’t akin to a party convention. And there’s no Republican anything in Chicago, not even a weather vane. Sure, you could vote Republican in a city election — but why waste your vote? — bz

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