Tuptim: This was such a great idea, Topsy, if I do say so myself.
Topsy: (laughing) As long as we aren't talking about coffee or wine, you do make wonderful suggestions! I love living in the Valley and it's so fun to see it in panorama! And Skyline Drive is one of my favorite places to explore. I wonder if we can see the Woodstock water tower from here. Mmmm...I wish I brought my binoculors.
(They walk to a park bench overlooking the Shenandoah Valley and make themselves comfortable as they pull out their working papers, sodas, and snacks.)
Topsy: I brought some Route 11 potato chips. I always take visitors to the factory which isn't far from us. Right now it's closed and you can only order chips at the outside window, but hopefully that will change soon.
Tuptim: (Taking a bag and opening it...) Hmph! I think it may last forever. Too many people are making too much money off of the CCP virus. Did you see the article on Lew Rockwell about how much billionaires have raked in since the beginning of the pandemic hysteria? The small businesses are being slammed and the big companies are reaping windfalls.
Topsy: Isn't that always the way? The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Send me the link to the article. Amazon's business is up 40%. I'm sure Walmart is going gangbusters as well.
One good thing...I have a sister-in-law whose family owns a box factory. With all the mail orders, they're doing fine. Everybody needs boxes! So at least one family business hasn't been skunked by the lockdowns. But think of all the service organizations. (She shakes her head) It's horrible. So many lost their businesses since this started.
Tuptim: A lot of people I know have family members out of work. I think wrecking the economy was very deliberate. But we're not here to talk about that. So...what do you think...is the pope's document likely to help the situation? What did you think of Chapter 1.
Topsy: Well...it was long -- 55 paragraphs. I'm puzzled to be honest. I frankly found it baffling. I agreed with a lot of the words, but I wasn't sure the pope was talking about the same thing I was thinking. Words have been so twisted. Even the pope says that, but it seems to me, that he has a habit of twisting them into knots!
Tuptim: I know what you mean. I had that same sense. It almost makes you dizzy. (She runs her finger down the document until she reaches a highlighted phrase.) Like this. In paragraph 13 he wrote, "For decades, it seemed that the world had learned a lesson from its many wars and disasters, and was slowly moving towards various forms of integration." (She looks up.) Really? When exactly was that? All I could think about was whether we're living on the same planet.
Topsy: I agree. The 20th century was the bloodiest in history and with the rise in terrorism and continuing wars...well.... the 21st isn't looking much better. But then when I got to the section titled "The end of historical consciousness" I agreed with a lot of it. He talks about not abandoning your tradition. Listen to this advice to young people. (She reads.) "If someone tells young people to ignore their history, to reject the experiences of their elders, to look down on the past and to look forward to a future that he himself holds out, doesn't it then become easy to draw them along so they only do what he tells them?" (Looking up) He could have been talking about the false promises of every dictatorship in history: Lenin, Stalin, Castro.... And he could have been talking about the cancel culture - knocking down statues, renaming schools..... But if he was, why didn't he make it explicit? He's always so vague.
Tuptim: (Ruefully) It's just so typical of this pope. I wish I thought he meant what you're talking about. But I don't. Archbishop Vigano says the document was "equivocal" and "lacking clarity." And that's the problem. You rarely know what this pope means. He talks out of both sides of his mouth.
What did you think of this sentence in paragraph 16? "We are growing ever more distant from one another, while the slow and demanding march towards an increasingly united and just world is suffering a new and dramatic setback" What do you think is the "slow and demanding march towards an increasingly united and just world?"
Topsy: The terms are interesting. When historians talk about Communism they talk about the "slow march through the institutions." And we're getting that bigtime today! In view of everything else he's written and done, I have to conclude the pope's talking about (raising her hand and taking a pose like the Statue of Liberty) his ideal of a one world government that will bring us into a man-made Utopia reflecting the brotherhood of man. (Lifting both arms in exasperations) That's what's so confusing about all his documents. So many of his words sound great, but what is he really talking about? The whole section on the "throwaway world" recognized a lot of serious problems: decline in the birth rate... interesting that he never uses the word contraception or contraceptive mentality...isolation of the elderly, human trafficking, etc. Those are real problems!
Tuptim: I guess the question is, what does he think the solutions are? I had to laugh when I read about the walls we build to protect ourselves for self-preservation. Let me find it. Ah...here it is, paragraph 27. "...we have certain ancestral fears....outside the ancient town walls lies the abyss, the territory of the unknown, the wilderness. (Speaking slowly and dramatically) Whatever comes from there cannot be trusted....It is the territory of the 'barbarian', from whom we must defend ourselves at all costs. As a result, new walls are erected..., the outside world ceases to exist and leaves only 'my' world, to the point that others, no longer considered human beings possessed of an inalienable dignity, become only 'them.'.....
Topsy: Stop, Tuptim, I can't stand it. Sounds like the invasion of the body snatchers. My gosh! You could do a Halloween horror movie on that paragraph. It was so clearly a slam at nations protecting their borders!
Tuptim: Yup, he probably had on his scary Trump mask while he wrote it. Well, actually, I doubt if he wrote it. But, no doubt, whoever did wore the scary mask. But let me finish. This part is classic leftism. "Once more, we encounter 'the temptation to build a culture of walls, to raise walls, walls in the heart, (She pauses and emphasizes the next phrase) WALLS IN THE LAND...." And, of course it's all because we don't want to interact with those other people. So he also implies that protecting borders is racist.
Topsy: Omigosh, he didn't imply it, he actually said it! Let's see...(She searches), ah, right here, paragraph 41... he says that doubts and fears condition us to be racist, (laughing) but we might not even know it.
Tuptim: (Shaking her head) He went on and on about the borders. And you know he was talking about Trump when he mentioned "certain populist political regimes."
Topsy: It's interesting that the pope never makes a distinction between "migrants" who enter legally and invaders who enter illegally. Thomas Aquinas supports a nation's right and obligation to secure its borders, but Pope Francis never does.
Tuptim: (With a wave of her hand) C'mon, Topsy, get with the program. Thomas Aquinas was before Vatican II so his opinions don't count. If you check the footnotes almost everything referenced is after Vatican II. Was there a church before the 1960s?
Topsy: (Rolling her eyes) Point taken!
Tuptim: I thought the paragraphs on communication made a lot of valid points -- the hate and vitriol of so many digital contacts, for example. I recently read an article about how being anonymous makes it easy to be violent. The author was talking about masking, but the same can be said of the online world where people hide behind "user names."
Topsy: I always wonder if those same people would make their vicious comments if they were talking in person. I suppose some would, but Pope Francis' allusion to "verbal violence" was spot on. I've experienced plenty of that on my own blog. I started blocking the trolls who engage in ad hominem attacks.
Tuptim: If people can't be civil in their disagreements, it's better not to engage. You know what the Bible says about not "casting pearls before swine." They just oink and snort and trample ideas instead of making a reasoned debate.
Topsy: I had to laugh, though, when I read the statement about "some political figures" using the "crudest of terms." Think he was referring to Trump?
Tuptim: Well...he said a few years ago that Trump isn't christian. (Pauses) Actually, he said people who build walls instead of bridges aren't christian. I think he got that from Fr. James Martin.
Topsy: Seriously...he's right about us living in a virtual reality world where fake relationships are replacing real interactions. Think of all those "friends" on Facebook. Do you know even half of them? (She examines the document) And he makes a valid point when he says...um...(reading) "As silence and careful listening disappear" ...blah blah..."where we create only what we want"...etc...."This process"...mmm..."blocks the kind of serene reflection that could lead us to a shared wisdom." (Looking up) I think that's true.
Tuptim: I do too. (They're silent, pondering for a minute.) What's interesting about Pope Francis...or maybe troubling...is this exact point. Does he listen? Has he listened to the orthodox members of his flock? I always feel judged and condemned for believing what the Church has taught for 2000 years. He calls us Pharisees, rigid, uncharitable, and on and on. Does that "lead us to shared wisdom?"
Topsy: (Smiling ruefully) He ends the chapter on hope. That's a virtue we all need in abundance these days. (Gathering up their trash and putting her notebook in her backpack) Let's go hike the Jenkins Gap Trail. We can talk about the next chapter while we walk.
Tuptim: You're not taking me mountain climbing are you?
Topsy: (Laughing) No...it's one of the easy trails and we don't have to walk the entire three miles if that's too much. We can double back and head down to Luray for dinner....Think you'll have enough breath to discuss Chapter 2 along the way.
Tuptim: Is that a challenge, girl? I can outwalk you any day!