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A Real Model of Social Justice and Racial Harmony Print E-mail
By Matthew Hanley   
Saturday, 03 November 2012

There once was man, a legend with a higher calling, here in the New World, who rose from humble beginnings to become very celebrated indeed. This man was of mixed ancestry; one of his parents was of European extraction, the other of African extraction.

He lived in a culture deeply attuned to racial considerations, to put it mildly. Race- consciousness was inescapable, even deterministic. Inequality, misunderstanding and injustice abounded.

But this man was a healer. And a uniter. In fact, people see in him – in his humility and in the charity he extended most inclusively even amidst the racially charged tensions of his time – genuine promise for improving race relations. And for advancing the cause of social justice.

His was a life of service for the sake of the community to which he belonged, not mere commerce. He professed great concern for the poor and the sick – those who didn’t have reliable access to health care.  And he backed it up.

Though he himself had no formal medical training, he carried out initiatives designed to meet their needs, at times overcoming uncomprehending opposition to his efforts.  He won the day, however, and is now regarded by his devotees as a champion of public health services.

I am speaking, of course, about St. Martin de Porres, the sixteenth-century Dominican lay brother whose feast we celebrate today. This remarkable Peruvian miracle worker is the patron saint of social justice and public health, as well as African-Americans, mixed-race people, and interracial harmony (among several other things).

These types of accolades don’t really seem to fit Barack Obama.  Oh, sure, there is the hagiographic narrative – the spin we have been incessantly fed by the media. The disconcerting question is how purveyors of such thin gruel have so cavalierly overlooked so much evidence to the contrary.

I think many readers are well informed about some of President Obama’s more repulsive anti-life positions.  If not, please take a look at these remarks by a young woman who survived both the active attempt to abort her and the “passive” willingness to let her die when it went awry.

Since she was an unintentionally living person, she was deemed unworthy of the most basic protection any just state must guarantee.  I wish everyone, regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation could hear her serene personal testimony – and her searing account of President Obama’s repeated defense of this barbarity.

There are tenured professors and professional “ethicists” nowadays who seek to justify such inhumanity, of course.  But I’d wager that the vast majority of people – or even, say, most fifth-graders – would instinctively characterize it as callous depravity. 

And there are other – almost inexplicable – sides to the president. I was taken aback while reading something that Thomas Sowell recently unearthed.  The prolific Sowell, drawing upon decades of extensive scholarship on conflicts around the globe, has repeatedly warned about the dangers of racial demagoguery.

The context: a video surfaced, only several weeks ago, of Obama giving a speech to a predominantly black audience in 2007.  In it, he clearly insinuated that the federal government did not care about the victims of Hurricane Katrina as much as New Yorkers or Floridians impacted by 9/11 and Hurricane Andrew – because of the respective racial composition of the populations.

To give the illusion of weight to this incendiary allegation, he referred to standing legislation that had been waived in the case of those other previous disasters; the waiver took local governments off the hook by enabling the feds to pick up the tab for the necessary relief. The clear implication was that this was not the case for the folks in and around New Orleans. 

But the Senate had already voted to extend that same waiver for Katrina – to provide that same relief.  If that weren’t bad enough, Sowell went to the trouble to discover that Obama himself had voted against it; he was one of an overwhelming minority to do so. 

This doesn’t sound like fostering racial harmony.

Aside from Sowell’s utterly devastating account, I’ve not heard this mentioned elsewhere. The media’s disregard for MLK’s ideal (didn’t they admire him?) regarding the primacy of the content of one’s character is very much worth pondering.

Yet it’s not an exaggeration to say that many Catholics – far more than the Nuns on the Bus – still seem to want to regard Obama almost as another Martin de Porres.

It is also true that many of Obama’s original supporters now seem disappointed in him for a host of reasons. Many, I presume, were genuinely attracted to the concept of a life committed to justice, harmony, and charity. 

I hope they don’t give up on those ideals, and take comfort that there is a genuine model out there. St. Martin de Porres doesn’t offer us perfect political prescriptions. But on the things that matter most, he is a steady guide.


Matthew Hanley is, with Jokin de Irala, M.D., the author of Affirming Love, Avoiding AIDS: What Africa Can Teach the West, which recently won a best-book award from the Catholic Press Association. His latest report, The Catholic Church & The Global AIDS Crisis is now available from the Catholic Truth Society, publisher to the Holy See in the U.K.

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Comments (7)Add Comment
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written by Grump, November 03, 2012
Well said.

What stands out most is Obama's hypocrisy. George W. Bush was raked over the coals for his alleged slow response to Katrina whereas Obama so far is getting a pass for Hurricane Sandy. A quick photo op in NJ, some bromides about "standing by you" and he's off on Air Force One for more stumping while thousands suffer awaiting state and federal aid.

Further back, when in April 2010 the giant BP oil spill soiled a vast region of the Gulf -- populated by many minorities -- Obama was MIA. Back then the media pointed their fingers at Big Oil and not FEMA and certainly not the Phony-in-Chief as Tom Sowell calls Obama. Follow the money: BP had "donated" $3.5 million to politicians with the biggest chunk going to, guess who?, Obama. Hmmm. Not widely reported.

The fact is Obama is held to a different standard by the media and those who voted for him, largely out of the misplaced guilt that many whites still harbor over past injustices to blacks.

It's not his competence that matters or his ability to lead the nation but rather another case of unwarranted "affirmative action" to redress the wrongs of history. Paradoxically, the election of a black president who vowed to unite the nation has divided it along racial lines more than at any time since the Civil War.

There is talk of riots in the streets of major cities if Romney is elected. This is one reason why domestic gun sales are surging and will continue to climb if Obama is re-elected because of fears that his sotto voce comment to Medvedev to be "more flexible" in his second term will not only mean more concessions to Russia but also a subtle but unmistakable allusion to his long-held belief to further erode the Second Amendment.

O tempora! O mores!

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written by Phenobarb, November 03, 2012
Thank you Mr. Hanley for calling attention to both the bloodthirsty nature of Obama's pro-abortion actions and the fundamentally dishonest approach to politics he has personally pursued.

Not enough people have called Obama to account during this election. Thank you again for being one of them.

And as for all the Mitt Romney detractors I've read on this site, realize that election choices are never perfect, but clearly the Obama party has deliberately committed itself by-and-large to a series of intrinsic evils in its platform. Not so for the major opposition party.

Not voting does not get you off the hook for what happens as a consequence for your decision not to vote. Especially when the intrinsic evil of one sides' promised policies are so palpably clear.
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written by Seanachie, November 03, 2012
Excellent piece, Matthew...key issues well addressed. While Obama's performance on a range of issues renders him unworthy of re-election, his bald-faced pro-abortion support alone for faithful Catholics is pre-eminent. Obama is offensive to faithful Catholics and Catholicism...not much else needs to be said.
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written by Other Joe, November 03, 2012
Dear Mr. jsmitty - (do I really want to kick this ball back down the field? I probably shouldn't but...) Mr. Obama's remarks were demagogic. That is problematic in one who professed to be a uniter and a post-racial political figure. Even so, one might almost excuse them using the time-honored liberal standard of diminished expectations for victim groups (poor dear exaggerated but you know they have had such a rough time...) except for the fact that he voted against the waiver that was in fact passed while claiming that it wasn't and that the failure to pass it was due to racism. And that, as Mr. Hanley deftly highlighted, is a matter of grave moral failing. It is the worst kind of false witness because it is used not only for slander, but also for personal gain of the very lowest sort. To paraphrase a Clinton campaign slogan (and in so doing to risk a kind of irony rug burn) "It's character stupid!" Does anyone want a man who wants botched abortion babies born alive (with all the rights of a citizen and a child of God) to be killed by neglect ultimately in charge of our health care? Or anything else?
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written by Achilles, November 03, 2012
Jsmitty, I believe as Other Joe does, that I ought not to say anything, but you remind me so very much of Christopher Hitchens talking about Mother Theresa.
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written by Phenobarb, November 03, 2012
You go, other Joe.

Just a couple remarks to second Other Joe's:

Jsmitty's comment is simply a characterization of Mr Hanley's post. Jsmitty admits that Mr Hanley has not made any errors in fact. What Hanley writes is the truth, and jsmitty does not dispute that. Instead he deprecates the tone and timing of the post. It should not be mentioned because, well, because the main-stream media refused to mention it. For jsmitty, truth doesn't enter into it. It's bad for Mr. Obama, and therefore should not be brought up. According to jsmitty, if Mr. Hanley were a good little Catholic, he wouldn't post things like this.

But jsmity pushes the line even further as insult, when he imputes racist motives to the author. Jsmitty never puts forward anything but a crafty ad hominem against the author. It is not Mr. Hanley who should be ashamed.

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