Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Columbus Shut Down the Government

Zoo ClosedI feel like this little kid in the bear suit. If the Air and Space Museum does not open up this week I really don’t know what I will do. I might be able to personally fund one door to the entrance foyer for an hour or so. It seems clear to me right now that the ones responsible for shutting everything down have very little concern for the American people. The only thing that matters here in Washington is figuring out who is “winning.” I know…both sides say that there are no sides and that this isn’t about winning. Well, it is about winning.

The only real reason for trying to make things “as painful as possible” (as one park ranger put it) for the American people is because you think that most people place the blame on the other guy. If you think you’re the good guys then you make it as painful as possible and go on as long as possible all the while salivating over how good you think you look for the next election. In short, the Democrats think that narrative spins in their favor right now so they don’t plan to compromise at all because they think the Republicans look stupid and the longer this goes on the better for the next election.

The bigger question I’m asking these days is, “who creates this narrative?” It seems that comedy shows have endless material available by going out to the streets and asking questions like, “Do you favor ObamaCare or the Affordable Care Act?” or asking people how how they thought Obama did in a debate that hadn’t even taken place yet. There’s no shortage of material for showing just how uninformed…and yet still very opinionated…many Americans are.

So how do people wind up being so absolutely sure of themselves even when they have know idea what they are talking about? It reminds me of a question posed by one of my philosophy classes when I was a brand new seminarian…how do we know what we know? The answer today, although few would be humble enough to admit it, is that we know what we know because the media told us. If your whole life is spent with TV and then someone on TV tells you something is true, well that just ends any debate. Put a “scientist” or a “scholar” on TV…you could tell people the moon was flat and they’d believe it.

As Columbus Day comes up again tomorrow I think we have another good example of the media telling us what we know. I caught some of the ushers this morning before Mass talking about how evil Columbus was. They were even lamenting that they had “fallen for all the hype” when they were in grade school about how great Columbus was. Today they were very proud to reassure each other how smart they had become by realizing that Columbus was really a bad person. Where did they get such an idea? I don’t have to tell you that it probably involved a “scholar” and a TV.

The thing that really strikes me is that no one even stops to question any more “how” they are taking in supposed facts. For hundreds of years Columbus was a hero. He is celebrated enough to have his own holiday on the civil calendar. Now all of the sudden in the last decade he’s become a menace. Regardless of what might actually be true, can we have a little healthy skepticism please? At a time when we see the greatest rise in anti-Catholicism since the founding of our country, is it really just a coincidence that all of the sudden there is no shortage of scholars who want to bash Columbus, the man celebrated for bring Catholicism to this land? Is that really just a coincidence?

We used to be much more careful about how we took in information. Most of what I learned growing up I learned from books. Now I run into no shortage of experts on everything from the so-called “inquisition” to the crusades who have never done any respectable research. Now Columbus is a villain…everybody knows it. It’s the same way that everyone knows who is responsible for shutting down the government. IT WAS COLUMBUS! Trust me…I’m a “scholar” on the internet with a blog.

UPDATE: Since tomorrow, Columbus Day (observed), is a federal holiday, one could in fact say that Columbus did actually shut down the government. Just thought I’d point that out.

1 Response to Columbus Shut Down the Government

  1. Mary

    You bring a great perspective to things, Fr. Shawn. When are you coming back to MPHM to visit?

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