Friday, February 19, 2016

THE DONALD AND THE FRANCIS

If Donald Trump laps the field in South Carolina, he will have Pope Francis to thank. On the very eve of the debate in the Palmetto State, the Pontiff opined that it is better to build bridges than walls, and that people who are obsessed with building walls aren’t very Christian.

Bingo! The Donald is in command of another news cycle.

I have no doubt that Phil Pullella, the Reuters reporter who asked Pope Francis the question that started the fuss, was hell bent on hurting the Trump campaign. Here is what he tweeted:

“POPE SAYS U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE TRUMP IS "NOT CHRISTIAN" BECAUSE OF HIS VIEWS ON IMMIGRATION”  Bit of an exaggeration, I’d say.

Here is the transcript of the interview:

Phil Pullella, Reuters: Today, you spoke very eloquently about the problems of immigration. On the other side of the border, there is a very tough electoral battle. One of the candidates for the White House, Republican Donald Trump, in an interview recently said that you are a political man and he even said that you are a pawn, an instrument of the Mexican government for migration politics. Trump said that if he’s elected, he wants to build 2,500 kilometers of wall along the border. He wants to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, separating families, etcetera. I would like to ask you, what do you think of these accusations against you and if a North American Catholic can vote for a person like this?

Pope Francis: Thank God he said I was a politician because Aristotle defined the human person as 'animal politicus.' At least I am a human person. As to whether I am a pawn, well, maybe, I don't know. I'll leave that up to your judgment and that of the people. And then, a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel. As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.

I wrote a blog about Mr. Trump’s wall last September. I said that walls are for prisons and dictators. Obviously, we are talking here about images, not real walls. My house has walls and so does my church. They’re good things. They hold up the roof.

The issue here is the symbolism of walls. A wall suggests separation. A wall divides the ins from the outs. As a symbol, a wall is the exact opposite of the symbolism associated with the Statue of Liberty.

The political impact of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico is to convince the people who are concerned about illegal immigration that the candidate who wants to build a wall really wants to keep illegal immigrants out of the country.

Whether a wall would actually keep many people out is doubtful. Ladders are cheaper than  bulldozers, and tunnels are easier to build than walls. Human ingenuity being what it is, where there is a will, there is a way. The Berlin wall didn’t keep everyone in East Germany, even when bolstered by machine guns.

And there are lots of people on this side of the border who welcome the illegals; help them, house them, hire them. 

From a political standpoint, it doesn’t matter. By the time the wall is built and experience tells us it doesn’t work, the folks who got elected by promising to build it will have retired.

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