A Bird with a Broken Wing Cannot Fly

A bird with a broken wing cannot fly

Chris McDonnell CT Friday  November 16th 2018


A bird needs two wings to fly; one, however big and strong it might be is just not enough.

Now as some of the dust blown about by the Mid-term elections in the US begins to settle, there is time to reflect on the consequences of the Vote. One thing is sure,  the acrimony of recent days is not over, further  questioning and debate remains.

During those pre-election days I watched a number of news programmes put out on US networks. Amongst the plethora of political jumble few words remain. One half-hour segment, devoted to a stump speech by Vice-President Joe Biden, a man who worked so closely with President Obama for eight years, was the exception. Passionate though he was, a man of true conviction politics, he was also generous in his desire to heal a deeply divided nation. He rejected the use of the word ‘enemy’ for a political opponent with whom he differed. He came across as a man of compromise and reason, someone who sought the common good, who rejected the animosity that has been the trade mark of the US political scene since that fateful election in 2016.

The hype put out by the White House regarding the ‘caravan‘ of assorted people in central America was unbelievable. So too was the incumbent’s description of ‘beautiful barbed wire’ being put out along the southern border. How de-valued has our use of language become?

There has been a continual analysis of an adolescent use of words. Their delivery has damaged  the dignity of Office, caused anguish to many he has intentionally hurt and have offered a litany of lies under the guise of truth. The conclusion of Bob Woodward’s recent book ‘Fear‘ has the direct quote, ‘the man is a liar’. I have omitted the expletive. Enough said.

What of the future? How will the Democracy of Immigrants that forms the United States rebuild trust and civility, what is required of each and every citizen?

The give and take of political argument can only take place in a climate of listening. Mouthing words to deaf ears is a waste of time and only leads to frustration. The checks and balances of the US political system are being tested in no uncertain measure. With majorities in the House and Senate no longer the domain of one Party, it will be interesting to watch how the coming weeks and months play out, where compromise might be found and a language of care and honesty re-instated in the public forum.

Just as there is this fracture in our public life, for not only the US but other Western Democracies are also under threat, so too within our Christian community are fault lines and tensions apparent.

The stridency of language used on some websites, supposedly supporting the Church, does no credit to the originators. The incidental pressure that Francis has experienced lacks a charitable framework to say the least. Critical comment is acceptable if it is made for the right motive. All too often the words chosen and the context of their utterance add to the problem being addressed rather than contributing to a solution.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston was quoted recently in the Boston Globe  “Every time I think we’re rounding [the corner], there’s another explosion that happens, it’s very disappointing.’’ There has been a shift in approach to the whole crisis caused by the admission of abuse, with the focus now moving onto those who may have been responsible for the numerous cover-ups. The article in the Globe goes on to note that ‘More than 130 bishops – almost one-third of all living bishops – have been accused during their careers of failing to adequately respond to sexual misconduct in their dioceses, according to an examination of thousands of court records, media reports, and interviews with church officials, victims, and attorneys.’

That is a disturbing statement and reflects a pattern that, in varying degrees, is being found in many other countries. We have reached a tipping-point where too much is now known that cannot be ignored, where the reality of the crisis must be fully addressed, however painful that might be. One of Leonard Cohen’s final tracks, ‘Samson in New Orleans’has these lines.

You said, “How could this happen?”
You said, “How can this be?”

The remnant of dishonor
On the bridge of misery?

And we who cried for mercy
From the bottom of the pit

Was our prayer so damn unworthy
The sun rejected it?

How could it happen indeed. Our perception of the Church has taken a severe buffeting in the storms that surround us. Only through the courtesy of our language and the sincerity of our prayer will we rebuild trust. A bird with one wing cannot fly, we all have a responsibility for the future confidence of faith.

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