Sunday, April 03, 2005

Peace Out To The Pope

In the least surprising news since Julie Roberts dumped Lyle Lovett, Pope John Paul II has died. His people banged his head with a mallet, exactly three times, and his response was slightly less than before, which could only mean he was, at long last, dead.

By the way, what's up with people dying lately? The Pope. Mitch Hedburg. Johnnie Cochran. Terri Schiavo. Todd Bell. (Bears fans know who I'm talking about.)

The Pope, despite being little more than a fleshy statue for seemingly forever, did some cool things in his time, not the least of which was driving around in the back of cars like this:

1) He helped oversee the end of communism in Central and Western Europe, and he did so with a peaceful revolution. No call for blood or violence. Only simple resistance. Only tranquil activism.

The Pope's people, the Polish, couldn't help but walk a little taller seeing one of their own ascend to the role of holiest man in the land in 1978. No matter how dismal their existence must have been while in the clutches of communism, which he had witnessed firsthand, surely his rise to prominence put a spring in their step and offered hope. It didn't hurt when he came to Poland and told his people to stand together in their struggles, particularly in regards to labor. He asked for solidarity. It wasn't necessarily a call to arms, but it set the Poles, at long last, on a much-needed path of resistance. He openly supported a revolutionary of the masses like Lech Walesa, which was a strange move considering the Catholic Church's centuries-long practice of controlling the masses through guilt-laden mind games, or that failing, direct governmental involvement.

The Polish confidence came quick.

The immediate result arrived when the Polish national soccer team surprisingly made it to the semifinals of the 1982 World Cup. This was a major achievement for the Poles in the world's most important sporting event. Their confidence must have been soaring, even if they were doomed by Italy and Paolo Rossi and his unbelievable run. Still, it was a mahor accomplishment for the Poles and a good start to the 1980s. (OK, OK, I wanted to work in a soccer reference.)

The Pope had brought a change to his people and a new joy and, most importantly, belief in themselves. He made them proud. He visited them and spoke to them and told them to stand strong.

By the end of the decade communism was breathing its last breaths in Poland.

At almost the exact same time, the Berlin wall fell.

Shortly thereafter, all of the former Soviet republics earned their freedom. Lithuania. Belarus. Ukraine. Uzbekistan. Many, many others.

Freedom was exploding around.

Did the Pope have a direct diplomatic role? No. Did he start a war and attain his goal with violence? No. Did he run his mouth and play games like a filthy politician? No.

But he did ask for the end of communism.

And he got it.

It wasn’t necessarily his doing, but he played a role.

2) He went to Jerusalem and asked the Jewish people for forgiveness for Christians everywhere.

Classy. Smart move.

Finally a man who reached out to the Jews instead of trying to car bomb them.

Sure, he could have gone to Jerusalem and blamed it all on the Germans, which would have been hysterical and historically accurate, but he didn't. Instead, he went to the Wailing Wall and left a note that asked only for conciliation.

He said simply that Christians – all Christians - were wrong.

He wanted the crimes of yesterday to find some resolution, if only a little.

It was a powerful gesture.

3) He forgave the man who shot him.

Sure, this was what he was supposed to do considering he was the Pope, but when was the last time you saw an assassination target make peace with his attempted killer?

He was leading by example. Forgiveness, he was saying, isn't weakness.

4) He wasn't Italian.


So, yeah, it’s hard to say much bad about the Pope. He seemed a decent fellow. I mean, how can you bad mouth a guy who could barely speak or walk?

However, he was the head of the Catholic Church, which should probably be destroyed simply on principal. (OK, that's a stretch.) During the Pope’s tenure, the Church became synonymous with, most famously, the rape of young boys. This was only the latest in its long list of black eyes for one of history's most corrupt and backwards institutions.

John Paul II also failed to overcome the ancient ideas of the Church concerning topics such as birth control, abortion, and the role of women in the Church. He wasn't always a forward thinker, choosing instead to remain behind the times, which the Catholic Church does with the best.

However, the Pope was little more than a figurehead, an old dude who put on an elegant robe and a funny hat and waved to people who would have thought him mighty and majestic if he bent over and crapped on himself, which I’m guessing he did on occasion.

The Pope was a prop, as will be the next pope. Little more.

(By the way, if you need your anti-Catholic church vitriol to be fueled, Tony Pierce has a nice rant here.)


How funny is it that FOX News erroneously reported the Pope’s death nearly 24 hours before it actually occurred? This is hilarity for two reasons:

1) FOX News was sooooooo anxious to “break” what was possibly least surprising news story ever. I mean, who did they think they were beating to the punch? God himself?

2) I have an image in my head of hordes of holy-rolling conservatives, FOX’s core audience, sitting around feeling, oh, so religious as they anxiously awaited the official start of their contrived mourning of the Pope’s passing. Between the Pope and Terri Schiavo, these people will have produced enough fake tears to last a lifetime.


My favorite moment of the post-Pope’s death coverage? As a woman was being interviewed at a vigil, and offering tearful condolences, a couple of cars in the background began violently honking at each other.

Ah, people.


If there is one positive to Pope's death, it would simply be the fact that we will no longer be barraged with news of it. It was out of control. The news media really are a collection of spineless, empty-headed ogres who couldn't produce an original thought if their jobs depended on it.

Speaking of which, check out John Stewart's take on "professional journalism."


Blogger UnknownColumn said...

I've been in informed that CNN and MSNBC also reported the death of the Pope 24 hours early.

I want to be fair.

- UC

2:27 PM  
Blogger UnknownColumn said...

Actually, it looks like FOX news was leading the charge of erroneous reporting.

Of course it was.

5:24 AM  

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