By Barb Arland-Fye
Two strikingly different cartoons appeared on my Facebook page in the aftermath of the terrorist attack against France. The first one shows a brawny Uncle Sam cradling a weeping Lady Liberty in his arms. A message below the image refers to the fact that France gave the Statue of Liberty to us as a gift. The second cartoon shows a husky Lady Liberty with a military weapon strapped over her shoulder walking through the Atlantic Ocean, headed to France.
I prefer the first image for its tender, loving approach which seems so appropriate as our church prepares to celebrate the Year of Mercy. In his papal document announcing the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (which begins Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception), Pope Francis observes: “How many painful situations there are in the world today! … During this Jubilee, the Church will be called even more to heal these wounds, to assuage them with the oil of consolation, to bind them with mercy and cure them with solidarity and vigilant care” (Misericordiae Vultus, No. 15).
While I do not believe that war is the solution to any problem — especially against terrorism which knows no borders — I can understand why some persons prefer the second cartoon. It symbolizes their solidarity with the people of France after a senseless tragedy, much like France expressed its solidarity for us after 9-11.
Both cartoons represent to me a shared sense of loss and a desire to “heal these wounds, to assuage them with the oil of consolation, to bind them with mercy and cure them with solidarity and vigilant care.” That’s the Holy Father’s call to action to us as brothers and sisters on this planet.
Pope Francis also calls us to live the Gospel, which means to love our enemy as well as our neighbor. That’s not to say we have to show familial love toward terrorists bent on our destruction. But I think it means we have to get to the root cause of why individuals become terrorists and feel compelled, time and again, to murder their fellow human beings. Then we have to be willing to do something about it — alleviating the root causes of their malice.
Blessed Paul VI once said, “If you want peace, work for justice.” I wonder how much injustice feeds into the system that creates terrorists. Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, insists that “inequality is the root of social ills” (No. 202). He says we must attack the structural causes of inequality. One group powerful enough to get the process started is the G20 (a group of the top 20 top economies in the world), which met this week. They ought to seek God’s guidance and direction in every meeting from here on out.
Lots of people on Facebook have superimposed their profile photos with the colors of the flag of France. I understand the reason for that, too. But if we really want to show solidarity, to display our true colors, shouldn’t we do all that we possibly can to work for justice — at home and abroad?
(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)