by Dell Franklin
Our great author, John Steinbeck, who appeared to have little use for religion, might have liked this Pope. Steinbeck was all about the little guy who was not blessed with great physical strength, intelligence, drive and luck. He felt those who possessed these rare gifts should try and help those without them, for life and survival was so difficult, the world so merciless and unfair in many cases. I believe this Pope believes those with these gifts should be humble, compassionate and generous, not arrogant, greedy, selfish and inhumane.
So what must this Pope think of us, as a country, when he certainly observes our burgeoning oligarchy disguised as a democracy. What must he think about super pacs supported by billionaires like the Koch brothers, who despise our safety nets and wish to turn the entire country into a company town tossing crumbs to the over-worked peons? I had a political science teacher back in 1962 who warned our class that the greatest threat to our then thriving democracy was capitalism unchecked, in that it would evolve to the degree where money and material items and the trappings of wealth could become more important than our humanity.
So what must the Pope think of the mean-spiritedness of conservative Catholics like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and a few others so gorged with acrimony and persecution they actually want to de-fund Planned Parenthood and Obamacare, which have been created to help people without the means to help themselves and are therefore cast as parasites so un-American they are dragging down “America’s Greatness”? What must the Pope think of Donald Trump’s cannibalistic rhetoric, his racism, his bragging, his arrogance, his propensity to intimidate and make people feel small, and the mobs of strictly white hordes steeped in stupidity who idolize him and wish to see his ideas put into action?
Did the Pope see the Republican debates, where a Carly Fiorina displayed a hypocrite’s adoption of a lie to make her point about fetuses to curry favor with fanatics? Does he see people running for our highest office who are stooping to the lowest, most selfish and cynical common denominator so that in the end they can actually shaft these misguided and misinformed fools whose votes they seek? Did he notice those running for office in America fawn over him for political advantage and that their behavior is nauseating?
I’m sure this Pope assumes our people are good, not that we have become a crumbling empire ripe for demagogues, and that we are thinking only of our own self-gratification instead of the future of the planet and the concern for those with disease, are homeless, and who suffer daily and seem to feel they have no way out of their situations—here and everywhere throughout the world.
This Pope, who has rankled those bishops in the Vatican that have feathered their own nests with luxury and avoided confronting the sexual abuse of children by their priests and generally behaved like expedient politicians above the people, eschews the trappings of his mantle and associates himself with those who worship what HE, as Pope, represents.
What they should really worship is the man himself, Francis. One wonders, do those at the Vatican who for centuries reveled in the luxury, politics and pomp of their mantles despise Francis for so blatantly eschewing these rewards and driving around in a tiny Fiat? Do they feel he is embarrassing them, show-boating, and a fool? Or do they realize that Francis, having seen the world at its worst and walked among the downtrodden, would feel ashamed of himself to wallow in materialistic success while those still suffer. This Pope leads by example.
This Pope has an aura of greatness, such as we’ve seen in people like Franklin Roosevelt, Churchill, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, in that whole civilizations liked and trusted these people and would follow them anywhere. Like those fore-mentioned, there is an inclination to feel Francis is one of those very mortal beings who come along once in a lifetime and is special and will make a difference if we just let him, if we listen to what he says, and follow him.
In Cannery Row, Steinbeck’s main character, and in many of his books his personal mouth-piece, Doc Ricketts, sits and watches a parade pass by in Monterey, Calif., and observes some bums and talks to a man named Richard Frost.
‘It has always seemed strange to me,” said Doc. “The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”
The Pope would know where he stood with one of our greatest writers. Donald Trump and those running for office and fawning all over the Pope would probably call Steinbeck a crackpot and probable communist. What about the rest of the country? What do we really think of what Steinbeck said and what Pope Francis preaches as we exalt him? §
Dell Franklin writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his dog Wilbur. His work can also be read online at dellfranklin.com.