Ben Dreyfuss is the engagement editor at Mother Jones. He's done some other stuff, too. You can email him at email@example.com. But you don't have to. But you can. But you really don't have to.
The best show on network television finally returned last night, but is this Good Wife still the Good Wife we all know and love? Kalinda and Finn have joined Will in that great big green room in the sky and last night's episode felt...different.
Let's talk about it.
Alicia's life sucks at the moment. She has no law firm. She has no male love interest. She has no friends. And where are her dumb kids anyway? She's a pariah! "I'm a pariah," she does not say as the episode begins, but she might as well have. She's whiling away her days in Shooter McGavin's bond court, fighting for pick-up cases with beleaguered unclean lawyers who probably went to a joke Ivy like Cornell unlike Alicia who went to Georgetown, which never pretended to be an Ivy in the first place. Poor good wife.
Governor Bad Husband promised his good wife last year that he wouldn't run for president if she didn't want him to and she didn't want him to so he isn't running for president. OK? Fine, Good. Whatever. But then the good wife changes her mind, because Peter running for president is going to be the plot line for this season—paralleling the plot line in America these days—so she needed to get with it. Peter's chief of staff, the Russian computer hacker from GoldenEye, is very pleased with this development and he celebrates by wooing Margo Martindale, a top-flight campaign consultant, the meth-making matriarch from the second season of Justified.
But Margo Martindale doesn't want to be just another campaign strategist. She wants to be the campaign manager and for reasons not entirely clear, Peter goes along with this and fires Alan Cumming. The good wife's bad husband is also a bad boss.
Meanwhile the attractive young man who used to be Alicia's rival before becoming her law partner before becoming superfluous to the main plot of the show is unhappy at the big fancy law firm that bears his name. Cary's few scenes in this episode are dedicated to him trying to be popular with the first year associates who think he's a stodgy old fart because he spends all of his time with his stodgy old fart partners in their stodgy old fart ivory tower.
Speaking of Cary's aged old partners: Diane and the lawyer who makes the divorces happen are facing off against Alicia in probate court over some meaningless bullshit about a painting that is worth a lot of money. Who will get the deceased's paining? No one cares. But this does provide a nice forum for the show to do what it does best: wink at the audience and acknowledge that the show isn't really about the cases. The Good Wife, more than any other legal drama, doesn't want you to care about the cases. The cases are just a thing for the characters to do. The marathon of random specialists testifying about post-it notes in this probate case are a great example of that. Not even the judge cares about what the post-it scientists have to say.
Anyway, Alicia covers for one of the bond court lawyers—because bond court lawyers stick together— and then the bond court lawyer covers for Alicia in the probate hearing for which she's totally unprepared. Diane and Divorce Attorney are going to school her so hard but then—shocker!—the bond court lawyer is good at law and wins the case. Bond court lawyer is apparently supposed to be Alicia's new friend.
Then Alicia hires Alan Cumming to be her chief of staff because the good wife is also a good friend. Alan Cumming tells Margo Martindale that he is going to destroy her.
Oh also Michael J Fox wants Alicia to work with him. And I think she sort of said yes at the end. (Or did she?) It wasn't entirely clear.
What is this show about now? It used to be about Alicia finding the courage, through crosses and losses, to become the person she wanted to be. Is it still about that? I guess we'll have to wait and see.
Editor's note: Earlier this week, I suggested to our own Ben Dreyfuss that he take a stab at reviewing Ryan Adams' new adaptation of Taylor Swift's hit album 1989. Given the chat that Ben and colleague James West published when Swift's version dropped last October, I figured it was a no-brainer. (I also didn't necessarily think that I'd be the only one around when it came time to edit it.) Anyway, Ben agreed, and he enlisted Tim McDonnell to tag-team the review, by which I mean chat semi-coherently for what must have been hours.
TRACK 1: "WELCOME TO NEW YORK"
Ben Dreyfuss: Here we go.
Tim McDonnell: Seagulls. We're on an island.
BD: Welcome to New York.
TM: How can you not like this?
BD: It sounds like a theme song to an '80s sitcom?
TM: I would watch that sitcom. Every episode.
BD: This really does sort of sound like he is stylizing, like, what's his name from New Jersey? The Boss? Springsteen!
TM: Descending into the Port Authority from New Jersey to fulfill all your dreams.
BD: I bet he was like "Jersey? That's basically New York. Let's go with Springsteen." Chris Christie would love this cover.
TM: Fist-pumping. Watch for this song at future Christie events. So…better than Tay?
BD: No. I mean, look…no.
TM: Or are we just going with the baseline that none of it is better than Tay?
TRACK 2: "BLANK SPACE"
BD: I hate this.
TM: This is definitely the mopey part.
BD: He is such a whiny bitch. I mean, he is SUCH a little crybaby.
TM: I kind of love it. It's like he's sitting in your living room playing right to you.
BD: He is the paradigm of a sad little white hipster guitarist.
TM: Okay, but this is actually a pretty sad song. You wouldn't really know that from the Tay version. There's so much implied loneliness.
BD: I feel like we're on a roof after a cast party, and he is trying to find the courage to tell the girl who played opposite him in Skin of Our Teeth that not only is he not gay...he's actually in love with her.
TM: Tinged with optimism and hope. Also, the reference to old lovers thinking you're insane.
BD: "If the high was worth the pain." Babe, it's always worth the pain.
TM: They'll tell you I'm insane. BUT I'M NOT OR MAYBE…
BD: "I'M NOT FUCKING INSANE, OKAY? PLEASE BELIEVE ME!"
TM: "I don't know! Maybe I am! Let's make out."
BD: Then you play this sad song in the bathroom and call the therapist in the morning.
TRACK 3: "STYLE"
BD: Yeah, this is different. This is less whiny.
TM: This is very like tech rock—like, I don't know. Flaming Lips or something.
BD: I like the bass line.
TM: This is what you hear coming from the second-best stage at the music festival, while you're trying to watch the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
BD: The band that is better than most of them, but still only forgettable.
TM: Not quite good enough for the main stage, but good enough to forget yourself and just dance.
BD: His voice is so weak and sad. I bet Ryan Adams was the dude in college who wrote his feelings into lyrics in a Moleskin.
TRACK 4: "OUT OF THE WOODS"
TM: Okay, now we're like at the bluegrass festival. Playing at the bandshell in the town square with your mom.
BD: Just an acoustic, a mic, and a few hundred friends in a park in Tennessee. The Town Square Open Mic! And your mom is way too enthusiastic. She's embarrassing you.
TM: That's like Ryan Adams' birthplace probably. He was probably conceived at an open mic.
BD: Can we talk about his voice? It's so whiny.
TM: It would be better without all the reverb.
BD: Why is it so weak and sad? Maybe he should smoke.
TM: All the indie bands are like obsessed with vocal reverb these days.
BD: I mean, he shouldn't smoke. Don't smoke, kids.
TM: No, but he should.
BD: It would make his voice gruffer and sexier.
TM: Smoke more and cut the reverb.Okay, what about the whole concept of this album? What do we think about rewriting whole albums?
BD: The Larger Story™. At first I was turned off by the idea.
TM: Especially for an album that just came out.
BD: One song is one thing, but doing a whole album feels like a purposeless re-creation, but I think I was maybe being too conservative. Like, I can see someone doing interesting things with it. Like imagine Fiona Apple redoing a Chili Peppers album. I mean, that sounds terrible.
TM: Is there a threshold of how much different it has to be to make it worthwhile?
BD: There must be a threshold, or else it's just masturbatory photocopying.
TM: I like how we just completely tuned out the rest of that song. It was putting me to sleep anyway.
BD: Yeah, I hated it. It went on forever.
TRACK 5: "ALL YOU HAD TO DO WAS STAY"
BD: WHO IS THE FAMOUS SINGER HE SOUNDS LIKE? Is it Springsteen?
TM: Kind of. The Springsteen purists would probably not appreciate that comparison. There are other comparisons that are probably better.
BD: Sorry, Springsteen fans. This sounds like it would be perfect at Giants Stadium. Chris Christie is losing himself in a press box. Should we talk about the pronoun changes? Some people had a little cry about it.
TM: Like when boys sing songs that were originally sung by girls.
BD: Their problem was that he changed the pronouns to "she" instead of "he" or whatever. I think it's a silly criticism. Like it would be really noticeable if he didn't change them, and that would in and of itself be a statement, which is maybe good or maybe bad. But clearly one he didn't want to make and that is his right—the right to abstain.
TRACK 6: "SHAKE IT OFF"
BD: Tay's version is perfect. Perfect pop song.
TM: Carved from a solid block of pop music viral marble.
BD: Birthed from the head of Zeus, the content creator.
TM: This version is more hedged. He doesn't actually sound like he's going to shake it off.
BD: He needs to shake it off. But he sounds like actually he is going to die. He is drinking too much and being angry.
TM: He's repeating the mantra his therapist fed him. "Shake it off." But he totally doesn't buy it.
BD: He is going to get in a fistfight outside a bar, get his ass kicked, get in his truck, drive drunk, and kill a bunch of people. SERENITY NOW!
TM: Shake THAT off. Maybe this is what he's singing immediately after doing that. That's what it sounds like.
BD: "Sorry, Mr. Adams, you can't shake off 5-0."
TM: "Haters gonna hate."
BD: "I am not a hater. I am a judge. You killed five people."
TM: Yeah, he is totally unconvinced of his ability to shake it off.
TRACK 7: "I WISH YOU WOULD"
BD: Oh, another acoustic guitar.
TM: The thing with all of these is that he doesn't really sound like he's buying the message.
BD: Yeah, that's a good point.
TM: Tay works because you believe her. She makes you believe her. She is in that car. She is driving straight ahead. That's why the songs work.
BD: He's covering her songs in the sense that he's singing the lyrics, but he's not playing the part.
TM: You take the same lyrics and put them in Ryan's mouth and they don't really add up. I don't know what he's standing for.
BD: My main problem with this album is that like it isn't fun. It sounds like something you would listen to while being overly dramatic about a breakup.
TM: While riding on a train in Europe with like rain streaking down the windows.
BD: YES. He is looking out of the Eurorail, watching Prague go by in an instant, thinking of…
TM: And drinking a whole bottle of wine by himself.
BD: …some girl.
TRACK 8: "BAD BLOOD"
BD: Taylor was writing about Katy Perry. Who do we think Ryan is thinking of while singing this?
BD: AHHAHAHHAHA. I love that.
TM: Wasn't he married to someone?
BD: Is he the Ryan Adams who created Glee?
TM: Mandy Moore.
BD: She got left behind the aughts with Gossip Girl and James Frey.
TM: This album isn't very fun! I mean, it's not meant to be fun, I guess.
BD: This album is like something you won't object to, but it isn't aiming to win you over. It strives only not to be turned off.
TM: And it's probably wrong to compare it Tay's version. It's its own thing.
BD: But you can't not compare it. You gotta dance with the one who brung you.
TRACK 9: "WILDEST DREAMS"
BD: So I was at a Taylor Swift-themed SoulCycle last night.
TM: Oh God. Here we go.
BD: And at the end during the stretching they played one of these, and after I walked out, I couldn't remember what song it was. It just sounded like every other one of his covers.
TM: See, this one kind of works because it's sort of nostalgic and sad.
BD: Like he's just reading the words, changing the pronouns, and strumming his dumb acoustic guitar. He sounds like Monsters of Folk. I don't believe him that it is getting good now. I don't believe that he knows she's "so tall." "SIR, SIR, have you even seen this woman?"
TM: Only from a distance. Restraining order, you know.
BD: Through a telescopic lens. Yeah, I mean, I do feel like this is Songs for the Socially Estranged.
TM: Most of Tay's songs sound very similar, too, and there's not a whole lot going on musically, but they're so fun because she sells the dream.
BD: Tay does the thing where she tries to appeal to every sort of young-adult scenario. Whatever your personal drama in high school is, Taylor has a song for it. This seems all made for the kid who is an emo cutter.
TM: If you strip away the fun, the songs start to fall apart. Tay is good because of Tay.
BD: That's so true. You can't strip fun from pop songs, because pop songs are just fantasy nonsense that exist to be fun.
TM: Of course, that would be the message Ryan is trying to telegraph.
TRACK 10: "HOW YOU GET THE GIRL"
BD: His voice is less weak and pathetic here.
TM: But does this sound like he's getting the girl? No.
BD: No. He sounds upset. He considers this therapy.
TM: This sounds like the girl went home with the jock after prom. After he caught them making out in the bathroom.
BD: Exactly, and now he's sitting alone on the hood of his car crying in a canyon somewhere, drinking cheap whiskey, playing for whom? He and God and her. Always her. It's all for her, but then, in reality, he didn't even love her. He loved the idea of her.
TM: And imagining another life that doesn't have to be like this.
BD: Thinking that he can't imagine who he would be had he not had their moments. But what moments did they really have?
TRACK 11: "THIS LOVE"
BD: Ugh. Piano. "My name is Ryan. I can play the piano."
TM: I think the ones I like more are the more rock and roll ones. There's a very fine line here between nice music and just falling asleep. I'm already nodding off to this one.
BD: Why did he do this? He must have spent at least some time thinking about this.
TM: Do you think people tried to talk him out of it? "Oh, cool idea…What else are you working on?...Oh, you were serious?"
BD: "Look, Ryan, I like you. I love you. Ryan, I'm your sister. I support you. But this is not a fight you can win."
TM: "Record it? Like, in a studio?"
BD: "I mean, if you want me to Periscope one song, okay, but…"
TM: "You want the label to pay for this?"
BD: "Have you had a stroke?"
TM: "Look, we know you're beat up about Mandy."
BD: "There are other fish in the sea."
TRACK 12: "I KNOW PLACES"
TM: I like this one. It's at least different.
BD: The beat is better immediately.
TM: This could be in a Tarantino movie.
BD: Yeah, it's got style.
TM: Kind of sexy, like we finally left New Jersey and are almost to Mexico City. Sounds like something you could listen to smoking a big joint and driving really fast through the desert in a Jeep.
BD: I do still hate his voice. I know I sound like a broken record, but I hate his voice. "They got the keys, they got the boxes." Who is he talking about? The landlord? Was he evicted?
TM: If so, he sounds pretty happy about it.
BD: It's funny that he finally sounds happy in the song about them having to pack up their lives and flee.
TM: That's what he always wanted anyway. He's happy to be unhappy.
BD: "They are the hunters, we are the foxes." Fox hunting isn't a thing in the US. Are they in Britain?
TM: I wonder if they recorded the whole thing in like one day. First take.
BD: I sort of feel like they may have? "We have 65 minutes. That leaves eight minutes for a smoke break and a three for a piss."
TRACK 13: "CLEAN"
BD: Okay, so I hate this song even when Taylor sings it. This is my least favorite song on Taylor's album, so I am open to his being better.
TM: I really think he could have done more on all these to push it to weird new places.
BD: Because he hasn't!
TM: Yeah, not really.
BD: He's just played it like any Berklee music student could have.
TM: Apple Music calls this album "intimate" and "disarming."
BD: "Disarming"? Who the hell is searching for "disarming" on iTunes? They should be on an FBI watchlist for sexual predators.
TM: I actually don't find it intimate at all.
BD: I don't know what the hell this is a metaphor for. His heart isn't in it.
TM: Well, that's it. Seagulls again. Coney Island?
BD: Okay, I hated that. I hate Ryan Adams.
TM: I mean I wouldn't necessarily turn it off, but I don't plan to turn it on again, which is like the opposite of Tay.
BD: Like elevator music, you couldn't. Okay, I have to run to therapy, but I'll be back in 30 minutes for final thoughts.
TM: Go have a good cry. At least you can say this is good music to prep for therapy. Therapy pregame with Ryan Adams.
[43 minutes later]
BD: I am back. I had a very nice therapy.
TM: Did Ryan come up? Could you get the songs out of your head?
BD: He came up in spirit, but I described him as "my friend who is going through some things."
TM: The only one I can remember now is "Wildest Dreams." That's the one that stuck with me.
BD: Which is a good segue into…What was this album all about?
TM: Existential angst ironically channeled through happy pop music
TM: Desaturated Taylor Swift. Tay in black and white.
BD: How a constitutionally angsty person can deliver their angst through pop music. "Words mean nothing—it's all in the the way you say them."
TM: While Tay is driving to the party, Ryan is hanging his 5 mm B&W portrait of her music on the wall at the art show in the lunchroom on Friday night, alone.
BD: Like a dramatic actor doing a Shakespeare comedy, it's not going to be funny, but maybe there is some honesty there? Like, some sort of unplugged brutalism? It's a very sad album. I'm worried about Ryan. I mean, I'm not really worried because, look, people die. But if I knew him better I would be worried. *If I cared.*
TM: So I'm probably not going to listen to that album ever again. It had its moments, but now I just want to listen to the Taylor version.And feel okay about my life again.
BD: I also will never listen. REVIEW: DON'T BUY, but it's okay in elevators.
"The word Christmas, I love Christmas," Trump said. "You go to stores, you don’t see the word 'Christmas.' It says 'happy holidays' all over. I say, 'where's Christmas?'"
"I tell my wife, don’t go to those stores," he continued, as the crowd began cheering. "I want to see Christmas. You know, other people can have their holidays, but Christmas is Christmas. I want to see 'Merry Christmas.' Remember the expression, 'Merry Christmas?' You don’t see it anymore. You’re going to see it if I get elected, I can tell you that right now."
Trump did not explain how he would, as president, compel business owners to promote Christian expressions.
But if President Trump really wants to defend Christmas, he's going to have to explain his earlier flirtations with the enemy:
Pope Francis is in DC today addressing Congress. Here are his remarks, as prepared for delivery.
Honorable Members of Congress, Dear Friends,
I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in "the land of the free and the home of the brave". I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.
Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.
Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.
Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.
I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land. I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.
My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self- sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.
I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.
This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that "this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom". Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.
All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.
Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.
The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.
In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.
Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" (Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776). If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.
Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his "dream" of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of "dreams". Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.
In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our "neighbors" and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.
Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Mt 7:12).
This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.
This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.
In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.
How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.
It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. "Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good" (Laudato Si’, 129). This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to "enter into dialogue with all people about our common home" (ibid., 3). "We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all" (ibid., 14).
In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to "redirect our steps" (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a "culture of care" (ibid., 231) and "an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature" (ibid., 139). "We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology" (ibid., 112); "to devise intelligent ways of... developing and limiting our power" (ibid., 78); and to put technology "at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral" (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.
A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War, which Pope Benedict XV termed a "pointless slaughter", another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: "I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers". Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.
From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).
Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.
Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.
Four representatives of the American people.
I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.
In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.
A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to "dream" of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.
In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.