Recent disturbances in Baltimore are about much more than racism and police brutality; it’s about unemployment, lost jobs that will never come back, the diminishing middle class and the disappearing American dream.
Referring to what he calls “the scourge of unemployment,” our Holy Father Pope Francis called for “new work opportunities that currently do not exist … especially for the young, as we know that youth unemployment … destroys their hope”, in a February talk to Italian Cooperatives.
New work opportunities are desperately needed because the jobs performed by the grandfathers of many of the young men in Baltimore and elsewhere are gone forever. Factory jobs, work on the docks, couriers, elevator operators, and record clerks, are already gone or going in our technological world of today.
According to a Pew Study in January 2014, USA Today reported that “Despite a slowly recovering economy, the proportion of Americans who identify themselves as middle class has dropped sharply in recent years. Today, about as many Americans identify themselves as lower or lower-middle class (40 percent) as say they are in the middle class (44 percent).”
As the middle class diminishes so does the American Dream. In a New York Times piece in December 2014, Andrew Ross Sorkin and Megan Thee-Brenan wrote that a New York Times newspaper poll “which explored Americans’ opinions on a wide range of economic and financial issues, found that only 64 percent of respondents said they still believed in the American dream, the lowest result in roughly two decades. Even near the lowest point of the financial crisis in early 2009, 72 percent of Americans still believed that hard work could result in riches.”
Hope is a Gift of the Spirit, but like all gifts it must be accepted, unwrapped and opened. It is indeed a sign of hope that for healing, Baltimore citizens have taken the first step. They have turned to God. John Allen wrote in Crux Monday, “as elected officials dialed back their approach to maintaining order in Maryland’s largest city, many thousands of people turned toward Baltimore’s religious institutions … [for a]day of prayer and peace.” Archbishop William E. Lori noted that, “Every Sunday is important, but this Sunday is especially important as a moment for prayer and peace. We’re here … to pray for peace, for justice and for reconciliation.”
Mountains are climbed one step at a time.