August 17, 2007ANNOUNCER:
This week on Bill Moyers Journal two views on what America can learn from Katrina…
MIKE TIDWELL: When you destroy your ecological base, civilization collapses. That's what we saw in south Louisiana. You know, a million acres of wetlands disappeared, creating a watery flight path for Katrina to slam into New Orleans like a plane into the World Trade Center.
MELISSA HARRIS LACEWELL:Racial injustice allowed for environmental injustice because we saw poor people and southern people and black people as less valuable to the nation.
ANNOUNCER: And he's spent a lifetime unraveling the mysteries of religion.
MARTIN MARTY:Since we're not going to get rid of science or religion how do we find better ways to get along?
ANNOUNCER: And Bill's take on Karl Rove.on this episode of Bill Moyers Journal.
BILL MOYERS:Welcome to the Journal. Soon, bells will be ringing in New Orleans to mark the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the storm that swamped the city and devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005. Days after Katrina struck, President Bush offered re-assurance to the displaced and homeless from the Big Easy to Biloxi.
GEORGE BUSH: I understand the anxiety of people on the ground but I want folks to know there's a lot of help coming
BILL MOYERS: After a fly-over of the region, the president appeared in the Rose Garden with his cabinet.
GEROGE BUSH: We're dealing with one of the worst natural disasters in our nation's history. I can't tell you how devastating the sights were
BILL MOYERS: But no one really needed to be told. The images had circled the world.
GEORGE BUSH: Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives…
BILL MOYERS:That was then. This is now. Nearly two thirds of the city's population has returned. But many of the city services they depend upon haven't. Less than half of the city's schools are open. 10 of the 23 original New Orleans hospitals remain closed. The city's police headquarters and two of its precinct stations still operate from temporary trailers, struggling to contain a crime level that has remained at a high water mark. For a realistic look at what it's like now, check out places like YouTube where a few students, church groups and animal rescuers have videotaped parts of the gulf coast and neighborhoods like this---the lower ninth ward-one of the hardest hit in New Orleans. That school bus you see lying on the ground and that car in the tree and these swamped homes look as they did in the summer of 2005 earlier this summer, representatives from Louisiana and Mississipi went to Washington to complain about the slow pace of recovery, much of it due, they said, to red tape with FEMA, the federal emergency management agency. Meanwhile, the Associated Ppress reports tax breaks intended for reconstruction of homes destroyed by Katrina are being used to build luxury condos hundreds of miles inland from where Katrina hit…Conveniently located near the University of Alabama football stadium.
BILL MOYERS: I'm joined now by two people who haven't been able to get Katrina off their mind.
Mike Tidwell is the writer and environmental activist who back in 2003 predicted something like Katrina would sweep across the Gulf. In BAYOU FAREWELL, Tidwell warned that the barrier islands and wetlands that would have slowed a major hurricane have long since disappeared because of the disastrous decision to damn the Mississippi. In his most recent bestseller THE RAVAGING TIDE, Tidwell warns that future Katrina's fueled by global warming are likely to take aim at other coastal cities with equally devastating effect.
Melissa Harris-Lacewell is here too, her second visit with us. She teaches politics and African American studies at Princeton University and wrote the award winning book BARBERSHOPS, BIBLES AND BET, exploring how African Americans develop their political point of view. She was a principle investigator for the University of Chicago study on racial attitudes and the Katrina disaster. Welcome to you both. Why do we ignore the warnings? We ignored the warnings before 9/11. We ignored the warnings before Katrina. I mean, you wrote in your book that Katrina's arrival was as certain as tomorrow's sunrise.
MIKE TIDWELL: That's right.
BILL MOYERS: How could you be so sure?
MIKE TIDWELL: Because all you had to do was look at the coastal maps going back from the French explorers all the way to the satellite maps from the mid 1970's forward and you saw a land mass, a coastal land mass imploding, disappearing. An area the size of Delaware was subtracted from south Louisiana between New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico just since the great Depression. It was clear that there was no longer any land mass buffering the city.
Why do we ignore these warnings? It's, you know, we are evolved to respond to claws and fangs in our faces. That's what we're evolved to do. We're not evolved to see that threat coming in the distance. And even when we know that, you know, people in Louisiana saw the land disappearing below their feet. But times were good. The shrimp harvests were great. You know, tourism was booming in south Louisiana. The energy industry was booming. And so, it was easy to laissez le bon temps rouler. You know, just forget about that threat. And because it wasn't claws and fangs in our face the way we were evolved to respond to from, you know, from the evolution of human beings, it was easy to say it's not going to happen, to deny. And that's what led ultimately to the calamity.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: The question is, from my perspective as a political scientist, what are our collective responsibilities to one another, to our nation, to our land, to our planet? What are we going to do in terms of who we are for making resiliency in the face of disaster possible? Because the human experience is going to be that we're going to face a variety of negative, disastrous experiences. Is it going to always be that the relatively privileged are going to be able to escape while the miner's canary dies in the mine?
BILL MOYERS: I've kept in my files since written one week after the disaster. Listen to this. "What Hurricane Katrina exposed was the psychological-- what Hurricane Katrina exposed was the psychological consequence of the welfare state. 75 percent of the residents of New Orleans had already evacuated before the hurricane. And of those who remained, a large number were from the city's public housing projects." What does that say to you?
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, it's bizarre and inaccurate empirically. Because in fact, the public housing projects were on high ground. They experienced very little water damage. And most of the residents there who have been shut out by their government, by their city and by our national housing office, is not because of any destruction that occurred because of Katrina but because of the required evacuation that occurred.They were mostly safe.
The people whose homes were destroyed were mostly home owners. But they were poor people. And this is what we can't deal with in America. They worked jobs every day. Most of them stayed because they needed to go to work in the morning. Most of them had to go to work in the morning in the hotels, in the tourist industries, in the restaurants that served to make New Orleans the fun place that the rest of us liked to visit. So they were homeowners who were poor. They were working people who were poor. Because we live in a country where we allow people to work every day and still be poor. To still have the inadequate capacity to leave.
And the third reason why many people didn't leave are very thick social networks. So part of the question you asked is, why didn't people think, oh, this disaster is coming? Well, Betsy, Hurricane Betsy was in living memory in New Orleans. And Hurricane Betsy was a terrible storm that many people had survived. If you had an aunt or an uncle or a grandmother who had survived Hurricane Betsy, she or he refused often to leave.
And what these thick social networks of black families and poor families did in New Orleans was they didn't leave and then leave Grandma there to die. They stayed. If the Hurricane Betsy survivor refused to go because she'd lived through it, everybody stayed. And I don't think that reflects anything about the welfare state in this narrow way. That reflects how poor communities get together with one another because they are the only resources that they have.
MIKE TIDWELL: I think the true tragedy, as we-- as we look at the ninth ward, we look at Lakeview and these neighborhoods that are not being rebuilt, the city of New Orleans is effectively being abandoned. It really is. And we're not doing what we know we can do to save it. The city can be saved. I completely believe that. People should and we can save this city. And we have to do a number of things. We have to restore the wetlands and barrier islands. We've got to make levees that work.
BILL MOYERS: Would you take your family to live there?
MIKE TIDWELL: No, I would not. I would not go--
BILL MOYERS: To move to New Orleans.
MIKE TIDWELL: It's the most dangerous city in the world to live in.
BILL MOYERS: Why?
MIKE TIDWELL: The levees are ineffective. The army corps of engineers says it's going to be 2010 before they even have the levees up to pre-Katrina levels. And then climate change. Hurricanes are getting bigger. We know this. There have been MIT studies, Georgia Tech studies that show that it's already happening. It is a dangerous place to live.
Now, if we resolve the issue of climate change, which we can-- the tragedy is, we can fix New Orleans. There-- it's not a matter of money and technology. We can do it. You know, in the war in Iraq, six weeks earlier, you have the 30 billion dollars to build the levees in the wetlands. And climate change. If we became a nation of hybrid car drivers, ten years from now, we'd cut our gasoline in half. We wouldn't be in Iraq. If Iraq's number one export was broccoli, would we be there? So, the tragedy is we can in fact save New Orleans, but we're not doing it. We can solve global warming, but we're not doing it.
And I think the main thing for people who live in Miami, who live in lower Manhattan, who live in Charleston, all these vulnerable coastal cities, if we allow New Orleans to disappear, if we don't come to the permanent rescue of our fellow countrymen in New Orleans, how are you safe in Miami? How are you safe in lower Manhattan? Who's going to come to save you?
BILL MOYERS: But isn't the lesson of that that we shouldn't be building, developing, doing what we want to with nature in places that are vulnerable?
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: But see, but this is I think part of what-- what's dangerous about the saying, well, you know, the problem is that New Orleans is dangerous environmentally. It is, right? But so too are lots of places that very wealthy people like to live because they're very beautiful. Some of the most beautiful places are on fault lines or on coast lines likely to get hit by hurricanes. Or-- I think we should-
BILL MOYERS: Or downtown --- Wall Street
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Or on Wall Street. That's right. I mean, you know, in an age of terrorism, if you live in a major urban center. I mean, it certainly is clear that we have environmental issues that must be addressed. But it's also important that as we talk about the right of citizens to return to their city, that we're clear that we already give that right.
The right to live in vulnerable environmental places exists for the wealthy. We simply are unwilling to extend that same freedom of choice, freedom to rebuild community. It's not just if you live in Miami or lower Manhattan or DC. It's if you live anywhere.
What we do by refusing to underline the importance of living in a chosen community is we say that as a country, we simply don't value those issues. We look at your home and your home is worth whatever, ten thousand dollars to us. That's all of what your life is. All of your family, your connections, your school, your church is worth ten thousand dollars to us. We have to-- we can not be that country. We must be a country that recognizes the value of local community.
BILL MOYERS: What have you learned, the two of you, about politics, American politics from the Katrina disaster?
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, I often say that Hurricane Katrina and it's political aftermath is the 2006 win of the democrats in the mid-term elections. And it--
BILL MOYERS: How so?
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: I know it seems odd.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Because it's not as though Katrina is at all even talked about in the 2006 elections. But you'll remember that from September 11th, 2001 until August 28th of 2005, one was unpatriotic if you criticized the Bush administration or really any of the actions taken by our government. So, the Democratic Party and much of the American media was quite timid in terms of its critique of the administration.
But what Katrina and the bungling of Katrina does is it provides a wedge that opens the door. And the criticisms start to flow from CNN, from-- and then from the Democratic Party. Now, the sad and scary thing is that all of these issues, urbanism, race, class, environmentalism which were the true core issues that made Katrina possible get lost. Because what the Democratic Party makes the choice to do is to use that wedge as an opportunity to critique Iraq. Not that it's-- I mean, it's fine, right? But they use that. And so then Iraq becomes the story of the 2006 elections.
BILL MOYERS: At the expense of Katrina?
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: At the expense of Katrina. And all the lessons that Katrina had the capacity to teach us about domestic politics.
MIKE TIDWELL: Well, I think there's a lot of blame if you will to go around in terms of politics. But I would take a slightly different course. A, you know, 1,800 dead, 100 billion dollars in economic damage. A million people were displaced by Katrina. Our President went to Jackson Square a week after Katrina. Stood there in an abandoned city and he said we will stay here as long as it takes and we will do whatever it takes to bring this city back. And just like after 9/11, the whole country said, tell us what to do. Lead us. We want to help. We want to respond as a nation. We want to respond as one community. Everyone was horrified by what happened. And that commitment simply wasn't there.
In the fall of 2005, it took until right before Christmas to get three billion dollars just to begin rebuilding the levees. Are you kidding me? 1,800 dead? It took us the entire fall of 2005. And that's because the President really did not sustain his commitment. He did not say this is as important to me as the Iraq war. This is as important to me as tax breaks for the rich. I'm going to roll up my sleeves. And as a result, the media stopped covering it. And the American people felt like they wrote a check, they took care of it.
Surely, if the President's not on Jackson Square every week telling us, giving us progress reports, everything must be okay. If you go to New Orleans right now, if you go there tomorrow in 2007, you would think the hurricane happened last week. You have a bubble of a society still devastated by that hurricane. And-- and you get outside that coastal bubble, and it's as if the hurricane didn't happen. And that's because our leaders don't continue to say it's an issue.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: If someone had looked at that coverage and instead of saying, oh, my God, look at all these refugees on the roof of their home. If someone had said look at all those Democratic voters trapped out there in the water because that's what they are. There a bunch of Democratic voters. Then maybe the party would have thought, okay, if George Bush isn't here every day, then we should be. We should be standing in Jackson Square every day and holding accountable. I don't allow or accept that simply because it was a party in power, even more so therefore that the Democrats who were in local power there. Not just at the city level, but the state level and even at the national level, could have started to provide leadership.
BILL MOYERS: Are you saying that the response to Katrina on the part of the democratic party should have been we can win the election in 2008 if we exploit this?
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: No. It should have been, here, standing here at this moment is the questions of why the Democratic Party, from its own understandings of itself as a progressive liberal institution, should be able to do better. That this was a moment where you had national outrage. Where you had southerners together in solidarity from the experience that they had just had. Where you had environmentalism which is Al Gore's central key issue, where you had urban issues coming-- all of the things that the Democrats say that they're good at, this is the moment to provide leadership. I won't talk-- I'm not talking about exploitation. I'm saying, you claim this is what you're good at. Let's see you do it. Let's see you talk about how we build a progressive coalition of working people in the South.
BILL MOYERS: Bill But changing the course of a mighty river created an attractive situation where people lived and industry flourished and we did all of these things, fishing and so forth. But then, nature struck back. But you can't in the end really refute nature, can you?
MIKE TIDWELL: Well, you can live sustainably with nature. And there's been a plan developed since the mid Nineties in south Louisiana called the coast twenty fifty plan that says, look, we already live here. We already have industry here. We already have homes here. We can't just let the river go back to its natural state of, you know, a thousand years ago where it is a wild state. How can we live however sustainably with the river? How can we allow the sediments and nutrients of the river back into the coastal areas to rebuild wetlands and barrier islands in a way without destroying property? And it can be done. And it has been done elsewhere in the world. We can live sustainably with this great river. It will take money. It will take nothing compared to what we've already lost.
BILL MOYERS: What do you say about the issue of corruption? To the wealthy people, the wealthy investors, the real estate dealers who are ripping off the special provisions for Katrina in order to build luxury condos at the University of Alabama football stadium. All the corruption in City Hall in New Orleans, or the school system in New Orleans, or the Police Department in New Orleans. What do you say about the power of corruption to frustrate the good intentions of the Cajuns and the poor people that both of you know?
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King already told us that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. And that is true in this case. That the people of New Orleans and of the Gulf Coast, the survivors of Katrina are the miners' canaries of our nation, right? That we know that the miners took the canaries down into the mine because canaries have sensitive respiratory systems. So if a noxious gas was released into the mine, the canary would die first. And this was an indication that the miners should get out. So, when the vulnerable people of New Orleans are-- and-- and of the Gulf Coast and all of the survivors of Katrina are treated as tools to enrich the powerful, this is a miners' canary for the rest of us. Be clear, you are not safe anywhere from corruption. You are not safe anywhere from this kind of profiteering. You are not safe anywhere if we don't look at the very simple sort of policy choices that we could have made.
For example, a huge communal land grab of the lower ninth ward. In other words, set up a CDC. Excuse me. A community development corporation, so that instead of each individual homeowner somehow trying to rebuild their houses, you set up a community based development that allows of the block to be built all together at once, instead of one house at a time, right? And then, you allow this community development corporation, a non-profit, to hold the interest of the homeowners and sell back to the homeowners.
Instead, what we did was we wrote checks to poor and working people most of whom had mortgages on their destroyed homes. So you're standing there and you've got a mortgage and your home is destroyed. You can't rebuild with that check. You pay off your mortgage with it. Now, you're standing there with nothing. These were simple things. We could have made a community development corporation. We could have forgiven, in a mass way. We could have done what we did with the S&L bail outs. And we could have bailed out mortgage holders, simply wiping away their mortgages because of this. So, we had very clear tools. And instead, we decided to make this an opportunity for profit. An opportunity for profit driven real estate speculators to come in and make money from this.
BILL MOYERS: Have financial and political corruption reached a state in American life in this prosperous age so that we are impotent to do things to meet the challenges we face?
MIKE TIDWELL: We're not impotent. Right now, we are in a crisis of abuse of wealth. The disparity in income has never been worse in this country. But are we impotent to change it? We are not.
I think that ultimately, as I look to Katrina on the second anniversary, I'm reminded of a fascinating sociological study that was done in Indonesia after the great tsunami. And there was one culture on the-- along the Indonesian coast that was hit hardest that, for whatever reason, had this long oral tradition to treat with respect the power of tsunamis. And the tsunami was at the core of their oral history and their on-going value system. When you see that tsunami take higher ground, it is nature, it is something to be respected. And those people in that community fled to higher ground and were not devastated in the way the other communities were. They-- all the rest of the communities in this area in the tsunami, they saw it coming. And they stood there and they watched it and they were overcome by it and they died.
Katrina was a tsunami that we saw coming from miles away. And we stood there and we watched it. And it got closer and closer. And we did not prepare. We did not escape our state of denial. We wanted to believe that wealth and convenience was everything. And let the good times roll. And we got wiped out. And the same thing is happening with global warming. The tsunami is happening. We're watching it coming. We're standing on the beach and we're not protecting ourselves. We've got to somehow rise above history. We've got to not follow the mistakes-
BILL MOYERS: You can't rise above history. History is us. It's this corruption in Alabama and this corruption-- history is us.
MIKE TIDWELL: Yes.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: But it's also-- it's the corruption, but it's also always the resistance against it. I mean, so the story of-- of enslavement, right, the great American evil of enslaving human beings for hundreds of years is also the story of enslaved people resisting it at every step, right? So the story is always both the corruption and abuse of power and the unbelievable human capacity to still recognize the value of human life. Because the fact is, right, the planet goes on.
BILL MOYERS: Maybe.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: If global warming wipes us out--
BILL MOYERS: He says that it might not go on. MIKE TIDWELL :Well, the planet goes on.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: The planet goes on. The planet decides we're a plague that's warming it up too fast. It wipes us out. But the planet goes on. So, even a fight against global warming is a belief that human beings matter. It's a kind of essential belief that there's something inside of human beings worth saving. Because if we're really just corrupt and bad and evil, then heat it up. Let it wipe us out.
MIKE TIDWELL: What gives me optimism in the face of this overwhelming challenge, and, you know, Katrina really is a curtain-raiser. If you want to know what Miami's going to look like 100 years from now, go to New Orleans today. Below sea level, behind levees, battered by huge storms-- if we don't stop global warming. This climate crisis is here now. The Great Lakes are dropping in water levels. Texas has got too much rain. The Carolina's too little. Hurricanes are getting-- it's here now. It's not a my kinda sort of a maybe thing in the future that computer modeling says is coming. It's already deeply here.
So, the fact that it's here, that this giant climate system with all the momentum built in it toward warming, it's already unpacking its bags. What could possibly give us the optimism and hope that we can now respond at this late stage, strongly and fiercely enough to hold it in check? And the thing that I come back to is, when we decide to change, we tend to change explosively. You know, Look at the great changes in World War II and all these things that have happened in the 20th Century. I believe that this issue of climate change and sustainable-- sustainability, which also implies questions of human rights, and fairness. When this light bulb finally goes on, and it's going on.
You know, I think Katrina opened the door, Al Gore walked through it. And the zeitgeist changes a lot more. But once we finally really get serious, we're going to change really fast.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: And who are we to give up? I mean, I'm a black woman living in America, in a time when at any other point in America, I would have been enslavable. I would have been Jim Crowed. I'm a professor at Princeton University. Who am I to give up? How dare I give up and say, oh, we can't fix it. It can't be done. When people overcame. When people who are-- who are my people, my grandmother, who was a domestic worker. My father, who went to Jim Crow public schools. How dare I give up? I feel like we just have too much privilege to be the ones who give up.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, but those folks down there in New Orleans, they're not at Princeton.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: No, but they're also not enslaved, and they're also not sharecroppers. That-- that-- I think something bad happens when we imagine that we're living at the 'worst time.' This is the worst thing that we've ever faced. It's a serious thing. It-- it's possibly the worst time for the Planet. It is possibly. But still, who are we with freedom of speech, with freedom of press. With free and open elections every four years. Who are we to give up? We're telling the people of Baghdad, Grip it up. Pull it together. Do better. Stop sectarian violence. How dare we, as Americans, with everything, we would want to give up.
MIKE TIDWELL: What about you, Bill? I mean, how do you maintain a sense of hope?
BILL MOYERS: By listening to people like you. Mike Tidwell, and Melissa Harris-Lacewell, thank you very much for being on The Journal.
BILL MOYERS: If you were browsing through your favorite neighborhood bookstore and came upon a book with the title, THE MYSTERY OF THE CHILD, odds are you wouldn't likely think the author to be one of the country's most distinguished historians, especially when the cover has the filmatic quality of this one:
But there it is a name historians and readers of history will recognize immediately. Martin E. Marty. This is the latest of over 50 books he has produced over his long and productive life including: RIGHTEOUS EMPIRE, winner of The National Book Award. The three volume MODERN AMERICAN RELIGION and THE ONE AND THE MANY: AMERICA'S STRUGGLE FOR THE COMMON GOOD.
He's also written four books with his son, the photographer Micah Marty.
More recently, this past president of The American Academy of Religion. Winner of the National Humanities Medal. Recipient of 72 honorary doctorates and admiral in the Nebraska Navy. Was one of the leaders of a project on the child in law, religion and society at Emory University in Georgia and that brings us to his book, THE MYSTERY OF THE CHILD, drawing on literature as new as today's poetry and as old as the Bible. Martin Marty encourages all of us to maintain the child's openness to wonder as we grow old.
BILL MOYERS:You're a historian. You've got a life's work to show for it, including over 50 books. But this book is not a history. And there's very little in what you've done ever to suggest that you would write a book about children. So, why did you write it?
MARTIN MARTY: I think it was a stage of life where I was really ready for this. Just a couple days ago, I was in the-- apartment of an-- an art dealer. We got to talk about the revival of interest in the artist Georges Rouault, who had been big 50 years ago and then in decline. Most of his work was-- brutal, brusque. One series was called Man is a Wolf to Man. Corrupt judges, prostitutes-
And suddenly in his 70's, he's painted Jesus on the way to Emmaus, resurrection, bright green, yellow, white and so on. And I said, "Why do you do that?" He said, "I spent my life painting shadows. I think I've earned the right to paint the dawn." And I think there's a certain sense when you're an historian. You see all the corruption all the time. And I wanted to do a dawn book.
BILL MOYERS: Well, it's interesting, because in most of the histories I've ever read-- children appear very rarely, I mean-- even though they're affected by the plagues, and the wars, and the famines, and the catastrophes, and the Crusades and all of that. Children seem to be left out of history.
That's changing, since women have entered the writing force, for one thing. My successor at the University of Chicago writes about how New Englanders, John Edwards' types brought up their children and that. So, we're discovering it now. But there was a-- almost total void. Because they were-
BILL MOYERS:Men see the word differently?
MARTIN MARTY: Men see the world in terms of power. Big events. Wars, treaties who gets elected-- who tromps on whom. That's basically the plot of most history. Children are-- are not a big part of it. And yet, in my personal life, they-- they almost, I won't say dominate, 'cause I don't like the word. But they're very upfront.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, You've got quite an extended family, I know.
MARTIN MARTY: Yes. It changes in number all the time. My late first wife and I had four sons. And then we took in as foster and equivalent of adoption, 'cause that's 40 years ago-- two Mexican children, brother and sister, And then-- I married the widow of my college roommate, who died when their baby was eight weeks old.
And we would take in people. French student or so. One year, we had two boys from Uganda, a nine and 12 year old. And, there were seven boys, aged nine to fourteen around the table every day, for better-- than a year. So, it's always been that. And now I've-- in the stage of having great grandchildren. And--
BILL MOYERS: Great grandchildren. What has it mean to you to have so many, such a pluralistic family?
MARTIN MARTY: Partly it's accidental. We just said the door's open. We believed both-- by nature, and by our own children's generosity. They always had to vote
BILL MOYERS: Let me come back to your book.
BILL MOYERS: But if you see-- what do you mean by the mystery of the child?
MARTIN MARTY: A great French philosopher, Gabriel Marcel makes a difference between a problem and a mystery.
MARTIN MARTY: "The problem," says Marcel, "Is something that I could isolate." "Problems," he says, "Have solutions or potential solutions." Mysteries don't. Mysteries have depths. Mysteries are unfathomable.
And I just love watching our children, watching grandchildren, watching great grandchildren, watching babies, watching just anybody the unfolding that package, which you could explain of in scientific terms. But you never really capture-- what happens.
BILL MOYERS: So, do you think those of us who deal with children, grandparents, parents, caregivers would deal with them differently if we see them as a mystery instead of a problem?
MARTIN MARTY: Definitely. I think-- two impulses we have that the concept of mystery will lead you to treat differently. Marcel, who says, "The problem stands outside me. Mystery, I'm inside it. Mystery, I can't get distance on myself, or it or that other person."
You're drawn into seeing the world in their angle. I like to take people to the Museum of Science--
BILL MOYERS: Yeah.
MARTIN MARTY: --in Chicago. And everything is done. The-- the chairs we're sitting in are seven feet tall. And you're there. And the spoon is this long. And I try to think that that's what it looks like to the child. And we wonder why the child falls and pushes things around. If you're dealing with the mystery of the child, you're inside it.
BILL MOYERS: During that exhibit, there's a huge table. Big--
MARTIN MARTY: Everything is--
BILL MOYERS: --silverware--
MARTIN MARTY: --huge, yeah.
BILL MOYERS: And you imagine falling off that if you're a child.
MARTIN MARTY: That's right. And you're reduced-- I quote-- the great French novelist, George Bernanos did a thing called THE DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST.And it became a great film, too. And this priest has trouble with this catechism class. Somebody smarts off at him. He talks to a monsignor. And he's really down on children.
And the monsignor says to him-- "Probably no more terrifying sentence has ever been heard by human ears than this. Quote, 'Unless you change and become like a little child you shall not enter the kingdom.'" And in a funny way, while not every reader of the book is gonna have the concept of the kingdom-- I think that notion that you spend your life finding ways to change and become like a little child means you will be more open to mystery, more responsive to others, more receptive.
BILL MOYERS: That is one of Jesus' most perplexing questions. Unless you become as children, you shall not enter--
MARTIN MARTY: Yeah.
BILL MOYERS: --the kingdom of Heaven. What do you think he meant by that?
MARTIN MARTY: I had a-- late, great colleague at Chicago, Paul Ricoeur, who once said, "You'll never under the parables of Jesus until you realize that every one turns things upside down." The littlest seed becomes the greatest tree.
The lost sheep's more important than those that weren't ever lost. The people not invited to the banquet get head tables. You have to die in order to live. In the gospel of Luke, he's always interested in the marginal people.
The poor, the prostitutes, the-- tax collectors, who are hated, they're the oppressor-- the lep-- people with leprosy and-- who didn't count? And in that world, children didn't count. And so, putting the child there-- makes that central.
BILL MOYERS: He's not talking a second childhood?
MARTIN MARTY: Oh, no.
MARTIN MARTY: A second childhood would be out entirely, because a second childhood isn't faithful to the first childhood. Second child is what we consider as what happened is tragic. It's an old name for things like Alzheimer's, or senility or dementia.
That's always seen as a diminishing of life. And it's tragic. And it's there. And you don't-- get away from it. But-- not a second childhood. Because childhood is always opening and always--
BILL MOYERS: Potential, growing, maturing.
MARTIN MARTY: --more's gonna happen-- yeah.
MARTIN MARTY: So, I do take, I did find one dictionary that had a word I needed. I don't like to coin words. But if I can find one dictionary, it had the word childness .
BILL MOYERS: Yeah.
MARTIN MARTY: This is that character. And I even quote a couple of Catholic theologians, who talked about how you keep some of these qualities from the life of the child, through all the contingencies of life. And if you, Bill Moyers, make a list of the people you most admired when they're in their 80's and 90's, they keep that dimension of childhood.
Pablo Casals said, "I'm the oldest cellist in the world. And I'm the oldest musician. But I'm also the youngest."
BILL MOYERS: We met-- Pablo Casals many years ago, my wife and I were young in Washington, he said, "I want you to be young. Young all your life, and to say things to the world that are true."
MARTIN MARTY: That's always his last word. Yes, children can lie. But when they tell stories, fanciful as they may be, to that child, they're unfolding a-- a truth.
And the-- that's why so often we collect what they say. When mothers sit in the park and chat about the children, they're quoted as if they're sages. Because they do say things that impart a kind of a wisdom. But I think Casals meant more than that.
Casals also would go to the piano every day. And he'd play two of Bach's two part inventions. The simplest-looking music you could find. A third year piano student plays them badly. But he had to start over every day. He had to get a new start. And that was his way to do it.
BILL MOYERS: You say children are receptive. Responsive. Amendable. Simple. Teachable. Relatively helpless. Insignificant. Unimposing. Lacking status. Dependent. Of such is the kingdom of God.
MARTIN MARTY: Because any of those can be-- can change. Take the opposite of everything you just said and you can't change. Like an autumn leave. All the sap has gone out of it. It can't change now because there's nowhere to go. -- Which is why I also make a great point of the value of conversation and-- and questioning. As opposed to arguing.
Argument is extremely important. I don't-- I want my legislatures to argue. You can't have justice without argument. I want my medical researchers to argue about which cell does what. It's beautiful in its place. But in the mysteries of life arguing is there a God or not? We-- what-- where will argument get you? Where's the evidence? Where's the-- either side, you can't get anywhere there. You do it through conversation. And all the great thinkers that I know of do that. Again, the gospel stories of Jesus, he usually-they want to attack him in an argument and he asks a question.
BILL MOYERS: He tells a story too--
MARTIN MARTY: Yeah. Alright, indeed, every time
MARTIN MARTY: I think one of the problems that happened in the transmission of knowledge in our adult world is the way-- on so much of television now you always choose the two most extreme figures who will lose everything if they yield any point. And it never contributes to truth. I've been invited several times to debate one of the new school of atheists-
MARTIN MARTY: And as you and every listener has to know that these four or five all say that if you just get rid of all religion the world would be benign and peaceful.
Well-- my question is how do you explain Mao and Stalin and Lennon and all of the great totalitarians, all of whom set out to get rid of God and religion and killed several hundred million people. I'm not defending the religious record. There's horrible stuff out there.
BILL MOYERS: Right.
MARTIN MARTY: And I make a lot of my living in my noisy books about describing that. But you're not going to get rid of religion. You can't suppress this impulse.
It's increasing not decreasing. And you can't sit at Oxford or Harvard or Chicago and say, "The world would be nice if other people would get their PhDs in Physics and learn enough to know that isn't it." Religion in the villages of-- Latin America.
It's in the villages of the Islamic world. Every 7th person in the world was a Muslim 50 years ago. Now every 5th person is. It's growing. In sub-Saharan Africa-- 18,000 new Christians everyday.
You're not gonna have somebody sit up here on television and talk them out of it. So the issue, I change it-- to the question. Since we're not gonna rid of science or religion how do we find better ways to get along?
MARTIN MARTY: I grew up, theologically at the time, when everybody envisioned a world that was gonna be purely secular. Secular, empirical, pragmatic, etcetera.
The people prophesized that said, "But notice that every great philosopher in history of the last century pictures that either following that, or against it, you're gonna have a period of-- of, I'll call it, neo religiosity." They were saying something comforting there. They were saying it could be religion of nationalism.
Could be religion of race. It could be a religion of violence, we see a lot of that. But it's gonna be there. And so, to me, the interesting question is-- how do the two coexist? But you can't debate the fundamental point of it.
BILL MOYERS: Do you see the pendulum swinging either way?
MARTIN MARTY: We live under a two fold sign. On one level we are more secular than anybody envisioned back in the enlightenment. But religious people are that. Think of how much in the-- in the religious right turned secular. When they got away from piety into pure politics.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah. Yeah.
MARTIN MARTY: When they're only asking this question. Years ago David Martin, a great British sociologist, religion-- said, "Here's a paradox to modern world. I can summarize it all in one phrase. Texas Baptist millionaire. They're in church and they don't want their minister to mention anything in the-- modern world."
MARTIN MARTY: Oil depletion allowances. They didn't want anything discussed like that. They wanted other worldliness and-- and same. On the other hand, they were-- utterly mired in it. We all are in some degree.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah.
MARTIN MARTY: I'm secular in that I don't believe that I have to ask for the holy spirit to when I turn ignition of a car. It's following secular principles. Secular comes from the word meaning of this age.
Now that's growing. And it's interesting it grows in some parts of the world. I have a mental map that I call the spiritual ice belt. It starts west of Poland, as western Europe.
British Isles. I used to say except Ireland, but Ireland is now secular. Canada, northern US, Japan. That's the spiritual ice belt. In which there are all kinds of religions and there are all kinds of renewals of religion.
But, over all, it is the world of the pragmatic and the contractual and so on. You don't walk into the faculty clubs of these places and expect the revival. But we're totally out of step with all of the rest of the world.
All of central and Latin America, all of Africa, northern and sub-Saharan, all of Asia. all of Africa, northern and sub-Saharan, all of Asia. It teems. And, again, to get back to the point of can you get rid of it-- when the iron curtain fell, 72 years had gone by in which you had the most efficient ruthless system yet to get rid of religion.
You-- you spill oceans of blood to get there. You kill the priests. You use-- rivers of ink to argue about it. The day that fell every religion that was there in 1917 is still there. And some new ones.
BILL MOYERS: Let me come to this-- book you wrote called WHEN FAITHS COLLIDE. I happen to know, as many of our audience do, that you, for five years, chaired a very important study of fundamentalism a number of years ago. And we've seen in your lifetime and mine the resurgence of fundamentalism.
At the same time, we have seen, as you noted earlier, we've seen the rise of evangelical atheism. Where are these surges going to lead? The surge of fundamentalism and the surge of disbelief.
MARTIN MARTY: Well, the surge of fundamentalism is going to-- out number the literate atheists by hundreds of thousands to one. What did-- Kafka once say, "The fight between you and the world, bet on the world." Alright, in the fight between these two forces, bet on-- the zealot.
MARTIN MARTY: Though the atheist could be all these same things too. So, in that sense, the religious fundamentalist who is closed, in terms of the child book, and the-- secular fundamentalist in atheism, have a lot in common. But your question is also a different question.
Mainly, where does it lead? We may not have much time, because these things used to just be allowed to be around. And now with weaponry being what it is-- the game can end a lot sooner than we might think.
But as we used to say, all things being equal. If you just let things work out in the give and take and politics and history and so on-- I-- I think that the extreme hard-line-- which now is tied into tribalism and politics and-- militarism and so on, in the end, is not satisfying to all the questions that people are gonna keep asking. You do it on a short range.
You do it under the leadership of a charismatic leader. You do it if you hate somebody else enough.
BILL MOYERS: The world seems divided now between those who welcome-- a clash of good and evil. Those who believe that militant fundamentalism has to be met with militant-- response on that. Does it scare you?
MARTIN MARTY: It scares me. But I think there are a lot of gradations between the two alternatives. I want defense. I don't want anybody that wants to can smuggle a nuke into New York.
I-- you know, I-- I'm conscious of all that. But the talk of Islamo- fascism, and all these ways in which we've gotta be as full as machismo as they do, toward what end? As I look back-- did we fight Hitler and-- Japanese more militantly because we-- demonized them?
Demonizing the other I don't think helps the cause. And it does bad stuff to us. It assumes therefore we've got it made. So-- alertness, yes. Defense, yes. But saying the only way to do it is at all times to build up the clash of civilizations-- I think it's folly. It's expensive. And it hurts the soul.
BILL MOYERS: Let me come back to your book.
BILL MOYERS: Is the soul of a child different-- in one period of her life from the other periods of her life?
MARTIN MARTY: Then you have to let me define soul.
BILL MOYERS: Alright. Go right ahead. You have my blessing.
MARTIN MARTY: I'll do it with-a colleague Leon Kass, who you know.
BILL MOYERS: Oh yeah.
MARTIN MARTY: And behind him, Aristotle.
BILL MOYERS: He's a biologist, an ethicist--
MARTIN MARTY: And he was head of the president's commission on stem cell research.
BILL MOYERS: A colleague with you at Chicago University
MARTIN MARTY: Yeah.
BILL MOYERS: Chicago for a long time.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah.
MARTIN MARTY: And-- in one of his books-- on-- development of soul out of Darwinian roots. Soul is not a ghost in a machine.
MARTIN MARTY: Soul is not a pilot on a ship. Soul is not a thing. Soul-- and here's Aristotle and Kass and me translating them-- is the integrated, vital power of any organic body open to possibility and future.
MARTIN MARTY: If I say she has a generous soul, you don't need to know much more about her, right? If I would take a word, spoiled brat, I've condensed a person and say there's no soul there. I may be making false judgment.
And I'm writing somebody off prematurely. I don't believe in doing that. But if I'm doing that I'm really saying it's no longer vital. It isn't open to a future. It's closed. I use a lot in the book about the image of open and close.
BILL MOYERS: Do you think children ponder the mystery of life?
MARTIN MARTY: Oh, I think so all the time.
BILL MOYERS: Even at a young age?
MARTIN MARTY: Indeed, it comes in why did my kitty die? And what happened? Will I meet my dog in heaven? Why is everybody crying-- because grandma's-- sick
I think those are the things we lose later on. And I think we sometimes can get-- sense that better in a-- in a-- quote, primitive culture, which keeps some of these dimensions. One of my sons was in Africa when his mother died. Ten people of the tribe moved into his house for ten days.
That's just what they do. To console. To beat drums. And to make the food and do all that. We have traces of that in our religions. But if you go to the typical last rites, again, everything is in control.
The makeup on the stuffed body is there. The greeting you give in the funeral home-- "I express my sympathy," and so on. It's gone. Not the child. The child is really, really gonna cry. And then go out and skip and play hopscotch and-- do all the rest. Because they're not done in by a single circumstance.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, kids know today that bad things happen all the time.
MARTIN MARTY: Yeah. I did a-- TV film with nine little kids after 9/11. Producer said they were told that the children would be all terrified by that.
But-- the one kid was from the ghetto. And he said, "Yeah, I have fears. I have fears that-- I go to school and my lunch money will be stolen. Coming home I have fears that-- two gangs are gonna fight over which gang I'm gonna be in."
He's translating these fears all the while, and his dream is of a-- of a better set up.
BILL MOYERS: You're-- you're about to become how old?
MARTIN MARTY: Eighty.
BILL MOYERS: Are you becoming, as Jesus said, like a child all over again?
MARTIN MARTY: I'm trying to take lessons-- to do it appropriately to the age. When you say becoming it again I hope I was, at 70 and 60 and 50 and 40, appropriate to the age.
But if I learned well, I was being that. I quote-- my teacher at one stage was Daniel Boorstin, later librarian of congress. And he dedicated a book, when I was studying under him, he dedicated a book to his children.
And that dedication meant more than the book to me. "To Jonathan, David and Paul." Quote, "Like genius, simple, that's why they are the great teachers. Pablo Cassal's playing those Bach two part invention is choosing simple.
BILL MOYERS: Simple.
MARTIN MARTY: Music.
BILL MOYERS: But I don't think Bach is simple. But I'm not a musician, obviously. But he seems--
MARTIN MARTY: If you play-- Rachmaninoff concerto you would have looked back to these little two part inventions as being something that really teaches you. Now, you don't exhaust them. He plays them because they're inexhaustible.
BILL MOYERS: You quote in here a Jesuit figure who says, "The real high point of my life is still to come." What do you make of that?
MARTIN MARTY: Oh, I'd like to think that.
BILL MOYERS: At 80?
MARTIN MARTY: I hope at 90 No, I'm an utter realist about the fact that these powers can fail you and-- they can miserably fail you. But I still detect, in many people who see the loss of these powers-- inventiveness, discover things they hadn't known. I told a story the other day of-- of a jazz musician, Ed Summerland (PH) and I. We did a program-- I was dedicating a building at a little college in Sioux City, Iowa.
And-- the local-- church asked could we, do something for them. So I read a poem by Sam Francis called "The Hawk." And he blew it. He blew what the Hawk would do. He took the mouthpiece off and shrieked it and all that.
My mother's friends all applauded us. And one of them came up and said, "Are you still in town tomorrow morning?" "Well, we have a noon plane." "Can you come to our senior citizens home and do that there for all the other people?" He said, "I will if you all of you will bring something that makes noise with tissue paper, or a washboard, or a bell. I don't care what it is." For an hour he did that. Most of them had never made music in their life. And they were-- they were not in second childhood. They were learning-- and unfolding in their wheelchairs.
And so-- several people have said, "Did you write this book as preparation for aging?" No, I did it to try to understand the mystery of the child. But the whole thesis is that whatever is mysterious about the child is something we can constantly keep changing to be replenished by. And so we don't give up on people.
BILL MOYERS: The book is THE MYSTERY OF THE CHILD. Martin Marty, thank you very much for joining us.
MARTIN MARTY: A privilege to chat with you. To converse.
BILL MOYERS: Some closing thoughts now on politics. When Karl Rove announced his resignation from the White House earlier this week, he got some rave reviews. Here's a samplecirculating on the Internet.
CNN Correspondent: We should be congratulating Karl Rove for a long successful run - this is a guy who elected a president twice- who's known as one of the mostbrilliant political activists of our time...
CHRIS MATTHEWS: If you've ever talked to him he's almost got, almost like a blinder's eye- he looks you right in the eye - and he talks fast than I do - really fast right inyour face totally intent on you - and it's real like talking to a fire hydrant...
BILL PLAINE: He's not only the mastermind behind everything - he's the president's senior advisor...
MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Boy genius, Bush's brain, the architect...
KAREN HUGHES: Karl is brilliant- he is fiunny- and he's a passionate advocate...
ANDREW CARD: Karl rove is a superstar- he's very insightful - he's a great friend to the president- he's also a very broad thinker - he is one of the moreintelligent that people I know - he's very quick witted- he's got a great sense of humor and the president will miss him...
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well generally where there's brains, there's Rove...
BILL MOYERS: There is, of course, more to be said. What struck me about my fellow Texan, Karl Rove, is that he knew how to win elections as if they were divine interventions. You may think God summoned BillyGraham to Florida on the eve of the 2000 election to endorse George W. Bush just in the nick of time, but if it did happen that way, the good lord was speakingin a Texas accent.
Karl Rove figured out a long time ago that the way to take an intellectually incurious draft-averse naughty playboy in a flight jacket with chewing tobacco inhis back pocket and make him governor of Texas, was to sell him as God's anointed in a state where preachers andtelevangelists outnumber even oil derricks and jack rabbits. Using church pews as precincts Rove turned religion into a weapon of political combat -- a batteringram, aimed at the devil's minions, especially at gay people.
It's so easy, as Karl knew, to scapegoat people you outnumber, and if God is love, as rumor has it, Rove knew that, in politics, you better bet on fear andloathing. Never mind that in stroking the basest bigotry of true believers you coarsen both politics and religion.
At the same time he was recruiting an army of the lord for the born-again Bush, Rove was also shaking down corporations for campaign cash. Crony capitalismbecame a biblical injunction. Greed and God won four elections in a row - twice in the lone star state and twice again in the nation at large. But the result hasbeen to leave Texas under the thumb of big money with huge holes ripped in its social contract, and the U.S. government in shambles - paralyzed, polarized, andmired in war, debt and corruption.
Rove himself is deeply enmeshed in some of the scandals being investigated as we speak, including those missing emails that could tell us who turned the attorneygeneral of the United States into a partisan sockpuppet. Rove is riding out of Dodge city as the posse rides in. At his press conference this week he asked Godto bless the president and the country, even as reports were circulating that he himself had confessed to friends his own agnosticism; he wished he couldbelieve, but he cannot. That kind of intellectual honesty is to be admired, but you have to wonder how all those folks on the Christian right must feeldiscovering they were used for partisan reasons by a skeptic, a secular manipulator. On his last play of the game all Karl Rove had to offer them was a hail marypass, while telling himself there's no one there to catch it.
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