Getting too big for our britches

Kathy Kelly challenges Waterloo gathering to give up fatalism.

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Publication: Canadian Mennonite
Author: Rogalsky, Dave
Date published: May 17, 2010

Kathy Kelly, a Roman Catholic layperson from Chicago nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, has gone to Haiti, Bosnia, Iraq, Gaza and Pakistan to look at the effects of war on ordinary people. She has been arrested for protesting in her home country for what she sees her government doing around the world to support the American way of life, consumption and waste.

At a meeting co-sponsored by Mennonite Central Committee Ontario, Conrad Grebel University College and other organizations, held at First United Church, Waterloo, Kelly said that she experienced the church as a good place when she was growing up, so good, in fact, that she had planned on becoming a nun. But when faced with difficulties, she found the church could analyze the issues, but didn't dare do anything about them. If even a priest would suggest that action should be taken, she said he could be called "too big for his britches." "The flag over one shoulder and the cross over the other," she quipped, "but don't do anything."

"Tragic mistakes" are what she termed stories like the wrong house raided in Afghanistan or the bombing by Americancontrolled drone planes of a Pakistani house whose rural inhabitants had only offered their culture's demands of shelter and food to three strangers. "So sorry." And when no one was willing to help transport the wounded to hospital because the drone circled overhead, looking for more targets, again, "so sorry," she said was the response.

Kelly believes that the mainline media are not reporting all these mistakes, and that Americans are too busy being numbed by sports, what she quoted political activist Noam Chomsky as calling the new "opiate of the people." While Chomsky meant professional sports, Kelly believes that too many people are spending too much time driving their children around to sporting events, and are therefore too tired to care about what is going on in the world or even what their own government is doing.

She called on the audience to "slow down and think about what are the necessities of life __ Are we living in line with our deepest beliefs? Are we happy, truly?"

In a question-and-answer session following her presentation, the current Canadian situation of Afghan detainee documents was raised. Kelly did not answer questions of what to do, but challenged the audience, on this and other issues, to not give in to the fatalism of analysis and talk, but rather to "get too big for your britches," and do something.

Author affiliation:


Eastern Canada Correspondent


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