Mar 18, 2009

George W. Makes the Pope Look Small

Yesterday former US president George W. Bush delivered his first public address since leaving the Oval Office. The setting was Calgary, a city in Western Canada, and the event was organized by the Chamber of Commerce.

Whether or not Bush was a good president is not the issue here.
What's noteworthy is that he made a point of expressing his full support for President Barack Obama. [source] Publicly repudiating the odious Rush Limbaugh, he declared:

"I want the President to succeed."
Then he got truly impressive:

"I love my country a lot more than I love politics."

On the same day that Bush was putting political dogma firmly in its place, Pope Benedict XVI, the head of the Roman Catholic church, was touring AIDS-ravaged Africa with rather a different approach to divided loyalties.

Two out of three people who suffer from HIV live in Africa. In 2007, 75% of AIDS deaths occurred there. [source]

According to one report:
"HIV/AIDS is reversing the gains in life expectancy that much of southern Africa had made prior to the onset of the epidemic. Lesotho, a country with an average life expectancy of almost 60 years in 1995, has since seen that figure drop to 36 years." [source]

Put simply: AIDS continues to devastate Africa, robbing these struggling countries of productive workers and orphaning millions of children.

Organizations that do nothing but fight AIDS year after year insist every available means of combating this disease needs to be utilized. They say education, treatment, male circumcision, encouraging people to have fewer sexual partners, encouraging them to wait longer before having sex, all have a role to play. They also insist that condoms are one of the most effective counter-measures available. [source]

But the organization that Pope Benedict heads isn't devoted primarily to fighting AIDS. Rather, his church (in whose traditions I was personally raised) has spent centuries trying to regulate human sexuality per se. It condemns masturbation, birth control, homosexuality, sexual relations between consenting adults who don't happen to be married, and so forth.

Given this history, the Pope was perfectly consistent yesterday when, once again, he rejected the use of condoms to combat AIDS, suggesting they do more harm than good. [source]

The Pope's first concern isn't the suffering, grief, loss, and tragedy that AIDS is visiting on the blighted continent that is Africa. Compassion, love for his fellow man, concern for African children - none of these things have the power to trump his church's antiquated sexual teachings. To quote an anti-AIDS spokesperson, the Pope's position demonstrates "that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans." [source]

Who'd have thought that George W. Bush would, with intelligence and good grace, make the Pope himself look callous and small-minded?