Father Damien Gets Shade Thrown at Him by AOC
Father Damien Gets Shade Thrown at Him by AOC
You don’t have to be Catholic to deeply admire Father Damien of Molokai, Hawaii. Born in Belgium as Jozef de Veuster, he came to Hawaii in 1864, and eventually settled amongst the lepers of the Kalaupapa colony on Molokai. The priest not only ministered to the population, but also bettered the dreadful living conditions of the residents. But in 1884, the inevitable happened: he contracted leprosy himself, and died in 1889. He was only 49.
In 2009, then-governor Linda Lingle proclaimed October as “Saint Damien Day,” declaring,
“In Hawai‘i, Damien remains a spiritual hero and an icon of love, compassion, courage, humility and humanitarian service.”
The National Park Service also honors Father Damien at the Kalaupapa National Historical Park. Plus, there’s a statue of the priest in the US Capitol building which depicts the cleric during his final days. Sores cover his face, his arm is in a sling, and his right hand holds a cane.
Even the people of Molokai still revere his memory.
Certainly Father Damien lived by the words of Jesus: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. But that’s not good enough for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. No, she doesn’t like his statue standing in Capitol Hall. To her it smacks too much of “colonizers” and a “white supremacist culture.”
Fortunately John Gage, a writer and Hillside College alum, called her out on it.
. @AOC calls the statue in the US capitol building of Father Damien, a canonized saint in the Catholic Church, a part of “white supremacist culture.”
Father Damien died of leprosy after spending his life serving others who had the disease. pic.twitter.com/NVnfCN7EVK
— John Gage (@johnrobertgage) July 31, 2020
Whereupon Ocasio-Cortez huffed:
“Read the text of the video you posted: it’s not about litigating an indiv person or statue, but examining that the TOTALITY of all 100+ statues are almost all white & male,incl to rep largely nonwhite places”
She kept digging:
“Frankly this isn’t even a hard point to understand, especially for a journalist. It’s also clear you understood this point well enough to identify the relevant context in the video and deliberately erase it in an effort to stir up controversy.”
Frankly, I think if a Congresswoman walks around Capitol Hill with the purpose of screeching about too many white man statues, she’s the one stirring up controversy. Self-awareness isn’t her strong suit, is it.
Perhaps AOC should, as her fellow Millennials like to tell us with a bit more age and a lot more wisdom: Educate yourself!
First of all, Hawaii wasn’t a Belgian colony. Secondly, Father Damien wasn’t representing Belgium, either. He represented the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. And, above all, he came to Hawaii to serve.
According to the US Capitol’s website’s comments on Father Damien:
“He constructed a home for boys and later a home for girls. He bandaged wounds, made coffins, dug graves, heard confessions, and said Mass every morning. In December 1884, Father Damien noticed severe blisters on his feet without the presence of pain. As he suspected, the disease was leprosy.”
Not only that, but in 1881, Queen Liliuokalani wrote the following letter to Father Damien, honoring him with a national award:
“I desire to express to you my admiration of the heroic and distinguished service you are rendering to the most unhappy of my subjects. . . .”
“I know well that your labors and sacrifices have no other motive than the desire to do good to those in distress; and that you look for no reward but from the great God, our sovereign Lord, who directs and inspires you. Nevertheless to satisfy my own earnest desire, I beg of you, Reverend Father, to accept the decoration of the Royal Order of Kalakaua, as a testimony of my sincere admiration for the efforts you are making to relieve the distress and lessen the sufferings of these afflicted people, as I myself had an occasion to see on my recent visit to the settlement.”
It’s interesting that Ocasio-Cortez whined that the Queen’s statue wasn’t present on Capitol Hill.
Finally, perhaps Ocasio-Cortez might also learn about the woman — yes woman! — who created the sculpture.
So let’s review: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez throws shade at a sculpture of a man who lived and died among lepers. The non-white queen of the nation he served honored him. And a statue which commemorates him was created by a Hispanic woman who employed native art forms.
Looks like the freshman Congresswoman from New York picked the wrong statue and the wrong priest to castigate. But now the nation knows more about a man who was both heroic and compassionate. Thanks, AOC!