Where is Mr. Smith Now That We Need Him?

capitol

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, directed by Frank Capra in 1939, is about a young Senator who stands up to corruption. At its heart, the film is a Catholic proclamation, focusing on American generosity and justice. As for Mr. Smith, he is an example of how idealistic and enthusiastic young people often chose to protect their country through thick and thin, embracing sacrfice and even death.  

A Battle in Washington

Mr. Smith, played by James Stewart, confronts a hidden plot to legislate in the Senate to build a dam which would destroy the beautiful countryside of Mr. Smith’s state and his dream to establish an educational camp for American schoolboys and schoolgirls. 

The iniquitous plot is carried through Senate by a much older Senator. Originally a sentimental encourager and educator of naïve Mr. Smith, this veteran Senator is now attempting to destroy him for good, using brutal tricks of his important co-plotters. After a falsely accusing  Mr. Smith of criminal acts, a dozen bags of letters fill the Senate’s floor from ordinary citizens from their state violently protesting Mr. Smith’s behavior. 

The film’s final scene is a dramatic, personal, 24 hours filibuster to postpone the appropriations bill and prove his innocence on the Senate floor before the other Senators vote to expel him. Mr. Smith talks non-stop for about 25 hours, reaffirming the American ideals of freedom and exposing the true motives behind the dam scheme.

The filibuster ends dramatically with Mr. Smith’s loss of consciousness — after not sleeping and talking for 24 hours while facing a sea of cunningly invented hate.

All is lost then ?! 

Not at all, Franc Capra assures us. Before passing out, Mr. Smith turns to his apparently wicked expert colleague whom he admired before this scandal, to remind him the personal credo of his father “You have to love your neighbor … Mine is the lost cause, but only the lost causes need to be dealt with.” Now Mr. Smith can peacefully black out.

The corrupt, older colleague was an honest man before becoming Senator and a close friend of Mr. Smith’s father, was shocked by this heroism and confessed his and his friend’s scheme. 

Today’s Senate Impeachment Trial

The reader has already recognized the actual political context behind our interest to Frank Capra’s Senate interpretation: today’s Senate impeachment trial. With seven House managers, named by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., playing the rôle of Mr. Smith and trying to convince (Republican) Senators that President Trump’s mismanagements are really demanding his impeachment. Still, our motives and purposes here are not political, but strictly moral and, in a sense, pure Catholic. 

Before entering (in a Catholic way, we repeat) this current American presidential drama, we need to agree that Frank Capra’s Senate presentation ninety years ago was far from a political reality. Thus, a Democrat and then Senate Majority Leader, Alben W. Barkley, said about the film that it “makes the Senate look like a bunch of crooks.” (Some Democrats and Independents characterize today the current Republican majority in Senate by very similar formules.) 

Trump’s impeachment trial initiative has been invoked by Nancy Pelosi, the most successful, today and historically, American stateswoman and believing Catholic lady of an extremely liberal understanding of the rationals and forms of social and human compassion and solidarity. However, the fight for impeachment of the President Donald Truman is a political drama with no serious Catholic involvement. For example, Catholics have many reasons to sympathise with Trump’s motivations and legal initiatives to defend Life against American abortion legalization and proliferation. Many rebuke “Democrats in the House of Representatives [who] moved too fast in the impeachment process, voting before they could hear from key witnesses.” (New York Times, February 1) 

Still, the Senate’s lack of any rigor in current public disclosure of the President’s questionable actions is more than regrettable: “the Senate abandoning its role as the ultimate guard against a dangerous president” (ibid.) There is no doubt that “Trump’s impeachment defense is designed to destroy guardrails on presidential power.” (Washington Post, January 22) 

In other words, are Presidents of the U.S. on the road to become American Emperors? 

The first three hundred years the Catholic Church witnessed the martyrdom of millions of Christians who preferred to die for their faith rather than submit to the pagan practice of the Emperor-worship. 

A Real Catholic Hero Today

On May 13, 2007, a brave and intelligent young man from Massachusetts, a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Andrew John Bacevich Jr., was killed in a military action in Iraq. His parents have received hundreds of messages of compassion, with their state’s senators, Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, telephoned to express their condolences. Stephen F. Lynch, their congressman, attended their son’s wake. Kerry was present for the funeral Mass. 

Who are the parents and the family of Andrew John? His father is a  retired Army colonel, Andrew J. Bacevich . He fought in Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars and is an American historian, author of dozen books, specializing in international relations, security studies, American foreign policy, and American diplomatic and military history. (Wikipedia). He is a Professor Emeritus of International Relations and History at the Boston University Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies and the co-founder and president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Bacevich and his spouse Nancy have three daughters. 

Two weeks after his son’s death, Andrew Bacevich wrote about his and his spouses grief and the compassion of their friends, connections and strangers. He also mentioned two letters that found him personally culpable, insisting that his public opposition to the war had provided aid and comfort to the enemy. Each said that his son’s death came as a direct result of his antiwar writings.

Among the many ways to answer that [accusation], mine was this one, writes Becevich: As my son was doing his utmost to be a good soldier, I strove to be a good citizen.” As to the high Congressmen and Senators who visited him, Bacevich writes: “But when I suggested to each of them the necessity of ending the war, I got the brushoff (We Who Dared to Say No to War: American Antiwar Writing from 1812 to Now).

In fact, starting from Sept. 11, 2001, Bacevich has analyzed the external, economical, and military policies of the U.S. with its “government, transformed by an imperial presidency, [being] a democracy in form only(The Limits of Power: The end of American Exceptionalism). Bacevich has been “a persistent, vocal critic of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, calling the conflict a catastrophic failure.” In March 2007, two months before the death of his son, he described George W. Bush’s endorsement of such “preventive wars” as “immoral, illicit, and imprudent.” 

Here is the modern Catholic man of “deeply felt religious convictions” whose initial political conservatism was disenchanted because of the Presidents Bush, Obama (The Boston Globe, October 11, 2009), and Trump “fiscal irresponsibility, a buccaneering foreign policy, a disregard for the Constitution, the barest lip service as a response to profound moral controversies.” (The New American Militarism: How Americans are seduced by war, 2005) 

This is our real Catholic hero who somehow surpasses in justice, generosity, and professionalism Capra’s Mr. Smith ! The father of a martyr killed by the President-Emperor’s international gambles, the son of the Church true to his religious calling. 

 To the memory of Frank Capra, the creator of “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” (1939). And with our greatest respect and brotherly compassion to Professor Andrew John Bacevich. 

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27 thoughts on “Where is Mr. Smith Now That We Need Him?”

  1. Pamela, Again I say to you Amen! You are 100 per cent right. I am horrified that this commentary was ever allowed to be posted by Catholic Stand. I was so angry when I first read it and replied that way to the writer. Keep up the fight.

    1. Dr. Edouard Belaga

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      pax
      I’m deeply grateful to the Editor, Mélanie Jean Juneau, for her vigilance and respect of my writing personality.

    2. As a Canadian, I was shocked that American Catholics were so enflamed about current, political issues they would write vitriolic attacks against a fellow member of the Church in France who was simply expressing a different view.

      Fighting an opponet usually backfires, resulting in even deeper divisons. Respectful diaolgue, on the other hand, can be a growing, enightening process for both sides.

      I usually reject poltical articles on CS but felt this piece was more about encouraging Christians to stand up for what they think is right, ignoring if they will be popular or not as a result of their choices.

      The American Bishops are not afaid to critize your president when his actions are contrary to Catholic teaching- no one else should be demonized for expressing concerns.

    3. Dr. Edouard Belaga

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      Thank you, dear Editor. A a matter of fact, my article was devoted to the personality of Professor, Colonel Andrew J. Bacevich whose heroic Catholic public and personal life deserves, in my opinion, our greatest respect. All other facts mentioned there form the decoration of this remarkable, always active person.

      A year ago, you accepted my publication “Divine Roots of American Democracy” consecrated to the first and great American Saint, Bohemian by birth, Mgr John Nepomucene Neumann, Bishop of Philadelphia (1811-1860). This time I tried to honor a living American, by birth and action- a modern “saint”.

    4. Feb. 13, 2020: As I read this I was stunned. I always turned to Catholic Stand for honorable reporting but this is a hit piece on the President. And it seems to praise Nancy Pelosi, one of the most corrupt politicians of all time; and it seems to praise her – the woman who is in cohorts with Planned Parenthood and who publicly and aggressively promotes the mass slaughter of human babies in the womb; the woman who viciously and publicly attacked those Bishops who dared to stand against her promotion of abortion, and the Catholic Church which stands for life. This is not a Catholic Stand!!! Satan has entered the ranks here and we need to pray for a return to honor and integrity in this group of “Catholic Writers”.

    1. The author’s position obviously upset many readers but it wasn’t heretical. Dr. Belaga is a faithful, traditional, conservative Catholic, clearly passionate about America remaining a shining light for others around the world.

      This piece is mainly about anti-moral cowardice, the sacrifice of principle on the altar of political expediency. Politicians from both parties are guilty of this lack of prinicple.

      I find it telling that many of the comments are fuelled by anger, mercilessly attacking the author rather than trying to engage in a dialogue based on mutual respect and Christian charity.

    2. I find it telling that this “Catholic” website deletes a comment referencing Our Lady’s warnings at Fatima.

      And yes, people are angry when the facts in this leftist attack on the duly elected President are so warped that they bear no resemblance to charitable dialogue. I at least gave the author the benefit of the doubt that he was merely ignorant of the facts due to his revealed “news” sources. He, on the other hand, attacked our President to the point of suggesting he, with the aid of Republican senators, was on the road to becoming an “emperor”. He describes Trump as “dangerous” while apparently finding the baby-butchering Democrats defenders against imperialism! What a shameful thing. He besmirched Trump, who has been found innocent of the conjured charges brought against him by abortion loving Democrats, and also besmirched our elected representatives who fought against the treasonous coup plotters. And you find it telling that people react angrily? I find that telling.

      No wonder there are so few commenters. Go ahead and delete this comment, too, Melanie. Hide the truth. Defend the attacks against Republican senators and those of us who reject the lies of the leftist, baby-butcher empowering Nancy Pelosi. The truth will out in the end.

    3. When someone uses a quote from Our Lady to falsely accuse an author of heresy, I will delete it. . . . “Russia will spread its errors…” – Our Lady of Fatima, 1917

      Dr. Belaga is not spreading Russia’s errors, rather he was thrown out of Russia for his faith. He explains:

      My second and crucial impression came from Russian orthodox believers freed from their prisoner camps – they opened for me the way to God’s Bible which I have never seen before. And not less important, thanks to them I have discovered the terrible and glorious Martyrs of the Russian church.

      After a year of prayers and discussions with these anti-Soviet believers, I came alone to a modest Russian church for baptism. I became thus an enemy of the State, too, deprived of an important scientific or public career but always remaining an effective scientist and active Christian. Finally, they threw me out of Russia, arranging it to look like the departure of a Jew to Israel– deprived of my citizenship and forbidden to ever enter my homeland.

      Dr. Belaga’s faith was born amidst persecution and matured under sufferring, yet he does not succumb to self-pity or despair. Few Americans ( or Canadians like myself) have faced such trials for remaining faithful to the Church and to the Virgin Mary.

      I rarely delete a comment, especially not lively discussions with a clash of deeply held views. You are welcome to debate his view of SECULAR, American politics with respect. I do delete slander, especially when it casts questions on an author’s faithfulness to the Church and DIVINE Truth.

    4. I am sincerely happy that the author has such strong faith and survived such persecution. Truly…

      That said, I did not accuse him of heresy. The errors of Russia are many, and not all deal with doctrines of the faith. Emulating Pravda, the state run media by which the communists spread their propaganda, is also an error. This author has obviously fallen for distorted ‘news’ of the leftist propagandists at NYT and WaPo, hook line and sinker, and now he is also presenting it as if it were fact. That has nothing to do with heresy, but with erroneous reporting. The Democrats have used tactics that would make Stalin proud, with their witch hunt against the President. The Mueller ‘investigation’, and everything they’ve done since the day he won the election has been indicative of the communist practice of “Show me the man and I will show you the crime.” In fact, it started before he was elected with the made up Steele Dossier. It is much like the vile accusations Democrats concocted against Justice Brett Kavanaugh. And yet this author puts the Republicans as the corrupt party and seems to support the leftists under Nancy Pelosi. He calls President Trump’s actions with Ukraine “mismanagements”, when it is not only appropriate to investigate wrongdoing by American citizens, but should be mandatory when that wrongdoing is undertaken by high ranking servants of the people, like the Vice President of the United States, for their own or their family’s financial gain, and when that person uses his power to influence other governments in order to protect his corrupt son by doing things like having prosecutors fired. How very Stalin-esk of him! There is far more evidence to warrant an investigation of the Bidens than there ever was for anything President Trump has done. Which is why the Democrats are simply making up ‘impeachable offenses’. That’s straight out of the Soviet playbook. Russia’s errors…

      I could go on, but I think that should make my point. Whether by intent or not, Dr. Belaga comes across as on the side of the Leftists in American politics and they, as the party embracing Socialism/Communism in control of the House of Representatives, are the surest sign of Our Lady’s warning coming to pass.

      And I would argue that the Republican Senators were far from guilty of moral cowardice by standing up against the evil lies of the Democrats. Dr. Belaga’s viewpoint in this post is simply wrong. Which does not make him a heretic, to be clear, though in this post he is taking the side of someone who is one. I pray he will look more clearly at the deception and corruption President Trump is up against.

      Pax

  2. Doctor you haven’t fooled anyone. You are a liberal hack trying desperately to push forward your political leanings. The majority of Americans have figured your type out. Enjoy President Trump for four more years.

    1. Dr. Edouard Belaga

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      Dear Mr. Paul Burke, thank you for your flattering definition. I’m not politically interested, and ready to assume Pr. Trump for another four years – at least he is afraid of new military adventures, although got out of Syria shamefully, and even tried to get out of Afghanistan, but his home nurse Mitch McConnell was against.

    2. Nailed it.
      Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s
      clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

  3. Actually, it is President Trump in the role of Mr. Smith, Pelosi and the house impeachment managers are the entrenched corrupt politicians. How you miss the democrat corruption is beyond me.

    1. Dr. Edouard Belaga

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      pax
      Look just on the number of his administrators he has thrown out with his particular disrespect, dear David.

    2. Florence Sundberg

      Feb. 13th. I too cannot understand how they have utterly ignored the corruption of the Democratic party as a whole. The Chairman of the Dem. party has publicly declared that no pro life person will be permitted to be a member of their party’s leadership. Some Democrats actually lied in order to get Trump impeached…Donald Trump is not a perfect man; he is not as cool and polished as Obama was. But let us remember that Obama was the only Senator that voted against the ‘born alive infant act’…which declared that if a baby survived an abortion he/she would be given comfort care and not thrown into a dark room to die alone…Obama voted twice against this proposal. Pres. Trump is growing into his mission as leader of this country. He still blunders and acts and speaks as less than presidential at time but the good he has done far outweighs his blunders. He has made bad choices in the past but so have others…even in the beloved Kennedy family. Pres. Trump is our elected President and we need to pray for him and support him. There is proof that the Democrats tried to illicitly take down the President even before he was elected…let us not ignore that. I loathed Donald Trump before he was elected…but then I witnessed something: it seemed at one point as if grace enveloped him and filled him with a new understanding of himself and others. We will pray for him and try to be the best we ourselves can be…are called to be. We are all in this together. Evil begets evil…goodness begets goodness. There is so much at stake here! I worked with M. Teresa in Calcutta and she often said that if we would slaughter the innocent baby in the womb of the mother what would we not do? I try to raise awareness of Human Trafficking because this evil flows from the fact that we have lost the sense of the sacredness of every human person created from God…we have, perhaps, lost the sense of the sacred altogether. Pres. Trump is standing strong against trafficking and is standing strong for life. He is imperfect – as are we all. Let us pray for each other that each of us may give ourselves unconditionally to our own mission, whatever that may be. And let us stand strong and united in Christ for the works of mercy we witness around us and the goodness we see around us, the heroism, the self-sacrificial love and mercy that we witness in others and let us bear witness to Christ’s love through our actions and our words. Above all…let us give ourselves to fervent prayer in union with Christ and His Church that we may recognize what is from God…and what is not. Amen

  4. “Why asketh thou me concerning good? One is good, God.” — Mathew 19:17
    Not the Republicans, and not the Democrats. The failure to believe that point explains much in today’s society.

    1. Dr. Edouard Belaga

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      This is the second point, Mr. Howard. The first one is to love your neighbors, your citizens, and to fight wars and initiate other abusive to them projects only when we are facing real dangers, not political calculations.
      Thank you, Mr. Howard !

    2. Dr. Edouard Belaga

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      I’m replying to Mrs Florence Sundberg (FEBRUARY 13, AD2020 AT 9:38 AM) and to Florence (FEBRUARY 13, AD2020 AT 9:23 AM), probably the same person.
      I’m grateful to you for your heart-touching testimonies. Myself, I’m fighting in France for protection of kids and against abortion. I have founded the Fraternity of Companions of Saint Joseph, the true Jewish believer, who accepted the “unlawful” pregnancy of Mary and the Child of the Holy Spirit, who protected them both all his life, till the coming of Christ. Protection of kids in France is a difficult problem: because of divorces and “easy” marriages, there are many millions of Ladies with kids without father, many of these Ladies are poor, sometimes asocial.
      However, accepting the role of the Republican branch today in protecting the Ladies from abortion, I’m sincerely worried by somehow grotesque, operetnaya role of the American external policies under President Trump. The Catholic hero of my piece is a military and scientific man who fights since the time of Bush and today for a decent place of the U.S. as a world (good world !) leader.

  5. Dr. Edouard Belaga

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    Dear Ms Pauline, I’m not an American Democrat, just a foreigner who loves your country. As to this episode in the Congress, see how “my illustrious stateswomen” tried to shake hands in the beginning to be ignored.

  6. What do you think of your illustrious stateswoman now after her petulant scene at The state of the union? No dignity! So biased. She should resign. She is a disgrace to her position. If she were truly following her Catholic faith, she would be a unifier.

  7. I am afraid you don’t fully realize the depth of the radicalization of much of the populace and the influence of the media and illegal voters. I have no doubt at all that Bernie Sanders could and very well is likely to beat Trump, should he be the nominee. You must realize the limits of Mr. Trumps public persona, and the exceeding vitriol and lies from the left in conjunction with gigantically ignorant young people relative to socialism. You must appreciate that the academy (the educational system) is, for all practical purposes lost, and has been so for a good 30 years. Yes, there are exceptions, but few in number and influence. Sanders is a radical nut-job and completely electable, absolutely, and is more empowered by a bitter left. The Democrats cannot contain their own worst radicals as evidenced by the recent fraud of impeachment, that party is lost to the extreme left to such an extent that a practicing homosexual who is married, and in the Episcopalian church is a front-runner. Look at the state of Virginia, look at the support for child murder after birth, all very very radical in the extreme. The Christian ethos is deeply damaged to the point of nearly total loss and on-going persecution. All of this is due to deep and abiding moral turpitude. The nation, and indeed Western Civilization is nearing a deep and fundamental crisis of survival. Pray, because the next steps are chaos and worse, regardless of the election. So pray, fast.

    1. Dr. Edouard Belaga

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      Dear Mr Zorro, I’m very moved by your intelligent and emotional appeal. I totally agree with you that we need to pray: the amplitudes of President-Emperors arbitrariness and incompetence becoming really dangerous for the future of the U.S. I prayed a lot before and during my composition “Mr. Smith.”
      I do agree with you also that Bernie Sanders might turn out to be as a dangerous President as Bush or Trump, too – the problem is not the Democrat-Republican difference.
      However, the theme of my intervention is more general and important: American people need the reflection on the ultimate purposes of its activities, and what has left to us Bush with his ambitious, incompetent military adventures in the Middle East needs a legal intervention: the useless loss of so many lives, material means, money is a crime.

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