Yet Rep. Paul Gosar, a Republican congressman from Arizona who is also a Catholic, announced he will boycott Pope Francis’ remarks because “media reports indicate His Holiness…intends to focus the brunt of his speech on climate change.”
Plenty of people have commented on Rep. Gosar’s willful ignorance of the scientific consensus regarding the planet’s warming, as well as his abandonment of the critical thinking he purports to have learned at a Jesuit university.
Less covered but no less obvious, however, is the peculiarity of someone essentially reviewing a speech that has yet to be made.
Perhaps this is the least unusual element of Rep. Gosar’s protest. In reality, this kind of pre-emptive critique is symptomatic of the ever-increasing immediacy that characterizes so much of our news and our lives.
We have become so swift at observing, disseminating, judging and moving on to the next incident that we have taken to getting started before the initial event even occurs. We have expedited the process of how we talk about the world around us at the expense of truly knowing what we are talking about.
A relatively superficial example is a guest blogger’s column in the Los Angeles Times shortly after CBS announced Stephen Colbert would replace David Letterman as host of the Late Show. The author claimed the blowhard alter ego Colbert played on The Colbert Report would be a more suitable choice than the real Stephen Colbert.
“See? He’s already softening,” he lamented after quoting Colbert’s heartfelt expression of gratitude to CBS and Letterman.
The problem, of course, was that this analysis was offered well over a year before Colbert would take over. I wonder how the writer felt waiting nearly 18 months to determine if he disliked the show as much as he publicly predicted he would.
I understand a myriad of mundane and bizarre qualities make the modern world go round. One of these is a 24-hour news/information cycle that relies on people talking quite literally all the time, sometimes with incomplete or inaccurate details. The result is that we end up not only discussing topics while the jury is still out; we also render judgments before they return to the courtroom.
There is little reason to believe any of this will change, but I think we would all do well to resist the urge to speak without listening, react without reflecting and proceed without deliberating. As President Barack Obama said in response to a question about his delayed statement on an issue early in his presidency, “It took us a couple of days, because I like to know what I’m talking about before I speak.”
I hope Rep. Gosar reconsiders his decision, if only because so many would love to have the opportunity to see and hear Pope Francis. I hope he attends and is, per the pope’s apparent modus operandi, surprised.
After all, what fun would politics, punditry, the papacy and life in general be if we always knew what was coming next?