Red states, blue states, black and white

Author: Kerry Temple ’74

What’s to be done about the impact of 21st century immigration patterns on the American landscape? What can the United Nations do about keeping peace and averting disasters in today’s world? Why did a couple of Notre Dame professors seek the truth about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and how did they become international experts on the effect of sanctions in policing the world? What does Notre Dame’s Catholic character mean to those who work, study and teach here—even the University’s Islamic community?

These difficult, complex and provocative issues require careful thought, informed consideration and clear-headed communication. They are sensitive issues, laced with nuance and subtle shadings of gray. They are the kinds of issues a Catholic university should be addressing if it wants to be a force in the world—and the topics appropriate for that University’s magazine to take to its 150,000 readers if it wants them to make a difference in the world.

Some of these subjects, as with others that this magazine engages, have a political edge to them. The issues get even more politicized by those who color the world according to partisan affiliations and agendas. In recent years, it seems to me, this happens more and more frequently and with increasing volume and acrimony. There seems to be a lot of anger out there, and lots of yelling, and folks seeing complicated, shades-of-gray issues in convenient patterns of black and white. Even Catholics have taken to dividing themselves into camps for finger-pointing and name-calling.

This good guy/bad guy, us-versus-them approach distresses me—mainly because it is a roadblock to real communication. It is divisive and paralyzing. It subverts the dialogue that’s so necessary to genuine understanding, that might actually enable us to make some headway against the tides of ignorance and suffering. We don’t think a Domer’s education should end when they leave campus or reach a certain age. Communication and understanding seem fundamental to education and to the ultimate goal of journalism. We try to do both—education and journalism—on our pages.

An appetite for such conversations is one of the most important things I took from my undergraduate days here. This magazine tries to bring our readers into these discussions; it tries to reflect and extend the type of educational mission articulated by Father Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, during his leadership, supported by Father Monk Malloy, CSC, during his presidency, and underscored by Father John Jenkins, CSC, in this issue.

The aim of this discourse is not to get us to choose sides or to divide views and voices into right and wrong. It’s to move us closer to solutions, the truth, each other. And the aim of this magazine is to keep us talking to one another about the things that matter to Notre Dame and its people, whoever and wherever they are.

Kerry Temple is editor of Notre Dame Magazine.