Q & A w/ Dean Brackley, S.J.


Upstate New York. Here since 1990, I teach Theology, Moral Theology,
Systematic Theology. My menu: Where we are, what happened here, why.
Ellacuría and Company, forged this Technicolor Drama.
This university is a bastion of Liberation Theology.
200 theology majors—from Central America and Mexico.
Work on many rations. Dimensions Lou Dobbs and CNN
have no clue about. We're glad you came.

The more time you spend here, the more you don't know.
I sometimes feel like we're the new Puerto Rico.
We're economically polarized in an extreme way.
Generational polarization, too.
Part of an international diaspora. Salvadorans all over the world.
On islands off of Alaska.
How many poor people by U.S. standards?
The outgoing government said 34%.
The U.N. says, abusing statistics, 40%.
Criteria is two dollars a day.
I think 2/3 or more. My boss says 80%.
Twenty percent of working population has steady work.
Poor families have more children.
Half of them are extremely poor.
Young children—four to eleven months—60% anemic.
Thirty percent of children under five are undernourished.
This is stale data. Two years ago,
at the beginning of the price crisis,
grains and fuel pushed 10s of 1000s into poverty.
Investments, exports, imports, down.
Tax revenues, down. Social spending, abysmal.
I'm going to preach on the Beatitudes—Saturday, 5 pm.

Middle class? Some go to Pizza Hut.
Our professors in their clunky cars...
Eight new groups out of the old oligarchy—
finance, money laundering, tourism, commerce...
We have others, even weirder.

Drugs now, don't pass through the Caribbean,
they pass through Central America.
All this keeps people on edge, especially in the barrios.
The is the globalization of South Bronx.
The new economy installed itself.
No longer exploited, simply excluded.
Migration and gangs, options for the young,
got out of hand.

March 13, election night here, fantasy. Funes.
Twenty years...twenty years. Not 450 years.
First time oligarchy no longer controlled the state.
Mauricio Funes. This makes it permanent change.
A moment of no return.
Once people wake up it's very hard to put them to sleep again.
ARENA is crumbling. It's a honeymoon with FMLN.
But permanent change is happening. What will the Right do?
The FMLN is capable of political suicide.

We're extremely politicized, Patty.
Two Lutheran pastors killed. ID'd with FMLN.
FMLN emasculated center left Christian politicians.
Median population—50% are 23 years of age—or younger.
First generation raised on TV.
Girls aren't destined to do what their mothers did.
Girls believe they deserve education.
They all know about Hannah Montana.
Ninety-five per cent of population say
they have no doubt about God.
El Salvadorans can't get through a paragraph
without saying God.
Hillary was here for the Inauguration in a red dress.
Weeping, weeping, weeping.
If 95% of the people believe in God, Why?
The question is why we're indigenous here.
If it isn't good news for the poor, it isn't Gospel.
Los Martires, the minority, yes—
but they've had a majority impact.
Seventy-eight percent of Salvadorans say
Church should have the Option for the Poor.
Romero is a grant.
He's not invented by the Left.
As much as we can, feed the Gospel.
Romero emerges from a context....
He does not drop out of Heaven.
Two friends of mine—Ph.D.s—both removed.
Catholic Church now 55% of population.
Churches kept a barbaric silence during the war—
to undermine prophetic voices.
Now we have Pentacostal ministers reading Liberation Theology.
On immigration—we're down from 740 El Salvadorans
leaving every day. We estimate 400—500 a day.
Whatever happens, the majority of Salvadorans
will be living in the U.S. in 25 years.
We need a Marshall Plan. The U.S. owes us that.
You can tell that to Lou Dobbs.
It's not a pull. What is that big sucking sound?
They want to say, It's a push.
There ought to be a right to migrate—but there's not.
The end has to be sustainable development.
The [new] government has inherited an empty shell.
We have another war here.
All of this is going to happen, but you can't see any of it.

Solutions will come from the bottom up.
Churches are without peer...globalize solidarity.
Globalizing solidarity—you come here,
others come here—get their hearts broken,
and go back ruined for life.
Sheboygan through a ruined lens.
Like St. Ignatius said,
When you experience real joy,
God is the only solution.

Jim Bodeen
from the notebook
with the Habitat for Humanity Team from Yakima, Washington
29 October 2009—re-checked for accuracy, 5 June 2010


If one turns aside from Him
to go towards the truth,
one will not go far before
falling into His arms.
   —Simone Weil, Spiritual Autobiography

The house that holds the people is a story.
Talking into the night a man forgets
himself for truth larger than the war from any side.
"I came here for the first time in 1980.
I had read about a meeting of bishops in Puebla.
They had met earlier in Medellín,—"
He's been telling the story for years,
following power and God and the poor.
People called him in his hotel room.
We know you're there.
His room, never on the street.
His bed against an inside wall.
Still, he felt safer during the war.

He speaks from his dreams,
from a jeep driving to San Vicente.
Some say he is more Salvadoran than Salvadorans.
He is not random, but after years of listening,
he's learned the damage of lies,
and lists them among bullets and earthquakes.
Simone Weil walks with him whereever he walks.
"One can never wrestle enough with God
if one does so out of pure regard for the truth.
Christ likes us to prefer truth to Him,
because before being Christ, He is truth."

Two small notebooks in his shirt pocket
record the week's observations.
He has found the lie but remains uncertain
of the truth that will replace it.
During the Romero march to remember,
he walks out of darkness to find his friend.
They talk briefly. He turns back to the street.
The story was here for so many years.
Everything from that volcano
remains in his shirt pocket.

      —for Gene Palumbo

Jim Bodeen
28 March 2006


Those women
on those painted crosses


with their arms

their bodies
becoming crosses.

Jim Bodeen
June 6, 2005


Walking into voices surrounding me in trees.
Each one a solo belonging in a choir.
Each one talking it out in song,
singing the same song on her own,
seemingly oblivious of all song,
of all sound but her own.

Las chicharras, solamente durante Semana Santa.
Nacen y mueran cantando, solamente las hembras—
Mujeres—chicharra la hembra—cantante.

Chiquirrín, el barón. ¿Qué hace?

Cicadas singing throughout the barrio.
Taking out language—or bringing it?

Nace bajo en sembra y muere como gusanita.

Only the female is born singing and dying in song.

Jim Bodeen
March 2006—June 2010


Everybody is walking to Heaven.
Monsigñor touched your heart.
Go and help him,
and he will help you.

We are all walking to Heaven.

Nice to meet you.
And we are going to Heaven.
We must start every morning.
It is necessary.

Jim Bodeen
March 20, 2006


This is my good friend Mary. She was here five years.
I've been here since 1990. You've been to Jardín Botánica?
That must be the way the country was—a paradise.
The new archbishop—very conservative—inflexible.
He's struggling with Romero.
Like the country itself, the Catholic Church is polarized.
So is the Baptist Church.
What do you do with the poor?
The poor are the crucified vicars of Christ
who set the agenda for the Church.
Now the war is...Gene Palumbo?
I subscribe to anything Gene Palumbo says.
He's in touch with reality. I'm in the university.
I spent the 80's in South Bronx.
Globalization of the South Bronx,
that's what's happening here.
I'm feeling more and more at home in San Salvador.
We've had crack for about nine years.
We have drugs and gangs and organized crime,
and maybe the Extreme Right's behind it.
If we can destroy people through drugs
they won't be protestors. What you saw
of my colonia driving by—that all filled with water
last year. There's no land to absorb the water
because they build these spectacular shopping centers.
Diez y Ocho—pandillas—cut their teeth
on Bloods and Crips. Hard line approach:
a crime belongs to a gang. You can be arrested
for having your head shaved and a tattoo.
It's unconstitutional, but...they have guns and grenades.
They show you their guns. They want to control their turf.
They change so quickly we can't keep up.
Local gangs have been subordinated by gang members
coming in.They'll come in and take over a house.
Climate of fear. This is not Cancun. Let's face it.
What are we doing here?
Main agenda in El Salvador: Come, fall in love,
get your hearts broken, and go back ruined for life.

And we're from the fix-it culture.
We're not going to fix this.
Sometimes fixing things is the distraction.
What happens inside us has the most lasting effect.

See the Bush Administration with new eyes.
Put your pilgrimage in context.
You're about the 18th group I've talked with this month.
And only a part of the people see me.
El Salvador has no purely local solutions.
Traditional politics isn't going to solve anything.
We're in a new time.
If we tried to have a voice—we'd be the Axis of Evil.
Saddam has saved Chávez in Venezuela.
Chávez is sitting on a sea of oil.
Bottom up, top down. Micro initiative
up against macro power. That's where you come in.
Alone, this country cannot pull itself up by the bootstraps.
Globalize the practice of love. Globalize solidarity.
That's the key mission.
We're discovering vocation—and good news—
no bishop can stop us.
Your part is humble—but you're part
of a growing movement. G-7 countries are aware
of your numbers. This is a sign of hope.
Fight the politics of intimidation and politics of fear.
What does Salvadoran reality tell you about the U.S.?
The median age is 19. Women wear jeans.
They say, Anywhere but here.
I do not want to spend my life in front of a comal.
They know more about Britney Spears than Romero.
On a slow day 700 people leave here for the North.
The U.S. deports about 100 people a day.
Within a generation and a half, a majority
of Salvadorans will be in the U.S.—
locked in unholy and uneven matrimony
in which divorce is not possible.

The news from Puerto Rico is in.
The most generous diaspora in the world
sends enough dollars to make up 1/6 of the economy.
Before they went to the guerillas.
Now they go to Houston.
Your question is my question.
Have you seen the U.S. Embassy? It's huge.
They now have tourism police.
Nationalize the government.
The government has been privatized.
The government will give you a cop to ride in your bus.
The government gives big tax breaks to its usual buddies.
What poor people don't want is trouble.
Mothers and servants vote for ARENA.
Voting for FMLN is dangerous because
it will bring the government's guns.
The Church doesn't want social problems.
They want to save souls.

Sacraments are important. Get them baptized.
You have been listening to the Minority Report.
Politics is crucial. You've got to denounce the crooks.
Cardinal Mahoney said last week,
If they pass this bill on immigration
I'm instructing my priests to commit civil disobedience.
You're important because the people believe they count
when you listen to their stories.
They think enough of us to come visit...

Jim Bodeen
March 26, 2006—Revisited for accuracy Memorial Day Weekend, 2010

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