When I was but a wee lad, I worked as a waiter for a restaurant chain that, interestingly enough, has been in the news lately - apologizing for doing the right thing. It seems they think they shouldn't have...uh...ducked...
Anyway, the manager of the place was a real tool; very pushy, never satisfied, never wrong, etc. He had earned his manager chops working for a chain of Italian restaurants you probably know, and would talk endlessly of those glory days. And he had this ridiculous and quite irritating habit of using a really terrible Italian accent whenever reciting Italian dishes he thought should be on our menu - even things like "spaghetti." Can you imagine? But I digress.
So when I quit working for this restaurant chain, I failed to return one of my uniforms (in the clothes hamper), including a smock? apron? with my name embroidered on it. I was young and easily distracted; I soon forgot all about it.
Some years ago, I ran across this unintentionally misappropriated uniform in an old attic box...and decided it would be a hoot to wear it as my Halloween costume that year. I know, I'm a geek.
But it was my wife who made the costume choice epic. She suggested we have dinner that night - at that restaurant. Naturally, my inner juvenile delinquent was delighted at the thought!
The funniest thing I remember was the look on people's faces when they'd stop me (on one of my frequent but unnecessary trips to the restroom) and ask me for water and napkins and such, and I'd enthusiastically tell them I didn't actually work there, and was bewildered as to why they would think such a thing. Priceless! One lady stammered in frustration, "But...but...you're in uniform! You must work here! How can you not know that?"
Ahhhhhh...good times. My inner twelve year old got quite the workout, that Halloween...
Funny or not - in the starkest of terms, what made this restaurant uniform joke workable, was the essential hypocrisy inherent in wearing the uniform, in that place, while obviously knowing how I would be perceived - or, more accurately, how I would be mis-perceived - by those it affected.
You see, in wearing the restaurant uniform I was making a public declaration about who and what I was. And it was a declaration completely devoid of substance, for I performed virtually none of the actions which would have given the claim I was making a solid basis in reality. In fact, I had no intention of ever performing such acts.
But it turns out, I didn't even have to act like a waiter - simply declaring it by donning that uniform was all it took for people to believe me one.
I've been thinking about that night recently, though I have not done so, in many years.
It came unbidden to my mind as I read of the GOP's panicky response to the new Pope's unconventional and vociferous stance on economic issues.
Thinking about that night has made me feel that the Pope, for whatever reason, stopped short of fully delivering his message. It's as if he's reaching for the root, but is tangled in the branches. So I decided to dig at the root of it myself.
It's subtle, this root, but nonetheless, it runs right through the heart of this nation, and this globe-spanning culture...it lies buried in ground outside of our collective comfort zone...so it can be easily dismissed, denied, and ultimately ignored.
I have thought deeply upon what follows, for it is unsettling. The implications are immeasurably vast, nakedly apparent, and...well...simply appalling:
Poverty - anywhere - equals Christian hypocrisy - everywhere.