Maybe I should have waited for the Year of Mercy to have arranged for a suite of Gregorian Masses to be said for a pedophile priest. He had the good fortune to die in a Catholic nursing home after receiving the last rites. He probably received the Apostolic Pardon as well. If so, that Pardon may have removed his need for Gregorian Masses but I didn’t want to take a chance. I wanted to make sure he entered Heaven as soon as possible. Not exactly the kind of fellow one would expect to show up there so quickly.

You see, I did not have the Masses said for his sake necessarily although I thought that would be a nice thing to do. I didn’t even know the man. I simply read about his alleged history of abuse of children in the secular press and it sounded horrendous.

When the scandals broke a few decades ago, I had read about a number of priests so accused but none quite as bad as this one, if indeed he was rightly accused. And it certainly seemed he had done everything said about him.

My personal experience with priests, and it was considerable over many years, had never involved anything like this personally or by hearsay. I had worked with priests of various orders and been educated by them as well and had never encountered anything like what this man had been accused of doing. But that was in the Fifties and Sixties and not many, if any, cases of abuse were made as public as his.

The worst I recall from that time was the occasional priest who had a problem with alcohol. And there was a monk, I heard tell, who had been sent away from an abbey in the Midwest to live for a year in North Dakota after getting too friendly with a lady in town. He came back, I was told, chastened, and remained a good monk from then on. But abusing children was not a public symptom in those days. It may indeed have happened, of course, and was simply hushed up, brushed under some rug.

Truth be told, however, I had those Gregorian Masses said for the alleged pedophile priest because I thought it would be interesting to have someone like him enter heaven a month or so after his death and meet all those saints, many of whom had been saints from the get-go. But then, as much as it makes me pause to say it, he would have been a saint, too, the day he entered Heaven. Not a stain on his soul. But just as there are degrees of sin, there must be degrees of sanctity as well.

I figured that when my pedophile priest entered Heaven, after introductions and whatever else might be involved, he would be given a seat in the last row of the bleachers. He might even be given a set of binoculars to watch the Beatific Vision. I hoped he’d save the seat next to him for me whenever I might arrive while still hoping that I do. And, of course, I’d want him to lend me those binoculars every once in awhile if I wasn’t issued a pair of my own.

Now I’m not saying that I am or was in the same league as this man was said to be when it comes to sin. His predilections were not mine. Still, I figured I’d rather sit next to him and simply thank God for giving me the grace to come back to the Church after a very long hiatus.

Who knows where I might have ended up without that grace of repentance and return that God granted me long before this Year of Mercy?

Not too much is said these days about Gregorian Masses, but they were spoken about often and with reverence before Vatican II. It wasn’t unusual for a family in mourning to arrange for them to be performed.

I know I would prefer Gregorian Masses in lieu of flowers even if I receive an Apostolic Pardon before I die. A sinner in the checkout lane can’t be too careful even if he is the beneficiary of the last rites.

It’s not so easy to arrange Gregorian Masses today as it was in the past. There was no shortage of priests back in the Forties and Fifties so it wasn’t difficult to do arrange them following the death of a loved one.

The requirement was, and still is, that a Mass a day be said for the deceased for thirty consecutive days. Different priests can say the Masses as long as they are said thirty days in a row. After the last Mass, the soul is said to leave Purgatory and enter Heaven. The whole concept, of course, creates problems for other Christians who do not believe Purgatory exists, never mind the effect of Gregorian Masses.

Pope St. Gregory the Great was the first to make this pious practice, as it is called, well known in the Catholic Church. How he came to believe in the practice is an interesting story.

An order of Franciscans who offer Gregorian Masses today points out on its website that St. Gregory related “in his Dialogues how, when he had finished the series of 30 Masses for a departed monk, the monk appeared to tell he had thus gained entry into glory on completion of the Gregorian Masses.”

Eventually, the Sacred Roman Congregation on Indulgences declared Gregorian Masses to be a “pious and reasonable belief of the faithful.”

To the best of my knowledge, neither the Protestant Reformation nor Vatican II brought any changes in this “pious and reasonable belief.”

I imagine priests in religious orders are more likely to say Gregorian Masses than a diocesan priest who has other duties as well. I turned to this order of Franciscans I mentioned earlier to have the Masses said for the priest. I also had the Masses said in installments as necessary for my parents and in-laws and a few others, none of them renowned as saints while on earth but none with the reputation of the priest I mention in this article, either.

More information can be found about Gregorian Masses at

Personally, I wouldn’t let a loved one die without making arrangements for Gregorian Masses. And I would do the same for any sinner, whether a public sinner like the priest I mention here or a private one like you and me.

By the way, if one is alone in this world he or she can make arrangements in advance to have Gregorian Masses said for oneself. But if you are alone in this world, and you choose to make those arrangements, you might want to make calling the provider of the Masses an integral part of your advanced planning with your undertaker.

You can always include that requirement in your will but it might take awhile for the estate to be settled. And Purgatory, the last I heard, isn’t getting any cooler. Gregorian Masses are a nice thing to have offered for a soul in this Year of Mercy.



Retired now, DONAL MAHONEY worked many years as an editor in the Catholic and secular press. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri.




BRIEF DEBATES: Batman vs. Superman or Superman vs. Batman

REVOLUTION JOHN: We should stage a debate among two great friends on the Batman vs. Superman situation, or, as I prefer to call it, the Superman vs. Batman situation.

JERENY TACKETT: I’ll lay it out this way. Sure, anyone can beat Superman with Kryptonite, including you or I. Now, acquire some Kryptonite. Go on, I’ll wait. It’s pretty much a thing in the comics that Kryptonite as you might expect is exceedingly rare. The only bits of it on Earth are traded among villainous characters for exorbitant amounts of money. Bruce Wayne could afford this but since he is not typically privy to such villainous underground networks (the bad guys gotta have their resources too) nor would he do business with them if he did, it’s left to him to create a synthetic form of Kryptonite. Something he is suited to as he is a chemical engineering genius. Now that you have the Kryptonite, gear up in some armor so that you can get close enough to Supes to use it. Go on, I’ll wait. Yeah, Bruce is also a mechanical and electrical engineer so he can invent stuff like heavily reinforced battle suits. Heavy enough to withstand a punch from Superman. Now that you have your have your armor and your Kryptonite, you have a Superman who is basically a mortal man, but a mortal man trained in fighting skills (in the comics he was trained in some martial arts by Batman. Ha!) but he also knows some basic Kryptonian combat systems as his father’s left behind training holograms have taught him. So, go fight him. Again, Batman is uniquely suited to this as he is competent in 127 forms of martial arts and is actually a trained assassin although he does not use his skills to kill. Add to all of that the fact that he’s a genius and the world’s greatest detective and you’ve got a dude that the comics have shown is pretty much capable of beating anyone. I mean, in the Justice League storyline Rock of Ages he defeated one of the Gods of Apokalips. Yeah, he beat a god. He also beat Hulk in a rare Marvel crossover. Of course he has to use gadgets and strategy to accomplish these things; he is human. In fact he’s the only human capable of hanging with a group (Justice League) made up of aliens with superpowers or mutated/enhanced humans. Most of the other characters have a particular weakness or weaknesses which can be exploited. Batman’s only weakness and one that proves time and again to not be a weakness at all but perhaps an asset is his humanity.

RJ: Well put. However, it begins and ends with the fact that Batman can die and Superman can’t. Superman did have his power drained and appeared to die after battling Doomsday but some time spent in the regeneration matrix in the Fortress of Solitude fixed that nicely and resulted in his inevitable return to full power. Batman is the superhero of Man, but Superman is the Superhero.

JT: Actually Batman has died a couple of times and returned as well. Remember it’s a comic book universe where anything can happen.

Plus, Superman only has super powers because of our sun. On Krypton he had no super powers, so his powers are circumstantial and based on where he’s fighting. Where he’s fighting (most of the time anyway) is on Earth, the abode of Man, and thus being a homeless guest on our planet is second to the hero of Man by default but that’s neither here nor there. Who’s to say what effect Krypton’s red sun would have had on someone like…Batman. On Kal-El’s planet the roles might have been switched. Somehow I don’t see him being quite as resourceful as Bruce Wayne in dealing with an alien who acquired super powers through the rays of his home planet’s sun. We’ll never know though.

RJ: Fair points all, though you rightly mention it’s neither here nor there. I would point out (in honor of what I have now named in my head The Great Friend Superhero Debate) that your admittance to Batman’s immortality (which I intended to leave silent in the background as an accommodating gesture) does work powerfully against many of your earlier points on Batman’s general, I don’t know, regular billionaire flesh and blood guy status. If both he and Superman are immortal, then there is no Vs. situation to consider. There can be no actual end to a battle. It’s possible that’s where the conversation would remain. I’m not sure, honestly. I suppose, as with a boxing match that works out to full rounds, there could be judges who could consider punches thrown/ punches landed. On related notes, I think it’s great that an indestructible dude took karate lessons from a guy who can get the same skinned knee as I can. That’s actually pretty cool. And a little insane, yep. So I would definitely have difficulty with making a case for Superman’s sanity. I mean he already has split-personality disorder, not to mention massive daddy issues. Resourcefulness is a round the Bat would certainly take, but Superman, packing admittedly a huge mental deficiency, would take most of the rest, celebrating by lapping the planet a few million times before the judges had left their seats. Batman is the poster child of, as you said, humanity; Superman is literally a god. Resourcefulness and ingenuity can only hold off an act of god (so to speak) for a certain amount of time. But then I stray. The instinct is to side with humanity against any god. And that instinct works out fine as long as the gods allow it. With Superman as a victor, humankind loses. But the hurricane doesn’t hear this; it simply rolls on, eating up our best intended defenses along the way.

JT: In the end, they’re both immortal as long as the comic book writers want them to be. The resurrection of both of these characters was pretty contrived in all cases and existed solely because some comic book writer decided that he wanted to write another story about them. Neither will ever be killed permanently as, again, they’re fictional creations who are brought back time and again due to their immortality in the eyes of fans. However, if we want to go by a real world sort of thing, neither of them are actually immortal in the literal sense of the word. Superman has many powers but that isn’t one of them. He can be killed permanently, as can Batman. Now, taking purely to history Batman has beaten Superman in the seminal work, The Dark Knight Returns. However, he had previously taken measures to stop himself before any terminal end was brought to the battle, not to mention the whole Batman doesn’t kill thing. So he wouldn’t have killed him anyway, but…he could have, at least in that story. Whoever writes the story though will pick their favorite and he’ll come out on top. In my stories Batman will always come out on top because Superman isn’t literally a god. He’s just another being in the universe who had the good fortune of ending up on a planet that made him powerful. Batman is smarter than Superman, I don’t think that’s a point that can be argued, and in my book the brain will always find a way to beat brawn. However, the battle between the two will always end the same way…when they realize they’re actually on the same side and they decide to stop fighting each other and face the bigger threat. I haven’t seen the movie yet (and whatever happens in the movie will not be canon for me as the comics always trump the movies), but I already know that’s how the battle will end. It is the dawn of the justice league after all.

RJ: Good debate. Fun.



JERENY TACKETT is a father, husband, poet, pagan, nature lover, ghost hunter, scribe, cryptozoologist, noisemaker, codebreaker, and liberal. Sometimes NSFW. Find him on Twitter @JerenyTackett.


SHELDON LEE COMPTON is the founding editor of Revolution John. He is the author of three books. Visit





Just as Protestants are told to rescue Catholics so they can be saved, Catholics are told to evangelize Protestants to bring them into the fold. Catholics are also told to do their best to bring lapsed Catholics home.

Lapsed Catholics aren’t too difficult to approach if a practicing Catholic wants to do that. Lapsed Catholics know what you’re talking about so you hope that if you can plant a seed, Jesus Christ will one day flood them with grace and bring them back to the Sacrament of Penance before they die. ASAP is preferable but a death bed reconciliation with Jesus also works.

Evangelizing folks who are not Catholic, however, is another matter, especially if they happen to be Protestant. But Protestants, depending on their denomination, at least have some common ground with Catholics. It’s not as difficult as it would be starting from scratch with a Buddhist over a cup of tea.

A Protestant believes what a Catholic believes about the Trinity, three Persons in One God; Jesus as Savior and Lord as a result of His crucifixion and resurrection; and the Holy Spirit indwelling in the soul of the believer as well as in the Church. Protestants and Catholics believe many other things in common as well but they also have a passel of disagreements. Most Protestants, except perhaps for some Anglicans, do not share what Catholics believe about the Blessed Virgin Mary and that can be a problem in trying to evangelize them.

I have always enjoyed listening to Protestant preachers on television if only to learn what they tell their congregants. It gives me some idea what I might want to talk about–and not talk about–should I ever fall into conversation with a Protestant about Catholicism. Certainly enough Protestants have evangelized me and I appreciate their sincerity. I have long thought Catholics could use more than a little of their energy and devotion to bringing others to Christ.

I have found over the years that Protestant preachers run the gamut from the outspokenly anti-Catholic to those who seldom make any reference to Catholicism. At either end of the spectrum, however, Mary is not a factor for Protestants except occasionally among a few anti-Catholic preachers who like to take a swing now and then. There is one preacher out there, now long of tooth and beloved by his followers, who always seems to get a jab in about “Marian idolatry.” I understand that he is only doing his job. The problem is that he and his associate pastors are basically wrong about many of their contentions involving Catholicism. I could give them some good stuff Catholics moan about but they probably wouldn’t listen. But this particular preacher still thinks Catholics worship not only Mary but statues. Completely wrong.

As a result of listening to Protestant preachers I’ve learned that talking about Mary is not a good marketing tool unless a Protestant brings her up. Personally, I wouldn’t mention Mary at all until a Protestant has become serious about Catholicism but is still bothered by Catholics’ veneration of the Blessed Mother. Then I’d begin with the difference between veneration and adoration if that needed to be explained.

From listening to Protestant preachers, I learned that if I talk about Jesus and the Holy Spirit the conversation might last for awhile. If I do it right, the Protestant may begin to think differently about Catholicism. I might even mention God the Father now and then although I don’t hear God the Father mentioned often during Protestant services on TV. But then I seldom hear about God the Father in Roman Catholic homilies as well. And except on Pentecost I don’t hear the Holy Spirit mentioned often, either. And for me, therein lies the rub, so to speak.

Not all Protestants may understand that Catholics agree that when Christ ascended into heaven He sent the Holy Spirit to protect the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. The Church was bruised before, during and after the Protestant Reformation due to faults in the Catholic Church and due to various personal interests of Martin Luther not conducive to his life as an Augustinian monk.

I’m not concerned about who bears the greater fault, if any, with the dismantling of the Church during the Reformation. Nothing essential was stripped away from the Catholic Church at that time and over the centuries a great deal of tuck pointing has helped to repair some of the problems Luther rightly complained about. So now one of the challenges is to explain to Protestants why it’s important to come back to the Catholic Church, to put it bluntly and simply. For me, the most important reason is to receive Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist rather than settle for a symbol in a cracker and grape juice.

I don’t think it will become any easier to evangelize Protestants until the Catholic Church begins publicly to talk about the Holy Spirit and God the Father more than it does about the Blessed Virgin Mary. I am not saying Catholics should decrease their veneration of the Virgin Mary. I am saying that perhaps their veneration should become more private while their adoration of the Holy Spirit and God the Father becomes more public. Let Protestants hear Catholics speak about the Holy Spirit and God the Father as much as they now hear them talk about Lourdes and Fatima.

I’m not saying that for the sake of converting Protestants we should ever deny that Mary is the only perfect, sinless human being who ever lived and who ever will live; that she is the Mother of the Son of God, and that she is the most important intercessor for us with her Son. At the same time, I think it’s important for us to tell Protestants that Catholics are as free as they are to pray directly to Jesus Christ, the one and only mediator with God the Father.

In order to help Protestants understand Catholicism better, I believe that Catholics must talk more about the Trinity–the Father, Son and Holy Spirit–or Catholics will not reach Protestants in what is said by some to be as many as 30,000 Protestant denominations. There will be plenty of time to tell Protestants about Mary and her role in salvation history once they understand Catholicism is based on the same faith they have in Jesus Christ, His Death and Resurrection, and in the Trinity.

I hope I have said nothing blasphemous or heretical here. I simply want to see more Protestants receive the Eucharist and the other sacraments and to do that they must become Catholic. For reasons too numerous to go into here, Catholics do not have a communion table open to all. One has to accept Catholicism in its entirety and be in the state of Sanctifying Grace to receive the Holy Eucharist.

I started thinking about the 500 years of separation between Protestant and Catholics when I read that Pope Francis plans to go to Sweden in 2017 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with the Lutheran Church of Sweden.

Privately, it’s not something I will celebrate.

At the same time, I realize that the Catholic Church did much that was wrong that helped lead to the Reformation and that Luther accurately pointed out many of those errors before he left the Augustinian order and started his own church. And I will wish all those who celebrate the anniversary of that earth-shaking and heaven-shaking event all the best when it occurs.

Meanwhile I’ll do what I can, given the opportunity, to tell anyone who will listen the difference between the reality of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist and the symbol of a cracker with grape juice. As a Catholic I never leave church without the former.


Nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes, DONAL MAHONEY has had poetry and fiction published in a variety of print and electronic publications in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his work can be found here:



If No One Else is Gonna Say It: Legal Marijuana in 2016 by Barry Graham

I know the positive propaganda machine must keep rolling, it’s already an uphill climb and any chink in the armor may bring the whole fucking thing tumbling down. Whoever says only lazy writers use cliches can fuck off. Ok, guilty, I’ve said it, every semester, to every one of my freshmen students, and I’m very lazy, but I digress… I’m not a scientist or an economist`so I’m not gonna pretend to have researched shit I didn’t, and I imagine if you are reading an online article about legalization in a small cultural and literary journal out of Appalachia then you already know everything I could offer in that regard, ie medicine, textiles, paper, prison reform, brain function, biopsychosocial effects of drug use on families and communities, increased tax revenue, etc. (If that last sentence sounded like jibberish to you, please do some research before you vote.) But I do have one thing to offer – this next bit isn’t it but I just want to offer this then I’ll move on. Increased tax revenue for investing in our schools, rebuilding our infrastructure, etc is a good thing, but does it bother anyone, anyone at all, that a company, big or small, has to pay the government in order to function legally and the patrons who purchase goods and services from that company must also pay the government to do so? What’s next, legislating into place a system that dictates the way we collect and use natural resources like air and water, making it illegal to do it any other way, by any other means, than the one they’ve prescribed, then making us pay for the privilege? The government? Go that far? No fucking way. If a government has to steal from its citizens in order to exist it has no legal or moral right to exist. And don’t say something stupid like, but it says in the Constitution… it says a lot of things in there. It doesn’t mean shit. Respect yourself. Or your children at the very least. Legal is not a synonym for morally just. I’m just gonna write in snippets for memes on social media from now on. That might be the only way anyone absorbs any information at all in the not-so-distant future. Morally just doesn’t mean shit either but that doesn’t mean what I said isn’t accurate.

So here it is – anyone who tells you it’s not possible to overdose on marijuana is not telling you the truth. That doesn’t mean I’m anti-legalization, I’m very much in favor of both medicinal and recreational use and I understand the importance and necessity of a positive propaganda campaign, why it’s so crucial not to open the floodgates, potentially destroying the momentum; real talk, I’m high as fuck right now, I’ve smoked four rollies in the last two hours, so I get it, but it would be irresponsible to say that a human being can ingest an infinite amount of THC and not overdose, because it’s a lie, and a dangerous one. Sure, I can smoke four more joints, ten joints, twenty joints, and safely make it through the night, but the game done changed; highly concentrated substances containing pure cannabis extract oil ie wax, shatter, edibles, etc. if taken in large enough doses, are highly potent and potentially toxic and they absolutely will kill you. Not convinced? Instead of loading your vape pen with wax why don’t you try eating your entire stash at once. Don’t think twice just cram that shit into your mouth and swallow. No? Me neither. Last summer I drank sixteen ounces of marijuana tea, roughly six times the recommended dose for that particular batch. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t walk. My muscles seized up. I vomited uncontrollably. My brain skitzed. My vision went in and out like a strobe light. As my muscles slowly relaxed I rocked back and forth on the edge of my bed until I fell forward head first into my own vomit and blacked out. I’ve taken a lot of shit. A lot of shit. But I’ve never been as close to death from any substance, legal or illegal, than marijuana tea. I recently mentioned this experience to a registered nurse who is also a leading advocate of marijuana legalization and education and I was told that another two ounces, two little ounces, would most likely have resulted in permanent psychosis and if I would have doubled my initial dose I would absolutely be dead. And I could be. I owe my life to coincidence. The first cup I grabbed just happened to be sixteen ounces. Could have been twenty-four, maybe thirty-two. Psychosis. Death.

Potheads love to pretend that no one is that stupid, everyone knows their limits, people just want to catch a buzz and relax and eat brownie bites and Doritos crushed together on top of Ramen noodles and watch poorly researched Netflix documentaries. And that’s relatively true (truth doesn’t exist), but right now, as I’m writing this, your sixteen-year-old daughter is crushing Adderall, mixing it with powdered household cleaners, and snorting it until her nostrils drip blood while two middle aged fat guys take turns on/in her in exchange for more powder. Your twelve-year-old son is letting his friends funnel cough syrup and Fireball into his asshole and record it, hoping the video will go viral because all cool social media personalities become millionaires. If someone tells that kid he can’t eat an ounce of wax or drink a gallon of tea he will try it just because it isn’t a good idea, just because 184 people he’s never met will like his video. And that’s only one type of dumb ass that would try it. There are others. Lots of them.

And for now it’s ok, it has to be. Spock would agree. The needs of the many… But after the 2016 elections, after Bernie’s elected and most states legalize either medicinally or recreationally, it’s time to start a strong education campaign. One in common sense language aimed at honest education. It is highly reckless and potentially deadly to let the general public, especially our young people, perpetuate the myth that marijuana carries no disabling and possibly lethal side effects if taken in extreme doses. If we can’t be open and honest about any and all potential effects of THC in all of its forms, maybe we aren’t ready for legalization. Maybe we are no better than big tobacco. We didn’t appreciate or deserve their misinformation campaign in the 20th Century. We don’t deserve the cellular industry’s right now in the 21st. (Maybe we do just a little). I know America loves repeating it’s mistakes over and over and over, but let’s try something new this time, let’s try true transparency.



BARRY GRAHAM is the author of the novella, Nothing or Next to Nothing and three collections of short fiction, This Isn’t Who We Are, Not a Speck of Light is Showing and The National Virginity Pledge, which was a finalist for the NGI Book Award. He is a regular contributor for Revolution John.

An Opinion on Events at the University of Missouri, by Donal Mahoney

I was born, reared, educated and worked as an editor in Chicago for many years. I now live in St. Louis, Missouri, where work brought me long ago. In retirement, I stay busy writing a little of this and a little of that.

But I am distracted now but not surprised by the racial discord at the University of Missouri, a year or so after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis. I find racism in St. Louis much different than I remember its counterpart in Chicago. But I am white and still a Chicagoan, albeit an expatriate, and perhaps that skews my thoughts. I like the people of Missouri but I’m not one of them. I lived too long in Chicago that almost as many years in Missouri cannot counteract.

I find that unlike in the Chicago I recall, where racism was often loud and abrasive, racism in St. Louis has until recently seemed largely silent.

But as an outsider I find racism in St. Louis is part of many white folks’ emotional DNA while perhaps it is not in Chicago, at least to the same degree. I can’t speak, of course, for blacks in either state except to note the obvious. Until recently blacks in Chicago addressed issues more forcefully than in St. Louis. And then came the killing of Michael Brown.

Missouri was and is still considered by some to be a Southern state. Not so Illinois. Nevertheless, I have found that many whites in Chicago and in St. Louis respond to blacks negatively but for different reasons.

In Chicago, blacks moving into a white neighborhood meant property values would drop, a happening anathema to white property owners and to be avoided if at all possible. Blacks were also considered to be bearers of crime, doubtless due in part to the poverty they lived with then and many still live with now. To what degree the lack of opportunity caused by racism in whites is a contributing factor is difficult to calculate but impossible to deny.

In Chicago, I found that not many whites, myself included, knew any blacks well. As a teen I almost got to know one black man while I was working at a summer job in a soft drink factory. He was an older man who worked the day his son was executed by the state later in the night. He never said a word during his shift. A white supervisor told me about the impending execution the way a good reporter might, sans any emotion.
The black worker looked no different that day doing his repetitive job than he did any other day, putting empty soda bottles into holes in a conveyor belt so they could be washed and sterilized. Except for two breaks and lunch, he could not stop inserting the bottles. If he stopped, the conveyor belt would stop. He used both hands to stuff the bottles in the holes as the machine clanged on, the conveyor belt rising and disappearing into the steam of the soapy boiling water. It was like watching a dwarf stand in front of Niagara Falls running in reverse.

In my time in Missouri, I have lived in St. Louis and in a rural part of the state. I have found whites and blacks may know each other better in St. Louis than in Chicago even if they do not like each other any better.

In the past, rural whites and blacks in Missouri lived in fairly close proximity as blacks often worked for whites on their farms. Perhaps from their rural ancestors, urban blacks and whites in St. Louis bring with them attitudes and opinions about each other that have not been driven off despite the different kind of life many of them now lead in an urban area.

After three decades in Missouri, following four in Chicago, I am still surprised that blacks have not rioted in St. Louis long before now, not that whites in St. Louis have given them greater cause to do so than whites may have done in the Chicago I knew.

But the lethal silence of racism in Missouri that I sense must have aggravated and now continues to aggravate problems over three or four generations. As a social illness, I find this silent racism not unlike AIDS in that until it begins to show, one doesn’t know if someone else, white or black, is a carrier.

When I first emigrated from Chicago, I told my wife, a University of Missouri Journalism School grad with four books in print, that I thought St. Louis was another Watts in gestation, that some day the lid would blow, and the destruction, seen and unseen, would be incalculable. It hasn’t blown yet but there are days I think I hear the water boiling.

The day Michael Brown died was one of those days. The day the president of the University of Missouri resigned in the face of black protests was another. I have to wonder if there isn’t among blacks protesting at the University of Missouri some subliminal connection to what happened in Ferguson. I also have to wonder if the roar of the black students now isn’t louder as a result of what happened in Ferguson. Is it all part of the new continuum called Black Lives Matter?

Despite local, national and international coverage that might lead some to a different opinion, Michael Brown was no angel nor was Darren Wilson, the white cop who shot him. One was a young black man and the other a young white cop raised in the simmering silent racism that I, as an outsider, believe is pandemic in St. Louis and parts of rural Missouri.

I realize that many natives of the state will resent and dissent from this opinion. I disagree with them but understand they have a different emotional DNA than I do. I’m not saying mine is better. It’s just different. Growing up in Chicago I learned to yell in the face of any kind of oppression, real or imagined. Black folks there did so as well. Not so in St. Louis, until recently.

I don’t believe racism over time will evaporate in Chicago, St. Louis or other parts of the United States. The Pulitzer-prize-winning black poet Gwendolyn Brooks, back in Chicago in the Fifties, wrote something to the effect that racism in America will disappear when we are all “tea-colored.”

From my experience over many years in both cities, I see no reason at the moment to disagree with Gwendolyn Brooks. But as do others on both sides, I have hope. Hope is the advent of progress. We need more hope fueling our actions and less gnashing of teeth.




Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, Missouri. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The Chicago Tribune and  Commonweal.  Some of his work can be found at