The New American

Dream Interview

Chris Rooney [age 27], runs The Christian Radical website and co-edits the monthly print publication with Karl Germyn. Chris is a member of the Vancouver Catholic Worker in Canada.

At the Worker House his favorite chore is making the Christian Radical and doing dishes.

NAD: Chris, hello, welcome.

Hey, thanks for interviewing me.

NAD: How long have you been with the Catholic Worker?

In the movement or at Samaritan House?

I've been a Catholic Worker since early '05 when I started to visit Samaritan House and decided that it was the life I wanted for myself.

I started The Christian Radical that same year as a monthly publication it was my way of contributing to the work of the Vancouver community.

At that time I had my own place and they needed their rooms for hospitality but they no longer had a newsletter or the time to make one so I started The Christian Radical.

My wife and I no longer live in the house we needed a bit more room.

I lived in the Catholic Worker house from 2007 through 2008.

NAD: How long has the website been up?

I started the blog after my first visit to the Los Angeles Catholic Worker.

I edit on the road when I have to and while I was there I put together an issue and forgot to include one of the stories that I had listed in the table of contents.

I didn't catch the omission until after it had gone to press so I started thinking of ways to let lots of people know quickly about corrections and a way to print or distribute stories that were too time-specific for a monthly format.

So I started the blog July 25th 2006. here's a link to that first correction:

NAD: Do you see the website as an extension, a modernization of the Catholic Worker newspaper tradition?

Absolutely. I'm no Dorothy Day by any means, I wish I was better at the whole indoctrination thing to, borrow a word used by her and Peter Maurin to describe the main purpose of the newspaper.

But it's very gratifying work

NAD: How's it working out?

Pretty well actually. the readership is growing slowly but steadily and it's easier to find stories for the monthly zine.

The blog has sort of taken on it's own life as a news source and has its own readers I think it also helps get subscribers for the monthly.

I always love it when I get people writing with requests to be put on the e-mailing list.

NAD: Do you come from a Catholic tradition?

Were you always aware of the Catholic Worker, or was it something you became aware of later in life?

I converted to Christianity after high school and became a Roman Catholic then lapsed a few years later.

While I was lapsed I decided to look up "Spiritual Anarchism" on Google and discovered the Worker.

I remember the first time I ever read anything by Dorothy and Ammon and I thought to myself that if only I had known about this side of Catholicism maybe I wouldn't have lapsed so easily.

"I remember the first time I ever read anything by Dorothy and Ammon and I thought to myself that if only I had known about this side of Catholicism maybe I wouldn't have lapsed so easily."

I also thought to myself that if I ever did un-lapse I would become a Catholic Worker.

God has a funny way of setting up events because within six months of discovering the Catholic Worker movement I had a very intense experience which lead me to come back to Christ.

It wasn't long after that that I started visiting Samaritan House.

NAD: Do you think you will remain with the Worker for a long time, or is it day to day?

I hope so.

I got married last summer and my wife and I are planning and hoping to start a Catholic Worker farm together.

I would like it if our children could say that they were second generation Catholic Workers, even if they don't choose this same kind of life.

NAD: Are you in a poor section of Vancouver?

Not at the moment.

Though my wife and I don't have a lot of money, we live someplace with really amazing rent control. Samaritan House on the other hand is in a part of East Vancouver which has been sort of on the outer fringes of our skid row for a long time.

The neighbourhood is being rapidly gentrified especially since Vancouver got the 2010 Olympics.

NAD: What sort of ministry are you involved in?

Our hospitality is our pimary work, we give shelter to AWOL soldiers resisting the Iraq War and maybe now that Bush is on the way out we'll be doing the same for kids resisting Afghanistan (I hope).

NAD: Not sure if you are Canadian, but in any case, how do you see the United States from your perspective?

I am Canadian and this is a complex question to answer.

I love Americans I have a lot of very dear friends in the movement in your country and I think that the revolutionary history in America is probably one of your countries greatest redeeming features on the other hand you are ruled by a system of government which has a long and bloody history and a political culture which is at war with itself.

I guess that's always the way with revolutionary nations.

People rise up and overthrow an oppressive regime and create their own system in the name of freedom.

Then this new system which was built in the name of liberty and other high-minded ideals slowly takes on the characteristics of the repressive regime that was once overthrown, so eventually another generation of people have to resist one day.

"... so eventually another generation of people have to resist one day."

I hope that day is coming soon. In short I guess I love your country but I hate and fear your government.

NAD: Does it make you want to tear your hair out?

CHRIS ROONEY: quite frequently

NAD: Have you torn your hair out?


NAD: What have you done these last eight years in order to keep from going crazy and bald?

Make zines, get and stay informed, and try and inform others.

NAD: Do you think things will get better with Obama?

No. I think things will be different but those are hardly the same.

I think that people in the US want a return to normalcy and Obama promised that.

People are sick of Bush and government corruption and closeted fascism and all the rest of that and Obama's victory is highly significant and symbolic of the sort of America that most people in your country want.

Unfortunately what I've started to notice since the election and even before, many of the alternative news outlets I would rely on for content and information started to become boosters for the Democratic Party.

"Unfortunately what I've started to notice since the election and even before, many of the alternative news outlets I would rely on for content and information started to become boosters for the Democratic Party."

And since the election it has become harder to find news stories which are as critical of Obama as reporters were about Bush. This is potentially very dangerous because it looks a bit like a portion of the progressive community is ready to hand Barak Obama a blank cheque so to speak.

And so you end up with alternative news outlets running Obama's Youtube videos and reporting on him very favourably while not asking as many hard questions of him or his choices either as Senator or President elect. Obama said in a 60 Minutes interview recently that America doesn't torture and that he's going to make sure America doesn't torture.

That's great except it also denies the fact that torture has been the hallmark of the Bush era and if Bush had said the same thing there would have been a lot more negative reaction from the political left.

Barak Obama promises to take troops out of Iraq but has also pledged to send more troops to Afghanistan. I think many people want to ignore this. Also Bush made nearly one thousand signing statements in his eight year term and is rushing to pass all sorts of new laws before he has to leave office how many of these will Obama overturn?

How many will he keep either for expediency or because he overlooked them? And how many Americans even know what laws Bush changed?

There's no transperancy so if Obama decided to keep some of the Bush amendments it would be an easy thing to do so long as he was sure to change the ones like Guantanamo and waterboarding which are at the forefront of peoples minds.

Here's a link to a list of Bush signing statements.

Another thing that worries me about the next four years is that once Obama starts to withdraw troops from Iraq and close Guantanamo we'll probably see a big falling away in terms of people active in the peace movement.

I suspect that a lot of people will be satisfied that the US is no longer in Iraq and will call it a day, but to my mind any peace movement worthy of the name needs to be agitating for an end to all war and for total disarmament or else it's not a real peace movement.

Ammon Hennacy once said that "being a pacifist between wars is like being a vegitarian between meals" I think the statement holds as true today as when he said it. It's easy to be opposed to an unpopular war and an incompetent president but we'll find out in the next four years how easy it is to be opposed to a more popular war and a very competent president.

I'm also worried because now that Obama won all talk of impeechment has dissappeared. Bush and his gang can still be impeeched and infact they must be or the whole system of accountability which was built into your constitution is meaningless they should not be allowed to get away with their crimes, they should be sent to the Hague.

NAD: Awareness of Canadian news and politics down here is pretty much zilch, except for what we have seen in Michael Moore movies and The Red Green Show. What should we know about Canada that we don't know?

That's a sad statement and a good question.

I suppose that the first thing you ought to know is that Canada is not like Michael Moore flms or The Red Green show.

I actually didn't know you guys got Red Green down there.

Canada is not the socialist Utopia that Moore paints it as. Our media is owned by fewer people than yours and our Prime Minister is a neo-con troll.

We treat the first nations as badly up here as you do down there abusing treaties and de-legitimizing their rights as soverign peoples.

We have our own problems with racism here just like you do and we are in an ongoing debate over our health care, if the right wing in this country had it their way socialised medicine would be replaced by some kind of two tiered medical plan that ensured the rich could get what ever they could afford and everyone else would have to settle for whatever was provided.

Also the military doesn't hold the same pride of place in Canadian political discourse.

NAD: What are some of the things you are interested in personally? Art? Music? Bigfoot?

Everyone should be interested in Sasquatch ... but seriously in my free time I'm a musician.

I've been playing guitar for 15 years and write my own music. I've recorded two CD's but lack the connections to get them out to people or to perform live.

It's really quite frustrating to me. Also over the past year I've been teaching myself all about Analog Synthesis. I have a modular synth that I've been learning to play and am in love with the whole creation of sound.

I would love one day to make an album of experimental electronic music. Making music and writing songs is another way I've kept myself from tearing my hair out over the past eight years.

NAD: Small home improvement construction projects?

I want to build something out of Cob and would like to learn how to keep bees

NAD: What plans and goals do you have for the coming year?

Build something out of Cob and get a bee hive.

Also find a small acerage and start a Catholic Worker farm with my wife.

NAD: Does operating a blog and being in touch with people who are trying to do something good give you a feeling of hope?

Sometimes it does. I've certainly goten to meet and contact a lot of great people by virtue of what I do.

And knowing that there are easy ways that anyone can make a difference and contribute to the struggle for a peaceful world is also encourging.

It always strikes me that the ones who despair are not the ones who are active.

I think there's something to that. When people discover ways to become active politically they also discover that they have a bit more control over a situation which can be scary and frustrating.

Of course even being active in the peace movement it's easy to despair and I've met a lot of people who just burn out because of how much they do relative to those around them.

NAD: For example, just today we received a photo of folks in Des Moines, Iowa who were at a vigil in support of the protests at the School of the Americas. All thirty of the people in the photo were smiling wide.

One thing which I've found to be very helpful has been my experiences of living in community whether in Vancouver or LA. The shared life with friends, the company of other devoted people, the shared worship and meals all create a great support network underpinning all the activism.

People can burn out on Catholic Workering too but then there are people I've met like Jeff Dietrich and Catherine Morris at the LACW or sisters Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert and all the other people at Jonah House who have been doing this since the 60's and 70's and are just so full of life and passion and courage.

Knowing that people like these exist and occasionally being blessed enough to meet them makes a lot of difference. This sort of work would be really hard to do if I felt like I was doing it all alone.

NAD: What else would you like to add? What else should we have asked?

Nothing is coming to mind but if you want to follow up on any of my answers or if you come up with any further questions just send them on over I'll be happy to answer them. Also let me know when your site goes live and I'll add it to the links section on my blog.

Thanks for the opportunity.


The Christian Radical can be found online at:

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