Those of us who catch a glimpse of the Empire State Building each day—just about everyone in First Things ’ New York editorial office—can’t help but notice its nightly evolution, with a new color scheme illuminating the top third of the tower each evening. A billboard to the entire city, the building surprised a good number of us late last year when its iconic flanks appeared bathed in red and yellow, marking the 60th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s 1949 Communist Revolution. Presuming only the best of motives, we concluded the Empire State Building Lighting Partners must have laid off their resident historians, who would otherwise have notified them of Mao’s responsibility for the murder of some 77 million people.

That fact alone makes it, well, somewhat curious that the Empire State Building has  denied a petition by Catholic League president William Donohue to illuminate the tower in blue and white to commemorate Mother Teresa’s centenary, along with her continuing legacy in the Missionaries of Charity, with their recognizable blue and white habits. Turned down without explanation, Bill Donohue has started a new  petition , now claiming over 20,000 signatures, to reverse the building’s decision. As Donohue remarked in an interview,

Mother Teresa received 124 awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Medal of Freedom . . . .She built hundreds of orphanages, hospitals, hospices, health clinics, homeless shelters, youth shelters and soup kitchens all over the world . . . .Not surprisingly, she was voted the most admired woman in the world three years in a row in the mid-1990s. But she is not good enough to be honored by the Empire State Building.

So how do we square this snub of one of humanity’s best with the honor given one of its worst? A line from the first moments of Macbeth seems hauntingly appropriate:
Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air.

Articles by Kevin Staley-Joyce

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