Saturday, July 16, 2011

Children in heaven 

A very sad funeral on a very sad day. Not really grieving, but feeling a kind of sympathy pain with people I care about. But it makes me think that the pain of grief and sadness and loss is still sweeter than the numbness of indifference.

You spend years explaining your pro-life beliefs to your children. You arm them with facts and you build (hopefully) a foundation that will withstand the inevitable onslaught of criticism and vitriol that will come their way. You watch them internalize those beliefs and you feel hopeful but always worried.

And then comes a funeral mass and burial for a miscarried child. The reality of the life and dignity of the unborn has hit them like a hammer blow and suddenly this miraculous child that I've never met has provided a kind of cement to the foundation that my words never could.

A little girl who is already bathed in God's glory has been a powerful witness of His love to my children.

Friday, June 03, 2011


Well, since pretty much nobody has read this thing for years, I figure this is as safe as locking myself in the closet to primal scream for a few minutes. Apologies in advance for any NSFW language or any friendships ended after stumbling across this, but a few random and not-particularly-consequential events have produced the need to seriously Hulk-out for a few minutes:

WTF is wrong with this miserable carbuncle of a president? WTH is wrong with this entire administration? I keep vacillating between 'evil' and 'incompetent' but neither seems adequate to explain the actions that are systematically destroying our economy and our very way of life. On purpose!

Why will this pretentious, arrogant, lying, human toothache not just go away? Yeah, I know people said the same thing about Bush for eight years. Believe me, I know. They didn't like the war. They didn't like the 'imperial presidency'. WTH is this collegiate asshat doing that's not making everything much, much worse? I simply cannot believe that people are talking like he might be reelected. If that happens, I'm done. I'm officially a Democrat. The company goes under and the burger-flipper making minimum wage can be the new rich who has to step up and pay his fair share to me. I'll want my own bailout and I'll demonize anyone who says I don't deserve it, and I'll use whatever cheap-ass Chicago thug tactics I have to, to get mine. Every single problem will be the responsibility of the government to address and pay for, and since I will have every single problem I can think of, you guys can all support me. Doesn't that sound great?!

I'll vote for Palin. I'll vote for Cain. I'll vote for Pawlenty, whoever. Hell, I'll vote for Trump. I will vote for a bag of wet toast before I vote for this bowing, golfing, demagoguing, dulcet-toned, ugly-wife-marrying crapsuit. I have a dream that Chris Christie and Paul Ryan and Mitch Daniels and Thaddeus McCotter will join to form a Super-Voltron-like robot of justice with Zombie Reagan for the head. But that might not happen, so I don't know what to do then. I'm just very tired of him dismantling the country and knowing that it's going to continue for a while longer.

Dear Mr. President, please stop it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

As God is my witness, I shall never watch 'When Harry Met Sally' again (except maybe the fake orgasm scene) 

Some celebrity or other (Rob Reiner, if you must know, although that's not really important) said something nasty about Tea Partiers and there were the usual calls for boycotts from some of the commenters. That got me thinking about the nature of boycotts.

Dictionary.com says boycott means: "to combine in abstaining from, or preventing dealings with, as a means of intimidation or coercion".

So when you boycott, you are attempting to intimidate or coerce some other party to take some action. You boycott Cheerios (or maybe General Mills products) because they sponsor some program that you find objectionable. Or you boycott a particular program because General Mills is one of their sponsors and your beef is with General Mills.

The point is that there's something there initially that you would otherwise like to do, or buy, or watch, and you're not going to. If your boycott is successful then you go back to watching CSI or buying Cheerios or whatever.

But more and more, I realize I'm not 'boycotting' much of anything, at least not in the traditional sense. I'm just realizing that I don't want it to begin with. Last year when the summer blockbuster trailers started showing up, there were lots of trailers for Transformers 2. My friend and I would turn to each other and say "You wanna see that?" and then we'd say "Yeah, I guess so." We had every intention of seeing the movie. But when Megan Fox goes on her publicity press junket and mocks redneck Christian middle Americans, then screw her. I didn't not see the movie out of protest, or to get her to change her views, it was more like she had made my decision for me and my feelings about the movie changed just like that. She doesn't need any of my money.

Now granted, I wasn't that invested in the movie to begin with. If, say, Chris Pine had gone on some left-wing diatribe two weeks before Star Trek came out then I'd have a difficult choice to make.

The views that are almost universally presented by the entertainment industry are antithetical to my own. I'm used to that. But what is different (and I've said this before) is the blatant, above board, in-your-face, absolute disgust and hatred toward half the country. I don't expect Rob Reiner to agree with me on the issues. I don't expect him to tiptoe around those issues in his public pronouncements for fear of alienating a large portion of his potential audience. He and his kind have long since decided that they don't need to pander to anyone who doesn't already agree with them. But I'm just gobsmacked at how people will mock and ridicule and openly hate so many private citizens. So I'm supposed to... what? Not go see 'Flipped' to get him to... what? Not be a jackass? I'm sorry but the man hates me. He doesn't need any of my money.

There's very little for me to boycott because they have very little that I want. What they don't fully appreciate is that it's much worse than a boycott. It's indifference.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Yelling 'Fire' In A Crowded Mosque 

On the anniversary of 9/11 it would undoubtedly be more profound to write about, well, 9/11, but hey, you go to war with the topics you have.

So what to say about Pastor Pyro, the mustachioed madman who may or may not have burned a Koran by now? As always, there are smarter people than me who speak of these things and I'll link them at the end. But the thing that jumps out at me most about this scandal du jour is that there's no one to root for or defend.

The pastor? As I said below, he seems to be an asshat. 50 member congregation? Geez, I could get that many followers. He wants his fifteen minutes of fame and he'll get them. I made my case for Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, which lots of people said was needlessly provocative, and I'll stand by that. There's no comparison between that and this.

Old media? Good grief. They wrung their hands over his horrific stunt even as they helped him along by giving him a zillion times more press than he warranted simply because he fit a narrative that they wanted to promote. MSNBC had the pastor on and didn't let him say one single word. Not even "Hello" or "Thanks for having me" just gave him a quick dose of bad theology and cut him off. When Newsweek knowingly ran a false story about Koran flushings it started real honest to goodness riots that got real people killed. They have more blood on their hands than this fool.

His critics on the left? Sorry, but when they can spare some of that outrage for the people burning bibles and flags and other people, then we'll talk. When they can get a little more worked up about the repression of women and the stoning of homosexuals then we'll talk. When they can do, say, half as many posts criticizing the absolute systemic rot that is the political norm for so many of these primitive barbaric muslim countries and start pleading with them for tolerance instead of assuming that it's us backwater Christians that are gonna start something, then we'll talk. I've been through 8 (well actually 10) years of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Eight years of seeing Bush and the American flag burned in effigy and nobody seemed too worried about how that extreme rhetoric was inciting people to violence.

The Muslim community (whatever that is)? Well the "vast majority of moderate Muslims" that we are always lectured about remain as elusive as Bigfoot. The rest of them seem intent on making the pastor's point for him. "Don't offend our religion of peace or we'll kill you!"

Nope, not much to be happy about all the way around.

The smarter folks are here, here, here, here, and here.

Burn Baby Burn (disco inferno) 

A friend had a facebook post (again with the friends and their facebook posts!) about the Asshat Pastor threatening to burn a Koran. He (the friend) pontificated that burning books has never ever ever resulted in anything good and that if you burn the Koran you're on the wrong side of history.

This brought back memories of a book I read just after college called "Why Knock Rock" written by two evangelical brothers. It was a fairly typical screed against rock music. It seems eye-rollingly quaint and repressed by todays standards. Heck it seemed quaint and repressed when I read it back then. It's easy to mock the puritanical standards that find sin in a Journey song about makin' love in the afternoon or some such.

But really, the principle was sound. Popular music is, for many kids, the single most important thing in their life. They look to it for validation, they find truth in the lyrics, they find glamour in the lifestyle, it brings them beauty and joy. And yet the most innocent sounding catchy little love song, when you actually stop and listen to it, is often about nothing more than casual sex or the glamorization of behavior that really ought not to be emulated.

What the brothers were exhorting their readers to do was examine their lifestyle choices and see if they were really consistent with their values and, if not, to decide what they wanted to do about it. What will you expose yourself to? What will you go out of your way to watch and listen to? What will you fund and support and endorse by those choices? Again, it's easy to mock any particular example but I think the principle is sound. And if you decide that the choices are unacceptable, what then?

This is where it gets interesting because the end result was a fire. The reasoning went like this: If you've decided to get rid of something in your life because you think it's harmful, you don't just pass it on to a friend or sell it to a stranger. They might be taken in by it as well. You could just throw it away but then there's always the possibility that it will find its way into someone's hands. So why not destroy it? And if you're going to destroy it, why not do so in a big, showy, public refutation? Why not have a bonfire? Which was exactly what they would do from time to time in whatever church or denomination they belonged to. They're not marching down to the library or Borders to demand that every copy of Harry Potter be turned over to them for the great conflagration. They're making personal decisions about their own property that they had already paid for and making a declaration in front of their peers.

Let me say, yet again, this all seems silly if you're talking about your vinyl record of the SmoothTones singing about gettin' it on in the grass with your foxy lady. But what about your stash of pornography? To put it in terms my friends on the Left might be sympathetic to, what about a private collection of books by Glenn Beck or Ann Coulter? Let's say I've been taken in by Scientology for years and have only now seen the error of my ways. The ideal way to answer the fraud that is Dianetics is to write a convincing rebuttal that can stand alongside it. But barring that, I'm not talking about burning the last copy of Dianetics. I'm not talking about burning your copy of Dianetics. I'm talking about burning my own copy of Dianetics. I don't see a big problem with that.

We associate burning books with the repression of ideas and the restriction of free speech and there are good reasons to do so. But those reasons are mostly historical.

Now I don't think this has much of anything to do with Pastor Zippo. There are different dynamics at work and that whole situation calls for a separate post. But if burning books is always bad because it sends the message that some ideas need to be repressed or eliminated, then it's a short walk to the fetishization of all ideas and the moral relativism that results.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Charity Dilemma 

Today's mass featured one of those visiting priests who ask for funds for their particular mission. Usually it's some third-world hellhole and there are pictures of starving mud-covered children living in huts made of cardboard and corrugated steel. The guest homilies always strike the right notes to address any concerns you have about making a donation. They stress the efficiency of your donation: "X" dollars can buy so much that you'll be feeding many children for little money. They stress the efficiency of the organization: Our overhead is so low that almost all of your donation will go to provide food and services. Their stories are personal: most of these priests spend most of their time actually working in these places; they know the names of those mud-encrusted kids and they know their stories.

All well and good. Good people doing the Lord's good work. As Christians we are called to help the poor and feed the hungry. I'm happy to put some money in these collections knowing it'll probably be the most productive money I'll spend that week. But...

I find myself dwelling on the geopolitical aspects of their situations. Where are the men who fathered these children? What are they doing? Presumably they don't have jobs (or if they do, the jobs are insufficient to provide for the families they've created) because of a lack of economic opportunity. But why? What causes that lack of opportunity? These countries are almost always beautiful lands with adequate natural resources. Foreign aid that consisted of tools for living in their environment and the education to use those tools (and maybe a copy of our Declaration on Independence and our Constitution) would seem to be the most effective, cost-efficient way to lift people out of poverty. This is a side of the story that the homilies never attempt to address.

My son traveled to Mexico for a week to help build houses. He came back feeling wonderful about the service he had done and I was proud of him but I was left with the same questions. The materials for the houses were donated but why did the labor need to be donated as well? Wouldn't these people want to build their own houses? Wouldn't they want to learn? Even a donation of a few shovels would enable them to build a decent outhouse.

In tension with my desire to do good is my increasing fear that not only may we not really be helping these people at all, we may actually be harming them. They are increasingly dependent on our generosity and increasingly have neither the means nor the will to better their situation. I fear that the blind transfer of funds from our society to theirs, with no consideration for the deep differences in those societies (and the corrupt tyrants responsible for those societies), has real, tangible negative results that we ignore at our peril.

If we means test every act of charity, we'll be be crippled into performing no charity at all. If we means test no act of charity except by our intentions, we become blind to the unintended consequences.

Update: Yet again, it seems like the best stuff turns up after I've already posted.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Today was the last day of our children's grade school.

Not just the last day this year but the last day period. Too many schools and not enough kids means that our archdiocese is losing schools at an alarming rate. So today was a day of tears and goodbyes.

Before my kids went to our current grade school they all attended the same daycare facility. When our oldest started there it was a private daycare called Professor Bears. It changed hands a few times, becoming a Children's World, a Kindercare, and I don't know what else.

Five years ago our youngest was ready to start kindergarden and it was time to say goodbye to the place we had known for so long. I was collecting my thoughts to try and write something profound and I realized: I didn't care about the place. I had absolutely no attachment to the company, the building, the institution, nothing. Only the people. I realized I wasn't saying goodbye to Children's World, just the people that worked there.

Our current situation is different in some respects. It's a Catholic school and it's a part of the neighborhood where I live so those attachments are deep and real. I have a fondness for the building and the history of the place but I'm finding that a distant second to the people who have made it what it is and given it its life. The school was an important template that shaped generations of people and it's the people I'll miss the most.

With my wife being stuck in New York on 9-11, I became acutely aware of my inability to always be with, and protect, my loved ones. I move around a city that's protected by police who just yesterday maybe arrested a man who would've robbed me at gunpoint tomorrow. I live in a nation that's protected by soldiers, many of whom are fighting and dying far away from here to keep bad guys from killing us. My kids get bigger and they go to school and I entrust their safety and well being to other people.

On this Memorial Day weekend I'd like to thank all the 'other people' that have kept me and my family safe and free and have enriched my life immensely.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Here's my obligatory "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" post. I've changed my facebook profile picture for the day. I didn't have a chance to draw my own picture so I found an illustration at zombietime from Michel Baudier's Histoire générale de la religion des turcs (Paris, 1625).

Most of this is taken from comments I made to a post by Ann Althouse (PBUH).

To answer the most frequent and obvious objection to EDMD: As a Christian, wouldn't I be offended at an "Everybody piss on a Crucifix Day"? Of course I would. And if Christians all over the world (even if they were a small minority of total Christians) were threatening death to anyone who blasphemed their religion, if they were issuing fatwas and stabbing filmmakers and not just opposing offensive speech, but actually trying to censor it, then hopefully I'd see the point of EPOACD.

But Christians live with these kinds of offenses every day. We're quite used to being sucker-punched by the media at every turn. "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" isn't some random event designed to tick off Muslims. It's a legitimate and (ideally) non-violent protest to challenge this outrageous creeping sharia law.

Hopefully it will help moderate Muslims to grow a pair and show extremist Muslims that we won't be cowed.

Ms. Althouse says that drawing images of Muhammad is protected speech and asserts our right to that speech but she thinks it's a misguided use of that right because of the collateral damage of offending many more moderate Muslims.

But unlike, say, Piss Christ, which seemed to be created for the sole purpose of being offensive to Christians, EDMD is being done in response to a very specific threat. Not just a threat to free speech, although that's bad enough, but honest to goodness threats of actual violence to people for exercising those rights. EDMD is not a "thumb-in-your-eye" to people we don't like, but more of an "I-am-Spartacus" gesture of solidarity with people who are being threatened.

I'll bet I speak for a majority when I say that I have no particular desire to offend Muslims, good or bad. I would bend over backward to respect the sensibilities of most everyone. But in the face of assaults on free speech, on our western way of life and laws, on our very lives, I fail to see how not only is EDMD not misguided, it's practically a moral imperative.

Smarter people can be found here, and here.

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