Category Archives: Reflection and Opinion

THE GUYS I HANG AROUND WITH

I report here on a conversation which took place a few days ago on an e-mail list to which I belong.  It began when another member sent a link to an op-ed piece in the Wall Street journal by Peggy Noonan, who used to write speeches for Ronald Reagan among other things.  Another fellow replied that the article’s first half had elated him while the second half had disgusted him.  Do read it.

In passing he mentioned me, and suggested that I might be thinking, “Well, Satan is real.  Evil exists.  Get real.”

I thought about that before I replied.  My first reaction to the “Satan is real” sentence was, “Well, Du-uh!”.  Then I began to think further on what that might mean for us today, and the mess everyone but the editorial board of Playboy  the CEO of large corporations thinks we are in.  This has been coming on us since the end of the Second World war. The 50’s prepared us for it, a prosperous time where we as a country produced 2/3rds of the products made in the whole world. The 60’s accelerated it as we began to believe what we were telling ourselves, “We really are the best thing since sliced bread.” More-so, we could indeed have guns and butter, and no one had to work hard at anything. We could turn on, tune in and drop out…the functional equivalent of eating the forbidden fruit. The 70’s cemented us in that position, though there were danger signs and rumblings over the horizon in Vietnam, first, and then in Iran. But, we had that old dinosaur to lead us through the 80’s, Reagan, who believed and helped us believe in us. It all began to fall apart in the 90’s when Clinton proved a clever liar is more successful than an honest man; well here, at least. Now the Malls are full of fools and liars, and so are the halls of academies, corporate HQ’s, the Pentagon and Congress. The Liar in Chief inhabits the whitest house in the country, a sepulchre, the burial place of honesty and liberty.

So, yes, Satan is real, as my friend said I might say, and evil does exist; though we would rather not, like Scarlett, think of those things. However I would not add “get real.” I would add “Get over it.” “IT” being, specifically, the stupid notion that we have a snowball’s chance in hell of making the world and/or ourselves safe from or for anything. That is the seductive bait we have swallowed since Mac Arthur inked his name to the document of surrender on the fantail of the USS Missouri, and we chose to forget, ignore and be embarrassed by another old general fifteen years later on who suggested there were a few things we should be chary of getting ourselves involved in…

And, now?  Now we are hooked, being reeled in.

Left to our own devices we have always screwed up. We’ve been doing it since babel. Read the Old Testament if you want to know what happens next, because next is the destruction of the temple (read that as whatever our contemporary society holds sacred…and it certainly ain’t any notion that there is a God in heaven) and our exile in some latter day Babylon. As we are being led off into captivity of one kind or another turn around and look for the “remnant”, the faithful few who did not put their trust in “other gods”.

They will not be saying, “I told you so.” They will be begging God’s mercy on all of our sorry butts.

I ended this by writing, “I give us twenty years to the end.”  I had in mind a few things I’ve read lately about China, looming across the Western Sea.

The fellow who sent in the Noonan link commented that some of the stuff I wrote reminded him of  the situation in that science fiction classic from the Fifties, “A Canticle for Leibowitz”.  If you haven’t read it you should. If you have not read it in a while, do re-read it.  You’ll like it.  The author’s solution to the problem was a familiar one; right out of the Bible…flee into the wilderness.  If that captures your imagination, and gets you thinking about “life, the universe and all that” so to speak you may want to continue your studies.  In that case pick up an author by the name of Michael O’Brien, and begin with his first novel, Father Elijah.  He paints a similar picture, but points to a different solution.

This gentle man who started off everything among us had bemoaned the fate we’d prepared for our grand-children. Our poor grand-children, and theirs, indeed.  If, that is, we continue going the way we are/have been for the past fifty years at a steadily accelerating pace.  We are in a cart, a coach and four to some who choose not to see, being pulled by seven horses.  Can you name them?

That was the point, I think, of Noonan’s surprising essay which I finally read after coming home from the Vigil last Saturday.  I say surprising because she was an acolyte for the last True Believer to occupy the position of President.

I was thinking this morning how nice it would be to hand over the reins to the Chinese, and let all of those professional worriers, perfectors of the world for humanity and hand wringers inhabiting that marble and glass slab on Manhattan’s East Side move to Peking; how nice it would be to let Germany, France, Spain, Italy and their etcs. pull their own weight; how nice it would be to let Mexico and everything south of us depend on Venezuela and Brazil; how nice it would be to let everyone in Africa make a meal on their own….even if it was each other.

It won’t happen, of course, because the guys who really run things, the foundation guys, the think tank guys and the corporate guys have “interests” all over the place, and these interests produce compelling reasons for keeping, or trying to keep, the lid on.  It’s become like a tangle of fishing line, I suppose.  My final thoughts were of a scene from the film “The Gladiator”; poor Marcus Aurelius up there on the Rhine trying to stem the tide. He was successful in the film, of course, but that’s Hollywood for you.  We know what really happened, of course.  It’s the reason we speak what we laughingly call English instead of Latin…for as long as we may have it around to speak.

There was another article sent for our amusement, a kind of follow up by an historian named Kaiser.  I decided to read it after reading one of the comments posted about it.  I found two things mildly interesting:

“Two centuries of the Enlightenment had convinced mankind that the application of science and reason could improve their lot.”

“The second is the destruction of the rationalist ideal in the humanities. English and history departments no longer acknowledge the existence of objective reality. Language, many professors will now tell you, cannot mirror objective reality, only the feelings and interests of individual speakers, or of their gender, race, or class. In short, they have destroyed the Tower of Babel that had been built up over the past two centuries, enabling us to use a common language to speak of the common good.”

I was very much amused by his “Tower of Babel” reference and wonder, now, if the whole thing was tongue in cheek.

Maybe it was, and maybe, also, what the fellow is saying is that we’ve become too smart for our own good?  Convinced as we have been since, oh 1750 at least in the West, of our brains and sure of our purpose and destiny, our bright future, we built many versions of that tower all over the place.  A lot of us have worked away inside of them for forty or so years believing all the while we were making the world safe for democracy, or serving Truth, Freedom and the American Way…or something.  The fruits of our labors, and proof of our theories and beliefs was of course a chicken and two cars, along with 500 channels and one small step.  What more could an honest man want?

He thinks, that we may turn around.  We may do it with God’s help.  But, He only helps those who ask for it.  I do not see anyone seriously thinking of doing that, aside from a little fellow in a white cape.

As someone might say, “It’s not the economy, stupid”; nor is it rationalist ideals.

Never has been.

Now comes a new thing.  Two fellows deep in the Pentagon have written an essay calling for us to to re-think what we’ve been up to all over the place for the past nearly seven decades.  They appeared on an NPR talk show yesterday called On Point and spoke about their thesis that we need to get less muscular and more subtle.  I particularly liked what was said at the end by one of the men.  He spoke about being a newcomer to DC and what he’s seen and heard there.  According to him almost every article of the Constitution is discussed by people interested in the rights attached to it/them. He continued by saying he has never heard anyone mention the Preamble, though, the bit which articulates the reason for it, and the reason why there is an Untied States of America…oops did I say UNTIED?  I mean United States of America.  Then he said he specifically never heard anyone pay any attention to the last phrase of the preamble.  You know the one which goes “…and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity”.

Anyone?  Bueller?

As a certain old Yankee catcher might say, “It’s deja vu all over again.”

Julian, Julian, Julian What Have You Done?

From the passage in St. Mark’s Gospel that was read at Holy Mass on Friday, December 10, Father Paul drew a direct line to the short story by Flannery O’Connor, “Everything Which Rises Must Converge” explaining the Gospel by analogy with the story. That story involves a young man, Julian, and his mother, and a bus ride one evening.  Julian does not like his mother, he criticizes almost everything she is and does, even though she lives her life around him, thinks the world of him and believes only the best about him.  Nothing she can do seems to satisfy him.

In the Gospel passage, St. Mark shows us Jesus wondering about those who criticize everything He and St. John the Baptist do:  “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ ”   Nothing they can do seems to satisfy their critics; the one lives on wild honey and locusts while the other dines with sinners, and both are equally judged wrong.  The passage ends, rather cryptically for me, with this allusive sentence: “But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”  It could be a good title for a short story.

Father Paul spoke quietly about the story’s point that Julian came too late to understand and value his mother’s worth to him. and the worth of their family’s heritage which he never spoke of “without contempt, or thought of without longing” as O’Connor puts it.  Julian’s family had once been great, and though they had little, now, his mother reminded him in her attitudes and beliefs of what they once were, something he both longed for and hated, and did not understand, finally.  She answers his assertion that “True culture is in the mind”, his harsh insistence that she and her beliefs were dead letters, with words he scorned.  She had said these quiet words:  “It’s in the heart and how you do things, and how you do things is because of who you are.”  Scornfully and meanly he replies, “No body in the damn bus cares who you are.”  She simply answers him, “I care who I am.”

In the end, she is knocked to the ground, suffers a stroke and Julian, after ignoring her distress for some time realizes something is very wrong.  He runs towards some lights ineffectually calling for help.  They recede into the distance,  And at that point:  “ The tide of darkness seemed to sweep him back to her, postponing from moment to moment his entry into the world of guilt and sorrow.”

While Father Paul spoke I began to think of another Julian whose name has been in the news lately, Julian Assange the fellow behind WikiLeaks.  We were talking about him just the previous evening, trying to get a grip on why someone would do what he has done.  As I recalled that conversation….it’s funny how one thing leads to another…I wondered what the people St. Mark’s Gospel, the Julian of O’Connor’s story and the real Julian Assange all had in common, if anything.  Father’s remarks focused on our all too common fault of dismissing the
“others” whom we do not see worthy of attempting to engage on any level, the “others” who are in a word “beneath” us.

I don’t know Assange any better than the next fellow, and from what I have been able to read about him, the “next fellow” doesn’t know him too well at all.  If rootless can define someone, rootless will do for him.  He has no fixed abode as the song says.  In a long article in the New Yorker about him one reads that he spent his growing years moving from pillar to post with his mother, hiding out from something or other, and breathing the air of her particular disdain for most things organized, including education, work and wages.  But, he’s a brilliant guy, the article shows us; doing the job himself of education, reading his way through libraries all over Australia.

He learned all about computers and the Internet, when it finally lit up, and early on began to associate himself with those who in another age would have been called “Peeping Toms”.  He was arrested and convicted of a computer hacking crime in Australia.  The article goes on for a number of pages detailing Assange’s growth and metamorphosis from a precocious self-educated techno-geek into the man just bailed from a London jail after an arrest for some sexual crimes.  Several details from the New Yorker story, aside from his mother’s influence, caught my interest.

He developed a theory about what the article’s author calls the “human struggle.  ” (H)e came to believe that: truth, creativity, love, and compassion are corrupted by institutional hierarchies, and by “patronage networks”—one of his favorite expressions—that contort the human spirit.”  And, as his answer to that problem he had identified developed into WikiLeaks he showed a growing interest in and determination to make sure everyone everywhere knew what governments were doing.  He would be the one to make that come true.

That he would do it secretly, using hidden sources, suborning treachery and stealing, that his methods would possibly injure, possibly kill some people seem not to have been matters worthy of serious consideration considering the goal he was  aiming at; a world where one can live in love with everyone else, because there are no secrets.  He is aware that there will be what he himself calls “collateral damage, and that WikiLeaks will have blood on its hands in some instances.  That end, one must conclude about Assange, is worth any means taken to achieve it.  And, so it goes with Julian.
 

I thought of another Julian on the way home after Mass, the anchorite of Norwich so long ago; she who talked a lot about Love and courtesy, referring to the tactful, gentle, modest ways of Christ which are so different from. O’Connor’s angry son and Assange’s angry, well, son, both of whom were slowly morphing into one person in my mind.

“The old manners are obsolete, and your graciousness is not worth a damn,” Julian says to his mother at one point in O’Connor’s tale.  In a self-description on a dating website before he established WikiLeaks Assange says he is interested in “Changing the world through passion, inspiration and trickery,” and “directing a consuming, dangerous human rights project which is, as you might expect, male dominated.”  So much for love, or graciousness.

On the other hand there is  Julian, in her cell witnessing a vision of the Crucifixion and coming to understand and lay special stress upon the “homeliness” and “courtesy” of God’s dealings with us, “for love maketh might and wisdom full meek to us.”  The work of Wisdom is Love.  The fruit of Love is Wisdom. 

Only one Julian does the work.  Only one shows how to reap the fruit.

Possibly this may not be the conclusion you had thought of, the ending you expected to my little exercise.  Perhaps you feel lied to by the title, misled to believe you would read something about leaks, disclosures, skulduggery in high places.  Honesty requires me to tell you who have endured this far that I thought about doing something along those lines.  I have a little experience in that kind of thing.
But, this is all I have for you, poor fictional Julian’s tragic awakening in darkness and even poorer Julian’s fatal flaw, the same one all supermen have; his belief in the “general idiocy of his fellows” and his desire to save them from it by any means.  They both ignore what the solitary Julian knew; that wisdom which produces the “greater love”.

 

Pogo’s Equation Proved Once Again, With Reference to Scripture

A fellow named Mark Shea has a blog called Catholic and Enjoying It.  The title sums up something I’ve known for a long time about being a Catholic.  It’s a lot of fun!  It’s a lot of work, too, sometimes, and sometimes it could get you killed.  But most of all it’s a lot of fun.
The secret is locked up in what I’ve come to call Pogo’s Equation, the solution to which is given us every year on Easter morning.  I guess that’s what’s behind Pope Benedict’s new deal about evangelization and re-taking the ground lost in Europe and other places.  As the song asks, “How can you keep from singing?”
Mark Shea also writes the occasional article for the National Catholic Register, and probably a dozen other things.  I like reading what he writes because even when he’s  stalking the bad guys he’s doing it with good spirit and a jolly smile.  Well, on his blog this morning he merely gives one a copy of a You Tube video by a Fr. Robert Barron who is, I think, a professor at Mundelein Seminary.  The video is worth watching.  I get the feeling that Father Barron does what he does with the same kind of spirit as does Mark Shea.  It’s about that “Singing” thing.  Father Barron is talking about why he’s doing what he’s doing and how he does it.  We could learn something about doing the same thing; explaining the equation, sort of.

At the National Catholic Register Shea has an article called It’s a Good Thing We Won World War II.  The article is worth the few minutes it’ll take you to read it, especially the quote from the journal (magazine?) Psychology Today, for letting us know what is happening while we sleep (to allude to a book about another time and place), and why we need to go around making our point; with a song in our hearts.

The comments, too, are very interesting.  Some folks don’t seem to get the point, or listen to the music.  They’re still working on the left side of that equation

Do yourself a favor, read and then understand why we ought to be praying, fervently, for help; because we are certainly incapable of getting ourselves out of this mess we have placed ourselves in without it.  Of course, if you are a HC (Happy Catholic) you’ve already been praying, and singing and smiling.  You know the answer.

I now expect the usual comments from the usual sources that what is wrong is either the fault of the vicious people in the Vatican, the Tea Partiers or the Democrats, or the Market, or the unions, or a thousand other things, including bad genes and un-planned parenthood.  To which I reply, “Go read Pogo if you really want to know.”

Better yet, read, if you must, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; and everything that goes before it and comes after it in that Book.

RE, RE, RE, RE, RESPECT

A few days ago I got into a discussion with an old friend about an article that appeared in some newspaper written by a fellow who was not a Catholic and criticizing the Catholic clergy for being, umm,…well, I don’t exactly know why he was criticizing them, but they are, lately, an appealing target.  Here is a bit of that correspondence.  My friend suggests that we should demand and expect of clergy a kind of perfection of character and person we would not expect of a baker, a bartender or a cabdriver, because they occupy positions of trust, etc.  Well you can read why.  I disagreed.  (I have edited my own reply a bit to smooth out my language and syntax…a very tough thing for me to do…and to clarify some things.  I can do that since this is my blog and I control EVERYTHING!)
My friend wrote:
“Let me just focus on why clergy should be held to a higher standard.  They are leaders; they volunteered/sought out leadership. We entrust our children in schools to them, and in a sense our souls to their care…they are spiritual healers.
Otherwise, why not let out all those in prison for life sentences or awaiting death penalties…make them priests…if we don’t believe church leaders shouldn’t be held to a higher standard.
It’s a ridiculous observation made to put it another way than you may be thinking. Why isn’t it natural and logical for us to expect those we entrust so much with to set good example?”
I replied:

Hello R______,

I don’t disagree with you when you say that it is natural and logical, etc.  It is, indeed, and there’s the rub.  We do expect, and in many ways demand of others what we find in ourselves not possible, not worth the effort, beyond our capabilities and so on.  We are most on our guard to make excuses for ourselves…all the while believing we do, in fact, meet a “higher standard”, never really acknowledging we fail of the  “higher standard” we are quick to convict others for not meeting.  That’s a very convoluted way of saying the same thing Christ said of the persons who point out the mote in another’s eye all the while ignoring the great log in their own.  It is, not to put too fine a point on it, a kind of hypocrisy, and possibly sinful.

Of course you will argue with me that somehow the office, the position, the responsibility assumed means that only the very best will be chosen, especially if it is some high and holy office.  I merely mention Alexander VI as an answer.  (ED:  Or perhaps Bill Clinton, Gov. Edwards, the Enron officers, Goldman-Sachs and millions of others.)

There is nothing in any position, profession or portion of wealth and prestige which guarantees that the person occupying or bearing it is going to be any better a human being…morally…than the next one.  That, R____ ,is a matter of the acceptance of grace and conformity to the will of God, wisdom, prudence and the other gifts of the Holy Spirit.  It has little at all to do with out fallen human nature, except that through long practice the person opens himself humbly to accepting the grace of the moment and being humbly grateful for being allowed to be a servant of that same divine will.  You will recoil at all of this religious stuff, I think since you are, of course, a business man.  And, what, you are entitled to wonder, has the one got to do with the other?  Where do humility, doing God’s will, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and all of that enter into the wide, wide world?

I will maintain that some part of every act is a moral act since all we do in some way affects others and the world around us.  If God knows the fall of a sparrow, He knows the entry of a number in a ledger, and if He can account for a sparrow’s fall, He will hold us to account for that entry.  The office holder, whatever his position, is only prestigious as much as he honestly and humbly tries to do God’s will for him and for the people affected by his office; in that and in that alone consists his “higher standard”.

And, because we are who we are, we will all fail.  There were only two perfect human beings, Christ and His mother.  They accepted the higher standard offered them.  Both of them suffered for it.  We know of Christ’s temptations.  We don’t know anything of hers, but I am sure she had them.  Probably one of them was to rub her eyes and wonder if she was having a bad dream when the angel appeared with the news she was going to get pregnant.  However she simply said yes, and didn’t go out and buy a nice dress and tell all the neighbors she was carrying a little bundle of joy.

Now, you mention that clergy volunteer for their positions.  That is faulty and incorrect theologically speaking, but quite in line with the business and political model many people want to strap onto the church or fall back into thinking about when they think about the church.  It couldn’t be farther from the truth.  The men and women who become priests or vowed religious are following a “call” to do that…at least the ones I know.  I am well aware of the thousands who have entered those states of old because their parents forced them, it was an easy living, or, recently lamentably, an outlet for their perversions.  That does not gainsay that authentically and truthfully one must be called to that state, and formed in it.  The abuses which have come to light in the last ten years are there precisely because organically a rottenness was allowed to enter the system.  Consider that what is happening is a pruning of the vine; cutting away diseased growth and practice.

I will not answer your last question because I do not think it was seriously meant.  A murderer was in fact made an Apostle.  You must remember St. Paul.

Finally, we entrust our souls to God’s care, and God has chosen to operate through those whom He has called as His ministers.  You must remember Christ’s words about giving the power to bind and to loose to the Apostles.  It is this which is the genesis of any respect we may wish to offer to them.  But more than that?  I might, after some time spent in his company entrust my life to a partner, and I did that when working.  But I do not entrust the salvation of my soul to another man.  He is incapable of the task by his very nature, though he has been called to help me, as everyone has been called to the same task.  Perhaps you could talk to a holy abbot about what it takes to be faithful to that call.

If the truth be known, our clergy aren’t our leaders.  They are our servants (actually God’s servants to us in whom they fins the presence of Christ whom they serve first), which is exactly the root meaning of “minister”.  It gets very complicated, doesn’t it, since we should receive their service as if it were Christ serving us, humbly and gratefully and with great love and affection…Remember Christ’s commandment about loving one another?

So are those who “serve” in government our servants, and any standard we hold them to should be the standard of faithful servant.  So much for presidential power.

La Nua

Waiting in the family room to go out this morning, while upstairs my wife made ready to join me, I sat reading a book a friend had sent.  Some fluttering movement just outside my direct vision caught my attention and I glanced over to the window to see what might be happening.

Dawn had come only an hour or so before and bright light from the recently risen sun beamed down the street from just above the tall pines at the end of the road.  I say beamed.  It did not fall upon us, or shower us from above.  No, the sun, returned after three days gone behind dark thick rain clouds, shone with the force of fanfare for the new day. The street looked leaved with gold, and all the shadows carved, stark against the shiny brilliances of new minted colors, greens of an astounding vibrancy on the still wet grass, the mottled brown to black of solid trees, the tender gold of new leaves just unfolding and all the other shades of yellow that made me think that was the color of creation .

Right before my eyes, however, the most brilliant of all was hung; a curtain, a cascade of sugary pink cherry blossoms lit from behind by the power of sunlight hurtling by the weeping cherry just outside.  No bride’s lace could have been more delicate, no curtain of falling water more fine and sparkling, no new cloud alone in the sky more alive with light.  A soft breeze whispered through the trailing ropes of light as I watched small birds dash out to the feeder just in front of our window, take a seed and then das back behind the blossoms.

I sat, my books forgotten, for several minutes as the little chickadees, house finches and titmice enjoyed their meal.

Just before my wife appeared and we had to leave a lovely thing happened.  One of the several male cardinals who live in the neighborhood came to perch inside the branches of the tree, near the very top.  His bright scarlet breast caught the sun and glowed against the almost white pinkness of the blossoms.  He lifted his head and sang a tune to the day then leaped into the air leaving me nearly breathless at the easy beauty of the thing.

Right? Right. Let Us Give Thanks.

One of my friends sent a book to another friend.  The name of the book was “Gratitude”, and its author was William Buckley.  Well, the first friend is a very mannerly fellow, and he said that he was thankful for the book.  He added that the gift of a book by Mr. Buckley was prompted by my second friend’s hope to make him a kind of right wing extremist.

My second friend simply replied that there was nothing “right wing” about the book.  He seemed, to me, to be upset that my first friend’s gratitude for “Gratitude” was unalloyed.  (An aside, here.  I wonder if gratitude is ever unalloyed. Is it possible to be thankful to God, for an example,…assuming you are among those who believe in God…without there being a scintilla of wishing things were better?)

But, is not gratitude itself a rather conservative and traditional practice, and who is to say there is a right to its relative purity, or, indeed, a right to it purely? So, I think my first friend may be, umm, right. This is especially so in the case of being thankful for those things which are sometimes merely poetically or metaphorically referred to as gifts.  When, for instance, was the last time you “thanked” your parents for the gift of your nose, ear lobes, your Grandma’s voice, your Grandpa’s violent temper; or thanked God for any of that stuff, for that matter.

For another, related,  instance how does one thank the government for doing something , or allowing something, which one is then led to believe, or claim, is a “right” endowed by mere existence, or life-style choice; a “birth right” to be exact, as the mere ability to make a “life-style” choice is claimed to be.

I speak here of all of those rights recently discovered by Learned Justices, and much endorsed and heavily lobbied for by liberals and “advocacy” groups, which are organizations of liberals: homosexual rights, trans-gender rights, minority rights, women’s rights, animal rights, the right to die or be killed mercifully, the right to a living wage, the right not to be bothered by signs of religion, the right not to pledge allegiance to the flag and to the republic for which it stands and in which all of these rights are to be found, and by which guaranteed, the right to be tolerantly intolerant; except, of course, for the right to life itself which, it appears, is not.  It was rescinded in 1973 when it became the first “birth right” to be optional; the option in every case being exercised by someone other than the person to whom the right applied.

It is, on the whole, a more subtle, nuanced, distinct and complex approach to the entire question of rights than poor Mr. Jefferson was capable of back in the Dark Ages at the close of the 18th Century when subtlety, nuance, distinction and complexity were still confined to matters of choosing wine.  We may wish, in our own way and not at any point infringing on the rights of anyone else while doing so, to give thanks, howsoever we choose, or do not choose to do, for those rights which we have, and may yet discover or be given by learned Justices or dedicated government administrators and public spirited legislators.  As citizens we have, I think, the right to do so, ever tolerant of the need not to abridge the rights of those who do not think as we do on the matter.

Mr. Buckley had, of course, the right to write the book, and one may have
a right to an opinion about it, but it should be understood that opinions, except those pronounced by Learned Justices of our Supreme Court are
subject to trial, and are therefore not rights in the strict sense that
the learned and nuance capable Justices have determined. Despite the
titles of books named “Gratitude” there is as yet no right to it.  And, we may be thankful for that, though there is no right…yet…guaranteeing the correctness of such an act of gratitude.

Should there occur to you, upon reading through the list of rights that there may be some I have missed, please reply in the comments section with your additions.  Confine your remarks to rights defined and discerned by the proper authorities, of course.  I will exercise my not quite right to express my gratitude.

A finer piece of nonsense I do not think I have ever written.

Focus On This!

Sometimes, you know, my mind takes me to another place.  That ever happen to you?  Take this, for instance…

The other day in the New York Times I come across an article about this advertisement no one has seen but everyone has an opinion about.  I’m talking about the one where this fellow Tebow says he’s happy his Mom let him get born.

Thirty seconds the ad is supposed to take.  Thirty seconds squeezed in between all the beer ads with pretty girls and the car ads with pretty girls and the insurance ads and all the other ads with pretty girls, and the half time lollapalooza with pretty girls and ancient guitar players singing about how great it is to be us.  Thirty seconds that cost the group that made the ad, Focus on the Family, about two and a half million bucks.

Now, Focus on the Family is one of those groups that says kids should be allowed to be born.  I happen to think this is a good idea.  They say some other stuff, too, that I happen to agree is a good idea.  They say and do some stuff that I don’t happen to agree is so good an idea at all.  But, that’s not what I’m on about, here.

There are folks, and we have all heard them, who do not agree with either Focus on the Family…or me…on this matter of allowing kids to be born.  Well, no matter.  The article in the New York Times said that the Tebow ad was a very clever thing that the FoF group did, because they will get a lot of people to go, “What’s wrong with that?  Tebow’s Mom let him get born even after the Docs said he was gonna be a freak, or something.  You see?  That’s all the pro-life folks are saying.  No doubt about it, the guy doesn’t get born and he don’t win the Heisman.”  I got the feeling from the way the story was written that the reporter thought the ad, well it wasn’t subtle enough, sophisticated enough and nuanced enough for,  for all of the sophistications, nuances and subtleties involved in the issue of getting, or not getting born, nowadays.

It’s a good ad for a football game I could imagine the reporter thinking; especially one with a hundred million member audience I guess, whose only interest in subtlety and nuance revolves around wide-outs and zone defenses. An audience whose understanding of sophistication is concentrated in the intricacies of smash-mouth ball.  It’s a “Red State” ad I could hear the reporter thinking, and it will fall on deaf ears in the high rises along Lake Michigan’s sparkling shores, along Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Upper West Side and in Bean Town’s Back Bay or the shaded hills of Brookline and Newton, and Fairfiled and Goshen.  Maybe.  I ain’t a reporter, and don’t get paid to know this stuff.

The reporter, who refers to folks who want to allow kids to be born as “anti-abortionists”, talks to a few people who think that their side, which is the other side, is missing a golden opportunity, here.  Two of them are mentioned by name, Kate Michaelman and Frances Kissling.  I read what they say and a thought occurs to my mind, “They have a point, here.”

The girls say that they should be doing the same thing.  They should find a few ladies who are happy they made some choices that turned out, well, like the choices that this young kid Tebow’s Mom’s choice turned out.  Some of the ladies in their ad would say that they went ahead and got a degree, or chose to look for a career before settling down with a husband and having kids; or not.  Big deal, sort of.   Some would say that they did the same thing Tebow’s Mom did, and went ahead and had their child even after they got the news that things wouldn’t be all right; or they had the child and let someone adopt their baby.

Nothing wrong with that, is there?  I’m in that parade, holding all of those posters.  But I step out of line as I read the last “choice” Kate and Frances want to put in their ad; the one where the lady says she chose not to let her child be born.

When I read this, though I still I think it would be a good thing for the ad to be made, and if Kate and Frances don’t make it I think the FoF people ought to make it, or someone.  I’m thinking that we ought to focus on all of the choices, and shine a little light on that special choice that isn’t a choice for someone.  Because alongside all of the others it looks like a camel next to a flock of swans.

Then, this morning, another thought occurs to my mind that almost knocks me out of my chair.  Here’s the thought:  The Tebow ad costs 2.5 million.  I figure the Kate and Frances people will spend about the same for theirs…or more.  How many ladies are out there who are thinking, “I’m gonna make a choice for this baby that it ain’t gonna like, but then…?”  How many of them could do a little better if they had some of that 5 million to help them make it through the night, sort of?  And how many kids would get born that wouldn’t have if that money didn’t go for ad guys and network time?

My mind is out of the gate by now and thinks this other thought for me.  Every year around this time a few hundred thousand close friends gather in DC.  It’s gotta cost each one of them at least a hundred bucks for the trip; meals, bus fare, hotels, a day off.  Maybe it’s more than a hundred.  Maybe it’s five hundred.  You do the math.  That’s a lot of money.  What if…?

“What if what?”  You’re saying.  What if, instead of dueling ads and lawyers, and committees, and lobbyists, and marches eating up all that dough, we figured out a way to help the ladies who really have no choice but the one I can’t bring my mind to calling a choice; help them so they don’t have to make it.  Help them so that the baby who won’t get born does get born.  And, plus, we keep on so that the choices this new person makes will be the right ones, and the good ones and the just ones for the rest of their lives.  You think Kate and Frances would go along?

Call me crazy, but I think it’s something to focus on.