Category Archives: Television

Why Am I Annoyed by Happy People on Commercials?

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The little boy drops a bowl of cereal.   The bowl breaks and stuff is everywhere.   The boy cries.   The mom smiles and consoles him.  There is no anger or scolding.  There is only…  a Swiffer!   And joy abounds.

The man has heart pains.  But because of the magical pill he no longer has heart pains.  He now feels younger.   Now, all his time is spent laughing as he plays hide-and-seek or fishing with his grandchildren.

I hate these commercials.  But why do I hate them?   Do I not want people to love their kids and grand-kids?   Do I prefer that people lose their temper instead of being cool, steady, and joyful?

No, that’s not it.

The first reason i hate them is because I am not that perfect.   I’d have yelled at the kid and thrown him in the corner while grumbling about his clumsiness as I cleaned up his mess.    And when I retire, I look forward to spending time playing cards with my grandkids, but I’m probably not going to play hide and seek.   Too much work.   So, yes, I see my own imperfections in the perfect unreality of commercials.

The second reason I hate them is because I don’t believe they mirror most realities, and they’re trying to sell me something by lying to me about the fact that all my anger and imperfections can now magically be solved by this particular product.  That’s a lie.

But really, my dislike for all this goes much deeper.   I may be overthinking this, but I am utterly annoyed by the hypocrisy of our culture.   We sure love our kids in commercials.   They are our joy and our hope.   But in a society that has killed over 50 million kids in the womb and prevented however many other pregnancies because of the contraceptive mentality we have totally embraced, the idea that we really, really love our kids so much because they mean everything to us is simply a lie.  They don’t.

That may seem harsh, and I don’t mean it as a universal statement that applies to everyone.   But I do mean it as an overarching cultural statement.

Imagine the following sentiment from Mr. and Mrs. ABC:   “Oh, little Johnny and Jenna are just the joys of our lives.   We can’t imagine what life would be without them.   They are such blessings, and it’s so unreal watching them grow up!  The time flies by so quickly!”

“Oh, so are you planning on having any more children?”

“Good, God, no!   We can hardly handle the two we have!”

So… which is it?   The “money can’t put a price tag on the little darlings that bring the ultimate joy to our lives” parents, or the “I can’t handle this” parents.    Because saying you can’t handle something, to me, is not something you say about a blessing.    It’s something you say about a burden.

Now, don’t get me wrong.   I am not saying it isn’t normal to think that you can’t handle life at times, including the kids.   This is perfectly normal.   In fact, sometimes I think we need those times to allow us to refocus on God.   Because when we can’t handle something, we must humbly turn to God in our humanness and ask for help, and admit that we are not God, we are not in complete control, and we are imperfect.    The answers that God gives in these times may not be what we desire.   We get tested and refined and strengthened so that we can not only handle what we have, but a little bit more.    And to the extent we can’t, we need to lean on Him all the more.   This isn’t all about happy happy joy joy.

So, in our human ingenuity, we’ve turned to abortion and contraception as the answers to our burdens – children – all the while putting on a face of love and joy and happiness over the children we have, as long as we don’t have enough to disrupt our lifestyle.   And this somewhat peeves me.

But, I guess a commercial about a dad with 9 kids doling out a punishment while pulling out an old dishrag he found for a quarter at a garage sale probably wouldn’t inspire consumerism.   So, I’ll just have to live with the fact that people on commercials love their kids.   At least the ones they kept.

 

An Open Letter to Sean Hannity

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Originally posted on http://digitaldiatribes.wordpress.com on March 20, 2007.

Dear Mr. Hannity,

Should you ever read this, you may wonder why I am posting this to a blog rather than writing to you directly.  Or, perhaps, you wonder why I would not just call your program and express my opinion vocally.   Truth be told, the call-in option is out of the question.  Your program is your forum.  My opinion requires some in-depth explanation in order to put my thoughts in context.  This will become evident by the length of my succeeding post, of which I have put more thought into than any other post on my blog to date. 

I am intelligent enough to realize that the few moments on your radio show would not allow for proper development of argument.  I am also smart enough to know that, even if I made it onto the air, my thoughts would be constantly redirected by counter-questions that may or may not have anything to do with the original point of my call to the point of incoherency.   That is not a complaint.  It is your show and you can run it as you wish.  Heck, I even get a kick out of the way you handle certain callers, as far as the entertainment value of it all goes.  I am simply explaining, however, why I wouldn’t consider expressing my opinion on the following matter in that forum.  I want my opinion properly and thoroughly developed.

As for e-mail or snail mail, I suspect that you receive countless missives each and every day.  I am sure you probably do a quick scan of them and find some more interesting than others.  Whether read or not, with a few exceptions, I imagine most such e-mail or mail is quickly deleted or tossed.

And so, I am posting my letter on this blog so that (1) my comments will not be lost.  Whether I have no readers or multitudes, my opinion is now publicly displayed, and perhaps there will be some occasion where it will be brought to your attention.  If not, then I have at least said my piece on the subject. Also, like you, (2) I have an opinion.  This is my forum.  For good or ill, agreement or disagreement, this is how I choose to let people see my opinion.

With that said, let me now assure you that I have always been a fan of yours.   You often say that you are conservative first and Republican second.  You will criticize Republicans when you see fit, but as a conservative I always have enjoyed your take on events – particularly in politics – and the format in which you express your opinion.  You are entertaining on many levels and bring important issues to the table that need to be discussed.

Because of that, it is with some sadness that I write this letter.  My issue with you is your recent clash with Reverend Thomas Euteneuer.

I am a Catholic.   Further, I am a Catholic who believes that our Church was founded by Christ Himself and provided this Church with the authority and means to speak on moral issues.  In a phrase I take from you, adjusted accordingly:  I am Catholic first, American second, Conservative third, and Republican fourth. 

I understand that you have qualified disagreements with some aspects of Church teaching.  Some of these disagreements are not considered doctrinal (for example, using the death penalty as an example, while the issue needs to be considered prayerfully in conjunction with what are shepherds are teaching, a good and faithful Catholic can believe that there is a proper place for the death penalty).  However, there are some disagreements which are contrary Church teaching. If the Church teaches one thing and a person believes something else, then at the very least, that person’s belief is not consistent with Catholic doctrine.  For example, any acceptance of abortion as anything other than morally illicit in any circumstance is a belief contrary to the teachings of the Church.   I only point out these issues because I heard you tell a caller that you have other disagreements with the Church, and you cited the war in Iraq and the Death Penalty.   I’m not sure what your point is, but if you’re suggesting that all disagreement is equal, or because you disagree in one area it’s OK to disagree in another area, then that is just not the case.  There are areas where respectful disagreement is allowed.  There are other cases where it is not.  Reading the Catechism on these topics makes it pretty clear where individual discernment and judgment is appropriate and where it is not.  There is much more that could be clarified on that matter, but I will leave it at that.  The purpose of this paragraph is simply as a backdrop of the real issue at hand.

I am not here to debate all the different aspects of Catholic religion and what is and isn’t doctrine, and how to discern what can be questioned and what cannot.  You are not alone in may of the positions you hold.   I do not and will never agree with some of those positions, and I would hope that you take them to prayer, perhaps in front of the Blessed Sacrament at a local adoration chapel,  and are not afraid to reconsider them.  I would hope that you recognize that all of us – from me, to you, to the Pope – need to constantly assess the state of our soul, and truly ask the question whether or not we are doing God’s will.   So I will leave the specific arguments about contraception and abortion and those things aside.  I have made my general point.

My issue is deeper than your beliefs on individual issues.  Instead, my concern your recent public defiance of Church teaching along with an utter disrespect for Reverend Euteneuer on a recent broadcast of “Hannity & Colmes.”  If I understand your arguments correctly, you are defending your actions on the basis of being “true to your audience.”

At a certain level, I understand that.  However, in my opinion you have not really been true to your audience, and you have created division in the very Church you profess to love.  You have left out some crucial information and have made little or no attempt to look inward and confess to your fans that you are purposely not adhering to a doctrinal teaching of your Church, and others follow you at their own spiritual risk.

This is not the political arena anymore – it is the spiritual realm.  Oh, sure, there are political elements to it, but the fight you have taken on rises beyond that.  And once it rises beyond the human and secular arena, I would proceed with a caution greater than I think you have proceeded. 

My disappointments are multiple.  First of all, I am well aware that Reverend Euteneuer named you personally in an article suggesting that you apologize for your public stance on contraception and some exceptions to abortion.   In a typical case, I would agree that writing about someone’s personal beliefs is inappropriate.  But clearly, this is not the typical case.  You are a public figure who has a large following.  Many of your listeners are Catholics who may not fully understand the teachings of the Church.  Many are not Catholic, and will believe that our Church teaches what you publicly state.  In this regard, your comments create what would be called “scandal” in the Church.

Second of all, you have purposely undermined a person, Reverend Euteneuer, who does wonderful work with Human Life International.   Because you took his column personally, you disregarded his work, made him out to be an extremist, and could potentially damage his organization’s work.  You can say there were other reasons, but until he wrote specifically about you, you had no intention of having him on your show.  That means it was personal.

Third of all, I was so incredibly disappointed in you when you brought up the Priest abuse scandal.  Really, I was both angry and saddened.  This was juvenile and I think, unless pride is overwhelming in you, you know that was wrong.  It was in no way pertinent to the argument, and it was just a way of demonizing an otherwise good man.  Truly, I actually felt sick about your behavior with that comment.

Fourth, suggesting that no Priest anywhere deserves respect because of the abuse scandal is as ridiculous as saying that all the Republicans deserved to get booted because a couple of people were corrupt.  You know better, and again, that is incredibly disappointing to hear you spew such vitriol.  Which of the Principalities do you think would like us all to consider all Priests unworthy of respect?

Fifth, you are not being intellectually honest with yourself or your audience with regard to your response on whether or not Reverend Euteneuer would or should administer the Sacrament of the Eucharist to you.   For one thing, you brought it up, so to suggest it is being used as a rough-house tactic against you is simply dishonest.  For another thing, the response he gave was in no way.   Let me explain:  many people sin gravely and/or hold positions of belief contrary to Catholic doctrine.  The Church teaches that anyone in this state should not receive the Eucharist until a good confession is made.  In nearly all cases, this judgment is necessarily left to the individual because a Priest has no way of knowing whether or not the person is in a state where he or she can properly present themselves for Communion.  However, in the case of someone who sins publicly or professes to do so (using contraception or not agreeing with the Church on the issue) than such a situation can quite properly lead a Priest to conclude that administering the Sacrament in that case would lead to scandal.  Mr. Hannity, you have chosen your public forum, and with it comes certain responsibilities.  You cannot lament someone using your public statements against you when you have chosen to make them on your own.   That is not to say all Priests will treat this situation uniformly.  But for a Priest to hold the position of Reverend Euteneuer only means that he takes the Eucharist very seriously and is concerned with the state of a person’s soul.  Paul tells us that those who drink of the cup unworthily bring condemnation upon themselves.  Not all things are political or mean-spirited.  Tough love is an absolutely conservative notion, and you more than anyone should understand it if you choose to actually understand the arguments for and against withholding Communion from public figures.

Sixth, I am simply disappointed that you have, apparently without remorse, fostered dissent and division among your Catholic audience.  You have chosen to disagree with teachings of your faith.  Through your own wisdom, you have declared the teachings of the faith to be wrong in certain areas.  Instead of holding these views quietly or personally, you have publicly declared them, and by all appearances have encouraged others to share them.  Christ prayed for unity in the garden on his last night alive.  Fostering division is not Christ’s will, however strongly you feel about your opinion.  Many good and holy Saints have stories of humble obedience to poor bishops who wished to silence them.  In the end, many of those people awaited God’s timing and ended up having huge influence in a great way because of their faithfulness.  The reason for this is because they realized that unity in the Church was bigger than themselves.   There is an appropriate way to discuss a difference of opinion in Church matters, and there is an inappropriate way.  Any way that includes verbal flogging of a Priest cannot be considered appropriate.

Finally, “being true” to your audience – or anyone else – does not require undermining another person’s character or faith.  You asked Reverend Euteneuer on your program knowing full well that he would – gasp! – adhere to the teachings of the Church in what he said.  Since you knew this, your entire purpose was to undermine and challenge the Church’s teachings on the subject for personal reasons.  For a Catholic to do this is simply immoral.   Heck, there are many times in my life when I could talk myself into thinking that “being true” to myself would mean calling someone a slut, liar, loser, or any number of other adjectives.  In those times, it is better to rise above the fray and find a different way of letting someone know that their behavior is inappropriate, or simply keep your mouth shut.

I recognize that there may have been a better way for Reverend Euteneuer to handle himself, as well.  You’ll forgive me if I find his behavior more forgivable, as a man of the cloth who is having tenets of the faith he professes directly challenged.  To the extent that he could have handled himself more charitably, he ought to have done so.  This in no way excuses your behavior or my criticisms above.

I have also heard you say that you feel good about your beliefs because you can sleep at night.  Well, that’s nice as far as it goes, but the “sleep” test is about as meaningful as saying that you don’t think you weigh too much because your clothes fit.  You gain weight, your old clothes start getting tight, you feel a little guilty, and so you buy new clothes.  Your new clothes fit now, so maybe you really aren’t overweight after all.   Conscience is a funny thing.   People can find ways to feel good about what they believe and sleep just fine.  So you do one or two things that are morally questionable, and maybe you think about it and struggle with it for a bit – maybe even have a little sense of guilt or uneasiness, but if you never change your behavior, eventually you develop your “new” conscience that is like that new set of clothes.  Your new conscience is comfortable and you can sleep at night.  But this is not the measure of conscience.  I’m sure there are plenty of habitual sinners in all aspects of grave sin that have no problem sleeping at night.   No, the true measure of conscience has to be in the context of a well formed conscience.  And for that, you need a guide.  That guide for us is the Church, Holy Scripture, our faithful Priests and Bishops, and our Catechism. 

And so, where do I go from here?  No I am not calling for a boycott.  I am not saying I will never listen to you again or never watch your show again, or anything like that.  I will say that, for now anyway, I have little desire to listen to your opinion on anything.   And I am having a hard time imagining that, in the future, anything you say will not be clouded in my mind by your behavior on this issue.

I am only saying what I think.  I guess you could say I’m being true to my audience.  However, it is more important to me to be true to my God and my Church.  If that loses audience, then so be it.

Sincerely,
Joe
The Diatribe Guy

Merits and Theology of ‘Survivor’

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Originally posted on http://digitaldiatribes.wordpress.com on February 8, 2007.

It’s a guilty pleasure. Perhaps even an embarrassing one.

I have watched every season of Survivor. And I am planning on watching again this season (Survivor: Fiji begins tonight). I am so ashamed to confess that. But now I feel better.

One may ask why a boring guy who works in the insurance industry, who has a wife and six kids, who has a dozen other interests, and who is trying to live a life of faith is wasting his time watching Survivor?

A good question, to be sure. I have actually mulled this over a bit, and I think there are some obvious answers to it and some that are not so obvious. The most obvious answer is that I am a moron who shouldn’t be wasting my time like this. I can accept that as true, but since I’m going to continue to watch it, I need to at least convince myself that there is redeeming value to this pursuit. So, allow me to present my case.

First of all, there is an obligatory aspect. You may question that such an obligation could possibly exist. But there is, in fact, such a duty – admittedly of my own doing. And I guess it’s not like the world will end if I step down from this duty. Anyway, I run a Survivor pool at work. There are eight people in the pool, including myself. I determine a “draft order” through a random process, and we go up and down and pick the person who we think will win it all. Since there are more than 16 people, there are special rules for assigning the additional people. The money a person owes (hypothetically speaking, of course) is larger depending on when your person gets kicked off the island. The earlier the exit, the more you owe.

I have Cassandra and Dre this time around, in case you’re interested.

Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. For each show, I do my own recap of events. I have become a star of sorts with these recaps. I cannot let my fans down, and hence my sense of obligation. Rationalization is an awesome skill.

The other reason I think I stay interested in this is because I simply enjoy competition. I have posted regarding my interest in sports. Survivor has a very strong competitive element to it on many levels. And since these are people kind of like you and me, it’s probably easier to put yourself in their place and wonder how you’d do if you were on the island. Or maybe that’s just me.

Well, I know that there are a great deal of people whom I respect mightily that would not watch this show, regardless of my solid arguments above. And I do admit that, as a man of faith, I wish that the shows were as clean and pure as the wind-driven snow. I can certainly understand the arguments why this show should not be watched.

But I do think there is another element to ponder here. If you think about it, what we see on Survivor is kind of a microcosym of our own lives. This may seem like a stretch, but stick with me here.

As Paul points out about our own lives, we are running a race. And that race is a marathon. In our own lives, changes occur almost imperceptibly. We either grow stronger in our faith over time, or we fall away from it over time. Yes, we all have moments where a leap occurs, but most of our lives are simply our daily struggles, failures, and successes. All these things are a small step to our next set of struggles, failures, and successes. But at any moment, we can go. Life is fragile. That end may be expected, or it may be unexpected. And in the end, we are judged according to not only our faith and belief in Christ, but also our deeds along the way.

On Surivivor, it is always interesting to me how you don’t really notice how people change physically from show to show, but then when you see what they looked like on day one, you realize they changed a lot. Some people look worse, some look better. Our souls kind of parallel this in our own lives.

In Survivor, you can get voted off at any time. You may expect it to happen or it may blindside you. I suppose this isn’t exactly parallel, since in life you should always be ready to meet your maker, whereas in Survivor you always need to watch your behavior so you don’t get sent packing. But there is this element of never quite knowing when your time will be up, and an associated behavior that results due to that uncertainty.

Finally, there are the people who make it to the end. They sit in front of the jury, and are somewhat powerless as the jury members unearth every “sin” that they have committed during their stay. The jury will determine your fate at that point. While nothing like the ultimate judgment we will receive on our last day, it is nonetheless a nice little example of how your deeds – both good and bad – do not go unnoticed, and are rewarded accordingly. These deeds can be as simple as helping out around the camp, or how well you played the game.

Perhaps this isn’t the most robust theological exercise, but I think that this, like many other things in life, can teach us a little more about ourselves if we look at it from the proper perspective.

On the other hand, it could just all be a fancy excuse for watching Survivor. You be the judge.