Tag Archives: Current Events

A View of Trump’s Immigration Policy

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Well, the whole world has blown up, apparently, now that President Trump has actually done what he said he was going to do – start restricting immigration from certain countries, and limiting refugees from entering the country.

As a Catholic, I think it is incumbent upon me to try my best to separate politics from the moral questions that come into play with certain complex issues.    I don’t think there is a strict right or wrong way to look at this.   It’s complicated, there are a number of considerations that come into play, and in many ways this is a good example of looking at an issue and trying to come up with the least problematic of bad options.

So, let’s start with our moral obligation to others, just on a general basis:   Every individual has the infinite dignity that comes with being made in the image and likeness of God.   Every individual needs to be treated with this dignity and respect.   Further, Jesus is very clear that we have an obligation to the poor.   In particular, those in dire situations who are the victims of war or civil/social unrest, forced to leave their homes are people who desperately need our help.   To completely turn our backs on these people is morally reprehensible.

Now, let’s move first to the administrative approach of the President’s order.   It is clear that there are some deficiencies in the details here.   Whatever one might think of the temporary ban of people from the seven specific countries and the stay on refugees, it is hard to imagine that it was intended that people in flight should be held indefinitely at an airport, or that anyone with an approved green card should be refused entry back into the country.    It certainly does seem like there are some holes in the declaration as issued, and that corrective action is in order.

Now, we get into the muddy waters of conflicting moral questions:  (1) Our obligations to help those in need of help, and (2) the safety and security of our nation.    The Catechism itself recognizes (and the Pope – sympathetic to the plight of immigrants as much as any Pope has ever been – recently recognized) the authority of a nation to define its border and immigration policy.   The Bible also recognizes the borders and governance of nations as being divinely ordained.    While this doesn’t automatically suggest that a country can do whatever they want without there being moral implications, it does suggest there is latitude that is given to countries to make governing decisions they feel is appropriate.

The question is one of intent.   In the medical field there is an issue of double-effect, when treatment for one condition could lead to the death of a fetus, or even the individual.   If the intent is to treat the medical issue, and the intent is NOT to cause death, then a death caused by that treatment is tragic, but not morally problematic.     Likewise, as a country, our leaders have primary duties and obligations, and the defense of our nation is at the very top of that list.   This primary duty has always been, in traditional times, defense against a nation-aggressor.    But times have changed.   The real threat of terrorism, and terrorists themselves saying they plan on coming into our country to do us harm, has made the defense of our nation more complex, and almost by the terrorists’ own intent intermingled with the debate on how to deal with immigration questions in our country.

People are concerned, and rightly so, that the Executive Order may cause harm to innocent refugees who now have one less place to go.   It is a difficult thing to say that “there is no room at the inn.”    People also are concerned that there is a purposeful targeting of Muslims with the Executive Order.   This also is a difficult question of intent.   Nobody who is rational can deny that the threat of terrorism rests squarely on Islamic extremism.   It can be a difficult thing to bifurcate the subset of perpetrators of evil from the whole set of the religion that they practice.    These concerns are considerations in the debate, but in the end they cannot outweigh the more rational consideration of what is the right thing to do to protect our nation.

There is a clear and obvious example on a personal level that has been used many times before, but is worth repeating.   As the father of my family, I have a lot of obligations.   Setting aside the obligation to raise children who believe in God and to set them up as best I can to live a life that gets them to heaven, I also have obligations in the material world.   Foremost among those obligations is to protect them as best I can.   If I kill an attacker who wishes to kill or harm in a violent way my wife or children, this is a tragic obligation.   But I also protect them in other direct ways, and in other passive ways.    Firstly, I may choose where my house is to raise my family in a safer area.   Some may see this as discriminatory or judgmental, because a safer neighborhood may look different from an unsafe one.    It may also place more distance between us, so my ability to help make that neighborhood a better place to live is more difficult.   That’s all too bad, but my primary moral obligation is to my family.   My obligation may change if I were single and only have myself to worry about.   But that is not the case.   Secondly, I lock my doors.   yes – I keep out those who I have not invited.   Not because I hate everyone outside of my home, but because I don’t know who might come in, or their intent.   People are free to come over, even uninvited, and make the case for why I should let them in.   But it is up to me entirely who I let into my house.  I may turn people away.   I mean no ill will, and perhaps my criteria for selection is overly cautious and even discriminatory.   But these considerations do not outweigh the assessment that this is what I must do to protect my family.    Now, I may be misguided in some ways, and I may learn to relax my standards, but nothing I have done is morally wrong.   (Now, this doesn’t mean I can’t find ways to offer aid and kindness to others.   I need to do that – it is an obligation.    But I will find other ways that do not breach the fundamental responsibility of protecting my family.)

This is directly analogous to our country and its borders.   Those who claim it is not are not thinking reasonably, in my opinion.

So, good and honest people can disagree as to what is the right or wrong way to go about protecting our country.    We can and should have a discussion about how we may be able to help people in other ways whom we otherwise refuse to let in.    We may even have a reasonable discussion about the moral balance of the position we are taking, and learn and grow from it so that we find the proper moral balance wherein we maximize our ability to help and aid others without compromising the primary obligation of defense.

What I am seeing, mostly, at the moment is not rational argument.    I am seeing horrible claims that if you worshiped Jesus on Sunday and you agree with the Executive Order, you are a hypocrite and un-Christian.   [Most of these claims come from people who aren’t particularly religious]    I’ve seen claims that you need to rip the Pro-Life sticker off your bumper if you agree with these immigration reforms.   [Usually these posts are from people who aren’t Pro-Life, except apparently in the case of Syrian refugees]

The main issue is the hyperbole of all this:

Jimmy Carter suspended immigrants from Iran.   Barack Obama (remember him?) suspended immigrants from Iraq.   This may be on a wider scale, but it is not without precedent.

The suspensions are temporary.    The idea is to ensure a vetting process sufficiently rigorous to better know who is coming into the country.

The suspension of Refugees is similar.   The order does not eliminate an inflow of refugees.  It puts the number (50,000) at approximately the levels prior to the previous couple years.

Yes, the countries are Muslim.   But what are you going to do?    It’s an unfortunate reality that these countries have produced terrorists.   If anything, it seems more reasonable to argue that this order didn’t go far enough.   Saudi Arabia, for example, is not on the list.   Nor is Pakistan.     If anything, the criticism might be that the countries selected are not internally consistent and other considerations were made that may have had more influence than it should have in our national security conversation.

The discussion is a good one, and Christians do need to step back and try and do whatever we can to make sure that our intent here is not to harm or discriminate, but to protect our country.   In my opinion, it’s a bit sloppy and needs improvement, but the primary goal here is to protect our country.   That there may be the “double-effect” of some harm to immigrants and refugees who could benefit from entry into our country is unfortunate, but it is not morally problematic because that is not the aim.    It does mean we have an obligation to expedite our vetting, establish clear parameters for entry, and do everything we can to aid them in other ways in the meantime.

 

We Are Watching A Movie We Already Know the Ending To

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Those of you who have followed my blog know that I have followed Charlie Johnston.   I think I’ve been balanced in my assessment of his message and the prophetic aspect of what he says.  I trust, but verify (as Ronald Reagan once said).   In other words, he seems legit to me, I’m willing to trust, but if what he says doesn’t pan out I am not going to make excuses for him.   But as we move along this year, I must say that all he has warned that is coming is looking like it is coming to pass.   So it’s not all a slam dunk, but we’re working our way into a good scoring opportunity.

I’m going to write this post under the assumption that Charlie is absolutely correct in what he says is coming:   that the next stable leader of this country will not come from the election process.     Some have taken this to mean that the elections won’t happen.   Charlie hasn’t said that – he has said that the election might happen, but on inauguration day we will not see Obama peaceably hand the reins over to Donald or Hillary.   To be honest, I think this may even be too restrictive.    I could see a scenario in which chaos is erupting around us and we attempt to continue the government in normalcy, but it is not stable and is short-lived.

In any case, this all seemed like crazy talk just a year ago.   If you would have polled Americans as to whether or not it is likely that on Obama’s last day our country may be in a precarious situation and there would be a serious question about the future of the structure of government itself, I am guess the poll numbers would have registered near zero.     If you polled Americans on that now, I’m sure that most would still answer that the government will survive, but the difference is they’d actually consider the question a relevant and valid one.    And a lot can happen in the next three months that might change the answer.

I am not guaranteeing that Charlie is correct.   I am not rooting for chaos.   What I am rooting for is that America wakes up and reverses its current course.    And all of us prefer that this happen the right way.   But sometimes we humans cannot see the direction we’re going, and if God wants to save us, He’ll have to do it in a way that really sucks for us, because it’s the last remaining option.  If you abuse your body with drugs, alcohol, diet, lack of exercise, and so on then some day you may need to take unpleasant and drastic corrective action.   That action will always be unpleasant, but can also give you a brand new shot at life.    You can then go forward having learned a serious lesson.   The same is true of an entire culture’s spiritual state.   If you pile abuse upon abuse, at some point unpleasant correction is necessary.    If God is merciful to us he will correct us.   But it will not be pleasant.

So, let’s look ahead assuming Charlie’s correct:   the next stable leader won’t come from the election process.   Between now and the end of 2017, things will get so bad that we will all lose hope.   By the end of 2017 the Rescue comes in a Marian way.

Crazy?   Maybe, maybe not.   But I’ve been working under the assumption that his accuracy is likely.    I’ve actually been feeling that way for a number of months now.     And I must say, once I developed that mindset I have watched the world around me through a different lens.   It’s almost remarkable to see everything happening that is happening.   I actually don’t think most of us are even able to process how out of control everything is.   We’ve accepted escalating wackiness as a new normal and we now shrug at things and pay little attention to things that used to be major news items of the day.   As all of life devolves, we just seem to accept it and try to live a life of normalcy to the extent possible.   Not that I have an issue with that – it’s a defense mechanism of sorts.   Keep hoeing the row that is yours to hoe.

So, suppose you go to a movie and someone told you the ending.   As you watch the movie, you are watching it with an eye towards what you know is coming, and you look for signs throughout that helps you understand how the story line is getting you to that conclusion.    You watch it differently than if you have no clue.    In the first case, you know what ultimately happens, you just don’t know how.   So you watch to tune yourself into the how.   In some ways, you likely pick up on things you otherwise would have missed or not thought that much of.   In the latter case, you are less engaged and you’re just taking it in and not particularly concerned with the ending.

Even if you are not a complete buyer on Charlie, keep his predictions in mind as you watch the world unfolding around us.   You just may see things in a different light.   And at the very least, if it does come to pass, then you’ll know he was right and 2017 will be a rough year.   But you’ll also know that there’s a Rescue coming.   And that’s good to know.

The Faux Righteousness of NBC

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One of the interesting things to come of this Presidential election isn’t a bad thing.    While the entire process seems like – as a coworker put it – one big garbage fire, there’s a certain satisfaction that comes with the realization that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes.    All the revelations about how horribly insipid all aspects of society seem to be is not pretty, is not comfortable, and ultimately may be somewhat catastrophic to life as we know it.    But if all the world is built on lies and corruption, then what good is all of this anyway?   Better to present what it is, tear it down, and build it back up again the way it’s supposed to be.

There are direct revelations, and then there are those where one needs to contemplate a few things and put the pieces all together.   The political-media complex has been unearthed for what it is in the  Wikileaks e-mails.   Newsflash:  Democrats hate Christians, the media hates Republicans, and they collude together to impact the outcome of elections and promote a secular agenda.    WOW!   Who ever woulda guessed!?   Um, yeah.   Most of us.   But until it was laid bare, it was surmising an opinion based on circumstantial evidence and logic, which could be easily enough met with denials to convince the apathetic among us that it was all imagined.    No more is this the case.

Alas, the breadth of all this is vast.   So, let’s focus on one of the aspects of the release of the tapes by NBC from a “hot mic” episode in 2005.    Unless you’ve been in a coma with earplugs in for the last week, you know about the derogatory language Trump was picked up saying on a leaked video.    And I’ve already discussed the fact that NBC and the Clinton campaign held the tape until now, which basically means they don’t care about anything but themselves and their political chances.   Otherwise they would have done the right thing and released it during the primaries.

But forget about all that for now.   Let’s focus on the sheer and laughable response by NBC.    Let’s lay it all out in context:   in 2005 Trump was picked up having this discussion with Billy Bush.   Billy, a “reporter” for Access Hollywood played along like a good Hollywood sex-driven lunatic would be expected to do.    He laughs with the Donald, engages in his own commentary (reports are that NBC edited the tape to minimize for the public Bush’s part of this, but that he had a lot more to say) and encourages a woman to hug Trump after the conversation took place.    For ELEVEN years, this behavior was known by NBC.   In the meantime, Billy Bush kept his job on Access Hollywood, and ultimately was promoted to the Today show.

Not only that, but NBC – who I repeat, knew about this tape – put Donald Trump on the air and made oodles of money from The Apprentice.   Word has it that in both the cases of Bush and Trump, there are many cases of crass and rude language.   And you know what?   I would bet that if all the media personalities on NBC had all their “hot mic” or edited segments released, we would find very few sinless people there.   And I am willing to bet that the pattern of behavior with respect to sexual commentary is constant.

But now that we’re in the world of politics, the tape has been released.   Remember, NBC could have released this months ago.  In doing so, they decided that the “common good” for the country outweighed sacrificing one of their own.   They have managed to avoid a lot of scrutiny implicating them on enabling this kind of behavior by rewarding it.    But now that the tape is released, well BY GOD, THAT BILLY BUSH NEEDS TO BE PUNISHED!    It’s stupid, it’s sickening, and it’s irrational.

Listen, I didn’t even know who Billy Bush was before this.   Don’t really care on a personal level that he’s suspended.   In a morally upright universe, both Bush and Trump would have been told that it’s unacceptable behavior and they should try to find another network.    But none of that happened.   So to fake moral outrage now is so disingenuous that it reveals only that the folks at NBC are hypocritical, political, and not wearing any clothes.

Trump and Bush are symptoms of the problem.   NBC is the problem.   Or, more accurately, part of the system that is the problem.

Paul Ryan’s Conscience and Politics

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I’ve spent a lot of time on Politics here lately, for a blog called “Catholic Diatribes.”   In my opinion, everything in life can be, and indeed should be, viewed from a lens of faith.   It need not be the only lens, but it should be part of the equation.   In our world, but in particular the country of the United States, we are overly consumed with politics.

Politics can be very difficult to be viewed through a lens of faith.   And even when attempted, two people can come to startlingly different conclusions.   I won’t re-hash the debate about how a good Catholic can vote for Hillary, but I’ve discussed it before.   I never have, and will never understand, how a person of faith can ever support a pro-abortion candidate, among other problematic moral issues.

I do think there is a legitimate struggle with Catholic and other Christian voters who do not plan to vote for Hillary, but who also cannot move all the way to the idea of voting for Trump.    While I’ve argued here that no matter how much it may stink, we have no other reasonable option.    It might be different if there were a viable third party candidate who extols the virtue we all seek in our public servants from  a Christian worldview.    That candidate does not exist, at least not in any of the four top candidates who are picked up by the polls.    And if you aren’t even registering, the you realistically do not exist and casting a vote there is no different than a no-vote.

So, ignoring the Christians (I exhibited great restraint not putting quotes around that, but still couldn’t not mention that I had great restraint, so I guess it’s only a bit of restraint) who are voting Hillary, we have those who are voting Trump, not voting at all, or voting for a Third party candidate.    I’ve heard some people say they are voting Gary Johnson “just to send a message.”   Egad.   This is stupid if you are a social conservative.   Because the only message that says is that you want social issues removed as issues from the GOP platform.   People need to think a little bit about the message they are actually sending before they do it.

Things get trickier when you move to Catholic politicians who actually are Catholic.  Take Paul Ryan.    As a bit of an aside, one of the things that really bothers me is how personal everyone seems to take things that politicians say, do, and how they vote.    Paul Ryan is a good man.   He is a man of faith, and he is a man of character.   Now, he ticks me off sometimes because I think he tries to find a viable political solution while maintaining certain principles, and I think he’s doing what he thinks is right.   But I don’t always agree with him that he’s right.   In fact, there are many times I don’t agree with him.    But is he the kind of person I want in Congress?   Absolutely.

Paul Ryan is a man of legit faith, in my opinion.   We Christians should not demonize him over budgetary policy and tax policy.   We Christians should push back with issue-oriented arguments, but still muster respect for him.   As Speaker of the House, he has a lot of responsibility, and I trust that he does things that he believes are in the best interests of the country.   I don’t always agree that it actually is, and I am sick of compromise in many areas.    And I’l get angry with him from a logistical level.   But I don’t hate the man, and neither should anyone else.

Most recently, Paul Ryan has attempted to walk the tightrope between not supporting Trump while not unendorsing Trump.   I think if we look at this from the Christian perspective, we can be honest and understand the desire to do this.   Despite my continued call to vote for Trump, it is not because of anything particularly favorable towards the man.   It is entirely due to the worse alternative, and the fact that I must judge my choice at this point not on character but on a presumption that the probability he will do certain things I align with far outweighs the probability that the other will do anything at all that I align with.   And, in my opinion, a man like Paul Ryan should have the clarity of mind to say exactly that.    I understand not wanting to campaign with Trump.    But most certainly he is smart enough to find a way to make this situation work.

Politically speaking, it is my belief that his attempt to navigate this situation is, at best, not helpful to his cause (which is keeping the House Republican) and is at worst an unmitigated disaster.    There are very few people who are going to vote for down line GOP candidates because Paul Ryan has told people to distance themselves from Trump.   It’s just not a realistic expectation.    However, there is a great possibility that anyone who distances themselves from Trump will get a bunch of “kiss my you-know-what’s” from his ardent supporters and jeopardize their races.    Paul Ryan’s move here, which may have been both principled and a political strategy, is simply a horrible mistake and could prove costly.

If it’s costly, I suppose they’ll blame Trump.   It’s not as though Trump is helping matters and he could certainly handle this better.   But Ryan had to know going in that Trump doesn’t care who he chastises.   This may be an immature response, but it is not unexpected, which still places the ultimate culpability on Ryan for kicking the dog in the first place.

I empathize with Ryan.   I am sure it is difficult being asked to not only support verbally, but to also campaign with someone who you find distasteful.   It is a moral dilemma.    But there had to be a better way of navigating this.   That horse has left the barn, which is regrettable.

 

The Hypocrisy of Feigned Shock

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It’s almost impossible to keep up with all the problematic moral issues completely flooding the Presidential campaign.   And with each issue, there are multiple facets to what is being discussed.    It is not only about the shocking sin of the day, and who did it, it’s also about who’s casting the stones and who is “shocked and disturbed” by the new revelation of the day.

Today I’d like to address a different aspect of the lewd Trump/Bush tape from 2005 that was unveiled to the world last Friday.   You know, because we need to be fully informed on every piece of dirt on everyone.

While there is rightful disgust at the words of Trump on the recently released video, let’s also contemplate the fact that this information was known and purposefully held for maximum political benefit.  The self-righteous indignation from those complicit in NOT making this available a year or more ago is pathetic.  These people wanted Trump to win the Republican nod, not for good of country or process, but for their own gain.   If they truly believe he is dangerous and would bring harm as President, then they had a duty to inform well before a month before the election.

Secondly, this was clearly held until the Wikileaks drop, which is damning to Hillary on her dishonesty regarding private versus public beliefs and illegal coordination between her campaign and Super PACs.

And we all play along and allow the manipulation.   It’s all a game.   Hillary doesn’t care one iota about what’s best for the country, or you, or me.  She cares about Hillary.

And Trump is demeaning and obnoxious.  Agreed.  I’m still mad at my fellow Republicans for making him the guy I need to compare to Hillary (who is demonstrating how horrible of a candidate she is by not running away with this).  But enough of the hand-wringing sanctimonious BS.

We get the leaders we deserve.  And quite frankly,  we deserve it.

New Release: Election 2016 (Rated R)

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OK, in honor of the politics of 2016, I’ll start my entry today in a crass manner:  Anyone who has previously questioned whether or not our entire culture is a floater in the toilet has since just thrown up their hands and accepted it by now.

I find it difficult to believe anyone witnessing the debacle of today’s politics and the morally bankrupt candidates we’ve selected to run for the highest office in the land to be emblematic of anything other than a complete reduction of all standards to the basest of levels.

So, I won’t really get into the contents of the Trump Video from 2005, and whether or not he’s said other disturbing things during the off-TV moments of The Apprentice.   I mean, if we’re all being honest, does it actually really surprise anyone?   It’s shocking and disgusting, but is there really anyone out there that didn’t already know the guy we’re talking about wasn’t an f-bomb dropper and more than willing to engage in the crudest of what has now been labeled “locker room talk?”   (And, unfortunately having been a jock in my younger years, I can attest to the fact that he’s not wrong.   Yes, the words are about what is legally assault, which is horrible, and is still plenty of what you might hear in a locker room on any given day.   It’s not excusing it and it doesn’t speak well of anyone speaking that way, but it is reality.)

I won’t list the litany of counter-examples of Hillary being a completely disgusting human being in her own right, by dropping every curse word in the book at those charged to protect her, in talking about the American flag, in talking about mentally disabled children.   Again, if anyone is really honest does any of this really surprise us?   It’s always shocking to actually read and hear, but we long accepted that our two nominees are morally bankrupt human beings.

Mainly, the whole thing is just sad.   As a coworker of mine phrased it, “I think we all can agree that this whole thing is just one big garbage fire.”   He will vote Hillary.   I will vote Trump.   But on that statement, we have agreement.    And neither of us will vote for our selected candidates because we like them.    We just dislike the other one more.

I have written of my intent to vote Trump, and I have stated that, in my opinion, it is the clear moral choice to vote Trump.   I do not retract these words, I still feel strongly about that, and I will have no issue with voting Trump.    None of that means I like the man, and none of that means that I don’t wish I had another reasonable option.    The fact is, there is no viable alternative for me.   Even if I embraced the fantasy that voting for the next best viable option (Gary Johnson) I cannot do it anyway, because on the issues where I am hopeful that Trump will actually handle correctly Gary Johnson is as bad – if not worse – than Hillary.   Even the fourth best option, Jill Stein, is left of left on moral and cultural issues.    In order to find any person that remotely appeases my conscience I need to find someone that 99.99% of the population has not even heard of.   And that means it is an utterly wasted vote.   No, I need to settle on Trump.    I don’t think I even need to point out why it can never be Hillary, but briefly stated:  she’s every bit as morally bankrupt (and I even think more so) than Trump is.   And even if some disagree with me on that, it’s like arguing whether the mold on the side of the cheese is more edible than the mold on the top of the cheese.   So, we’ve long moved past the character issue as something us Christians can rely on.   I don’t say this glibly.   It really sucks to not be able to respect either candidate in any way.    But that’s the reality we’re in.     So, I simply need to find any light I can to separate the two of them.    And in the end, there was one question at the second debate that provides that separation.  When questioned on the Supreme Court Appointments, Clinton proudly said she would appoint justices that upheld Roe vs. Wade,  Marriage Equality, and a litany of other litmus tests.    She even claimed Trump would appoint justices that would not uphold these rulings (which she presented negatively).   Trump did not argue with her, and instead doubled down on appointing justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia.

Now, many have claimed that Trump is liberal on social issues and is not a “real” pro-lifer.  And it’s true he doesn’t often openly address the issue if not asked about it.   He has responded in a pro-life manner when asked, and I agree that it’s a bit iffy just how committed to the cause he personally is.    But here’s the thing:   even if the impetus for appointing justices in the mold of Scalia are because of 2nd Amendment Rights, Freedom of Speech, etc.  then the byproduct of that is that those justices are FAR MORE likely to also favor freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and challenge Roe vs. Wade, among other things.    They will be FAR MORE willing to rule in favor of state’s rights than to allow federal government infringement when unnecessary.

If there is no other issue that separates them, this is still a clear moral choice.   Perhaps not with respect to the person, but with respect to how that person will govern.

As I have stated elsewhere, “I know with certainty the evil the one will do.   I hope with uncertainty the good that the other will do.   And to me, that makes it an obvious choice.”

Really, I can’t say it enough:  This election sucks.

If Charlie Johnson is correct about things to come, the whole thing actually doesn’t even matter.   But I still feel called to fight and care anyway.   Maybe I shouldn’t worry about it, but I think it behooves us all to fight the fight until there is no more fight to win or lose, either way.

Us Catholics – and all Christians – seem to be in a bit of a tight spot be being forced to support a guy who has said the things he’s said.   I don’t think we need to feel that way if we keep our wits about us.   There really can be nobody of any repute that can call us hypocritical of voting for Trump.   Anyone who claims that is being disingenuous.   I think the balancing act we need to work out is making it clear why we “support” him, and also making it clear why we’re not necessarily thrilled with it.   There is no reason to defend his wrongdoings, and yet we can also support his election based on everything I wrote about here.  Also, it’s important to note that regardless of what happens, we ultimately must accept that God’s plan is playing itself out.   God’s plan may seem either obvious or utterly ridiculous, but we really have nobody to blame but ourselves for Him doing what He needs to do.   Had we stood up against the cultural rot we’re soaking in long ago, we wouldn’t have the choice between these two candidates, who are not just flawed but grossly so.

One wonders, though…  if THIS is the Year of Mercy, what in the world is in store for us when the year ends on November 20?    Egad.

My Debate Wish List

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I guess it would be too much to ask that either Trump or Clinton lead off the debate with a Rosary.   Or a salute to Our Lady of Guadalupe.   So, I guess I’ll need to keep my wish list to things more temporally satisfying.

Before I even start, I’ll tip my hand.   I cannot in any case ever, ever, ever see myself voting for Hillary Clinton.   Never ever.   Ever.   There is zero common ground I have with her on issues of morality, but then extending beyond that we have no common ground on any of the other temporal matters at hand, either.   I find her entirely and utterly despicable.   Or, to use her word, deplorable.   I won’t say she’s unredeemable (another of her words, which is not actually a word) because God can do anything, and in fact Christ redeemed us all if only we accept that redemption.    But she labeled a number of Americans with that word as well, which further speaks to her character.

Having tipped my hand, I suppose I need to do what everyone else feels compelled to do, and to make it clear that I don’t really like Trump either.    I find it somewhat fascinating that people always feel the need to be apologetic and squeamish about supporting a candidate.   I am neither apologetic, nor am I squeamish.  I have a choice to make here, and I’ll make it, and I won’t apologize for it.   If I am perturbed by anyone, it’s the other voters who ultimately gave me this choice.    I did not vote for Trump in the Primary, and he was never my favorite or even close to it.

But I can’t change that, so I can either throw a tantrum and not vote, under the delusion that he’s as bad as Hillary, or I can vote third party under the delusion that either of those nutjobs are any better (OK, I suppose that wasn’t charitable.   This is a Catholic blog and I suppose I should be more careful.   On the other hand, I’m not supposed to lie, so I’m in a conundrum.   So I’ll keep the comment and you can feel free to judge me.).  Or I can suck it up and be an adult and recognize that I have only one choice to make.   And since I’m forced to choose between these two, I choose one and will not apologize in any way for it.    It doesn’t mean I’ll defend him on everything, it means that I think he’s imperfect but still a lot better than the alternative.

And so, there it is.   Full disclosure on my feelings.

So, with that, here is my wish list:

  1. In Trump’s opening remarks, he paints the backdrop for the entire debate.   That while Clinton spent the last week resting and rehearsing every detail and every scenario, and turning herself into a robotic and programmed policy wonk who is incapable of authenticity, he spent the last week traveling around and meeting with every day Americans.    That he didn’t rehearse at all, except to talk about some things that might come up in the debate.   That he didn’t have stand-in Hillary practice.   So, in the next 90 minutes, the American people are going to hear my real, unrehearsed, authentic thoughts.   It may not be finely tuned and rehearsed, and he may not have decided to memorize and encyclopedia’s worth of details on every issue under the sun.   As President, he will have trusted advisers to provide all the details, while his job is to stay big picture and provide direction.     And so on.    Basically, he needs to set the entire debate up in his favor so that every time she throws out statistics and facts and policy, he can engage where comfortable but always have a default response of “you did a nice job of memorizing in the last week there.”    This will use her strength against her and sow doubt.    He doesn’t need to beat her on facts and figures if he can create a sense that whenever she goes there it’s just not authentic and not what the voters care about.     He may or may not win that argument with the high-brow intellectuals, but he will win it with typical Americans who have proven that they simply don’t care about all these details.   They are no watching the debate to find out who knows more about the issues.   They just aren’t.   That is a bit sad, but true.    It caused me angst during the Republican debates.    Trump clearly doesn’t know as much about policy as many others on stage.   And yet, he won the nomination.    Trump just needs to find a way to equalize that advantage so that he keeps people unimpressed by the know-how, and makes it about stature and personality.
  2. I want to see a 5-minute coughing fit from Hillary about 45 minutes in.    Maybe prompting Trump to offer her a glass of water.    I am not wishing for a major medical event, let me be clear.   I just want coughing.   It would provide entertainment value, it would be incredibly embarrassing for her, and quite frankly I think something as goofy as that with 100 million people watching would simply be her death knell.   Politically speaking.    I suppose this isn’t particularly charitable of me either.
  3. I want to see Trump wear a tie-pin that clearly says “Les Deplorables.”
  4. I want to hear Hillary Clinton say the words “radical Islamic terrorism.

To be perfectly honest, I think we’re just living in sad times where, as a friend of mine said, this whole thing is just one big garbage fire.    I think I’m well past the point of hopefulness that the process, at least this year, actually is redeemable.

So, I can choose to stew in bitter disgust, or I can at least try to enjoy it.   Admittedly, it’s kind of like enjoying the view of the ocean while on the deck of the Titanic.

 

Charlotte’s Web

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If one pays attention to the world about, it is often apparent that there is a strange dichotomy in place, nearly side by side.   It’s that old traditional saw about the battles between good and evil, it’s the wheat and the weeds, etc.    Sometimes, it’s the crucifixion and resurrection – something good somehow coming from something bad.

Charlotte has suddenly been thrust into the darkness of civil unrest following another police shooting.    It matters not that the police officer was black, all that matters is that the victim was black.   It seems we are now in a state where chaos will be triggered no matter what the circumstances.   Here is the image of Charlotte America now sees:

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To be clear, I do not know what happened.   I don’t know if the shooting was justified or unjustified.   I don’t know if the victim was truly a victim because no gun was involved, or if he was in fact a criminal who threatened the officer with a gun, reaping what he sowed.   What I do know is that I don’t know, and what I do know is that few, if any at all, of the protesters know at this point, either.   The police department is being criticized today for not releasing the video of the incident.   I don’t know enough about it to judge it myself, but I am nearly certain that we have reached a level of discord that the video could clearly show an man pointing a gun directly at police and there would still be people ignoring it, so that they can use this unfortunate circumstance to do harm to others.

And yet, I read another article today about Charlotte’s boom in seminarians.

Here are a couple excerpts from the article.

“For the first time in its 44-year history, the Diocese of Charlotte has 24 men in formation in three seminaries. A contributing factor to the record number of seminarians this year has been the establishment of a minor seminary in Charlotte, St. Joseph’s College Seminary.”

“Under the steady and orthodox leadership of Bishop Peter Jugis the diocese has fostered a strong devotion to the Eucharist. Just this past weekend Charlotte hosted its 12th Eucharistic Congress.  15,000 people participated this year, many arriving early Saturday to join in the annual Eucharistic Procession through the streets of downtown Charlotte.”

Now, the article I linked to tends to think it’s all about Traditionalism.  That’s OK.   I don’t disregard the fact that those who prefer a Traditional Liturgy will tend to be more orthodox.   I do think it’s a mistake to equate orthodoxy with Traditionalism.   I consider myself entirely orthodox when it comes to submitting to the magesterial teachings of the Church, while considering certain elements of worship as preferences.   I think we fight too much about things that are preferences.   But I digress.

The reason I point out the article is as a juxtaposition of the anger and hatred on display right now.   In the heart of it is the following picture of Charlotte:

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I’m often reminded of the stories of hope during World War II, even among those in concentration camps or those threatened with that possibility.    The images above and those stories serve as a reminder to us that we are a world in constant opposition.   God wants us, and  the Devil wants to take us away from God.   Evil manifests itself in countless ways.   But no matter how much darkness there seems to be, and no matter where you are and what is happening, God has pockets of light.   A little light can break through a lot of darkness.

The men above are the men who can help heal Charlotte.

Kneeling for the National Anthem and Flying the Confederate Flag

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Unless you’ve been comatose lately, you are well aware of the controversy in the NFL surrounding the appropriate posture during the National Anthem.   This all, of course, started with Colin Kaepernick deciding he was going to protest social injustice by sitting or kneeling during the National Anthem.

Not surprisingly, this has left a bad taste in many peoples’ mouths.  It is not a stretch to conclude that someone who takes this action is being blatantly and purposefully disrespectful to toe flag, to the country, and to all those who have fought for our country, many of whom have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the process.

Kaepernick sees it differently:   “The media painted this as I’m anti-American, anti-men-and-women of the military and that’s not the case at all.  I realize that men and women of the military go out and sacrifice their lives and put themselves in harm’s way for my freedom of speech and my freedoms in this country and my freedom to take a seat or a knee so I have the utmost respect for them.”   [source]

He’s not anti-American, I guess, but he’s not proud of the country, either:  “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

OK, I won’t regurgitate the obvious points about the color of our current President, how blessed Colin is in both status and income, etc.   I also won’t rehash the argument about how the National Anthem has nothing at all to do with the thing he’s supposedly protesting.

What I’d like to do is compare this to the controversies around flying the Confederate Flag.

While the Confederate Flag controversy has basically died down, mostly because those who oppose the flag have largely won the day by eradicating it from most public spaces with great fanfare, I would like to revisit their arguments in the context of the protests during the National Anthem.

Many people flew the Confederate Flag not to celebrate slavery, nor as a statement of racial superiority.   Quite frankly, some people I think just thought it looked cool and didn’t give any thought whatever to the “meaning” of the flag.

In full disclosure, I never really got the whole thing one way or the other.   I’m a northern boy who is perfectly satisfied with the U.S. Flag.   If I’m being perfectly honest, most of the people I’ve personally witnessed flying the flag on the back of a jacked-up pick-up truck were not really the circle of friends I would naturally gravitate towards.   I am fairly agnostic about the whole thing.   I could actually see and understand both views.   I can see how some like what it symbolizes from a traditional and culture aspect apart from the slavery issue, but I can also see how it can be very difficult to view it as a symbol completely divested of the slavery issue.

Be that as it may, let’s review the arguments given for why the Confederate Flag is not racist:

1 – It represents Southern Culture – similar in meaning to “Don’t Tread on Me” – it’s a symbol that screams “don’t mess with us!”

2 – The flag has nothing at all to do with race – it’s a historical symbol devoid of any specific meaning

3 – It’s just cool looking

4 – Many people – relatives and ancestors – died in the Civil War.   This is a way to remember and honor them.   The Civil War was fought over many issues other than slavery, after all, and not all those fighting were fighting for that reason.

5 – We are just too politically correct and sensitive and we are reading way too much into things.

 

I am not saying those are good or bad arguments.   What I am saying is that many, many people actually do revere the Confederate Flag because of those arguments, and that many many people who fly the flag are not intending to be racist, or hold feelings of racism.   Many aren’t even trying to make a statement, they just want to fly the flag and be left alone.

I am sure there are others who do fly the flag to make a statement, and also fly it at least in part – whether they openly admit it or not – that there’s a racist component to it.

 

But let’s explore the person who claims to fly the flag with zero racist motivations.    How is that viewed by those who consider the flag a symbol of racism?

This article is a bit dated, but it shows how many states have taken actions or have proposed removing the Confederate Flag.   In none of the states where the flag has come down has there been an actual admission that the Flag is racist, or represents racism.   It is an act, however, of unity.    Why?   Because perception becomes reality.

You see, whether intended or not, there is at the very least an indirect tie to the issue of slavery that is represented in the minds of folks in the Confederate Flag.   Right or wrong, there are people legitimately bothered by its presence.    You need not prescribe to the idea yourself, nor do you need to even accept the premise of it, but those who oppose it will say that you are – de facto – supporting or celebrating racism and slavery if you support the flying of the Confederate Flag.

I am not here to argue that point as much as to question where the same people who make that argument fall on the “is purposefully kneeling during the National Anthem anti-patriotic and anti-military?”   I am only guessing here, but I would guess that those people would say “no.”   And if so, they are being hypocritical.

The U.S. Flag represents many things.   Yes, our country has its warts, but that is not what the Flag represents.   The Flag does not represent the police or individual lawmakers or anyone else you have a beef with.   It represents the ideals that our country was founded upon, as delineated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.   It represents our country in battle, as a defender of Freedom, and directly corresponds to those who have served.

It matters not one iota if Kaepernick or anyone else says that his actions don’t mean what everyone in the country thinks they mean.    It matters not that he wants to blame the media for mischaracterizing his intentions.    You cannot make the argument on the one hand and dismiss it on the other.

If you are going to argue that intentions don’t mean diddly in the one case, then stop arguing that intentions are what matter in the other case.   You can’t have it both ways.

Simply put, the actions by these players ARE anti-America, anti-Military, and anti-Patriotic.    Whether they believe it or not is irrelevant.  At least that’s what we’ve learned from them during the Confederate Flag issue.

An Honest Discussion About…

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Unless you’ve been napping under a bridge with Tommy the Troll for the last week (and if you have been, please take a shower- troll’s leave a residual smell that is difficult to eradicate) you will have noticed a sudden lurch forward in the crisis that is the current state of the United States of America.    While I call it a “sudden” lurch forward, it is only sudden in the same way that a pot of boiling water requires a lot of energy input in advance of the “sudden” move to an active state of boiling.   In fact, this crisis is decades in the making, but we now find ourselves in what seems to be new territory, at least with respect to this generation.

Of course, like all crises, there are numerous things that have placed us where we are at the moment, but there is always a short list of the triggers that move one from one state to another.   The proverbial straw on the camel, so to speak.  The current straw is the recent police shootings of minorities in Minnesota and Louisiana.   The pile of straw beneath these things can be traced back quite a ways, but include previous police/minority incidents as well as the President’s and Attorney General’s own statements that, at the very least, are not supportive of police and at worst are aiding in the fomenting of the anger of an already tense relationship between cops and minorities in many areas.

Clearly, this is an unfortunate situation that calls for prayer, and an honest discussion about race, police brutality, disparate treatment of minorities, guns, and an overall lack of respect for the dignity of human life.

So, let’s talk about what this “honest discussion” looks like.   Because you are seeing calls for an honest discussion about these topics all over the place.   I completely agree with those words, but am entirely annoyed with what they usually mean from those who utter them.   In most cases I am seeing these words spoken by liberal politicians or journalists who probably think they are calling for an open discussion, but what they are really saying is “people who have been disagreeing with us are wrong, have been lying to yourselves, and we now need to have an honest discussion about how you are wrong and you need to adopt our ideas.”

Let me provide one annoying example.    In an article by Mike Lupica, Why in America do we have to choose between caring about Philando Castile and Dallas cops? he tells us where the hate in America is coming from:  “Terror, we are told constantly, is the biggest threat to America. It is. The terror of race and class and hatred, of divisiveness and ugly rhetoric and too many guns. The terror of too many whites hating blacks, or browns, too many blacks hating policemen, too many Republicans hating Democrats, and hating this President most of all. Donald Trump talks about “America First.” Okay. But which America?”

Mike Lupica, in my opinion, has been a liberal tool for some time (I mean that in the most charitable way possible).  True to form, this is not the advent of a truly honest discussion.   It is one half of an honest discussion.   Further, it is the easy half of the discussion, because the other half is the half where people start throwing out all sorts of hateful terms (ironically, they consider themselves loving and tolerant people while using terms like “bigoted”,”unchristian”,”unloving”,”hate-filled” and “intolerant”).    In general, we have a problem of the soul.   This takes many forms.   The most evident and clearly evil form are the things that come from outright hate.   But hate is kind of like that boiling point in the heating process.   Leading up to that we have pride, greed, jealousy, selfishness, and so on.    These are the things that kill us inside until it is no more possible to love anyone else but ourselves.   And when there is no more love, you’re left with hate.   But let’s even give a pass on that line of thinking and for the moment support the idea that the issue we have is simply one of hate.

“The terror of race and class and hatred.”   OK, I don’t immediately have an issue with this because it’s general.  I hate using the term “class” in our country because we are supposed to be a classless society.   The poorest among us are supposed to have every opportunity to not be poor.   Interestingly, when many speak of the “middle class” and how they want to be there for them, they are really being demeaning.   There is no “class.”   I may be perfectly happy staying at a particular income level or status of wealth.   But if I choose to change that situation, I don’t need a politician tell me they are there to help.   Stay out of my way – that’s how you can help.    An honest discussion about “class” divisions must start with whether or not our policies are unnecessarily creating an actual class system in our society, and keeping people there through a state of dependency on the government simply in order to maintain that status.  Put another way, we have moved from an economic and political structure that encourages free movement from one status to another (in either direction) to a structure that encourages a state of constancy – where you are is where you’ll be.   You won’t move up, but we’ll make sure you don’t move down.   Because we love you.   Thank you, government.

Next:  “Ugly rhetoric.”   I’ll agree on this, though I look at it more as a symptom of the ailment than the ailment itself.   I’m also guessing that Mr. Lupica would disagree with me on what is considered “ugly” and who the primary perpetrators are.   And that’s OK, as long as he’s willing to listen to me in an honest discussion and show a willingness to look in the mirror.   I fully admit I can be acerbic at times.   Will he?  And what’s a healthy dose of that and what is too far?

“Too many guns.”   And there you have it.   An “honest” discussion must clearly include the premise that we have too many guns.    Lupica has an opinion, I have an opinion.   We do not agree on this.   But to many, a discussion on guns can only be  “honest” if you start off agreeing with them on this point.   Now, having said that, gun supporters should always be prepared to evaluate what is going on.  A fair question is:   would the gun control law being proposed in any way have affected crime rates, the results of crimes, etc. for the better?    If incontrovertible proof can be shown in the affirmative, we should accept that some things may be a good idea.   But if this cannot be shown, they need to be able to accept that Liberty trumps unproven ideology.  Or if we decide to try something and it doesn’t work, we need to stop the insanity that reversing course is a bad thing.   This goes for nearly every policy, not just gun control.

“The terror of too many whites hating blacks, or browns, too many blacks hating policemen:”   Notice what he did here?    Whites are racist, and blacks hate authority.    This is dishonest.   And while it puts some psuedo-blame on blacks for hating in an attempt to look fair and balanced, it really isn’t at all.    One is hating because of color and once is hating because of abuse.   While hate is always bad, the one is purely evil while the other is at least understandable.

Most whites aren’t racist, but it’s a valid part of the discussion to talk about how to change the hearts and minds of those who are.   But a real honest discussion would also be to address the hatred in much of the black community towards whites.   Not just cops, but whites.   We cannot get past this issue until that is honestly addressed as well.   If all whites are to carry the burden of particular whites who have caused past and current harm in the minority community, then this is an inconsistent standard for how whites are to view the black community.   Both should be able to forgive and move on.   But too often, the very suggestion that one side do this is considered racist.   It is not – it’s Christian.   We are to forgive and love.   This is not limited to one race or another.  It is not even limited to the relative grievances one group may have over the other.   If forgiveness can only come after an assessment that each group has now been harmed equivalently, this is unworkable and insane.

The other part of this is that we need an honest discussion about both sides of the police/minority question.    It is too simply put as institutional racism among police officers.   I am not saying there isn’t some racism among the population of cops – I’m sure there is.   But the issue nobody wants to have an honest discussion about is why that is.  Most of the “racism” is probably more accurately described as “tension” or “increased anxiety.”    Human beings are not robots.   We have emotional responses to things that are reflective of past experiences (past conditions).   If a white police officer has, over the years, had much more difficult and dangerous experiences with black individuals than he has had with white individuals (on balance), it is almost certain that this will create a different  psychological and physiological response when dealing with a white person versus a black person in similar situations.   Is this fair?   Well, yes and no.   It is based on experience, so in that way it’s fair.   But it may not be fair to a particular case with a particular person.  And this is the main issue.    It is probably very real that some police officers overreact in some situations, and it can lead to tragic results.  It is probably very real that one of the reasons for this overreaction is due to the color of the skin of the person they are dealing with.   This isn’t good, it’s not right, and if a person has reached a point where they can’t control their emotions then they need to be dismissed.   But was it intentional and racist?    I’d say probably not in the strict sense.    But even if it was, part of the honest discussion needs to be about the responsibility of the minority community that led to that officer being in that state of anxiety in the first place.

Finally, my favorite: “too many Republicans hating Democrats, and hating this President most of all.”    Yes, Mr. Lupica.    Republicans hate Democrats and this President.  But no mention of Democrats hating Republicans.   Clearly, that is because Democrats are all about love and togetherness.  Seriously, how difficult would it have been to be a little balanced here and say “Too many Republicans and Democrats hating each other.”    At least that has a minimal guise of balance.    This is why I just can’t trust half the people calling for an honest discussion on these issues.    Is it true that too many take politics and political differences to a personal level, and spew hate?    That’s absolutely true.   And it’s absolutely true for both sides.  And it seems to get worse all the time.    But good grief, no President was more hated by the opposition party than George W Bush.  I live in Wisconsin, and I can tell you the words Democrats use when talking about Scott Walker are horrific.   Both sides need to acknowledge when they are moving too far in this direction.

To finish up on the point I started with and moving past this one example of hypocrisy, the next time someone suggests we have an honest discussion about division in America, ask them any or all of the following questions:

  • Are you willing to discuss how abortion and euthanasia devalue human life and has helped lead us to where we are today – that people are more willing to do harm to others because they don’t see the dignity of the human person?
  • Are you willing to discuss how the continued attack on religion and religious people – on our faith itself – has harmed our ability to bring meaning to why it is inherently wrong to bring harm to another person or their property – regardless of who they are and what they have?
  • Are you willing to revisit the premise that divisions between races is a white problem only?   That the minority communities bear some responsibility in how people – including police – see them and treat them?
  • Are you willing to tie any talk about gun control to real evaluations on how proposed actions would actually have changed the outcome of past events?
  • Are you willing to look at the actual results of anti-poverty governmental spending programs and make an honest assessment on whether or not we are better or worse off because of them?   Or if some of them are causing more harm than good?
  • Are you willing to accept that differences of opinion on the best way to handle matters – especially regarding the poor – does not mean one side or the other cares more or less?   Can we start with the premise that we both care, we just have a different vision on how best to help those people?

America was once a Christian nation.   It is not anymore.   If looking for the most succinct summary of the root of our current issues, that is it.   We lost our way, and our leadership is now floundering to find our way back to greatness, but they want to do it with God.   Without an honest reflection on that side of things, and true acts of repentance, the wisdom of man will simply not prevail.

Many are starting to pray the Rosary or the Chaplet daily for our nation.    I am not as consistent on this as I should be, but I need to get better.   We all do.