Thursday, January 31, 2008

Belated Blogiversary

Jan 31, 2008, 8:07:37 pm. Exactly one year, 9 days, 21 hours, 37 minutes and 37 seconds after my first post, my blog is visited by its 15,000th visitor.

Thanks for a terrific first blogging year!

Out on a (Fashion) Limb

I've decided that whoever the eventual Republican nominee is, there is a strong likelihood that Republicans will win the White House in the fall.

As evidence, I present this.

Years ago I joked that you could usually tell who was going to win an election by what the fashion designers thought about it all. After all, the couture they're planning right now will be the items available for the victory parties, and they always try to pick the winner and design accordingly.

And what they're picking for fall is conservative:

But some style watchers bemoan such conservative attitudes, arguing that they represent a creative retreat. “Fashion is supposed to be about change,” Mr. Cohen said. “Fashion is risk. But as profits increasingly rule the roost, that risk has disappeared.”

The paradox is not lost on him. Once a standard-bearer of the vanguard, “fashion has become the most conservative of all industries,” he said.

Of course, the word "Camelot" gets thrown around in the article, too, as does the phrase "the White House years of Jacqueline Kennedy." So I suppose you could argue that the designers really believe a Democrat will win this election, though it's hard to imagine either Michele Obama or Bill Clinton pulling off these looks. (Not to mention Hillary; the one good thing about her mature years is that she's finally given up on wearing anything but androgynous pantsuits, which is good because putting her in a dress is not unlike the proverbial lipstick/pig analogy.)

So do the fashion designers really think we're in for a conservative administration? Are they betting their circle skirts, skirt suits, and tasteful tailored offerings on a Romney administration?

Only they know for sure, but at least one part of their prognostications is demonstrably incorrect:

“Any time the economy becomes tough and we see the stock market bounce around, the natural tendency is to pull back,” said Robert Burke, a New York retail consultant. But for the fashion industry, such a strategy is counterproductive, he said. “Too conservative an attitude is not the best approach,” he said. “People are not going to be interested in paying luxury prices for basics.”

Mr. Burke, you're a silly man. Women have put up with the fashion offerings of the early 2000s with growing despair. No rules, anything goes fashion only works when you're either gorgeous, staggeringly rich, or both. People are not only going to be interested in paying luxury prices for basics; people, particularly women, are going to line up in order to do so. Those of us who can't afford luxury pricing will wait in line outside the clearance stores or ransack bargain basements once the effects of the new conservative look start to filter to these places. There may be overbuying and hoarding, too, because we know it will be years before you decide to offer conservative basic clothing that people can actually wear again.

So whether you're designing clothes in the (probably hostile) belief that we're in for another Republican administration, or whether your sartorial efforts are directed at motivating the voters to create a New Camelot (defined as any election in which a Democrat wins the White House), we can't help but applaud. In a refined way, of course; those elbow-length gloves won't allow us to do anything else.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

McCain, and Such-Like

In Anthony Trollope's wonderfully witty novel, Barchester Towers, there occurs a description of a party being held by a respected member of an ancient and venerable family. Miss Thorne of Ullathorne is the hostess, and the guests include both the noble and wealthy, and the obscure and poor. Of course, the nobility is invited to the house; the more humble guests will disport themselves picnic-style beyond a "ha-ha," or sunken fence. Trollope describes one of the difficulties of planning such a party this way:

In the first place there was a dreadful line to be drawn. Who were
to dispose themselves within the ha-ha, and who without? To this
the unthinking will give an off-hand answer, as they will to every
ponderous question. Oh, the bishop and such-like within the ha-ha,
and Farmer Greenacre and such-like without. True, my unthinking
friend, but who shall define these such-likes? It is in such
definitions that the whole difficulty of society consists. To seat
the bishop on an arm-chair on the lawn and place Farmer Greenacre at
the end of a long table in the paddock is easy enough, but where will
you put Mrs. Lookaloft, whose husband, though a tenant on the estate,
hunts in a red coat, whose daughters go to a fashionable seminary
in Barchester, who calls her farm-house Rosebank, and who has a
pianoforte in her drawing-room? The Misses Lookaloft, as they call
themselves, won't sit contented among the bumpkins. Mrs. Lookaloft
won't squeeze her fine clothes on a bench and talk familiarly about
cream and ducklings to good Mrs. Greenacre. And yet Mrs. Lookaloft
is no fit companion and never has been the associate of the Thornes
and the Grantlys.

I find myself in a similar dilemma, now that John McCain has begun to do so well in the primaries, and may yet secure the Republican nomination for the presidency.

All this time, I've been thinking of the Republican candidates as belonging to two distinct groups, as separate and different from each other as the social categories Trollope describes above. On the one hand, you have Romney, and suchlike; on the other, there is Ron Paul, and suchlike. If you had asked me, I might have further added Giuliani to the "Romney" group, the group of consummate corporate-style politicians representing money and the financial conservatives, and on the other I'd probably have included such names as Huckabee, Thompson, and Hunter as those more populist candidates who were strong social conservatives, but who didn't particularly represent the financial interests of the Wall Street wing of the Republican party.

But where does one put McCain? Who, as Trollope says, shall define these suchlikes? McCain can hardly be called a Washington outsider; he's had such a lengthy career in Washington that he's been a Senator longer than some of this year's youngest voters have been alive. He's certainly more pro-life than either Romney or Giuliani, but he supports federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research. He's committed to continuing the war with Iraq, and years of inside-the-Beltway connections has made him a troubling mix of opportunistic cronyism and maverick independence. He's been widely criticized for McCain-Feingold, and the effects this has had on free speech; he has also been criticized for his personal life, which included a divorce from his first wife owing to an affair he was already carrying on with the woman who became his second, who is seventeen years younger than he is.

He can hardly be considered a big-money conservative, but he's not really a populist, either. Born in 1936, he would be our oldest elected president at a time when younger voters are beginning to be increasingly frustrated with the lack of attention paid to our concerns about the rising burden of Social Security; it is not too much to say that McCain grew up in a different world from most of us, a world where men could work for one company all their lives and women had the ability to stay home with their children without suffering economically for making this "choice."

Does John McCain understand the quiet desperation of the American family? Does McCain understand that plenty of us missed out on both the stock market and the housing boom, and are likely to struggle greatly in the coming economic bust? Does McCain realize that couples with two incomes are in debt over their heads while larger and larger chunks of their paychecks are confiscated to pay for the retirements of wealthy baby boomers? Does McCain hear the stories of chaos in the classroom and hopelessness in the hospital waiting room? Does McCain understand the cost of amnesty for illegals, and the rising conviction among middle-class Americans that we are being punished for being hardworking, law-abiding and responsible, while growing masses of freeloaders agitate for more and more government handouts and goodies?

I suspect that he does not. I suspect that John McCain is so far removed from the lives and hardships of ordinary Americans that he has more in common with Romney than the talking-heads on talk radio can even imagine. They are opposing McCain on the grounds that he won't do enough to protect poor defenseless corporations and ensure that the good times keep rollin', but I believe that he, a Washington insider from another generation, will guarantee the status quo as well as a Romney or Giuliani would. And suchlike.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Book Meme

I just saw that the wonderful and talented Patrick Archbold of Creative Minority Report has tagged me with a book meme. The rules are:

1. Pick up the nearest book ( of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

Since my computer is in the living room/schoolroom, most of the books in this room are children's textbooks. The nearest one to me that is at least 123 pages long is the sixth grade edition of Voyages in English. Turning to page 123 we find that sentence six through eight are part of a model business letter, which read as follows:

All the boys and girls of the sixth grade of Holy Family School wish to thank you for showing us how the "Denver News" is written and printed. We enjoyed every minute. We liked watching the big presses run, and we learned many things that will help us when we write our own class paper.

Now, since I can't really claim to be reading, or to have read in any traditional sense of the word, Voyages in English, I want to share the same information from the two books that are the first ones on the upper left hand side of my bookshelf in my room. The first is Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness/The Secret Sharer; on page 123 we find:

The lustre of inquiring glance faded swiftly into vacant glassiness. "Can you steer?" I asked the agent eagerly. He looked very dubious; but I made a grab at his arm, and he understood at once I meant him to steer whether or no.

The next is Daniel Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year; from p. 123:

"'All those ships have families on board, of their merchants and owners, and such-like, who have locked themselves up and live on board, close shut in, for fear of the infection; and I tend on them to fetch things for them, carry letters, and do what is absolutely necessary, that they may not be obliged to come on shore; and every night I fasten my boat on board one of the ship's boats, and there I sleep by myself, and, blessed be God, I am preserved hitherto.'
"'Well,' said I, 'friend, but will they let you come on board after you have been on shore here, when this is such a terrible place, and so infected as it is?'
"'Why, as to that,' said he, 'I very seldom go up the ship-side, but deliver what I bring to their boat, or lie by the side, and they hoist it on board...'"
This was fun! I'll tag the following bloggers, if they'd like to participate:

Nutmeg (any book out of a packing box will be great!), Marilena, Ragamuffin, Paul, and either MommaLlama or Daddio (or both, if you haven't already been tagged by this meme!). And if anyone else wants to do this one, please feel free to join us.

A Nature Lesson

We spent the afternoon yesterday at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden's Japanese Garden. It was a perfect day for a visit to this sheltered and lovely place: cool, breezy, overcast just enough to keep the bees away, pleasantly uncrowded and delightful.

The Japanese Garden has an atmosphere of calm tranquility, even in the winter when some of the plants aren't in bloom. There are green pines, abundant grass lining the paved walks, and a few of the plants and trees are beginning to show signs of colorful buds or berries. We enjoyed a quiet ramble over the stone paths and wooden bridges, feeling far removed from the city traffic that lay just beyond the entrance gates.

There are hundreds of koi fish in the deep pools of water that run through the center of the garden. The koi are quite used to humans, and quite glad to see them, since there are also little coin-operated machines that dispense food pellets visitors may use to feed the fish. The faintest shadow of a human presence can bring a fish or two hopefully to the surface of the green smooth ponds; they drift, mouths open, hoping for a scattering of largess. Should you begin to feed them, they will be joined by dozens of others, rising to the surface in splashes of bright-colored fins, like an undulating underwater rainbow, waiting hopefully and patiently for their turns at the food.

If you drop a pellet amid the fish, the ones who don't succeed in obtaining it will remain close by, in case you have more to share. They will all move quite close to the bridge or pavilion where you are standing, and if they seem sometimes to bump each other out of the way, it is more like the unconsciously excited and slightly thoughtless movements of a group of kindergarteners lining up for ice cream; there's no rancor in it, no deliberate attempt to move the fish in front out of the way to increase their own chance of getting a bite or two to eat. They seem somehow to know that there is plenty, that there has been some earlier today and will be more tomorrow, that the creatures who stand above and feed them will return and return, and will never do them any harm. They are unafraid, watchful, eager, and trusting.

Yesterday the fish were joined by several ducks; there was a mallard, and some of these lovely creatures. The ducks were clearly uneasy to see us and the few other people walking through the shady garden; they would startle, swim or fly from one side of the pool to the other, and approach only hesitantly and with great trepidation even when they could see that the fish were being fed. Wanting the food, but not wanting to risk any danger to get it, they would skirt along the edge of the muddle of feeding fish, waiting to see if a stray morsel would be thrown to a comfortable distance; if it was, they would dart in, heads low, necks extended, to scoop up the bite and then turn and retreat to a safe distance, just in case. When two or more ducks would head for the same drifting pellet, they would come skidding to a halt with a splash of webbed feet and a ruffle of feathers; there would be honking recriminations, especially when a placid fish would drift up underneath the feuding birds and snatch the prize out from under them.

Sailing in and out, pushed closer by greed and away by fear, these birds didn't fare nearly as well as the fish did. Though my girls were more than eager to share the pellets with the ducks, the birds couldn't get past their innate fear of humans and their surety that at any moment what seemed like a simple way to get a meal could become a life-threatening trap. Just as the fish have become calm and fearless, knowing themselves to have the status of pets, or of honored residents of the garden, so do the ducks cling to their more transient status and all the knowledge of the world and its dangers they carry with them even into so safe and quiet a place.

Animals can't help what is in their nature, of course. But I started to wonder how often, in approaching God and seeking His aid, we act more like the ducks than the fish.

The fish, after all, come quickly and gladly into human presence, with their mouths already open in supplication, and their behavior revealing how confidently they hope that their pleas will be answered with swift and abundant blessing. Patient, they await the food; if they don't receive it this day, this hour, they will try again another hour, another day. They don't hold grudges against each other, and those who eat don't lord it over those who have yet to find food.

The ducks hover suspiciously, reluctant to ask, too fearful to approach the food no matter how much they want it. They fight over the tiny morsels and lose some of them in their squabbling; they snatch what is given as if they have earned a right to it, and never think of the ones giving it out except with fear and dread. They will swim away with their tail feathers aloft in affront if they are not successful; they have no expectation of being given this opportunity again in the future, but are letting their own fears keep them from enjoying it in the present.

When we turn to God for help, shouldn't we wait in calm confidence that we will receive what is necessary? When we see others showered with blessings, shouldn't we continue to wait, knowing that God's time is not ours, and that He Who sees all will know the proper time and best way for us to have our prayers answered? Should we not come gladly into His presence, instead of hoping for blessings we have not sought, and fearing the consequences of too close a relationship with Him?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Happy Birthday, Bookgirl!

Today we celebrate the birthday of our middle girl, affectionately known as "Bookgirl" for her love of reading! The Redwall series is her current favorite, but just like Mom all her favorite books involve faraway lands of adventure, brave deeds of heroism, and scenes far from the "real" world.

Though reality is sometimes a dull place for our Bookgirl, she has a love of arts and crafts that provides a different sort of adventure than the pages of her best-loved books. She is learning to crochet (thanks, auntie!) and loves to sew small creative things--she made stocking ornaments for her dad and I this Christmas, by hand, without a pattern!

Reading and crafts may be her favorite pursuits, but she's a good student, too, efficient and competent in the classroom, and showing a "can-do" spirit most days that brightens my life. Like her older sister, Kitten, she's taller than me already, and is eager to spend at least part of this summer "catching up" to Kitten in the kitchen; she's already planning the cooking she wants to learn to do!

Both of her sisters appreciate her easy-going nature, and she's known for her mischievous sense of humor and love of practical jokes. Though she sighed to me just the other day that reality's not as much fun as the mysterious worlds her imagination takes her to, we're all glad that she's part of our lives here in the real world!

Happy birthday, Bookgirl! We love you just the way you are!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Gourmet Coffee and the Common Man

You Are a Plain Ole Cup of Joe

But don't think plain - instead think, uncomplicated

You're a low maintenance kind of girl... who can hang with the guys

Down to earth, easy going, and fun! Yup, that's you: the friend everyone invites.

And your dependable too. Both for a laugh and a sympathetic ear.

I guess, as a "plain ole cup of joe" I shouldn't be linking to this. But I can't help myself.

On the one hand, I suppose if you have enough time and money to invest in a $20,000 process that will allow you to make coffee that is capable of being discussed as if it were a fine wine, why not? If there are customers for your ultra-uber-gourmet coffee market, and you can make a living selling coffee made by a precise and artistic Japanese method, hand stirred with hand-carved bamboo paddles during the brewing process, then where's the harm in that?

On the other hand, I can't help but wonder if coffee, that brew par excellence of the quick jolt, the fast track to morning alertness, the remedy for Mom's sleepless nights and sluggish days, is really worthy of such artistry. One does, indeed, suppose that there are people in the world who view coffee as a beverage properly appreciated in tiny sips of exotic and ever-changing flavor; but one has never actually encountered such people oneself. Or, to be completely honest, most everybody I know who drinks coffee tends to take the "slam the first cup down quickly and hope it takes effect before the second cup has cooled enough to be drinkable" approach to coffee drinking. And some of us cheat by slipping an ice cube into the first cup to maximize its hasty drinkability.

As someone who for years viewed coffee as a drug first, and a beverage second, I've been working on breaking myself free from the grip of its potent chemistry. Frankly, I don't much like the taste of coffee, and I imagine an expensive siphon-brewed cup would be wasted on me, what with all the cream and sugar I put in each cup to overcome the actual taste of the coffee. These days I mostly start my morning with a cup of black tea, instead; it doesn't have the same caffeine rush effect, for some reason, but I actually like tea, and need only a tiny bit of sugar to enhance the flavor of anything from chai spice to Earl Grey.

Still, for those people out there who really enjoy and appreciate a good cup of coffee, drinking it black or possibly lightly sweetened, is the day of the gourmet brewed cup going to supplant the era of the espresso drink?

Perhaps in New York and San Francisco, it will; but putting gourmet-brewed coffee into a paper cup and handing it through a drive-thru window would seem to defeat the purpose of such elaborate machinery, such artistic drive. Only in the slow atmosphere of a true coffee shop could such coffee thrive, which make it hard to see the results of the pinnacle of coffee brewing ever becoming widely available to the masses, who are grabbing their caffeine on the go, hoping it will keep them awake through a dull meeting or a dull shopping errand or a dull afternoon of chores or a dull gray winter's day.

However, there is always the chance that the renewed interest in gourmet coffee brewing will echo throughout the industry, making more coffee sellers strive to create better coffee without going the hand-stirred route. They might replace old equipment sooner, clean the brewing station better, select the beans with more care, and grind them closer to the actual act of coffee-making than they do now. The gourmet-breweries might inspire a renaissance of sorts that will indeed reach all the way down to the drive-thru window.

Call it a trickle-down effect.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Husbands, Love Your Wives

In my travels around the mommy blog world, I sometimes notice the theme of respecting our husbands being raised in various contexts.

From deferring to his judgment even if we disagree, to accepting the fact that he expects us to do whatever his mother wants and that to do less is to "disrespect" her--and, by extension, him--this topic bubbles to the surface.

I've written before about wifely submission, but this time I want to approach the subject in a different way. I want to focus on what husbands owe their wives.

I am blessed with a very good Catholic husband. He shoulders many burdens in his care for me and for our children; he is a good example of faith, loyalty, and love. He treats me like an equal and is willing to discuss any area of disagreement or discord we may occasionally have, and he works hard at being open to communication. I frequently realize just how important that really is to a marriage, and how lucky I am to have him.

It seems to me that one of the biggest areas of conflict that comes up between husbands and wives is a lack of that sort of give-and-take communication. Some men hand down decrees from near-Olympian heights, covering everything from the family budget to their homeschooling demands to their plans for a weekend, content in the knowledge that their wives, as good Christian wives and mothers, will unquestioningly obey. Certainly in the past it was more traditional for a man to behave that way, but this is one of those areas where 'traditional' doesn't always mean 'good.'

It is, of course, not good for a man to have his decisions constantly questioned; this undermines his authority. But it is equally true that it is not good for a man to have his decisions always accepted without question. Men are not gods; they are as prone to human failings as we women are. It's not necessary to nag, to scold, or to complain without end, but it is neither necessary nor helpful to a marriage to grant constant acquiescence even to things with which we have heartfelt disagreement. On our parts, this is likely to produce either the kind of smoldering resentment that lashes out as passive-aggressive behavior in an endless martyr complex, or to puff us up in the false belief that we are being truly holy when we say nothing, even if we are later proved right (over which we can then muse in quiet triumph). The effects on our husbands will be grave, as well; they may think we have no useful opinions or advice to offer, or they may begin to resent our placidity or take us for granted.

And our husbands are enjoined to love us, as Christ loved the Church.

This is not an easy, docile, placid sort of love. Christ, for His Bride, suffered an agonizing death on the Cross; prior to that, He worked tirelessly for Her, preaching, healing, forgiving. Our husbands are called to be prepared to lay down their lives for us; they are called to see us as worthy of their whole hearts, which includes being worthy of being listened to, consulted with, and made a part of their lives.

If we sit back while our husbands insist that members of their extended families must come before us in all things, are we letting them love us? If we refuse to raise our real objections to some plan or decision, are we letting them love us? If we put up with constant television watching, or a demand that we have dinner on the table at his convenience, or an insistence that the children ought to be learning differential calculus in the third grade no matter what the cost to our homeschooling schedule, are we really letting them love us?

I've talked before about what true submission involves; it seems to me that permitting our husbands to love us, the real us, with all our thoughts and opinions and plans and needs and desires, is part of the challenge. This doesn't, of course, mean that we should get our way in everything, but it does mean that our husbands should at least know that we have a way, and that they should be prepared to communicate with us in a search for the kind of loving and trustful compromise that we can both be pleased to reach.

If we love our husbands, we will give them the opportunity to love us. This is what they have promised to do, and this is the way that they will fulfill their vocations here on earth, and gain eternal happiness in the life that is to come.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Potluck Wednesday, Volume Sixteen

I don't know if I've already mentioned this, but we have a new choir director at our church. As choir practice returns to its regular schedule, I've decided to return to the Potluck Wednesday posts. There's so much good reading out there!

AmericanPapist was at yesterday's March for Life, and has lots of great things to share!

Paul at Thoughts of a Regular Guy shares Ron Paul's intriguing proposal to end abortion in America. I like this idea!

A society that is pro-abortion is a society that is anti-child, as this blog post from Suzanne Temple demonstrates.

Regular reader Kerri sent me this link to a truly horrific article, in which women rate their RU-486 abortions as being more "pleasant" than surgical ones. Lord, have mercy! We should pray for these women, and never forget our enemy in the abortion debate is literally diabolical.

At GetReligion, Mark Stricherz asks the question: are young people really more pro-life, or is it just Catholic young people? I respond: Hey, either way we're good! :)

And since we're talking about Catholic young people, I'd like to close by sharing this essay written by my high school-aged godson, on the topic of civil duties. I haven't edited it at all; it's just as it was written:

Civil Duties: More Than Taxes

There are five civil duties that apply to every citizen: "Every citizen is bound to love his country, to show honor, obedience, and loyalty to the constituted authorities, do his share towards the public expense by paying just taxes, and, if necessary, to defend the rights of his country with life and limb." The fifth duty is the duty to vote.

Voting actually becomes more important when there is immorality in the government. Catholic voters base their vote on the moral standing of the party; whether or not the candidates are pro-life, whether or not they themselves are trustworthy, etc. Voting actually can be a moral obligation if it is done to prevent a "bad" politician from triumphing over a "good" one.

Christians are allowed to participate in just wars, in order to defend their country from enemies. However, the military sometimes has its purpose corrupted and pursues courses of action that are more akin to war crimes than proportionate response. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This can be used as a rule for many things, including how to fight wars. When ordered to do something morally reprehensible, even in wartime, it would be an obligation to refuse to do such a thing.

Every good citizen pays his taxes, although no one really likes to. The higher the taxes are, the more unhappy the citizens, and politicians say they try not to raise taxes without a good reason. However, when people have no real voice, such as in an aristocratic government gone bad, officials become bold, and start demanding more than their due in taxes. It is only right to refuse unjust taxation, but it's not always possible to do so. When the American colonists declared independence from the British government, unjust taxation was one of the problems they listed as a cause of their secession.

We should have honor and respect towards anyone, but we should honor those in charge of us more, as God has given them the right to require our obedience. However, politicians don't always deserve our respect, particularly if they adamantly uphold immorality. We have a responsibility to uphold what is right, and to select as our guardians those who do the same. Thus it is lawful to rebel against a corrupt king to set up a new order, rectifying the mistakes of the prior regime.

"Every citizen is bound to love his country...." This is true, and even those who do not agree with certain issues can still love their country. Love of country should not be confused with pride of country. The father of a wayward son may not be particularly proud of him, but still loves him. Love occasionally requires us to correct the loved one, as long as we are doing what is best for him. the same goes for love of country. If we love our country, we must correct it when it is wrong.

When a government becomes depraved, a citizen's duties to a country change. some duties are reduced because certain rules have been violated by the government, while other duties become more urgent. A government is a social contract, not a covenant. It is an agreement between two equal parties, meaning that each has duties and responsibilities to the other. Just as the state must occasionally correct its citizens, the citizens must occasionally correct the state.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

It's Time To End Abortion In America

Today is the 35th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, which, with the companion decision handed down in Doe v. Bolton, made it legal for a mother to have her child killed at any time during her pregnancy, no questions asked, no limits, no problem.

Over the course of these thirty-five years many courageous Americans have taken a stand against this evil. They have spoken, written, marched, and voted. They have picketed, protested, sidewalk-counseled, and provided women in crisis pregnancies with real choices by helping them meet their immediate financial needs and giving them hope and support for their future, and for the future of their unborn child.

And abortion on demand is still the law of the land.

Recognizing this fact doesn't in any way detract from the noble and heroic efforts of all the champions of life out there. But as we click around the Internet to see the pictures and read the stories from so many who have attended the various marches around the country, and especially the March for Life in D.C., it's time to consider the future.

Because thirty-five years from now I don't want my children and grandchildren to be marching on our nation's capital on the 70th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I want them to live in a country where the personhood of the unborn human is recognized and protected by our laws, and where there is never any need for a mother to seek an abortion, and no legal way for her to obtain one.

Some people say we can't go back. The genii is out of the bottle, Pandora has opened her box, and there will never be a time in America where all or even most abortions are illegal.

I reject that pessimistic viewpoint. I wonder how many people in 1850 would have believed that slavery in America, far from being a permanent, if unfortunate, reality, was on the way out? If we could end slavery, we can end abortion. We have the moral obligation to do so; and all those marching and all of us supporting and praying for their efforts have the will to do so, as well.

So how do we do it? How do we bring about an end to this evil?

In the first place, I think it's time to put an end to that well-meaning but ultimately powerless notion that if we want to end abortion we need to change the minds and hearts of Americans. If we had waited for minds and hearts to change before slavery was outlawed, there would probaby still be slave owners in the South. If the civil-rights leaders had waited for the minds and hearts of Americans to change, African-Americans would probably still be sitting on the back of the bus, or segregated at lunch counters. If American women had waited for the minds and hearts of American men to change, none of us women, in all probability, would be voting this fall.

This doesn't mean that we don't want to change people's minds and hearts, of course; but it does mean that we have to realize that in order to end abortion in America we have to change the law. And we can't afford to wait until 100% of Americans, or even close to that amount, agree with us; we have to aim for 51% or 52% and work with that.

And while we definitely want to support a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution, we should take a glance at the play book being used at present by the gay marriage supporters: are they waiting to change the minds and hearts of Americans, or working on a constitutional amendment? No; they seem perfectly content to be doing the kind of incrementalist chipping away at the definition of marriage that far too many pro-lifers have ruled out on abortion, on the grounds that we can't support such things philosophically. This is true, of course; but we can support flawed legal prohibitions on abortion while still insisting that our philosophy demands its complete eradication. Granted, some efforts in this regard have been and still are being made, but I think that there is room to do more, especially at the state and local levels.

In the second place, I think it must be said that many of our churches have failed to be strong leaders against abortion. Speaking as a Catholic, I know that few priests make the subject of abortion a regular part of their homilies; it is the greatest moral evil that faces our nation at present, and there are some Catholic churches where it's never even mentioned. There are some wonderful pro-life priests, and some courageous bishops, too; but if every Catholic priest in America made a solemn promise to preach even one Sunday homily a month against the evil of abortion, what an effect this could have on our efforts to eradicate it!

In the third place, it will come as no surprise to my regular readers that I think we need to do a better job of holding our politicians accountable on this issue. How often have we voted for a Republican candidate, only to discover later that his commitment to ending abortion is practically nonexistent? We need to be willing to insist that the people we support and elect are truly concerned about the unborn--and not just once every four years, as a way of garnering our votes. There is no room for carpetbaggers in the pro-life movement; we must make it clear that we will only vote for people who recognize the evil being done each day to our unborn brothers and sisters who die as a result of our unjust laws, and who are fully and vocally committed to ending this evil as a priority in office.

And finally, I think that we can all turn inward and examine our own efforts on behalf of the unborn. Some of us can picket or march or counsel or work in crisis pregnancy centers; some of us can speak or write or teach the young; some of us can be involved politically. But all of us can pray, and all of us can ask God daily in our prayers to end abortion in America, begging Him to succeed even where we by our own efforts would fail. He Who is the author of life itself will hear and answer our heartfelt prayers on behalf of the innocent victims of the terrible evil of abortion.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Keep Our What? Off of Your What????

Today was the annual Walk for Life West Coast, in which courageous marchers remind the people of San Francisco that unborn humans are being deprived of the most important of their civil rights, the right to life (Hat tip: Mark Shea).

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, a decision that has deprived more than 48 million Americans of their right to be born. This Supreme Court abomination turned the phrase "miscarriage of justice" from a cliche into an ugly reality, a reality that still claims the lives of 4,000 American children each day.

It is also, undoubtedly, the 35th anniversary of the tiresome pro-abortion slogan, two of which were quoted in the article linked above; as a public service I will now deconstruct both of them, so that the foolish abortion aficionados who either applaud feticide for their own foul purposes or who get paid by Planned Death to hold pro-abortion signs will think twice before carrying either one of these ridiculous, shopworn, dreary, unimaginative phrases lettered onto a piece of poster board at any time in the future.

The first, of course, is that old classic would-be-clever line: Don't like abortion? Don't have one! The smug fans of baby-killing think this is so witty, but it's easy to show that it's just...not. Let me illustrate with a few examples:

Don't like slavery? Don't own one!
Don't like bank robberies? Don't rob one!
Don't like rape? Don't rape anyone!
Don't like vehicular homicide? Don't run anybody down!

And so on. Abortion isn't like a plate of cookies that you can either accept or decline with no consequences to anyone but yourself; it's the direct and intentional killing of an innocent unborn human. The innocent victim is palpably overlooked in this trite and silly slogan; ignored is the fact that when a woman has an abortion, there's another person involved, and that person, her own child, always ends up dead. I suggest, as an alternative poster for the pro-life activist, a drawing like this: a picture of a concentration camp beside the words Don't like holocausts? and then, beneath it, a picture of an abortion mill with tiny crosses representing the victims, and the words Don't start one.

The second slogan that shows up with depressing regularity is the abysmally stupid Keep your rosaries off of our ovaries! which combines complete nonsense with a little light Catholic-bashing, not unlike Planned Death's equally stupid attempt to sell 'holiday' greeting cards. This slogan is actually the most blatantly idiotic of all the pro-abortion inanities out there, because it fails to make any sense not only theologically, but also biologically and just plain logically as well.

In the first place, while plenty of Catholics pray the rosary for the end of legalized baby-killing on demand here in the good old USA, no Catholic anywhere has ever attempted to prevent an abortion by placing his or her rosary on (or even over the vicinity of) the ovaries of a woman seeking abortion. The image of someone taking this action does, indeed, conjure up the use of the rosary in certain types of horror movies in which it is being used as a physical weapon against demonic forces; the fact that the Planned Death types would come up with a slogan that hearkens back to such images tells us more about them than they would like us to know.

Even as a symbolic statement, though, this is utterly ludicrous. Catholics don't seek the end of abortion because of some sectarian beliefs of ours; Catholics, like other rational and intelligent humans, understand that abortion is the direct and intentional killing of an innocent unborn human, and we oppose it for the same reasons we oppose other forms of murder.

From a biological standpoint this slogan irks me, too. In an abortion, the abortionist is paid by the mother to kill her baby. This procedure doesn't generally involve the ovaries at all, unless you are referring to the ovaries of the developing female human child which will be torn apart and discarded along with the rest of her; but no pro-life person, Catholic or not, is even remotely interested in the ovaries of the woman who is having her child killed. Granted, we wish the mother would respect her own body and its reproductive properties far more than she actually does, and we hope that she will stop the destructive promiscuity that has led her to seek the death of her child, but just how working to end abortion equates putting anything at all (let alone a rosary) on to the woman's ovaries is beyond me. Of course, the real reason the ovaries got brought up in the first place was most likely because someone was unsuccessfully looking for a cute rhyme for 'rosary' to work in the Catholic-bashing angle.

So a poster for a pro-lifer to use to counteract this idiotic slogan would be something like this: under a picture of a developing baby in utero (perhaps one of those lovely 3-D or 4-D ultrasound images) "If you can't see that this baby deserves to live, chances are you still think that rosaries rhymes with ovaries."

To all the brave pro-life marchers who have taken place in marches this weekend, or who will be participating in the March for Life in Washington, D.C. tomorrow, God bless! My rosary tonight will be for your safety, for your witness, and for the end to abortion in America.

Friday, January 18, 2008

In All Things, Charity

I've been reflecting on the Attachment Parenting debate from last week, and it has made me think about a particularly human, and especially human female, dilemma.

Four women are sitting around a table, sipping coffee and chatting, enjoying a rare break from the work of home and family. The first mentions, proudly, that her two-year-old has mastered the use of the toilet.

The second raises an eyebrow: "Two? Really? That old? Mine were all trained by eighteen months, except for poor Jack, who took an extra month to learn to wipe himself properly."

The third says, defensively, "Well, I don't agree with pushing them to do it. All the books say you should wait until they're ready. Sometimes that's well after two."

The fourth says, humorously, "If I had waited until Christina Therese were ready, she'd still be in diapers!"

The others laugh, dutifully, as they know that Christina Therese is a polished young lady with a college degree and marriage prospects. Still, the mother who began the conversation feels diminished. Did she push her child, as mom number three indicated? Was she a slacker, as mom number two clearly thinks, and mom number four may be hinting at? She thought she was sharing a universal mom-triumph moment, and instead her joy is being picked to shreds by people who are telling her she did it wrong, or at least, that she could have done better.

As for moms two through four, each of them jumped on this particular bandwagon for their own particular reasons, carrying their own designer baggage. Mom two may be tired of being criticized for pushing her children, though she may be inordinately proud of their precocious toilet habits, too (and the possibility that she's varnishing the truth a bit must be considered, as few eighteen- or nineteen-month-olds can wipe themselves unassisted without falling into the commode). But if she is trying to forestall attacks or exaggerating in order to feel special, her listeners don't know that; all they hear are her words.

Similarly, mom three may be defensive because she has a five-year-old who still wears pull-up diapers to bed, because it's easier than having to change the sheets four mornings out of seven; but she may second-guess herself all the time about this, wondering if she shouldn't, instead, be waking the child up every four hours to take her to the bathroom, which will be difficult what with the baby being up two or three times a night as well; she may hear the critical voices of other relatives and friends in the voices of moms one and two, and be lashing out to keep herself immune from the criticism she fears will follow if she is strictly honest.

And mom four is, in some ways, the most devastating of all; turning the whole thing into a joke, highlighting the importance of the parent's role in toilet training without admitting that it wasn't Christina Therese, but Michael Raphael who caused her real anxiety and nights of sleepless worry as she wondered whether he would ever outgrow his need for a diaper at naptime. Better to make a joke than admit her own real difficulties in this arena; these younger moms look up to her, after all.

What could have been a moment of grace, of building each other up out of solidarity in their similar vocations, became instead a moment where each retreated into herself, fortifying her own defenses while preparing to lob a cannonball or two over the others' battlements. And we moms do this to each other all the time, because we fear at our very core that if someone else is right about something, than it follows that we are wrong.

The worst thing is, that's not even close to being true.

Oh, sure, there are wrong ways to parent. Putting beer in the baby's bedtime bottle to make sure she sleeps through the night would qualify. Letting a toddler live on ice cream and soda would make the grade, too, as would letting a six-year-old drive the car, or leaving seven-year-old home alone with the baby. I'm sure you can think of plenty of other outrageous examples of clearly wrong parenting, and that's even beyond the Britney Spears headlines.

But although there are ways of doing things that are wrong, it simply doesn't follow that there is one right way to parent, one best and most holy and most proper way. Anyone who claims that there is such a way is out of line, and I mean that with the utmost respect to Dr. Popcak; but it is the truth. If there were a way to raise our children that guaranteed both them and us sainthood, the Church would be urgently disseminating that information, would she not? There are myriads of ways of doing the little day-to-day acts of love and service for our children, and all of them are the right way. All of them.

How do I know? It's quite simple, really. In the first place, I believe that all good Catholic parents are indeed cognizant of their awesome responsibility to raise up future citizens of the Heavenly kingdom, and that every one of them is at a basic level acting in complete good faith to do this.

In the second place, I recognize that good Catholic families come in all forms, with all sorts of different struggles and joys and sorrows and triumphs. No parenting method can claim to be the only right way if there are more families who can't follow its precepts than who can, for that would mean that being a good Catholic parent is something almost gnostic, available only to a select few who know and follow some set of rules understood only by the initiate. But it is a simple fact that there isn't any one method that all families can always and everywhere follow, and unless you believe that God Himself creates a situation where only a handful of people can live as He wants them to live, then we have to accept that there are as many variations in good, holy, Catholic parenting as there are good, holy, Catholic parents.

To the extent that we don't want to accept this, I believe, it goes back to the idea that we want very much to be right, which means we want other people to be wrong. If I am right, than the Attachment Parenting parents are wrong; if I am wrong then they have to be right. If I am right, than the bottle-feeding parents must be wrong; if I am wrong they must be right. If I am right, then the delayed toilet-trainers must be wrong; if I am wrong they must be right...

...or so we start to think. And soon in our every encounter with other people living the same vocation we are living we must begin the battle to affirm ourselves in our rightness while attacking everyone else for being wrong, because if we don't do this, we will be left alone with the hideous possibility that we've been doing everything wrong from the beginning, have scarred our children for life and have ruined their, and our, chances of gaining Heaven.

Which is not just balderdash; it's presumptuous and blasphemous balderdash.

God, in His infinite wisdom, has chosen you to be the wife of your particular husband and the mother of your particular children. He has whispered into your heart His trust and confidence in you, and in your ability to raise your children well. He graces each of your days with His Presence; the Holy Spirit surrounds you with His love. Turning to Him with childlike trust, you seek to discern His will for your family and your life, but He in return reminds you that even your faults and failings can be turned to His purposes, provided you humbly beg His aid, and seek frequent and honest recourse to the Sacrament of Penance. If you are worried about some aspect of parenting, your husband is the first person to speak to; the two of you can then seek the aid of a spiritual director if further guidance is needed; but no one else should trouble you, and no comparison of yourself to families that look perfect from the outside or that champion some method or other should disturb your peace of mind and heart.

And you, in turn, should be cheerful and loving toward other mothers. If they honestly seek advice, offer it with humble love; but never insist that there is only one "right" way to do anything in the parenting realm--the little souls in her care are quite unique and different from the little souls in your own.

I, too, need to remember this constantly. We are charged to keep it before us, to remember to conduct ourselves as Christians and not as the coffee table equivalent of amazon warriors. We are to remember that the one thing that is necessary, in all things, is charity.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

At The Crossroads

There has been a rather lively discussion this week at the Crunchy Con blog about the disconnect between economic and social conservatives, what it means to be a conservative, and what a conservative candidate looks like. I've been thinking about it all, and have come to the glimmerings of a conclusion.

For almost the past three decades a fragile alliance has been holding strong, producing voters for each election who were willing to pull the lever beside the big black "R." Some of these voters were worried mainly about an economic vision; remembering the difficulties of the Carter era and reflecting on the difficulty of maintaining high profit margins in the face of too much government regulation, they worked hard to find and support candidates who shared their concerns and appreciated their drive and passion for financial success and profitability. Worried by the increasingly socialist bent of the Democratic party, tired of being labeled as greedy and selfish for wanting to reap the benefits of their own financial risks, they found their home in the Republican party and their leader in Ronald Reagan.

But at the same time another group was becoming disenchanted with the Democrats, with the politics of victimhood, and above all with the radical strain within the Democratic party that favored abortion on demand, sex education at the kindergarten level, day care as a government entitlement (so all women could work outside the home, of course; there was never any value given to the stay-at-home mom in that era), and with the faint odor of communism that still lingered around the party, a foul yet ghostly stench that made it harder and harder for people who despised the Iron Curtain to feel comfortable voting for the party that seemed more inclined to become communist than to fight communism. Among these voters were Catholics, middle-class former Democrats, Evangelical Christians, and those who were feeling increasingly isolated politically from what the Democratic party had to offer; they, too, found their home in the Republican party and their leader in Ronald Reagan.

It was a perfect storm, this Reagan Coalition. In election cycle after election cycle, the Republicans have sought to resurrect the results it accomplished by appealing to the spirit of Reagan, by marrying social conservatism with economic conservatism, and, if we must be strictly honest, by counting on the Democrats to remain so strident, so pro-abortion, so much the party of Hollywood and debauchery, that the social conservatives would have nowhere else to go.

And we had nowhere else to go. That didn't stop us from failing to show up in sufficient numbers to elect Bob Dole, or to make George H.W. Bush a more than one term president; but we didn't desert the party permanently, either.

And so the economically conservative wing of the party, the wing that has always been in control, has been taking us for granted. In a way, that's understandable. My Catholic forbears probably tended to vote for Democrats, because back before Roe v. Wade the Democrats were the party of the people, the party of the working man and his union, the party that cared more about your persistence than your pedigree; the Republicans were always seen, fairly or not, as the party of the rich. Certainly the Republican party's ties to big business and corporate wealth have been around longer than their ties to the hardscrabble pro-life movement or the emerging anti-gay marriage movement; the economic conservatives would agree that they came first, and that the social conservatives should therefore be prepared to put the economic issues ahead of the social ones in selecting a candidate to be the Republican presidential nominee.

Of course, they've never come right out and said that. Instead, each campaign season the various candidates have donned a "social conservative" mask, removing it in front of strictly economic constituents, but keeping it firmly in place at other times. They've said the right words, and some of them have even delivered on a promise or two once in office, but the reality has been that the social issues do not concern them nearly as much as the economic ones do.

And then we come to this year's campaign. We come to the crossroads.

Because this year the two most economically conservative candidates, Romney and Giuliani, are the two weakest social conservatives. Giuliani really can't be called a conservative at all from the social perspective; his support for abortion alone rules him out, and he's pretty iffy on gay marriage, too. I suspect that the party not only knew this, but hoped that Giuliani's candidacy would have the effect of making Romney look like a true social conservative by comparison, a game they have played before.

Unfortunately for them, several other candidates ended up showing just how weak on the social issues Romney really is, given his day-before-yesterday "conversion" on abortion and his utterly
ineffectual response to his home-state's gay marriage crisis, which occurred under his leadership. Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, Fred Thompson, and even John McCain (despite his troubling support for ESCR) are all decidedly to the right of Romney on social issues, and any one of them could arguably be a better candidate for president on the issues of abortion, gay marriage, the decline of the family, and the like.

So the social conservatives, still operating under the illusion that the Republican establishment would accept any one of these men as their presidential candidate, have voted for each of them in turn; and the Republican establishment has come back with all the icy fury of a manager disappointed with his sales team, to lecture us all on our duty to vote for their candidate.

They've attacked McCain and Huckabee as "false" conservatives. They've branded Ron Paul a lunatic, and if they've left Fred Thompson alone it's primarily because they don't see him as any kind of a threat. They've issued dire warnings about the direction the party would take if anyone but Romney is the nominee, and have unleashed the full panoply of talk-radio warriors to make sure we get the message. Romney, or nobody. Romney, or they won't show up to vote. Romney, or we're not real conservatives.

And all of that effort has shown two things very clearly. One, that though the Republican establishment used to make fun of the Democrats (and probably still does) for taking their marching orders from the mainstream media, they actually do expect us, the social conservatives, to take our marching orders from their mouthpiece behind the "golden EIB microphone" and their pundits in the Wall Street Journal. And two, that all the lip service paid to social issues over the past couple of decades has been just that--lip service--because more important than ending abortion or prohibiting gay marriage is making a profit on abortion-related industries or from the large pockets of discretionary income most gays have, and spend. No matter what the issue, its relation to profit will be its most important aspect, which is why we won't be talking about energy conservation, or cultivating, as a nation, the habit of thrift; the consumer pace will be expected to increase and increase forever, because double-digit annual profit increases are our country's most important priority, and all else must stand or fall by how profitable it is.

So here we are, my fellow social conservatives. At the crossroads.

And the words that echo in our ears are the words of One in Whom even our money says we trust: "For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?"

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Peek Inside Our Homeschool

I've written a couple of lengthy political posts this week, so I hope you'll pardon me if I take a little break from it. Today, I'm going to offer a little peek inside the Cardigan family homeschool, a little snapshot in time showing some of the things that have happened this week.

Kitten's math book, yesterday. Question: "An ant takes 1 and one fourth hours to crawl one block. How many blocks can the ant crawl in ten hours?" Kitten's first answer (before I laughed, but made her do the problem anyway): "It all depends on how far the ant can crawl before somebody sees him and squishes him."

Hatchick, this morning (a little anxiously) "I think we will have rain today. I keep seeing all those cumulative clouds."

Bookgirl's history notebook: "A pioneer is someone who settled in new lands. A frontier is the land the pioneers went to."

Kitten's history notebook: "I don't really think that the executive agreements go against the intentions of the writers of the Constitution. Because it's just a way to get out of Congress' approval. But still I don't want the president to use it as extra power for themselves."

Bookgirl's science notebook: Question: What determines if a planet is hot or cold? Bookgirl's answer: "It is if they are closer or farther from the sun."

And last, but not least, Hatchick's writing assignment:

If My Pig Were Real

If 'Porkypine' was a real pig

She and I would dance a jig!

Then we would eat figcake

And watch a pig tape.

If my pig was real we would

Have lots of fun we'd

Play and play till the day was done.

How are things at your homeschool this week? :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What Are We Conserving?

On National Review Online's The Corner I found this recent recording of Robert Bork, appearing on Mark Levin's radio show. I've always had a lot of respect for Judge Bork, and I've heard all of the buzz about both McCain and Huckabee not being "true conservatives," so I listened to the five or so minute recording hoping to hear some intelligent and substantive analysis of what I've started to think of as "the conservative question."

Boy, was I disappointed. And underwhelmed. I wish there were a transcript of the audio available, but if you can't stand to listen to the whole thing, I can sum it up for you here:

In the definition of conservative, the "social conservative" issues aren't nearly enough, apparently, to confer conservative creds. If "conservative" were a job posting on, then being pro-life, pro-family, opposed to gay marriage, opposed to euthanasia and the like would be listed under the "desired qualifications" heading as "nice to have, but not necessary for this job" according to the interpretations of Levin and Bork (and, I'm afraid, others like them). What's really important, what really makes you conservative, are the following things:

  1. Support for any and all tax cuts, regardless of government spending or the amount of the deficit.
  2. Refusal to raise anybody's taxes, anytime, anywhere, for any reason. Until the baby boomers start retiring en masse, of course, and Social Security tanks. But we're not done yet pretending that's never gonna happen.
  3. Refusal to work with Democrats to accomplish anything, ever, because "bipartisan" is apparently some foreign term for "the bad guys get all the credit."
  4. Refusal to make it easier for judges to be appointed, because of course all future Presidents will be Republican so there's no need to worry that making judicial appointments easier will come back to haunt us during a Democrat administration.
  5. Possession of strong "administrative skills." This is never defined, so why do I get the notion that practice administering your own trust fund factors in?
  6. Refusal to entertain any notion of amnesty for illegal immigrants, at least not unless GWB is the one proposing it, in which case you are to insist, loudly, that it's not amnesty no matter how much the proposal looks, walks, and talks like amnesty; but of course, you are also to refuse to talk about border fences or sending people back, because you might upset your corporate sponsors.
  7. Refusal to engage in "demagoguery" which is defined as bashing corporations.
  8. Disdain for "people feeling sorry for themselves" which is, it is implied, the only reason why anybody would be upset with our current economy, given how wonderfully our corporate masters have treated us (and if you didn't put half of your salary back into the stock market out of a selfish desire to feed your kids and let your wife stay home to raise them, it's your own expletive deleted fault, so quit whining. You could have every bit as much money as the CEO of your company, or even Rush Limbaugh, if you didn't mind discarding a wife every decade or so and seeing your kids at the airport on your way to Cancun. It is, after all, the conservative way.)
Okay, that last one gets a touch snarky. But just how out of touch are these people?

It takes two incomes today for a family of four to get by; those of us who are countercultural enough to give up the second income and are blessed with more than two children face real economic disadvantages, because contrary to the beliefs of Republican leadership there are people who generally vote Republican who don't (gasp, faint in horror) own any stock. Or land. Or other capital. Or have any expectations to inherit same.

For a man working a corporate job for all the income he'll ever have, self-sufficiency or even self-improvement may remain a distant dream in this world of 24/7 on call expectations. Taking a career-oriented class or developing a potentially lucrative hobby are luxuries for far too many American husbands and fathers; by the time they meet the demands of their jobs and spend a tiny bit of time with their families there's no time or money left to pursue such things. It's not laziness or "feeling sorry for themselves" that prompts these men to remain in dead-end jobs for barely sufficient pay with no end in sight; it's the fact that they have no other options, and that even the job they hate could be sent tomorrow to a call center in India or a plant in Mexico, leaving them, at middle age and the sole support of their families, with no financial resources and no choice other than to embrace a shaky future career at Walmart or in food services.

I recognize, of course, the arguments in favor of capitalism and free trade, though I don't make the mistake of confusing the former with the latter. The reality is that the kind of conservatism that Bork and Levin are defining is a conservatism that always puts the desires of Wall Street ahead of the needs of Mr. and Mrs. Middle-Class America, and that permits multinational companies with no ties or loyalty to America to set our economic policies in ways that allow them to make disproportionately large profits using the labor and resources of this nation, but that also permit them to put nothing back into the community, not even a share of federal taxes that is equal in percentage to what one of their own workers pays. Right now, these corporations, having participated in the weakening of the American dollar, are eagerly courting foreign investors, and the day may come when "conservatives" may drop all pretense of caring more for our nation than for the bottom line--if that day isn't already here.

By the definition of "conservatism" that's been floating around these past few weeks, I guess some of the Republican candidates really are more "conservative" than others. The problem for me, and for voters like me, is that all these "conservative" candidates appear to want to conserve is the status quo.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I'm Pro-Life. And I Vote.

A lot of ink gets spilled around elections regarding the phenomenon of the single-issue voter. Though several issues may, in any election cycle, be identified with this phenomenon, such as the economy, the War on Terror, and the like, the phrase is used most often to describe the voter who considers abortion to be the most important issue, and who does not vote for candidates who are not, however imperfectly, committed to the right of all human beings to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, from conception to natural death.

I am proud to be such a voter. As a Catholic I find the Church's teachings against abortion to be rational, profound, deeply human, and rooted in a philosophical understanding concerning the inherent sanctity and dignity of each individual human being, regardless of age or condition of dependency. But it would be far too simplistic to say that I oppose abortion 'merely' on religious grounds. Rather, my religion and philosophy inform my reason but do not contradict it in any way. Those who favor abortion on demand are the ones with the unreasonable position; they think that a human being's life is only worthy of protection if that human being has emerged from her mother's birth canal and entered the world, but not five minutes sooner, as if the ability to breathe air somehow defines humanity; further, that protection can be removed, according to many people whose views have been formed by the culture of death, should the newborn, or child, or teenager, or adult, or elderly person fail to demonstrate "quality of life," a fluid phrase that can be changed to include even the slightest degree of dependence on another person for her daily needs.

In this current election year, some writers who are also pro-life have begun to wonder whether it really matters whether or not the person we elect to the highest office in the land is pro-life or not. The president, the argument goes, can do little to change the laws regarding abortion, aside from his valuable role in appointing Supreme Court justices; however, even pro-life presidents have missed the mark time and time again by appointing judges who were not even close to being pro-life, and who are not only not the impartial jurists we were promised, but are radical activists bent on re-shaping every facet of American law until it resembles nothing so much as the policy papers produced by the United Nations, or at the very least the laws of the European Union. If, say some, we can't even trust pro-life presidents to appoint good judges, why should we worry about the president's stand on life issues? Isn't it more to the point, in these troubled times, to worry about other things, such as the president's ability to bring about an end to our involvement in Iraq, or the president's leadership on issues like immigration, health care reform, economic progress, and so on?

I know that Catholics are permitted to vote for pro-abortion candidates, even for high office, under some circumstances. If, for instance, the only viable choices are two pro-abortion candidates, if it is possible to determine that one of them will be less harmful to the unborn than the other, and if that less harmful candidate takes good positions on other issues of concern to Catholics, it may be possible to cast a vote for that candidate in good conscience. Even though I understand that, I'd just like to say for the record: I have not ever knowingly voted, and never will knowingly vote, for any candidate who is not pro-life for any office higher than that of dogcatcher, and probably not even then. In a race where I know that both candidates are pro-abortion, I either leave the ballot blank beside that race, vote for a third-party candidate who can not possibly win the election (as a "none of the above" vote) or, if permitted to do so, write in a third-party candidate. For example, I have never voted for Kay Bailey Hutchinson, one of my state's senators, for that reason; it didn't matter to me one bit if she were ever voted out of office, because in addition to being pro-abortion she has also worked closely in the past with a group that exists to get more pro-abort Republican women elected to office.

That is one of the biggest problems, to me, with supporting a pro-abortion candidate, even in the short term. While you may elect someone who is not as rabidly in favor of the legalized killing of unborn humans as his or her opponent (Senator Hutchinson, for instance, is considered a "moderate" on abortion), that person is likely going to use his or her power and influence to see to it that more like-minded people are elected to similar offices, and to expand to the extent that he or she can the power of pro-abortion special interests, quasi-government agencies, and all those who feed on the blood of the unborn and the money generated by the big business of killing them.

But isn't it, some might object, too idealistic and impractical for us to insist that our candidate be pro-life above all else? Pragmatically speaking, there are lots of things that need to be done, lots of problems that need to be addressed. Shouldn't we vote for the candidate most likely to do the most good in the greatest number of areas, even if he is weak on life issues, or even completely pro-abortion?

I know that there are post-abortive women out there who truly regret what they did to their unborn children, so out of respect for them I'm not going to link to a picture of the aftermath of an abortion. We've all seen the images, the tiny hands and feet severed from a little body at only eight or ten weeks gestation. We know the reality of the suffering our littlest brothers and sisters are enduring, a slaughter of the innocents that makes Herod's activities look like the work of a bungling amateur in the ranks of the culture of death. George Tiller has killed more children than Herod ever did; and their mothers pay him to do so. The abortionists in America have caused more death and suffering than has occurred in Iraq these past five years; every one of them is so steeped in evil that we should tremble for their souls as we pray for their repentance and conversion.

No issue that America faces can possibly be as grave as the hideous injustice that is abortion. No clearer sign of the degradation of our culture exists than the ease and almost-indifference with which the innocent unborn are killed, four thousand of them every day. The other issues that plague us, serious though they may be, do not contain within them the moral imperative demanding their resolution that abortion does; the innocent voices cry out to Heaven for vengeance, and God Who hears these cries will not long spare our nation from the consequences of these decades of hideous depravity, where the death of the child in the womb is seen as of no more moral weight than the removal of a tooth or the choice of a haircut. We ignore this issue at our peril.

Believing as I do, I am, as I said above, proud to be a single-issue voter. I am as proud to be so as the abolitionists were proud to vote motived by their strong beliefs in the immorality and injustice of slavery; I consider those brave men and women to be, in a manner of speaking, the spiritual ancestors of all who, like me, find no more space in which to tolerate the legalized killing of the unborn than the abolitionists could find in which to tolerate the bloody chains of slavery.

For those whose chief objection to my position here is to say that we will never overturn Roe v. Wade, or that we will never completely outlaw abortion, I can only point to our ancestors who kept working to end slavery even when decisions like the Dred Scott decision seemed to settle the question on the pro-slave side, once and for all. I know one thing: America can endure as a nation, or abortion can endure as the public policy of this land. Both will not endure. Either abortion will one day be viewed with as much horror as we now view slavery, or America as a country will cease to be. If we cannot bring the justice of men to end this barbaric practice on our native soil, God's justice will prevail.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Yet Another Quiz (But This One's Shorter)

You Are a Ham Sandwich

You are quiet, understated, and a great comfort to all of your friends.

Over time, you have proven yourself as loyal and steadfast.

And you are by no means boring. You do well in any situation - from fancy to laid back.

Your best friend: The Turkey Sandwich

Your mortal enemy: The Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Sorry to inflict another quiz on you--but I did make up the one I posted yesterday, and this one is more in the "Friday Fun" motif. I've just had the sort of day where coming up with coherent thoughts and actually writing them down was a bit more than I could handle, so I hope you'll understand and check back in Monday for, hopefully, some bristling and original commentary; the intended subject is pro-life voting.

As for my quiz results, can't say I'm surprised! On January 1st I cantored at Mass for the first time, which at our parish means you have to go up to the altar to lead the Responsorial Psalm (not what I'd prefer, frankly, but it's how they've always done things). I was a bit nervous beforehand and asked my husband if he thought I'd be able to do it.

"Sure, honey," he said, giving me a fond yet understanding smile. "You'll be fine. You're such a ham."

Durned if he wasn't right. As usual! :)

So while my ham sandwich will have to wait until tomorrow, (since it's Friday), why don't you post what kind of sandwich you are in the comment boxes? I promise not to be "the mortal enemy of grilled cheese." Whatever that means.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Mommy Rut Quiz

Earlier today, I was thinking that I might be in a bit of a Mommy Rut. It happens to me a lot in the winter, probably because it's chilly and I'm wearing bulky clothes and daily makeup starts to seem like way too much of a bother even if I'm veering dangerously close to 40 and can't afford to skip it any more, and--

--oh, wait. What's a Mommy Rut? I thought you'd never ask. :)

The Mommy Rut Quiz

Are You In A Mommy Rut?

1. Today I am wearing:

a) A fresh, clean outfit from my closet/drawers.
b) A fresh, clean outfit from the basket of laundry I haven't folded yet.
c) The clothes I wore yesteday. Hey, they were on the chair.
d) Do the sweats I slept in last night count?

2. The last time I wore makeup was:

a) I'm wearing it now; or I'm under 25 with flawless skin and I never wear it.
b) Last Sunday.
c) Christmas. I think.
d) The last time I had out of town company visiting.

3. Speaking of makeup, if my children see me wearing it they say:

a) "You look nice, Mom."
b) "Are we going somewhere today?"
c) "Are you and Dad going out tonight?"
d) "AAAAH! There's a strange lady in the house!"

4. My hair today is:

a) Neatly styled and flattering to my face, like always.
b) Pulled back in a ponytail.
c) Clean and brushed.
d) Don't ask. Seriously.

5. If I have any free time today, I will:

a) Do some spiritual reading, or relax.
b) Visit a few blogs or chat with a friend on the phone.
c) Waste it yelling at the kids to get their toys off the floor so I can vacuum.
d) Blink and miss it. As usual.

6. If the doorbell rings:

a) I'll answer it, confidently.
b) I'll answer it, after I've hidden the laundry basket.
c) I'll answer it, provided it's just the mailman and not someone I actually know.
d) The kids will shout, "Pizza's here!"

7. For dinner tonight I am preparing:

a) A culinary feast with fresh, wholesome ingredients.
b) A casserole, possibly using some leftovers.
c) Whatever's in the freezer that can be cooked in an hour or less.
d) Pizza's here, remember?

8. After dinner I will:

a) Tidy up the kitchen while conversing with my husband.
b) Tidy up the kitchen while supervising the children who are old enough to help.
c) Tidy up the kitchen while snacking on the leftovers.
d) Put pizza box in trash, dish up ice cream, even if it's 30 degrees outside.

9. When the children go to bed, I will:

a) Read, sew, or do something else creative and interesting.
b) Watch TV with my husband.
c) Watch TV with an extra bowl of ice cream.
d) Go to bed, too. Who cares if it's only 8 pm?

10. When I go to bed, I will wear:

a) Those cute pajamas my husband bought me for Christmas.
b) A warm, clean nightgown.
c) An old, soft, comfortable pair of PJs. Ignore the hole. And the stains.
d) I'm already wearing sweats, remember?

Now, give yourself zero points for the "a" choices, 1 for the "b", 2 for the "c" and 3 for the "d". If you score more than 20 points, there's a good chance that you, like me, might be in a Mommy Rut!

Of course, there are times and circumstances that make this quiz inaccurate. Subtract ten points if most of your family is or has recently been ill, if you've had a baby any time in the last six months, if you're still cleaning up from the huge family bash you had over Christmas, or for any other legitimate reason.

Since I don't have a legitimate reason, I know it's time to put a little more effort into things. A pretty sweater, a dash of makeup, some time spent preparing dinner--all those things will help!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A (Vam)Pyrrhic Victory?

So Hillary Clinton, the vampire candidate, managed to cry and cajole her way to victory in New Hampshire yesterday, briefly tarnishing the media halo around Barack Obama and rendering John Edwards even more frivolously irrelevant and unnecessary than he was before the vote, if that's even possible. Her victory in New Hampshire is less impressive when you consider that she retained a lead of only a few points over Obama, and that after a campaign there that really did pull out all of the stops.

Take, for instance, the Hillary mailer that insisted that Hillary is the real candidate of abortion on demand, while Obama's a lily-livered pretender who might be weak enough on occasion to let some infant or other, somewhere, slip through a pro-life crack. (This crowd's version of "No Child Left Behind" is grim and ugly, isn't it?) Obama, of course, shot back, waving his Planned Parenthood endorsement flag and insisting that when it comes to abortion, he's every bit as heartless and bloodthirsty as the feticidal former First Lady.

Judging from the fact that the female Democrats of New Hampshire turned out to vote in droves for Ms. Clinton, I'm guessing that they decided they'd rather entrust their 'precious constitutional right' to rip their unborn offspring to shreds anytime they feel like it to Lady Macbeth, instead of leaving things up to the Illinois Senator who may have a 100% pro-abortion voting record (according to NARAL) but who, when all is said and done, is still male, and therefore unable to be the B****y Feminist in Chief that these women have been hoping and praying to elect to the Oval Office ever since those heady days, redolent with patchouli and the scent of burning bras, of Woodstock.

But as Bill tries to cast Hillary in the role of Karate--er, Comeback--Kid, part II, the two of them are forgetting a thing or three.

Aging New England hippie feminists may have thrown the (not inconsiderable) full weight of their support behind Hillary; they may have decided that she was more pro-abortion, more anti-male, more reassuringly illogical, more whimsically emotional, more (with apologies to Cicero) like themselves than Barack Obama, who has managed to keep his strident far-left liberalism rather quiet, no doubt due in part to the fact that the mainstream media sees in him their own reflection, and therefore defines him as a centrist, a middle-of-the roader, a quite reasonable guy whose vile and blood-drenched abortion positions and votes are, after all, exactly like theirs. But the nation isn't made up of aging New England hippie feminists (chanceries across America notwithstanding) and there are a lot of primaries between now and Super Tuesday where the Woodstock Voter will go head-to-head with the Oprah Voter to determine which of these two candidates better represents the constituency that views abortion as the be-all and end-all of American liberty, and whether the Democrats in America would rather choose as their standard-bearer a man with little experience but plenty of talk, or a woman whose experience is mostly vicarious and whose talk is dull as ditchwater, strident as fingernails on a chalkboard, and delivered in a flat accent and tone that won't exactly shatter glass, but may make the glass think longingly of fragmentation.

What they've done in New Hampshire, though, is remind the voters of America that either one of them would be eminently suitable as the candidate who likes the killing of the unborn, who enthusiastically supports the death of Americans before they've emerged from the birth canal, and who identifies him or herself with the slaughter of more than forty million unborn children in this country since 1972. They're both worthy standard-bearers for the Party of Death, since they approve of killing the unborn with no restrictions, no limits, no end in sight. They think abortion should be celebrated, encouraged--and paid for with federal tax dollars, both here and overseas.

So while Hillary may have pulled ahead of Obama in New Hampshire, she did so by reminding her New Hampshire Democrat constituents that she's even more qualified to be the Candidate of Baby Killing than Obama is. That may have played in the relatively liberal Granite State; it's less likely to be compelling to voters elsewhere, especially among those Democrats who are not all that in favor of abortion, but who overlook it and vote for Democrats for reasons of economics or public policies.

It would be pretty ironic if Hillary's lifelong alliance with the abortion-on-demand movement, and her unwavering support of the "right" of women to "choose"--to kill their inconvenient unborn children (that sentence never gets finished properly, does it?) ended up being the stake through her heart or the last nail in her coffin. Ironic, but poetically just.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Detachment Parenting

Quite the discussion is raging over at Danielle Bean's blog, here and here, on the subject of attachment parenting vs. Danielle's own philosophy, described as Doing What Works Best For Your Family.

With all due respect to Dr. Popcak, I'm inclined to take the words and experiences of mothers of large families over the words of theoreticians, even Catholic ones. Some parenting methods won't work for all Catholic families, and by "won't work" I don't mean "capable of implementation but for our selfish sinfulness" but "not capable of implementation, period." It's fine and dandy to tell the five-foot-two inch tall mother that she should be wearing her thirty-pound eight-month old all day on her back and then sleeping with him beside her all night so he can nurse whenever he wants to, and that she really shouldn't even have his two-year old sister or three-year old brother because if she had done the "correct" method of parenting in the first place she would have had a three to five year space between all of her children, but that doesn't change her present reality. Like the Pharisee, all you're doing at that point is laying upon her an impossible burden which you do not stir a finger to lift, something that lacks charity.

I don't mean to attack Attachment Parenting (or AP) per se, here; it's not what worked for my family (and by "not worked," I don't mean "but for sinful selfishness" but for a reality that included a first baby born a bit early who had problems nursing from the get-go and who went to the bottle at five months, and a third baby who had to be bottle-fed for two weeks at two months of age while Mom spent a week in the hospital). But I am a bit puzzled by the insistence from Dr. Popcak that AP is somehow a holier and more Catholic way of raising children than any other method out there. It's not about the science, about which I don't yet know enough to comment; it's about the underlying presumptions, two of which I feel the need to address.

(To be fair, these presumptions can be found in other parenting methods, too; but whatever the method, one would think that Catholics would know better.)

The first presumption is the notion that the mother must instantly respond to the baby's every desire, because the baby is incapable of wanting anything that is not good for him. I think this is true in very early infancy; babies cry when they are hungry or too cold or too warm or wet/uncomfortable or sleepy or unable to sleep or lonely or tired of being held (yes, babies CAN get tired of being held, though I know that's practically heresy to admit in public). Figuring out which of these desires/needs baby is trying to express can be very challenging for a mother (and that's without the added complication of colic). But she does try to figure it out, and gradually a rhythm sets in--which will change completely just when she's really gotten used to things.

What about the older infant, though? What about the toddler? Does he cry only when he truly needs something? Is satisfying his every expressed desire immediately a good thing to do for him?

These parenting methods seem to think so; but Catholics know that even our tiny little ones have been born with the stain of Original Sin. Though that is removed by the sacrament of Baptism, it is an undeniable fact that the fallen human nature we all inherit because of the sin of Adam and Eve remains with us, and that it permeates our lives from our young childhood.

I have had the experience of "comfort nursing" a child and being pleased with myself for doing exactly what baby needed--only to have baby projectile vomit the entire contents of her stomach out over herself and me, because whatever comfort she wanted didn't actually need to include yet another meal. I have had the experience of taking a squirmy, fussy baby into my bed because I 'knew' that she wanted to sleep beside me--only to have her grow more and more hysterical, overstimulated, overtired, and unable to fall asleep despite my best efforts at soothing, because her desire to be with me didn't include sleep. I have picked up and held an irritable teething toddler--and had her grab the side of a hot pan before I could stop her, since that was what she wanted to get at in the first place, and it was out of her reach until I picked her up. Babies aren't capable of sin, but they are, like the rest of us, capable of disordered desires; forming our parenting around the instant gratification of all of their desires seems like a dangerous thing to do on a spiritual level.

The second presumption is that what our children most need from us is the sense that we respect them; this respect is supposed to foster that key sense of trustful attachment or bonding that according to the theory is so extremely vital to the child's life and future development. I love my children dearly, of course, and I do respect my God-given role in their lives, and theirs in mine; but somehow I get the feeling that this isn't what is being discussed in these sorts of parenting methods. I think that what our children need most from us is unconditional love, actually; that respect is a cold and distant substitute for the love which seeks to model the love of God for us, which parents should strive for with their children. Moreover, teaching parents to respect their children seems to put things exactly backwards; parents must love their children, but children are following God's commandment when they honor and respect their parents.

Don't get me wrong; I do think parent/child bonding is important. I just think that our job as parents is to accept the fact that one day quite soon our children won't actually need us any more, and that all the emphasis on attachment and bonding doesn't really seem to take this into consideration.

As I joked with a relative, no one ever talks about "attachment toilet training." In other words, we know that it is indeed our job to teach our children not to need us. This happens day by day, hour by hour, over a span of slow years that catch up to us all at once: perhaps the day our children leave for college, or perhaps the day they begin a vocation to marriage, to priesthood, or to the religious life. Our ultimate job is not to practice "attachment parenting" but "detachment parenting;" to accept with love and gratitude and sorrow the reality that neither our lives, nor those of our beloved children, are ordered toward this earthly vale of tears. Whether our children are the ones to bid us the final farewell this side of heaven, or whether the agonizing cross of performing that last act of loving service for them will fall upon us, the fact remains that our ability to return to God what He has given to us--our very lives--is the ultimate act of detachment beyond which lies the glorious destiny of every Christian soul.