Thursday, August 23, 2012

Proof

I just wanted to share here the news I'm talking about over here, which is: the proof copy for my intermediate children's science fiction book, The Telmaj, arrived today!

Back to the blog break--so I can continue to work on editing the second book in the series...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Two week blog break ahead

I can't help but notice that things have been rather...slow around here lately. No, not "here" as in at my actual house; "here" as in at this blog.

Which is pretty normal, for this time of year.

You've all got better things to do than read blog posts, and I've actually got better things at the moment to do than to write them.

For example, school's about to start back up. We're starting slowly, but will be up to our full schedule by the day after Labor Day.

And my in-laws have moved to Texas, are buying a house, and will need our help moving in sometime in the very near future.

And...drumroll, please...I'm going to have some big news about this really, really soon. I'll probably announce it when it happens, even if the break is still going on.

So: as always, your patience and your readership are appreciated, and I'll see you after Labor Day!


Thursday, August 16, 2012

If Cardinal Dolan had NOT invited President Obama...

First of all, I'd like to agree strongly with Simcha Fisher's post today, in which she essentially says that it's fine to disagree with Cardinal Dolan's decision to invite President Obama to the Al Smith dinner, but it's not fine to sit in moral judgment on him for doing so. This is exactly right; as Cardinal Dolan himself explains (an explanation which he didn't actually owe any of his critics), this is a prudential decision, not a moral one; even if he's making the wrong choice, it's not a moral fault, and shouldn't be declared such by people who have no business to judge anybody's souls but their own--and that goes for all of us.

But secondly, I'd like to ask everybody for a moment to consider the opposite scenario: let's say Cardinal Dolan doesn't invite Obama to the dinner. What then?

I know there's precedent for a presidential candidate not to be invited: John Kerry wasn't. Kerry, though, was and is a Catholic who is seriously at odds with Church teaching in a number of important areas. I think it should be recognized that a Catholic prelate inviting this kind of Catholic candidate to a dinner could, indeed, lead to scandal. Nobody expects either Obama or Romney to model Catholic teaching, though, and so the same objection doesn't really hold up.

So what would actually happen? I think we could have counted on the following:

1. Obama's divide between the Right Sort and Wrong Sort of Catholic would have gained new ground. Obama already seems to think that the Right Sort of Catholics are the ones who invite him to parties and who are also presumably in favor of abortion, gay "marriage," and forcing people to purchase immoral products for other people to use; these Catholics are only opposed to fattening foods, Church teaching on anything related to the Sixth Commandment, and uppity small business owners who think that they did, indeed, "build that." On the other hand, the Wrong Sort of Catholics oppose abortion and gay "marriage" along with contraception and other sins against the Sixth Commandment, will admit that too much fattening food falls under "gluttony" but will also admit that they're still working on that one, and tend to like small businesses, especially the ones that are standing up to the tyranny of the HHS Mandate.

If Cardinal Dolan had chosen not to invite Obama to the dinner, the narrative of "Right Sort/Wrong Sort" would have been reinforced, with Cardinal Dolan as the opposite of Father Jenkins as a prototype of the "Wrong Sort" of clergyman. Don't get me wrong: I think it could be argued that the Obama camp already sees the good cardinal that way. But they're not getting the chance to say so in public, which leads us to:

2. The media would have had a field day. Imagine the headlines, if you will: Embattled conservative church leader in scandal-plagued diocese bars President Obama from traditional fundraising dinner in controversial decision (Sidebar: Is the cardinal a closet racist? See p. 11). The media never misses an opportunity to continue beating their own favorite long-deceased equine friends--of that we can be sure. Other headlines would have been: Cardinal plays politics with allegedly non-partisan event; Donors, others disappointed in Cardinal Dolan's decision to exclude Obama from traditional campaign year dinner; Church leaders call for focus on diversity, civility in wake of cardinal's choice to ban president from fund-raising dinner...and so on. The unrelenting message would be that Cardinal Dolan was unfairly playing politics with a dinner usually held as a respite from the rhetoric and nastiness of a political campaign season, with dark hints that the cardinal was doing so out of personal spite against Obama or a sort of pressure on the administration over the HHS Mandate. I haven't even speculated on what the op-ed article titles would have been, but I can imagine that Maureen Dowd's would have been a doozy, something like: A Bitter Pill--why the fight over reproductive rights led to an episcopal snubbing for the real hero of women everywhere...

3."The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend..." would have been the object lesson. There is no way that Cardinal Dolan could have chosen not to invite Obama to the Al Smith dinner without that choice being seen as a de facto endorsement of the Republican ticket. And for all those Catholics nodding and saying, "What's wrong with that?" I respectfully ask for a moment's consideration.

It is not a good idea for spiritual leaders to be taken as political supporters of any party. Causes, such as the pro-life cause or the anti-HHS Mandate cause, are a different story, and many spiritual and religious leaders call out heroically to remind their flocks of the way to live the Gospel by supporting what is good and standing firmly against what is evil, in the civic and political spheres as everywhere.

But to step from that place down to the level of partisan politics is to risk scandalizing the faithful, because no political party has as its platform the spreading of the Gospel through prayer and good works through the whole world (and, to be fair, that's not really proper to the realm of politics, anyway). So, sooner or later, when the Republicans do something dreadful and not at all in line with Christ's teachings--and they will, we can be sure--it would be very bad for a cardinal or an archbishop or a bishop to be seen as being so much in the pocket of that party that he feels it necessary either to defend them, or, the more likely ill, to remain silent in the face of the thing upon which he--and the Church--do not agree with the party.

We criticized many bishops of the past for being in the pocket of the Democrats in this way--why is it that we think things will go any better if some of our bishops leap from the left suit-coat pocket to the one on the right? Nobody should be able to count on keeping the bishops in their own political pockets, not if the bishops are doing the job of being bishops.

I can honestly recognize the justice of some of the objections to Cardinal Dolan's decision to invite the president as usual. But I also think that the objectors ought thoughtfully to consider the alternative and its likely outcomes. The truth is, Cardinal Dolan had a tough choice to make, and since he has made it, our best response is to appreciate his thoughtfulness and pray that things go well and according to God's will.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Adults-in-training

In 1959, a fed-up judge penned a letter that was printed in his local newspaper. In 2010, that newspaper reprinted it as a curiosity of the past.

And in 2012, that letter has gone viral. Here's a sampling of it:

Always we hear the plaintive cry of the teen-ager. What can we do?...Were can we go?

The answer is GO HOME!

Hang the storm windows, paint the woodwork. Rake the leaves, mow the lawn, shovel the walk. Wash the car, learn to cook, scrub some floors. Repair the sink, build a boat, get a job.

Help the minister, priest, or rabbi, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army. Visit the sick, assist the poor, study your lessons. And then when you are through - and not too tired - read a book.

Your parents do not owe you entertainment. Your city or village does not owe you recreational facilities.

The world does not owe you a living...You owe the world something.

You owe it your time and your energy and your talents so that no one will be at war or in poverty or sick or lonely again.

Grow up; quit being a crybaby. Get out of your dream world and develop a backbone, not a wishbone, and start acting like a man or a lady.

Read the rest here.

I shared the letter with my girls--but I didn't tell them when it was written until the end (they assumed it was a recent thing). And then I told them how proud I am that they already do a lot of the things this judge recommended, and are eager to get out into the world and do more.

The funny thing is, teens didn't used to be as aimless as they started being by 1959, at least if that letter is any indication. And, sure, not all teens are entertainment-seeking and allergic to responsibility; like all stereotypes, the fact that it is true of some teens doesn't make it true of all.

But teen culture is still depressingly lightweight. There is still a sense out there that teens are "owed" some expensive recreational opportunities, from spring break vacations to proms that cost more than their parents' weddings to rooms full of the latest technology. That sense of entitlement, coupled with an absolute expectation that teens will rebel, had to come from somewhere.

And when we look back five or six decades or so, we see that the teen years gradually shifted from being the years of "adult-in-training" to being the years of "play, pay, and disobey," and that there were at least two major forces behind that radical attitude realignment.

The first force was the phenomenon of delayed adulthood. Perhaps a rational response to the too-soon adulthood experienced by young men and women who came of age during World War II, the pendulum-swing in the opposite direction has had some negative, if predictable, results. The expectation of college for all, the sense that "thirty is the new twenty," and the push to see all teens as helpless children who still need Mommy and Daddy to bail them out of every bad situation they ever get themselves into all contributed to the delayed adulthood idea. But the truth is that a young man or woman at seventeen who expects to be responsibly employed, married, and contemplating a family in two to five years will often not behave in the same way as a man or woman at seventeen who expects that it will be at least five to seven years (or more) before he or she finishes his or her education, and another three to five after that before he or she feels like settling down (with a live-in partner and no plans for children, perhaps, but still relatively "settled" compared to his/her previous existence). With "real" life so far off, and with the same dislike of delayed gratification as a two-year-old, why should a teen even try to be an adult-in-training?

The second force that led to the judge's letter in 1959 and endless variations of it today can be summed up in one word: marketing. Sometime early on in the age of rock & roll, advertisers realized that teens had money to spend, that they spent only or mainly on luxuries (since their necessities were provided for in the home), that they spent regardless of their parents' values or sometimes in direct opposition to those values (the rebellion motif), that they were more susceptible to ads that preyed on peer pressure, the desire to fit in, the "coolness" factor, etc., and that they were even more easily manipulated than adults by "sexy" ads or ads that hinted at the kinds of "rebellious" behavior that were sometimes actually illegal. Little of that has changed, surprisingly enough--even in a media-savvy age, teens can be laughing at some viral ad that is deliberately lame or stupid while making plans to acquire the product being marketed. But you only have money to burn if you're not an adult-in-training. The eighteen-year-old boy who saves up his money in order to attend a local community college as a path to a specific job because he is driven to join the adult world is not the advertiser's friend. In vain will they dangle the carrots of immediate pleasures and shiny gadgets in front of him. The advertisers want his friends, the ones who sign up for a four-year college they can't even remotely afford and sign loan papers to put the payments off as long as possible; these kids will soon have credit cards, and will use them.

If we want our teens to think of themselves as adults-in-training, and to be driven, motivated, and eager to join the adult world, we have to be willing to help them explore creative ways to think outside the delayed-adulthood/advertisers' dream pathways. We have to treat them with respect and with encouragement as they venture forth to follow their dreams. And we have to remind them that the greatest rebellion a teen can possibly perpetrate on today's world is to be a debt-free, gainfully-employed, and vocation-minded person by the time they are in their early-to-mid twenties; they may miss out on some of the evanescent excitement sold to teens, but what they'll gain will be priceless.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

August in Texas

Well, we made it to Mass this evening for the holy day! Before the first wave of thunderstorms of the evening. Then we camped out at the hotel my in-laws are staying at until they close on their new house here for a bit in between the first wave of storms and the second. And then we made it home.

The reason going tonight worked out so well for us was because Thad had already planned to come home a bit early so we could both meet with the roofer, to figure out how much the roof repair from the wind damage we sustained in Sunday night's wave of storms would cost us (luckily, not too much, and my girls were very impressed with the female roof estimator and her awesome folding ladder). Then, too, there's still a chance of storms through tomorrow morning, which would have made a morning Mass a bit tricky (since "storms" can mean anything from light rain with a bit of thunder to the high winds and hail we had the other night).

The weird part is that I don't think we usually have this sort of weather in Texas in August. Spring? Sure. Fall? Yep. Middle of the winter? Believe it or not, sometimes.

But this is the first Texas August I can remember where we need to think to take the weather radio with us when we go out. Which we will definitely do next time...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Holy Daze

I've written about this before, I know. But once again, a Holy Day of Obligation is almost upon us--Wednesday, August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, for those Catholics who don't already have their calendars marked.

I know when the Mass is at my regular parish church. It is at 6:30 p.m. on the holy day itself. With traffic, travel time, and the fear of missing the last possible Mass we could go to, we usually try to go in the morning on the holy day, or else to a vigil the night before--it's just too nerve-wracking to have to wait all day to meet the Mass obligation.

But, as I have written before, holy day vigils are disappearing in my diocese. I don't know how it is where you are, but we're down to a handful of churches with a holy day vigil Mass scheduled, and none of them are close to where we live.

And usually the Mass times for our sister parish are announced at Mass on Sunday before a holy day and printed in the bulletin, but for some reason, this time, only our church's 6:30 p.m. Mass was listed. I'll be calling the parish office tomorrow to find out when the other church's Masses are, but I strongly suspect we'll end up driving tomorrow night to the vigil Mass that is 45 minutes away in traffic (and possibly more, given that there's tons of road construction in that part of town right now).

If I could ask the bishops of the United States to do address this situation, I would ask this: ask your priests, except in the most unusual circumstances, to schedule as many Masses on Holy Days of Obligation as they do on Sundays. If this requires giving priests permission to say more than the usual number of Masses for a day, then please consider doing this. The way things are now, even the 20% of Catholics in each diocese who actually attend Sunday Mass can't make it to a holy day Mass easily, or even at all in some cases; how do you expect to reach the 80% who don't even show up on Sunday, if there aren't enough Masses on a holy day to accommodate the 20%?

Actions speak louder than words, and all the words spoken from the pulpit about remembering to meet your holy day Mass obligation and warning that missing those Masses without a serious reason can be a grave sin don't speak as loudly to parishioners as the reality that there are only a couple of Masses scheduled--and that they are often scheduled at times that make attendance an impossibility for working people. The message is that Sundays are important, but holy days are not. Add in the practice of dropping the obligation on Saturdays and Mondays for many of the feasts, and the message is putting more and more people into a daze about whether or not Father really expects them to show up sometime between Tuesday night and Wednesday night for a Mass this week.

Friday, August 10, 2012

As if she is a used incubator

Sometimes I feel like I'm living in Wonderland, where words no longer have plain, easy to understand meanings and people are carrying on conversations in a foreign language (and I thought those years were over long ago when my toddlers outgrew toddlerhood!). With a hat tip to Deacon Kandra, here's the latest from a world I can't quite understand:

As lawmakers and courts expand the legal definition of the American family, same-sex couples are beginning to feel the same what-about-children pressure that heterosexual twosomes have long felt.

For some couples, it is another welcome sign of their increasing inclusion in the American mainstream. But for others, who hear the persistent questions at the office, dinner parties and family get-togethers, the matter can be far more complicated.

Many gay men had resigned themselves to the idea that they would never be accepted by society as loving parents and assumed they would never have children. They grieved that loss and moved on, even as other gay men and lesbians fully embraced childless lives. So the questions can unearth bittersweet feelings and cause deep divisions within a couple over whether to have children at all, now that parenting among same-sex couples is becoming more common.

The process can be also daunting logistically and financially, as would-be parents wrestle with whether to adopt or use a surrogate. And once they have children, many same-sex couples still endure the inevitable criticism — spoken or unspoken — from those who remain uncomfortable with the notion of their being parents.

Adopt or use a surrogate--no big deal either way, right?

I've written plenty over the years about why surrogacy is evil. So let me quote, instead, a bisexual man raised by lesbians who now lives as a married man and a faithful husband--yes, you read that right:

Most LGBT parents are, like me, and technically like my mother, “bisexual”—the forgotten B. We conceived our children because we engaged in heterosexual intercourse. Social complications naturally arise if you conceive a child with the opposite sex but still have attractions to the same sex. Sherkat calls these complications disqualifiable, as they are corrupting the purity of a homosexual model of parenting.

I would posit that children raised by same-sex couples are naturally going to be more curious about and experimental with homosexuality without necessarily being pure of any attraction to the opposite sex. Hence they will more likely fall into the bisexual category, as did I—meaning that the children of LGBT parents, once they are young adults, are likely to be the first ones disqualified by the social scientists who now claim to advocate for their parents.

Those who are 100-percent gay may view bisexuals with a mix of disgust and envy. Bisexual parents threaten the core of the LGBT parenting narrative—we do have a choice to live as gay or straight, and we do have to decide the gender configuration of the household in which our children will grow up. While some gays see bisexuality as an easier position, the fact is that bisexual parents bear a more painful weight on their shoulders. Unlike homosexuals, we cannot write off our decisions as things forced on us by nature. We have no choice but to take responsibility for what we do as parents, and live with the guilt, regret, and self-criticism forever.

Our children do not arrive with clean legal immunity. As a man, though I am bisexual, I do not get to throw away the mother of my child as if she is a used incubator. I had to help my wife through the difficulties of pregnancy and postpartum depression. When she is struggling with discrimination against mothers or women at a sexist workplace, I have to be patient and listen. I must attend to her sexual needs. Once I was a father, I put aside my own homosexual past and vowed never to divorce my wife or take up with another person, male or female, before I died. I chose that commitment in order to protect my children from dealing with harmful drama, even as they grow up to be adults. When you are a parent, ethical questions revolve around your children and you put away your self-interest . . . forever. [Emphasis added--E.M.]

Think about that sentence in bold for a moment. What the New York Times article so blithely references as a burning question for the gay male couple--adopt, or use a surrogate?--Robert Oscar Lopez pegs for the ugliness it is, with a single, perfect sentence. The beauty of what follows, of his own decision and committment, is only made stronger by the stark ugliness of the reality of what the "choice" of two men to "make" a baby together really means.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Food Wars

When I posted this post the other day, I was still participating in the comment thread over at Rod Dreher's blog, which eventually got over a hundred comments. If there's one thing I think we can all agree about, it's that discussions revolving around food, cooking, and eating are likely to stir up a bubbling pot of emotions and end up served with sides of defensiveness.

Why is that? Why do so many of us take the Food Wars so personally?

Some of it, I'm sure, can be explained by things like family, tribe, tradition, and culture. Recommend earnestly to a spiritual son of Dr. Johnson that he ought to be eating steel-cut oats for breakfast every day, and he is likely to respond with that famed lexicographer's dictionary entry for the word oats: "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people." Try to tell a person whose abuela cooked and served the most delicious arroz con pollo that white rice is an evil carb of glycemic doom, and if you're lucky, you'll merely be ignored. Sincerely suggest, as the cure for all ills of the body, a diet of the foods of ancient hunter-gatherers to people who still hunt for the table and even occasionally gather, and you'll be pegged for the sort of city folk you probably are. And attempt to tell a child of any race or nation that broccoli is much, much better than candy, and all you will do is teach the child not to trust your opinions or tastes.

But there is another factor to the Food Wars, and I think it goes something like this. At some point in most of our lives, most of us will have the luxury of thinking about food in a series of simple questions and answers:

1. Am I hungry? a)yes--go to 2; b)no--return to 1 later
2. Is it a meal time? a)yes--go to 3; b)no; return to 1; c)what on earth could that possibly matter?--go to 3
3. Do I want to cook something? a)yes--go to 4; b)no--go to 5; c)cook? It's not a holiday!--go to 6
4. Do I want to cook something easy or difficult, time-consuming or fast, healthy and good for me or definitely not, etc.? Go to 7
5. Do I want cold cereal or other no-cook snack food options, etc.? Go to 7
6. a) What restaurant do I want to go to, ranging from healthy gourmet to fast food? or b) do I want to order take-out or delivery?
7. Is there a) anything in the house to cook with/snack on, or b) do I need to go to the store? If b), reconsider restaurant option.

I've left out a few steps and options, but that's pretty much the internal dialog lots of us have in our college or early-twenties years. Some days we want to breakfast on cold leftover pizza, and other days we want our dinner to be something healthy and home-cooked (and some of us will call Mom at that point, one of the options I didn't get into in the list). Whatever the choice ends up being, the only person we have to consider for the majority of our meals is our own self; when plans are made to eat with friends or family or significant others, the questions about whether it's time for a meal and whether we want to be the ones cooking take on different importance.

But for many of us--and let's face of it, most of the ones I'm talking about now are women, though there are some men who do all or the majority of the cooking at home--that dialog changes dramatically when we're no longer thinking about feeding only our own selves.

At that point, the beginning question of our earlier reflections, "Am I hungry?" fades into insignificance. It's pretty hard to fathom a well-run home in which all of the members of the family, from the parents down to the smallest baby, simply grab and eat what they feel like when they feel like it. Nor does the sane household cook try to prepare as many different meals as there are family members; there may need to be slightly different menus for the toddler crowd than there are for the grown-ups, but having to offer different choices to toddlers, preschoolers, young school-aged children, junior high and high school children, and one's own spouse quickly spirals into insanity in most situations. A rare mother or father may be able to feed a family of four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, etc. all of whom have important and medically significant dietary restrictions, no two alike--but I think most of us would agree that this is a strange and difficult situation, not a model for family meals.

At that point, many cooking moms (and cooking dads) learn the art of compromise. Mom may secretly long to eat crisp seafood stir-fry and colorful salads at every meal; Dad may secretly desire saucy and authentic Boston baked beans--homemade, and full of diced pungent onions and other potent ingredients. But each may realize that the children will balk at the octopus in the first dish and the onions (or the beans themselves) in the second, and Mom and Dad may have to decide on foods that are just as true, real, authentic, healthy, and delicious, but that the kids might actually enjoy. Mom might prepare a nice oven-baked chicken tenders dish that is nothing like the frozen stuff, and she might serve some of the lovely fresh vegetables cut into strips that are fun for children to dip in a variety of light dressings; Dad might start the children off with some black beans mixed with mild salsa and served with sprinkles of shredded cheese--and, as a treat, scoop-shaped taco chips to use as edible spoons. Both are introducing the children to real food, simply prepared and easy to enjoy--but neither is getting to eat the exact healthy food they most want. And yet, because of the ability to compromise, the children are one step closer to healing the breach between "grown-up food" which they think of as stuff that is good for you but tastes terrible, and "kids' food" which, preferably, comes out of a fast-food bag or leaves orange 'cheez' dust on your hands, but which--to them--tastes wonderful.

And once in a while, Mom and Dad can indulge the kids with something junky they truly like, and save some of the less-accessible but terrific home-cooked stuff for a meal after the kids are in bed. Complete with candles, which do not have to be handmade from the wax of local bees in order to give a nice touch to the meal.

The reason that the Food Wars get so personal is that it's hard to hear the message: "I just want to encourage everybody to eat healthier, and in a more purposeful way, which is why you should really try [fill in the blank]. Instead, many of us hear: "Until you learn to do things my way, you're probably no different from the junk-food junkies and drive-thru demigods whose only thought is to cram greasy, filling, salty/sweet garbage down their fat-engulfed gullets to satisfy their appetites as fast as they can--and did I mention, you're probably poisoning your kids?" Alas, that's not a message that's ever going to win fans, especially among the people who already make daily compromises between what (in a perfect world) they'd like to cook and eat themselves, and what they need to do, as a service of love, to feed their families.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

So it's fine

Sorry I'm posting late again; have tuned back in to the Olympics for a bit.

Speaking of which, you may have missed this last week:

LONDON – The path to the Olympics is not cheap, something a New Zealander named Logan Campbell discovered upon returning home from his taekwondo loss four years ago in Beijing. He faced a mountain of bills from travel, equipment, and training, almost $120,000 worth in American currency, and he couldn't keep asking his parents to pay it.

London was going to cost him another $200,000. He needed money. He needed it fast.

So he opened a brothel.

Not surprisingly, the brothel, and the publicity it stirred in Auckland when he announced his intentions in 2009, did not impress his country's sports federation. The people in charge of protecting the nation's sporting image did not see an athlete talking openly about the selling of flesh to fund his trip to the next Olympics as a reflection of their values. The fact brothels are legal in New Zealand, as long as a list of guidelines is met, didn't much impress the country's sports ministers.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee sent him a letter telling him to stop linking prostitution to funding an Olympics journey or they would sue.

But something remarkable happened. Money came for taekwondo. More money than the country's taekwondo team had ever received. No longer desperate for funds, Campbell sold the brothel in 2011. This spring, New Zealand put him on its London team.

So the money came rolling in, and that made everything okay?

It gets worse, though:
Yet as he said this, there also seemed a perception he wanted to eliminate. He senses that people think he was a sleazy pimp selling women on the street corner. This, he said, was not true.

"It's a legal business in New Zealand," Campbell said. "It's completely different from other countries in the world. There was no – I don't know – no one was forced into the industry, and they're not doing it because they are in poverty because we have a really good welfare system."

He stopped for a moment.

"It's more of like a higher-class thing than you see around the world. I think a lot of people don't understand that. As compared … to places like Thailand [where] I know what it's like in the poorer countries, where people don't have a choice to get into that sort of industry. But in New Zealand it's completely different, so it's fine."

Think about that. Women in New Zealand aren't being sold on the street corner--so it's fine. Women in New Zealand have the legal right to sell themselves in order to pleasure men--and they get good benefits, so it's fine. Brothels in New Zealand are really high class, and the women who are being used as living sex toys have a choice about doing that sort of work, so it's fine. It's so fine, in fact, that an Olympic athlete can open a brothel and sell women to support his dream of a taekwondo medal, and nobody should object, because enabling johns to perform meaningless sex acts on women who get paid for that sort of thing (so long as she had other job options, and gets good benefits, and it's legal) is the sort of business venture we associate with good sportsmanship, athleticism, and the aura of a champion.

Not.

Prostitution is not fine, any more than torture is. Both reduce a human being to an object to be used instead of a child made in God's image and likeness to be loved, treated with honor, and respected. If this athlete thinks that people are judging him for doing something shameful, perhaps he ought to ask himself if maybe they are right, instead of defending his act of selling women to support his sport. We have the right to find disgusting things disgusting, so it's fine to judge this sort of vile "business" for the soul-crushing, body-destroying, human-wrecking sort of thing it really is.

Monday, August 6, 2012

What's cooking?

I've been participating in a conversation at Rod Dreher's blog about food and virtue. The conversation is based on an article he wrote for The American Conservative which is here:

The interesting thing about this conversation, though, was the intense class resentment my sister had around food. This is surprisingly common. Since I began writing about food some years back, I have had countless conversations with conservative friends, fellow food geeks who have had serious disputes within their families about food. These arguments aren’t really about food itself, but food serves as a proxy for the politics of class and culture.

By opening up a culture-war front on the kitchen counter, we invest discussions about what, how, and why we eat with a degree of emotion that renders rational deliberation all but impossible. It is ironic that conservatives are particularly susceptible to this thinking. Not only does it fly in the face of the “personal responsibility” mantra so common on the right, but the staggering cost of America’s obesity epidemic is increasingly borne by taxpayers, businesses, and insurance ratepayers.

The food snob is a comedy staple (ever seen the BBC’s hilarious “Posh Nosh” send-up of culinary elitists?) and, for many conservatives, an object of political derision. It’s easy to make fun of liberals who glide up to San Francisco farmer’s markets in their (metaphorical) limousines, agonizing over the purity of the squash’s provenance with the anxious attention of a medieval Scholastic to the immaculate qualities of his syllogisms. You get the idea that you could chase some of these people all the way to Canada with a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos tied to the end of a pole.

But far fewer people pay attention to reverse food snobbery—to folks who are proud of eating junk, and lots of it, in part out of the conviction that doing so offends Whole Foods shoppers, who, on this view, “think they’re better than us.” When Michelle Obama announced her program to encourage American children—one in three of whom is overweight or obese—to eat healthier meals, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin attacked the First Lady as a busybody and a fatso.

Read the rest here.

As I've been saying over at Rod's blog, I think some of the perceived class resentment stuff comes out of the appearance that the foodie stuff can have some arbitrary rules, and that no matter how hard you try, there's always somebody willing to tell you you're poisoning your children (just like there's always someone willing to tell you you've warped them emotionally by not carrying them in a sling until they were old enough to drive). Parenting is time-consuming, cooking is time-consuming, and the occasional shortcut (TV for toddlers, Pop-Tarts (tm) for a breakfast treat) just doesn't seem like it's worth all the hand-wringing.

But then, I have to admit that I spend most of my time among people who are trying to be good parents and to feed their families as best they can. Their choices may not mirror mine, but I'm willing to cut them huge amounts of slack in the hopes that they are cutting me the same amounts (sliced thin, for sandwiches...oh, wait; that was at the deli counter). But it's true that there are some people out there who are truly bad parents who think of the TV as their personal nanny, and there are truly clueless cooks who think that they can make a healthy pasta dinner by heating up canned spaghetti and adding enough cheese to cover the world's largest pizza--or by bringing home food from the drive-thru but serving it with fruit juice instead of soda.

Still, I think where Rod and I part company is in thinking that food issues such as health and obesity come primarily from the clueless cook problem. There are wonderful cooks who prepare healthy, homemade meals for their families--yet they (and their families) still struggle with weight issues, because they eat too much in terms of portion size. It's just too easy to see an overweight person and assume a background of cheeseburgers and Twinkies (tm)--and it's just not always true.

What do you think?

Friday, August 3, 2012

In good company

If you read nothing else today, you have to read Simcha Fisher's funny, sarcastic rant about parenting movements:

My baby, for instance, spent most of her night in a "c" word -- yes, a crib. I naively thought she was "safe" behind those bars, and it never once occurred to me that, behind her happy squeals and contented gurgles, she sensed that she was imprisoned, caged like a lab rat.

I bought shoes for her feet, if you can imagine such a thing (hello, is this 12th-century China? Unreal). I used to put her in a bouncy chair when I wanted to do laundry. I might as well have come right out and told her, "Yes, you little parasite, mother cares more about clean clothes than she does about you. You see this shirt? I love this shirt. It goes safely in a little basket. You, on the other hand, can stay on the floor."

I'm only telling you this because I'm safely on the other side of this madness, and my therapist has assured me that, with a few more years of intensive work, my daughter may start to heal.

I'm telling you this so you don't make the same mistakes as I did.

I'm ready to say it now: I used to push my baby in a stroller. Yes, using technology chillingly similar to what a Republican executioner in Texas would use when binding an innocent convict to an electric chair, and I would strap her in, and away we would go. The child, mind you, was facing away from me -- facing away, looking at faces and things that were not me, and I would pushing her. With every step I took, I was sending this message: get away from me. Go. Be gone. Do not be with me. Push, push, push. [...]

But even then I was not at peace. I didn't feel like I was giving peace. Luckily I still had my nose-blowing doula (the one who helps me feel empowered during allergy season) on speed dial, so I asked her what could be wrong. She was thrilled that I had called -- said she'd been waiting for the moment when I'd be ready to hear her message. She was starting a new movement, she said, and I could get in on the ground floor.

It's called Peaceful Unbirthing, and its premise is simple. We want our children to grow up as loving, non-violent beings. And yet the very first thing we do in the very first moment of their lives is to push them away! Think about it: what does a baby hear when s/he is being born? Push! Push! Push harder!

Welcome to the world, baby. Guess what? Your mother doesn't want you inside her anymore.

Heartbreaking.

Read the rest here, including Simcha's idea about just not giving birth as the ultimate in attachment parenting.

Now, even though a lot of Simcha's criticism is aimed at super-duper attachment parenting as a movement, I think that she's really just poking fun at parenting movements in general; if super-duper free range parenting were all the rage (to the point where picking up your infant brought cries of "hey, helicopter parenting!" from casual observers) I'm pretty sure Simcha would criticize that, too. That is, I don't think her point here is to single out attachment parenting for special scrutiny; it just happens to be the sort of trendy parenting movement she has experienced the most lately, as she mentions in her personal blog.

And it's okay to poke fun at parenting movements. No, really, it is. Poking fun at people directly isn't okay, but saying that you think this or that trend in parenting is a little weird or a bit too much or misguided (though always well intentioned!) is part of what keeps us all sane and balanced (or at least less likely to go bankrupt from the parenting guilt therapy sessions).

Why is that? Because most of us moms spend much of our parenting years drifting between two extremes:

Extreme A: I have the best, healthiest, smartest, most virtuous children in the world, which clearly proves that my own personal brand of parenting is superior to every other method, and I should write a book about it all which should be a best-seller and produce thankful tears from every other mother in the world who will benefit from knowing my secrets...

Extreme B: I have ruined my children forever! I will spend the rest of my life answering to God, to their father, to my mother and mother-in-law, and to my children's eventual therapists (please, dear Lord, not their eventual parole officers)!

There is a very good reason for this: we are fallible human beings, and we are responsible for the first eighteen years (at least) of the lives of children of God with potentially saintly immortal souls. Of course we're going to veer between feeling like we're parenting champions and feeling like no sorrier parent has ever walked the face of the earth than our own unworthy selves.

But since nearly every other parent who has ever walked the face of the earth has felt pretty much the same way, at least we're in good company.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

By Chance

Do you text while driving? Do you pick up your phone to look at texts or other visual content while driving? Do you fail to use hands-free modes or headsets or speakerphones while driving?

If so, read this:
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

A college student from Texas believes he is lucky to be alive after a terrible crash. He was texting and driving when his truck flew off of a cliff.

Chance Bothe's truck plunged off of a bridge and into a ravine. One of the last things he typed indicated what almost happened to him.

He wrote, "I need to quit texting, because I could die in a car accident."

After the crash, Chance had a broken neck, a crushed face, a fractured skull, and traumatic brain injuries. Doctors had to bring him back to life three times . Now, 6 months later, he's finally able to talk about what happened.

"They just need to understand, don't do it. Don't do it. It's not worth losing your life," he said. "I went to my grandmother's funeral not long ago, and I kept thinking, it kept jumping into my head, I'm surprised that's not me up in that casket. I came very close to that, to being gone forever."

Sobering words, from a man named Chance who survived something many others do not. In fact, according to this website, texting while driving kills as many as 11 teens every single day.

And accidents attributed to texting while driving killed more than 16,000 people between 2001 and 2007. Meanwhile, accidents attributed to distracted driving, which includes texting and cell phone use generally among other sources of distraction, was responsible for one out of every six traffic accident fatalities in 2010.

I know we'll have some teen drivers around here fairly soon, and I also know that I'll be sharing this information with them. Because I don't want their driving safety to be something that happens only by chance.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The backfire of a media backlash

You've already heard about this, I'm sure:

(CNN) -- Throngs of people weighed in on the Chick-fil-A debate at stores across the United States on Wednesday, buying chicken sandwiches to show their support for the restaurant chain and its president's opposition to same-sex marriage.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee dubbed it "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day." [...]

On a Facebook page Huckabee created announcing the event, more than 620,000 people said they would participate.

"The goal is simple: Let's affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick Fil-A on Wednesday, August 1," wrote Huckabee, a former pastor.

Lines snaked around a Chick-fil-A in Dallas, CNN affiliate WFAA reported. Patrons packed a Chick-fil-A in Smyrna, Georgia. A food court with a Chick-fil-A was flooded in Laurel, Mississippi.

On Facebook, fans posted photos of themselves holding bags emblazoned with the restaurant chain's bright red logo. [...]

Roger Cates told iReport he had lunch at Chick-fil-A in Owensboro, Kentucky, and planned to return with his family for dinner. Political leaders who have criticized the chain, like the mayors of Boston and Chicago, are hypocritical, he said.

"I think it is ironic that the so-called forces of tolerance and inclusion are calling for the exclusion of Chick-fil-A from cities simply because of the beliefs of their chairman. ... People that disagree with me have a right to their opinion, and I have a right to mine," he said.

In Oklahoma, Tim Tibbles told iReport that many braved hot weather to show their support for the restaurant.

"It's 109 degrees here, and people have been standing outside for well over an hour. Nobody is complaining or talking about the controversy. They're showing quiet support," he said.

Andy Kives drove 45 minutes each way Wednesday morning to get breakfast for his employees.

Read the rest here.

The liberal media keeps hoping that counter-protests, such as the call for a gay "kiss-in" at Chick-fil-A restaurants on Friday, will outshine this quiet but forceful show of support from traditional Americans for traditional marriage. They will be wrong, but expect them to run banner headlines if a dozen or so gay couples actually show up on Friday, and to give that story three times the coverage they gave this one, because they are not neutral observers, but agitators in favor of the redefinition of marriage themselves.

In honor of those who participated in Chick-fil-A appreciation day, here's that Tim Hawkins comedy video I shared last January:

Those who think that the imposition of gay "marriage" on this nation is a foregone conclusion might want to consider whether or not they have just awakened a sleeping giant.