Wednesday, February 26, 2014

We don't know what marriage is

Lots of depressing news on the pro-traditional marriage front lately, as judge after judge in state after state decides that only "bigotry" could prevent anybody declaring that two dudes or two dudettes are a "marriage."  And after this heady piece of sterling judicial logic, the judges will, no doubt, for an encore decide that one's head and one's buttocks are exactly the same thing since both are body parts, and will insist that public restrooms install fixtures to accommodate those who excrete from their craniums, so as not to promote bigotry and discrimination (because these same judges have already demonstrated that they, personally, think with their...oh, never mind).


The problem is not that religious people have one definition of marriage and godless people have another.  The problem is that secular law has been quite comfortable for a long time defining marriage as a contract that was specifically issued to a man and a woman.  One of each.  Who were exchanging certain rights and duties, which included the right and duty to engage in lawful sexual intercourse with each other (newsflash: there used to be unlawful kinds!  Oh, wait, there still are) and to be responsible, together, for any children who might result from the contractual relationship (even if no children ever did).

What is marriage now?

Nobody knows.  Nobody.

Oh, sure, there's some legal definition or other in pro-marriage-destruction states like Massachusetts.  The problem is that those legal definitions don't make it clear why a marriage contract must necessarily exclude three or more people, incestuous relatives, NON-incestuous relatives, or even friends who aren't into each other sexually.  There's no good reason that two heterosexual male college roommates in Massachusetts could not, right now, get "married" to each other in order to take advantage of "married" student housing and special financial aid packages and whatnot, stay "married" through their college years, and then "divorce" in order to marry women (with a nice tax break for the divorce, most likely!) once they graduate; in fact, it might be a smart financial strategy, and a way to take advantage of "diversity" scholarships and the like.  Who could possibly object: gay couples, complaining that these two college guys were making a mockery of gay "marriage?"  I can't even type that sentence without laughing.

There's no logical reason why marriages can't be among groups of three or more.  There's no logical reason why marriages can't involve relatives, friends, and spinster great-aunts who just want to share health insurance benefits.  Since marriage is no longer the union of a man and a woman ordered toward the promotion of the natural family, it can be anything.

Which makes it nothing.

The next step will be for single people to sue various state governments on the grounds that penalizing them in tax laws, inheritance laws, benefits calculations, etc. for their relationship status is just as bigoted and hateful as keeping two men or two women from calling themselves a "marriage."  I fully expect the rallying cry "Marriage rights for the single!" to be raised once single people realize how badly they are being cheated to subsidize people who choose voluntarily to enter into a contract based on a putatively sex-centered romantic relationship which can be as temporary as the parties to it desire.  And, to be honest, I support them.  If civil marriage no longer has anything to do with promoting and supporting the natural family, then to hell with it.

Monday, February 24, 2014

What do you writers out there think?

I'm getting there, but I'm behind in a lot of things and yet still manage to waste time posting comments on Rod Dreher's blog.

Rod put up this post today about an interview with Tom Wolfe about writing; here are some of Rod's points:
1. People say to me a lot, “I have a book in me.” No, I want to say, you probably don’t. Most people lead perfectly ordinary lives. Or, to put a fine point on it, the lives most people can recall having led are perfectly ordinary, because most people are poor storytellers. I’ve been bored out of my skull listening to someone drone on about some adventure they had in an exotic locale, and I’ve been utterly captivated by someone talking about an ordinary event in a quotidian life. The difference is not the locale or the character of the event; the difference is in the discernment of the storyteller. You have to be reflective, and know how to tell the difference between meaningful details and mere clutter.

2. And you have to be able to get outside of yourself fully enough to grasp what it is about the story you have to tell that will interest other people who don’t know you. I’m thinking right now of a couple of people I’ve known in my life who could be counted on to deliver ordinary gossip as if they were returned from Troy to break the news of Achilles’ wrath and its effects. They were so caught up in the penny-ante drama of these narratives that they failed to see how little this stuff mattered to people who didn’t have a personal connection with the dramatis personae (or how little it mattered even to those who did).

Read the rest here.

Since I didn't entirely agree with Rod, I had a few things to say myself.  I don't usually do this, but I'm going to copy my comment here (it hasn't shown up on the site yet, due to standard comment moderation).  Here's what I said:

–I do think most people have a book in them. If they are decent writers there may even be a decent book in them. But there is nearly always a bad book in there first. Write it. Get it out of the way. If you survive the process, then you’ll know whether you want to keep at this long enough to write the good book, or if you’re done.

–Flannery O’Connor was asked if universities stifle writers. Her reply, that they don’t stifle nearly enough of them, is still the best way of looking at the situation.

–Despite all of the advice poured out on would-be writers from time immemorial, there is no one right way to proceed. Sure, you won’t be able to write books about foreign travel if you don’t do any. And it’s a mistake to write a book about a hideously dysfunctional ghetto family whose teenage son is a suicidal heroin addict who cuts himself as a cry for help when he’s not turning tricks to help feed his three much younger half-siblings amid the squalor of his mother’s apartment that she shares with her new jailbird boyfriend who is hiding from law enforcement because he killed his last girlfriend–if you, the writer, grew up in a nice middle-class community somewhere in the flatlands and know nothing about crimes or ghettos that you haven’t seen on TV (unless you are determined to write YA fiction, in which case, give your teen anti-hero a first-person narrative, a crossbow, and a secret portal to a world overrun with demons and you’re good). However, it’s important not to overlook that three terribly sheltered young ladies named Bronte wrote some of the most interesting books ever written in the English language, or that Shakespeare was somewhat slighted by the literati of his day for violating the Unities (and for being a commoner, unless you really think he was a front for an anonymous nobleman, which I have never believed for a minute myself).

–There is a LOT of room for dabblers and dreamers in writing. You do not have to be capable of Deathless Prose for the Ages to have the right to put words on paper (pixels on a screen, these days, but that doesn’t sound nearly so good). Some of the most rollicking good reads have been written by people who didn’t really have the writing chops to be published, and some of the dullest stuff is the stuff written by the Important Writers of a century or so ago.

–This has been said here before, but if you are a writer, then it is simply necessary to write. You can worry about whether anything you ever wrote was good later in life, if you have the time, and if you actually care about that sort of thing.
Writers, weigh in!  Do you agree with Rod, with me, or with neither of us?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I miss blogging...

...and hope to resume it soon.  This has been a rather nasty two-week winter bug, and I'm tired of it. :)

Hopefully things will get back to normal later in the week.  Thanks for still checking in.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Another look at the pregnant teacher story

I've continued to be a bit under the weather (which is code for: up all night again with this stupid winter crud cold thing), but since I missed Mary DeTurris Poust's piece on the Montana teacher, I wanted to share some of it here:
Either we’re pro-life or we’re not pro-life, and firing an unwed pregnant Catholic school teacher is not pro-life no matter how you slice it. I don’t care what her contract said. I don’t buy the notion that children will be scandalized. None of it washes. Let’s face facts. We are all sinners. Some of us, unfortunately, sin in ways that are much more public than others, and so we are called out while everyone else slides by with their private sins rolling merrily along.

Let’s look at one single aspect of this case: Okay, a single woman becomes pregnant, tells her superiors at her Catholic school that she plans to keep her baby, and is subsequently fired by “higher ups” in the Diocese of Helena after officials receive an anonymous letter, according to news reports. What do you think happens the next time a single Catholic school teacher finds herself pregnant with no husband? Yeah, abortion might be the obvious choice if she thinks she might lose her job otherwise. So much for that pro-life thing.

Read the rest here.

Every time this topic comes up, I find some of the most frustrating comments and perspectives coming from certain types of Catholic laymen, who think that unwed pregnancy is always solely the woman's fault and that she (and her child) should have to pay any price, including homelessness and lifelong poverty, for her grave sin of fornication--and meanwhile, it's just "biology" that her male partner in grave sin is totally off the hook after a good confession which does not have to include any promise on his part to help pay for the child's care or anything (because she can't even prove the kid is his until after the baby is born, and only then if she pays for a paternity test, so why should he worry when for all he knows she's a lying wanton who has been with dozens of men during their dating relationship?).  But, of course, these same men are quite vocally pro-life (though some of them have claimed at times that women's suffrage inevitably led to the legalization of abortion, and that if we want a truly just, pro-life society where no man is ever tricked by some evil temptress into impregnating her out of wedlock all we have to do is end women's voting rights--a pretty bizarre reach, if you ask me).

Mary DeTurris Poust isn't buying that kind of thing at all.  If we're really pro-life, she says, we'll stop firing unwed pregnant women for the sin of being unwed and pregnant.  I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Avoiding a new scarlet letter

I'm a bit under the weather today, so this will be brief: a diocese in Montana has fired an unwed pregnant teacher from a Catholic school:
BUTTE - The Diocese of Helena is defending its decision to fire an unwed Butte Central teacher because she is pregnant.

Shaela Evenson “made a willful decision to violate the terms of her contract,” which requires her to follow Catholic teachings in both her personal and professional life, Superintendent Patrick Haggarty said Tuesday. “It’s a sensitive issue, and it’s unfortunate all around.”

This morning, Haggarty defended the decision in a new interview with The Montana Standard.

"It’s not easy being a Christian or a Catholic in today’s world," Haggarty said. "Our faith asks us to do things that right now are not popular with society. I’m really OK, I’m not comfortable, but I’m OK with what’s transpired. Being a Christian is this way, we’re asked to do things that are not popular with our society."

I think that my opinions on this topic are already known.  But here's my basic problem with this: yes, engaging in premarital sex is a violation of a Catholic school teacher's contract, and if Shaela Evenson is living with her boyfriend or otherwise committed to a lifestyle of grave sin, then the school likely has no choice here.

However, we MUST stop acting like it is the pregnancy that is the sin.  The way these cases have played out, nobody in any Catholic school district seems to care at all if their teachers are fornicating regularly, committing adultery, using contraception, or even having abortions--but if an unmarried female teacher is pregnant and does not keep her pregnancy a secret by killing the child via abortion and quietly showing back up at work after her "sick day," she must be fired.

As I see it, justice, to be justice, has to be equitably applied.  How is it even possible to apply justice equitably when every unmarried male Catholic schoolteacher could be fornicating regularly without ever risking his job, while an unmarried female teacher could make an error of judgment and fornicate just once, end up pregnant, and be kicked to the curb for that error?

The risk, as I see it, is that pregnancy--not fornication, but pregnancy--is going to become a new "scarlet letter," with the letter P--pregnant--standing for "conduct unbecoming of a Catholic schoolteacher," and the choice not to kill an unborn child costing women in a crisis pregnancy their jobs in Catholic schools.

There's a different "P" I'd like to see Catholic schools stand for: Pro-life.  And sometimes being pro-life in our society means that we have to do, as Superintendent Haggerty said, "...things that right now are not popular with society..."  Like refusing to pit a mother against her unborn child as the cost of keeping her job, for instance. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Asking my book readers for a review

Today's post is brief: just a link, and a request.

First the link: Rod Dreher shares this terrific piece from Michelle Dean about young adult literature:
Curiously, it is the kind of flat that actually made me angry as I read it. I am not the kind of person who sniffs at “low culture.” Still, something like “Divergent” has been so hastily assembled, and then so cynically marketed, that I cannot help being offended on the part of the reading public. I know it sells, and God knows that publishing needs the money. But the pushing of this stuff is starting to make me feel as if we’re all suckers. Cruelly, the gilded age of young-adult literature threatens to suck the life out of the whole thing.

It isn’t hard to see what has brought us here. It’s money, plain and simple. I wouldn’t turn my nose up at cold, hard cash either (like Somerset Maugham, I often wonder if the people who speak contemptuously of it have ever had to do without). But let’s be clear that the chase of it guides people into all kinds of misadventures. In publishing, that means hunting down every young person with an aspiration to write a dystopian or fantasy epic. Even if they might not sell 450 million copies (as Scholastic claims Rowling has), the industry is certainly prepared to accept the consolation prize of the 65 million copies that “The Hunger Games” sold domestically.

Few are bothered by the costs of this excitement, though successful writers in the young-adult market do seem to have noticed the way the industry depends on them. John Green, whose (excellent, though non-epic) young-adult novel “The Fault in Our Stars ” will get its own film adaptation in May, explained his predicament to The Chicago Tribune last fall: “It’s a massive amount of pressure, and not just from fans, but from people whose jobs are on the line because of what you write.” And that pressure’s twin seems to be a blunt carelessness in selecting and editing new work for publication. Most of these Next Big Things appear to have escaped any serious redlining. It seems their “editors” simply pray to the gods of chance that the author lands on a critical featherbed, rather than being thrown to the wolves.
Do read the whole thing; the problems plaguing young-adult fiction are a topic I'm always interested in, and I hope to get back out here to discuss this later in the week, but in the meantime, please feel free to comment.

On the subject of children's fiction--here's the request part of this post.  If you have read my second book, A Smijj of Adventure, would you consider leaving a review on Amazon?  I am really interested in honest reviews, positive or negative (though to be fair the only person to leave a negative review on The Telmaj was a blog-stalker who pretty clearly didn't buy the book, and the negative review was all about her dislike of my conservative politics and nothing about the book itself).

If you can do this, I'd really appreciate it!  And since there aren't any reviews as of yet--why not be the first? :)