Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rugged Individualism, R.I.P.

Last night, while listening to Real News from the Blaze, I heard a pundit say, "Obama's numbers are high among Blacks, Hispanics and young people.  That person is still gong to vote for him..."  I'm sure  she simply misspoke, changing from plural to singular while thinking out-loud.  That happens.  Today's Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare is not that kind of mistake.

Today, we are told by the highest court in the land that we are not individuals.  We cannot choose to stay out of the healthcare system.  We cannot choose to not fund abortions and contraception.  We cannot choose  our doctors.  We cannot choose.  I cannot choose.  You cannot choose.  Our states can choose.

And so, we are no longer individuals.  We are states, groups, voting blocks.  Today's Supreme Court decision is the final blow to any rugged individualism that could legally stand against a stunningly, deep stabbing into the heart of our ability to decide where to spend our money.  The winners are those who have been looking for someone else to solve their problems.  The rest of us are dead, as far as our government is concerned.

But there is still hope.  Just as the heart-attack sufferer can be resuscitated, so our rights as individuals still stand one more chance.  We must remove from office anyone who does not advocate full repeal of Obamacare.  We must vote only for people who will repeal Obamacare on day one, legislation written, agreed on, and voted on as soon as the swearing in is done.  No committee. No negotiations to keep part of it.  No nothing.

Romney is probably not the guy who can lead that charge.  But it appears that he is the one we are stuck with.  Or maybe, we could have a little revolution at the Republican convention and  get ourselves a real candidate.  I still think Rick Santorum is that man.  Unfortunately, king makers and influence peddlers took him out of the running.  So we have a weak candidate who instituted the very same healthcare policies while governor, running against a president who killed the individual.

In the presidential race, as far as this healthcare issue is concerned, none of us are even Republicans or Democrats.  We are simply Americans cuing up to dump our money into a vast bubbling vat of burning refuse in order to provide food stamps, health care, money for cigarettes and beer, housing, cable t.v., cell phones and tattoo removal to those who otherwise would have jobs.  At this point, the  reason they don't have jobs is because our government is requiring excessive paperwork,  mind-numbing taxes, and regulating innovation and growth out of the private sector at an alarming rate.  Businesses cannot afford new employees.

Unless we change this with our votes in November, we will never be individuals again.  Welcome to the club.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Amtrak, or What I Did on My Summer Vacation

We just returned from a family wedding in Ruidoso, New Mexico.  In a malaise of romantic thoughts about train travel, we decided it would be fun to travel from Kansas City to Albuquerque on the Southwest Chief.  We read the blogs on train travel, checked the Amtrak website for information on WiFi access, food, station parking, and comfort levels.  We made our reservations months in advance.  We were looking forward to a relaxed cross-country trip to bond as a family and enjoy the view.  We couldn't have been more wrong.  All factors below are on a scale from 1, being the least, to 10 being the greatest.

After a 3 and 1/2 hour drive to Kansas City to catch our train, our first disappointment came as we tried to find parking.  We had been told that there was free parking at the terminal.  That is true if you work at the museum, or don't park overnight.  Amtrak runs from the historic Union Station in Kansas City, which doubles as a museum.  The homeless man who was sitting outside the main entrance told us we would be towed if we stayed overnight in the lot.  The additional $60 took a bite out of any savings we had from train versus air travel.  Then in an act of generosity and kindness, my son gave the scraggly, but well informed, homeless man the $25 dollars he had just earned for helping a neighbor.  And so we parked and waited for the train.  Gratitude for the generosity of my son: 10.  Anger at the misinformation: 6

The train was on time!  That would be the last time it would happen on our trip.  As I checked our bags, I had the feeling that the ancient attendants were planning to keep our luggage and make sure it didn't get on our train.  I stood in line behind a man who was trying to make a reservation from Lamy to Kansas City and back again.  Apparently, since he had his luggage and was about to leave for Lamy,  the ticket agent couldn't quite grasp what he was asking.  After checking time-tables and asking repeatedly for this amazingly difficult ticketing situation, the ticketing agent told the customer he couldn't do it.  Meanwhile, back at the baggage counter, the woman who took our luggage was unresponsive to every 'thank you, you are so kind,' that I could muster.  I really think she must have been retiring the next day, and was taking a career's worth of angst out on my baggage with her angry looks.  Concerned about my luggage factor:  10

We boarded the train.  Sitting behind us was a couple in their 70's.  He never spoke, but she had a lovely habit of reading every inane billboard that could be seen from the train.  He never commented.  She shared every medical problem she had experienced in the last ten years.  He said nothing.  Weirdness factor: 7

Just in front of our seats was a young couple who gave every indication that they were running away from home.  He was dark and smarmy looking. If he spoke, he whispered in his girlfriends ear.  She was tall, shapely, and a little too blonde.  I couldn't tell if she was half-blind, schizophrenic, possessed, or on drugs.  While her boyfriend slept, she would write furiously on little scraps of paper or in small notebooks.  The entire time she was writing, she would look angry, troubled, violent...  Then she would just as furiously erase everything she had written, put the notebook away, and sleep.  She spoke to me only once, to ask if anyone had 'touched their stuff' while she and her boyfriend were drinking beers in the snack shop.  I told her 'no', and said I would watch her things.  Creepy fears for her safety: 9

We arrived in Albuquerque late enough that we knew we would be driving in the dark as we hit the mountain passes.  I drove as fast as our rented Ford Fusion would allow.  I know some people think the New Mexico countryside is pretty, but all I saw was blasted land.  It reminded me of the descriptions Tolkein gives to the land as Frodo and Sam leave Ithilien and come closer to the mountains of Mordor.  As the sun went down, we began to smell the smoke of the forest fires.  We had changed our route to avoid the roads that were closed.  This change meant we spent an extra 45 minutes driving at night.  Imagine the pleasure of driving on unfamiliar winding mountain roads, with your vision obscured by smoke from an unseen forest fire, after having less than three hours of sleep on a train populated with scary people.  Fun factor: -10.

Every time we left our hotel in Ruidoso we passed a building with a big sign that read, "La Grone Funeral Chapel." Punny name factor: 10.

 I don't want to talk about the wedding.  It wasn't a Catholic ceremony.  I will say this:  the dichotomy that exists between the two sides was astounding.  On one side were the bridesmaids covered in tattoos that could be clearly seen as they wore sleeveless dresses, and most of the tattoos were on their arms and  backs.  On the other side were men in full military dress uniforms.  Our favorite part of the wedding was the recessional.  The honor guard of friends of the groom  made a canopy with their ceremonial swords, and the last ones swatted the bride with the flat of the sword and said, "Welcome to the Army, Mrs. H."  Fun factor:  9.

After all of the wedding parties on Saturday, we found ourselves at a little parish called St. Eleanor's for Mass on Sunday morning.  It was a strange mix of a conservative Pastor trying to control a liberal populace.  Prayerful factor: 9.

On Monday morning we left early.  Can you blame us?  We were on the road to Albuquerque by 6:30 am.  We arrived with more than an hour to spare before the train came.  At this point I was trying to think of any reason that we could ask for the train tickets to be refunded so that we could be felt up by the TSA at an airport.  I think I would have gladly been strip searched, and undergone a cavity search, just to get home.  Anxiety factor:  49.

But the best was yet to come.

And so we were back on the rails again.  The first person we met was a middle-aged man of color.  The first thing he told us was that he was John F. Kennedy's son.  We quickly learned that he was either crazy from too many drugs, or autistic.  He did show some kindness to his fellow passengers.  He offered his magazines to all around him.  Kindness factor:10.

The next man we met on the train said he was going to be working as a mechanic at a Ford dealership in Kansas.  He had piercings all over his face.  And I mean, all over.  It would take only a few more for his face to become a picture framed in silver.  He was kind and soft spoken, but appeared to have gang memorabilia tattooed all over his arms.  'What does this mean?' factor: 10.

There was a stow-away on the return trip.  She looked like Edie Gourmet.  Black wig, a face that may have included prosthetic nose and cheeks, a flower print dress with sequined fringe on the bottom... She was a sight to see.  Somewhere in Colorado she managed to run away unseen by the conductors.  The conductors/porters told us it was a federal offense to stow-away.  They also told us it would be a federal crime for them to use their microwaves to pop our popcorn.  Curiosity factor:  10.

There was a serious B.O. man on our leg back.  I don't mean Barrack Obama.  I mean BODY ODER!!!  I rarely use such emphasis, but this man could be used as a stink bomb to clear terrorists from perspective targets.  Smelly factor:  75.

We are so glad to be home.  My advice, after taking the train, is don't do it unless you are moving across country, or traveling for less than half a day.

If Amtrak is any indication of what Obama-care will be like, we are doomed.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Catholic School Parents Run Wild

I have a funny story about my nephew on a Valentine's Day ride to school when he was in 1st grade.  The radio was on, but my sister was thinking about her day and not really listening.  Johnny says, "Aunt Monica, this song is completely inappropriate.  We are going to school to celebrate love, and this song is not a good one for us to be listening to."  The song was "Love Stinks" by the J. Giles Band.

Sometimes parents and other care givers just aren't listening.  I remember when my little sister, about 5 years old at the time, was wondering around the house singing "Like a Virgin."  I was a teenager, and laughed. Sometimes the 'adults' in charge are irresponsible.

And that leads me to a story about a Catholic school that allowed an entire class of graduating 8th graders to dance to a song that was so wrong for a song and dance festival at a Catholic school...  It would be inconceivable.  Except that it happened. You can find the lyrics to the song here.

The parent who chose this song has  been a trusted volunteer at the school for years.  She regularly works with the children to choreograph the dances for this year-end festival.  The principal was being treated for cancer, and was not able to monitor the dances.  Besides, she trusted the parent.  The music teacher trusted the parent.

In the parent's defense, she lowered the sound on the recording during the offensive lyrics, but the students just sang them loudly anyway.  She didn't know that this song is banned at public school dances across the country.  She didn't realize the impact of 40 kids dancing to obscene lyrics in front of parents and grandparents.  But they performed the dance twice in two days regardless of complaints.

A friend who works at the parish, in defense of the parent, said it wasn't that much worse than the music we listened to when we were younger.  That may be true, but we wouldn't have performed a choreographed dance in front of our parents and grandparents to a song like the Beatles' 'Why Don't we Do it In the Road.' And so we come back to a parent run wild.

When the secular culture has so invaded a Catholic school that children are dancing to pornographic lyrics like these in a public performance, something is deeply wrong with the school and the parents.   A poorly formed parent with no depth to their understanding of the faith can do a great deal of damage to the children with whom they work.  Academic achievement and flashy public performances must be secondary to the proper faith development of the students.  As parents, we are responsible for the development of the immortal souls of our children.

If Catholic school parents allow this, then Catholic schools are doomed.

If you doubt my reporting and want the names of the actual people and parish involved, I will share them privately.  Just send me your email address.  This scandal needs to be known, but I want to protect those who were not responsible.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Boys Should go to Ordinations

I think about the vows I've taken as a married woman in the Catholic Church almost daily.  I think about them because they help me get through the day.  Look, if your internet handle includes the adjectival 'ranting' you know you need to touch hard rock on a daily basis.  But I'm female, and any vows available to me are fundamentally different than the vows available to Catholic men.  (Regardless of what the leaders of the LCWR would say...)

Yesterday, my son and I went to the ordination of Father Greg Carl.  Father Greg is the first of two relatives who are going to be ordained.  Father Greg is our son's second cousin on my husband's side.  The next ordination, God willing, will be our nephew Matt Capadano in two years.  (My son, James, is the only family member connected to both by blood.)  Matt's my sister Mary's son, and left today for a summer of service in Guatemala. Please, keep him in your prayers.

I've never attended an ordination before.  I always thought they would be packed to the rafters with people welcoming new priests.  There was plenty of open seating.  I guess the church was a little fuller than it would have been for  wedding, but even so...

There  was a family with 5 young daughters and one son sitting in front of us.  The girl, who I think was 3, at one point started saying "Jesus" as if she was calling for someone who is lost.  Over and over, she called to Jesus like you might call Marco Polo in a game of swimming tag.  While this annoyed my Mom because the child was undisciplined, for me it is a memorable and important moment.  Women at an ordination pray in a maternal way and call for Jesus to come to the new priest.  Men and boys have a different purpose.

For men and boys at an ordination, they are seeing the path less chosen.  It is as much about the new priest as about what might have been for those married men who are, well, married.  It is a different kind of vow.

Vows are important things.  When Catholics talk about Vocations we tend to mean short hand for the religious life or the priesthood.  Every life path is a vocation, if you are open to it.  Boys especially should go to ordinations whether they know the new priests or not.  They need to hear the vows, to see the Litany of Supplication, the Laying on of Hands,  the Anointing of the Hands, and the Fraternal Kiss.

My sister was in tears at the beauty of the Mass, and my godson Johnny didn't whine about it!  My son, James, said we missed the best part because we didn't see the prayers on the Cathedral steps after the recessional.

Mostly, this was a sending forth from which we all benefit, and we can't do without.  If we don't have new priests, who will baptize our grandchildren?  Who will anoint us before we die?  Who will say our funeral Mass?  Who will say Masses for our souls when we are in Purgatory?

Marriage vows are witnessed by invitation only, and I guess that's okay.  But priestly vows should be witnessed as publicly as possible. Go.  Pray.  Take your sons.  Priests need our support, and our sons need to know that they can be open to the priesthood.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Dangers of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Every semester in my public speaking course I teach Maslow's hierarchy of needs as a way for students to find a motivating reason to persuade their classmates.  Maslow's theories are as pervasive in intellectual circles as Darwin's.  But sometimes we forget that they are just theories, and may have no relationship to real experiences of real people.

For those of you who have forgotten Maslow's hierarchy, here's a graphic to explain it:

A few things jump out at me whenever I see this chart.  First it seems that family and friendship, sexual intimacy, etc., are separated from morality and the acceptance of facts.  They seem to come before the higher order human experiences.  In fact, this theory is the reason many argue that impoverished people must be given birth-control and abortion services at the same time that they are given food and water.  The argument is that the potential parents must have meaningful work and a solid home before they can bring a child into the world.  But the definition of meaningful work or what a home is can vary greatly according to each person.  If I'm happy in a two bedroom home with 4 children in the United States, I'm considered poor.  In India, I would be wealthy.  If I work in a factory in the United States, I'm lower on Maslow's rungs than that same person in India.

The practical implementation of Maslow's theory is a tendency by the wealthy to create class warfare.  If a person is poor, struggling to provide basic necessities like food and water, or a home, then they have no morality.  As Catholics, we know this is not true.  In truly poor places, friendship, problem solving, and respect of others allow people to come together for the benefit of others.  Poverty, and the generosity it creates in those who live it daily, often engenders spontaneous acts of selflessness. I'm not romanticizing poverty.  It is simply true that  a neighborhood of factory workers is far more likely to loan each other the chain saw when a tree falls than a neighborhood of CEO's.

Our Catholic heritage is full of stories of Saints who were poor, but gave generously to others regardless of their poverty.  I think of Mother Theresa, Saint Anthony, most of the apostles.  And there are those Saints who lived as hermits, without human friendship or families, but were clearly self-actualized.  Even our wonderful parish priests who live celibate lives can be the most seal-actualized people we know. 

These things probably seem obvious, but to the teacher in the psychology classroom of a Catholic or public high school, these points are often lost in the lecture.  I've seen students eyes glaze over when this slide appeared in my college class.  They've been told by high school teachers that  if they are lucky, they may make it to the third or fourth rung on the ladder, but the top rung is only for the select few.  Yet if they really looked at their lives and experiences, most would find they are already at the top.

The  result of thinking that the top is  not yet achieved, or unachievable, is people living as though morality is the province of the wealthy.  Only those with money have the leisure to live moral and virtuous lives.  It is obvious that this is not true, and yet every public school graduate, and most from Catholic schools will have been told this at least once while in school. 

Maslow's theory is clearly debunked by any life that includes an active faith in God.  Human needs are not rungs on a ladder to be met and ticked-off  on a list.  Rather, the human experience of faith in Christ shows us the possibility of meeting all of the higher needs even when deprived of food and water.  This is what fasting is all about.

It is clear that Maslow's hierarchy has affected the way we view ourselves and our world.  It is the foundational reason for entitlement programs in the United States, and the mercenary out-reach of the United Nations.  But when programs are based on a flawed premise, those programs fail.  Instead of lifting people out of poverty, entitlement programs turn people into whining dogs, standing over a food bowl, waiting for it to be filled.