Give It a Rest

Short one today, kids.

I understand that it is mind-numbing and enraging to be constantly lectured to by celebrities. I understand how infuriating it is to be harangued by someone who doesn’t know the price of heating oil and hasn’t done their own grocery shopping in fifteen years but looks at middle America like they are out of touch. I get it. Celebrities aren’t arbiters of what is true and virtuous. They aren’t political or economic geniuses. They aren’t civil rights experts. But guess what; neither are you.

We, the enraged, ought to remember that if we were given access to millions of people we would do the exact same thing. Celebrities are human beings. They are prone to selfishness and self-importance. They are opinionated, obnoxious, loud and headstrong. Just like you. Just like me. They have a right to voice their opinions. You have a right to ignore them. Being a teacher, electrician, plumber, garbage man, landscaper, lawyer, dentist, etc. doesn’t make you Thomas Sowell or William F. Buckley just as being a pop-star or movie star doesn’t make you Rosa Parks or Jesus Christ. No one is saying you can’t voice your opinion. You are reading this on an amateur blog. However, be mindful of the fact that the rights that we love and that also drive us insane from time to time (see; free speech) are for all Americans regardless of their line of work or their popularity.

Of course, it doesn’t help that we have a president whose skin is about as thick as a piece of overstretched cellophane. It makes me laugh as much as it makes me angry when I read posts from angry pseudo-conservatives about not caring about what celebrities think. Yes you do. The fact that you posted proves that you do. You care because you allow yourself to care. Stop doing that. Stop worshipping at the base of the pedestal of celebrity. Whether it is the act of heaping praise or heaping shit, the act alone is an act of devotion. Stop it. Give it a rest.

Or just turn off your TV.

Give It a Rest

The Dualism of the American Catholic Democrat

When considering the delicate relationship between an individual’s religion and their politics in an attempt to understand their voting history, we must be careful to remember that one should never override the other but more often than not does. For example, the members of the Westboro Baptist Church would love to see homosexuality made illegal. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the extreme ends of the political left would love to see church’s and people of faith capitulate to legislative pressure to officially recognize and in some cases  officiate same-sex marriages. These are clearly two extreme arguments but their over-the-top nature doesn’t negate that in the United States they are allowed to be as loud, vitriolic and obnoxious as they’d like. It seems that these days, the only viewpoints we hear about are the ones toeing the line between pro-active extremism and recalcitrant reactionaryism. This leads us to be false conclusion that they may not be the only viewpoints out there in the ether but they are the only ones the media deems worthy of discussing. Therefore, the majority of Americans, who are most assuredly more middle of the road than the media would have us believe, are relegated to a second tier of muted rhetoric and impotent, self-righteous activism. This is where it gets tricky for American Catholics.

Firstly, as a practicing Roman Catholic, I will admit that the majority of us who attend weekly Mass are severely lacking in the missionary aspect of our faith. I can remember at least twice where after leaving the joy and warmth of the presence of Christ within a half hour I was involved in an argument determining the ever-important question; where do we get lunch? The fact is; human beings are weak. We make mistakes. For an hour a week we acknowledge what is supposed to be paramount in our lives and sometimes we even keep our pledges to Christ and curtail our curmudgeonly ways from time to time. However, the majority of the time we are fully engaged in worldly affairs. They are far more pressing in our own minds and therefore require the lion’s share of our attention and effort. As C.S. Lewis put it when taking on the character of Screwtape to his junior tempter, Wormwood; “Teach him to call it, “real life” and don’t let him ask what he means by “real”. Change the, “him” to them / they and there you have the point perfectly illustrated. I point to this not to offer a pass to any Catholic who places more emphasis on the more innocuous practices of daily American political thought. Rather, to proffer the notion that more often than not, it is simply easier to allow belief and adherence to certain inherent moral truths to take a back seat to the pseudo-intellectual reasoning of mainstream liberalism. Let’s crunch some numbers before we get too philosophical. Remember, this is “real life”.

According to a source that I don’t let my students use, Wikipedia, as of 2015 there were close to 70 million Catholics in the United States.  Of those nearly 70 million, 44 percent identify as Democrat as opposed to 37% who identify as Republican. That means there are nearly thirty million American Catholics who tend to vote for Democrats in the United States. That is a voting bloc larger than the population of Texas. It is impossible to know how 30 million people voted and next to impossible to know how many simply didn’t vote at all. However, the question remains; what do American Catholics find so appealing about the Democratic party? I do not believe that the old ties to the economic mechanics of major American cities are a driving factor in the political ideologies of close to 30 million modern people. At least not anymore. That being said, it cannot be ignored that cities with large immigrant-Catholic populations eventually offered avenues to power for many of the disenfranchised Irish, Italians, etc. who were predisposed to politics. See; Tammany Hall, Mayor Daley, Mayor Curley. However, these now arcane, cultural-political allegiances were hyper-regional and thrived on nepotism. Politics, much like religion, gets passed down from generation to generation. But in this particular instance, the access to information independent of what we are fed by our parents is so widespread, and people are so engaged in social media, that it is difficult to keep the connection to the past vibrant enough to be a legitimate answer. So while this explanation offers a semi-romantic, nostalgic window to the past, the overall allure of the Democratic party for the rest of American Catholics can’t be explained away using the gangster analogy. Although if we analyze the appeal of the Democratic party, using the empirical evidence of their manipulation of the mostly uneducated and desperate Catholic immigrant population which flooded this country during the 19th century, we can see a disturbing pattern. This is the basis for the current argument on the right that Democrats want largely unhindered immigration or amnesty as a means to secure a dreadnought of a voting bloc in order to ensure political supremacy for the foreseeable future. It is disingenuous to deny a party’s practical history while at the same time assuming that due to nothing more than the passage of time, that human beings now are somehow morally superior to their ancestors. However, it does no one any good to speculate on motivation when those who are the by-proxy pawns in the speculation are wholly innocent. In this case, the immigrants themselves. It fosters resentment in all parties and leads to arguments based solely in sentiment rather than logic. This is where, I believe, the appeal lies for the American Catholic to align with the Democratic party. At least partly. The Democrats offer sentiment and emotion masquerading as an ideology of practical politics which exists for the good of others.

To be clear; I do not believe Catholic Democrats are evil, stupid, dangerous or silly. I truly believe that they have their hearts in the right place. I do, on the other hand, believe that their mechanics of charity and compassion do not gel at all with the theology or literal interpretations of Christ’s teachings. In Mark 12:17, Jesus states; “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s“. Jesus does two equally important things here. First, He states that it is important to practice charity in the name of one’s religion and also important to acknowledge one’s membership in a citizenry even if there is widespread consensus, as there was in His community at the time, that the powers that be are less than optimal. This is not to say that Christ is advocating becoming a doormat to government oppression. His mere mentioning of Caesar in his answer to the Pharisees in Mark 12:17 is His way of acknowledging the status quo for better or for worse. It was also a way for Him to trap the Pharisees in their own questioning by suggesting the owner of the sin of idolatry was Caesar himself and not the Jewish people who were forced to carry coins with his visage on them. Second, and most importantly for this discussion, He draws a clearly distinct line between government and charity. In essence, Christ is explaining the truth that Charity is the product of the divine and therefore inherent in every human being’s soul. Charity therefore lives in the heart and so naturally, it should flow from the heart. Christ is also warning us that charity is no longer charity when it becomes legislation. The essence of charity is trivialized to the point of non-existence when the charity becomes tax. This crucial point, I believe, is grossly misinterpreted by the majority of American Catholic Democrats. They believe that the juxtaposition of compassion and government is in line with Christ’s teachings and a perfect union between the necessity of rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and helping others as it seemingly exists to do little more than take care of you. Essentially, the misconception that social programs have the best interests of the marginalized in full focus and not the interests of lobbyists and special interest groups for the sole purpose of garnering more financial support is a problem that plagues both political parties. In the Democratic Party, the manipulation of this particular misconception reaches a level that is almost an art form. Unfortunately, the ruse is taken hook, line and sinker by the majority of politically aware American Catholics. The same people who would agree with logic behind the ‘teach a man to fish‘ adage routinely vote in legislators whose platforms are built entirely on the premise that it is better to give the man someone else’s fish. Because after all, you should want to give the man your fish even if it leaves you with little for yourself. The true essence of charity is to care for and provide for those who are simply unable to care for themselves out of a desire to better someone’s station in life by offering the tools to create a better existence. Not the desire to merely view the station as pathetic because of the instantaneous gratification we ourselves feel when we alleviate the immediate situation. If your moral compass points you in a direction which hinders the human spirit’s resilience, desire for personal happiness, thirst for self-affirmation and need for the knowledge in order to achieve all three, your charity is self-serving. Then it is no longer charity but merely a gesture.

Next weekend, thousands of Catholics along with other pro-lifers will descend upon our nation’s capital for the March for Life. It is no secret that the Catholic Church views abortion as public enemy number one. I am not going to get into my personal views on abortion in this piece as they have no bearing on the question at hand as I am not a Democrat. According to a poll conducted in 2013, 55% of American Catholics surveyed believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. The ‘most cases’ argument must be analyzed before we can go any further. In cases where the life of the child or mother is in danger, it can be argued that most people would agree that the question of abortion, perhaps not the act itself, may be raised. This is how we, human beings, get to hold opinions about things without ever having to take a hard-line stance. We agree that the question of the possibility in order to save a life, in those cases, ought to be raised and we are perfectly content to leave it at that. That is perceived as a separate issue regardless of the fact that it is still an example of the same action. While these legitimate issues are raised in the, ‘most cases’ question, it cannot be overlooked that depending on the agenda of the pollster, different and far more extreme examples are mentioned. For example, bringing up an instance of incestuous rape to someone who has stated that they may be open to abortion as an option is as obvious a leading question as is the rarity of these occurrences. So where does the American Catholic find the justification for their pro-choice stance if not in the realm of self-serving group-think where ideology overtakes theology and ‘reality’ reigns supreme? Even the act of abortion can be labeled as charitable when a moral code is inextricably linked to a political party. When sentiment trumps reason it is easy for us to fall into a loop where our two selves, the religious and the political, are constantly justifying each other in order to create a semblance of order within our worldview rather than acting as counter-balances for each other as they were meant to. The never-ending argument becomes the crutch. The infinite permutations of reason are forever lost to the necessity for dilemma in order to lend a purpose to the mind for no other reason than simplicity scares the hell out of us. Human beings need to constantly be in a state of argument whether it is with our fellow citizens or with ourselves. The rub here for the American Catholic, is that this system of grim, ideological, mathematics becomes incredibly attractive as the values for the variables are always; emotion, charity and compassion. Three things that Christians, not only Catholics, are taught to be paramount in our lives.

It would be cruel and altogether incorrect to end this brief delve into the motivation of Catholic Democrats by saying that Catholics in the United States are easily duped and therefore tend to conflate their religion and their politics. The two aren’t meant to be completely separate of each other but they were never meant to over-power the central purpose of either’s existence within the individual. I suppose, in the end, it would be a quick clean up to mention the malleability spawned by the Second Vatican Council which has seen the Church become more open to outside pressure. The perceived liberality of the current Pope is another issue but for the purposes of discussing American Catholics who have been by and large Catholic for years before his tenure doesn’t scream, “relevance”. To conclude, I would have to argue that it is the learned behavior and poorly taught theology of the American Catholic coupled with the inherent, God-given, drive for compassion and justice that facilitates the majority of them becoming members in the Democratic party. The problem is that doesn’t explain the disconnect that occurs when the already discussed issue of actual charity and shoddy legislation masquerading as charity issue is raised. But that can be answered somewhat easily. Human beings tend to do and say things which sound wonderfully compassionate but when push comes to shove, they’d rather see to their own self interests. The Roman Catholic is taught from a young age that it is this selfishness which affixed Our Lord to the Cross. While that fact is not untrue, it is a much different early religious education than our Protestant brothers and sisters receive. To be well-versed in guilt before your first Eucharist is a regrettable reality for most American Catholics. It is that guilt, cultivated within the mind of the individual which is the primary fuel for the argument that charity must be part in parcel with legislation. It is the explanation why some are unwilling to judge the action of abortion as they would rather not take the risk of being seen as judging the person. It is why American Catholics become Democrats in large numbers. We are taught that a life based on guilt is no life at all. Yet it is the underlying narrative and motivation for the majority of the actions taken by the left. I never said they weren’t diabolically brilliant.

J. M.

The Dualism of the American Catholic Democrat

Friday Observation: When Is It Enough?

I have debated health care. I have debated socialism. I have debated taxation. I have debated and debated and debated. After all of the back and forth in person and on social media, I have learned two things which are rock solid.

  1. People who want big, expensive social programs have their hearts in the right place, but couldn’t care less about the heart that disagrees with them. It is one thing to want to provide quality health insurance / housing / care, etc. for those who are less fortunate. It is something else, to in the same breath, paint anyone who disagrees with the method in which you propose to offer the insurance as a heartless, evil bastard whether explicitly or through the use passive aggressive snark. The desire to help others is admirable, noble and aligns with the teachings of most of the world’s religions. However, legislating compassion is morally disingenuous and does more to foster resentment than to fuel charity. Becoming angry to the point of rage when a social program you love in theory is queued for the trash bin is ridiculous, self-serving and ultimately worthless. There is more than one way to care for the country and its population. To vocally announce the doom of a segment of the population simply because you are unwilling to look outside of your ideological box is dangerous.
  2.  When engaged in a debate with someone who is appealing to sentiment rather than reality, it is in your best interest to fight fire with fire. Ask the following question; how much tax is a private citizen supposed to pay before they can be allowed to say, enough is enough? Basically; when are we allowed to admit that we have a hard enough time managing our own lives and that while we don’t wish ill-will on anyone, we have to focus on ourselves and our own families? Why is wanting to provide for the people you love and in turn receive love from selfish? Why is self-sufficiency a dirty term these days? Caring for yourself and your loved ones is not selfish. This forces the debate into a bottleneck in which the only acceptable answer is one that the person you are arguing with will not want to give. Don’t allow deflection. I have made that fatal mistake before and ended up debating climate change before the conversation was over. The answer will more than likely be buffeted by the statements, “it [tax] won’t be all that much” and “it’s worth it for the good of the country.” Problem is; who decides how much we should pay for these programs? Who decides how much of the money we earn we are allowed to keep? Why are we allowing people who decided that becoming a politician was the best path to an honest living to gouge our paychecks in order to placate the perennially whiny and chronically sullen? We should be asking these questions already and if we aren’t, then I’m not even sure we are allowed to debate tax issues.

Happy Friday.


Friday Observation: When Is It Enough?

3 Points On The Latest Trump Story

There are certain truths that will remain truths after the fallout of the latest CNN / Buzzfeed debacle. The following are the most obvious and therefore what the American public will overlook the quickest. I am not suggesting that the American public is incapable of gleaning basic, obvious truths but rather that they are inclined not to. It just isn’t as much fun as going off the handle and yelling.

  1. Russia Is Loving This. Consider, for a second, that the Russians do have compromising intel on Trump. Eventually, one would assume that pressure from the US and its allies coupled with the overwhelming pressure of the court of public opinion would compel Russia to release whatever they had. Propoganda only works if you can occasionally give some sort of proof, no matter how flimsy and transparent. And why would Putin do something so foolish? Russia drops a video of Trump with a bunch of prostitutes urinating on a bed and the worst that would happen would be Trump stepping down due to the prodding of the GOP, his own cabinet, advisors and constituency. Even that isn’t assured as it is becoming clearer that the most accurate thing said about ardent Trump supporters was what DJT himself said of them when he alluded to not losing any hardcore support even if he began shooting people on 5th Avenue. If Trump were to step down, Putin and the Russians would have to deal with Pence and if they have  is no salacious intel on him, they are screwed into a corner. Regardless of whether or not there is any dirt on Trump that the Russians may have, and it would seem that there is due to some of the oddities which arose during the race and afterwards (Manafort, Tillerson, omission of anti-Russian aggression rhetoric from RNC platform, refusal to acknowledge the Russian invasion of Crimea) it stands to reason that it is in Russia’s best interest to play it close to the chest. More can be accomplished with disinformation than actual scandal material. Russia is aware that the mere question of motive behind all of Trump’s foreign policy dealings with the Baltic region / Middle East will be put into question by the American media. Now even more so. Russia needs the United States to be in a constant state of confused argument and definitely not unified in either patriotism or disgust. We have collectively proven to Putin and his cronies that instead of dirt all they need is the rumor of dirt to undermine the foreign policy of an incoming president.
  2. Buzzfeed Is Safe. As JD Rucker very eloquently stated today, “That BuzzFeed is becoming more of a mainstream voice of American journalism should be considered a travesty, but unfortunately it’s real.” Please read the entire piece here as it is very well done. However, the piece does leave out one key aspect of Buzzfeed which I will address now: Buzzfeed isn’t going anywhere. Buzzfeed masquerades as a news source from time to time but most of us know them because of their endless lists. You know what I’m talking about, the “20 Ways You Know You’re From _____” and “5 Reasons Why We Still Miss _____” etc. Those lists are complete crap, by the way. Blogger and all around funnyman, Maddox, completely dismantled their lack of anything even resembling originality or integrity in the best piece on Buzzfeed I’ve ever read, simply named, “I hate Buzzfeed.” I suggest you read that piece as it really exposes Buzzfeed for the shills that they are. So why isn’t Buzzfeed going anywhere? Why are they safe? Because they surround themselves with like-minded people and attempt to only attract audiences of the same. It is easy to mask a lack of journalistic integrity by playing it off coyly and coolly. It is even easier when you are primarily known for your lousy lists and videos of people eating snacks from different countries. They have the best of both worlds. They can loudly claim credit when they are proven to be correct and they can play off their blatant partisanship and bright yellow journalism by saying, “ah c’mon man don’t take it so seriously. Here, watch this video on the difference between ten-dollar peanut butter and ten million dollar peanut butter.” Want to stay relevent? Easy. Create a buzz (see what I did there?) and then sit back. They are going to be around for a while because desperate liberals need them to exist.
  3. Young GOPers Were Smart to Stay Away. During the election, if you were a Republican and did not kneel at the feet of the god-king Trump and grovel, you were obviously working for Hillary Clinton’s benefit. I was a Rubio guy from day one. I still am. I was dubious of his willingness to jump on the Trump train with the lack of reticence that he showed. However one must remember that, A. politicians are politicians, and B. no one, and I mean no one, knew how this was going to shake out. Rubio played it safe. Does that illustrate his steadfast support and allegiance to conservatism? No, no it doesn’t. That’s a problem. But a problem for a few years from now which can be alleviated by what he does in the Senate between now and then. That being said, he did not jump on the train with the same vigor as others did. The Gingrichs and Giulianis of the world knew that this was their last hurrah. So they bought in. The worst that would happen would be a Trump loss and then they would go back to being rich, older men. They gambled correctly and are still part of the game. The elderly GOP had nothing to lose and everything to gain so it is natural that they went the way that they did. Rubio and co. did not buy in with the same enthusiasm. Which at the time and at this moment continues to be a gamble, but a gamble with very little risk and high pay off. It will take a full generation, perhaps a couple, for there to be a cultural paradigm shift in this county which would see the rise of  a press that wasn’t incredibly liberal. The mere mention of Trump in connection with your own name as a politician can be media poison. Regardless of what is true or what is a half-truth or what didn’t even occur at all, we will be reminded of how base and unscrupulous Trump is at every turn during the next election cycle. And probably every day leading up until then as well. This will be done by compiling all of the vitriolic BS that has been thrown his way into one homogenized sludge of slander which will be impossible to clean off. Therefore, it is in the best interest of young GOP legislators to steer as far clear of DJT during these volatile early days as they can. No one wants to be connected to a bed-pisser. At least not an intentional bed-pisser.

***Some final food for thought: last night when social media was melting down over the Russian intel story, the only group of journalists who were saying, “wait a second… this sounds like crap… unsubstantiated, suspect, crap” were the likes of David Harsanyi and Charles C. W. Cooke. Writers for National Review. A publication which released its now famous, “Against Trump” edition and was then subsequently crucified as a dying publication by Trump himself. That made me smile for two reasons. First; that principled conservatism is alive and well even though it may be hiding in the wings licking its wounds at the moment. The kind of conservatism that doesn’t drool over revenge and would rather be factually accurate than sensational. Second; that the irony of a publication helping to expose and bury a slanderous story intended to hurt a man who tried to hurt and discredit the relevance of the publication is supremely sweet for the simple fact that his most vocal support would never acknowledge the work of said publication for the same reasons they opposed him.***

3 Points On The Latest Trump Story

Friday Observation: Don’t Worry, Criminals Will Be Extinct Soon

In about twenty years, the criminal as we know it will be extinct. Regardless of crime syndicate affiliation, race, creed, sex, nationality, they will all go the way of the Dodo. So rest assured that eventually one day, you will be able to roam the streets without a care in the world. No longer will you have to scoot from behind trash can to behind trash can on your way to the chiropodist. The days of desperately trying not to breathe too audibly while you press yourself up against the wall of some darkened alley in a vain attempt to lose the two criminal-types that were walking behind you in CVS are to soon come to an end. Eventually, and yes I do mean this, you will be able to leave the mace, pepper spray, butterfly knife, Glock 19 and baseball bat with nails sticking out of it at home when all you want to do is go out to grab a copy of Cracked.

How do I know this?

Easy. Today’s generation is frigging stupid. A few days ago, a horrific video surfaced of four black teens torturing a special-needs white teen. Let’s leave the racial / hate crime / disgusting nature of the act out of it and focus on the fact that these teens were caught because they chose to live stream it. They actually thought it would be a good idea to capture a crime on video. Because that is obviously a stellar plan. Clearly, beating on a person for their race is abhorrent. Clearly, taking advantage of a special-needs person is abhorrent. Clearly, these four teens are too stupid to exist. It is to be hoped that prison will take care of that. (I’ll go to Confession this weekend)

Anywho, we can take solace in the truth that today’s new generation of miscreants is obviously too stupid for crime. Which is good for all of us. I used to think that teens spent too much time on their phones and on social media. I used to think that documenting your every movement during the day was pathetic. Now I see that narcissism, boredom, stupidity and a few hundred dollars worth of plastic with a built-in camera is actually good for society. Maybe, just maybe, one day we won’t have to hermetically seal ourselves into our bedrooms each night with a ring of salt around our beds and at least four different alarms armed and ready. Maybe one day we will be able to sleep without having to set our alarm clocks to 20 minute intervals for a quick sweep of the house armed to the teeth with full body armor.

Wait, you guys don’t do that?

Friday Observation: Don’t Worry, Criminals Will Be Extinct Soon