The Pill

When I was younger in the height of the women’s liberation movement, abortion and contraception were the hinge points for success.  Getting pregnant became the choice of the woman, and her’s alone, well besides the obvious.  Now we have all hell breaking lose over mandated coverages for abortions and contraception.  This loud and vigorous debate serendipitously follows the Susan Komen Foundation spat with Planned Parenthood.  PP unleashed unhinged women whipped into a fury and forced the Komen foundation to back down.  I saw serendipitous timing in that all this is bound together in our culture.

Breast cancer is an epidemic anymore.  I know that Missy and I have lost friends to breast cancer, have many friends who have survived it, and who know who will be struck next.  I know the scientific community tells us there is no danger in using birth control pills.  But after the global warming hoax and GMO’s in our food, I think the credibility of the scientific community is approaching that of a crack whore so I remain dubious of the claims.  Call me crazy but I wonder out loud if there might be a correlation between the extensive use of birth control pills and the spread of breast cancer.  Anyway, as usual, the frenzy ignored the basic facts that only a handful of PP clinics actually offer mammograms and PP is under investigation which violates the Susan Komen Foundation articles of incorporation.  But hey, why let the facts get in the way of a good screed? 

So when the Obama admistration HHS department issued an order that all employers must pay for abortions and conraception for their employees, the mob was already wound up and ready for a fight.  The Catholic Church pushed back and said this violates our beliefs and betrays the separation of church and state.  Now we have a political and legal controversy erupting, on the heels of the Komen vs PP spat.

But on another level, this hullabaloo has prompted other thoughts, namely religious ones since the Catholic church is in the middle of the controversy.  I read an article, “American Catholicism’s Pact With the Devil” and it prompted some serious thinking about me.  Let me illustrate the essence of the article.

“In the 1930s, the majority of the  bishops, priests, and nuns sold their souls to the devil, and they did so with the best of intentions. In their concern for the suffering of those out of work and destitute, they wholeheartedly embraced the New Deal.”

Which leads us to the point that struck me through the heart.

“And they welcomed Social Security – which was her handiwork. They did not stop to ponder whether public provision in this regard would subvert the moral principle that children are responsible for the well-being of their parents. They did not stop to consider whether this measure would reduce the incentives for procreation and nourish the temptation to think of sexual intercourse as an indoor sport. They did not stop to think.”

The commandment from God to honor your mother and father, including taking care of them in their old age.  One had children as a hedge for the future if you will.  Now, it was up to the government to do that job.  It seemed easy enough, pay in and not worry.  As we ponder the implications a little further, this quote jumped off the page and struck me like a ton of bricks:

“In the process, the leaders of the American Catholic Church fell prey to a conceit that had long before ensnared a great many mainstream Protestants in the United States – the notion that public provision is somehow akin to charity – and so they fostered state paternalism and undermined what they professed to teach: that charity is an individual responsibility and that it is appropriate that the laity join together under the leadership of the Church to alleviate the suffering of the poor. In its place, they helped establish the Machiavellian principle that underpins modern liberalism – the notion that it is our Christian duty to confiscate other people’s money and redistribute it.”

Whoa!! It is an individual responsibility to carry out acts of charity.  We just write checks and help the poor whenever we see Sally Struthers on TV at night.  No, this statement has challenged me to see my individual relationships with the poor in spirit, the hungry, the naked, the widows and orphans in a sticky messy personal relationship.  How many times have I fed somebody, with food or encouragement?  How many times have I clothed somebody with sweaters or the breastplate of the Gospel?  It isn’t fun to look at this this way.

As the culture wars rage, I have to reflect upon my own actions.  Whether we want to acknowledge it, we die alone and we face judgement alone, without an outraged crowd bombarding the social networks with all kinds of misinformation.  Do I take the Pill of group action, leaving it to the government to care for aging parents and outcasts by taxing me and redistributing it or do I take the Pill of individual acts of charity, fearlessly engaging those I wouldn’t want to strike up a relationship?  I honesty don’t know.

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“…my huckleberry friend, “

I love Johnny Mercer’s lyrics.  In that one phrase he captures the character of Holly Golightly from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”  His collaboration with Henry Mancini for “Moon River” won an Academy Award in 1961 and was the featured song in the soundtrack of that movie.  Huckleberry Finn was also a wanderer, a rascal, and an opportunist just like Holly.  Holly tells Paul, “You don’t have to worry.  I’ve taken care of myself for a long time.”  And that sums up so many people who are Huckleberry’s, not hicks but shamelessly self-reliant.  They became that way because they had to, they had no choice but to survive.   We are all vaguely familiar with Twain’s character Huckleberry Finn, who Twain describes as,  “In Huckleberry Finn I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had. His liberties were totally unrestricted. He was the only really independent person–boy or man–in the community, and by consequence he was tranquilly and continuously happy and envied by the rest of us. And as his society was forbidden us by our parents the prohibition trebled and quadrupled its value, and therefore we sought and got more of his society than any other boy’s.” – Mark Twain’s Autobiography.  And that sums up the character of Holly Golightly.  These characters litter our lives and the cinema as they are what we long to be and at the same time give us pause for all the good in our own lives since there is always that dark past in these people’s history.   There is usually a form of abandonment in their history, when they had to fend for themselves.

I have had many huckleberry friends in my life, some were wonderful friends, others saw me as another host from which they could take.  All in all I am glad to have huckleberry’s around, if for no other reason than to inspire wonderful lyrics.  You see I never knew that “Moon River” was written for the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”   What a wonderful discovery!!

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Simply Super

Well the Super Bowl has come and gone.  For the first time in a long, long time Missy and I celebrated the Super Bowl together, alone!  No RHMS football team over with 12 racks of ribs, no nachos for the multitudes, no liters upon liters of Coke.  It was just the two of us.  So I fixed wings from one of my favorite cookbooks in the world, Recipes 123.  All the recipes use only three ingredients.  So use the best, freshest, and highest quality you can find.  In the wings it was a package of wings from the grocery store, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup soy sauce.  I mixed the soy sauce and brown sugar and poured over the cut up wings on a cookie sheet.  I let that stand for about thirty minutes, put it into a 350 degree oven for thirty minutes, then put turned them before putting them upon a rack on the cookie sheet to let the sauce carmelize.  OMG they were good!  I had made these at Christmas for our “cocktail hour” and everybody loved them.  When I made them for the Super Bowl I ground some black pepper into the soy and sugar to give it some heat.  The game was great, the food was great, and the company was outstanding.  Quality still means something.  Cheers!

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Does the Marlboro Man ride again?

Gentle readers I had stopped posting because I felt like I had turned cranky and I didn’t want this to devolve into some kind of sentimental rant.  I am moved to post today when I saw the news that the Georgia Supreme Court had struck down a law banning those who assist suicide from advertising.   What makes this personal is a friend of my daughters was a lawyer involved in this case.  I had written her after reading a Facebook post she had made proclaiming the injustice of the law, and this was a child that had been in my Sunday School class.  But let me give you some background as to why that would prompt a reaction from me.  I have had several friends, more than I had realized when I began adding them up commit suicide.  Almost always it was a result of depression in one form or another, and by form I mean some of them were on antidepressants when they took their life.  It had been haunting to me, their despair reaching a level of throwing in the towel, even at our ripe middle age.   So this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and I wanted to understand her passion for this case.  She explained to me that it is about free speech.  Huh?  I thought commerce was regulated, and those activities deemed “unhealthy” were ESPECIALLY regulated.  Taking your life, after paying somebody to help you go through with it strikes me as the pinnacle of unhealthy activities.  So when I asked her if Phillip Morris et al could re-enter the advertising world under the “free speech” rights she shut down communication with me.  So I ask you, if it is okay to advertise to help somebody kill themselves, what possibly could top that as far as being unhealthy to you?

 

It is an interesting little circle of control, the bureaucrats give academics and “scientists” money to do research to find out things that are unhealthy.  They bring back the results to the bureaucrats who then proceed to regulate and hire more bureaucrats to do the regulating.  Sugar is the latest, last week the study came out that it needs to be regulated like alcohol, and drugs.  Before that was carbon.  Tobacco.  Fats.   If you think about it the list just perpetuates itself into the inner realms of our lives.  But, helping somebody take their life, for a fee I am assuming, is an act of free speech and cannot be limited by government according the Georgia Supreme court.  Makes me want to light up and ride off into the sunset.

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The Bells have stopped ringing

Christmastide has ended, and I am alone awaiting Missy’s return from her trip with the girls.  The silence after the cacophony of the holidays is like the fading tone of a bell rung.  This time reminds me of the days after you bring home your first baby, the joyous celebrations have subsided, the pink or blue balloons have been taken down and you are faced with the lifelong responsibility of the child.  I wonder if this is what Christmas is really like, the Christ child brought into our lives, the celebration and gathering of the clans to mark the occasion has passed, and then comes the quiet labor of assimilating this child into our lives.  We have to change our schedule, we have to make arrangements for care for the child if we are away, we have to be responsible in our decisions because the baby is totally dependant on us.  I think if we are honest about accepting Christ into our lives this is similar.

Anyway, my wife has done an incredible job raising our children, and it has been her total focus for the last twenty-six years.  She doesn’t have hobbies, or activities, or any distractions that draw her attention away, with the exception of tending to her mother during her battle with cancer.  So it pleases me to no end that three of our four children have found their calling, and are immersing themselves in said calling.  Our oldest has found her voice in art and craftmanship in the world of design and printing.  Our son is starting his new position in the corporate world and has begun the ascent of the corporate ladder, and I unabashedly am cheering for him to become  a “one-percenter” .  Our third child has discovered her passion for working with underprivileged children and especially in an after-school program setting.  So they have all found where they are going to be plugged in and are on their way to following their passion and all the success that happens when you do that.   As a parent this is the reward, the satisfaction of  “a job well done” knowing your chilren are on their way to becoming productive and inspired adults. 

This year is about me, I am able to change my paradigm because of the kids knowing with uncommon certainty what they are supposed to be doing because they are internally motivated toward the goals of their choosing.   So I have resolved to put me first.  I will make decisions based upon what is best, most convenient, and in line with my goals instead of accommodating everyone else first and working with what time or money is leftover for me.  This will be a monumental shift of priorities and won’t be easy.  I need to change the way I use time, and to allocate whatever time is needed for what I want to do,  and then and only then give away what time is left over.  It will be exciting, but a little like that new baby in the house, our situation is here to stay and we will have to deal with it, 24/7.  I hope it turns out as well as the last time we had new babies in the house.

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The Hypocrite’s oath

“Do as I say, not as I do.” . 

That is what I tell my kids because I am a hypocrite.  

The worst insult that a liberal can use on anybody is “hypocrite.”  I am proud to be one, and in fact I may have attained Lifetime Achievement status.  Why would I be proud?  Because it means two things; I know right from wrong, and I fall short. 

First, knowing right from wrong.  That means I have accepted the fact that there are absolutes, not situational ethics.  Either it is right, or it is wrong.  There may be extenuating circumstances but usually in the crucible one can boil it down to either right or wrong.  And if it remains hazy I know that I have a charitable heart, and most of all I trust God to be the final arbiter of the decision, not me or other people.  So I don’t get caught up in a bunch of “what if”  I try to work with what I know and have in front of me.  To be succinct I try to do the right thing.  I try to seek to understand, and to discern “what would Lib do?”

I fall short.  But to fall short means to have striven in the first place.  So I make no apologies for having tried, I am human, I have original sin all through me.  I am subject to the seven deadly sins every day.  (Can you name them? wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.)  What troubles me most of all is that I am subject to the sin of omission.  There are things every evening that I think about knowing that I should have done something different that what I did.  I review the situation and wonder if I should have spoken up, or not said what I said.  Did I jump in too fast, or not fast enough?  Sometimes I have to accept the fact that situation has nothing to do with me.   Another great sin is that of judging other people.  I have worked very hard on correcting that, to take people at face value instead of projecting onto them my opinions of them.  So yes, I fall short, I don’t do the right thing every time.  I regret that, and I try to do better but I fall short time and time again.

This past week, the Penn State eruption of grotesque allegations of institutional sinfulness has troubled many people.  What I don’t get is the rush to lynch the graduate assistant coach who witnessed the rape in the shower, ran to his dad and then told Paterno.  Everybody is full of what he should have done.  The fact that the District Attorney decided not to press charges at the time tells me a couple of things.  First that law enforcement had been made aware of the behavior of Sandusky, second there wasn’t enough evidence to seek an indictment.  Now there is still plenty of smoke surrounding this and it continues to get weirder and weirder but to judge the G.A. is just wrong.   None of the story is adding up any way you want to look at it.   So does that make Paterno a hypocrite?  He followed protocol, he took the info he had and turned it over to his supervisors, and somewhere down the line the D.A. had the information and decided to not press charges.  The fact that the D.A. disappeared a few years later makes it even stranger, but back to the question, is Paterno a hypocrite?  Yes I sure that he is, he knows right from wrong and he fell short, and I will bet you he replays the incident in his mind wondering what he could have done differently if he had it to do over again.  But do hypocrites deserve the lynching in some kind of ex post facto justice?

I think being a hypocrite is way better than the alternative.  To not know right from wrong, or even worse, to distort it to fit your desires is a recipe for chaos.  And then, to not have an idea of what to strive for is just aimlessness.  So, I am proud to be a hypocrite.

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Is he there?

The demographic of our neighborhood is predominantly fifty-something women.  One of whom had a tenant in her garage apartment who lived with his girlfriend.  He seemed friendly enough when we moved in, and we would exchange pleasantries about the weather and the condition of my yard when I would walk Zeke by his house.  One evening last spring while we were still living apart, I heard some yelling and carrying on in his apartment.  It died down after an hour or so, and I chalked it up to a bad day and the windows open on such a wonderful spring evening.  He helped us unload the truck when Missy and our furniture arrived.  They were pleasant, helpful, and considerate.  Then it went downhill, with the yelling increasing in both frequency and intensity.  However as one neighbor described it, “his vocabulary sure shrinks when he commences yelling.”  It was frightening on several occasions.  As we got to know the neighbors, we found this was the norm not the exceptional bad stretch that I had assumed, and that the police had been summoned on several occasions before. 

His landlord had returned to our neighborhood after an extended period of being with her sister during an illness.  Missy and the landlord have struck up a friendship.  One afternoon the yelling commenced early afternoon and the police were called again, by two or three different neighbors.  Missy convinced the landlord to do something and she did, she sent him an eviction notice.  The women were afraid to walk by his apartment so they would go the long way around the neighborhood to get to each other’s houses for fear of not knowing if they would be running into Mr. Hyde or Dr. Jekyll.   They would literally check to see if he was there.   Yesterday night he was moving out, and the women of the neighborhood were obviously relieved at his imminent departure.

I had put up with this far longer than I should have.  We are new to the neighborhood and I worried if I stirred up trouble what would be the result, so I waited.  I wonder if this is how bullies get started.  When good people fail to act and call them down, it emboldens them.  This guy was more of a person with seriously  stunted emotional growth and acted more like a spoiled four-year old than a true bully like a Ken McElroy.  But the fear in the women of the neighborhood was real, and they changed their movements to avoid running into him.

Bullying is a buzzword now.  But as Missy so aptly describes it, bullies are usually packs of kids or people picking on the oddball not the other way around.  Your child, statistically speaking, is far more likely to be a bully than a victim.  Why, because kids will bend their ethics to stay in the pack and not tell the others to stop picking on the oddball.  I didn’t say anything because I wanted to fit in up here in the neighborhood.  I was afraid of having the retribution directed at my wife so I did nothing.   When he was yelling, he was drunk and unhinged, so speaking with him during a rampage would have been useless.  The infrequent meetings while he was coherent didn’t seem to be the appropriate time to bring it up.  When I found out about the eviction notice, there was no point.  So I did nothing.

That there is the sin of omission.  I won’t commit it again.

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