Friday, December 09, 2016

REPOST: December 9th: St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

In 1474, Cuauhtlatoatzin ("Talking Eagle") was born a member of the Chichimeca people and a subject of the Aztecs in what is now part of Mexico City, during an epoch that was destined very soon to end. When he was 18, Christopher Columbus landed in the New World. By the time he was 47, Spain had conquered the advanced yet blood-soaked Aztec Empire. However, within a decade, the Indians were laboring under crushing oppression at the hands of corrupt Spanish officials. The first Bishop of Mexico, the Franciscan Juan de Zumárraga, struggled vainly to defend his new spiritual charges, who were close to rebellion. The harried bishop begged the Blessed Mother for her aid.

It was in this turbulent time, less than five years after the conquest of the Aztecs, that the Talking Eagle encountered the religion of the Spaniards. Even as a pagan, he appears to have led a life of penance and contemplation that no doubt laid the groundwork for what was to come to him in later life. The Talking Eagle became one of the earliest indigenous converts to the Catholic faith, accepting Baptism together with his wife and taking the name of Juan Diego in about 1524. Every Saturday and Sunday, a barefoot Juan Diego walked 14 miles to Tenochtitlan to attend Mass and receive religious instruction. After the death of his wife in 1529, Juan Diego moved in with an uncle, Juan Bernardino, which left him with only nine miles to travel to pursue his faith.

It was during one of these journeys in 1531 that the veil between heaven and earth was drawn aside for the humble farmer and mat-weaver. The 16th-century native scholar Antonio Valeriano describes what happened on that day in the Nahuatl-language Nican Mopohua (1556), the oldest and most authoritative account of the Guadalupe apparitions:
On a Saturday just before dawn, he was on his way to pursue divine worship and to engage in his own errands. As he reached the base of the hill known as Tepeyac, came the break of day, and he heard singing atop the hill, resembling singing of varied beautiful birds.

Occasionally the voices of the songsters would cease, and it appeared as if the mount responded. The song, very mellow and delightful, excelled that of the coyoltototl and the tzinizcan and of other pretty singing birds. Juan Diego stopped to look and said to himself: “By fortune, am I worthy of what I hear? Maybe I dream? Am I awakening? Where am I? Perhaps I am now in the terrestrial paradise which our elders had told us about? Perhaps I am now in heaven?” He was looking toward the east, on top of the mound, from whence came the precious celestial chant; and then it suddenly ceased and there was silence. He then heard a voice from above the mount saying to him: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito.” Then he ventured and went to where he was called. He was not frightened in the least; on the contrary, overjoyed.

Then he climbed the hill, to see from were he was being called. When he reached the summit, he saw a Lady, who was standing there and told him to come hither. Approaching her presence, he marveled greatly at her superhuman grandeur; her garments were shining like the sun; the cliff where she rested her feet, pierced with glitter, resembling an anklet of precious stones, and the earth sparkled like the rainbow. The mezquites, nopales, and other different weeds, which grow there, appeared like emeralds, their foliage like turquoise, and their branches and thorns glistened like gold. He bowed before her and herd her word, tender and courteous, like someone who charms and steems you highly.

She said: “Juanito, the most humble of my sons, where are you going?” He replied: “My Lady and Child, I have to reach your church in Mexico, Tlatilolco, to pursue things divine, taught and given to us by our priests, delegates of Our Lord.” She then spoke to him: “Know and understand well, you the most humble of my sons, that I am the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth. I wish that a temple be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows. And to accomplish what my clemency pretends, go to the palace of the bishop of Mexico, and you will say to him that I manifest my great desire, that here on this plain a temple be built to me; you will accurately relate all you have seen and admired, and what you have heard. Be assured that I will be most grateful and will reward you, because I will make you happy and worthy of recompense for the effort and fatigue in what you will obtain of what I have entrusted. Behold, you have heard my mandate, my humble son; go and put forth all your effort.”

At this point he bowed before her and said: “My Lady, I am going to comply with your mandate; now I must part from you, I, your humble servant.” Then he descended to go to comply with the errand, and went by the avenue which runs directly into Mexico City.
To Juan Diego's great disappointment, Bishop Zumárraga, who had kept him waiting a very long time before granting him an audience, would not believe him. Dejected, he went back to the Lady on Tepeyac Hill and told her how he had been rebuffed. "For which I exceedingly beg, Lady and my Child," he said,
that you entrust the delivery of your message to someone of importance, well known, respected, and esteemed, so that they may believe in him; because I am a nobody, I am a small rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf, and you, my Child, the least of my children, my Lady, you send me to a place where I never visit nor repose. Please excuse the great unpleasantness and let not fretfulness befall, my Lady and my All.
However, the Lady insisted that this important mission was for Juan Diego alone, and ordered him to go back and try again. He obeyed, and this time the bishop questioned him closely regarding what he had seen and heard, and told him to ask the Lady for a sign. When he returned to Tepeyac Hill after this second interview, the Lady told him to come back the next day, and then he would receive the sign that would convince the bishop to comply with her request.

But in the meantime, Juan Diego's uncle, Bernardino, became so ill that his life was despaired of, and Bernardino sent his nephew to fetch a priest. Knowing that the Lady would be waiting for him on Tepeyac Hill, Juan Diego avoided the place so that he would not be diverted from his urgent errand. But the Lady accosted him and asked him where he was going. When he told her, she said:
Hear me and understand well, my son the least, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my embrace? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything. Do not be afflicted by the illness of your uncle, who will not die now of it. Be assured that he is now cured.
She then told Juan Diego to climb to the top of the hill, where he found a variety of choice Castillian roses growing out of season and on a barren patch of land. He gathered them and brought them back to the Lady, who arranged them herself in his frail cactus-fiber tilma and told him to present them to the bishop. When, after yet another long wait, he finally saw the bishop, he unfolded the tilma, and the roses fell out; and as the roses scattered on the floor, the image of Our Lady as Juan Diego had seen her on Tepeyac Hill appeared on the tilma. This put an end to Bishop Zumárraga's doubts and convinced him that this was Our Lady's answer to his prayers.

In obedience to the Blessed Mother's request, a shrine was built at the foot of Tepeyac Hill, and the miraculous tilma was housed in the chapel. Juan Diego gave everything he owned to his uncle -- who had indeed been cured and had also seen the Lady at the very moment she told his nephew about his cure -- and moved into a small dwelling at the shrine, devoting himself to prayer, virtue, and the care of the shrine and the pilgrims who came to visit it. He received the then-extraordinary privilege of receiving Holy Communion three times a week, and died in the odor of sanctity on May 30, 1548 at the age of 74. Meanwhile, by means of the miraculous image -- not to mention the humility and obedience of her servant, Juan Diego -- the Blessed Mother won millions of souls for the Church, and averted the bloody rebellion that had loomed on the horizon in Mexico.

A footnote. Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen was a great devotee of the Blessed Mother, and remarked that he prayed for the following intentions regarding his death: (1) that he "drop dead" at the age of 80; (2) that he die on a Saturday in honor of Our Lady, or (3) that he die on one of her feast days. In fact, he died in 1979 at the age of 84; on a Sunday; and not on a feast of Our Lady. He was disappointed on every count.

Or was he? The date of Fulton Sheen's death -- December 9th -- was the anniversary of the first apparition on Tepeyac Hill, and is now the feast of St. Juan Diego, whom Pope John Paul II canonized at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 2002.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

REPOST: Mary, Conceived Without Sin, You DID Know

Raise your hand if you have ever heard the song "Mary, Did You Know?" within the precincts of a Catholic church.  I can't see you, but I know you're out there.  My hand is also up.  Somehow, because this song mentions the Mother of God, it has become a Christmas tradition in some parishes.  But although the gentleman who wrote "Mary, Did You Know?" clearly means well, this song is both musically inappropriate for Mass and subversive of the Catholic faith.

From a musical standpoint, "Mary, Did You Know?" is basically a pop song, and although the Mass has been saturated with such for a couple of generations now, the fact remains that it is not sacred music suited for use at Mass.  But even more objectionable, from the Catholic point of view, is the lyrical content.  

"Mary, Did You Know?" is based on some abysmally erroneous assumptions.  To begin with, it is supposed that Mary does not know that her holy Infant is the Son of God.  Some saints -- for instance, St. Alphonsus Liguori, bishop and Doctor of the Church -- are of the opinion that even before the Annunciation, Mary had a profound understanding of prophecies and Scriptures concerning the promised Messiah.  But even without such an understanding, it would have taken a high degree of inattention on Mary's part to the message of Gabriel and the inspired greeting of her cousin Elizabeth for her to labor under ignorance of her Son's divinity.  It is further supposed that Mary does not know that her Son will suffer for the redemption of mankind.  This would have required her to utterly gloss over the prophecies of holy Simeon concerning her Son as God's salvation, a sign of contradiction, and concerning the sword of sorrow that would pierce her own soul.  The idea of the Mother of God not being in possession of the most critical facts about her divine Son, particularly in view of explicit revelations received by her, is absurd on its face.

But there is an even more blatant error in the lyrics of "Mary, Did You Know?" that ought to induce in every Catholic a sharp intake of breath.  It is a defined dogma of the Catholic faith that the Mother of God was conceived without original sin.  On December 8, 1854, in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, Pope Pius IX defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception:

We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful. 
Contrast this with the following lyrics from "Mary, Did You Know?":
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.
Whereas Catholics accept as revealed truth that Mary was free from sin from the instant of her conception by virtue of the anticipated merits of Jesus' suffering and death on the Cross, the foregoing is based on the assumption that Mary was under the sway of sin at the time she gave birth to the Christ Child, and that she would remain so until His Sacrifice of redemption.  In short, it is a flat denial of the Immaculate Conception.  As such -- and for this reason alone -- it should never be sung in a Catholic church, or find any place in any Catholic liturgy, and Catholics should not embrace it.

Perhaps a fitting way to honor today's feast of the Immaculate Conception -- in addition to fulfilling our obligation to attend Mass -- would be to defend the dogma which this feast celebrates by doing what we can to see that "Mary, Did You Know?" remains unheard in our parishes during this and every Christmas season.

REPOST: Potuit, Decuit, ergo Fecit: Why the Immaculate Conception Must Be True

I will shew thee all good, and I will proclaim in the name of the Lord before thee: and I will have mercy on whom I will, and I will be merciful to whom it shall please me.  
Exodus 33:19

Once in a while, a comment comes along that deserves a post-length response.  Here, from a self-professed ex-Catholic turned non-denominational, is one that just came in on my post about the appalling song "Mary, Did You Know?":
Mary had to have sinned. She called Jesus "my Savior" and what is Jesus the Savior for? Sinners. She had sinned. And there is no biblical evidence for her having no sin.
Sigh.

Those of you with a kick against the Immaculate Conception always want to set limitations on God.  You generally have no problem acknowledging in theory that God is infinitely good, infinitely holy, infinitely perfect, infinitely merciful and infinitely powerful; but in practice, what you really want is a sort of bite-sized God, One that we can wrap our woefully inadequate brains around and Who does not confound our puny capabilities.  So when God actually goes and does something that only an infinitely good, holy, perfect, merciful and powerful Being could do, you protest.  The fact, however, is that God can do whatever He wants; and whatever is fitting, we may be sure that He will do.

God can do the impossible more rapidly and easily than we can blink our eyes or draw a breath.  It was perfectly within His power to preserve Mary free from the taint of sin from the instant of her conception.  This singular privilege of His grace was purchased for her by the limitless merits of Christ's suffering and death on the Cross.  God, not bound by the constraints of time or space, was perfectly capable of applying these merits beforehand and granting this privilege in advance of the Crucifixion.  Thus God really was Mary's Savior, and did not need her to sin in order to be her Savior: His intervention to prevent her from receiving the taint of sin that she would otherwise have contracted as a descendant of Adam was also a salvific act.  Have you never been prevented from committing sins -- by being deprived of means or opportunity, or because you have never experienced the temptation to commit particular sins?  These are also interventions of God's grace.  So you should know from experience that God saves us, not only by forgiving sins we have actually committed, but also by preventing us from committing sins we would otherwise have committed, perhaps to our eternal ruin.   Why, then, should it be so hard to accept that God, out of the abyss of His goodness and mercy, could exercise His infinite power to prevent the Mother of His Son from being tainted by the least stain of iniquity from the very instant she began to exist?


It is altogether fitting that God should preserve Mary inviolate and immaculate from the first instant of her life.  God always gives us the grace we need to do the work He gives us: the greater the work, the greater the grace given to carry it out.  Was ever a more important mission given to a mere human being than that entrusted to Mary?  It was her task to supply the matter out of which the all-holy Son of God would take flesh, to bear Him in her womb, to nurse Him and to rear Him to manhood, and to share in her soul in the agonies of His Passion.  This touches on a point raised by my correspondent in a follow-up comment:

Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for dying for our sins because He was without blemish. If Mary had no blemish either, that would pretty much validate her for crucifixion too. Which would make Jesus less important.
Here my correspondent, though off the rails in the implications for the importance of Jesus, hits on an important truth.  Mary did in fact suffer with her divine Son, more than any other human being could have.  The saints (e.g., St. Alphonsus Liguori) are of the opinion that her sufferings were greater than that of all other men who have ever lived or will ever live put together, and that only a miracle kept her from dying of grief.  This is why Catholics honor her under the titles of Mother of Sorrows and Queen of Martyrs: only her Son's sufferings exceeded hers.  When she presented her Son in the Temple, holy Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her soul, that out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed (Luke 2:35).  It makes sense that she should bear so great a share in her Son's Passion: not only was she his loving mother; she was also fully aware that He was God, and therefore of the horrible outrage that He should be murdered by His own creatures.  Moreover, would it have been possible for her to suffer entirely for his sake and not at all for her own if she herself had had a share in the sins that caused Him to be nailed to the Cross?  Still, this share of hers in Christ's suffering does not in any way diminish Him.  Jesus was the perfect Sacrifice not only because He was without blemish, but because He was God.  Mankind had outraged the infinite God, and therefore it would take infinite merits to repair the outrage; these could only be offered by the Son of God. 

If you do not accept the Immaculate Conception, then I am bound to ask you why you would want the Mother of God to have been a sinner.  Is this not tantamount to wanting an unworthy vessel for the Incarnate God?   Does it make sense for the woman entrusted with bearing and caring for and suffering alongside the Son of God to have spent even a single instant under the dominion of hell?  No: especially when you consider that the Woman of Genesis 3:15, between whom and the serpent God put enmity is none other than the Mother of God, and her Seed is none other than Jesus Christ:

I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.
Here is scriptural proof of the Immaculate Conception.  If God creates perfect and implacable enmity between the Woman and the serpent -- and surely it is unthinkable that if God creates enmity between the Mother of God and evil, this enmity will be imperfect and half-hearted -- then it follows that she could never be under the serpent's sway, or in allegiance with him, as she must be if she had sinned.  Thus it was fitting for God to preserve her without sin from the very beginning.

Since it was perfectly possible for God to preserve Mary free from sin from the moment of her conception, and it was fitting that He should do so, it follows that He in fact did do so.  It would be a gross omission on God's part, and incompatible with His infinite perfection, if He should leave undone that which was fitting.  Therefore, we may safely take it that He did not leave it undone.  


Potuit, decuit, ergo fecit! He could; it was fitting; therefore, He did it!


H/T Canterbury Tales

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

75 December 7ths Ago: Pearl Harbor


Franklin Roosevelt's address to Congress on December 8, 1941, asking for a declaration of war against Japan in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor.

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.
Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Repost: He Made a Wasteland Out of Cuba, But It's Okay: He's Deeply Spiritual

The day after the long-awaited death of Fidel Castro is announced seems a good day to re-publish a post that originally went up on February 26, 2007.  

It also seems like a good day to congratulate ourselves on having elected as president a man who comes up with absolutely the most appropriate response to the death of Castro (after praying for his spotted soul and celebrating with cigars and madeira):
Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.
While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.
Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty. I join the many Cuban Americans who supported me so greatly in the presidential campaign, including the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association that endorsed me, with the hope of one day soon seeing a free Cuba.
At long last, the Washington Post brings us the news the English-speaking world has been waiting for: a joyous end to its long deprivation of the English language translation of Fidel Castro's Cartas del Presidio, the 21 letters the future Maximum Leader (shown here spooning with Nikita Khruschev) penned from the hoosegow in the early 1950s. Gushes Ann Louise Bardach, co-editor of The Prison Letters of Fidel Castro: "[T]his collection of Castro's writings -- virtually the only unofficial writing he ever did -- has become something of a Rosetta Stone for historians, biographers and journalists seeking to understand the man who would become Cuba's ruler for life." She goes on: "The letters amply illustrate Castro's many gifts: his formidable erudition, strategic thinking and natural leadership. They are also an early indicator of his Machiavellian cunning and his genius for public relations. And they dramatize his resentments and rages....What must this intensely proud and private man have felt about the public disclosures of his recent medical travails, in which every inch of his intestines has become fodder for the world media?"

Coming up for air out of our barf bags, we see what it is that passes for deep spirituality in the insane world of Castro and his fawning minions. Immediately after describing how, in 1969, Castro outlawed the celebration of Christmas in Cuba, Barlach, apparently impervious to irony, rhapsodizes: "And yet the letters suggest that Castro was a man of unusual spiritual depth -- and a fervent believer in God." Exhibit A: a polysyllabic-word-laden excerpt from a letter to the father of a fallen revolutionary thug:
I will not speak of him as if he were absent, he has not been and he will never be. These are not mere words of consolation. Only those of us who feel it truly and permanently in the depths of our souls can comprehend this. Physical life is ephemeral, it passes inexorably. . . . This truth should be taught to every human being -- that the immortal values of the spirit are above physical life. What sense does life have without these values? What then is it to live? Those who understand this and generously sacrifice their physical life for the sake of good and justice -- how can they die? God is the supreme idea of goodness and justice.
Castro certainly ought to know about the ephermeral nature of human life, as a life-long specialist in rendering as ephemeral as possible the lives of anybody who gets in his way. As to God being the "supreme idea" of goodness and justice, somehow Barlach misses this clue to Castro's true belief system, pursuant to which it is held that man created God, instead of the other way around. But no matter: at long last, the Left has found a "fervent believer in God" that it can live with -- one who proves his "unusual spiritual depth" by:

-- Being ruled by pride, as when he flew into a rage upon discovering that his wife, Mirta, accepted a modest government stipend in order to keep body and soul together while Castro rotted in prison: "I never imagined that Rafael [his brother-in-law] could be such a scoundrel and that he had become so corrupted; I cannot conceive how he could have so pitilessly sacrificed the honor and name of his sister, exposing her to eternal shame and humiliation...." Meeting life's basic requirements is counterrevolutionary.

-- Learning the wrong lessons in the School of Suffering: "It is a chore to push away the mortal hatreds that seek to invade my heart. I do not know if there is anyone who has suffered more in these past days. It has been a terrible and decisive test, with the capacity of quashing the last atom of kindness and purity in my soul, but I have made a pledge to myself to persevere until death. . . . After such weeping and sweating of blood, what is left for one to learn in the school of sorrow?" Any number of real martyrs could have supplied him with a few ideas.

-- Getting divorced and waging all-out war from the joint for custody of his son: "I do not care one bit if this battle drags on till the end of the world. If they think they can exhaust my patience and, based on this, that I am going to concede -- they are going to find that I am wrapped in Buddhist tranquility and am prepared to reenact the famous Hundred Years War -- and win it! To these private matters, add my reflection on the political panorama -- and it will not be difficult to imagine that I will leave this prison as the man of iron." A paragon of parental love and self-sacrifice.

--
Taking a mistress, Maria Laborde: "The inscription on your card was so beautifully written, I have set my hope on the pleasure of soon receiving a letter from you, with the only variant that you use 'tu' instead of 'usted.' Could this be too much to hope?" Apparently not, since he went on to father an illegitimate child with Laborde.

This is to say nothing of what Castro would go on to do over the course of an ignominious career:

-- Impose Communism on his hapless people and reducing them to a state of grinding poverty

-- Suppress individual liberty, including freedom of worship

-- Threaten the United States with nuclear war

-- Aggress against neighbors, such as the Carribbean island nation of Grenada

-- Imprison and torture political dissidents for decades without a trial

-- Murder political dissidents and other threats to his regime

It's true: the Castro letters from the joint reveal a great deal about the man -- a great deal too much, if his partisans were not too blind to see it.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Cui Bono?

"The famous Lucius Cassius,
whom the Roman people used
to regard as a very honest and
wise judge, was in the
habit of asking, time
and again, 'Cui bono?
 To whose benefit?'"
Can today's level of liberal dismay and cognitive dissonance be overstated?  For a long time, and especially the last eight years, the liberals have, or seem to have had, a lock on society at all levels, all over the world.  Even the Catholic Church is choked with leftists, all the way to the top of the hierarchy.  The liberals were certain of their hegemony.  But in A.D. 2016, the bunker has been busted.  In June, the United Kingdom voted to detach herself from the Soviet Union's velvet-upholstered successor, the European Union.  And now, in the States, a man who has never held political office or served in the military, who has been relentlessly ridiculed and savaged in the media, has trounced the heiress-apparent to Obama's neo-Marxist empire.  Not only that: the Party of Hillary has failed to gain a majority in the House or the Senate, and has lost control of all but five states and numerous local offices.

And the left is stunned.  Their frenzy and hysteria could not be greater if Old Scratch himself were elected president (assuming they believed in such a person).  Yet there is a clear disconnect for liberals between their outrage over the election of Chief Deputy Devil Trump and real life.  How do they handle their friends and relations who they know voted for Trump?  How do they account for people they know who have never hitherto shown the slightest inclination toward racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, phobophobia, etc., etc., etc. suddenly popping up and voting for a candidate they say embodies all these things?  Are they to believe that every single one of these people was a crypto-[insert prejudice-du-jour here] and it never emerged until now, despite countless opportunities to forward an Agenda of Hate?  The Hillary supporters I associate with daily have not changed their behavior toward me, as surely they should if I am really as low as I'd have to be to vote for a guy that is really as evil as they think Trump is.

It is hard to have to face up even to the possibility that one's world view might be somewhat off.  So for the last week the liberals have been taking comfort in the wearing of diaper pins, and in the notion that their side is being vindicated by events.  I refer not to the professional rioters out pillaging big cities to prove that Trump's election was fixed -- although we could talk about that -- but specifically to the "hate crimes" and "harassment" that minorities are allegedly suffering at the hands of Trump supporters.  See? they say.  We told you so!  We told you America would become a mean, dangerous place with Trump in the White House, and it's already starting even before the electoral college!  Ideology is so important to some people that they clearly devoutly wish it to be true that their fellow, flesh-and-blood human beings are being subjected to torments and degradations in Trump's name.  I think there are many out there who would be positively crestfallen to discover that this is not happening.

And I shall enjoy seeing their crests fall.  It is daily becoming more obvious that these harassment stories are being weighed in the balance and found wanting.  A woman who claimed a redneck in a Trump hat stole her hijab in Lafayette, Louisiana, later admitted to having made the whole thing up.  A story about a racial assault in Philadelphia, with enough idiotic specifics to check against the facts, proved to be groundless.  And then there is the gay Canadian filmmaker and his unsubstantiated story that even Snopes cannot get on board with.  Even anti-Trump types have come under fire as far-right fanatics, like the guy in San Francisco who flew a Nazi flag over his home to protest the election result.

But even setting aside debunked stories, I am calling Bravo Sierra on these "hate crimes" allegedly committed by Trump supporters.  These stories simply do not pass the smell test:

1. I voted for Trump, and I do not recognize myself in the caricature of Trump voters that is being put out there.  These "hate crimes" clearly reflect the left's cartoonish image of Trump supporters and what they believe, rather than reality.

2. The evidence offered to support these stories ranges from non-existent to...well, next-to-non-existent.  Mostly the existence of a report of an incident is the only evidence, even though an accusation is never evidence.  Many reports are pure hearsay, or hearsay upon hearsay.  The person passing on a report often claims or implies that the source is unimpeachable, but never names this source or tells us whether he questioned the source live and in person, or read it on social media, where anybody can say anything about anything.  Some people cite to the existence of photos or videos, as if these can never be photoshopped or staged (and where, by the way, is the moral outrage at the cameraman who is videotaping an assault with his phone instead of using that phone to call the police?).  Others cite to the sheer volume of reports as proof of their believability, adding another honoree to the Non Sequitur Hall of Fame.  Instead of producing competent evidence of Trump-supporter malfeasance, the proponents of these stories accuse anyone who so much as questions them of "creating an environment" that "silences" the victims.  In other words, (a) it doesn't matter whether these reports are true, and (b) my use of my right to free speech oppresses assault victims.

3. Fraudulent hate crimes are a standard leftist tactic.  During my university days, radical activists liked to stage some sort of "assault" at one of their sparsely-attended demonstrations, or claim to have "found" a racist message on a chalkboard in an empty classroom, just to liven things up.  The evidence that these incidents were other than the work of those who reported them was nugatory at best; and the question that never got answered was why, if this is such a racist/sexist/bigot/homophobe/etc.-ophobe society, there was a need to gin up fake evidence to prove it.

4. Conservatives prefer to stomp liberals in the voting booth rather than in the street.  We work hard to earn the money to buy clothes and would rather not bloody them up needlessly.

5. Conservatives would not profit by resorting to desperate tactics of street-thuggery after chasing the Party of Hillary out of the White House, the House, the Senate, 45 governorships, and numerous local offices.

6. Conservatives are too busy trying to lead productive lives to engage in brigandage.  This may come as a shock, but we are really quite ordinary, boring people whose idea of raising hell is to add an extra tablespoon of melted butter to the popcorn.  We do not live for the thrill of imprisonment, as this would interfere with getting up and going to work in the morning.  (Probably most people who vote Democrat are the same way; otherwise, we wouldn't need professional rioters to loot and pillage in the wake of an election.)

All we really need to do is ask ourselves: who wants these "hate crime"/"harassment" stories to be true?  Who needs these stories to be true?  Who profits if they are true?  Is it really plausible that Trump supporters want to look like a bunch of bigots?  Or is it more plausible that liberal leftists want Trump supporters to look like a bunch of bigots?

Cui bono?

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

President Trump

Before I read any commentary on the election, a few of my own thoughts.

Am I happy Trump won?  I am happy Hillary lost.  My support for Trump was based not on personalities, but on issues.  Trump has articulated positions congenial to conservatives, but is in some ways an unknown quantity: he has never held public office -- which I don't hold against him -- and he has changed his tune over the years on certain things.  I cannot be certain he will defend and advance authentic conservative values across the board.  Plus, Trump has a reputation, deserved or not, of being a rude, crude dude.  Hillary, on the other hand, is an absolute certainty.  She is certainty a hard leftist, and will advance the causes dear to hard leftists.  She supports the dismantling of bedrock societal institutions and the killing of babies in their mothers' wombs.  She is a sworn enemy of religious freedom in general, and the Catholic Church and all that the Catholic Church stands for in particular.  She thinks deeply held religious beliefs that are not congruent with her own ideology must be changed, and has said so publicly.  How would she propose to "change" these deeply-held beliefs, except by means of the coercive police power of the state?

Neither of these candidates was A-list, in my judgment, but I did not see this election as a question of choosing the lesser of two evils.  Rather, the question was how to minimize the damage and choose the course that had the better chance of turning out well.  Which one of these candidates would be more likely to further America's best interests?  Which one would unquestionably be an unmitigated disaster?  The answer seemed to me clear.  It was essential that Hillary be defeated.  The stakes seemed to me too high for sitting out the election to be an option, so the question was, where would I cast my vote?  When I weighed the certainties of Hillary against the uncertainties of Trump, and factored in the utter futility of supporting any third-party candidate, the decision to vote for Trump seemed to me a no-brainer.  Other people came to a different conclusion and either sat out the election altogether or voted third-party.  I can understand their reasoning, though I do not agree with it.  Happily, the abstainers and the third-party voters were not numerous enough to make a difference to the result.

So we will see what happens from here.  The future is uncertain (though it would have been certainly bad if Hillary had won), but there are hopeful signs.  That all the right people are under a black cloud this morning is encouraging.  Donald Trump is clearly hated and despised by the establishment types, including the media.  This was obvious in how the media held out calling Florida for Trump even with more than 99% of precincts reporting; and the broadcast media, including Fox News, held off calling the election for Trump even after the New York Times threw in the towel.  Leftists in Europe are clutching their pearls.  Celebrities are threatening to leave the country (promises, promises). 

Unfortunately, many of my friends and colleagues are in the doldrums too; but, to the extent they truly esteem me, I wonder if they thought through the fact that they supported a woman who would have subjected me, an observing Catholic, to all-out persecution if she had attained power.  Perhaps some of them are really indifferent to my well-being.  Perhaps their animosity toward the Catholic Church takes priority over any interest in my well-being. Perhaps this is an example of the incoherence of post-modern thought, pursuant to which beliefs are merely comforting abstractions that you can hold without actually applying them in real life; and since many of them pay lip service to beliefs which they clearly do not actually live out, they assume that I must do the same with my Catholic faith -- little thinking that if I take my faith seriously, then opposition to it must ultimately mean opposition to me personally.  But the reality is that there is indeed a connection between ideas and real life, and therefore there is personal responsibility for the consequences of the ideas one holds.

To echo a well-known blogging priest, I would have voted for the rotting, decaying corpse of Millard Fillmore to keep Hillary out of the White House.  Some would probably say I have; some might think I have done worse than that.  I dissent from their views, and choose to look out over the horizon with hope.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Getting Out the Vote: Election Thoughts

We created a haven of freedom in a world governed by brutal tyranny. 
We invented the airplane, mass-manufactured automobiles, and pioneered space travel. 
We produce enough food to feed ourselves and the rest of the world. 
We give massively to charity and send emergency relief to disaster areas around the world. 
We crushed Hitler, bankrupted the Soviet Union, and beat those commie bastards to the moon.
We brought the Apollo 13 astronauts back home using pencils, papers and slide rules.
We have been the freest country on earth, where millions have flourished throughout her history. 
No matter what happens today, nobody can ever take any of this away from us.

-- What was the point of early voting?  Let people vote on Election Day.

-- I was at my polling place before it opened this morning, and there was already a line starting.  By the time I got my ballot and got into my voting booth, the joint was jumping.  As the poll worker looked for my name through her roster of registered voters, I noticed that a lot of people were marked as having already voted. I don't recall things being so busy and lively at the last presidential election.
One Idaho county reports that they ran out of ballots and had to have more printed.

-- While I do not think Donald Trump is another Reagan, I do see similarities between this election and 1980.  Reagan was widely ridiculed by the media and the intelligentsia, as Trump is.  Reagan was not beloved of the GOP establishment, as Trump is not.  Reagan had been divorced, like Trump.  Reagan polled behind Carter, like Trump has polled behind Clinton.  And, of course, Reagan absolutely crushed Carter in a landslide, and repeated his performance on an even greater scale four years later against Mondale.

-- My conclusion about this election is that it is absolutely essential to defeat Hillary.  Trump is in some ways an unknown quantity; we know what he says now about the issues, and that this does not match what he has previously said about those same issues.  Hillary, however, is very much a known quantity, and a very bad quantity.  We can be absolutely certain that her victory would be a disaster.  That is why I decided that it would be a waste to vote for a non-viable third-party candidate.  A vote for a third-party candidate nearly always constitutes a vote for the Democrats.

-- This election also makes me think of the 1990 election of Violeta Chamorro in Nicaragua, when the voters dumped socialist Daniel Ortega.  P.J. O'Rourke covered this election and reported having gone in with a sense of discouragement over the widespread belief that the Sandinistas would win.  He said the high level of turnout should have been a clue that the conventional wisdom was not so wise after all.  People do not show up in their droves, from the ass-end of nowhere, he remarked, to maintain the status quo.

-- Hence my theory of this election: high turnout means a victory for Trump.  I doubt people will flock to the polls to vote in Obama 2.0.

We shall see.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Random Thoughts

-- In my experience, there are three areas where people consistently feel exceedingly pleased with themselves, regardless of justification: (1) driving; (2) in bed; (3) performing field sobriety tests.

--  As the daughter of a combat veteran, I have always been suspicious of anyone whose tongue wags too freely about their alleged combat experiences.  Persons who hold forth to casual acquaintances about "atrocities" they committed overseas are, I believe, worthy only to be dismissed out of hand as liars.  Persons who speechify about the deaths of buddies as a means of drawing attention to themselves or making excuses for their own failures were probably in the rear with the gear, if indeed they were ever near the combat zone in question.  Now, there is nothing wrong with being in the rear with the gear: somebody has to be, and the soldier on the front line could not function or survive without such.  But if that is where you served, then say so and stick with the truth.  Real combat veterans don't say much about their experiences at all, except maybe to other combat veterans; and they would be ashamed to capitalize on the deaths of their friends for selfish purposes.

-- When I was a kid, my afternoon cartoons were periodically interrupted by a PSA warning us against -- of all things -- not drowning our food in sauces and dressings.  I of course am guilty as charged.  I have even taken to making my own ranch dressing so that I can control the calorie content while still enjoying volume.  But my biggest downfall is butter.  Fortunately, butter in reasonable amounts is good for you -- unlike margarine, which is basically plastic and deposits itself like silt on the human midsection.  But somebody needs to get busy and invent a negative-calorie butter so I can have the unreasonable amounts I want.

-- And speaking of cartoons, a lot of the ones I grew up on that were produced in the '30s, '40s and '50s are considered anathema today, mostly because they made fun of people's ethnicities.  Now, the world would not be a better place if we could just get back to the halcyon days of belittling ethnic minorities with impunity.  Still, we did not make a better world by trading that state of affairs in for one which has everyone living in dread of transgressing the ever-shifting and often invisible rules against giving offense.

-- If you are couch-surfing, and can't hold down a job, and have a string of drug- or alcohol-related convictions on your record, then maybe -- just maybe -- you are not as smart as you think you are.

-- The liberals' claim that illegal immigrants do jobs Americans are not willing to do is false.  Of course Americans are willing to do those jobs.  I myself have done those sorts of jobs.  What Americans are not willing to do is work for slave wages.  So what the liberals -- and, by the way, big business -- are really saying is that we need a permanent underclass of fellow human beings who can be exploited on account of their willingness to be paid less than their labor is worth.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Defrauding a worker of his just wage is one of the four sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance.

-- And speaking of defrauding workers, there is more to the concept of a living wage than merely making employers pay people more money.  A living wage requires a just society that does not confiscate excessive amounts of people's dollars or the value of those dollars.  What is really necessary is a return to the Catholic principle of subsidiarity -- the running of affairs by the smallest, most local unit of competent authority capable of handling them.  The absence of subsidiarity is immoral.  The usurpation of local functions by big government requires massive taxation.  A social structure that diverts so much wealth away from the individuals who earn it, until they can no longer advance materially, support themselves and their families, or maintain themselves in a condition worthy of their human dignity, is evil.

-- And speaking of the welfare state: it seems that a good many decent people support the concept of the welfare state out of a belief that, without the state's coercive police power, no one would ever care for the poor and needy.  But in a Christian society, this is a lie.  Long before we got FDR's New Deal or LBJ's Great Society, the Catholic Church was a powerhouse of charity, operating untold numbers of hospitals and orphanages and schools and soup kitchens down the centuries, and giving birth to numerous religious orders dedicated to teaching, nursing, ransoming captives, and spreading the Gospel to foreign lands to inspire more and more people to do likewise.  The Christian spirit is so potent that even in a degraded and diluted state, it moves people to take pity on their fellow creatures; but a welfare state is calculated to deprive them of the means.


-- I am beginning to think that the number of people I know who do not have tattoos, besides myself, can be counted on one hand.  There are many tattooed faces out there: I even saw a guy the other day who had tattoos on his eyelids.  And then there are the many piercings: I feel like an aberration with only one hole in each earlobe.  Apropos of this phenomenon, my late friend Gary Reedy once observed that 30 or 40 years from now, nursing homes are going to be some of the scariest places on earth.

-- There are too many adolescents running around in adult bodies.  The latest manifestations of this seem to be (1) running around in public in pajama bottoms, and (2) the application to hair of unnatural colors like pink and purple.  Even middle-aged and elderly people are doing this, especially item (2).

-- Another trait of adolescence is thinking you can make up your own reality.  Sadly, many of us are failing to grow out of that.

-- What I do for a living can be summarized as follows: you provide the bubble; I provide the pin.  Bubble-popping is not an occupation calculated to make a person popular.  Sadly, I cannot seem to get out of doing it even on my off-time.

-- Of course, even I have my own bubbles that require popping.  As much as we hate to have our bubbles burst, the world will be a far sorrier and more wretched place the day we run out of people to do it.      

Monday, September 05, 2016

A Year with Major Attitude

By now I'm sure most of my former readers have all but given up on this blog.  I have been going for weeks and months without posting anything.  But the last year has been rough.

Some of my setbacks I cannot discuss in public.  (Nothing to do with my health thus far, fortunately.)  But it has been one disaster after another.  My grandfather, aged 93, died right before Christmas.  My friend, Gary Reedy, succumbed to cancer in January.  Nine days later, and two days before his funeral, my mother died.  I watched Gary fight his losing battle, and had time and opportunity to think about it and find the words to describe it, and what it meant.  Not so for the loss of my mother, whose death came as a sudden shock.  I still cannot trust myself to write about it. 

And then there are the changes at work.  In August the county rolled out a complicated new computer system, not all of whose features work as expected and which is playing havoc with my personal methods of coping with my caseload.  This month, the Big Boss, who has headed my office since the memory of man runneth not to the contrary, is stepping down in favor of his chief deputy.  All the usual sorts of changes that can be expected when a new sheriff rides into town loom on the horizon.

And then there is the overall sense that the country is going to hell in a bucket, and the confusion within the Church.  I feel the confusion too.  When you belong to a society -- whether it is a family, a nation or the Catholic Church -- you have to take the bad with the good.  That is part of the deal.  Confusion is a suffering, and when a society suffers, all its members must partake of it.  It is hard to know what to say about it, or when to say it, or whether you should say what you want to say.  It would be nice to be able to pretend everything is okay.

I was thinking about all the trauma and turmoil the other day, and my failures, and how small and ineffectual and compromised I am in the face of it all; and then, in my mind's eye, I saw, as if in answer to the satanic fury, Christ hanging on the cross.  That is the answer, which I am very apt to forget.  The war has in fact already been won.  There may be much yet to suffer, but there can be no doubt about the end.