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.