On Giants' Shoulders

Monday, October 27, 2008

Our Lady of Victory

By the way today is Day one of the Novena to Our Lady of Victory. Protestants may not want to pray for her intercession, but they could join us in prayer for the next nine days (a very Biblical prayer period after all!).

It Could Have Happened

Sometimes it's interesting to speculate, even though it can make you very sad, on some of the "might have beens" of history. So let me indulge myself for a moment.

The year is 1968. The political campaign has already been particularly contentious. Richard Nixon has the Republican nomination all but locked up. He has come out in favor of liberalizing abortion laws and is the darling of the pharmaceutical companies who are watching their profits sky rocket with contraceptive sales. They have more and more ideas of how the free love culture can pour even more money into their coffers.

The Democratic nomination is no sure thing. Three candidates have emerged to battle it out after President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not seek re-election. One of them is still committed to the Vietnam War, the other two would seek to disentangle the U.S. from it. In California Sen. Robert Kennedy has just managed to win the state's primary with it's huge slate of delegates, but the nomination is still not secure. Sen. Kennedy is about to leave the hotel by the kitchen when his wife stops him. "Bobby, I have a bad feeling about this, let's just go meet with the reporters in the ballroom." An off duty police officer notices Sirhan Sirhan loitering in the kitchen and spots his gun. He alerts the security team and the potential assassin is arrested and taken to jail.

Kennedy meets with reporters and then returns to his hotel room unaware for hours of what nearly transpired. The next month after Pope Paul VI issues his encylical Humanae Vitae Kennedy announces that if he is elected he will ask that the FDA do a more thorough investigation into the side effects of the artificial birth control pill. He also announces that in his presidency more aid will be provided to pregnant women and that the U.S. for the first time will have a law ensuring that all mothers will have paid maternity leave of at least one year after the birth of their child with a guarantee of their job being there for them to return to for up to three years. He gives a rousing speech where he talks about the Democratic party being the party of the "least among us, the widow, the orphan, the pregnant woman, the unborn child, the disabled, and the elderly." He says that the Republican party is the party of the rich and the advantaged, that he speaks for those who cannot speak for themselves.

In November, in a close election Kennedy is elected over Richard Nixon despite heavy campaigning by anti-Catholic fundamentalists. Soon after the Inauguration in January negotiations begin to end the Vietnam War. Through incredible diplomacy the war ends with the south retaining a degree of autonomy similar to what Hong Kong has in 2008. The Kennedy Family Protection Bill is passed over fierce Republican opposition in July. Republican Senators claim during their 42 day fillibuster that it will destroy the economy and wreck family life. New York state attempts to pass a liberalized abortion law, but due to heavy lobbying by the White House the measure goes down to defeat. The FDA determines that the artificial contraceptives are implicated in breast cancer as well as causing an unacceptably high number of pulmonary embolisms and blood clots. The drugs are removed from the market and the administration is praised for having prevented a tragedy on the level of thalidomide. Richard Nixon, attempting another run at the White House declares that the Kennedy administration is dragging American women back into the Dark Ages. When a supreme court vacancy occurs President Kennedy names Adlai Stevenson to the post. In 1972 the Roe v Wade is narrowly decided against the abortion lobby with Stevenson casting the deciding vote. The Kennedy Family Protection Act works well and women around the country stop clamoring for abortion rights when they see that they're valued as mothers as well as workers.

The economy rapidly improves as government money is available for job creation once the expenses of the war are gone. Under the Kennedy administration educational opportunities are expanded and more educational choices are encouraged including vouchers for private and parochial education. The resulting competition results in the improvement of public schools which are forced to compete for tax dollars for the first time. Inner city black children compete for places in the Catholic schools and several dioceses have to expand their parochial system to meet the demand.

With the improved economy more young mothers choose to stay home with their children for the first few years knowing that there will continue to be work place opportunities for them due to the Re-entry Law which provides for time spent caring for children to be considered as relevant experience by employers in most fields and requires employers to not discriminate against women who have spent time raising children. With more mothers choosing to stay at home due to generous child credits in the income tax law, fewer children and teens end up in trouble with the law and juvenile crime plummets. The Republicans continue to decry the Democrats meddling with the marketplace, especially in light of protectionist legislation that encourages people to buy American made due to heavy import fees, but Nixon goes down to defeat again in 1972. Catholic voters proudly vote for Kennedy and are pleased to see that interest in the Catholic Church has increased dramatically in the United States.

Despite the continued Cold War threats, the U.S. becomes a beacon of hope in an ever more dangerous world. The Republican party is forced to regroup so they attempt to get the gay community and Hollywood mogels to join them. In the 1976 election they run a candidate who favors same sex marriage, promises the right of all women to abort their babies, and artificial hormone contraceptives for men. They go down to flaming defeat. The new Democratic president quotes a book titled Small is Beautiful in his inauguration address and pledges to offer more support to small businesses and encourage the U.S. to adopt alternative energy sources. Regionalization of agricultural marketing insures that farmers in all areas of the country are able to make a living. In addition, transportation costs for foods such as milk, eggs, flour plummets and fewer fuel is wasted. Increased subsidies to railroad transportation makes travel more pleasant and affordable while also saving fuel.

Well, it could have happened that way... Ok, perhaps some of it is a pipe dream. However, in all seriousness, there was no particular reason why the Democrats should be the party of death. Both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were in favor of more liberal abortion laws than Robert Kennedy. There was no particular reason why the Democrats should have fought FOR the drug companies, Planned Parenthood, euthanasia, or abortion instead of against them. In many ways they had been the party who spoke for the little guy. A marriage of Republicans and the gay alliance (a significant number of whom are quite well to do) was not all that unlikely (look at the number of Republicans who've turned out to be part of the gay alliance!). That it didn't happen that way may well be the result of a well aimed bullet.

Just think of the possibilities: no Watergate, no Roe v Wade, no breast cancer epidemic perhaps, possibly no need for a War on Drugs. Perhaps no oil crisis, perhaps no banking crisis, no Iran Contra, almost certainly no Bush administration. Perhaps no 9/11...

I'm well aware that Bobby Kennedy was not perfect, he was no Messiah, but what he had going for him was a serious Catholic faith and a Rosary praying mother. Perhaps that serious Catholic faith informed by Rerum Novarum and other Catholic teachings might well have helped him create an administration which truly did care for all of the least. Maybe he read Chesterton. We'll never know. What we do know is that at the present time we don't have a candidate who will do any of those things, but we have one candidate who has pledged as his first act as president to sign into law a bill that will force medical personnel to kill babies (whom he considers not an unexpected blessing but a punishment) regardless of their personal convictions, that will deny parents the right to information about their daughter's seeking an operation that will do her serious harm, that will even overturn informed consent laws. God help us all. Two years from now, no matter how this election goes, we may be really sorry that Sirhan Sirhan managed to get too close to Bobby Kennedy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nothing to Say?

One might think that that's why I haven't posted lately. Actually there's been a fair amount of things going on, but some of them are not blog worthy and others are not yet bloggable. I did take a lactation counselors class in September and if I passed the exam will get a lactation counselor's certificate. The class also gives me all the lactation credits I need to sit the lactation consultant exam next summer.

The lit girls and I have been working our way through Orthodoxy. We missed the Rochester Chesterton conference because it interfered with Eastern States and was at the end of a grueling week of classes for me. We were all disappointed about that.

Lately I've been spending a lot of time hunkering down trying to save money, pay off bills, get ready for winter. I've felt like I've been in the doldrums in the midst of all that. I think the political season which I've tried desperately to ignore has really begun to get to me. It's awful to feel like there's no one that you want to vote for and two candidates that you'd happily vote against. I don't feel like the election of either presidential candidate will be something I can rejoice over, so frankly it's rather like being in an aristocracy where you simply have to put up with what you get. The frustrating thing is being told you have a choice when in fact you really don't.

I see the places in my life, perhaps in all of our lives where I can make a difference and they are all small places. I can make a difference by shopping locally and encouraging other people to do so. I can make a difference in our own budget by making my own yogurt (and saving $4 a quart doing it), by using up left overs, by baking bread. I will soon be a La Leche League leader once again and I can help mothers and babies. I can do nice things that aren't required or expected. I can recall a phrase Francis Schaeffer used, "there are no little people and no little places." Or I can recall that St. Therese encouraged us to practice the little way. Mostly of late that's what I'm doing: little things, that aren't even particularly appreciated a lot of the time. But little things done for the love of God are often all that we can do.

I've read and heard a lot of angry voices lately. There are angry voices on the left and angry voices on the right. It's true in the world of faith, it's true in the world of politics. The angry voices make my stomach churn. I don't like hostility. I don't like it when people say exaggerated things that they don't even really mean, just for rhetorical effect. I've come to realize that some people like debating, even loud angry debating, but loud debates remind me far too much of a period in my life where loud angry words often disintegrated into someone (often me) getting slapped in the head. I recognize that there are things to be angry about, but so much of the angry debate seems so totally unproductive. Arguing about who to vote for is stupid in a state where the outcome is a foregone conclusion. Saying nasty things about one candidate or the other is only hurtful in the long run. Saying exaggerated negative things about one candidate or the other falls into the realm of calumny far too easily. Believing that either candidate is going to be able to fix what's wrong with this country falls into the category of being naive at the very least. I can fear that we are headed for some very bad times ahead, no matter who gets elected. I can fear that Christians are going to find themselves losing their jobs rather than participating in evil., but I can't take that fear and turn it into hateful angry speech towards people who happen to see things somewhat differently.

I think that the lack of charity between believers this year has bothered me most of all. I've watched people bait each other and snipe at each other and criticize each other all in the name of Christian morality. It all makes me very, very sad.

One of the things that has really bothered me of late is the fact that Christians who take their faith seriously have been the target of not only ridicule by the media, but hateful comments by at least one candidate as well. I don't happen to be a fundamentalist Protestant anymore, but I used to be and the characterizations of that group by the media and some candidates as ignorant, racist, and hateful are just plain inaccurate. Yes there are ignorant, racist, hateful fundamentalists. There are also ignorant, racist, hateful atheists (I would point out that the Nazis were certainly not fundamentalist Protestants nor are the current skinheads). To characterize a whole group by the rantings of a strange pastor from a tiny church in Kansas or the behavior of a Benny Hinn is unfair to say the very least. To some extent there are leaders of the so-called religious right who have brought this on themselves. They have attempted to be king makers and have gloried in access to the seats of power. Yet to paint all serious pro-life Christians with the same broad brush is unfair. To once again draw lines where you in essence say anyone who isn't part of the Eastern/urban elite is not worth listening to is to merely perpetuate the red/blue problem that everyone has talked to death. Most of the people of faith whom I know, both Protestant and Catholic are decent people who pay their bills, don't cheat their employees or employers, help their neighbors, attempt to raise their kids right, don't beat their wives or cheat on their spouses, don't sell drugs, or shoot up the neighborhood. I think even the Eastern elite would rather live in a neighborhood of fundamentalist Protestants than a neighborhood of drug dealers or brothels (although I suppose I could be wrong about that ). I guess all I'm trying to say is that satire can be funny, but it can also be a way of simply attempting to silence someone you don't want to listen to. It can be a way of dehumanizing someone.

So I guess I had some things to say. .. even if I didn't comment on the smell of wet leaves, Mom V Many. I try not to go smell wet leaves because they exacerbate my fall mold allergies. Now I'll get back to sock knitting, yogurt making, bread baking, house cleaning, and pattern selecting. I probably will find myself in the voting booth next month, but I hope until then to not have to listen to one more political debate (televised or otherwise), and I hope that I'll be forgiven if I decide to write in None of the Above.