Miscellaneous Meanderings on the signs of the times
Dr. Mark S. Latkovic
August 1, 2016
~The Heritage Foundation’s Roger Severino, in “Pentagon’s Transgender Policy Defies Common Sense” (see http://dailysignal.com/2016/06/30/pentagons-transgender-policy-at-odds-with-constitution/), is right. It does defy common sense. Is the primary job of our military to win wars or to wage war on human nature? It would appear more of the latter.
~For parents, parenting is always a balancing act between optimism and pessimism about the state of our culture and the future of our country. It might be better to be hopeful, in the theological virtue sense of hopeful. This way, we avoid discouraging children.
~Well, one way to get a sense of a San Francisco earthquake without actually being in San Francisco is to experience – as we did on July 2, 2016 – a major gas line explosion. The blast shook our condo (and surrounding communities) at 3:00am, despite the fact that we who live in Allen Park, MI are about 5 miles away from the site of the explosion in Melvindale, MI. A drunk driver was the culprit. Of course he was (See here for a story and a video: http://www.fox2detroit.com/news/local-news/168597775-story).
~I found a picture online dating back to June 21, 1985 of the back of my head, with arms extended taking a picture of Mother Teresa (soon-to-be canonized), the late Jack Kemp, Sen. Orin Hatch (Republican—Utah), and other political and pro-life figures at the National Right To Life Committee’s annual convention in Washington, DC. It’s a strange feeling finding out that for all of these years there’s been this picture of me (with a future saint) I didn’t know about. Here’s the pic: http://nrlc.org/site/wp-content/uploads/jcw007.jpg.
~To answer the question posed in his article’s title, liberal Detroit Free Press columnist Brian Dickerson’s “Why Can’t We All Get Along? How Our Moral Principles Guide and Divide” (The online version is titled, “Why we can’t get along in polarized America,” http://www.freep.com/story/opinion/columnists/brian-dickerson/2016/06/18/political-arguements-psychology-society/85506138/) turns to moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s five anthropologically-based “moral foundations — a sort of formatted hard drive that exists in each of us, waiting to organize our experiences into a practical set of do’s and don’ts.” These five are: (1) The care-harm foundation; (2) The fairness/cheating foundation; (3) The loyalty/betrayal foundation; (4) The authority/subversion foundation; and (5) The sanctity/degradation foundation. About 750 years ago, St. Thomas Aquinas (and others) would have also recognized these in some sense and, from a natural law perspective, would have spoken not of a “formatted hard drive,” of course, but of various “natural inclinations” that human beings are endowed with (e.g., to preserve themselves in being, to be sociable) which orient them to the basic goods that fulfill their natures – at least when they are chosen wisely, i.e., in a virtuous way. One way we act according to virtue, according to Aquinas, is by respecting the Golden Rule. The latter is one of those more specific practical moral principles – one of the “do’s and don’ts,” as Dickerson puts it – that help us to freely choose goods such as life, health, and knowledge and to choose them well.
~One thing is clear from the AEI Public Opinion Study: Polls on patriotism, 2016 (see https://www.aei.org/publication/aei-public-opinion-study-polls-on-patriotism-2016/): Americans can be patriotic (as they do profess to be), but also disapprove of the direction the country is heading (as a good many profess to be).
~The famous Pres. Obama Obamacare li(n)e (“You can keep your healthcare plan and your doctor too.”) and the proponents of same-sex marriage li(n)e (“Gay marriage is not going to affect your marriage one way or the other.”) were both lies that now seem like distant memories. Liberalism is never having to say you’re sorry.
~The Flint, MI water crisis involves a loss of accountability on a high level – in this case, the city, state, and federal government. But we have also had a loss of accountability on the lower level – namely the personal and the family. The loss of accountability and responsibility on the lower level eventually affects (bubbles up to) the higher level. And this goes not just for Flint and its crisis, but for everyone everywhere having to do with any social problem. The personal becomes the political.
~Advice on getting older should start at a young age. In my experience, no one really prepares you for it (as much as you can be prepared for such a thing in the future) – it just happens…seemingly in the blink of an eye.
~Here’s a question we need to ask more often: How are we doing as culture when it comes to raising children?
~Pop star Fergie has a new song, “M.I.L.F. $”, and video to go with it (see http://www.dailylife.com.au/dl-people/dl-entertainment/fergies-new-music-video-is-a-tribute-to-milf-starring-kim-kardashian-chrissy-teigen-gemma-ward-and-more-20160703-gpxs9n.html): What we see are a bunch of “celebrity moms” singing and doing the very things moms are supposed to protect their children from – at least when motherhood was about a child’s welfare coming first above all else.
~Former federal prosecutor and now pundit Andrew C. McCarthy writes on the Second Amendment and the Democrats’ latest attempt to restrict the right to gun ownership (see http://www.nationalreview.com/article/437458/second-amendment-emergency-powers-doctrine-democrats-phony). It’s one of the best pieces you can read on guns.
~James Comey, the FBI Director, basically says Hillary Clinton is guilty, but despite that fact, will not recommend to DOJ that she be prosecuted because she lacked intent (see http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/the-damning-things-the-fbi-said-about-clintons-email/ar-AAi87Gk). But that’s not what the law requires. So, here we have another case of changing the law to accommodate political realities (Hillary’s running for president!), just as we saw with Chief Justice John Robert’s opinion upholding Obamacare.
~In recent years I have noticed a troubling trend: Catholic bloggers and other faithful Catholics on social media using the F-word and some other salty language (See also Austin Ruse, http://www.crisismagazine.com/2016/catholics-drop-f-bombs-aplomb and Stephen Herreid, https://stream.org/pro-life-catholics-deserve-better-writers-national-catholic-register/). I’m getting to the point where I should say that Catholic social media can be hazardous to your spiritual and mental health – and not just for the language, but the opinions too.
~Speaking of social media…A woman on a Facebook thread was bashing the natural law and saying that cohabitation was more natural than not cohabitating from a natural law perspective. Obviously this woman’s knowledge of natural law is no more than an ant’s.
~The always-interesting William Kilpatrick cautions against Pope Francis issuing an encyclical on Islam (see http://www.crisismagazine.com/2016/an-encyclical-on-islam) on account that the Vatican lacks as yet a clear understanding of Islam and/or “radical Islam.” He writes: “Many Catholic leaders still subscribe to the good Islam/bad Islam dichotomy which absolves Islamic theology of any connection to Islamic extremism and intolerance…Many Catholic leaders still subscribe to the good Islam/bad Islam dichotomy which absolves Islamic theology of any connection to Islamic extremism and intolerance… An encyclical on Islam could acknowledge that in different times and places, Muslims have succeeded in humanizing Islam to some extent. But it should be noted that this softening of Islam was largely the result of contact with other cultures and religions, not because of any virtue inherent in Islam itself. Credit should also be given to those individual Muslims who by following their consciences and the laws of the true God written on their hearts have managed to rise above the crueler aspects of their faith.” (See also Kilpatrick’s “Blind Violence, Blind Leaders,” http://www.crisismagazine.com/2016/blind-violence-blind-leaders). I could’ve said it any better myself.
~Have you noticed that we don’t use the word “immoral” (or “moral”) anymore? We are disturbed, disgusted, outraged, and offended by despicable and tragic acts. Gone is the language of morality: good and evil and virtue and vice. I know that this has been the result of a long-time process and I’m not the first one to point it out, but it has gotten only worse in the age of relativism, tolerance, psycho-babble, and political correctness.
~Sometimes it’s so quiet you can literally hear the stillness.
~The shootings that left five Dallas police officers dead and three more killed in Baton Rouge (plus many wounded) demonstrate how quickly we can go from hateful rhetoric to heinous reality.
~Catholic author and former lesbian, Melinda Selmys, argues that we should bag the natural law, especially when it comes to the topic of homosexuality. Her 10 reasons include: it just doesn’t convince anyone. But one same-sex attracted man who accepts and lives by Church teaching responds by saying that this would be a very bad idea (see http://www.crisismagazine.com/2016/homosexuality-natural-law-issue). I agree. It’s also simply not true. Natural law theories come and go but the reality of natural law simply is. We could no sooner get rid of natural law than we could nature or law itself; it’s part of the created order of reality. It is, as St. Paul says, the law written on the heart (cf. Rom 2:15) [I’ll be returning to this subject at a later time].
~R.R. Reno’s column on bigot-baiting (see http://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/08/bigot-baiting) is really good stuff. I’ve been saying it for years: The liberal Democrats must continue to rely on a fresh supply of “victims” that they can count on to vote for them. So, when the supply runs low, they need to replenish it by creating ever new categories of victims. Without this “protection racket for votes” scheme, as I put it, the Democratic party withers and dies. It’s as simple as that, folks.
~The following is one of the more bizarre pieces I have read in recent years, and that’s saying quite a lot (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/dear-pope-francis-end-the-religious-ritual-that-devalues_us_5787c4e4e4b0e7c8734f96f9). You simply have to read it to believe it. I don’t think it can be parodied, so I won’t even try.
~My t-shirt says Baseball Is Life, but I know it’s really Jesus Christ.
~“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I remember my dad frequently using this expression when I was younger and thinking that he was the one that had made it up. Well, Wikipedia tells me that its origin lies possibly with JFK’s father Joseph or Coach Knute Rockne (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_the_going_gets_tough,_the_tough_get_going).
~Watching a bit of the 2016 Republican National Convention, I was struck by the thought that I was watching a political convention of some other party in some other country. Now, that’s always true when I watch the Democratic convention and this year was no exception, despite its attempt to coopt the usual themes of the Republican party; or better: despite the party’s best efforts to dress up their vice in virtue. In sum: The Dems’ convention in Philly during late July might have “looked” like America, but contra many of the pundits, the substance was far from it (cf. Derek Hunter, “Four Days in Hell,” http://townhall.com/columnists/derekhunter/2016/07/31/four-days-in-hell-n2200201 and Ross Douthat, “Liberalism’s Big Bet,” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/31/opinion/sunday/liberalisms-big-bet.html).
~Virtue may well be “its own reward,” but it’s sure nice to get one anyway.
~The Catholic Bishop of Würzburg is another church leader who seems not to get it when the question is Islamic violence – this time “a 17 year-old unaccompanied minor refugee from Afghanistan [who] had attacked train passengers with an axe in the Bavarian city” and was later killed by police (see http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/local-bishop-expresses-dismay-over-german-train-attack-75942/). The bishop issued “a warning, not to put all asylum seekers under general suspicion,” adding: “Perhaps we must accompany the unaccompanied minors even more and help them to overcome their own traumas.” Whatever.
~When I hear someone described as a “devout Catholic,” it usually means just the opposite. And until the election in November, we’ll be hearing a lot of it in the media since Hillary Clinton picked Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine to be her running mate (See e.g.: http://www.npr.org/2016/07/22/487120976/tim-kaines-pastor-describes-the-veep-picks-life-as-a-devout-catholic). Kaine may be as plain as white bread in appearance and style, but his positions on abortion (and other Catholic doctrines) are sure awfully radical.
~I often wonder: Why aren’t pets required by law to be in car seats?
~The late Catholic philosopher Yves Simon (1903—1961) wrote about the concept of Aristotle’s “intermediary potency” (an “initial act” or “habit,” as Simon says) [see The Definition of Moral Virtue, p. 51]. Simon spoke of Hamlet’s “understudy” in Shakespeare’s play as an example. This idea can also be applied to baseball relief pitchers and basketball bench players (e.g., the “sixth man”). They need to come into the game in a moment’s notice and be immediately prepared to do what the starters have been doing, but without the benefit of having been in the game all the while – getting loose, breaking a sweat, being part of the flow of the game, etc. They’re expected to score a basket, throw a strike, and catch a pass – NOW. That’s what they train to do and thus that is their virtue, understood broadly.
~After my wife accidentally overdosed on two marijuana-laced cookies a week before her 52nd birthday on July 22 (To make a long story short, they were left unidentified as such in the freezer of a family she babysits for, having been prescribed for a family member’s pain after his surgery!), I joked with her that her song for summer 2016 would now be Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” (Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7EpSirtf_E). But hey I was just getting started! I also joked that we would soon be seeing an anti-drug commercial on the local public access station with her as the star, along with the ER team of nurses and doctors. No, I still wasn’t done yet! I told her that we should do a remake of the “Ask President Carter” SNL skit starring Bill Murray as Walter Cronkite and Dan Aykroyd as Carter taking unscreened calls in the White House from ordinary Americans, one of which was from a guy named “Peter” who was having a bad acid trip that “Cronkite” wants to quickly pass on, but that “Carter” wants to take cuz’ remember he’s an expert on everything! (Watch it here: http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/ask-president-carter/n8649). I joked with my wife that I could play Carter and she could call in as my wife with “her medical emergency” and I would “talk her down” from her “overdose.”
~There are some words and expressions that we use that are hard to spell, e.g., highfalutin (I had to look that one up). I’m not sure why that is.
~Trump’s convention speech (Watch the full speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CVTuOyZDI0) was long in length but short on details. It contained more policy (and less insults), however, than his usual stream-of-consciousness speeches. And yes, I watched the entire speech live on ABC.
~In less than 3 weeks, I will have been cutting my own hair for 1 year. That’s a first. But I won’t tell my barber. From the looks of it, however, I’m sure she’ll be able to tell.
~After the murder of the 85-year-old French priest Father Jacques Hamel by ISIS-linked jihadists, Pope Francis says we have a world war on our hands, but not one of religions (see http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/in-route-to-krakow-pope-says-world-is-at-war-but-its-not-a-war-of-religions-42234/). I could agree if what is meant is that to have a war of religions you need at least two religions (or religious factions). Pace Francis, however, Islam is warring (against the West). But we can’t say that Christianity is warring against Islam because that presupposes a Christianity that has largely been abandoned (at least in Europe) [See also http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/the-city-gates.cfm?ID=1325]. But clearly Islam sees it as a war of religion: Islam vs. the infidel. Our denial of that fact doesn’t make it any less true. Nonetheless, the Pope said: “Religions don’t want war. The others want war.” Francis said he was referring to “a war of interests” and a war for money, resources and the “domination of peoples.” (See http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/28/world/europe/pope-francis-poland-world-youth-day.html). But religions have fought, and continue to do so, over doctrine and various other matters, as history shows all too well.
~Each athlete gets 42 condoms in his/her room for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, August 5—21 (see http://sports.yahoo.com/news/ioc-to-provide-42-condoms-per-athlete-at-2016-rio-de-janeiro-olympics-151309429.html). Will they also get 42 prostitutes? I wonder what the Olympians of old such as Jim Thorpe or Jesse Owens would say.
~One of my greatest fears of a Trump presidency is one that is often overlooked: the connection with Russia/Putin (See George Will, “How Entangled with Russia Is Trump?” http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/will073016.php3).
~Headline: “Skydiver becomes first person to jump and land without chute” (see http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/skydiver-becomes-first-person-to-jump-and-land-without-chute/ar-BBv3LFf?li=BBnbfcL&ocid=spartanntp). Of course I watched this “first.” Televised live on the Fox network on July 30, Luke Aikins jumped out of a plane at 25,000 feet and landed safely in a specially-made 100-by-100-foot net. There we have it: A guy with no chute and possibly no fear.
~July 2016 leaves us with an above average number of days of 90 degrees or higher.
~Speaking of hotter-than-Hell weather, a headline reads: “An After School Satan Club could be coming to your kid’s elementary school” (see http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/an-after-school-satan-club-could-be-coming-to-your-kid%e2%80%99s-elementary-school/ar-BBv3xzp). Just what we need: As if little Johnny wasn’t already a little devil.
~Who fact checks Politifact.com? As well, how do you “fact check” ideas and ideologies?
~It’s August 1st and my hometown Cleveland Indians are in first place with a 4.5 game lead over the second place Detroit Tigers. That’s some good news – admittedly minor – for this Tribe fan after a month of bloodshed around the world and at home.
~The martyrdom of Fr. Hamel while celebrating Mass was written about movingly by Fr. Robert Sirico (see http://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2016/07/30/priest-hamel-martyr-true-love/87843702/). Obviously, he isn’t the first martyr and he won’t be the last. But this holy priest’s witness is a good note to end on (For more on martyrdom, see Pope John Paul II, Veritatis splendor, nos. 90-93, http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html and Servais Pinckaers, OP, The Spirituality of Martyrdom: to the Limits of Love, The Catholic University of America Press, 2016).
~See you in September…Until then, give a listen to one of my all-time favorite Frank Sinatra songs, the beautiful “Summer Wind,” now 50 years old (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug8cBIbxDaY).