A little white and green, too.
I will tell you something about stories,
They aren’t just entertainment.
Don’t be fooled.
They are all we have, you see,
all we have to fight off
illness and death.
You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories.
—Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony
It’s time to write down the stories.
Well, it’s time to consolidate. If in the near future you see content here that you’ve seen elsewhere, it’s because it’s been moved from a blog slated for demolition.
Some of the ecards I come across on Pinterest leave me scratching my head, so I created two of my own (free knight clip art picked up at Vintage Feed Sacks):
One of my Flickr friends is participating in a “100 Strangers” project. She is introducing herself to 100 strangers, here and there, learning a little about each, and taking their portraits. I like seeing her shots and reading about these people; she’s gotten an interesting mix and seems to do a good job of capturing at least a sliver of their personalities. The same project would be a challenge for me, but not because I find it difficult to talk to people I don’t know — hardly! It’s the taking a picture of someone while they pose/smile for me that pushes me out of my comfort zone. I want people to go about their business, unaware that I’m even within a two-mile radius. When they’re looking at me and my camera, it becomes as much about me as them, and I want to just fade into the background.
The subjects of politics, voting, evil and other big issues have recently been bandied about on one of my online home education groups. I’ve contributed to the conversation in bits and pieces, but today I had more to say.
One of the members wrote:
Certainly. But just because someone feels a certain way – ANY way – does not make it right. Right exists independently of what we think. Our feelings might line up with what is right, but our feelings do not make it right.
I think that when people feel challenged it is common to become hostile, but only when we learn to put aside our defensiveness and hostility, and refrain from attacking the people who do not agree with us, will we be able to search our hearts and the facts and then make a wise decision that is not based on emotion. I think that one of the hallmarks of a leader is being able to refrain from emotional outbursts and hostility. Also, a true leader is willing to delve deep and learn all he can, rather than thinking that his way is right and he does not need to learn any more facts – yes, facts – in order to do what is right.
One of the things about principles is that they are. They apply regardless of what one thinks.
The reason our nation had stayed intact and has historically been what many have called “the greatest nation on earth,” is that it was founded on solid principles that have guided its citizens and lawmakers throughout our history. In the past few decades, though, these principles have been watered down or ignored. The way someone feels is fleeting, but right and wrong are immutable, no matter how many people wish, and claim, that it is not. Killing another human being is wrong, whether we’re talking about an unborn baby, an elderly person suffering from cancer, or the bully down the street. God never said anywhere that suffering is to be avoided at all costs. Great good can — and has — come out of suffering. Would Vincent Van Gogh have created the beautiful paintings he did, if life had been sunshine and lollipops for him? Would the inmates sentenced to life imprisonment who have found God have changed their ways without suffering from the loss of their freedom? Charles Dickens was inspired by the suffering of those around him to write great stories.
I mentioned God a number of times. Some may have a problem with that, and I’m reminded of the long conversation members of the group had a number of years ago when I started a discussion about President Obama denying that the US is a Judeo-Christian nation. But it is. That doesn’t mean that every American has to believe in God. It means that our principles, our freedoms, are derived from God. We are “one nation under God.” “All men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” If you don’t believe in God, that’s your problem, but the founders of our nation did believe in God, and most importantly, they pointed out that our rights are conferred by Him. This is of the utmost importance, because if our rights do not come from God, they must come from somewhere else, like the government. Do you know what happens when rights are given by the government? They can be taken away by the government. The rights of the citizens in China are conferred by their government, which is why Chinese women pregnant with their second or third child are forcibly removed from their homes and have their unborn babies ripped out of them and drowned. Because the rights of female Chinese employees at Apple’s factories are not recognized as coming from God, these employees are forced to strip down once month to prove that they are menstruating. They are forced to take pregnancy tests and forced to abort if they are found to be pregnant when they already have a child.
Another group member wrote, “The concept of good and evil, to me, is not so black and white. I believe every human has both good and evil within them to varying degrees. Even Hitler had ‘some’ good within him, but yes, I believe his evil thoughts and feelings were greater.”
She makes a good point. Even when someone publicly takes a stand for what is right, nobody but God can know what really goes on in his mind and heart. That is why we must vote on principle, not on emotion. We cannot accurately judge how good or evil another person is, we can only judge their actions and what they say.
One of the major parties in this country creates policies, takes stands on issues and espouses values (not principles) that are based on emotions. The other party bases its ideologies on principles. Recognizing this difference is a good place to start when deciding on who to vote for or who to vote against. And yes, I believe that voting against someone is just as important as voting for someone.
The Catholic Church teaches that there are sins of omission and sins of commission. Sins of commission are the ones we perpetrate ourselves (stealing, lying, killing). Sins of omission are the ones we let happen (not standing up to stop someone from hurting another, looking the other way when we see someone doing something wrong, not voting against a candidate who is committed to policies that are morally wrong). And some evils are worse than others. Abortion is the killing of another human being (no matter what euphemism is used to justify it) and that is always more heinous than telling a pregnant woman that she might have to suffer some hardships to bring her baby into this world.
One of the main reasons I wrote my missive to the group was to bring up a subject nobody else raised: religious freedom. Religious freedom is under attack in this country, and if Obama is re-elected, all of our rights are in serious jeopardy. Whether or not you agree with the Catholic Church that contraception and abortion is wrong, I hope you can see that forcing Catholic institutions to pay for employee contraception (which is very often the same as abortion, since many hormonal contraceptives don’t prevent conception; they prevent implantation of an embryo) through Obamacare and forcing Catholic hospitals to perform abortions and sterilization is an attack on religious freedom. If the HHS mandate, which is part of Obamacare, is allowed to stand, Catholic schools, hospitals and relief agencies will be forced to closed, as they will not be allowed to employ people without paying for an insurance plan that includes contraceptive coverage. They will not be given the freedom to put their beliefs into practice.
In “First They Came for the Catholics…” John Zmirak writes:
A political scientist might wonder how such persecution can be aimed at the largest Christian church in the country, the putative faith of one-fourth of the population. Part of the answer is obvious: In resisting the HHS contraception mandate, the Church is seen as defending a natural law teaching that most Catholics reject. (Many of those who do accept Humanae Vitae don’t even follow the arguments, but take the teaching on authority—which doesn’t exactly prepare you to persuade those outside the Faith.)
This sad fact should not stop us from rallying other Catholics. Even liberal Protestants who largely diverge from the Bible might get upset if the government tried to confiscate every copy, and burned great piles of bibles on the National Mall. Dissenting Catholics should also be furious that the state is persecuting their Church.
Because ultimately this really isn’t a battle over birth control, natural law or even religion, it’s about what America means: At heart of our Constitutional democracy is the freedom of individuals, even those with unpopular opinions, to pursue the good as they choose—and their right to form groups outside the government and push back against its policies. That’s why we have Amish communities, Catholic schools, associations of kosher butchers, hippie home-schools, gun clubs, organic farms… and all the other free institutions that build up our “ordered liberty.” Take all that away, quash every organization that displeases the federal government, and what you have is a country full of naked individuals, shivering in every wind that blows from Washington, D.C.
I’d like to close with the story of Japanese Catholics tortured and executed for their faith. Some of you may be thinking, “Nothing that horrible could happen here in America,” but I’d tell you that it could, and I’d point out that other freedoms we thought were immutable have been taken away from Americans. To whit: during World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered that all AMERICANS of Japanese dissent be rounded up and placed in detention camps until the end of the war. These were American citizens who just so happened to be descended from the “wrong” country. For an idea about the indignities these citizens suffered at the hands of our president, I suggest the fabulous novel Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson.
Remember what George Santayana prophetically declared, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Back to the story of those martyrs:
In the fall of 1619, the pagan regime of Tokugawa Iemitsu, shogun of Japan, ordered a mass execution of Catholics in Kyoto. For this occasion twenty-seven crosses were erected before a statue of Buddha. Fifty-two Catholic men, women, and children were condemned to die by fire on the crosses, including John Kyusaku, a man of constant faith, together with his wife Magdalene and their two-year-old daughter Regina. On October 7, 1619, the Catholics were led through the streets of Kyoto in eleven carts as a herald announced to onlookers that the shogun had sentenced them to death for being Christians. The Catholic martyrs replied, “That is true; we are dying for Jesus. Long live Jesus!” At the execution site, the Catholics were bound to the crosses two by two, back to back. Tied to a cross near the middle, Magdalene cradled her daughter Regina in her arms to the very end. As the flames enveloped them, Magdalene and the other mothers with small children stroked the heads and faces of their little ones to comfort them.
I have fallen in love with the music of Mumford & Sons.
On Sunday, I decided that I simply had to have a new purse. I was tired of my old one: it was big, which made it easy to fill with stuff, so I did, and consequently, it was heavy. A couple of weeks ago, I had treated myself to the huge fall issue of InStyle magazine, and that — of course — got me thinking of new shoes, clothes and bags. Most of all, though, I suddenly just had a bee in my bonnet, and it was very important to buy myself a new purse.
Before lunch, I announced to Bridget that we would be shopping that afternoon, and she was eager to get started. We ate; I sat with Dennis, while he explained the week’s financial status; I pulled $120 out of my allowance wallet*; went to the bathroom (because I always go to the bathroom before leaving the house); said good-bye to Dennis and the rest of the kids; got into the car with Bridget; and headed to TJ Maxx, where I have purchased all of my purses for as long as I can remember.
When we got to the store, Bridget and I headed right to the purse section (like always). I scanned the offerings and picked up a red and tan leather Ralph Lauren number. (The bag I just retired, a Sak, was tan and red leather, and my purchase before that, a Dooney & Bourke tote, was — you guessed it — tan and red leather. Hmmm…) We probably spent half an hour checking out all the clutches, totes, hobos and satchels (thanks for your patience and advice, Bridget). I tried a few more on my arms, shopped the rest of the store with a couple of purses in my cart: the red and tan Ralph Lauren and a bigger, brown Ralph Lauren. Before leaving, we headed back to the purse section, I tried out a few more, and finally, finally, decided on the first one I picked up. Isn’t if funny when things work out that way?
So, you want to see it?
So, what do you think?
*A year or two ago, Dennis and I decided that each of us — like the kids — should have a weekly allowance. The kids get roughly half their age in dollars each week, so Dennis and I did the same for ourselves (until he decided that we needed a raise; now, he and I get about 2/3 our age in dollars each week. It’s a great system. I’ve been saving my allowance for a new camera, but I dip into the till once in awhile when I feel like I need a treat of some sort.
One of the readings for today’s Mass is from the first Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthans. This part cracked me up:
If you marry, however, you do not sin, nor does an unmarried woman sin if she marries; but such people will experience affliction in their earthly life, and I would like to spare you that.