Category Archives: Rights

People are People

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about the boxes we put ourselves in and the labels we put on those boxes. 

It’s somewhat amazing that in an era where we devote so much time to ensuring diversity in everything we do, that we actually end up driving people farther and farther away from one another.

My favorite incidence of this phenomenon this week is the idea that no white woman should have the audacity to wear hoop earrings. In case you didn’t know, those are apparently reserved for black women, and it’s wrong for white – or any other non-black woman I suppose – to appropriate black culture.

Huh?

If this is where we’ve come to in our culture wars, it should be clear that not one of us on this planet gets it. By sharing culture – music, art, fashion, food, and yes, even jewelry – we bring ourselves closer together and ultimately can find peace with one another.

Our love affair with technology often takes the blame for the social distance of the modern era. After all, it’s easier to say what we want to say (i.e., be insensitive to anyone and everyone) from behind a screen. There’s truth in that – I know I’m guilty of saying things online I’d never say to a person in the flesh. Who isn’t?

But self-separation really isn’t as new as the latest tablet or phone. We’ve been doing it forever really, so it makes sense to think people are farther apart than they’ve ever been. Society decides who they don’t like, and then they pounce. When we don’t know the type of person we’re attacking, it’s easier to stereotype and “normalize” ostracism. 

I’m pretty sure that now a days, no one really wants equality. Every “group,” be they women, religious, atheist, blacks, gays, trans, hillbillies, millennials, hipsters, liberals, conservatives, married, single, etc, etc, wants to claim some level of superiority over everyone else. Like it or not, equal DOES mean all lives matter. Even unborn ones, old ones, and dare I say it, Muslim ones.

I’ve become sensitive to this lately watching my husband maneuver through life. He is a middle-aged white man. With a beard, who likes coffee, and working outdoors. He goes to church, owns guns and trucks, and likes big dogs. He grew up on a farm and understands American laws at all levels. I guess you could say he’s the guy everyone wants to hate and blame these days.

But like anyone else living under any other label, there’s more. He works long hours at a job he’s good at, but, like so many, he is disrespected everyday. He struggles with his own health issues. He supports our family financially to the point of exhaustion. He’s all about “girl power,” being the biggest cheerleader our two tween daughters have, urging them to strive to be all they can be. He fights the system where he sees it failing people, especially kids. He provided extraordinary end-of-life care for both is his parents, and had been rock solid in love and support for a wife plagued with illness and depression.

Maybe he’s not so bad after all. Like a lot of other plain white bread guys I know, he’s working hard at life with absolutely no time to worry if someone is black or white or yellow or green or purple. Yeah, he’s worn and broken in spots – just like EVERY LAST ONE OF US. 

So it’s this simple : people come in all shapes, sizes, colors and conditions. We’re all here for a reason and we all count. People who do wrong should faces consequences – not because of their “type” but because they have somehow hurt another.  What we should be doing is encouraging one another to do right – in though, word and deed. Because in the end, we are all the same. 

Who would have thought that in our modern, enlightened world that we’d still have trouble understanding this?

Make It Harder to Rape

I’m never going to understand modern feminism.

A few days ago, Catholic blogger Matt Walsh lamented via Twitterr that he found it sad that it was politically incorrect to warn young women off about the potential consequences of hook up culture. I publically agreed, saying I was sad women didn’t have more common sense.

We were of course talking about the infamous Brock Turner case. He’s the ex-Stanford swimming star who dragged a young women behind a dumpster after she blacked out at a frat party and raped her. Remember, his dad wrote that sickening letter asking the judge for lenience and actually got it?

Before I share , I want to say this : I think rape is more reprehensible than murder. I don’t know why men keep doing it (since ancient times), and I don’t know why we aren’t throwing the book at these jerks (Mr. Turner got a whole six months out of a possible 17 years). I do not feel victims are to blame in any case. I’ve known some and I know their plight. But I also know some women lie about rape (Rolling Stone, anyone?), damaging real victims credibility and hurting innocent men. I teach my daughters to protect their bodies as much as they can.

I have never had a response on Twitter like I have had to that comment. In fact it’s still going. More than 48 hours later. I see where it could have been misconstrued, but I was sure to explain myself. Ad nauseum. I’ve stopped that now. I’m belaboring the point, and it seems there is no end to the number of people who, without reading the conversation in its entirety, want to tell me I’m wrong.

Numerous young ladies want me to know they SHOULD be able to walk down the street naked and not fear rape. I don’t disagree with them. But unfortunately, reality does.

There seems to be no shortage of men who are capable of rape and assault. They won’t be stopping anytime soon. As a strong woman, I feel my best defense is to avoid situations where rape is likely to occur. If I’m in a situation of that sort, preparedness is prudent. Any women can still find herself in too deep, we are human. But if I can lessen my chances of becoming a victim, I’m going to do it. Wouldn’t you? It’s not about fear. It’s about odds.

Frat house rape is nothing new. I went to college and grad school. I lost a friend my freshman year to suicide. She’d gone home to regroup after being raped. We see major stories like the Stanford one in the news when college is in session every year. People study it. Law & Order recreated it on its various shows a million times. Every woman alive knows what a rape kit is.

Drinking too much elevates a woman’s risk of rape – for the very reasons we like it so much. It eases tension, blurs our decision making, makes us feel 10 feet tall and bulletproof. Unil it doesn’t. I’m not saying don’t have fun. Go out. Party. Be young. But also be smart and respect yourself. No, that does not mean that every single rape victim that ever lived asked for it. No one asks for it, let alone the aftermath.

But why risk the horrific possibility by getting black out drunk? Is drinking to excess that important? Do you really want to make yourself sick? Pass out next to a toilet on a filthy bathroom floor? Have – hopefully – some annoyed friends carry you to your bed? Maybe check on you once or twice if your lucky? Go to a hospital to have your stomache pumped? Get alcohol poisoning? Wonder what happened when you come to?

If you need more than me to tell you drinking can lead to bad situations, how about God? Wine is enjoyed a great deal in the Bible. But Paul warns us, “do not drink wine to excess.” Sirach chapter 31 hits the nail on the head, “…wine drunk to excess is bitterness of soul, with provocation and stumbling. Drunkeness increases the anger of a fool to his injury, reducing his strength and adding wounds.”

Men who want to rape will. What’s wrong with loving other women enough to warn them that even though men should stop, and be taught to respect dignity, reality hits a little harder? Rape will never be the victims fault – woman, man or child. But smart, strong women will avoid behaviors and situations that elevate risk simply because they SHOULD be able to do anything men do.

Ladies : Protect yourself. Protect your friends, sisters, mothers, aunts, cousins and nieces. Looking back on my younger days, I think I may have had many near misses. I was lucky. I’m more conservative now that I have more to lose. Life, it turns out, has much more to offer than a party and a good buzz.

Including the love of a decent honest man. We should all think about what could lie ahead before throwing caution to the wind for a good time.

Let’s pray that Brock Turner’s victim can rediscover the peace he took from her that awful night, and support all women, men and children who have experienced the horror of rape. We honor them by respecting ourselves.

Femi-not

A little over a week ago, retailer Lands End published a catalog that highlighted the legacy of feminist Gloria Steinem. That old wrinkly lady in the “I had an abortion” t-shirt.

I found this more than a little off putting. After all, I – and lots of others – have been purchasing their products for years to outfit children with uniforms for Catholic school. Lands End, which has been experiencing financial issues on and off for many years now, has in part been kept alive through scooter skirts, Oxford shirts, khakis and Peter Pan collars approved by priests and nuns across the country.

In the best light, this catalog was a publication of a struggling company that does not know or understand a large portion of its customer base. (In case Lands End didn’t know, most Catholics and Christians are pro-life.) In the worst, it was yet another attempt from a business leader trying to use unrelated products to push an agenda people would rather not discuss.  (The collision of social issues and business is starting too get out of hand on all sides of all issues – I’m talking to you Pepsi, Coke, Chik-Fil-A, Starbucks, Honey Maid, Campells Soup, Red Lobster, Burger King, etc., etc. )

Later that same week, after angry customers took to social media in droves to tell Lands End they wouldn’t be buying their button downs and dungarees anymore, someone in marketing had the sense to pull the campaign and catalog, and issue the all-too-familiar “Oops!” apology. 

Last night, I saw some of my more liberal feminist friends lamenting this move online. They say it’s bad for women’s issues and rights. I say it’s wrong to glorify a woman who’s life has been about making sure women can kill their babies legally.

As you might imagine, they probably think I’m anti-women’s health, anti-equality, anti-working woman and so on and so forth. They chastised me for benefitting from Ms. Steinem’s “work” while I criticized her ethics. 

I’ve never had an abortion. I also never enjoyed equal pay for equal work. But I have been forced from a job by childless, unmarried career women who don’t appreciate working mothers. I have had my personal health issues – infertility, post-partum depression, and heart disease (the biggest killer of women by the way) – belittled by other women. I once had a young female gynecologist tell me if I wanted to have a child so desperately, I should hang an Anne Gedes calendar in my office for motivation.

That’s not how empowering other women is supposed to work.

As women, God has given us the ultimate superpower. We, and only we, have the privilege and anatomy to create and grow life inside of us. To nurture humanity – to make our world better by building and educating generations of more complete and loving human beings through motherhood. Pro-life Catholics are not anti-woman. One of the most important figures of our faith is a woman. Mary, Jesus’s mother. Other honored women include Mary Magdelene (a prostitute), Mary and Martha (old maids) Ruth, Sarah and Eve. And don’t forget Joan of Arc, Maria Goretti, Mother Teresa, Bernadette, and St. Gianna.

I’m a diabetic – having children for me was a miracle. As a high-risk, doctors monitored my pregnancies almost ad nauseum for the entire nine months. I was alerted to every developmental milestone to keep my babies healthy. I knew when the spinal column was closing, about brain growth, shoulder and skeletal development. We monitored heart rates almost weekly, and I had more sonograms than I could count. If I could care for my baby before it was born, there is no doubt in my mind that from conception babies deserve the right to live.

Great power we often say, comes with great responsibility. If we women are the vehicle that sustains the human race, we should treat that ability accordingly. When are we more powerful than when we are bringing a new life into the world? Certainly not when we forsake that life to selfishly nurture our careers, bank accounts, dreams or sex lives instead. Life is the greatest contribution we can make to society. Those of us who choose to are indeed rich and blessed.

Gloria Steinem is not a role model. The modern feminist movement she helped to create aims to make women irresponsible to their greatest God-given gift while blaming everything they don’t like on men and religion.

Honoring someone who would encourage women to disrespect that which makes them special, powerful and beautiful so they can instead be more like men is just bad business in my opinion.

A Muslim Saved My Life

As far as many people are concerned these days, there’s little room for debate on anything.  If you agree with something, you agree wholeheartedly with no questions or doubts. If you don’t, every fiber of your being is against it. You apparently have to be an “extremist” to have your opinion count on any issue.

That seems to be the case when it comes to the world’s current refugee problem. At least when it comes to the solutions our leaders have to offer us. The truth of the matter is that most people who have truly taken time to consider the conundrum were in fall around the middle. No one really wants to turn aside people in true need – no matter their background. And no one wants to be conned into complicity by terrorists.

When I was in high school, my German language class traveled to Germany on the ultimate field trip. It was about six months after the Berlin Wall “came down.” It was also handy to the time of the Lockerbie air plane crash. 

On the way home, in the shuffle of 20 something high school kids getting into the Berlin airport, through customs and to the right gate in a foreign language, a friend of mine lost his ticket and boarding pass. Our chaperone, a Catholic Marianist Brother, and my friend appealed to the airline to reissue – the ticket was paid for, the seat reserved as part of an educational package. It was just a piece of paper that was lost.

Airline officials in Germany were already dealing with air port security issues then, in 1990. Americans really had no idea why there were soldiers in the terminal with large guns. The airline didn’t want to let my friend on the plane. After quite sometime and probably some serious Catholic guilt from our teacher, the airline acquiesced – if my friend agreed to check everything he was carrying straight through to the States. I still remembering him fretting over expensive Germab beer steins he was taking home for family.

My friend is Middle Eastern. I’d say he’s Muslim, but I’m not really sure how active he is in the religion. I know when we were in Catholic school together (yes, you read that right) his older brother was trying to learn more about Islam. I remember him attempting to fast during Ramadan once and speaking to my world religion class about the amazing fatigue he felt. To make matters more interesting, my friend with the lost ticket had  a variety of health problems that made him look closer to 30 than 16.

I “speak” with my friend still over Facebook. He’s an American. Like those Muslims you hear about who serve dutifully in the US Armed Forces. We have interesting conversations about the refugees. He reminds me not all Muslims are part of or agree with ISIS, Al-Quida, Boko Haram, or any other extremist group. I remind him that people like me fear for the lives and future freedom of our children. Shutting the door, so to speak, doesn’t sound bad to us. 

We think about ways to separate Middle Easterners, Americans of Middle Eastern descent, and peaceful (yes, some are) Muslims in people’s minds from Muslim extremists. Almost two decades of PR experience and I’m stymied on that one. Our leaders need to think as hard as we are. There must be something between turning our backs on refugees, and allowing the fox into the hen house in the name of morality. 

Today, I remembered something that kicked me right onto the fence on refugees, from what on Saturday was a lock the door and throw away the key stance.

Just a little less than three years ago, I almost lost my life to a heart attack brought on by diabetic ketoacidosis. Not only did I survive, I am again thriving. The doctor who saved my life on the operating table with almost no damage to my heart, and who has sustained me, is a Muslim.

Not everyone is dangerous. But some certainly are. Which are you?

Give Me Your Huddled Masses….

When I was a kid, I thought being “good” was pretty easy. You just had to be nice, do nice things and not swear.

But, as I discovered, things get more complicated as you get older.

Currently, I’m finding myself torn on a big issue. Immigration.

Let me say first that I am horrified for people, Christian or not, trying to escape the nightmare of ISIS. Or any other terror group. I can’t imagine what it must be like to wake up daily wondering if you’ll be the next to die. If I should acquiesce to save my family. If I should work to help others escape, heal, hide. These cannot be easy decisions under the circumstances.

As Pope Francis says, so many are truly in need of our help. I want to help those in true need, and I want others to help them as well.

But I don’t want to help those using this situation as a way to spread evil as a by product of my charity. And, again, I’ll be honest. I do truly believe there are terrorists posing as refugees to spread fear to the global community. Based on what we’ve seen since 9/11, this is classic terror strategy.

None of us want to be “chumps,” playing into the hands of those who would destroy our culture, religion and traditions while forwarding a type of living that enslaves the people of the world to madness. We’ve heard what’s happening in Germany. We’re watching other Western countries battle between their beliefs and the safety of their own. Let’s be honest : all Ameticans should be fearful if they aren’t already.

But perhaps not as fearful as those living in the midst of pure evil. I don’t blame the refugees for running. Even the so called able bodied men – there are certainly some who are not terrorists. But I do wish we could some how look into their hearts to see their true intentions. How do you determine need from a desire to destroy liberty? No one has the resources to interview every refugee effectively enough to quell the threat. How do we show compassion without sacrificing other innocents to death?

I wonder sometimes if our ancestors and grandparents felt this way during other mass waves of immigration. Did Americans feel their country would lose its identity as floods of Germans, Slavs, Irish and Italians “invaded” in the late 1800s and early 1900s?

I think about my father’s family, many of who immigrated to the US following World War II. My grandfather, separated from his family, got here from Germany first. I can’t imagine what Americans thought of Germans -they probably called them Nazis- coming here. My father, grandmother and aunt came 16 years later, after finally receiving a visa from Communist Romania, where they had been trapped. 

I can’t imagine what Americans thought of a Gulag survivor and her teen children who couldn’t speak a word of English, and had never known true freedom. Yet they learned English, became naturalized citizens, reunited with my grandfather, finished school, went to college, got jobs and became amazing Ametican citizens. Is it possible that potential is in these other refugees? Could it be they truly want freedom as well?

I just don’t know. Yet I realize the God I love demands my compassion. My fear likely doesn’t matter to Him at all. My desire to be practical, to separate the wheat from the chafe so to speak, is probably not in his playbook. 

It’s seems being nice isn’t as easy as I thought it was as a kid. I pray God helps me to understand this dilemma. That our leaders are wiser than they have shown to be so far. But mostly, I pray for peace. And miracles.

Living a God-Centered Life Includes Loving Everyone

I like to think of myself as a pretty open minded person. But a lot of people would wonder if I told them I am in agreement with the religious freedom laws that have been implemented, and debated ad nauseum, around the country. 

I grew up Catholic, obviously, and I continue to practice my faith. I am in no way what I would call a good Catholic. I struggle. Hard. But I try to be true to Catholicism to the best of my ability, as does my husband, and we raise our children in the faith.

It was not until adulthood that I truly understood that Catholics were looked down upon by others. I had heard we were, but I really didn’t get it or see it. The crux of my personal faith has always been to love others, do good, and confess when I screwed up. Who could argue with that?

I’ve been shocked this past week to see just how scandalously Catholics and other Christians are talked about by others. I understand feelings on religious freedom are volatile. Everyone thinks they’re right. But somehow it seems no one is being tolerant with anyone.

I do not believe that religious freedom laws are about gay vs. straight. I believe they are designed to allow people to live by their religious convictions without retribution. And yes, I realize this becomes complicated when we start talking radical Islam. But as we have seen more and more in the last decade, an odd desire to make people homogenous has trumped our uniquely American right to religious expression.

Since it’s hanging out there allowing some to defame good people with no cause, I think it’s important to remind both Catholics and non-Catholics what we are supposed to believe when it comes to gays and same-sex marriage.

Catholics are NOT called to hate and discriminate against gays. Period. It’s written as such in the Catholic Catechism. We ARE called to believe in the sanctity of life. The only way God creates human life on Earth is through the union of a man and a woman. When He calls a man and a woman to commit to His plan through their love, we call it marriage.

Yes, life can be created outside of such a relationship, either by sexual relations between an uncommitted man and woman, or in a laboratory, in various ways. Yet for Catholics, the creation of life is meant to be God-centered, something He alone does, naturally, through the complimentary bodies of men and women. Catholic doctrine discourages the creation of life outside of God’s natural law, be it by hetero couples unprepared for parenthood, or by gays who use biochemical methods to achieve family. (Yet Catholics are called to love the children who result from these unions as they love any child.)

Many Catholics don’t feel gays, who cannot create life through their union without supernatural means, meet the definition of “married.” Yet we find ourselves in situations where people we love and care for are involved in same sex marriages and relationships. We DON’T stop loving people who engage in gay marriage. Our Catholicism requires us to leave judgement of their decision in God’s hands. We truly love them, even if our faith does not affirm their union as true “marriage.”

Catholics, like everyone else, are not perfect. I know Catholics who react viciously to gays. I know others who want to see the Church change it’s centuries-old definition of marriage because the world’s acceptance of same-sex marriage demands it. I’m sure neither approach makes God happy. But I know He would extend love to all people, as should we.

As Catholics, we are called to live God-centered lives. Marriage is about God creating life. Even though some couples will never conceive, the potential for God to use spouses to create life must exist in marriage, no matter how remote.

Religious freedom laws aren’t about gay discrimination. They are about being able to hold your belief or non-belief in God at the center of your being, without being forced to violate your conscience. Even if you yourself are a “sinner,” as we all are.

Our gay friends, family, neighbors and fellow Catholics bring a beautiful color to our world, and offer experiences and gifts like no others. Their value to society is priceless. But the beliefs and God-centered living of religious people are as well. One must not suffer at the gain of the other. 

If Catholics follow the catechism and welcome gays openly as God demands, and gays allow for Catholics to celebrate their life-focused marriages, we can all live without prejudice, and continue in our beloved traditions.

We Don’t Even Respect Our Own Lives

I haven’t been blogging in the last few weeks. Mostly because I’ve been stewing over a realization I made. It was one of those things where you think, “gee, I don’t remember things being like this before.” And then you realize, if your really honest, there’s truly not anything new under the sun. And it makes you cry.
I was reading something about the upcoming, now delivered, decision from the Grand Jury in the Michael Brown case. Specifically, I was thinking about the path society had taken to get to this place, and the role our lack of respect for human life played in that journey.
I’m not talking so much about the big “life” issues like abortion, human trafficking, and the death penalty, although those things certainly desensitize us to the miracle of human life. I’m not even talking about the so called “justice” for Mike Brown movement. And I’ll even be upfront and say while I sympathize with any parent’s loss of a child, I feel Mike was complicit in his own death.
What has truly amazed me is how within the tragedy that has befallen the two men at the center of his story, society somehow seems to think devaluing other lives will deliver justice. These actions truly illustrate how all sides of the argument are guilty of disrespecting life.
I heard the Rev. Jesse Jackson make a comment the other day when asked why destroying a community was just. He said Blacks were in pain from decades/centuries of discrimination, and that pain of such kind makes people do illogical things. I might be able to consider that, if the actions of protestors had not destroyed other people’s livelihoods, taken their life savings, put their lives in danger, and left them wondering how they had anything to do with Mike Brown’s fate. Now were terrifying Christmas shoppers and frightening children at Christmas tree lightings.
But it doesn’t stop with the antics of protestors. Those fed up with the state of the urban neighborhood, which has directly led to the impasse we now face, have not exactly been kind. It’s one thing to respectfully disagree with another’s opinion, but to pepper on-line comments with continual insults and slights during the debate debases the person on the other end. So you think their point of view is absurd. Maybe it is. But name calling and reverse race-baiting isn’t going to fix anything either. It just makes the other side less human to you. And you more racist to them.
Black lives are indeed valuable. But so are white, Asian, old, young, rich, poor, educated, simple, male, female, and all others. Not just in the physical state. There is value in all human emotion, dreams, achievements, failures, cultures and so on.
What really seems to be the issue, the one that made my cry, is that we are so desensitized that we don’t even value our OWN lives. Burning down your own community hurts YOU. Hurting other people destroys YOUR credibility or threatens YOUR freedom. And if your God-fearing like me, YOUR treatment of others requires a lot of explaining to the Creator.
But even more, we have spent the last few weeks showing our children that people of other races and cultures are the enemy. And that doesn’t bode well for anyone. We need to find ways to mend fences and fix trust issues. But that won’t happen until both sides own up to their shortcomings. And respect EVERY human life.