Monthly Archives: December 2014

“Truly, He taught us to love one another.
His Law is love, and the Gospel is Peace.
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
And, in His Name, all oppression shall cease.”

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The man with no feet doesn’t need shoes

I still remember when I was about 8 or 9, and, reflecting on the other kids I knew with genetic disorders, I thought about the proverb, “I cried that I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet.” While perspective is important, and I’ve been on both sides of the metaphor, it’s also kind of a stupid saying. As I figured it, the man with no feet doesn’t *need* shoes. He’d appreciate that your feet hurt.

This is what hurts me about the “white privilege” issue. If my kids have a fight (and, as other recent posts, I keep seeing my children as a microcosm of society, which they are), and one of them comes up to me crying, I will sympathize with the one who’s crying. If they’re in the process of fighting, though, I’m going to deal with whomever threw the most recent verbal or physical swing. When a kid says, “You always side with [him/her], and you never hear my side of the story,” a) that doesn’t particularly make me amenable to the child’s side, and b) I find that it only makes the tantrum worse if I *try* to address that argument.

But that’s what we have in society: lots of people throwing tantrums and refusing to listen to reason, whether they’re Tea Partiers, Occupiers, ranchers in Nevada, African Americans, Latinos, Cops, or whomever. Everybody insists *their* pain is worse than the other guy’s, and few are willing to say, “Hey, aren’t we all in this together?” Worse, if you *say* that, everybody turns on you.

The best episode of _Buffy, the Vampire Slayer_, is “Earshot,” the one that was delayed because of Columbine–when I say it should have been on every channel in the wake of Columbine. Buffy gains temporary telepathic powers and is overwhelmed by hearing everyone’s deepest thoughts and fears, in the midst of which she hears, “Tomorrow, I kill you all”. She and her friends investigate the threat, and she finally finds a bullied student in the clocktower with a rifle. Though it turns out he’s going to kill himself, she says the following:

My life happens on occasion to suck beyond the telling of it. Sometimes more than I can handle. And it’s not just mine. Every single person down there is ignoring your pain because they’re too busy with their own. The beautiful ones. The popular ones. The guys that pick on you. Everyone. If you could hear what they were feeling. The loneliness. The confusion. It looks quiet down there. It’s not. It’s deafening.

Racism, Hatred and Bulverism

I read a cartoon twenty-some years ago: Two guys are sitting on a bench. One is reading a newspaper and says, “African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans; I’m glad to be a simple White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant.”
Guy #2 says: “You look more like a Jute to me.”
In the US, we group “Hispanics” or “Latinos” into one category, yet the term “Latin America” was coined by the French to counteract the Monroe Doctrine, arguing that American countries/colonies predominated by Romance-language, Catholic peoples. Even the predominantly Spanish-speaking cultures in “Latin America” see huge differences among themselves.
On the biology side, there are really only three “races,” a distinction the Bible suggests with the three sons of Noah. I read an article once about the biology of “race,” and how the similarity of Asian/Semitic peoples—modern anthropology having proven that Columbus wasn’t too far off in identifying Native Americans as “Indians”–is evinced by the existance of a relatively isolated tribe of cannibals in southern Africa who descend from Asians who migrated back into Africa about 10,000 years ago or so. Their language categories two kinds of animals–“food animals,” and “people”. They have no other categories of zoology or race/ethnicity. When they see people of Asian, North African or Native American descent, they recognize them as “people.” When they encounter darker-skinned Africans or Europeans, they categorize them as “food.”
One of the motivations behind “White Privilege” seems to be a desire to refuse to acknowledge that the so-called “WASPs” have brought suffering to lots of people they consider “Other”; not just darker sinned peoples. But to point this out is itself called “racist.” I keep seeing preemptive comments by angry African Americans about how the don’t want to hear about the suffering of the Jews, the Irish, the Italians or whomever, that “their” suffering is all that matters.
Suddenly, it’s “white privilege” because most “white” ethnic groups supposedly have more acceptance in mainstream American culture, or do not suffer the kind of persecution that “blacks” do. Nevertheless, as I noted in my previous post on this topic, this has not been the case in my own family’s experience. The upper class “whites” and the “minorities” of all socioeconomic levels tend to look down on us. Some people see freckles as a disease–there is a _Barbie_ book called _Freckles_ (1997), in which Barbie “helps” a little girl who’s embarrassed about having freckles by teaching her that, essentially, freckles are something to be ashamed of. People would be justly outraged by a book about how a darker skinned woman could be prettier if she made herself look more “white”, but if a “ginger” points out such kinds of bigotry and discrimination, that’s still somehow considered “racist” or a distraction.
We’re told that “white privilege” matters because of a “racist system” that is resulting in the violent deaths of thousands African Americans around the country a day, but pointing out that the minority of those are at the hands of officers, and the vast majority are at the hands of other African Americans, that’s dismissed as “racism.”
I’m told that if I check my car locks or clutch my wallet when somebody walks by, even though I do that when almost anybody walks by, I’m being a “racist,” if the person who walks by happens to be black.
I’m told that if I insist on overcoming racism by not being racist, that makes me a racist.
“Racism” is a perfect example of the logical fallacy C. S. Lewis calls “Bulverism,” a kind of ad hominem which he exemplifies by a scenario where a man says, “1+1=2,” and the woman says, “You just say that because you’re a man.” Person B doesn’t care whether the proposition is true or not, factual or not, but whether it fits the preconceived ideology, so some psychological or ideological presumption about Person A.
Bulverism is an offshoot of moral relativism. The most objective truth can be dismissed by saying the other person is delusional, or, in this case, “racist.” Emotion overrides logic. Logic itself becomes part of “white male patriarchal hegemony,” or whatever.
That is essentially the entire narrative of postmodernism.
And it doesn’t fix anything. It just perpetuates the cycle of hatred and violence, as the assassinations of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos this weekend demonstrates.
True racism involves hating people because of their skin color. It involves doing violence or oppressing people because of their skin color. What is the point of labelling a person’s every action, thought or word as “racist” just because of, well, the person’s race? How does that build community, understanding and love?

Merry Christ-Mass!

“Happy Holidays” is one thing; “for the holidays,” or “for the Holiday” when the context is clearly Christmas is another. “Whoever denies me before men, I will deny before my Father” (Mt 10:33). “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14); “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn 3:16)–and you won’t even say His name on His birthday? But you *will* use it as a cuss word?

Could somebody please explain to me what this “White Privilege” is, and where I can get some?

1. I understand completely that darker-toned people are often discriminated against, in subtle ways. I was told directly once when a police officer pulled me over (rightly, I admitted, I had experienced a perfect storm of circumstances and realized that I was driving way too fast right when he turned his lights on) that he had to prove I was “not an illegal immigrant or an Arab.” He said if I showed up in court with my license, he’d drop the ticket to the first offense minimum, since I was cooperative, which I did and he did. So, yes, I understand that police are sometimes harsher to people of darker skin. *However*, the person immediately before me in Court, who got the same deal I did, was an African American woman.
Meanwhile, there were plenty of white people having to talk to the judge.

2. This article tells me that a Jewish woman never realized she had “white privilege” till some liberal sociology professor browbeat her into it, yet she doesnt explain what it is.

So,

3. I really don’t get it. How do I, as a lower-middle class, disabled, “white” man of predominantly Irish and Slovak (the name means “slave”) descent enjoy more “privilege” than my socioeconomic pers of other so-called “races”? In my experience, the “privileged” whites are more willing to accept the socioeconomic hardship of “minorities” long as they have acceptable political views), and, like “racism,” “privilege” is a term the liberal social engineers have invented to shout down anyone with the “wrong” opinions.”
If I point out the many incidents I’ve experienced where I’ve been clearly been discriminated against because I’m “white,” that just means I’m “racist” or “privileged.” I don’t get it.

I have nothing to lose, so I’ll say it:
I graduated from the South Carolina Honors College in 1997, when I was 20, a year after open heart surgery. I spent my first two years at USC Sumter. I got my Master’s from Valdosta State in 2003. Afterwards, I began applying for jobs in the USC system, particularly in 2006, when I had a few years of part time teaching experience and had been working as an admissions counselor. Then both my non-teaching dream jobs came up in a matter of months. First, two full time academic counseling jobs opened up at the Honors College. They were advertised as “entry level,” and I had more than the required credentials. I applied, did not even get an interview, and when the new bios were posted of the hirees, they were an African American male and a white female. One, IIRC, had a Master’s. At least one had no graduate degree. Neither had any teaching or academic administrative experience–both had worked in retail-type jobs. A few months later, a position opened up as director of advising at USC Sumter. I won over even the most skeptical committee member, a liberal psychology professor who never had me as a student but remembered me. I was all but told I had the job. Perhaps too eager because I had (and wanted) to move to take the job, I checked a couple times, to finally be told that HR at the main campus selected another candidate. When the job was filled and the person was added to the campus website a month or so later, it was the same woman who’d been hired over me at the Honors College.
We moved back to SC a few months later, anyway, and I continued to naively apply for jobs at USC. I applied for well over 40 positions in 2 years, trying to get a full time job, with nary an interview. The last time I bothered, I even threatened to sue them for discrimination against the disabled in my last cover later if I did not at least get an interview. Still nothing. Of course, I couldn’t afford a lawyer to carry through on the threat.

So, tell me, where is my “privilege”?

I’m not angry or bitter–at least not as much as I used to be–I am grateful for God’s providence in leading me where He wants me to be and where is best. If you want to tell me I have “privilege” as an American that I should be grateful for and try to help others with, I believe that, and I do. I know very well I’d be dead if i’d been born in just about any other country in the world, even those the liberals claim have “better” health care than we do.

However, it infuriates me to be told that I enjoy more advantages than my socioeconomic peers of other “races,” when so often the look down on me and my family for not having “nice enough” material possessions, and so often I’ve seen minorities receive advantages for which I was equally or more qualified.

On the Eighth Commandment

After “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain,” the Commandment that’s probably most often broken  is the eighth. As it happens, the two are often broken simultaneously, as Ephesians 4:29, which sometimes is translated as “unwholesome talk,” and others as “foul language,” attests. Either way, it finishes with the famous, “Say only the good things men need to hear, to build them up. . . .”
When we say things, are we loving our neighbor? Are we loving the person we’re speaking about or the person we’re speaking to by saying them?
As I mostly look out on the world these days and can barely even use my voice, I see the evils that people spread, perhaps unwittingly, with their words.  I regret the many, many times I have done the same. When I laid in the hospital, “Hallucinating” for three weeks that seemed like 3 years in 2013, the guilt I bore for my many unconfessed sins against the 8th Commandment was one of the things that bore down on my conscience. As experiential arguments for Purgatory go, even if I was sacramentally absolved, and that seems to depend upon which saint or mystic one quotes, I still needed to be purified of it.

We look at it in face value and say, “Well, I never testified against somebody in court, so that doesn’t apply to me.”   Yet, as the Catechism warns, we become guilty of it in several ways, beyond lying about someone else, in particular Detraction and Rash judgement. They both seem to come up all the time: with kids and family, with other adults, in parish life and city life, national politics, the hierarchy from the parish office to Rome. Our pastor has been talking a lot about it lately, and it strikes me how people will gossip about his homilies against gossip. I balk myself a bit, but this is definitely a case where it’s sometimes hard to hear hard truths. Like I say, the Rich Young Man’s sadness seems to me to indicate that he, unlike the many who left Jesus’ presence in anger, and the rest of us when we leave angry from hearing God’s message, was acknowledging that Jesus was right. When we condemn ourselves to Hell, we do so in defiant anger that we disagree with how God wants things to be.

“I’m just being honest,” we protest, like a child justifying saying something cruel to another child.  “I’m just telling the truth.”

No, there are times when it is not necessary to divulge a truth, or when it’s more appropriate to remain silent.  When Ahab killed the prophets of the Lord, and Elijah pronounced the drought, the Lord sent him into hiding for “some time” (1 Kings 17:3-7).  Our Lord Himself remained silent for most of the first 30 years of His life on earth.   We must pray for guidance on these matters.  St. John the Baptist was beheaded for denouncing Herod Antipas’s illicit marriage, but when St. Thomas More was executed for essentially the same reason, he had never openly denounced Henry VIII’s sin.  It has always been a constant temptation in public life, particularly in American culture.  We blame the digital media or electronic media in general, or even the printing press, but we can look through history and see examples of the same kinds of “mudslinging” and personal attacks in ancient Greece and Rome and other cultures.  

Rash judgement seems to “You did that *on purpose*!”  “You did that to be mean!”   I know I very often fall into it.  It takes a lot of prayer and grace to resist it.  How many lives have been shattered by rash judgement?  Nations?

Like St. Elijah in confronting Ahab and Jezebel, we must often be silent and patient, waiting on the Lord to tell us when or how to speak or act. If we feel the need to do so, we should follow St. Paul’s advice to speak in ways that build people up. St. John of the Cross says that the one who flees prayer flees everything good. I have often wondered how much better everyone’s lives would be if we all made prayer our default mode of conversation. The next time you’re tempted to gossip or complain, or you hear someone else doing it, why not ask them to join you in a Divine Mercy Chaplet or Rosary? Or the Office?

Pray for me that God will grant me the grace to do the same.