Debating evil

babyDear Grandpa Diff,

Remember the Kennedy-Nixon debate?  It was the first on television and, naturally, the first I watched.  You were pretty old then; I believe it was the first and last televised debate you witnessed before going to you final reward.

That first debate was mostly about policy – at least on the surface.  Economics,  Taxes,  Foreign policy.

If you listen to the audio, Nixon won with greater substance and more mature judgement.

If you watch the video, Kennedy won.  He looked “presidential” and Nixon looked, well, shifty and nervous.

Kennedy won that election, Chicago ballot box stuffing aside.  He likely won because he looked better on television.

A few days ago, I watched the Clinton-Trump debate.  Listen to the audio and they both sound like squabbling kids.  Watch the video and they both look shifty.

But what was most astonishing was that on national television, in front of millions of people, two people running for President actually debated the “appropriateness” of partial birth abortion.

Grampa, I doubt you ever heard of partial birth abortion when you were walking the earth.  Oh, I’m sure you knew what an abortion was and believed it was an act of unspeakable evil that compounded the sin of pre-marital sex.  Of course, pre-marital sex isn’t much of an issue these days; seems like most folks think it is just the way of the world.

We call it normal, which you and I know doesn’t make it right.

But back to the latest debate and partial birth abortion.

Clinton claimed it is a woman’s right to abortion, even partial birth abortion.  She said it was a difficult situation that only the mother should make.

Trump pointed out the reality of the process: a late-term baby pulled partly from the womb and killed.  If this were happening in a pork-processing plant there would be animal-rights protestors protesting.

It isn’t pretty.  It isn’t moral.  It is legal.

The pro-abortion people claim that women need this option.  They cite the tragic cases where a mother’s life is threated by giving birth.  They don’t mention that killing the baby most certainly results in the baby’s death.

I’m personally (and publically) opposed to all abortions.  I know that there are tragic situations in which abortion seems like the only (or at least the most convenient) way out.  The truth is, more than 98 percent of abortions are “elective.”  They are performed because the mother doesn’t want the child, often for economic reasons.  About 0.1 percent of abortions are performed because the birth threatens the mother’s life.  And those cases involve a life-death decision removed from God’s hands.

The pro-abortion argument often raises this tiny percent of medically “necessary” abortions as justification for all abortions.  The argument is that if we ban abortion we’ll put millions of women’s lives at risk.

In fact, we’ll put a very small number of women in the difficult situation of risking their lives to give birth to a child.  That is a decision some women have made, perhaps forgoing chemo for cancer to protect the health of their unborn child.

The mother in such circumstances must be brave and overcome her own fear.  But her courageous act of motherhood has more nobility than killing babies.  And is the decision to risk one’s own life to protect one’s child really so difficult?

By the way, Grandpa, as I’m sure you know, neither Kennedy nor Nixon turned out to be saints.  But neither would have ever uttered the words “partial birth abortion” on television.

Hold the fries

fries-310138_960_720The Catholic Church has faced many crises over the centuries.

  • Persecution by unfriendly Roman emperors like Nero.
  • The Crusades.
  • The Inquisition.
  • The Reformation
  • Post-Vatican II confusion
  • The sex abuse scandal.

Through these and many other challenges, the Church has persevered.  The faithful have retained faith.  Flawed humans have preserved the Church that Christ founded.

But now the Church faces a challenge like none before.  It strikes at the very heart not only of the Church, but the culture of Rome, the character of Italy.

This is no vicious rumor nor false news report.  It is true.  McDonald’s is opening a restaurant within sight of St Peter’s Square.  Of perhaps better put, you will be able to stand in the square and gaze upon the golden arches.

I’m sure clever promotors and photographers will soon be posting pictures of the golden arches with the Cathedral dome in the background.  I can envision the images on postcards and t-shirts.  Many people will chuckle.

But some folks are upset.  It seems some Cardinals live in the building that will house McDonald’s.  They likely fear the pervasive scent of French fries wafting upward while they are trying to enjoy a plate of pasta.  Perhaps the thought of living in the same building as an American icon dampens their appetites.

McDonald’s symbolizes fast, easy, uncomplicated, cheap and, well, American.  A case could be made that the Vatican pretty much embodies the complete opposite.  Of course, the Vatican is a holy place, which isn’t something you can say about McDonald’s.

McDonald’s is popular, even in Rome, where there are nearly 300 of their restaurants.  Some of them are in really famous places and serve tourists from all over the world.  I’m guessing that Italians eat there in droves, but I doubt many would admit it.  Italians are a bit snooty about food and McDonald’s isn’t snooty.


If you are going to Rome and hope to bump into a real, live Cardinal, don’t hang out at McDonald’s.  Go to a local restaurant with high prices and slow service.

If you are in Rome and want a decent bag of fries, McDonald’s is your best bet.  Please don’t leave the empty bag in the square.

Big brother is closer than you think

brother“For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?”— George Orwell, 1984

This might be a good time to re-read “1984.”  Of course, if you are among the younger generations, you might have missed this important book…better catch up.  It is a clever story about how totalitarian government creeps up and enslaves a population.

Hint: controlling people depends in the end on manipulating how they think, which starts with making sure there are consequences for thinking the “wrong” thing.

This wasn’t invented nor discovered in 1984.

Hitler spent a good deal of time in the 1930s and 1940s persuading an entire nation how to think.  And in light of the holocaust, he apparently was fairly successful.

The Soviet Union convinced its people that communism would bring them a workers’ paradise.  That didn’t work out so well.

Of course, there was a group of rulers more than 2000 years ago, who were so upset by someone thinking the wrong thoughts – and sharing them publically – that they nailed him on a cross.

Historic events.  Huge events.  Horrendous events.

But they didn’t start big.  They started with a lie here, a suspicion there, a threat that those who disagree with the government line might lose a job, a pension or a contract.

Today, it has taken hold on our college campuses, with high schools close behind.  We joke about “political correctness,” but google “college thought police” and you should be frightened by what you find.

At Clark University, students must take care not to show a surprised expression if a fellow students says something that they disagree with.

At Colorado College, fit students are being criticized because their healthy habits make flabby students feel bad.

Students at the University of Oregon are investigated by school authorities if they say something that another student says reflects bias.

Some school are actually putting students through orientation programs to discourage them from saying spiteful things like, “Merry Christmas.”

This might sound like harmless silliness; it certainly can’t lead to serious threats to freedom, right?  However, if a student at a university has to measure every word he utters for fear of reprisal, education has become indoctrination.  The end game isn’t a wise graduate but a compliant, useful idiot.

Of course, there are other minds to capture beyond the campus.  If the power hungry are worried about what campus hipsters think, imagine their concern about non-compliant statements by “subversive” elements such as the Catholic Church.

Priests say such outrageous things:

  • Babies should not be aborted.
  • Old people should not be euthanized.
  • God’s plan for marriage is one man and one woman.
  • The meek shall inherit the earth.

As Orwell said, “Big Brother is Watching You.”  And he is closer than you think.