Divisive is NOT a Four-Letter Word

There is a word that causes me to cringe each time I hear it spoken by a leader in the Catholic Church: Divisive.

That isn’t because I dislike people who are divisive. No, it is because when leaders in the Church say a person is divisive, they  seem to suggest this is the worst thing you can say about someone. And I think being divisive can be a wonderful act of faith.

In recent days, several Catholic priests have been reprimanded by their pastors or bishops for proclaiming how important it is for Catholics to vote for pro-life politicians in the upcoming national elections. Some of these priests have engaged in the “divisive” act of suggesting a Catholic should not vote for a politican of a political party that ardently supports abortion.

Apparently, a priest telling his congregation not to vote for people who promote abortion is upsetting to some folks in the pews. And they probably call or email the bishop and complain. The bishop believes he must “correct” the priest to preserve unity.

In other words, the priest has committed the ultimate sin: he has been divisive.

So what? The Catholic Church has a long tradition of divisive people who became Saints.

The Apostles were a truly divisive bunch. The New Testament is a litany of their troublemaking, disobedience to authority, and proclamation of the truth. In return, all but one died a horrible death.

Catherine of Siena had the habit of telling the Pope what to do. Mother Teresa of Calcutta told the US President he shouldn’t support abortion. These two great women believed the truth was a higher good than “getting along.”

In the world of politics, you likely could find no more divisive people than George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  The first helped found the nation by dividing it from England; the second kept the young nation from dividing into two.

Washington would have been less divisive if he had simply told the colonists to stop complaining and do whatever King George wanted. Lincoln would have been less divisive had he just told the southern states that is was OK if they wanted to have slaves.

Martin Luther King Jr. certainly was devisive. And you don’t have to be Christian to be divisive; Ghandi proved that.

Avoiding “divisiveness” is not the end objective of the Christian faith. We seek eternal salvation through the truth, Jesus Christ. The faith should be presented in as “pastoral” a voice as possible – but the truth must be told, and some people are going to have sore ears.

The only way to have “unity” in a congregation is for everyone to think just as they please and everyone else to tolerate whatever lunacy is proclaimed.  But such acceptance denies the existence of objective truth.

A schoolteacher could avoid all conflict in the classroom by accepting what answer a student gives on a math test and giving every student an “A”. But who would go to a bank where the employees didn’t accept the basic truths of arithmetic.  Two plus two really does equal four – not whatever some child says it equals.

In like manner, the Catholic Church teaches what is truth. Paul has important words about divisiveness.

[16] Salute one another with an holy kiss. All the churches of Christ salute you. [17] Now I beseech you, brethren, to mark them who make dissensions and offences contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them. – Romans 16:16-17

The key phrase here is that the offences are contrary to doctrine. Someone who proclaims the truth is not being divisive but brave.

Of course, Christ was rather divisive himself. And he made no apologies for that.

[51] Think ye, that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, no; but separation. [52] For there shall be from henceforth five in one house divided: three against two, and two against three. [53] The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against his father, the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother, the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. – Luke 12:51-53

Many Catholics rationalize twist themselves into knots in an effort to justify a vote for pro-abortion politicians and demand that priests sit silent while this scandal persists. They might want to consider an important line in the creed we recite at Mass on Sunday:

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.

I’m sure that when I am judged the Lord will be more interested in how I proclaimed the faith than whether the next guy in the pew liked me.

NOTE: Gospel passages taken from Douay-Rheims Bible.

Tradions Come and Go

Today I’m ending a tradition that I have observed for more than five decades.

This could be more an indication of my advancing age than the value of this particular tradition.

It is Sunday and the professional football season has started. According to my long-established tradition, I should be in front of the television watching the Chicago Bears.

Instead, I’m writing these few words to explain why my football tradition is over – at least for this season.

There is an old joke about professional hockey that goes like this: Golly, I went to see a boxing match and a hockey game broke out. Hockey, for those of you who don’t follow it, tends to have more fights between players than other sports.

The new joke, although not particularly funny, could go like this:  Golly, I went to a political demonstration and a football game broke out.

Professional football lost its way when the people running the National Football League decided to allow players to express their opinions about various causes on the field of play, as opposed to doing so on their own time from their own venue.

If quarterback Shifty Shorts of the Punxsutawney Phils wants to write a letter to the editor advocating groundhog liberation and put a Groundhog Lives Matter sign in his front yard, that is fine with me.  He certainly has the right to express himself.

But when I tune into a football game on television (or pay the equivalent of a day’s wages to actually attend in person) I want to see football.

At the risk of sounding negative, I don’t want to see football players kneeling in protest. I don’t want to hear alternative national anthems. I don’t want political or “social justice” slogans in endzones or on helmets or jerseys. I don’t want to sit though dozens of commercials by corporations trying to demonstrate that they “really care” about various social causes.

More positively, I want to just see talented, hard-working athletes using their God-given talents to engage in a test of sporting excellence.

When football returns to being football, I’ll return to being a fan.

Sensible and Seamless

denim-jean-seamI’m writing this in late August of 2020, which means we are just a couple months away from a contentious national election.

For Catholics, it is time to witness the periodic, tortured effort to justify a vote for pro-abortion politicians “who otherwise stand strong on the seamless and consistent ethic of life.”

Of course, anyone with more than a passing knowledge of logic knows this is a ridiculous argument. This isn’t to say that a Catholic should not stand strong on all the components of the “seamless ethic” but should spend a little more time understanding the underlying issues.

The argument for voting for a pro-abortion politician typically goes something like this… Yes, Representative Snodgrass supports abortion, but he supports feeding the poor, free national health care, free college, ending the death penalty, and better housing for the poor.  He supports everything on the social justice agenda that the Church supports, so that balances his support for abortion.

It is like a child telling mom it is fine for him to eat a pound of chocolate because he already ate his spinach. That won’t save him from a fat belly and a mouthful of cavities.

For Americans, the debate nearly always involves that “liberal vs. conservative” battle.  Liberals support abortion, free everything, and government control. They claim to really care about the people and their needs.

There is in that the implications that Conservatives are mean-hearted, not only because they would deny a woman the “right to choose” but because they don’t think the government ought to keep increasing taxes and providing more free stuff to more people.

However, it just might be that conservatives are NOT mean-hearted but believe there is a better way to provide for the needs of the nation’s citizens.  And if you look at the track record of socialist/communist nations you gather little ammunition to counter the Conservatives.

A Liberal might sincerely believe that the best way to help people is through immense government programs.

A Conservative might sincerely believe that the best way to help people is by limited government interference, allowing businesses to grow and flourish, and encourage communities to depend on private entities (like the Catholic Church) to provide help to those who fall into dire straits.

One of the things that amazes me is that Catholic leaders from rural America to Rome tend to support socialist government, even looking to a future of “one-world” government. It amazes me because anyone with an ounce of common sense can see that in such a world, religion – especially Christianity – would be marginalized and become increasingly diminished in its ability to help the very people it professes to help.

What does all this have to do with the seamless ethic? Quite simply, the need to address issues of life and social justice is consistent but the components in the cloth are not the same and cannot be treated with the same finality.

On the one hand, abortion and the death penalty are absolute.  You can’t be partly for or against abortion if you accept Catholic teaching that life begins at conception. Killing a criminal – no matter what horrible things he has done – removes his ability to repent and find salvation; man steps into the role of God.

The resolution of the social justice issues – medical care, poverty, housing, education, discrimination, even war – can be addressed in different ways. It is not clear that Big Government is the way to solve any or all of these challenges.

Put more bluntly, if you are a Catholic you can’t justify voting for a pro-abortion politician because he supports more money for government poverty programs. To make the matter worse, you likely will find that the politician who supports abortion nearly always supports allowing the old and ill to die, perhaps even supporting assisted suicide.

A recent American president of the Liberal persuasion famously said that he supported abortion because if his daughter became pregnant, he wouldn’t want her “punished with a baby.” Assuming that this wasn’t a case of immaculate conception and in light of the massive security around a president’s daughter, such a situation would likely be the result of a conscious decision to be sexually active. If that produces a baby that baby needs to be cherished as a God-given blessing, not seen as punishment.

Beyond that, the “punished” statement is an unintended comment on a culture in which each person wants to do what they want rather than what they ought. Each wants his will rather than God’s.

Thus, many Catholics seek a way to rationalize a vote for politicians who condone abortion. They seek a way to justify a worldly choice over a Godly choice.

That is the choice Satan makes. The Church calls it sin.

Fixing the Abhorrent Names of NFL Teams

Maryland_Hopkins_footballSeldom can I find anything positive to say about actions taken in Washington DC. But the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins of the National. Football League (NFL) has set an admirable model for every team in the league by changing its name to the Washington Football Team.

The old name was deemed offensive by some people; the new name is inoffensive to all but the few of us that cringe at the mention of the name Washington (when referring to the city rather than the founder of the country, although there likely are some who don’t like George Washington).

An analysis of the 32 teams that participate in the National Football League shows that each name is without doubt offensive to a good number of people. Therefore, all teams must follow the example of Washington and identify only by the name of their city.  Thus, The Chicago Bears would become the Chicago Football Team.  The New York Jets would become and New York Football Team. (This becomes complicated because there are two New York football teams, but since the Giants play in New Jersey; they can be the New Jersey Football Team.)

At this point, you may be thinking that most of the names of the teams in the league are innocuous and couldn’t possibly offend anything.  Therefore, I offer my concerns about each if the current team names:

  • Arizona Cardinals: This name ostensibly refers to a red bird. However, the mention of Cardinal brings to mind the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, which could offend Muslims, Protestants, and non-believers.
  • Atlanta Falcons: Hunters for centuries have trained Falcons to hunt and attack peace-loving and innocent birds and small animals. This is a bad example for our youth.
  • Baltimore Ravens: The mention of this dark and mysterious bird recalls the white poet Edgar Allen Poe, clearly a non-divers cultural symbol offensive to millions.
  • Buffalo Bills: If Redskins is an offensive name, how much more so a name that conjures up the memory of a man who ran a wild west show that included staged battles against Native Americans.
  • Carolina Panthers: Obviously, cultural appropriation of an animal that is black.
  • Cincinnati Bengals: Exploitation of an endangered species.
  • Chicago Bears: We really should not be glorifying an animal that has maimed and killed so many people over the years.
  • Cleveland Browns: I don’t think I have to explain this one.
  • Dallas Cowboys: Here we are honoring the invaders who murdered, pillaged, and stole from Native Americans.
  • Denver Broncos: Broncos are the poor animals that are mistreated in rodeos by, who else, the cowboys.
  • Detroit Lions: Christians should object to this glorification of the animals that were fed Christians in the Roman Coliseum.
  • Green Bay Packers: And what do they pack? Animals they have killed and chopped into little pieces.
  • Houston Texans: We really should not mention a state that occupies land stolen from Mexico.
  • Indianapolis Colts: Some think this is a reference to young horses, but it makes me think of the Colt guns used to kill and wound thousands of people.
  • Kansas City Chiefs: Another disgusting reference to Native Americans in a demeaning manner.
  • Los Angeles Chargers: This is another name that might be intended to refer to horses but in reality suggests the undisciplined use of credit cards.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars: Calls to mind an exclusive British car owned by the one percent.
  • Miami Dolphins: Clear exploitation of what many believe to be among the most intelligent of animals.
  • Minnesota Vikings: Why hold up as a positive example the group known for rape and plundering?
  • New England Patriots: Some believe these “patriots” worked to establish a country where slavery could flourish.
  • New Orleans Saints: Disgusting appropriation of Catholic culture.
  • New York Giants: How offensive to little people.
  • New York Jets: Jets are the weapons of war and destruction.
  • Oakland Raiders: A raider is one who plunders and the mere mention of the term is likely to trigger many of our more tender-hearted citizens.
  • Philadelphia Eagles: This bird, which noble to some, is also the symbol of a nation that has waged war around the world.
  • San Francisco Forty-Niners: A terrible celebration of greed and a passion for gold.
  • Seattle Seahawks: Perhaps this name was intended to refer to a bird but the Seahawk is the most sophisticated helicopter of the US Navy and is thus a weapon of war.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers: We talking about a rusty old industry that pollutes and causes dread disease in its workers.
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Buccaneers were horrible scoundrels who prayed on innocent settlers, particularly of Spanish background.
  • Tennessee Titans: This is a harmful reference to white mythology and likely offensive to many sensitive minority groups.
  • Washington Redskins: Already handled!

Anyone who has read this far may think some of my interpretations to be extreme, even silly.  However, we live in a time of rising secularism in which political correctness is the new religion. It is an intolerant and cruel religion where any deviation earns persecution and risks loss of employment and punishment by the press.

As ridiculous as my analysis may seem, don’t be surprised if some of the National Football Teams really do follow the lead of the Washington Football Team. After all, the owners, coaches, and players already are bending a knee to groups that would overthrow our nation.  Frankly, I can’t think of anything much more disgusting than taking a knee during the National Anthem.

I don’t have the power to bring athletes to their feet to honor their country. But I can do my small part to protest. Until the National Football League gets the courage to stand for what is true and right, I won’t be watching their games. And I expect I’ll have lots of company.

I Did it so You Don’t Have to

V0034192 In the Garden of Eden, Eve offers Adam the apple. Line engra

I have done you a favor that for me was painful and consumed several hours of my life that I’ll never get back.

I read the entire 110 pages of the BIDEN-SANDERS UNITY TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS.  I have linked to the document in case you are not familiar with it or really want to read it.

In summary, the document says America bad, socialism good. It has a utopian tone to it that suggests the writers have little experience in the real world and have never studied history.

Of course, there once was a utopia on earth: The Garden of Eden. Just two humans, urged on by Satan’s serpentine surrogate, went astray. Imagine what Satan can do with the sophisticated socialists of today’s world.

Well, actually you can observe what the evil one can do. Think of Cuba or Venezuela. Think of the failed Soviet Union.

This latest description of a glorious society reads like something Stalin would have cooked up. Some of the participants in its creation probably think the old Soviets had their positive points. After all, Stalin may have killed 20 million of his fellow countrymen but he didn’t kill more than 100 million. He wasn’t ALL bad.

This “unity” document is based on the premise that America is a total disaster and by just making the commitment and spending trillions of dollars we can change the climate, pay everyone high wages in union jobs, house everyone in an energy-efficient home, give everyone free college and health care, and get everyone to work on a zero-emissions train fueled by geothermal energy.

You may think this sounds wonderful. Yes, and unicorns are wonderful creatures. But before you bite on the socialist bait of Biden-Sanders unity let me make a few predictions/warnings.

  1. If everyone gets equal housing the model won’t be a three-bedroom, two-bath, neo-classic house in Winnetka. It will be a one-bedroom apartment in a building with broken elevators and the bathroom down the hall.
  2. If everyone gets free health care it will be at the lowest common denominator level. Think North Korea.
  3. If everyone gets pollution-free transportation it won’t be a Tesla. You’ll be doing the Fred Flintstone shuffle.
  4. And as far as your high-paying job goes, no matter how much you make the government will tax most of it because nothing is free. Someone has to pay for everything government gives to someone else.

I expect most people who support this sort of thing will say they are willing to sacrifice and pay more in taxes to make it work.  What they mean is they will give up a trip to Starbuck’s once a week or cut their Netflix rentals a movie a month.

Reality would be much different. You lose your house, your car, and your savings. If you think all this would apply to someone else because you have a secure pension, safely invested annuity, or comfortable IRA, think again.

If we elect a government that promises to give us everything the only thing we can be sure of is that it will take all that we have. These people aren’t coming for the billionaires and millionaires. They are coming for us all.

Down for the Revolution

If any of my fellow conservatives hear that I’m down for the revolution they may think I’ve lost my mind. I better explain.

First, I believe in fundamentally changing America – at least the parts that limit freedom and independence. We need to reduce government regulation, cut taxes, increase school choice, and release the entrepreneurial spirit of our people. That would make for fundamental change.

Second, I believe Black Lives Matter. That’s why I stand with great Americans like Frederick Douglass who fought against slavery. That’s why I stand with Martin Luther King Jr. and his non-violent struggle for equality for all Americans as expressed in the Declaration of Independence. That’s why I stand with Alveda King in opposition to abortion, which has devastated the minority population of our nation.

Third, I believe in changes in how the police operate in our major cities. They clearly need greater funding, more manpower, and better training. They also deserve our heartfelt thanks for doing a job that would scare the average suburban soccer mom straight out of her yoga pants.

Fourth, I deeply admire the four most radical, nonconformist, revolutionaries in our nation’s history, who are carved in stone on Mount Rushmore.

George Washington risked his fortune and safety and spent the better part of his life in dire danger to help create a nation where the population could determine its future rather than having it imposed by a king.

Thomas Jefferson wrote perhaps the most elegant description of freedom ever penned: The Declaration of Independence.

Abraham Lincoln maintained the union and freed the slaves and for that was shot dead in a theater.

Teddy Roosevelt was a leader of integrity and great vision, the only person to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Nobel Peace Prize.

These four remarkable men had something in common that all of the so-called revolutionaries of 2020 lack; they wanted to build the nation, not tear it down. They didn’t want to diminish one group for the benefit of another; they wanted a better life for all. Unlike today’s “revolutionaries,” they didn’t sit in their comfortable homes and fund others to subvert and destroy; they were in the front lines of the battle risking everything for our nation.

Nobody who has ever walked this earth was perfect (with one notable exception). Past heroes were flawed, today’s leaders are imperfect, and tomorrow’s trailblazers likely will stumble on their journeys.

The same is true of America, an imperfect union but one built on a stronger and more moral foundation than any other nation in the history of the planet. We will be a better nation by building on the best we have, remembering our history, and improving to become even greater.

By the way, I’m generally opposed to toppling statues, especially those who depict historic figures of importance in the building of the nation. In recent days, we’ve witnessed the desecration of the person who discovered the New World, a couple great leaders of faith, and people who fought for the end of slavery.

The young thugs who tore down those tributes to the past might better spend their time in history class learning how foolish they have been. And maybe they should have a conversation about that statue of Lenin in Seattle.

In the meantime, I will continue to be down for the revolution, the revolution of 1776.

Be Not Afraid

603px-The_ScreamOf all the brilliant messages Saint Pope John Paul II told the world, the one I believe mattered the most was clear and simple: Be Not Afraid.

The tiny but gigantic piece of advice has been rumbling around in my heart and mind of late as I experience the stay-at-home restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic.

The world is beset with fear. Faith and hope that should dispel fear are sorely lacking not only among the rank-and-file people but in their political and religious leaders.

The world is fighting a virus. It is tiny, nasty, and impossible to defeat, at least in the short term. Many of us have been restricted to our homes. Schools, churches, and some businesses are closed. The stated purpose of all this is to halt the spread of the virus.

But the decisions by political leaders are deeply confused. They claim to be concerned for people and lives. I think they are responding to fear, sustained by lack of faith.

What am I talking about?

Let’s start with the decisions of the politicians:

  • I can to the grocery store as long as I stay six feet away from other people wear a mask over my nose and mouth.
  • I cannot go to Church.
  • Kids can’t go to school.
  • I can go to the hardware store but not the clothing store.
  • I can get my car repaired but can’t have my teeth cleaned.
  • People can enjoy the forest preserves in my area but the immense Chicago lakefront parks are closed.

I could add many more examples but I think you get the point; there is a heap of inconsistency going on. Myriad restaurants and other small businesses are going to go bankrupt.

But our political leaders are making fear-based decisions. They say they are keeping the world closed to save lives. I think they just don’t want to be blamed for the loss of life.

In recent days, I have often heard a politician say something along the lines of: “If we save one life it is worth doing what we are doing, even if the economic consequences are horrible.”

That sounds noble but it is just plain lame. Politicians don’t really want to do absolutely anything to save just one life.

If that were true, we would ban air travel and train travel. We could close every street and highway. We would prohibit motorcycles, bicycles, tricycles, skateboards, rollerblades, and BB guns.

We don’t do those things and we would be insane to do them. In fact, we make decisions all the time that is isn’t worth untold sums of money to “just save one life”. If we really believe we should do everything possible to save one life we would make the speed limit on our streets 5 miles per hour. We would require school playgrounds to be built of shock-absorbing rubber that prevents bumps and bruises. We would require every citizen to have a daily physical exam and test for every known disease.

We don’t do those things because they would create a miserable world and are totally impractical. Locking us in our homes also is impractical.

And where are the leaders of the Catholic Church in all of this? They are supporting the decisions of the politicians.  Churches are closed. No Mass. No Confessions. No weddings. No funerals.

Yes, if you loaded up a church with hundreds of people coughing on each other you might spread the virus. But the same is true in a hardware store or grocery store. And as with those buildings, there are measures a church can take to ensure health and safety.

But what bothers me more is that our Church leaders have accepted the situation. At a time when people need the sacraments more than ever, the doors are locked. I suspect that is because diocesan lawyers have told bishops that if they challenge the politicians and open the doors – and someone gets sick – they will be liable.

Perhaps. But if we truly believe what we say we believe, that isn’t the worse thing that could happen. The worse thing is what is happening. People are deprived of the sacraments.

I don’t want anyone to get sick with coronavirus, let alone die. But if we truly believe in the Eucharist, we should be willing to risk death to consume it.  And our leaders should do anything to provide us with the path to everlasting life. After all, Jesus really can save every single life.

The Essential Truth

1 the Lord and our Lady-1We’re living in the midst of what some folks believe is the worst disaster in history: the coronavirus pandemic.

Workers in “non-essential” businesses are at home, schools and churches are closed, unemployment is soaring, and the government is handling out trillions of dollars to keep things afloat.

Yes, it is a difficult time and tens of thousands of people around the world are sick and dying. But as is usually the case, those suffering in the present forget the suffering of the past.

World War I was worse. World War II was worse. Plagues in the Middle Ages were worse.  Plagues in Ancient Greece were worse. We could debate for hours about what was the worst of the worse.

Like most folks, after more than a month under quarantine, I’m a bit weary. I want to walk in the park, fish, and sit in a neighborhood restaurant and enjoy a meal served by a happy and employed person.

This brings me to what is really eating me today; how do we define “essential”. Essential businesses can stay open. Non-essential business must close. And there are some that seem to fall partly into both categories.

Essential enterprises include grocery stores, gas stations, and cannabis dispensaries.

Non-essential businesses include hair salons, book stores, and health clubs.

There are hybrids. Restaurants can’t seat customers but can offer carryout or delivery. Big box department stores can stay open if they offer groceries.

Of course, this means that if you own an essential business you still have income and can pay your employees.

If you have a non-essential business you may face total failure despite government assistance programs.

What I consider to be essential may be different than what you deem essential. I’m sure we could agree grocery stores are essential. Perhaps you are grateful that you can still buy cannabis; I don’t care if those shops close and stay closed – forever.

This situation makes me think about what really is essential in life. We can start with the basest of basics: air, water, food. Then we progress through shelter, companionship, the ability to create art and music, to our spiritual relationship with God.

All these things are essential; some are more urgent than others. For example, air is so urgent a need that without it you die in a matter of minutes. The ability to create art and music may not be urgent but it is essential to what makes us human.

Who am you or I do judge what is essential or non-essential? Today, my urgent needs are being met but the truly essential needs are difficult to obtain.

Being with my children and grandchildren is essential… and that essential need is beginning to feel urgent. When the quarantine lifts — supposedly in about a month — there will many beautiful reunions.

I need confession and the Eucharist. I need the community of the faithful, live and in-person as opposed to on a computer screen.

I need to be human again.

Billions and Trillions and Money, Oh My

A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money… Everett McKinley Dirkson

Everett Dirkson was an Illinois politician who served many years in the United States Senate. He was an eloquent speaker and as Republican Minority Leader played a key role in gaining passage of national civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

His most famous quote (above) expressed his concern that government spent too much money. There is some evidence he never actually said those precise words… and less evidence he did much to prevent the growth of big government.

Dirkson, who died in 1969, would likely have a difficult time processing the size of the $2-trillion economic stimulus bill enacted by the federal government in March of 2020 in response to the coronavirus. It certainly is real money.

Let me stipulate right now that I don’t deny the good intentions of the legislation to help people facing medical and economic crises during the pandemic. Neither do I suggest that there isn’t a role for government in times of crisis and the need to spend large sums of money for those in need.

However, I was disgusted by the attempts during the creation of the legislation to throw every politician’s pet fantasy into the bill. Voter registration, bans on fossil fuels, support for art projects, a bailout for the post office, forgiveness of student loans, more money for public broadcasting.  Some of these things slouched into the final legislation.

The appalling debate brought two of the 10 Commandments to mind:

  1. Thou shalt not steal.
  2. Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s goods.

There is much in the stimulus bill that is about caring for people and helping others. There also is much about income redistribution, which tends to spring from the violation of the 10th Commandment.

And to achieve this redistribution it is required that the 7th Commandment be violated on a massive, national scale. The government takes money from some people and gives it to other people. The politicians doing this stealing like to think of themselves as modern-day Robin Hoods, taking from the rich and giving to the poor.

The problem is, they need to better understand the story of the famous thief.  What he did was seize tax money unjustly taken by the government and return it to the people.

Our politicians do just the opposite; they take from the poor, via taxes, and pay for the pet projects of the rich and well-connected. The farmer struggling to keep the family farm in Iowa and the small-town grocer trying to make ends meet in Omaha are paying taxes to the government so politicians can give grants to the National Endowment for the Arts.

Robin Hood would be disgusted.

Everett Dirkson would have to change his quote: A trillion, a trilling there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money.

Happy at Home

espo columnI live in Illinois, where the governor has issued a “stay at home order” and I’m getting along fine and dandy.

Blame the coronavirus.

Let me start by pointing out that despite what some in the press are reporting there is not a “shelter in place” decree.  Shelter in place is what a high school does when a crazed shooter appears on campus; everyone seeks shelter and stays there until the “all clear” is given. It is what people in a chemical plant do if there is a toxic gas leak. It is what farmers in Kansas do when tornadoes appear on the horizon.

Stay at home is serious but less onerous. It means if you don’t have an essential job you stay at some. You can go for a walk or work in your yard, but you can’t visit the grandkids or hold your Friday night poker game.

Only essential business may remain open: groceries, gas stations, banks, carryout food, pharmacies.

Non-essential businesses include bowling alleys, dance clubs, bars, fashion boutiques, florists.

Schools and churches are closed and most people are working remotely from home or out of a job until we either get coronavirus under control or it runs its deadly course.

Pick up any newspaper and you will read of the psychological dangers faced by families suddenly faced with being in the same building for days and nights on end. Of course, those people who live alone can’t go out and mingle with the rest of humanity so they face a future some consider worse than coronavirus: cabin fever.

conradHowever, for some of us (me, in particular), life really hasn’t changed all that much on most days.  I’ve been working from home for two decades so I’m quite accustomed to getting out of bed in the morning and walking 20 steps to my office, which is wherever my computer and phone are charging. During these 20 years, I have had just one consistent office mate, Lady Conrad, a green-cheeked conure.

Being under stay at home orders has some clear disadvantages. I can’t visit my grandchildren and they can’t come to spend the day, which they usually do once a week. I can’t go to Mass at a church. I can’t get a cup of coffee and sit in my local coffee shop.

But with all the online technology available, I can visit my grandchildren via live video, watch Mass live, and still get coffee to go and talk a walk in the park.

Through the internet, I have access to virtually every movie, television program, piece of recorded music, and book ever produced. I also have dozens of books I have obtained with high intentions of reading but that remain on the “to be read” shelf in my office – or the download file in my e-reader.

I can talk to friends on the phone, use email or texting, and I belong to an online prayer group that meets weekly through video conferencing.

In other words, as a long-time worker from home, I learned long ago how not to be isolated even if it seems I am – at least physically.

Like any human being, God never leaves me alone. He is always there for me though I have to confess the sometimes I’m not there for Him. We do talk daily through prayer. Most of my prayers are short and simple. For example, when I complete a challenging piece of work I’ll say “thanks for helping me get that done”. When my computer freezes in the midst of an especially inspiring line of writing my prayer is more like “come on, why now?”

I’m also blessed during this time of being home because my wife’s place of work is closed and she is home with me. I expect there are many people who are not thrilled about the people they are sharing space with. But in my case, I have the person I love more than anyone else in the world, my best friend, and a really fun person all wrapped into one.

I have a happy home and I’m happy to be here.  Thank you, God.