Monday, October 31, 2011

American culture-blindness in Iraq

The Telegraph obituary of career British diplomat Sir Hilary Synnott discusses his observation in Iraq of the revolutionary American mentality:

The CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority] itself, he found, was mainly staffed by American policy wonks — “young, naive, pushy people” fired with a messianic zeal rapidly to replace centuries of tribal and religious rivalries and state control with democracy and free markets, and displaying a dogmatism that, as Synnott drily noted, “cut no ice” with the Iraqis.

Perhaps the two greatest forces in American life today are egalitarianism and capitalism. Both opinionmakers and politicians shun other cultural questions, either because they believe they are unimportant or because they believe they are losing issues.

This muteness has crippled our response to cultural decay at home, so it is no surprise it has crippled our international actions as well.

Without cultural ballast, a democratic society cannot make the distinctions necessary for rational thought, let alone wise governance.

How does a country recover from this desolation?

(Link via Rod Dreher)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Remembering Denver's Italian community

Before Columbus Day became a time for Ward Churchill's followers to flaunt their self-righteous indignation, it was a time for Italian-Americans to remember their heritage and the faith which inspired their countryman on his world-changing voyage.

The Denver Catholic Register's archives remind us of this rich history, using the words of many local Italians themselves.

The Register's 1988 Columbus Day issue interviews Gerald Natale, pharmacist of the North Denver Tejon Drug Co. Also featured are Fr. Thomas M. Lo Cascio, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel organist Nettie Borelli, former restauranteur and Democratic district captain Ernie Capillupo, and future Congressman Tom Tancredo. Rosie C. DeLorenzo Churchill recalls life in North Denver, while Vicki Villegas, daughter of Louisville's Blue Parrot owner Joe Colacci, talks about rebuilding the restauruant after a fire.

In the 1990 issue, Genevive N. D'Amoto Fiore recounts her life, including run-ins with anti-Italian discrimination. Carmine Lonardo's Italian Sausage and Meal Deli in Lakewood also gets an article, as does the priest who baptized me: Father Dorino DeLazzer, who now lives in Greeley. The Register also profiles Amato of Denver concrete statuary business owner Carlo Amato, along with Dante Alighieri Society then-president Pamela Adducci.

Not surprisingly, the issue also covers Mother Cabrini and her famous work in Denver.

Despite our official praise for diversity, America's white ethnics have become largely invisible. Many have have left their old neighborhoods. Sometimes they left because of the lure of a better life elsewhere. Sometimes they left because political actors refused to defend their homes from crime, poor schools, or massive "urban renewal" projects.

Thanks to the assimilatory forces of modern culture (a mixed blessing, for sure), many have forgotten both the great and the humble achievements of their ancestors.

But there are always family members who will remember great-grandfather and tell his story to the next generation.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Fox 31 spikes $2 million quote about Tim Gill’s 2012 election spending

The death of a proposed civil unions bill in the Colorado House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee deeply angered Tim Gill, the multi-millionaire gay activist whose smartly targeted campaign spending has helped re-shape Colorado politics.

Gill’s lawyer Ted Trimpa said Gill will now be spending millions more to defeat Republicans across the state, starting with GOP members of the statehouse, Fox 31 News reports.

“It might be a difference of, before, spending $200,000 [on 2012 House races], and now spending $2 million,” Trimpa said.

Or at least, that’s what he said before Fox 31 edited the story to remove the quote.

The National Organization for Marriage blog caught the edit.

Fox 31 reporter Eli Stokols’ story now closes with Trimpa saying “It's very likely there will be consequences for not allowing full debate and consideration by the full House.”

The story no longer mentions dollar amounts.

An inquiry about the edit sent to Fox 31 and Mr. Stokols received no reply.

Regular news writers know there can be many reasons for modifying a quote. Perhaps Trimpa was talking off-the-cuff and the dollar amounts were inexact and inflated.

Or perhaps the writer or editor of the story felt forced to keep a key source happy and spiked revealing inside information about the 2012 election.

Colorado’s Republicans have a bare 33-32 majority in the House and a big money man could have disproportionate impact on the future of our state.

Of all issues to swing elections, the civil unions issue is one of the least important. While support for such unions has increased in the U.S. since they were first created in Vermont in 2000, their possible ramifications are under-debated.

We have heard little about the burdens to over-regulated business owners and objecting religious organizations, the potential for abuse, and even the basic financial costs of implementation to cash-strapped state, county and municipal governments.

The debate’s focus was entirely on gay rights even though the bill also allows unrelated heterosexual couples to contract unions – which in France has resulted in more civil unions than civil marriages!

In hard times, we should look not to create new facsimiles of the family. Rather, we should look to the tried and tested family policy of the New Deal. Scholars like Allan Carlson have praised that era’s focus on shaping economic policy specifically to help a working man support a wife and kids.

But that’s not an option Tim Gill and friends would like to be on the agenda.

When an obsessed multi-millionaire aims to change the political landscape and rewrite the social constitution of our state, his activities deserve more media scrutiny, not less. Fox 31’s edit suggests the news media is telling us less than we deserve to know.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The pleasures of reaction

The master aphorist Don Colacho says: "We reactionaries provide idiots the pleasure of feeling like daring avant-garde thinkers."

Perhaps he speaks of progressive critics who think they are on a march to enlightenment. They leave backwards thinkers behind.

Or perhaps he speaks of his admirers who quote him profusely and deem themselves to be part of a rising cognoscenti. 

The entire set of aphorisms is worth reading. The Anglosphere owes a debt to the translator Stephen, who has considerably boosted the reputation of this insightful Colombian.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Gerard Manley Hopkins Conference returns to Regis March 23-25

Events begin at 6 p.m. Friday with light soup and conversation at Regis’ Main Hall, Room 333. Actor Richard Austin will deliver a performance of Hopkins’ poetry at 7:30 p.m.

Paper presentations begin at 8:15 a.m. Saturday in the same room.

Sophia University’s Fr. Peter Milward, S.J., who endured Japan’s massive earthquake, will speak “On the Silences of Newman and Hopkins” at 11 a.m. that day. (Unless his travel arrangements have been affected.)

The Hopkins Memorial Mass will take place in Regis’ chapel at 4:45 p.m.

Sunday presentations will also begin at 8:15 a.m.

Victoria McCabe (contact information) should have more detailed information for those who wish to know more.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Want young people at church? Stop your Sunday shopping.

Sherry Weddell of the Colorado Springs-based Siena Institute has been doing important work on the demographic problems facing American Catholicism. She cites disturbing figures:

"Roughly 32% of those raised Catholic have abandoned the identity altogether. An additional 38% of those raised Catholic retain the identity but seldom or never bother to show up. 30% attend Mass at least once a month. Only about 15.6% are at Mass on a given weekend... Catholics leave the Church and the name Catholic by age 23. The majority by age 18."

She notes that attending CCD, involvement in youth ministry and going to a Catholic high school make little or no difference about whether a young man or woman stays Catholic.

But so far she misses one obvious question:

What do young churchgoing Catholics do on Sunday when they start to drift from the Church?

Certainly, some are sleeping in or goofing off. Yet in my experience many young Catholics are working very hard to support themselves or their families or to prepare for the future.

Unlike those fortunate to have "normal" weekday jobs, my twentysomething friends who work retail all have to work Sundays because that's when everyone shops.

If young people are busy working, it's very hard for them to get to Mass.

Catholics are notoriously apathetic about evangelization. If Catholics must be apathetic, let's at least be apathetic in the right ways and not shop or contract labor on Sunday.

Every time we shop on Sunday, we provide a bit more pressure on some young low-paid worker to skip church. This is a matter of worker's rights and, yes, social justice.

As the Catechism says:

"Sanctifying Sundays and holy days requires a common effort. Every Christian should avoid making unnecessary demands on others that would hinder them from observing the Lord's Day."

This is a larger problem than is recognized. In response to these comments on Mark Shea's blog, one woman wrote:

"My husband frequently has to work both Saturday evening and Sunday morning. He works for a grocery store. He has asked if he can be excused from Sunday work because of his religious faith and been told no, because he's in management. It's either quit his job (not an option!) or frequently be literally unable to attend Mass.

"So many people think absolutely nothing about zipping over to the supermarket after Mass on Sunday to pick up a jar of peanut butter. Come on, you couldn't wait one more day? You couldn't think about these things on Saturday?"

This woman's plight is too common. It also suggests Sunday labor has ripple effects. If her family owns only one car (a likely case, in a country where there is less than one car for every two people) both she and her children will face more difficulties simply attending Mass.

Just imagine the difficulty if both spouses work more than two low-paying jobs to stay afloat.

Some parishes are very aware of the problems of arranging rides to Mass for the elderly or disabled. But I'm not sure we're very good at helping distressed families or newly independent young people physically travel to Mass. A mere volunteer driving program can help people grow in faith.

What's more, destructive economic habits don't end with the worker. Many Catholics who leave the faith surely start their decline in a fateful Sunday morning decision to visit the mall instead of Mass.

Both custom and law once prevented Americans from shopping and unnecessary economic activity on Sunday. Such laws are now on the wane, as is churchgoing and human happiness.

Catholic commentators love to condemn the dictatorship of relativism. But for the working man or woman who has trouble making it to Mass on Sunday, a far greater threat to faith is the small dictator in management. Not to mention his many Catholic patrons, myself included, who have acted like Sunday is no different than any other day.

We cannot serve both God and Mammon. What easier way to serve God than through collective inaction on the Lord's Day?