Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Pragmatism or Idealism...

I can't resist reading the student paper from a local university that will remain anonymous. Normally I just glance at the headlines, because I can get a better balance of real news from other places (just a preference, not a criticism), but it's difficult to stay away from the opinions page and funnies for more than a few days. I'm not sure why I bother with the former--maybe I just expose myself to yellow journalism to get myself riled up--but I probably bother with the latter, despite not being funny anymore, because they're on the same page as the crossword. Suffice it to say I hope there aren't too many journalism majors on hand; the New York Times doesn't have room for all of them.

The story about the American Girl dolls seems to have trickled about all the way down by now. "Conservatives have this habit of attempting to twist the truth to make it more controversial and make people riled up." Funny, the GOP was pretty stern about advancing the war on terror, but I don't remember them being the ones who were so shrill about how badly it was going, or how badly things were going at home, or how badly the rest of the world thinks of us. Well, if there weren't drama queens on both sides, politics wouldn't be interesting enough for us to bother with, I suppose.

I was going to comment on the presumption of the writer that not only is her position necessarily and obviously correct, but that it's shared by most people; but I suppose I do it myself. I think it would do me well to remain circumspect about such things. Kindly remind me if I let myself forget, would you please?

Nevertheless, I'm curious how many pundits and wannabes think they're really firmly ensconced in the persecuted majority. Until recently, I had the impression, being countercultural, being the underdog was the cool thing to be. I guess being the unjustly persecuted majority is the new hotness. I'm not making any comments about what proportion of America self-identifies as conservative, liberal, or something else; I'm just wondering how representative the people with polar views really think they are.

So, when they act suprised that we're still not keen on abortion or gay marriage, I'm a little surprised myself. When they express disgust that we should draw a line in the moral sand, especially with such care, and when they express shock that we do so promptly in the face of something we take very seriously, I'm surprised again. Do they not think we believe what we say we believe, do they think we're only trying to concentrate power at the expense of various demographics? Do they not see that while we may agree that girls should grow up to be well-informed and thoughtful women, it's possible to be such without assuming that the entire issue of the humanity of the unborn must take a back seat to the self-determination of women as indistinguishible from or superior to men? If men aren't obsolete by now. Am I going too far yet? Yeah, probably.

"Conservatives have taken it too far this time." Oh, yes. God forbid that we stand up for anything, like other people can do, and express our displeasure of certain business arrangements, even going so far as to boycott them, for moral reasons. I guess we should only be allowed to protest the business as usual of large corporations, and then only if the reasons are based on race or class.

Oh, we also went too far boycotting stores that prohibit their employees from saying "Merry Christmas." I guess trying to specify every winter holiday like "Happy Hannukah, merry Christmas, happy Kwanzaa" is just unreasonably difficult. God forbid something not be easy in this world. I think "Happy holidays" should be adequately inclusive, but most people around here are celebrating Christmas, specifically, so it strikes me as more than a little silly to specifically excluse Christmas in order not to offend a few people who think, I don't know, maybe that no one should have fun if they can't be in on it. I'm not entirely sure what their motivation is.

Elsewhere on the page, abstinence-only education was decried as being ineffective. Admittedly, with sex in our culture reaching children at lower and lower ages, simply trying to shield children may no longer be the most prudent solution, but it doesn't seem to me that the only two options are "teach nothing but waiting until marriage" and "teach how to have sex consensually and safely with whomever." Oh, does it seem like a non sequitur to you? It should, because I haven't given you the punchline yet:

I've met some good men who have looked back on their early sexual experiences and recognized instances when they wrongly believed they were having sex--although what was really happening was sexual assault. While they still should be held completely accountable for their decision to go through with the assults, I can't help but think that if they had open and honest information about what is and isn't sex--the kind of information offered in comprehensive sexual education programs--they would have been able to make much better decisions about how to act. A lot of trauma could have been averted.

Buh? On the contrary, knowing what assault is can and should be something taught before someone is physically capable of committing assault, or before someone is likely to be having sex. Condoms are a prophylactic against pregnancy, not against rape. If there are parents out there who aren't teaching respect for other people and the boundaries of good behavior while they're teaching them not to sleep around, then we are dealing with two seperate issues. Some sex education program that explains how rape is bad isn't well rounded, it's killing two birds with one stone, one of which the parents really should have tried to flush out, shoot, and dress in a previous episode. Teaching respect and cultivating morals avert trauma, not teaching how libertine sex can seem like a good idea if you really want to believe it.

Does this juxtaposition/forced association even make sense to people? Guys rape because chastity is an unreasonable goal? Is there a more charitable way to frame this assertion?

Finally, finally...I was originally not going to comment on this last topic, since it was presented by a young man who likes to mix "Of course I'm right, truth is democratically determined and I'm sure most people worth counting agree with me!" with things that are only more trivial than they are silly, yet still seems interested in being taken seriously (or maybe he thinks he's Dave Barry), but since it does seem a little psychotic, I'll just truss up a question or three and leave them for you to consider. Forgive me for being reluctant to give him the benefit of the doubt, but at least Dave Barry is funny.

Bah, you know I have brevity issues.

He was writing about the Document, which appears to have been studied carefully through various second-degree sources that have already digested its contents. There was the now-common claim that there are too many gay priests who will get drummed out for the Church to survive, the suggestion that promoting gay rights somehow does not fall under Rome's allegedly provincial definition of "supporting gay culture." (If you're equivocating gay rights with human rights, then I suppose Rome would be a bit narrow about it.) Then there was the claim that Benedict XVI's use of Prada shoes will undermine his attempts to keep the Hierarchy all straight and...whatever.

This style of argument hurts my teeth just looking at it, but methinks the lady doth protest too much! Why is a non-Catholic so concerned about how the Catholic Church administrates itself? Why the surprise that a backwards institution would perpetuate its errors in this enlightened postmodern world? Sure, it's sad that many Catholics follow the "spirit" of Vatican II to spite its texts, whether you think would-be faithful Catholics should be faithful or rebellious, but if the Church is on the verge of a much-needed collapse, why this sudden benificence? If you had so many problems with Rome, would just changing a tiny fraction of the most newsworthy dogmas or policies really make it palatable enough for you to join? If not, what would justify gay seminarians? This impression I get of what people think the Church should be is so different from what it is--even, to be fair, from what it seems to be to others--that I wonder why anybody who seems not to care really can't leave well enough alone. The Church is unique in many ways; is it supposed to resemble some other denomination? Which one? Is it supposed to be something else?

Maybe I'll bloviate on it in the future--the orthodox answer should be obvious already--but these posts tend to be too long as it is. I'm not sure even divvying things up will help....

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