Televised Trials: The For-Real Hunger Games

I did not watch the Zimmerman murder trial. I did not watch the OJ trial. I haven’t watched any of the televised trials that obsess the public.

I also didn’t follow the Timothy McVeigh trial, even though I had a personal interest in its outcome.

From the way that Americans seem to react to these trials, I think perhaps a lot of other people should consider skipping them, too. Trials that put people’s lives and freedom to the test are not some sort of call-in entertainment where the audience picks the winner.

The people who are tasked with the terrible decisions these trials require are the citizens who sit on the jury. I leave it to them, and when I do it, I am grateful that I am not one of them.

Even with Timothy McVeigh, I did not want to sit on the jury that tried him. I did not want to watch his execution. I didn’t want any part of it. However, with McVeigh, I was so trapped in the horrible web of near victim obsession with this particular crime and criminal that I could not stop thinking about it. I oppose the death penalty, but it was a relief when he finally shut up and I knew I would not have to hear about him anymore.

I cannot imagine how I would have felt if the jury had turned him lose. However, I do know two things: My job would have been to go on from there and live, and watching the trial would not have helped me deal with an unwanted verdict.

I’ve had the misfortune of sitting through trials where people I know are involved. Believe me, you don’t want that to be you.

These trials are about horrible events that shatter people’s lives. They are usually about twisted situations that have been brewing and stewing; distilling their malice and meanness for years. There is nothing pretty or edifying about them. The people involved, on both sides, are at the extremities of grief, terror and desperation. This is not a fictional movie or television show in which actors pretend to be in anguish. These are real people, and they are suffering agonies.

These televised trials are becoming a sort of Hunger Games gone real, with vast audiences entertained by watching people suffer horribly. There are no winners in trials like this. The person who has been murdered has already lost their life. In a very real way, the person who is on trial has lost their life, as well. They are suffering extremities of fear that are unimaginable for those of us who haven’t been in the judicial barrel. The judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys will usually end up with tarnished reputations and, due to the massive television audience, the full grief of public notoriety.

The public, in many ways, is the biggest loser, for the simple reason that they have the most to lose. They aren’t dead. Their loved ones haven’t been murdered. They are not on trial for their lives. They don’t have to make the agonizing decision as to guilt and innocence. They are safe, free, unburdened by the responsibility of holding another person’s life in their hands.

But by watching this trial hour after hour, day after day, they become enmeshed in the terrors and miseries of other people’s tragedies to the point that they start feeling as if it did happen to them, and it is about them. This is empathy turned self-destructive. It is obsession that removes the person watching from the simple reality that none of this is about them and none of it happened to them.

These viewers let this trial eat up their days and consume their emotions and thoughts. They take on the responsibility of the jury and sit there in front of their tvs, allowing a cheap obsession to take over their thinking and their lives.

When the verdict comes down and they don’t agree with it, they go into paroxysms of rage and outrage, demanding a re-trial, another charge, another dose of vengeance. Or, if they like the verdict, they feel sated and smug, released of the tension-producing competitiveness that their understanding of the evidence might not prevail.

There is a word for this. The word is obsession. The so-called “news” stations who run these trials are not even vaguely trying to report news. They are going for inexpensive ratings. They are ignoring serious news stories that the public needs to know about to put these trials on the air.

I didn’t watch it, but I gather that the President of the United States had to make a speech about this latest public trial. I see photos of protesting mobs, and grief stricken people, including little children, who are enraged, bereft and emotionally scarred by this verdict.

Make no mistake about it: The events that set this trail in motion are tragic. It was and is a gut-wrenching, heart-tearing tragedy that should not have happened. The people who are close to it will never be the same. But it didn’t happen to that vast television audience or those enraged mobs or even to the President and his Attorney General.

The people it did happen to will suffer for it all their days. But the rest of us will forget it and move on to the next new televised tragedy. In a matter of weeks, we’ll be wringing our hands over something else. Because, you see, it didn’t happen to us. It’s not our lives that are torn apart. It is our cheap entertainment, our obsession that blocks out the pain of whatever really is happening to us. It is our hunger games.

From my I-didn’t-watch-it perspective, all this obsessive rage over this trial looks crazy. I can not fathom it, and that, my friends, is the fruit of not watching. I’m not enraged and distraught. I have not spent my days suffering through a tragedy I can’t change. I am clear of all this craziness and pain.

I know I’m going to get thrashed for saying this. But people need to turn off their televisions and go outside. They need to take a walk or go to a movie about a fictional trial where nobody really dies and nobody really suffers.

Spend time with your families. Pay your bills. Read a book. Play some golf. Go swimming, kiss your babies, say your prayers.

And realize: This didn’t happen to you.

Same Judge Who Turned Hobby Lobby Down, Now Grants Them a Stay on HHS Mandate

I’ve read the news reports on several outlets, and I’m not exactly sure what the judge did, except that it’s clear that he stopped the government from dropping the guillotine on Hobby Lobby next month.

The draconian HHS Mandate, which is scheduled to go into effect in August, would probably, in the judge’s own words, “cut the legs from under” any “individual or corporation” who is so bold as to say “no” to it. Judge Joe Heaton ruled that Hobby Lobby is exempt from compliance with the HHS Mandate, at least until higher courts rule in the matter. He also put the case on hold until October 1 to give the Obama administration time to respond.

What does this mean?

Well, it means that the government can’t start putting Hobby Lobby out of business because it won’t pay for abortifacients for its employees, at least not next month.

It also gives the Obama administration a bloody nose. The administration originally contended that First Amendment protections of the free exercise of religion only applied to churches. Then, when it began losing in court, the administration widened that out to include direct affiliates of churches. The administration has not budged in its position that the First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion does not apply to you, me or any other individual.

I think this latest ruling puts other judges on the hot seat. Are they going to allow corporations and individuals to go down the tubes next month, or are they going to step up and grant similar stays for everyone?

One interesting fact: Judge Joe Heaton is the same judge who denied a somewhat similar request by Hobby Lobby in November 2012. His reasoning then read like Obama administration boilerplate.

What has happened to change his mind?

It may be that the reasoning of other justices who did not agree with him made him re-think the issue. It may also be that he finally wised up to the fact that the HHS Mandate is a challenge to the Constitution itself. It may also be that he came to understand what I saw when I first read about the nascent HHS Mandate months before it was promulgated: This thing has the makings of a Constitutional crisis of a magnitude not seen in this country since the Civil War.

There has been a huge overstepping of individual liberties in the culture wars lately. Whether the issue is abortion or gay marriage, those who promote these positions are not satisfied with laws that allow them to do what they want. They are pushing hard for laws that force other people to participate in doing it with them.

The HHS Mandate, by directly targeting the Church itself, along with its many ministries, stepped up the fight and made it something that was impossible to ignore. The days of going along to get along ended for believers in religious liberty and freedom of conscience when President Obama signed that thing.

It’s possible Judge Heaton got his wits together and realized the magnitude of what he was dealing with. It’s also possible that Hobby Lobby’s lawyers wrote a better brief this time around.

I don’t know.

I do know that this ruling today is a good and hopeful one for all of us who hold our Constitutional liberties dear.

Imprisoned for Christ: Cardinal Van Thuan

I once worked with a woman who had lived through the fall of Viet Nam and then stayed in the country after the communist takeover.

She told me that where she lived, the officials would call someone in for questioning. She said that this person was never seen again. They simply vanished.

When they called her to come in for questioning, she and her large family stayed up all night discussing what to do. They decided to walk out of Viet Nam under darkness and take their chances on the open sea as stateless refugees. They did this as an entire family group.

She cried when she told me of the terrible things that happened in the boats with the other refugees.

Long story short, she and her family ended up in Oklahoma, where, when I knew her, they were working together to build a new life.

This lady was not a Christian. She was a Buddhist. They were rural people who had never had contact with the Americans during the war. Her crime was that her family was a well-to-do family who owned a granary in her small town. She was also an attorney.

Cardinal Van Thuan committed a much worse crime, one that continues to be punished in Viet Nam today. He was a Christian. Not only that, he was a leader in the Catholic Church.
The result was that Cardinal Van Thuan spent 13 years in solitary confinement inside a Viet Nam prison. He was so completely shut off from the world that most of his friends and followers thought he was dead. I would guess that what happened to him was somewhat like what happened to the people my friend knew: He went in, and was never heard from again.

I’ve read The Miracle of Hope by Andre Nguyen and Van Chau and also The Testimony of Hope which is a retreat Cardinal van Thuan gave for Pope John Paul II. I recommend both books to those who want to learn more about this great man of Christ.

My archbishop, Archbishop Paul Coakley, ordained our newest priest on June 29. Here is what he said:

We are living in an age of increasing indifference or even hostility toward faith and toward the Church. The generation of priests ordained today will, I suspect, witness increasing persecution and perhaps even a new age of martyrdom. It is already happening in other parts of the world.

Given certain signs of our times today, it is naive to believe it could not happen here. It is important, therefore, to be clear. The priesthood is not a career; it is not a path for those seeking a comfortable life. The priesthood is a vocation of radical commitment and radical dependence on Jesus Christ, who came not to be served but to serve.

I’m glad my archbishop realizes this and has the courage to say it publicly. Far too many priests are either unaware of it, or indifferent to it. As a Public Catholic in the political realm, and more specifically as a Catholic Democratic elected official, I’ve been on the tip of the sword for a long time now. I can tell you without reservation that I saw this coming way back for the simple reason that I was the object of so much excoriation and social/verbal abuse in my office because of my faith.

I had the advantage of perspective, since I had been in office in the 1980s, then left to raise my kids and was later re-elected to the same position. The changes in attitude and behavior toward Christians by non-believers was stark. However, most Christians were reacting by either allowing themselves and their faith to be co-opted so they’d feel comfortable with this new world, or by withdrawing into their Christian friendships and refusing to see it.

I knew it was a matter of time before it started expanding to other Christians who try to follow the Gospels but who were not in the hot spot of being Democratic elected Catholics. I found then, as I do now, that not many people want to hear the truth of what is happening. This attitude further isolates the Christian who is being attacked for Christ and also encourages the attackers to continue. At the very least, we need to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ when they are attacked for the faith we hold.

These head-in-sand Christians compare themselves to people like Cardinal van Thuan and say, I’m not afraid of being arrested in the middle of the night and put in solitary confinement for 13 years, so there is no problem here.

My answer to them is the same one alcoholics anonymous says to its adherents who claim they aren’t so sick since they’ve never done what that other drunk next to them has done: Not yet.

If you consider where we are now compared to where we were even 10 years ago, I don’t believe you can honestly say that this country, and indeed the whole Western world is not on a trajectory of overt hostility and verbal abuse and lately legal discrimination against Christians. If this trajectory is not reversed, it will inevitably end up at active persecution.

This video about Cardinal van Thuan describes a priest who was Christ’s man first. May his tribe increase.

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The Secret’s Out: Devout Catholic Husbands and Wives Have the Best Sex

If you want great sex, trying marrying for love and committing yourself this person for life. It also helps if you worship the God Who made you in a Catholic Church every week.

That’s the upshot of a spate of articles floating around the internet, including this one that mentions Patheos blogger Dr Gregory Popcak. It turns out that devout Catholic husbands and wives have the most satisfying sexual relationships of any group.

Why?

Based on what we see on HBO, it would appear that the most satisfying sex must occur between people who don’t give a flip about one another. According to the media great sex is found in quickie relationships where one of person may even be paying the other to participate. Greatest sex probably occurs between groups of people or people who’ve slept with everybody in the telephone book before arriving at their latest coupling. Tossing in drugs to “heighten” the experience is also depicted as a useful way to get great sex.

Of course, that’s not real life. The hook-up culture is as empty of emotional sustenance as a steady diet of styrofoam would be of nutrition. Eat enough styrofoam and you will die physically. Engage in enough meaningless sex and you will lose the ability to connect with the people you are “sexing,” and the sex itself will become more about sweat and release than satisfaction and happiness.

This little lesson in human nature applies to just about everything in life. Is it more satisfying to eat in a crowded diner with strangers, or to spend the evening with someone you enjoy and who engages you? Is a movie more fun sitting in a theater full of strangers or alongside someone who shares your life and viewpoint and laughs and cries right along with you?

“It is not good for man to be alone,” the Lord God said after He created Adam. Adam was surrounded by all of creation, including the many creatures who populated it. But he was alone. When God made woman, Adam knew that this person was not just another creature, but “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” He recognized her as his partner; another living soul made in the image and likeness of God.

Men and women are made for one another, in the best and most beautiful way. We are not insects who reproduce in a soulless exchange of genes. We are human beings who create life out of our mutual love and self-giving. Anything less always ends up dehumanizing us.

Sex is a great gift to humankind, a gift with a purpose. We create life with it, and we also bind ourselves man to woman for life by the tenderness and trust of life-long fidelity and sharing that is true marriage. True marriage between a man and a woman is the simplest and best way to have a satisfying and productive life. Satisfying sex is not the purpose of marrying for love, for life and within the Church. It is a free gift and a natural by-product of this free commitment of two lives to one another.

It doesn’t surprise me that devout Catholic wives and husbands who are living together in the sacrament of holy matrimony are also blessed with fulfilling sex lives. What does surprise me is that anyone ever doubted it.

Gosnell Was Not Alone


Roe v Wade set the limit for viability at 26 weeks into pregnancy.

That was based on 1973 medicine and judicial imaginings. Today, babies are being saved as early as 21 or 22 weeks into pregnancy. But we still live under the law created by the Supreme Court which set viability at 26 weeks.

After 26 weeks, doctors can still do abortions if they decide the mother’s life or health is at stake. In actual practice, that means that abortionists kill babies right up to the day of birth.

Dr Kermit Gosnell ran an abortion clinic that prosecutors described as “a chamber of horrors.” Dr Gosnell is now in prison. But he was not sent to prison for running a chamber of horrors. He is in prison because a few of the babies he killed lived through the abortion and he killed them afterwards.

The takeaway of the Gosnell verdict for the abortion industry is not to stop killing late-term babies. Based on all the pushback in Texas, it’s also not to provide standard medical care during abortions. Rather, it is to make absolutely, no-doubt-about-it-sure that the baby is dead before it is delivered.

Killing a baby while it’s inside its mother’s body is not a crime. Killing the same baby when it’s separate from its mother is murder.

In today’s tragic world, the right to life is defined by geography.

This Live Action video is of a doctor and counselor discussing an abortion on a woman who is 27 weeks pregnant.

Think about it: Twenty-seven weeks. That is a viable child, even by 1973 standards.

To top if off, they are telling the young women that she will go through labor alone in a hotel room. They even give her instructions about what to do if she delivers the baby while she’s on a toliet.

They blithely assure her that going through labor and delivering alone in a hotel room is safer than giving birth in a hospital under ideal medical conditions.

How does this benefit the woman? In what way is it medically necessary? If there was a medical reason to stop the pregnancy at 27 weeks to save the mother’s life, it would be far safer and better for her to deliver her baby in a hospital with pain-killing medication and to also provide medical care to save the life of her baby.

Should abortion clinics be exempt from the health care requirements of other surgical centers? That is the argument pro abortion people make, and they make it in the name of “women’s health.”

That is not feminism. It is not in the interest of women’s health. This child could and almost certainly would live if it was delivered properly, so it certainly is not in the interest of the baby.

Who and what do late-term abortions serve except the demons of death?

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If you would like to contribute to Life Action and the work they do, go here.

Proposition 8 Supporters Re-Open the Case

Proposition 8 supporters have filed a case in court claiming that the vote of the people which passed the law should stand.

From what I’ve read, I believe that what they are basically saying is that since the Supreme Court failed to rule on Proposition 8 by tossing the whole case out, that the law itself stands.

When the Supreme Court refuses to review a lower court ruling, that means that the lower court ruling is allowed to stand. I believe that the lower court ruling in question overturned Prop 8. However, the Supreme Court took the Prop 8 case under consideration, and then tossed it out by saying that the law’s defendants did not have standing.

Does that mean that the entire case was thrown out of court and has no merit? I think that is what the opponents of Prop 8 are saying in the case they have filed.

It’s an interesting argument that, at least on its face, does seem to have merit.

I have no idea where this will go. The whole thing might wind its way back to the Supreme Court again. The basic point for now is that the proponents of traditional marriage are not rolling over. That, in itself, is very good news.

You Guys Are the Greatest!

Thanks to Sus and Josh Uniewski, I got the post Follow Jesus, Not the R or the D back!

I can’t thank you enough!

I’ll re-publish it in a moment and we can get back to arguing about it. :-)

Thank again.

Big Oops and a Request for Help

I accidentally deleted the post Follow Jesus, Not the R and the D. Does anyone out there have a copy I can use to put it back up?

The Hookup Culture and Searching for Love in all the Wrong Places

Dr Gregory Popcak, who blogs at Faith On The Couch, wrote a fascinating post discussing the whys of our hook-up culture.

His conclusion?

Babies and young children aren’t getting the love from their parents that they need. Specifically, they don’t get the cuddling, kissing and touching love they need when they’re little and so they spend their young adult lives trying to feed the resulting hunger for affection and touching through endless, mindless, destructive sexual hook-ups.

Dr Popcak theorizes that little boys have historically been deprived of this cuddle time. He says that moms and dads have tended to withdraw physical affection from little boys when they reach toddlerhood in a misguided effort to toughen them up and make men out of them.

I think he’s onto something here. I can’t count the number of times someone scolded me when my two or three year old little boy ran to me for comfort over a skinned knee or whatnot. “He’s too attached to you,” they opined. “He’s got to stand on his own two feet.”

I thought they were nuts. Little children need to attach absolutely and deeply to their parents, moms in particular. They need that safe place of momma’s arms and momma’s lap to cuddle, get rocked to sleep and loved. I am not saying that fathers should withhold affection from their little boys and girls. Far from it. Babies need to be doted on by both their parents.

This makes them feel safe. It insulates them from the world and its craven values, its cruelties and its indifference. That gives them the space to grow up into the people God meant them to be when He created them.

Dr Popcak says that the reason for the hook-up culture is that little girls are now also being deprived of the cuddling and physical closeness with their parents, I think their mothers in particular, by being shipped off to daycare at young ages.There’s no surprise here. Institutions do not and can not give the kind of nurturing and bonding that young children get from their own parents.

When they reach their teens, they go searching for the cuddling they missed by engaging in repetitive hook-ups. They are searching for love in all the wrong places.

I left a great career in the legislature where I was chair of a powerful committee and flying high to stay home and raise my kids. This thrust our family into one-income poverty for years. It also loaded the whole responsibility for supporting our little clan onto my husband’s shoulders.

My husband and I both paid a price for our decision to provide 24-hour, non-stop Mommy attention to our babies. He had the enormous pressure and oftentimes misery of having to stay on a job no matter what because he was the only one bringing home the bacon. I had to give up the prestige and power of my former position. Our whole family was stripped of all the little things that money can buy.

We didn’t go hungry, but the kids wore a lot of garage sale clothes, and we used the library instead of buying books. I bought food once a month and made every meal from scratch. There was no eating out, the only movies were at the dollar movie theater and that was once in a while and we sneaked in canned drinks in my purse. (I lived in fear of my youngest blurting out in his baby voice — Mommy, make sure no one sees the Cokes in your purse!)

There is a price for putting your children first and all the things you can buy last. But there is also a pay off. That pay off is: No drugs, no promiscuity, no teen-aged rebellion, no self-destructive kids, no eye-rolling dissing of parents, and adult children who actually like their parents and come to us to talk over their problems with an absolute trust that we will be there for them and that they can tell us anything.

Parents are starving their children emotionally in order to buy them things. The payback in terms of messed up kids is enormous.

It is not absolutely necessary for mom to stay home for the kids to turn out ok. I have friends who managed to do the two-income hop step and still raise children who turned out to be loving, non-promiscuous adults who could marry and raise children of their own.

However, not one of them divorced; mom and dad stayed together. And not one of them put their kids in a daycare. And not one of them engaged in other activities when their babies were little. The ones I know also had strong support, including child care, from their extended family. They worked while family members cared for the kids, and they came home and were a tight little family that absolutely adored and doted on their child. Also, all of them were well-educated people who rode the wave of good jobs that this country used to offer. They all had positions that paid enough that they could support their families without working more than 40 hours/week.

I do not know one family on the lower income rungs who has been successful at both parents working and raising their children. I’m sure they are there, but I do not personally know of one family where this has worked out.

Jobs at the lower end of our society are hard, often humiliating, and do not pay enough to really support a family. The upshot is that when both parents work, they come home exhausted and beaten up. They are not physically capable of providing cuddling, nurturing time with their babies. They are too tired.

Also, the tsunami of divorce and family dissolution has swept over working class families with disastrous results. Live-in boyfriends and parents with revolving beds are more the norm than the exception.

Rather than create homes for their children, these bed shifters raise their kids in chaotic environments that are isolating, neglectful and oftentimes dangerous. The children have no one they can trust, since their parents are living the lives of perpetual adolescents, and maladjusted adolescents at that. They often end up abused and battered by the various live-ins.

Ironically, working class parents with their reduced options can only provide the kind of nurturing environment that kids need if they ignore the trends of the culture and get married to one another, stay married and put their kids first.

I believe that it is far more important for lower income mothers to stay home with their children than it is for wealthier mothers who can get easier, more rewarding jobs that leave them with the energy to be a real mom when they get home. However, if they want their children to survive their job intact, the wealthier mothers need to forgo most other activities and really be a loving, cuddling, there mom when they go home.

I have friends and family who went the other way, and fell into all the cultural traps of putting their kids in daycare, and then ignoring them once they got home. I can tell you from watching them, once you mess up your kids, you can’t undo it later.

It is the misery that only gets more miserable as life spins forward. If you don’t want to raise your own kids right, then get ready to raise your grandkids. Make plans for crying all night about the things your teens and your adult children do to themselves and others. Spruce up your speech for the courtroom custody battles and the parole board. You’re going to need them.

With children, it’s ignore now, pay forever.

Conscience Rights and the Obama Administration

The USCCB released a new video today discussing the war on the right of conscience in America.

I think it’s a powerful video that expresses the issues far better than anything I could say. All Americans should be upset about what the Obama administration is doing to our First Amendment liberties.

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