Well It Could Be Much Worse…

I have read this argument on two separate occasions today and each time it has failed to address the root cause of the situation being discussed.  The “it could be worse” argument is flawed for two distinct reasons: 1) It discounts or trivializes the individual’s suffering and 2) It compares suffering in one location to suffering in another, which is unrealistic.  Life is not that simple.  Tell a woman experiencing mental abuse that her situation is not that bad because her neighbor is experiencing physical abuse.  Telling a hungry child that there are hungrier children in Africa will not make the hunger pains any less severe.  When you are in need, your situation is your world.  You are not concerned with what is happening thousands—or even tens—of miles away.  Suffering and poverty are not relative; each situation is unique and, more importantly, absolute.

If I have not clearly articulated my point, I encourage you to conduct a simple experiment.  Fill your bathtub with scalding hot water then get into it.  As you think about jumping out because you are in pain just remember your situation is not that bad because someone somewhere is experiencing a far more painful event.

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A Bully in Disguise

The religiously ardent are quick to pull passages from the Bible in order to support their arguments (see same-sex marriage), so I will use the same tactic in order to highlight the absurdity that is the Catholic Church (towards the end of this somewhat disjointed posting).  In its nearly two thousand-year history, the Catholic Church has grown into a behemoth that works to exert its will on us all.  As of late, Catholic Bishops and the Vatican have decided to take on American Nuns and the Girl Scouts of America, both of which are organizations that work to empower the less-fortunate and instill solid morals through positive messaging—something I am certain Jesus would embrace.

In early April, the Vatican issued a critique of American Nuns for not supporting the Vatican’s stance on right-to-life issues and failure to promote Church views regarding gay marriage and abortion.  If the Nuns are not promulgating Church doctrine what, then, are they doing?  Well, it turns out American Nuns are fully embracing the teachings of Jesus (readily acknowledge by the Vatican):

“The Vatican announcement said that “while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR [Leadership Conference of Women Religious] promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death.”’ (The Washington Post)

This confuses me a bit because I thought the purpose of Christianity was to live as Jesus had and, more importantly, to spread his teachings with the intent of bettering the less fortunate.  As a blasphemous aside, I must have missed the part of the Bible where it refers to Jesus issuing a proclamation against a woman’s right to choose.   Seems like free will, to me (see Boethius for a better understanding of free will).  However, no longer a practicing Catholic I readily admit it is easy for me to be confused, but the take away from the Vatican’s statement is simple: Church policy trumps the actions and teachings of Jesus.  Moreover, it implies that certain aspects of the Bible are more important than others.

More recently, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has decided to take on the Girl Scouts of America because, according the Bishops, some Girl Scout program materials are considered offensive to Catholics.  I will concede that the Bishops are within their right to address potentially offensive material, to a certain extent, because several parishes sponsor Girl Scout Troops.  That being said, the Girl Scouts of America have gone to great lengths to ensure that its materials are accommodating to all faiths.  If you, as a Catholic organization, are at odds with the Girl Scouts’ message then simply have your parishes revoke their support for troops operating within their parishes.  Oh wait, you cannot even get your dioceses to support your efforts to promote same-sex marriage bans.

So, back to the initial statement: what, then, is the purpose of the Church if not to support and promulgate the teachings of Jesus?  Is it a place for us to express our devotion to God?  Well,  Matthew 6:5 tells us that we should not act like the hypocrites by praying in public for all to see.  Instead, Matthew 6:5 tells us, we should pray in private away from the eyes of the public where only God can see your actions:

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  (Matthew 6:5 English Standard Version)

This, I am guessing, is another one of those verses that should  be ignored much like: “‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31 English Standard Version).

Greed Over Need

Unfortunately, this story is all too common as of late.  As if evicting a family from their home is not bad enough under normal (poor choice of words) circumstances Dirma Rodriguez’s story takes the heartless act of foreclosure to all new levels.  I will let you read the story and formulate your own opinion, but it is important to remember that it was individuals like Dirma Rodriguez, the tax payer, who enabled Bank of America to continue to exist.  It is also important to point out that it is through the efforts of Occupy Fights Foreclosure and not the government that potential foreclosure victims are staying in their homes.  For those who would label these homeowners as deadbeats, there is a difference between willingly choosing to ignore your obligations and those who, because of economic difficulties, are no longer able to keep pace with obligations.

As an aside, Barack Obama will be accepting his nomination at the Bank of America Stadium this September.  Take what you will from that statement, but just keep in mind that a politician’s loyalty is not to you, the voter, but instead to those with the most money.

Whose Traditional Family Values?

As I read “Same-sex couples in North Carolina prepare for marriage vote” I couldn’t help but be reminded of an article I recently wrote for a gender studies class.  While it may be somewhat disjointed, the argument revolves around the need for some to define the ideal family:

An individual’s family may be the most consistent aspect of their life.  The degree to which an individual may interact with their family will undoubtedly vary; nonetheless, a family is the one thing that most individuals have in common.  Politicians, the media and religious organizations like to make a big deal about what the ideal family may look like, but the fact of the matter is that it is impossible to apply a cookie-cutter type approach when attempting to define the ideal family or even traditional family values.  The conditions that enabled the seemingly-ideal 1950s family (stay-at-home mother) are almost nonexistent today. Today, families face economic burdens that require both parents to work or, in the instances of single-parent homes, one parent to work two jobs.  Today’s parents are torn between traditional family obligations (game night, little league and dance recitals) and contemporary family obligations (ensuring the rent is paid and there is food on the table).  Some, just as Annette Lareau’s research alludes, would argue that sacrificing that former in favor of the latter is a detriment to the development of children and may even create inconsistent or unstable families.  In her article Unequal Childhoods Lareau cites evidence that middle-class children seem to have an advantage over their poorer peers because the parents of middle-class children are more engaging.  Increased engagement, Lareau argues, leads to greater cognitive and personal interaction skills (p. 346).   The article also suggests that the actions (looking each other in the eye when they talk, for example) of middle-class parents instills responsibility in their children whereas the lack of these actions on the part of poorer parents put their children at a marked disadvantage.  This is yet another attempt to apply cookie-cutter standards across a broad spectrum to the development families.  The suggestion that poor families do not look each other in the eye when they interact is absurd.  Moreover, this argument completely dismisses the ideals and lessons transferred to children through the observation of their parents’ hard work.  Responsibility is providing for your family regardless of the circumstances.  As such, it could be argued that poorer families are do more to instill the ideal of responsibility than more affluent families who may rely on nannies or maids to help care for children.

Another area in which “experts” attempt to define the ideal family is in its composition, specifically that a family should be comprised of a mother and father.  These same experts would have you believe that in the absence of a mother and father a child is better left in the care of a foster family than in a loving home where both parents may be of the same sex.  Kath Weston addresses this belief in her article Straight Is to Gay as Family Is to No Family by highlighting the common misconception that same-sex couples are predisposed to a life of “solitude and loneliness” and therefore are incapable of providing a stable family life for children (p. 339).  Once again, society is attempting to apply an outdated Leave it to Beaver template to contemporary families.  Being a homosexual in the 1950s and 60s was taboo and living in a same-sex marriage type environment was unthinkable.  Today, however, same-sex marriage is becoming increasingly more acceptable, but yet same-sex couples continue to face difficulties in adopting.  It is as if parenting is like chemistry and families are a formula where equal parts male + equal parts female = perfectly harmonious family life.  We all know this not to be the case.  Every day we are inundated with images of abused and exploited children who were growing up in these so-called ideal homes (mother and father).  What, then, is the explanation for these violations against traditional family values?

The answer is the outdated template, or the fact that a template is even used.  Family, in the sense that everyone has a one, will remain consistent throughout time.  The idea of its makeup, however, must conform to an ever-changing society.

Here We Go Again

So this is yet another attempt at blogging.  As some may recall, previous attempts manifested in the form of rants, pictures of dirty bathrooms and dog ruminations.  As is to be expected, I lost interest in all of these for one reason or another (mostly because I lost the password to the accounts).  So why, then, am I making another attempt at blogging?  The short answer is I have a lot to say—some of which is meaningful some of which is not so meaningful.  My primary outlet has been facebook and twitter, both of which are not conducive to substantive social commentary.  I have become increasingly more methodical in the development of my ideology, research and writing, and as such I feel I require a more grown-up venue to convey my ideas in the hopes of fostering meaningful dialogue.  Will there be rants and manifestos? Absolutely.  My intent, however, is to provide historical context for my arguments, which should (if done properly) negate biases created by opinion.  Arguments will not be justified with “because I said so,” but instead with good old fashioned facts.

I encourage and expect readers (should I actually acquire any) to challenge the ideas presented.  I just ask that those who decide to engage in conversation be respectful of others.  Should you fail to do so, I will publicly shame you.  As far as aesthetics are concerned, I have no idea what I am doing.  My intent, as time progress, is to create a seemingly professional looking blog.  Until then you simply get words.