Friday, June 24, 2016

Yes, It Should be Rewarded

Back before a Mussulman shot up a gay bar in the worst attack on American citizens since 9/11, the talk of the week was the white privileged swimmer who got six months in jail for sexually assaulting a young woman. The position the MSM was pushing was that this was too light. Which is hilarious for the party of let everyone out of jail, don't obey laws, give everyone a million chances - especially violent illegal immigrants... oh, but they are not white. Sr. Helen Prejean.

So in that controversy, there were a few missteps by the defense, in a case that was - from what I could tell anyway - far from open-and-shut (for instance, the victim had no memory of what happened). One of these missteps was to imply that he had not raped anyone before. That is a dumb thing to say, but does it proceed from a completely illogical place? I have been haunted by the point and am compelled to say that its out right rejection reveals a massive problem with our present-day moral sensibilities.

One of my favorite passages in the OT - 2 Kings 2:23-24.
How I view you people. 
Just before I get started, this is not a blog about that case. I don't care about the guy who was charged. I'm not sympathetic to him. But if you think I am, go screw yourself. I don't care what you think. Sorry for the uncustomary use of harsh language, but if there is one thing I cannot stand it is our apology culture. I hate everyone and want you to know that. Being clear about this is the only foothold of assurance I have that I won't go to hell. I should be hated as much as Jesus, not loved as much as Pope Francis. So go screw yourself, you lily-livered *%$&*. I don't want to seem nice, kind or sympathetic. I hate all of you. And, no, I haven't had anything to drink tonight.

So, to begin. This is my central contention. It is a two-pointer:

1) We should be judged by what we have done and by what we have not done.
2) Other bases of judgement detract from what should be centrally considered, i.e., (1).

No, only raping once doesn't mean you should get away with one free-bee. However, a Christian man who has been pretty chaste should be commended. A woman has no idea about this, because if she felt a fraction of what he does every day, she would crumble into lascivious pieces. Contrarily, a woman who can act bravely in situations that are no problem for men, should be praised. Is walking down the street in the dark a good example?

(2) means morality is not about heroics and it is not about your position of social issues, so get that out of your heads right now. What a poor excuse for morality! You know, the only kind the left recognizes. Sham.

(1) means that morality is about normal, every day conduct. How you live your every day life is the sum-total of your morality. It is not about what you would do were an extraordinary circumstance to arise. That's how we think about ourselves, though, isn't it? "I would speak up for the underdog, I would tell Hitler no, I would..."

(1) also means that people should be commended for their responsibility, their stability, their perseverance, their diligence, their follow-through, their patience. These are not Hollywood virtues. But they are Christian virtues, and they are the ones that Paul wrote about in the letters he sent to the Churches when he was doing the heroic things, like sitting in prison. He did not say that Christian life only consists in those rare moments when you are being eaten by a lion, not even that it does especially. As I tried to make clear in my editorial for the Winter 2015 issue of the Catholic Review of Books, much of the spiritual life is about time, and much of Christian heroism consists in the bravery of waiting, of being brave enough to live.

So, a husband should be commended for one, two, twenty, forty years of fidelity to his wife. A wife should be commended for one week, twenty years of crappy suppers prepared with great effort and served with tons of sheer will-power, the sheer will-power of not slamming the plate over her husband's head. I think we, yes we, can miss this even while we celebrate milestones. Why do we note that a couple has been married for fifty years? Not because they did not just happen to not die. Not because here were two people who could not be bothered to have affairs, get a divorce, move out, etc. No, we are not - or should not be, anyway - just making a polite nod to people we might otherwise dismiss as ordinary. Come on, isn't the flip-side of our excusing of the breakdown of marriage nothing other than the marginalization of 'stable' people as boring, or less passionate than those exciting people who could not keep their marriage going? I think there is a part of this at play.
my favorite elders.

I think we tend to think of old people, for instance, as simply having lived through an easier time. They weren't buffeted by the forces that we are, we think. We see them - at best - as cute. Frankly, when we say that grandma and grandpa were truly in love, we are saying that it was therefore easier for them to stay married. F-off. It was not! Man is libidinous no matter when he walked the earth. Making due sexually with old Gertie was as hard for him as it is for any man. And, yeah, grandpa seems like an inert entity at 80, but I bet he was just as full of fire in his youth as we younger men are today - and Gertie had to endure him all those years!

Old people are not cute. They are seasoned warriors and they deserve our respect, not our coddles. Babies have done nothing and we love them; they are cute. Old people have fought long and hard. They made lots of mistakes and yet they earned a great number of honorable battle scars.

I deserve respect for what I have done and for what I chose not to do. I chose it. I could have done it (and I did do it here and there!), but generally I did not do it.

Every day that a man chooses not to get drunk, fornicate, detract, swear, be gluttonous, he did something good, something praiseworthy. Unlike us today, pre-modern people knew this and that is why their default setting was to honour age. They assumed that to arrive at 50, 60 or 70 a person had to endure a great deal: he had to participate in dozens and dozens of planting and harvests, sicknesses, losses of loved ones, embarrassments, bouts of hunger, cuts and bruises, sleepless nights, passion, cold. Maybe the old person in question was being honored for something he did not actually deserve, like, for instance, his life was especially easy, he never had to work for a thing, and did not actually ever resist his evil passions... maybe that was so, but people in the past never assumed that this would be so.

The problem is, we forget all of this today. We think being moral is not thinking a particular sexual practice is immoral. A thought - we think morality is about a thought!

No hate, we say. A feeling. We think morality is about having the right feelings and not the wrong ones. We think that moral excellence is something we can adopt in an afternoon of listening to some dimwit feminist.

Friends of mine down the road just had a baby. People congratulate them. On the baby's first birthday people will celebrate. But who will say to the parents: Hey, you did this for a whole year! Bloody good job! 

I went to my daughter's graduation from elementary school last night. When I was young I thought ceremonies like this were the dumbest things ever. It was not hard to get my diplomas. Yea, sure, I had some trouble with French and Math here and there, but I did not give everything I had in me in order to graduate. And so I took no pride in the 'accomplishment.' I was wrong not to. But I felt the same way about my two undergraduate degrees and my master's. I didn't have to work hard at them. What's more, I enjoyed the work, therefore it wasn't an accomplishment. I was wrong to think that way. My PhD was long and involved. It was a marathon. I think even if I were to run a marathon poorly I would see it as an accomplishment. That would be hard for even an idiot like me to miss. I feel my PhD as an accomplishment and I do 'celebrate' it in my heart. All my schooling was work, even if it was not as hard as it might have been and I did not suffer as I might have, I worked. My daughter is really smart. Lucky her. She is naturally smart, but she also had to get up for school (practically) every day and get dressed and talk to people every day. That is work, that required effort, that is, therefore, an accomplishment.

We are wrong not to honour milestones that are the accumulation of a million, small every day efforts.

A young person who faithfully shows up for their summer job.
A kid who has excellent attendance at school.
A family that always shows up for mass, their dentists appointments, and supper at grandmas on time.
A co-worker who practically never calls in sick.
A person who always says 'hello,' every morning, when they walk passed you. (They are as tired and as grumpy as you, BTW.)
A man who has had to live in his man body, and has every day had to chose not to flirt, take a second look at the waitress, etc., etc.
A woman who has made the bed, every day, and has cleaned up after her brood.
A man who has not serially dated, serially fornicated, visited prostitutes, watched pornography.
A man who chose to stay at home and watched the hockey game on 'the little TV' rather than gone to the sports bar and gotten wasted so he could be available to his family should they need him.
A man who continues to pray to the God who never listens to him.
A woman who mainly refuses to take advantages of all the breaks and excuses that society affords her today, just because she is a woman.

All of these things make the 40-, 60- or 80-year-old worthy of our respect.

I often think back to a rather innocuous moment in my life at sixteen. I may have even mentioned it here before. I had a job at a bingo. Some of my peers would steal small amounts of money or bingo cards. I would not. Once or twice my 'till' proved short $20. People knew I did not steal. That reputation was all I had. It served me well there. And this is the thing: I have gone many, many days, years, without stealing anything. Every day involved a choice, at some level anyway, not to do that. Who is the one who remembers these things, the things I chose not to do?

Catholicism believes in virtue-based morality. Good people are good because they have practiced good deeds. Bad people have not. It's that simple. I am a non-stealer when I have not - and only insofar as I have not - stolen things. It takes time and effort to become good, in other words. Older people, therefore, tend to be more virtuous than younger people. Has that occurred to you?

It might not have occurred to you if you, like most people today, tend to think of morality as a matter of having the right opinion about social issues.

You shall stand up in the presence of the gray-headed and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.
(Lev 19:32)

3 comments:

  1. Oh man, that third paragraph was total kickass! Respect, yo. -DM

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  2. Oh my, thank-you for being who you are.

    ReplyDelete
  3. If I let my true self shine through they will all like me. Put puppies in the microwave.

    ReplyDelete