Postage for Pakistan and other parts of the planet

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Goodbye, ghost graveyard of Edsel Fong

Feeling whistful, somewhat sad about this. Funny, I was just thinking about this place the other day. In the '70s, my mom would take my sister and me into the City from our home in San Ramon, and we would love it. It was awesome because Edsel Fong was just how they describe him. A table would clear, and he would bark out orders to my sister and me to reset the table. "Here! Take forks, knives, put there! No! Not like that! Put here! Put there! Now! Go get tea cups and saucers! Put them there! No! Not like that!" During none of this experience was the man frightening us (I was probably between 6-8, my sister 4-6), not one bit. Instead, after getting over the initial shock, we were in stitches. He was not polite, but his "rudeness" was such that only the most timid or sensitive would find it intimidating or offensive. It was all bark and no bite. He was why we always wanted to eat here when we came into the City.

When I first had a chance to return to San Francisco as an adult and found he'd died, Sam Wo's was still a great place to eat, especially for the price. Without Edsel Fong there ... well, it was too quiet. It lacked something. Paradoxically, it lacked the warmth his rudeness brought, the sense that behind that stern and grumpy face, there stood a clown who was enjoying this as much as the rest of us.

Still, I went there when time allowed, but now that I think on it ... hoping for what? A view back into the past? A glimpse of his ghost? Some long, warm, familiar-like-an-old-blanket memory to resurrect itself? Regardless, it never came. I would sit there at a table, alone, hoping to see an Edsel I would never again see in this life, hoping to recapture just a moment or two of that security and calm that had characterized life before our move from San Ramon, a move that came too soon. And so I would leave with my taste buds tantalized and my tummy full, but feeling empty and unsatisfied in far more important ways.

To dwell on such things, however, would lead to great unhappiness, illness, maybe even a degree of insanity. Instead, we have to practice radical acceptance of the past. Edsel Fong and Sam Wo are both gone. May both rest in peace.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Chuck Colson needs prayers

Sad news: I just learned Chuck Colson is near death. Mr. Colson founded Prison Fellowship ministries after doing time for his role in the Watergate scandal. He has more than paid his debt to society since his release. What a shame people are focusing on the part he played with Watergate, as if he'd done nothing since. That should not be the defining incident of his life, but rather what he's done in the 30 years since then. Please pray for the happy repose of this man's soul and for the comfort and healing of his family and his coworkers.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The world has lost a great, dedicated man

Please pray for the happy repose of Tom White's soul and the comfort of his family. Tom was executive director of the Voice of the Martyrs and was (and is) a real hero. His apostolate has accomplished so many great things in service to Christ, and he will be truly missed. Please pray for his coworkers who were pretty shook up yesterday when I called.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all the souls of the faithfully departed rest in peace.

When do we get to stop beating the dead horse?

With reference to the post's subject line, it does get really tiring.

To wit, today, the Vatican issued it's long-anticipated, long-in-the-making report on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Of course, the inanities that typically accompany such reporting were well on display.

Take this oh-so-banal piece by the Associated Press. With a hat tip to Fr. Z's way of doing things, I'll bold certain points and my comments will appear in red:

Vatican orders crackdown on US nun association  Already the emotional manipulation goes forth before we even get to the lede. "Oooooh ... the big, bad, bogeyman Vatican (Evil! Evil!) cracks down (!) on those po' widdle o'd nuns. Boohoohoo." (You can almost see Elmer Fudd or Bugs Bunny weeping copious tears.)

The Vatican orthodoxy watchdog [Why not just "a Vatican office" or "the Vatican" or "The Vatican office responsible for overseeing doctrine"? And how many readers even know what "orthodoxy" means?] announced Wednesday a full-scale overhaul of the largest umbrella group for nuns in the United States, accusing the group of taking positions that undermine Roman Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality while promoting "certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith." [Objectively verifiable if you've paid attention at all over the last 30-40 years. This isn't a new problem that just got noticed yesterday.]

An American archbishop was appointed to oversee reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which will include rewriting the group's statutes, reviewing all its plans and programs -- including approving speakers -- and ensuring the organization properly follows Catholic prayer and ritual. [Per the last comment, it's about time.]

The Leadership Conference, based in Silver Spring, Md., represents about 57,000 religious sisters and offers programs ranging from leadership training for women's religious orders to advocacy on social justice issues. Representatives of the Leadership Conference did not respond to requests for comment. [In 1997 or 1998, I heard Ignatius Press founder Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ, say that the LCWR had 90% of the nation's women religious, but only 10% of vocations, while another group of women religious that is more faithful and orthodox (wears habits, loves the Pope, loves and follows Church teachings, etc.) has 10% of the religious, but 90% of the vocations.]

The report from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the organization faced a "grave" doctrinal crisis, in which issues of "crucial importance" to the church, such as abortion and euthanasia, have been ignored. [I haven't seen the report so maybe this wholly fair, but I get the feeling the journalist is cherry picking the "such as" subjects he lists in order to push a political point. I hope I'm wrong.] Vatican officials also castigated the group for making some public statements that "disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops," who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals."

Church officials did not cite a specific example of those public statements, but said the reform would include a review of ties between the Leadership Conference and NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby. NETWORK played a key role in supporting the Obama administration's health care overhaul despite the bishops' objections that the bill would provide government funding for abortion. The Leadership Conference disagreed with the bishops' analysis of the law and also supported President Barack Obama's plan.

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, said in a phone interview that the timing of the report suggested a link between their health care stand and the Vatican crackdown. The review began in 2009 and ran through June 2010, a few months after the health care law was approved. The report does not cite Obama or the bill. [Either Sister is being disingenuous or she knows nothing about the workings of the Holy See. The review took three years. In some corporations, that's less than a snail's pace, it's a cadaver's pace. God bless the visitors in the process who took the time to look at all the facts before releasing the report. And, really, let's be honest, as alluded above, this Visitation was really to formalize what everyone already knew: The LCWR is a hornet's nest of dissenters, syncretists, radical feminists (as opposed to the authentic feminism of Pia de Solenni et al), social libertarians, and neo-pagans (e.g., the goddess Gaia worship and labyrinth and reiki and Buddhist meditation seminars that pass for retreats in several convents in which I've personally been.]

"I can only infer that there was strong feeling about the health care position that we had taken," Campbell said. "Our position on health care was application of the one faith to a political document that we read differently than the bishops." [Yeah, right. It's all about your stand on health care, Sister. That's it. That's the ticket. Just keep on thinking that, Sister. Keep on thinking that.]

[OK, so here's the first secondary source quote of the piece, and it's someone who objects to the Vatican's position. Fair enough. A reporter's supposed to get both sides. Good. I'm sure the other side will get represented soon ...]

When the Vatican-ordered inquiry was initially announced, many religious sisters and their supporters said the investigation reflected church officials' misogyny and was an insult to religious sisters, who run hospitals, teach, and play other vital service roles in the church. [Ah, man! It just keeps getting worse. The Visitation "reflected church officials' misogyny" ... not alleged misogyny, mind you, but de facto misogyny, as in taken-as-a-matter-of-course/taken as read misogyny. Also these poor sisters. All they're doing is running hospitals, taking care of the sick and dying, teaching, and playing other vital service roles in the Church. Those mean Vatican bullies! Oi vey.] Conservative Catholics, however, have long complained that the majority of sisters in the U.S. have grown too liberal and flout church teaching. [Finally. Eight paragraphs into the piece, and we get an inlinking of the support for this besides just those big, bad, Vatican patriarchal men. I just know a secondary source quote from one of these "Conservative Catholics" will be up soon enough.]

Around the same time of the doctrinal review of the Leadership Conference, the Vatican ordered an Apostolic Visitation, or investigation, of all American congregations for religious sisters, looking at quality of life, the response to dissent and "the soundness of doctrine held and taught" by the women. The results of that inquiry have not been released.

The report released Wednesday paints a scathing portrait of the Leadership Conference of Women's Religious as consistently violating Catholic teaching.

Investigators cited a speech by Sister Laurie Brink at an annual assembly that argued that religious sisters were "`moving beyond the church' or even beyond Jesus." Brink is a professor at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She did not respond to an email request for comment. [Sr. Laurie's quote is key. Kudos on this at least for its inclusion in the piece.]

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the Leadership Conference had submitted letters that suggest that sisters in leadership teams "collectively take a position not in agreement with the church's teaching on human sexuality." [From how I read this, the Sisters did themselves no favors in this process. Does that show how out of touch they are or ... Hmmmm.]

In programs and presentations, investigators noted "a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

"Some commentaries on `patriarchy' distort the way in which Jesus has structured sacramental life in the church," the authors of the report wrote. The investigation also found that while the Leadership Conference has emphasized Catholic social justice doctrine, the group has been "silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States.

The reform will be managed by Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain and could stretch over five years.

Nick Cafardi, a canon lawyer and former dean of Duqesne Law School, said he has worked over the years with many nuns and that the description in the report does not reflect his experience with them. Cafardi is an Obama supporter.

"I don't know any more holy people," Cafardi said of American religious sisters. "I see a lot more holiness in the convents than I see in the chancery."

[OK, first, where's the secondary source quote from a conservative to balance the piece and give a perspective on why this was needed? You have two quotes from this action's opponents. Why not at least one from a Dr. Scott Hahn, a Curtis Martin, a Teresa Tomeo, a Dr. Janet Smith, a Johnnette Benkovic or the like? Second, Cafardi is a learned man, we can see by his credentials. But how he is fit to judge these women's personal virtue, I don't know, and what that has to do with this issue, again, I don't know. But it does allow the reporter to end the piece on a snide note. Good for you, anonymous reporter! Sneaky, just like we've come to expect.]

So you see what I mean? On several different points, this piece shows why the much villified gets pretty much what they deserve in terms of people's growing disgust and voting with their feet. It wouldn't have taken much to have made this a sound piece, but I guess not much is too much. Oh well.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

What it is and is not about

The other day I posted a picture of a bumper sticker on a car that had been photoshopped to read, I’ll pay for your contraception when you pay for my ammunition!
A reliably liberal friend of mine from high school commented on the post, “However, I don’t see this guy adopting all the unwanted children, raising and caring for them...........nice to put your will out there when you won’t back it with REAL actions.”
            So, in my own inimitable, long-winded, non-succinct way, I answered him thusly. Doubt it will change his mind, but at least it was a good exercise, not to mention I came upon some really good quotes and facts.
            See what you think: 
@[Friend], I think you’ve missed the point, old chap. After all, the obviously photoshopped bumper sticker is an attempt to make self-professed liberals see the irony in what they’re doing with the HHS mandate on several levels.
For starters, said persons preach tolerance, but increasingly demonstrate they can’t seem to tolerate opinions different than their own. Sadly, embarrassingly, this is made manifest in how they quite gleefully appears to revel in their often pathetic attempts to verbally shred those who have a different opinion.
It seems like they do this to show their putative superiority over those rubes and boobs. However, more often than not, it only ends up displaying what an amazing lack of intellectual curiosity people of such supposedly high intelligence actually have.
After all, for a belief that has been around in every part of the world since time began and for an institution that has held this belief since its founding 2,000 years ago, as did all other similar institutions until 1930, wouldn’t you think these relatively Mensa-smart folk would at least engage the argument if for no other reason than to help the rubes and boobs see the error of their ways?
              So on one hand, the message is this: You folks aren’t as tolerant as you think. Maybe (and I'm imputing here, but this would be my message) it is also, you are also not as intelligent or above us as you think, either.
On the other the message is this: Generally speaking, those who favor the HHS mandate hate the traditional interpretation of the Second Amendment. They would never countenance their tax dollars going to pay for something with which they so vehemently disagree.
This would be especially true if gun rights activists tried to couch their argument for employer-funded coverage of their ammo by insurance companies as “essential health care services” (since staying alive is arguably an essential health care service, and bullets can help keep you alive when faced with robbers, armed intruders, etc.). Liberals would rightly treat such an argument for the farcical bastardization of logic that it is. They would especially object if they had to fit a very narrow, historically unheard of definition to opt out of this requirement. The media firestorm alone would be immense, and it would be withering.
Yet forcing private employers to do the same thing with contraception is not seen as being any problem. This is probably because it’s easy to disdain those who disagree with the prevailing conventional wisdom as being, by definition, rubes and boobs. These dimwits’ protestations about freedom of conscience and/or liberty are obviously just a ruse so they can keep up their “war on women.”
Never mind that except in very rare cases, contraception is not needed to maintain one’s health. Rather, the real issue is having someone else pay for one’s own lifestyle choices.
With that understood, why should someone who disagrees in conscience with that choice be absolutely compelled to pay for it unless they fit a very narrow definition imposed by the government and not one’s conscience?
Some say it’s a matter of cost. For instance, in her testimony before Congress, the young lady from Georgetown complained about how artificial birth control costs thousands each year. To this, I would oh-so-maturely give one word with three syllables: baloney.
Roughly speaking, contraception costs the 90 percent of employers who already cover it anywhere from $240-475/year on average. That equates to $20-39/month. All but the most indigent in this country can afford that out of their own monies. Those who can’t have access to government-funded programs. Indeed, between 5 and 7.2 million receive contraceptives this way every year. Furthermore, from what I read doing a simple Bing search, they can take as many free condoms at the local welfare office as they can fit in their pockets or purse.
But cost is a smokescreen. The issue is and always has been freedom of conscience.
However, I will hand it to the President and his campaign team: They have very successfully made women think that this is about those evil, mean, bad Republicans wanting to take away their birth control and forcing upon them – Gasp! Horror! – a need to occasionally tell men, “No.” This is the great conflagration that has become the “war on women,” from which only the good President Barak Obama can protect our mothers and daughters.
It’s brilliant, really. At any given time, between 62 and 92 percent of American women of child bearing years (ages 15-44) are contracepting (that’s 38,440,000 and 57,040,000 women). Furthermore, “Virtually all women (more than 99%) aged 15–44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method” (cf. Mosher WD and Jones J, “Use of contraception in the United States: 1982–2008,” Vital and Health Statistics, 2010, Series 23, No. 29, cited by the Guttmacher Institute). Scare those women into believing that Rick Santorum and his evil hordes of old white men are coming after their pills, condoms, inserts, and devices, and it’s no wonder that the President has seen his support amongst women go up by 12 percent since the controversy erupted.
Hmmmm. It’s almost as though they’d planned it that way. Nah. Couldn’t be.
BTW, as reported by the Washington Post here and here, the stat about 98 percent of Catholic American women contracepting is bogus. Regardless, as one observer put it, “There is this commonsense notion that organizations that are explicitly identified as religious are allowed to uphold the actual doctrinal and behavioral standards of their respective religious bodies. Whether the rank and file membership of [a] religious body follow those standards [of the religion in question] in daily life should be irrelevant.”
To get back to the bumper sticker and thus close, I think a quote by Dr. Lydia McGrew, PhD, will do: 
“If a bunch of Quakers turn out to have gun licenses, employees of an expressly Quaker organization are not therefore entitled to have their fees paid to a shooting range or their ammo provided at no cost through an employer plan.”

Friday, April 13, 2012

The need for intellectual honesty

Because of my love and concern for the Cappella degli Scrovegni (Scrovegni Chapel) in Padua, I joined an organization called in order to sign a petition urging the Padovan city council to do everything possible to save this priceless human treasure that is threatened by urban development (the chapel houses the one of first major fresco cycles of the Renaissance and thus in Western art since the fall of the Roman Empire, it’s by Giotto, and it’s spectacular).
Ever since then, they've sent me other petitions to sign, and I received the latest one tonight.
They asked me to stand with them in opposition to a bill in the Honduran Congress that is about to become law. It would make illegal the use, prescription, or sale of the morning after pill (MAP). (See here for an article on the previous and identical 2009 legislation.)
That they would oppose this sort of thing is more than expected by left of center organizations. Other big causes right now are “Save the Rhinos!” and a campaign to stop the re-launch of Rupert Murdoch’s “News of the World” and “The Sun,” both UK newspapers (Murdoch, in case you don’t know, owns Fox News and other editorially conservative outlets). The big endorsement quote comes from Al Gore, who credits the group from “making a big difference.”
They are also supporting some causes that are not typically left/right, such as the controversial Internet bill in the US Congress that Google and Wikipedia et al are fighting. Additionally, they’re decrying and trying to put a stop to the sexual traffic and murder of Mayan women. On this last one, I gladly stand with them.
That said, with the MAP issue, given that I support the Church’s teaching on contraception (and would even if I was not Catholic given the Natural Law arguments), I would have ignored the issue, deleted the e-mail, and moved on, except for one thing: The language they used to prompt support for their campaign concerning the Honduran situation. Since I can’t know their hearts, I won’t call it lying.
However, at best the organization’s team did some very poor research or fudged the facts to present the most compelling case to its base. While that may not qualify as an out-and-out lie, it is intellectually dishonest and thus immoral.
To wit, they write, the “religious lobby ... erroneously defines the morning after pill as ‘abortion’.”
On the contrary, the morning after pill is an abortifacient. As reported by Catholic News Agency, the Department of Medicine in Public Health of the University of Bielefeld (Germany) conducted a study that was published in the magazine Fertility and Sterility. The “study used data from multiple clinical studies with advanced mathematical models and concluded that if emergency contraception only inhibited ovulation, its true effectiveness would only range between 8-49 percent.
“If it acted before ovulation and if it inhibited ovulation completely, its true effectiveness would be between 16-90 percent. The rest of the pill’s effectiveness consists in its anti-implantation mechanisms, which cause an abortion.”
A 2001 article in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology titled “Effectiveness of emergency contraceptive pills between 72 and 120 hours after unprotected sexual intercourse,” by Isabel Rodrigues, Fabienne Grou, Jacques Joly states that preventing implantation of a fertilized egg is “probably the main mechanism of action of the morning after pill.” (See Volume 184, Issue 4, March 2001, pp. 531-537.)
An article on the subject I found at the excellent Canadian website, says, “The MAP may unfavorably alter the endometrial lining of the uterus regardless of when in the cycle it is used, with the effect persisting for days. The reduced rates of observable pregnancy in women who use MAP in the pre-ovulatory, ovulatory, and post-ovulatory phases are consistent with a post-fertilization effect, an abortion.”
Citing a 1998 article in theBritish medical journal The Lancet, the article then says, “The MAP is of two main types; one is a combination of estrogen and a progestogen and the other is a progestogen only. The former can act as a contraceptive by inhibiting ovulation, or it may cause an abortion by preventing implantation. The latter acts primarily as an abortifacient. The abortifacient progestogen type of MAP is currently in common use because it causes less nausea and vomiting than the combined type and is significantly more effective.”
In addition to misstating the case here, they couch the situation in Honduras as being like that in other Latin American countries with regards to sexual assault (“Emergency contraception is vital for women everywhere, but especially in countries where sexual violence against women is out of control”).
It is true that several Latin American countries have relatively high rates of sexual violence. This is not at all true, however, for Honduras.
In 1995, that nation’s rape rate was (depending on your source) .27 or .37 per 100,000 (I didn’t look at it for the US in that year). The nation’s 1998 rate was 1.17. That is higher, even a steep increase. Compared with 34.4 for the US, though, it’s practically non-existent. Indeed, Honduras’ sexual assault rate is below that of every industrialized country.
Now, certainly, women there are more likely to suffer from domestic abuse than they are in the US. However, while criminal and heinous, physical violence is not ipso facto sexual assault “requiring” the morning after pill.
I worked in politics for quite some time in communications. I fully understand the desire to fudge facts to make them say what you want them to. In the end, however, doing so only hurts one’s cause if someone is willing to do due diligence and exposes the duplicity.
Hopefully, this organization and all others like it—whatever its motivating politics or creed—will realize that their interests and those of the common good are best served by being transparent and honest.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Depression and suicide

I was on Relevant Radio this morning discussing depression and suicide with a man I’ve come to call my friend, Sean Herriott, and we started with this quick prayer to Bl. Enrico Rebuschini, who is featured in 39 New Saints You Should Know. (Following the prayer is an expanded version of our talk.)

Dear God, so many of our brethren are unhappy and want their lives to end. Through the prayers of Bl. Enrico Rebuschini who was bipolar, lift their depression and help them to emerge with a clear vision of Your will and the strength and courage to do it. We ask these things in the name of Your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

On Tuesday, I learned a former colleague of mine had taken her life. This comes about a year and a half after my uncle committed suicide, and three months after I had gone into the hospital because I had entertained suicidal thoughts. Depression is something I’ve fought since I was 9, when I was in third grade. 
So I was driving to my counseling appointment yesterday listening to my favorite drive time show, “Morning Air” and heard its hourly feature, “Glen’s Story Corner. “ This was followed by Sean Herriott’s interview with composer Eric Genuis, who does a lot of prison ministry work, and by coincidence, both focused on reaching out to touch those who were hurting.
That got me thinking. 
My dear, beautiful, wonderful uncle.
It got me thinking about my uncle. For a whole week after he endeavored to end his life—and he lingered for about that same amount of time, never conscious for a moment of it—I was in shock. I remember taking a couple of days off from work and one day going to a water park with my family. And I just sat there with my baby in the wading pool. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t talk, I could hardly think.
My colleague who died in April and I weren’t close. But you should have seen this woman. Just gorgeous, and her interior beauty matched her physical attractiveness. Bright, funny, vivacious, charming, impeccably feminine, she just had a real good head on her shoulders. I had immediate respect for her.
In both cases, I asked, “Why? What if? What could I have done differently?”
And the answer is, at this point, nothing. I had no way of knowing. Just like people would have had no way of knowing what was going on with me if I had killed myself in January or had done so the last time I’d had suicidal thoughts before that, ironically the week before my uncle killed himself, or during my young adult years, or during my college years and in high school and in junior high school, which, when I was 14, was the only time I actually attempted suicide. People would have asked, “Why? What if? What could I have done differently?”
We can’t answer these questions any more than we can undo the past. But you know what? I realized listening to yesterday’s “Morning Air” program I could do something. So to the extent that I can help people with this—either because they are struggling with depression and hopelessness and a deep longing for death to come somehow, someway or they know someone who is—I want to.
So as someone with almost a whole lifetime of experience with depression, here’s what I’ve learned.
Yes, life is precious. And it is great. But let’s be real: There’s a very good reason why we call it a “vale of tears.”
For me it started with being bullied all the way through college. After a certain point, each new incident of bullying just reinforced this already embedded sense that I was worthless. As a result, I lived with constant depression. On those rare occasions where I caught myself doing negative self-talk, it was vicious.
To deal with this, I drank heavily, I ate comfort foods, I spent money foolishly, and I violated Catholic moral teachings, all in an attempt to either numb the depression or momentarily feel better. Just to give a picture of how bad it was, I had been accepted into the University of Utah. I was excited about going.
Then my dad found out about my considerable drinking problem (having fortified myself with liquid courage during the lunch break, I regularly spent the second half of the school day pretty well sloshed). That was it. He wouldn’t pay a dime for my tuition. I could go out and get a job or join the military, but he wasn’t going to waste a considerable amount of money on not educating a budding alcoholic. Thank God for my “Uncle” Jimmy, who talked him into giving me a second chance.
Obviously, there are as many different paths to mental illness as there are people. A woman with whom I was hospitalized couldn’t get over the loss of her son. In group session, she would wear an etched in stone frown that made the Easter Island statues look like they were laughing in an uproarious fashion. All the while, she would constantly stroke the wallet-sized senior portrait of her dead boy. Another woman, her husband walked out on her and their daughter. My hospital roommate’s father committed suicide, and he had several neurological disorders.
Most depressed people with suicidal ideations feel such shame, and that shame brings on profound feelings of worthlessness. The first time I attended a monthly healing Mass in the north of my state, I went up to the priest so he could lay his hands on me.
He prayed over me and half asked, “Baseball.”
“Excuse me?” I answered.
“Baseball,” he repeated slowly, quizzically. “Did you ever play baseball?”
“Uhm, yes, I did,” I slowly replied, nor sure where this was going.
“How long did you play?” he inquired, raising one eyebrow.
I told him in a tone that got quieter and more than slightly sheepish, “Just one year.”
“Because I wasn’t any good. I had a batting average of .001. Maybe. I think I got one hit the entire season.”
Now up to that afternoon, I had completely repressed any memory of playing baseball. My coach that lone season played me in every game, but only because he had to. How I dreaded going up to bat. How I dreaded trotting out to left field, because I knew that once their hitters found out I couldn’t field a fly ball, that’s where every hit would come. I could remember this wrong, but that’s how the memory feels. This touches on perception skewing, which we’ll dive into in a little bit.
“How did you feel about that?” Father asked.
“Pretty lousy,” I told him, which was more polite than, “How the hell do you think I felt, genius.”
“I sense a feeling of shame.”
I didn’t say anything. I looked downward and off to my left, then straight down at the floor and then straight at him and gave a trio of stiff nods with pursed lips in affirmation.
“I sense a lot of shame. There’s a lot of shame in there,” he said, pointing his index finger and drawing it close to my heart. “People who are wounded like you are deep in shame. I know. I am, too. I was lousy at baseball, and it was terrible.
“I want you to go back your pew,” he continued, “and think about all the shame that’s in there, and then I want you to give that shame to Christ. Invite Him in there because He wants to go into the places where we’re most wounded so He can heal them. Give Him your shame. You’ve held onto it long enough. You don’t need it anymore. You never did.”
Boy, did that open the memory floodgates. That was a very painful afternoon. Had I not been there, though, I never would have realized what a profound impact shame has had on my life. Shame at being bad at sports. Shame at being the last one picked for a team. Shame at being picked on. Shame at desperately feeling unloved by any of my family except my maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother. Shame at being the perennial problem child. Shame at always being a problem, period. Shame at the way certain fraternity brothers who preached the most about being “bros” were the ones who accepted me the least and often showed their rejection in cruel ways. Shame, shame, shame, shame, shame.
That day also led to my eventual discovery that our dignity as human persons derives from one source and one source only: The fact that God has created us in His image and likeness. That He destined us for eternal love with Him in heaven. That He loves us so much that were we the only ones in history to have ever sinned, He still would have sent His only begotten Son to suffer and give His life in redemption of those sins. That through baptism, we were incorporated into the Body of Christ, and through the Passion, death, and resurrection of that same Christ, we became His adopted sons and coheirs to the kingdom and are thus a priestly and kingly people. That is the true and only source of our dignity.
So when someone—a bully, a parent, whoever—demeans us, does violence to us, deprives us of our dignity in any way, it is not necessarily indicative that we have a character flaw or that we are somehow not worthy. Instead, it is more likely a reflection of the problems they have and with which they cope by taking it out on us. This isn’t always the case, but it is more than occasionally the case.
Those with depression can also have skewed perceptions, which may result in a lack of proper judgment. After years of having one’s opinions invalidated, one not only assumes one’s opinions will be questioned simply as a matter of course, but, despite however hard one may fight for those opinions, will desperately wonder whether those who invalidate them might just be right. This leads to great indecisiveness, which can have the appearance of affirming the other person’s conclusion that we make faulty judgments. Then when someone—either through force of reason or, just as likely, power—overrides those opinions, it only serves to bring more shame, more insecurity, more of a sense that the world is a damned and lonely place. At least this is how it has been in my case, and that has contributed to my just wanting to check out.
For years, I asked myself, “Why did this happen to me?” I thought if I could answer that question, I could resolve my issues. The problem, however, was that the “Why?” was not only unanswerable, it only masked a much more dark question: “Did this happen to me because I am unlovable?”
Regardless of your situation, when you’re depressed, life never, ever seems to go your way. You feel cheated, like the deck is stacked against you, and that often leads to anger (which is simply a metastasized sadness) and despair (which is sadness metastasized in a different direction). When you think like that, it’s really easy to feel an all-enveloping despondency if you’re not careful. And a lot of times, you don’t even realize this because the thinking that accompanies despair becomes habitual.
Well, pretty soon, you lose interest in life. Getting out of bed is an unbelievable struggle. You lose concern for your appearance. Eventually, a series of thoughts grow into like a drumbeat: ‘I don’t want to go on. Life will never get better. I want to die. Please, Lord, let a bus hit me. Please let a semi-truck crash into my car.’ When God doesn’t answer that prayers—SURPRISE!—you start thinking of ways to end your life, and there are a lot.
So what do you do if you are so depressed that you have suicidal ideations (i.e., you’ve seriously contemplated suicide or at least desperately want your life to end)?
These various steps come from what I’ve learned so far:
1)     Acknowledge you have a problem
2)     Radically accept the past
3)     Acknowledge you can’t fight this on your own
4)     The idea of needing medication is humiliating at first, but meds are a key component, and they do make a world of difference
5)     Hospitalization (optional in a number of cases)
6)     Be aggressive when it comes to getting yourself the best care possible
a.       Don’t let people – doctors, nurses, whoever – tell you what you don’t need (what you do need is another story). Fight for your life!
7)     Get a support team in place
8)     Push for as much treatment as your insurance plan will give you.
9)     Regardless of insurance coverage, do those things you can on your own
10) Pray
a.       Thank God in prayer
b.      Praise God in prayer
11) Trust God
12) Do something good for someone
13) Smile
14) Forgive
a.      Confession and the Mass
b.      The Our Father “… and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
15) Love

Don’t live the cliché, “Denial: It ain’t just a river in Egypt.”

The first step is crucial: You have to acknowledge you have a problem. In the hospital, I took a test that showed I am bipolar. When I grew up, that’s how you described seriously crazy people. Understand that this is totally inaccurate. Some crazy people are bipolar, but not all bipolar people are crazy. Indeed, most aren’t. No one with type II bipolar disorder (which I have) is. Nonetheless, that is why it’s hard for me to admit having this condition even now, and it terrifies me, frankly, to admit to having this in public. Will people ostracize me? Will they reject me, avoid me, talk about me behind my back, gossip about me? (Well, of course, they will; it is human nature. That does not mean I look forward to the prospect. I've spent most of my life being the oddball out/sideshow freak, but since I have chosen to make my condition public, that is the result I will have to expect.) Will opportunities I otherwise may have had suddenly, conveniently disappear? To say, “Hi, I’m Brian, and I have a mental illness,” even if I only say it to myself in my brain, it makes me cringe. I hate it, but no one ever gets better by ignoring the truth. Anyway, acknowledgment of the problem is step one.
Radically accept the past

Next, you must practice radical acceptance of the past. The past stinks. It’s rotten we got such a bad break. However, it is gone. We can’t turn back the clock; we will never get a do over. We can only march forward, as painful or terrifying as that prospect might be.
The question then becomes: Where do we go from here? Go up. That can’t happen, though, unless we radically accept that the past is gone and beyond our reach. I didn’t say it would be easy, but is our only option if we hope to have healing.
Something else you’ll need to accept? This will never go away. You will battle mental disease the rest of your life. Cancer, you can get rid of that. Tuberculosis and other ailments, you can get rid of them. Mental illness, though? It’s like diabetes. You will never be “cured” in the traditional sense.
That fact was, putting it mildly, a little discouraging. All I could see was how exhausting this work can be at times. If I had prostate cancer and it was caught early enough, I’d have an operation or chemo or radiation or take some naturopathic treatment, and, boom, I’d be done.
Not so with mental illness. Bummer, dude. Again, just accept it and move on.
Humility is your best friend
Then, acknowledge you can’t fight this on your own. People with depression and suicidal ideations need professional help, and we need medications. If you think otherwise, go to any major city and look for homeless people. You will see many who have schizophrenia and have gone off their meds because they judged they were doing better and think they are fine now and thus don’t need them (simply proof of my Rule of Human Existence #1: Humanity’s capacity for self-deception is limitless). Meds are a key component. My behavior and outlook since I went on my regimen are like night and day. I’m much calmer, I’m more in control, and my mood is stable. That is huge, absolutely huge. If you don’t believe me, ask my children and beloved spouse what it was like to live with me—the guy who writes about saints for a living, mind you—beforehand (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa).
Don’t fear the hospital
A key thing for me was my hospitalization. That’s not for everyone, but if you’re suicidal, unless you’re going to lose your livelihood or something, it is for you.
I got hospitalized in this way: In early January, I had bronchitis, so at a regular medical appointment, my wife, who had accompanied me, told our doctor of my saying the previous night I no longer wanted to live. His eyes got wide, fearful even. The medical appointment ended there and then. He told me, “I can’t help you with this. I’m not equipped. No one around here is (I live in a very rural area). You need to drive to the hospital now, go to the emergency room intake desk, and tell them you want to kill yourself. They’ll admit you. Don’t wait. Go now. Do it today.”
As depressed as I was, this made me feel even worse. I was being hospitalized for depression. How low could I get? Boy, I must really be a loser, right?
Well, it was the best thing that could have happened. I received excellent care, and I got to think and reflect. I also did a lot of writing, and the two together helped me make sense of a lot of things.
You are your best and truest advocate
Now I could have left the hospital and been done with it. Of course, I would have eventually gotten back on the same squirrel cage wheel of being extremely depressed and feeling like I wanted to die. In other words, I’d be going nowhere fast.
Instead, I left knowing I needed to be aggressive in pursuing better mental health. Furthermore, now that I knew what the problem was (despite how humiliating that felt), the means existed for me to do this. I was actually excited and hopeful.
Fighting depression and warding off suicidal inclinations is like fighting cancer. You have to do whatever you can with whatever means you have to fight it.
The first thing I did was to get a support team in place, and they’re there to help me if I’m having suicidal ideations. My first line of defense is my wife. But if she’s not available, I have my cousin and my sister, who I trust and who I know love me.
Now, I’m lucky. I have a great insurance plan that covers my weekly visits with my behavioral therapist. If you do, too, push for as much as they will give you. Again, be aggressive. This is your life we’re talking about.
A lot of people don’t have such good insurance, though. Regardless, push for as much as your plan will give you.
Lack of insurance isn’t the end of the line
With or without insurance coverage (for those without, see here, here, and here for a few ideas/options), there are things you can do on your own. I’m not suggesting these will or should take the place of professional care, but they will help (see above for what I wrote about how you can not do this on your own).
For instance, I’m convinced I’m here today because the times when I was most depressed, I took pains to do the things I didn’t want to such as dressing nicely and making the bed because I knew it would help.
            In the morning, I get on my knees, and I pray a morning offering. If I’m super tired (which lately is most of the time), I simply garble a, “Thank you, Lord, for getting me through this night, and thank you for having made me a Catholic.”
            Or I might do the traditional morning offering, or I may riff on it like so:
“Thank You, God, for getting me through this night and giving me this day, and thank You for having made me an adopted son of Yours through Your one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. I give You this day with all its joys, works, sorrows, and sufferings. I entrust these things to You, for You are all good and have promised me that You have made plans for my welfare, not for evil, and plans to give me a future full of hope (cf., Jer 29:11). I trust in this promise because You are Truth, and You can neither deceive nor be deceived.”
Then I thank God. When you count your blessings—no matter how few they may seem—it becomes evident that not everything in your life is wholly rotten. Maybe most of it is, but not everything, and that’s a start.
But trust God and His grace. Fall into His arms and don’t let go, and then thank Him and, just as importantly, praise Him, for He is good and His mercy and love endure forever.
Now if you’re like some of my friends who have been raped or were the victims of molestation or incest or bullying or whatever—in other words, people who found themselves in horrible situations that they didn’t cause—that’s an awfully hard pill to swallow. Fake it ‘til you make it. Or like the man in Mark 9:24 says, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”
Acts of service/Being Christ to others
Next, do something for someone else, especially if it is someone whom you don’t like or with whom you ordinarily wouldn’t associate.
One of the subjects in 39 New Saints You Should Know, Bl. Marie of Jesus Crucified, wrote, “If you think to do good for your brother, God will think of you…. [If] you make a heaven for your brother, it will be for you.”
When someone is depressed, they have an intensely inward focus. By doing a kind deed for strangers or adversaries or that awkward or uncomfortable person two cubicles down, you break out of that stranglehold.
The day I left my first healing Mass, there was a young lady in her early twenties. She was somewhat heavy set, not huge, but by no means svelte. She wore jeans, a black polo shirt, and a denim jacket and had her longish hair tucked up under a tan baseball cap that she had pulled down so low that it practically covered her eyes. She had sat in the back and did not come up to be prayed over until she was the last person to do so.
As I sat in my pew thinking about my shame, praying about all of this, and giving it to Christ and inviting Him inside, I was also watching her. I saw Father pray over her, her crumple to the floor and start sobbing, and the attendants gather around her to give her comfort. I sensed that the Holy Spirit put this sentence into my head: “God loves you, and He wants you to know this was not your fault.” It seems I was mean to deliver this “message” to her. Uh. OK. Not real comfortable out doing this. The push to do so, however, only grew stronger.
Finally, I walked up to her, still weeping on the floor, expressed how I felt uncomfortable doing this but that I felt like I was compelled to do so, and delivered the message. Then I went back to my pew to continue praying.
At the end, the woman attending her came up and whispered, “Thank you. That was exactly what she needed to hear.”
Was I responsible for this? Absolutely not. I take no glory in this because I fought it. I didn’t want to do it at all, but only did so out of obedience. So to the extent it was a healing action for this lady, I can only credit the Holy Spirit. The point is that she never would have heard “exactly what she needed to hear” if not for a willingness to step out in faith to serve someone in Christ, to be Christ to that person. All of us are called to do this, it feels really good to do it, and it is especially beneficial for the depressed to serve others, although not necessarily by claiming to be the vessel of the Holy Spirit, mind you. I certainly make no claims to be such.
Next, smile. Make it a habit to smile at people you pass by in the day. If you’re not depressed, your smile—whether at a random stranger or someone you know—because, as Glen quoted Fulton Sheen yesterday (“A smile across the aisle of a bus in the morning could save a suicide later in the day.”), you may save that person’s life. If you are depressed, smile. It will lift your spirits.
Yesterday, after hearing both Glen and Eric, I made it a point to smile at people and say something simple such as, “Good morning. How ya doin’?” And people smiled right back. Big beaming smiles, too.
It was great. It encouraged me to smile more and to try and brighten someone’s day however I could. Yesterday was honestly one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. I was in a fantastic mood. When I came home, even though my wife was grumpy and went to bed early, leaving me with all the evening chores, and even though the kids weren’t necessarily the most cooperative little angels on the planet, I felt hardly any stress.
Smiling really works. It sounds so facile, so simple, even simplistic as to be moronic, but oh well. It works.

And for anyone, regardless of their mental state, forgive. Lack of forgiveness often is the root cause of so much mental instability. A friend of mine refuses to forgive a man who broke her heart. Well, that has caused other problems for her. Like love, forgiveness is a choice. It’s not about forgetting. I have to daily forgive those people who hurt me during the 13 most formative years of my life. It’s not easy, but I keep telling God, “Lord, I forgive them. Please, You forgive them, too.”
If you’ve done something for which you’re ashamed, whatever that is, forgive yourself. The first step for this is to go to confession. In fact, keep close to confession and Mass. Make both a regular part of your life, with Mass weekly, of course.
Let go of that resentment, hurt, and anger, especially if it’s toward you. Give it to God. Easier said than done, I know, but just do it. Again, fake it ‘til you make it.
Finally, love. Love is not a feeling. Rather, it’s an act of the will. It’s a choice. First, love God. Second, love your neighbor. Third, love those who persecute you. Finally, love yourself. These are the things Jesus told us would get us into heaven, where we’ll be happy throughout eternity.
Therefore, ask yourself this: If these things will make us happy in heaven, then why wouldn’t they during our time here on earth?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Marriage: it’s time to clear away the fog |

A Catholic Christian conception (no pun intended) of why marriage can *only* be between a man and a woman. As a Canadian TV commentator once put it (I may be paraphrasing here), "We can include the catepillar under the definition of cat. That doesn't make the catepillar any more feline, but it destroys the definition of cat."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

What are these people thinking?

I couldn't help but guffaw (or is it ROFL?) when I read this little chestnut from today's Rodong Sinmun,  the People's Daily in the DPRK (aka, North Korea).

It comes from an article on the larger "crimes" of "traitor" Lee Myung Bak, president of the Republic of Korea (aka, South Korea).

What shock and utter revulsion the average North Korean reader must feel when they read such apalling news:
In December 2007 right after becoming "president", he openly disclosed his intention to use the north-south dialogue as a means of escalating confrontation of social systems, saying that "he would not unilaterally curry favor with the north by refraining from criticizing it like the preceding governments".
Gasp! I'm in shock! Imagine a capitalist, democratic country's president not wanting his fellow Koreans to the north to live in squalor, famine, and constant threat of being sent to the kwalliso (i.e., gulags/concentration camps), from which most only leave on a board to be buried in a shallow grave. How awful of him. The North Koreans indignence is palpable!

All we need now is for Jackie Chiles to shout, "This is lewd, lascivious, salacious, and outrageous! That's deplorable, unfathomable, improbable. I am shocked and chagrined, mortified and stupefied. I most strenuously and vigorously object to this man's actions. He is irrelevant, irrational, and inconsequential. He is completely inappropriate!"

But this is the real howler:
In February last year when 31 people of the DPRK went adrift to the south side in the West Sea of Korea, the group held them for nearly two months, while committing inhuman act of forcing them to defect to the south. The group categorically rejected the DPRK's proposal for the Red Cross technical contact for the discussion of their repatriation.
For those who don't get what this is saying, I'll translate:
In February 2011, 31 DPRK citizens fled their country in a boat via the West Sea of Korea (what we call the Yellow Sea, which separates their western border from China). As with all defectors, they were held in quarantine for two months in order to get them acclamated, fed and fattened up a little, and give them some training/life skills. All of this is necessary because life in the ROK is so radically different than the DPRK. Many defectors find it very difficult to adjust. But no one's forcing anything, because who can be forced to have more food, more freedom, and more access to a life that is not one of constant privation. Then, when the DPRK said, "Give 'em back!," the group (i.e., of "traitors," which is how the DPRK characterizes the rulers of the ROK) basically said, "Buzz off, bub. Take a hike. We're not repatriating them, because if we did, they'd be dead, and you know it."
If all of this was not so deadly serious, you would have to laugh at the Three Stooges/Dumb & Dumber ineptness of those who write these pieces (there's at least one per day). Another one today said something like "Juche [the national governing philosophy] has international acceptance." We know this because, says Rodong Sinmun:
A book titled "Dictionary of Criticism on Philosophies" was off press in France in 1985.
Writers of the book were several scholars including a famous professor of the Institute of Philosophy of University of Paris 10. They criticized different philosophical ideologies of the world as well as socio-political theories of Marxist political parties by severely analyzing from their individual views.
All philosophies and theories were criticized. Only the Juche idea had not any criticism in the book.
No criticism means universal acknowledgement of the absolute truth of the Juche idea.
Now, I spent a good bit of time Googling for this book. There is no book -- in English or French with this precise title (I translated the English to the French). There is Vocabulaire technique et critique de la philosophie, published in the 1920s, which has been updated and is in its fifth printing. There is, however, Dictionnaire critique du marxisme?

Here is what this book says:
The ideas of juche know a rather large audience in the Third World and in the national liberation movements, as well as some large countries like India and Japan, [are?] rightly educated by the principles of sovereignty, of self-development, of nonalignment and of the primacy of ideology, themselves confirmed by an exemplary [?] historical experience. But they often arouse in the West and even within the Communist parties, reservations and questions. Is it [simply] an offspring of the cult of personality of Kim Il Sung [the nation's founder]? An original means of bypassing the bureaucracy and achieving national consensus? "A revolutionary force"? Ignorance of cultural traditions and the situation in North Korea is not the only in question here, since the decisive [emphasis as in the original] role of the leader, in the revolutionary process, is constantly emphasized. [Is?] the assurance on the "non-exportable" character of such a feature sufficient to free it of any contradiction? It is for the practice of delivering its lessons.
This is my translation of the French original here. It's obviously somewhat faulty (if you can improve on it, be my guest):
Les idées du djoutché connaissent une assez vaste audience dans le Tiers Monde et dans les mouvements de libération nationale, ainsi que dans certains grands pays, tels l'Inde et le Japon, à juste titre sensibilisés par les principes de la souveraineté, de l’auto développement, du non-alignement et du primat d'idéologie, euxmêmes confirmés part une exemplaire expérience historique. Mais elles suscitent souvent, en Occident et au sein même des partis communistes, réserves et interrogations. Le culte de Kim IL-Sung est-il un avatar du culte de la personnalité? Un moyen original de court-circuiter la bureaucratie et de réaliser le consensus national? "Une force révolutionnaire"? L'ignorance des traditions culturelles et de la situation nord-coréens n'est pas seule ici en question, puisque le rôle décisif du leader, dans le processus révolutionnaire, est constamment souligné. L'assurance du caractère "non-exportable" d'une telle particularité suffit-elle à la débarrasser de toute contradiction? Il appartiendra à la pratique de délivrer ses leçons
How this squares with the idea that, "Only the Juche idea had not any criticism in the book" is hard for me to fathom. It implicitly says there are problems or at least serious questions (usually the indication of problems) with juche.

Then it goes on to say, "A world famous person said: 'If anyone asks me what will be my choice from the treasure house of human civilization, the Juche idea will be my choice.'"

Who is this famous person? In what language did he speak? When did he say it?

Who knows? We're just supposed to take their word this wasn't made up by some guy writing copy for them.

Does Korean not have a word for subtlety? If they do, a dose of it for the KCNA/Rodong Sinmun might help.

Actually, scratch that. Reading their agitprop is so much fun, I don't want them to ever change.

Welcome, добро пожаловать, tuloy kayo, 歓迎, willkommen, bienvenu, Fáilte, સ્વાગત / इस साइट में आपका स्वागत है / স্বাগত / ಸ್ವಾಗತ / సుస్వాగతము/ நல்வரவு / خوش آمدید

First of all, Holy Thursday to you! Soon, very soon, we will have the blessed opportunity to say, "Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!"

Second, on a (much, much, much) more mundane topic, I checked the stats for where in the world people are coming from to look at this measly little blog, and here's what came back:

United States 60

United Kingdom 15

Russia 10

Philippines 7

Japan 4   こんにちは、ようこそ! or, rather, is it 한국어 영혼이, 서양 학문?

Germany 3

France 2

Canada 1

Ireland 1

India 1
This is the first time I remember seeing visitors from Japan. And four in one week. Wow. Well, I hope you'll keep coming back.

And I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge my one reader from India. You seem to be a regular, so welcome back. From which state are you? You can post anonymously to respond.

A fruitful rest of Lent to you all, and may God grace you with a joyous Easter.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Quick! What country is most likely to know who your friends are and who your relatives friends are and who your friends' friends are and what sort of contact each of you has with the other? That wants to know everything you do, how you do it, when you do it, why you do it, with whom you do it, where you do it, and so on.

Based on this, ahem, stellar reporting, North Korea, right? Nope. Take another guess.



Equatorial Guinea. Uh-uh. Cuba? Sorry. Libya or Saudi Arabia or Iran?

Nice try, but the answer is actually the United Kingdom, birthplace of common law, land of human rights and autonomy, etc.

According to this FoxNews Channel report, police want the ability to do these things because technology keeps getting ahead of them, and they just can't keep you safe otherwise. While they'd need a warrant to read your e-mails, they wouldn't need one to know to whom you're sending or receiving them.

In a statement to FNC, the Home Office said, "It is vital that police and security agences are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public. We need to take action to maintain continued availability of communications data as technology develops."

They would accomplish this by having every computer-like device be made with the tracking software already in it.

I expect this from the DPRK. From Great Britain, land of my ancestors? Ugh. What is this world coming to? It's really just becoming more and more unbelievable.

Why Romney can't win

There were two questions in the Wisconsin exit polls that says to me Romney can't win:

If Mitt Romney won the nomination, would you be:

                               Total         Romney   Santorum   Gingrich     Paul
Satisfied                 66%          63%         26%            4%             6%
Dissatisfied             32%          3%           61%            9%             22%

So if Romney won the nomination, 36% of non-Romney supporters would basically say, "OK, I can live with that." However, 92% of these people would basically say, "I think I'll stay at home that first Tuesday in November."

However, this is what's really alarming: Two thirds of Romney voters say their BIGGEST reason for voting for him was that "he can beat Obama." This does not a winning ticket make, folks. Why? Because these are not conviction voters. These are basically, "We'll take anyone with a warm pulse" voters.

If it rains, if their kid's soccer practice gets in the way, if they're just really hungry and decide to go get dinner after a long, stressful work day, guess what takes a back seat. Right, voting.

This is why unless a district is really liberal or moderate (e.g., Chris Shays's old district in Connecticut), moderates don't win national elections.

George W. Bush only won because people wanted a third Reagan term. Nixon won because of his established anti-communist bona fides and because of middle America's fears over crime and the counter culture. Ike won because, well, he was Ike. The rest of the GOP Presidents are before the birth of the modern conservative era and the implosion of the traditional Democrat Party.

Which ONE of these candidate qualities mattered most in deciding how you voted today? (CHECK ONLY ONE)
                                                    Total   Romney    Santorum    Gingrich   Paul
Can defeat Barack Obama          37%    67%          23%            6%            4%
Is a true conservative                  20%    13%          63%            7%            16%
Has strong moral character         22%    21%          56%            2%            20%

If things continue this way, I hope and pray for a brokered convention.