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Uncle Gilbert is now a cartoon. Check out Chestertoons.

ht to American Chesterton Society.

(mirror post from my Catholic & 20-Something blog)

And yet...


And yet I can criticize the representative government that stands over me with impunity. Its not that I think America is bad. I just desire it to be more American than it currently is. Check here for a glance at the Least Free Places on Earth from Foreign Policy.com

America of 51 flags


Somewhere, someone wrote about Europe of a thousand flags. Cannot, for the life of me, track down where such a phrase came from. The point is immaterial, the reason I bring it up is in reference to D's last post. The phrase refers to the past, when local dukedoms, free towns, monarchies, democratic villages, and city-states were the general tone of Europe. Before the monarchies and (later) republics began to amalgamate such self-ruling localities into dependent provinces.

In response to D's exit question: so long as the populace is complacent in accepting the "glitz and glam" of D.C. and ignoring the "pettiness" of their state government (to say nothing of their county and city), then no, such Senators are immune. If, however, we can revive that wonderful and peculiar love of a specific place (e.g. your neighborhood), then perhaps such senators would be under a popular recall so fast, they would get whiplash from the plane trip home.

Perhaps the way forward is rekindle the pride and love of local places. Our European ancestors often took surnames based on their ancestral village. Our American forefathers were adamant about being first Virginians and only then Americans. The reason is because Virginia, or better yet, Richmond, is real. That is, a man can look around and build up Virginia, if only by building up his home, his business or trade, his neighborhood, and city. If a horde of West Virginians were to suddenly march against Richmond (a la Napoleon of Notting Hill), Richmond is defensible. America is a castle in the sky.

America, in this regards, is a hazy abstraction and a collection. Until we realize that what is real in our everyday lives (keeping our eyes, for the moment, on the immanent side of things) is that which we can touch, see, and effect. America, as such, is well represented by the fireworks many of us witnessed this weekend. It is a grand show: written across the sky in brilliant colors and thunderous claps. But what is real is the people we witness the pyrotechnics with, the field in which we sit, the family and friends we love, and the city (be it a village of 100 or a city of 100,000) around us.

America is a hypothesis. It is a grand experiment, for sure, and I do not denigrate it as such. What I mean to point out is, quite simply what matters in our everyday lives is the local scene where we spend 95% of our time. In that regards, why do not we as a citizenry begin to demand our local government (primarily the State, as cities and counties derive their authority from there) to take up responsibility and shrug off the behemoth of the national government, except where it is needed? In that same light, when do we as a citizenry (emphatically NOT consumers) begin to support our local businesses over and above the corpulent corporations?

California is real. If it accepts a federal bail-out, then it will lose any remaining truth and pretense of being governed by Californians. It will fall to the degraded status as a mere province of D.C.

I entitled this post America of 51 flags (Porto Rico- run!). Perhaps what I really meant was America of 3192 flags.

Too Many Kids on the Playground


There have been a few times in my life when I realized that everything I knew was wrong. Like when I realized that the Republican party isn't the answer to every political problem. Or when it hit me that God wouldn't push me into my vocation since the greatness of a vocation is my free will choosing God's will. That not all nuns line up in the spirit of the convent from the Sound of Music. Each of these instances, though mournful at the loss of simplicity, broadened my view of reality.

And the United States Government cannot continue to operate as a host for 50 state-sized parasites.

These roles have been proposed by Washington and accepted by states over many years through the passing of funds from one to the other. Shorthand: In a state-run America, how is it that the universal drinking age is 21 years? Within 50 different state governments, one would expect at least one outlier - unless a universal system has been put in place by a larger entity (see: Federal Government) through strings attached to highway funding.

Through these deals the Congressmen and Senators in Washington circumvent the local governments that they represent and have traded the potentially difficult path of legitimate legislation for the easy path of state manipulation. A state government is comprised of elected representatives to make laws, but a Senator in Washington can vote for legislation that effectively undercuts the entire elected system of the state. Far fringe rumblings are continually concerned about the creation of a North American Union (Canexica, MexAmeriDa... whatever), but is the state/Federal Government relationship being being strongarmed into a further microcosm of such a union?

I never thought that Star Wars would scare me. I used to just see sci-fi... now it's Pelosi, Reid, Biden, Clinton, et al:

Exit Question: If a Senator proposes legislation that cuts his own state government out of the issue at hand, should he be a viable candidate for reelection?

Intelligence and Multiple Intelligences


Did I mention I'm a teacher too? Here's my first foray into educational theory, practice, and politics.

One of the defining characteristics of my education courses was the concept of multiple intelligences (wiki page on M.I.). In brief, this theory purports there are at least 8 different categories of intelligence: verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, naturalistic, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal (there is thought about 9th: spiritual). Each learner has some innate aptitude towards 1-3 of these and can most easily learn by utilizing these.
Consequently, a student who can comprehend complex mathematical (logical-mathematical) ideas is not necessarily more intelligent than a student who can articulate a deep understanding of literature (verbal-linguistic). OK. But the theory goes further. A student who can correctly interpret a map and relate that to geo-politics (visual-spatial), is not necessarily any more intelligent than a student who can relate really well with anyone in the room (interpersonal).

This is bread & butter in probably every single education department in the country. Christopher Ferguson, in "Not every child is secretly a genius," published at the Chronicle Review, takes issue with this theory. I think Mr. Ferguson hits a huge flaw with M.I.: the quantitative data (numbers-based) is lacking in the research (I wish he had backed up this claim with references). Ferguson claims that like the natural-philosophers, the ancestor of the natural-scientists, multiple intelligence theory is based on philosophy, not empirical studies.
Why? Because M.I. is politically correct, and philosophically sound with modern education (which is resoundingly constructivist*). Further, he argues, a classroom steeped M.I. theory fails to teach students the necessary skills to succeed in advanced studies, complex processes, or acknowledge that not every student has the intelligence (the older concept of 'g', a measure of overall intelligence) to become a rocket scientist; and it conflates intelligence with interests and motivations.

I am split on this.

  • Utilizing the theory of multiple intelligences challenges the education to use a diverse array of pedagogical tools and methods. Its prevented me from falling into a rut of using the same techniques over and over. It creates a more interesting classroom environment, in a phrase.
  • Maybe our society would be more healthy if it were not obsessed with logical-mathematical and verbal-linguistic. A greater utilization and appreciation of each intelligence might help build a more culturally complex society (read: end of cable television and video games; resurgence of art and local culture).
  • Different age groups utilize difference intelligences. In my experience, the average junior high boy is much more comfortable learning with kinesthetic modes than the average junior high girl, who is able to utilize more traditional modes of education: primarily verbal-linguistic**.

  • In the professional world, employers need people who can maintain focus, achieve a goal, and work in the situation. Whether or not that is one's preferred intelligence, is laregly irrelevant to the task at hand (unless you work at Gallup...)
  • Some students do show a greater aptitude for learning (i.e., may have a higher intelligence) than others. Is being strong interpersonally (e.g., precociously social) the same as being able to master math tools? It is not. While social skills are pivotal in many regards, they do not seem to be categorically identifiable with the ability to learn new concepts.
  • Thus, an M.I. infused classroom can fail to impart on students the importance of standard modes of transferring ideas: language. If you cannot learn from reading and listening, your options are severely hampered.
  • I agree with Ferguson's insight that some of the intelligences are not seperate from one another, or may be better categorized together. "Cognitive performance on skills related to verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, and visual-spatial tasks, as well as many memory tasks, tends to be highly related. In other words, it goes back to 'g.' [intelligence]"
  • Further, as the author points out naturalist and music (two of my strengths in M.I.) seem to be more along the line of interests than intelligence. And intra- and inter-personal might better be "described as personality traits."
  • A successful person is one who can utilize many of these traits, integrated together.
A part of the problem I am wrestling with is the reality that during my studies for my masters of education, not a moment was spent critically examining the theories that under-girded the department. That is, even when I attempted to examine Piaget's theory of learning (a foundational element to M.I.), my professors refused to lead the class into such a misty quagmire of thought and research.

Am I likely to continue to utilize M.I. in my classroom? Yes, I will, primarily because it diversifies my instruction. Am I likely to really accept this eight-way division of intelligence without empirical data to back it up? No. It is frosting on the cake of teaching, but its root assumption, that all children are wonderful and equally endowed with powerful intelligences of some sort, seems contrary to experience***.

Ferguson's article points out an extreme flaw: the lack of empirical data to justify the continued use of multiple intelligences as a foundational element in teacher formation. However, given the current politically-correct culture, it seems unlikely that M.I. will vanish from the scene: it is nice, and that is what counts, it seems. And to end my rambling (thank you for bearing with me thus far), I find it well worth it pause on what Uncle Gilbert (Chesterton, that is) once opined: that it is a strange thing when students (in this case, teachers) are taught by theories that are younger than they are.

*(A question for another day is whether constructivism is even compatible with an epistemology within a Catholic worldview?)
**(This difference is especially fascinating. Given that we now say education is 'female-orientated,' when in the past these traditional methods seemed to perpetuate a 'male-dominated' intelligentsia... I'm just saying, its curious)
***(NOT that this means anything toward the root human dignity of any of my past or future students or how they- or classes of people- should be treated. As Henri Nouwen points out in his writings, sometimes it is those with severe mental handicaps and disabilities that can teach most poignantly about human dignity, compassion, and faith).

For me but not for thee


From Reuters:

"Secretary Clinton is not going to go to Moscow," the official told reporters, saying Clinton would name a State Department official to replace her on the Monday-to-Wednesday trip.

The official declined to explain why she would not travel and it was not immediately clear whether it was because of her injury. Clinton tripped and fell in the State Department on June 17 and had surgery two days later on her right elbow.

Two days. Sounds fine. Ah, but under ObamaCare she might be told that a cast would be enough as long as she can move her fingers. Not that the Clintons would be subject to OC anyway.



GK Chesterton, in his work Everlasting Man, observes that, "[t]he truth is that only men to whom the family is sacred will ever have a standard or a status by which to criticize the state." He goes on to remark that it was because the Roman based his world upon his family, Rome was never at peace: "the state that imposed peace on the world was never really at peace." As I read these lines a thought struck me:

Who criticizes our state? Who can criticize our state?

The most vocal opponents of modern America seems to come from those who have this unsettling notion (unsettling, that is, to the eyes of those in power) that in some strange fashion, the family is more important than the state. These same power-mongering-officials are doing everything they can to destroy this last bastion of revolt.

Surely, I overreact. It is not as though the government has taken over the formation of the youth (government schools), care for the ill & aged (government health care), or even transportation (Government Motors). It is not as though the state has taken upon itself the very definition of family ("same sex marriage") and life (IVF, abortion, & euthanasia).

Surely, I overreact. Then why is it that voices that defend the family are mocked, ridiculed, and excluded from public discourse? Whether this be diabolically intentional or myopically misguided, our politically-dominated culture seems to be going out of its way to destroy the only institution that allows, no demands, the government be scrutinized and bow before the common man.

If the family is enough to move a man to fight, then the highest offices of power must tread lightly. If the family is independant, then the government must risk constant rebellion- as we saw in Rome for centuries. In this constant revolt, the state can never forget that it is not sacrosanct; it is derivitave. In this ongoing struggle of family and politics, vigilence in the name of liberty will never allow the opprosive tyrants to squelch that local freedom which, perhaps, best defines human society.

If, however, the family be not enough to move a man to stand up and fight, what shall? If the home be not enough for a man take arms against that which threatens it, then perhaps (in CS Lewis's terms) we have finally created men without chests. And we need not wait to be conquered, for we already are in thralldom.

Earth Full of Lab Rats


I think people tend to associate random illness or physical pain with their past sins. In olden days (see: the Bible), it was commonly thought that sinfulness led to physical infirmity as seen in John 9 when people asked Jesus if the man born blind was in such a state because of his sin or his parent's. Matthew 9 shows Jesus seeing a paralytic lying on a stretcher and telling the person "Courage child, your sins are forgiven."

Ok. I'm the paralytic thinking, "AND???"

Yeah, the guy is healed in the end, but Christ shows quite vividly that spiritual sins do not cause physical infirmity. At least not paralysis...

But getting back to my point, it seems to be within human nature to look for a cause of a poor physical condition. Many faithful people who fall ill with one disease or another question God and many unfaithful people remain as such because they see that a believer's God won't save them.

But what if God did save faithful people from physical infirmity? Only the mafia would get Parkinson's disease. The pope wouldn't get Parkinson's disease. Atheists would get tuberculosis. St. Therese wouldn't get tuberculosis. And so people believe and worship God, not out of love, but out of a desire to avoid illness.

Exit question: If all things come from God, why is it that one is thought to be 'blessed with good health,' but not 'blessed with poor health?'



Well, since Drewbie decided to give me some authorship in his blog, let me say a few words about myself:

  • I'm a 20-something living in Middle-America, but born and raised in the Mitten.
  • GK Chesterton has had a profound influence on how I think & see the world.
  • I am entering a Benedictine monastery in August.
Some previous thoughts on:
Discernment I & Discernment II
My backstory

Much of my writing will have little to do with politics-- D is much better at such discourse than I. My hope is to contribute more on reflections & maybe share insights and syntheses that strike me. Also count on some thoughts on the works of GK Chesterton, Tolkien, & Lewis. I'll likely sign off in August, but until then will gladly share my thoughts with y'all out there.


A Marian Litany


Mary, most holy
Mary, ever listening
Mary, peaceful heart
Mary, courageous and trusting
Mary, obedient before God
Mary, pierced by seven sorrows

Mary, hear a sinner's plea
Mary, Mother of God pray for me
Mary, direct my willful heart
Mary, intercede for me

Mary, Queen of Heaven
Mary, hope of Christians
Mary, pray for us sinners

Reggae and the Image of God


I picked up Matisyahu's Youth reggae CD the other day. A friend had introduced me to his music a couple of years ago but it didn't take hold until this past spring when I touched on Hasidic Judaism in my world religions class.

While teaching Orthodox and Hasidic Judaism, I found myself drawn to their life of community and prayer - joking with my wife that if I ever became Jewish, we'd have to move to a major city with a large Orthodox Jewish population. The idea that Jewish men are called to prayer three times a day as a matter of maintaining their faith drew my attention in a way similar to that of the monastery - a life of communal and regulated prayer.

Sure, within Catholicism we have the liturgy of the hours, rosary, chaplet, novenas, and endless other methods of prayer, but are any required for assuming the faith? And are communities prevalent or even existent outside of the liturgy? Sacrosancum Concilium (#12) notes first that the spiritual life is not limited to participation in the liturgy. This statement is immediately followed by the assertion that the Christian is called to pray with his brethren, then mentioning secret prayer to the Father.

Boom. Okay, when was the last time you prayed with your brethren outside of the liturgy? Last night at dinner doesn't count. Your spouse is a good start. Beyond that?

Is there a reason why Catholics have little or no communal life? It's easy to settle into the idea that Catholic community is like-minded people that sit next to you in mass - maybe even asking for a prayer or two. But praying with? Gathering for the purpose of prayer?

Politically, I imagine how the founding fathers would react to the state of our country today. Religiously, I can't bring myself to imagine the reaction of St. Paul upon hearing of the lack of everyday Catholic community. Probably a lot of yelling. Then tears.

Spiritually, we need one another. God exists in community (ala Trinity) and made us in His image. Limiting our prayer lives to one-on-one with God does not reflect the condition in which we were designed. It's like eating breakfast for every meal; good in and of itself, but not exactly what I'd call balance.

Maybe it's time to start a balance.

Exit thought: On one hand, healthy and regular prayer is helpful because then I don't have to worry about enough prayer... which allows me to worry about other things. On the other hand, if I worried about prayer like I should, perhaps I wouldn't be worrying about anything else.

Healthcare cut off her nose to spiderface or something


Confusing, I know, but we'll get through this.

Smoking is bad. Right? Smoking related illness kills 440,000 people every year (about 36,000 per month). On Thursday, the Senate voted to increase the extent to which cigarette nicotine can be regulated, as well as limiting advertising ability of tobacco companies. Safe to say, the likely intention of the Senate is to reduce the number of smokers since they are a... drag on the health care system.

If I were a flat republican, I'd have a huge problem with this, as it flies in the face of strict capitalism. However, I consider myself to be a Catholic Conservative. Behind all the politics and rights and who can do what and opinion, we are all people, created by God, with a specific and common human nature. In the biggest picture, the purpose of politics not to enforce an ideology, but to create conditions of the social life where people can more readily better themselves (GS 74). Outside of a particular political system, it is important for the government to protect society from things that may cause them harm such as smoking, drugs, pornography, murder (abortion and assisted suicide), and so on. Guns are not included, as the government often cannot protect a person from an immediate violent attacker. This is not to say that a nanny state is required, but that the state must be involved in removing from society things that run against a person's human nature; against their ability to attain happiness.

So tobacco companies are getting muzzled a bit. This would be fine except for the fact that in February 2009, this same Senate passed legislation for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) that expanded free heath coverage to an addition 4 million individuals (who have 'modest' income and do not qualify for Medicaid). Big deal? Yes, for many reasons; most immediately because it is set to be paid for with taxes taken from... drum roll please... If you guessed cigarettes, you're absolutely correct! Tell him what he's won Melvin - it's a Kimball piano - absolutely correct! The future of health care will be dependant on that which sickens people!


Interesting that the girl in the video mentions flu season. With the new pandemic level for swine flu, I think it might be good to quickly put things into perspective, 36,000 people die from the common flu each year; H1N1 Swine flue has killed 145 people.

The only sense this makes to me is if there is such an incredible health care crisis, the Obama administration will have an "excuse" to step in and take over the nation's health care. Similarly, though for another post, if FOCA passes, the USCCB would be and has declared that it would be morally obligated to close all Church run hospitals - creating just such a crisis for the government to step in.

Para-School Learning


I think back just a few years to my Senior year at Benedictine College. Like many finishing students, I spent hours armed with a class catalog and a list of my completed classes. Bending and stretching, I would try to figure out how I could fulfill all the hour requirements that would open the magical door to graduation. My last semester consisted of 12 credit hours, one of which ended after the quarter; another hour was piano lessons. Full time student with essentially 10 hours - smooth sailing.

At that time, I was also heavily considering the priesthood and religious life. I made a few retreats at the Abbey on campus where I learned that the young monks took in-depth Latin instruction from a couple of older monks. This seemed like a great idea until I learned that it wouldn't count for college credit.

How bizarre - to put in so much work and effort with... nothing to show for it. Forget the fact that the student would be well-versed in Latin, no college would recognize it as class completed.

Something still held my curiosity. How daring and rebellious would it be against the system to take a class for my own sake and not for worldly accomplishment.

The Daughters of Our Lady of the Visitation are an order in Vietnam that run a 15 student school. These students have supported themselves by salvaging "scrap metal" (i.e. spent bullets and shells), but are educated for the sake of education. In a society too removed from the pursuit of absolute success, the virtue of education is made manifest. For a person to make full use of their faculties, mind and body, is the continued fulfillment of human nature, which absolutely leads to happiness. This mission of the Daughters, instructing the ignorant, is an example of mercy that should be easily adapted into our own lives.

Maybe we are the ignorant. What are we going to do about it?

More on Stimulus Job Effects


Via HotAir:

"The stimulus bill was signed on February 17; even if we treat all job losses that month as having occurred after it went into effect (which we shouldn’t), we lost 681,000 in February, 652,000 in March, 504,000 in April, and 345,000 in May for a grand total just shy of 2.2 million jobs."

These numbers are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics - I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but ADP National Employment Report has numbers that are a little more bleak.

Even with the discrepancy with numbers, this is quite the visualization:

He says the table represents 2.5 million jobs - it doesn't quite add up - of course, the job loss projection quoted above has job creation counted against it as a net loss. The video does not discuss jobs created.

Whew: Obama more Christian that Bush


In response to a swath of new questions about Obama's religious identity (raised by his renunciation of America's Christian identity, his statement that America is one of the world's largest Muslim countries, the fact that he hasn't spoken out about the first act of Islamic terrorism on U.S. soil since 9/11), Politico has decided to take it upon itself to calm the nerves of the nation by noting how often Barack mentions Jesus. I might ask why the nerves of a non-Christian nation need to be calmed...

The column leads with one of the most recent occasions of Obama's blatant Christianity:

"In his speech Thursday in Cairo, Obama told the crowd that he is a Christian and mentioned the Islamic story of Isra, in which Moses, Jesus and Muhammad joined in prayer. "

Hey, beggars can't be choosers. Forget that Obama's statement of faith is followed up by an event involving Jesus that Christians have never believed occurred. Actual references to the bible include:

"Obama mentioned Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount at Georgetown University to make the case for his economic policies. Obama retold the story of two men, one who built his house on a pile of sand and the other who built his on a rock: “We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand,” Obama said. “We must build our house upon a rock.” "

Obama's assertion that we must build our economic house on rock is a good idea, but it involves finding a rock and putting in the work - not just deciding that another dune now qualifies as rock.

The article rips the idea that Bush was a Christian President, while he spoke less about Jesus than Obama. It's great that President Obama is a mystic and looks for God in everyday life, but there is a fundamental problem with his approach. George Bush quoted scripture on occasions where the context of the passage applied to the event at hand - for instance, Psalm 23 after the 9/11 attacks. Rather than using scripture to address an occasion to that in context, Obama dangerously employs pretext - using scripture to fulfill your own preconceived ideas of what it means.

Of course, Joe Potatochip isn't going to know the difference; only that the politician quoted the bible, which works wonderfully for someone who's poll numbers are in a freefall.