Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Stop Writing About Old Age!

The other day a friend said to me, “Bill, for the last two months all you’ve written about is getting old. To be honest, that TOPIC is getting old. Would you please write about something different?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Oh, come on,” she replied. “It’s as if you get a cash bonus every time you refer to yourself as a geezer. You’ve written about feeling old at your high school reunion and about being jealous of people your age who can retire. You wrote a column about Bugs Bunny, but described him as a grumpy old man, er, I mean, rabbit. And, of course, recently you shared a bunch of fun facts about your middle-aged anatomy, including that your prostate is the size of a grapefruit. Hey Bill, too much information!”

“No, that was just an exaggeration,” I explained. “I’m sure it’s no larger than an orange. And besides, I was going to write that my hemorrhoids are the same size and texture as gravel, but I decided that was a bit crude, so I went with the prostate joke instead.”

“Eww!” she exclaimed. “Good thing you didn’t put THAT in the newspaper. You’re a good example, Bill, of the old adage: ‘Youth is fleeting but immaturity can last a lifetime’.” 

Hmm, maybe she’s right. Maybe I have been focused a little too much on the surprising reality that if someone was born in the 1950s, that means he or she is not a young person anymore. I’m usually pretty good at math, but this one kind of snuck up on me. Without warning the calendar suddenly started saying, “Almost 60 years old, pal!” (Yes, my calendar actually speaks to me.) Then a voice in my head innocently replied, “No way, he’s no more than early 40s, right?” (Yes, a voice in my head actually has conversations with the calendar, often without even telling me.)

Maybe I should spend some time focusing on youthful themes. But what exactly is a “youthful theme”? I could write about some of the things I remember from my childhood, such as rotary dial telephones and using wooden baseball bats without batting gloves. Or I could write about paying 40-cents for a gallon of gasoline and composing term papers by going to the library and looking up stuff in an encyclopedia, rather than doing a Google search from the comfort of your bedroom.

But if I write about those things, anyone under age 50 won’t have a clue what I’m talking about, so again it merely emphasizes my impending geezerhood.

I think the key is that old adage; immaturity can indeed last a lifetime. I have discovered that many middle-aged and senior citizens, especially men, had their senses of humor peak in the 6th grade, and now many decades later, the things that were most humorous to a 12-year-old boy are still at the top of the hit parade. (“Hit parade” being another term that people under age 50 do not recognize.)

For example, you’d be surprised how often the tense atmosphere of an important business meeting can be relieved when you suddenly start talking like Elmer Fudd. (“Shhhh. Be vewy, vewy quiet. I’m hunting contwactors. Heh-heh-heh.”) I’m glad to report that over the years I have personally helped many meetings from becoming too tense. However, based on the trajectory of my business career, maybe that should not have been my sole contribution during meetings. 

Well, I certainly don’t want to bore people by writing about the same topic over and over again. And I promise not to dwell on, um, gee, I forgot what the topic was. It’s hard to remember things at my age, you know.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

We Must Forgive to Be Forgiven

One of the scariest verses in the Bible has to be Matthew 6:15. It is right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus tells us: “If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father (in Heaven) forgive your transgressions.”

Now, this is not some obscure passage from one of those confusing Old Testament books that few people read and even fewer understand. This is from the New Testament, from the Lord Himself, and it is very, very plain and clear. He is telling us that in order for us to have our trespasses forgiven by God Almighty, we first need to forgive those people who have hurt and offended us.

Have you ever heard of “Irish Alzheimer’s”? It’s where you forget everything except the grudges. There’s a pretty powerful strain of that running through my extended family. I suppose you could change the ethnic origin and it still would apply to many different groups, for the truth is, holding grudges is not a distinctly Irish or Italian or Polish trait; it’s really a human trait.

It would be comical if it weren’t so sad. Odds are you have at least a couple people in your extended family who fit this description: they haven’t spoken to each other in years, and at this point no one even remembers for sure what exactly caused the problem. The only thing anyone knows for sure is that both parties are clinging to powerful grudges. They each are convinced that they alone were insulted and offended and they alone deserve an apology. And they damn well are not going to be the one who apologizes—since they of course didn’t do anything wrong. And they are damn well not going to take the first step to reconcile with the other person—because of course it was the other person who started the whole thing.

Oh, there is one other thing that everyone knows for sure. Everyone knows that when these two people happen to attend a family gathering at the same time, the level of tension and discomfort for all the other people present quickly becomes unbearable.

As Catholics, we know one of the key points of the Gospel message is that Jesus offers true forgiveness of sins. And as Catholics, we have the powerful sacrament of Reconciliation (also known as Confession), where we can be absolved of our sins.

However, as Jesus makes very clear in the passage from the Sermon on the Mount, if we do not forgive others, then God will not forgive us. Jesus was very clear that the amount of forgiveness we receive is in direct proportion to the amount of forgiveness we offer others. I suspect many of us, when our time on earth is done and we find ourselves standing before the great throne of judgment, will be quite shocked at what the Lord has to say to us. It will be even more unpleasant than one of those tense family gatherings.

While being tortured to death on the Cross, Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Wow. If Jesus can forgive the people who put Him to death, don’t you think it might be possible, say, for Aunt Shirley to forgive Cousin Lenny, and vice versa? After all, we’re not talking about being nailed to a cross and killed. We’re talking about a single sarcastic comment that may or may not have been uttered 27 years ago. 

If this could happen, it would mean the Lord truly offers His forgiveness. Also, it would mean those family gatherings actually might be enjoyable for a change. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Sound of (Presidential) Music

Recently, while commuting to work, I started humming tunes from “The Sound of Music.” (Why? I dunno. It’s a classic movie with catchy songs.) Since my brain is left-handed, I found myself making up new lyrics to commemorate the never-ending presidential campaign season. Here’s one for the Democrat front-runner, sung to the tune of “My Favorite Things”:

Secret computers and shady donations.
Hide from debates, offer lame explanations.
Stall and delay and deny everything.
These are a few of my paranoid things.

Vast right-wing critics and bimbo eruptions.
Classified data and email destructions.
FBI documents in the West Wing.
These are a few of my paranoid things.

Girls in stained dresses, oh please let’s not go there.
Let’s talk about something else, like my dyed hair.
Bill and I soon will become Queen and King.
These are a few of my paranoid things.

When the FOX bites / When the press stings / When I want to sigh.
I simply remember my paranoid things / And spout out another lie.

To be fair, here are lyrics for the Republican front-runner, sung to the tune of “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria”:

He takes the stage and vents his rage / His fist is in the air.
He barges into studios / And rants and raves in there.
And just above his red face / Is a critter he calls hair.
I’ve even heard him screaming at a baby.

He’s always great for sound bites / But his thoughts aren’t very deep.
His insults are relentless / And to women he’s a creep.
I hate to have to say it / The man will make you weep.
This fellow’s not an asset to the nation.

I cannot say a word in his behalf / The Trumpster has no class.

How do you solve a problem like The Donald?
How do you catch a loon and strap him down?
How do you find a word that means The Donald?
A self-absorbed jerk! A vain narcissist! A clown!

Many a thing you know you’d like to tell him / Many a time he should be in a cage.
But how do you make him hear / His head is inside his rear.
Why is he so consumed with all that rage?

Oh how do you solve a problem like The Donald?
How do you get a blowhard off the stage?

Just in case “Hill” and “Shrill” do not become the nominees, I thought of some lyrics for other candidates.

“So Long, Farewell”
There’s an odd sort of laughing / From the room down the hall.
And the gaffs are relentless, too.
And in the Veep office / An absurd Uncle Joe,
Is showing us that he’s coo-coo (Coo-coo, coo-coo).

“The Lonely Goatherd”
High on a hill was a lonely surgeon / Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo.
Soft was the voice of the lonely surgeon / Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo.
Folks in a town strained to hear him speaking / Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo.
But Dr. Ben looked like he was sleeping / Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo.

“Sixteen Going On Seventeen”
You are eighty, going on eighty-one / Bernie, you’re on the brink.
Keep spouting Marx and Socialist dreams / To people who rarely think.

Jeb, a Bush, another Bush.
Ain’t we done this twice before?
Me, I think I’ve had enough.
Ugh, I can’t take anymore! 

In conclusion, there’s one thing I’d love to say to all the candidates: “So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, shut-up! Don’t let, the door, hit you in the bu-utt!”

Friday, September 25, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, September 25, 2015

Last week while speaking at a town hall event in Iowa, President Obama said this: “Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal… who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side, and that’s a problem….I’ve heard some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive…I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view…. you shouldn’t silence them by saying, ‘You can’t come here because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.’ That’s not the way we learn.”

Well, I’ll be darned. The president acknowledged what conservatives have been saying for years: college campuses have become so politically correct they will not allow conservative views to be heard.

A few days later, the Obama Administration’s Department of Education released its “College Scorecard,” which helps students search for schools that fit their needs. Conspicuously absent from the list were a number of conservative schools, such as Hillsdale College, Grove City College, and Patrick Henry College.

Wait. What?! The president says conservative views ought to be heard and debated on campuses, but then his own administration publishes a guide to help students choose a school and leaves conservative colleges off the list?! You can’t make this stuff up.

I realize the federal government is a massive and bureaucratic leviathan, and the folks working in the Dept. of Education are not monitoring every word the president utters. But this sure seems like a case of “actions speak louder than words.” The president offered some encouraging words, but he was probably trying to tell a certain group of people what they wanted to hear. On the other hand, the actions of the Dept. of Education demonstrate the real goal of the administration, which is: conservative views must be stifled.

So regardless of what the president recently said, don’t expect campus speech codes to be relaxed any time soon. Conservative thought is NOT welcomed and schools will continue to label as “hate speech” anything that does not conform with progressive secular ideology. 

By the way, if you have kids in high school, the three schools listed above would be terrific choices.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

One Man’s Stuff Is Junk

There’s an old expression: One man’s meat is another man’s poison. Other variations are: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, one man’s loss is another man’s gain, and one man’s weekend hobby is another man’s creepy obsession that ultimately results in a restraining order. (Here, I suspect a drone with a video camera might be involved.)

Apparently this “one man” is very busy, and someone should tell him to knock it off.

Another expression goes like this: One man’s clever idiom that begins with “One man’s…” is another man’s dopey cliché.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about a particular expression: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Actually, I’ve substituted a couple words: One man’s stuff is another man’s junk.

I used to think I had a pretty good handle on what exactly is stuff, and what exactly is junk. Stuff is the good stuff I own, the stuff I enjoy and want to keep. Junk is the bad stuff I own, the stuff I never use and should throw away.

Since we began to do some work on our house in preparation for putting it up for sale, I’ve discovered a whole lot of stuff that I considered stuff is actually junk. Part of this might be due to the real estate agent, who swooped through our home one evening, going from room to room, and declared that everything has to go. “Rooms look much bigger to potential buyers when they’re empty,” she explained.

“Yeah, but we still live here,” I said, “and we still sort of need things like a bed and a chair, don’t we?”

She paused for a moment, then said, “Do you want to sell the house or not?”

OK then, so a lot of stuff that used to be stuff is now considered junk. The problem is, I can label a particular item as junk, meaning I haven’t touched it in nine years and I suppose I could live without it when we eventually move to a smaller place, but I can’t bring myself to label it as garbage. The item still has some value — maybe not to me anymore, but to somebody. I’d feel guilty if I just tossed it down an embankment on the side of Route 8 late at night — er, I mean, rented a dumpster and disposed of it properly.

Therefore, we are now going to do something almost as stressful as selling the house: we’re going to have a tag sale.

To be honest, I enjoy tag sales about as much as Kim Kardashian enjoys reading Shakespeare. It’s kind of sad to watch sweet little old ladies suddenly turn into hockey players. They park their Buicks on neighbors’ lawns. They push and shove other sweet little old ladies, as if a set of plastic plates from Target are priceless antiques from the Ming Dynasty. And they haggle over the prices like Donald Trump buying another building in Manhattan, only with significantly more personal insults.

I’m looking forward to all the delightful aspects of having a tag sale: being told I’m greedy for charging five dollars for something that recently cost me a hundred bucks; breaking up fights between sweet little old ladies and sending them to their respective penalty boxes; and worst of all, realizing at the end of the day that the driveway is still filled with quite a bit of junk, and I’ll have to load up my car and head out on Route 8 at midnight — er, I mean, rent a dumpster. 

We haven’t set a date yet, but the tag sale is coming soon. Which reminds me of an old expression: One man’s tag sale is another man’s root canal. 



Monday, September 21, 2015

Millstones For Sale – One Size Fits All

In the gospel reading at Mass for the weekend of Sept 26th and 27th, Jesus issues this warning: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

This means that those who cause others to be separated from the Lord are in a heap o’ trouble. I don’t know about you, but I get tired after treading water for only a few minutes. Trying to stay afloat with a two-ton millstone around my neck would be, shall we say, rather challenging.

In this present day and age, our popular culture is working overtime to draw folks away from God. The institutions that have the most influence on people—the news media, the public education system, and the entertainment industry—have become downright hostile towards religious faith. However, we shouldn’t be surprised since the majority of people who run these institutions are thoroughly secular, so why should they want to promote traditional Judeo-Christian values when they don’t hold those values themselves?

The real danger—and the people to whom I think Jesus was referring—are those who claim to have religious faith and yet push people away from the Lord and cause them to sin. You’d be surprised at the number of people who say they believe in God, but who are convinced that they have the authority to decide for themselves what’s right and what’s wrong.

How about the Bible? Nah, too old, too weird. I’ll make up my own rules.

Church Tradition? Forget that. Haven’t you heard? All tradition is bad.

The Teaching Magisterium of the bishops? Are you kidding? A bunch of celibate old men? What do they know about real life?

The pope? Well, he seems like a cool guy—at least when he’s promoting the things I like. But when he starts talking about stuff I don’t like, I tune him out.

And so we have a multitude of people who have embraced what Pope Benedict called the “dictatorship of relativism.” They believe there are no firm truths or doctrines; everything is relative. It all depends on the situation. Most of all, it all depends on what you feel.

Have you ever heard someone say, “If it feels right for you, then it’s right”? Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? But what if you’re Jeffrey Dahlmer? What if you’re that jerk who shot up the black church in South Carolina this year? They were doing what they felt was right. Does anyone really want to argue that if it felt right for them, then it really was right?

People who embrace relativism actually think the following statement is correct: “It is absolutely true that there are no absolute truths.” Wait, what? That statement completely contradicts itself.

Many modern secular people would be surprised to find that there really are absolute truths in our world. And not just in the scientific realm, but also regarding morality and societal issues.

We know there are absolute truths because the person who called Himself “the Way and the Truth and the Life” told us so. And in this week’s gospel reading, He tells us that if we lead people astray—for example, by promoting the idea that everyone should make up their own personal definition of right and wrong—then we are in big, big, BIG trouble. I used a couple extra “bigs” there because those millstones ain’t small. If the Lord ties one around our neck and then tosses us over the side of a boat, well, at that point it really won’t matter if we remembered to bring our snorkel.

The true Truth of Jesus can be found in those “old fashioned” things: the Bible, Church Tradition, the teachings of the bishops and popes. 

Embracing the truths taught by Jesus surely will be a whole lot more comfortable than getting fitted with a size 17 millstone.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, September 18, 2015

Last week the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, spoke at a rally in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. The rally was sponsored by the Michael Bloomberg-funded anti-gun group “Everytown for America.” The purpose of the rally was to shame Congress into passing gun control legislation.

At the event, Gov. McAuliffe brought an armed body guard with him.

Wait. What?! The guy who thinks people should not be able to protect themselves with a firearm, made sure he was protected … with a firearm?!!

Hmm, sounds like typical elitist logic: “It’s OK for me, but not for thee.”

Hey, I’m not saying a state governor should go out in public without a body guard. There are a lot of nuts running around these days. I’m sure the governor can list a lot of good reasons why he should travel with an armed body guard. But there are also a lot of good reasons why non-politicians could use a little protection.

I wonder if Gov. McAuliffe has ever been walking by himself thru a dingy parking garage at night in New Haven or Bridgeport? I wonder if he’s ever had to change a flat tire while in a not-quite middle-class neighborhood in Hartford? I wonder if he’s ever had a drug-addled goofball break into his house at 2 a.m.? These are the kinds of things that happen to non-famous people once in a while. 

Sure, let’s have a sober conversation about gun violence in this country. But just remember one thing: “When seconds count, the police are minutes away.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Two Topics I Refuse To Discuss

Well, here it is, the third week of September, and the Fall season officially begins in a week. I’m sure the most pressing thought on your mind right now is this: Hey Bill, how come this year you didn’t write your annual summer column about the Red Sox?

Thank you for noticing. For the last decade I have written at least one column every summer about the Red Sox. But not this year. This year I refuse to write even a single word about those miserable bums.

I mean, really, you have the third highest payroll in all of Major League baseball, a lineup filled with (so-called) All Stars, and the addition of a couple of new (so-called) power hitters. So you’d think you’d be able to knock in some runs and stay above .500 and have a shot at winning the mediocre American League East division, right?

But no! Instead, you can’t even hit your weight, you leave men in scoring position by the boatload, and you either swing and miss at pitches in the dirt or take strike three right down the middle. And your pitching staff is a bunch of Venus DeMilos. So you plummet to the cellar of the division early in the season and stay there month after month after month.

I ask you, is that a baseball team to be proud of, a team about which a summer column should be written? No! And that’s why I refuse to write a single word this year about the Boston Dead Sox. (Um, not counting the previous 169 words, of course.)

Another pressing thought that I’m sure is on your mind is this: Hey Bill, how come you didn’t write your annual summer column about golf?

Again, thank you for noticing. Every summer I’ve written at least one column about my love/hate relationship with the game of golf. But this year I refuse to write a single word about golf. Look, I think golf is a fabulous sport. The drama and the tension and the excitement are really amazing. (OK, I hear you. Golf is an acquired taste. I also get excited watching paint dry.)

Golf is truly fascinating — when someone else is playing it. Watching a major tournament on TV or watching in person at the Travelers Championship is a terrific experience. The professionals can do astounding things with that little white ball. But middle-aged schlubs like me should not be allowed to touch a golf club. It really should be against the law.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. By that definition, golf is insanity. I don’t play a lot, maybe ten times per summer, but every time I play, I really think to myself, “This is the day. This is the time when everything comes together and I finally strike the ball crisply and have the best round of my life.” Then, five hours later, after tallying up a 106, I toss my bag into the back of my car with disgust, mutter a bunch of four-letter words (the word “golf” prominent among the profane terms), and sincerely ask myself, “What the blank is my blankin’ problem? Why do I bother to play this blankin’ game?”

And that’s why I refuse to write a single word this year about the game of golf. (Um, not counting the previous 236 words, of course.) 

Now that we’ve put those topics to rest, we can focus on another pressing thought that’s on your mind: Hey Bill, if it turns out to be another Clinton vs. Bush presidential election next year, should we jump off a tall building or jump off a bridge?

Monday, September 14, 2015

It’s a Blunderful Church

A few weeks ago during Sunday Mass, the intercessory prayers we say right after the Creed were proceeding as usual. But then the Lector said, “And for all those who are sick of this parish, we pray to the Lord.”

I started the rote response, but then realized what he had said. My response came out like this: “Lord, hear our…what?!” I had to work hard to suppress giggles. I’m sure he meant to say something like, “…all those who are sick IN this parish.” Or, “…all those in our parish who are sick.”

Although, when you think about it, I’m sure there are some people who are sick OF the parish, and in that case, they definitely need our prayers. However, I’m pretty sure that’s not what he meant to say.

Quite often verbal blunders are made during Mass. I can remember one time hearing the Lector read from one of St. Paul’s letters, and instead of saying, “…you were made for immortality,” the Lector said, “…you were made for immorality.” Oops.

A reading from the Old Testament refers to a “burning brazier.” But a Lector once called it “a burning brassiere.” Those Old Testament folks must’ve been the first feminists.

In case you’re not sure, Moses in fact did not go up “Mount Cyanide” to receive the “Ten Amendments.” And one of the commandments is not, “Thou shall humor thy father and mother.”

I’m a Lector in my parish, and I’ve blundered plenty of times. Once I was reading from the 23rd Psalm, and those darn “o-u-g-h” letters got me again. I proclaimed, “And thru I walk tho’ the valley of the shadow of death…” Ugh, I soon as I said it, I realized my mistake. I’m not sure which is worse, the valley of the shadow of death or the valley of the shadow of embarrassed public speaking.

Some of the most classic church blunders occur in the bulletins. These were actually printed and handed out to the congregation:

Potluck supper: prayer and medication to follow.

Weight Watchers will meet at 7 p.m. Please use large double doors at the side entrance.

Tuesday at 4 p.m. there will be an ice cream social. All ladies giving milk will please come early.

The choir invites any member of the parish who enjoys sinning to join the choir.

Low Self-Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 p.m. Please use the back door.

Don’t let worry kill you off – let the church help.

Due to the pastor’s illness, Wednesday’s healing services will be discontinued until further notice.

The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the church basement on Friday at 7 p.m. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.

Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24th in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.

The pastor will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing, “Break Forth Into Joy.”

Bertha Belch, a missionary from Africa, will be speaking tonight at Calvary Methodist. Come hear Bertha Belch all the way from Africa.

Maybe one of the most shocking church blunders occurred many centuries ago, when a publishing house in England printed a new edition of the Bible. One of the commandments was printed as, “Thou shalt commit adultery.”

Not only was the printer embarrassed, but he was fined 3,000 British pounds by the government for his mistake, which is probably more than a million dollars in today’s money. 

As Christians, we understand that only God is perfect. Whenever there’s a blunder at church, we should relax and just laugh. And we should remember to pray for all those who are sick of the parish.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, September 12, 2015

This past Monday, at a Labor Day rally in Pittsburgh, Vice President Joe Biden complained about lousy economic conditions for working class people. “I’m mad, I’m angry,” he said during a speech. “Things have become worse for workers!”

If only Biden and his Democrat party had an opportunity to do something about the economy.

Wait. What?! Biden is the current Vice President! He and his boss have been in charge for almost 7 years! And the first two years in office, they had Democrat control of the entire Congress. And he’s complaining about the lousy economy and poor prospects for people looking for work today? Um, Joe, don’t look now, but Obama wants to have a little chat with you. Maybe you should try a different tactic rather than bad-mouthing the current administration.

Here’s a sample of online reactions to Joe’s statement that “Things have become worse for workers!”

  • If only Biden could manage to get in a position of power in DC to do something about it! Oh, wait…
  • And there you sit…for 7 years.
  • "Things have gotten worse for workers," said the right-hand man of the guy who caused it.
  • Good God, mate, almost 7 years you haven't been able to get into the ear of the Fearless Leader with this?
  • Said the bricklayer who helped build the walls.
  • Yeah, the Obama recovery hasn't made things much better. Agree 100%.
  • I wonder if he has ever considered that the current administration is part of that problem.
  • Wow...if only democrats had the white house for the past 7 years...things would be much better.
  • Joe's been working on creating this problem for 7 years. Now he wants to fix it?

Oh, I do hope Crazy Uncle Joe decides to run for president. The race has already turned into a clown show, so why not one more bozo who has zero self-awareness and a gift for putting his foot in his mouth? While the Titanic takes on water, there might as well be some entertainment before we all go under, right?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Sad Saga of Burlington Bear

Did you hear about Burlington Bear (not to be confused with Paddington Bear)? Burlington Bear was euthanized by the state after acting a bit too aggressive toward human hikers. His full name was W. Burlington Bear III, but his prep school friends called him Trip (as is common with those who have the coveted “III” after their name). Some classmates, however, referred to him behind his back as “Spaulding,” because he often behaved like Judge Smails’ grandson in the movie “Caddyshack.”

In late August, Burlington Bear and his girlfriend Bernice encountered some hikers in the woods in Burlington, CT. While Bernice hung back and observed, Burlington Bear went right up to the hikers. One of the hikers, a young woman, recorded the event with her cell phone camera.

Relieved that the bear did not maul her or eat her or, worst of all, force her to listen to a vacation time-share sales pitch, the woman posted the video on social media. (Full name: C. Social Media III, also called Trip by prep school friends, although because of his loud and pompous personality, Social Media is occasionally referred to as “Trump.”)

It was obvious that in posting the video, the intent of the woman was simply to say, “Holy Mackerel! Can you believe what just happened to me?!”

It’s remarkable the woman was so calm as she videoed the bear. If that had been me, I would’ve been squealing like a 5th grade girl and making my blue jeans rather damp. I certainly would not have had the wherewithal to film the event.

But then people from the state Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection saw the video. The agency is known as DEEP, but its full name is M. Bureaucracy Deep III (and of course is known as Trip to classmates, but everyone else calls it “Tax Money Sink Hole”).

Experts within the department’s Bear Psychoanalysis Division determined that Burlington Bear was far too aggressive during his encounter with the woman, and therefore he had to be euthanized.

This set off a firestorm of outrage. Thousands of people signed an online petition demanding that Burlington Bear be spared the death penalty. They were hoping instead for a life sentence in Danbury Federal Pen.

A very sad aspect of this saga was the amount of vitriol directed toward the woman who videoed the bear. She was accused of being the one who sentenced the poor bear to death, and she received loads of profane and vile insults (which is in keeping with the personality of Trump, er, I mean, Social Media). And she actually had people threaten her that she and her family would be euthanized.

Um, let me see if I’ve got this straight. A woman videos a bear, then says she was not hurt and implores the state to leave the bear alone. So-called animal lovers become upset when the state sentences the bear to death anyway, so these same so-called animal lovers then express their desire that the woman and her family should be put to death. Yeah, that makes sense.

In the final act of the saga of Burlington Bear, state DEEP officials found the bear, shot him, and then when a distraught Bernice made a sudden move, they shot her, too. 

So the moral of the story is: if you are foraging in the woods for berries and you come upon humans, especially ones with cell phone cameras, whatever you do, do not behave like Spaulding from the movie “Caddyshack.” If you do, DEEPers will hunt you down. And don’t expect a reprieve from the governor, because in these cases even the esteemed P. Dannel Malloy III cannot commute your sentence.

Monday, September 7, 2015

We Must Think As God Does

In the gospel reading at Mass for the weekend of Sept. 12th and 13th, Jesus explained to His disciples that He would soon suffer greatly, be rejected by the religious leaders in Jerusalem, and then be put to death. Naturally, His disciples thought this was awful, and Peter even took Jesus aside and rebuked Him for having such a negative attitude.

I can hear Peter now, trying to give Jesus a pep talk. “Hey Chief, you gotta think positive, man. Your self-esteem must be kinda low today. If you think bad things are gonna happen, then they will. C’mon, everything’s going great. The people love you; the crowds are growing each day; and your approval ratings in the latest Gallup Poll are off the chart! You’re gonna kick butt in the New Hampshire primary! Now, let’s see that big smile!”

Jesus was not impressed, nor did He smile. He immediately shouted at Peter, “Get behind me Satan.” Whoa! Not exactly the words you want the Son of God to be tossing your way. Jesus also said to Peter, “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Jesus then explained to the crowd what He meant: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

Peter and the other disciples had been with Jesus for quite a while at this point. Although they didn’t fully grasp everything Jesus said, they understand some of His basic teachings. And yet, their biggest stumbling block was that they were “thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

The same holds true for 21st century believers. We like to think we live good Christian lives. We go to church each week; we say our prayers most days; we may even spend some time reading the Bible. (For my fellow Catholics, we get extra credit if we can correctly name the first book in the Bible, “Genesis,” and the last book in the Bible, “Maps.”)

Despite all this outwardly religious stuff, do we really do as Jesus said, and deny ourselves? Are you kidding? This is a thoroughly foreign concept in the modern world. We don’t deny ourselves these days, we indulge ourselves.

Honestly ask yourself if there’s much self-denial involved with the following items: food, drink, money, credit card spending, entertainment, electronic devices, automobiles, vacations, home furnishings, and clothing?

How about the stuff you can’t as easily put a price tag on, such as blowing your own horn, wanting people to notice you, looking down your nose at others, getting offended when things don’t go your way, holding a grudge, and refusing to say you’re sorry?

I would venture to say that those of us who think that we think as God does are often fooling ourselves. (Trust me, I’m not exempting myself from this. How do you think I wrote the previous two paragraphs? I just sat back and thought about the things and the attitudes that dominate my life.)

Jesus tells us we must stop thinking as secular, natural man does, and start thinking as God does. This is certainly not easy, especially in this day and age when we are awash in consumer goods and constantly bombarded by the idea that being self-absorbed is a proper and healthy attitude. 

If we at least correctly understand our predicament—that despite our outwardly religious actions we rarely “think as God does”—we can begin to move in the right direction. When we know we’re sick, we will seek a physician. People who are sick but think they’re healthy often wake up one day and find themselves dead. (OK, maybe they don’t exactly wake up, but you know what I mean.) When we seek the Great Physician, and begin to think more like He does, we can achieve the peace and serenity so plainly absent in today’s self-centered world.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, September 4, 2015

Kim Davis has been in the news a lot lately. The county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, has refused to issues marriage licenses since June. She says her Christian faith prevents her from sanctioning same-sex marriage. Yesterday Mrs. Davis was found in contempt of court and jailed. (Yes, you read that right. Not suspended, not transferred to another dept., not fired, but JAILED!)

Supporters of same-sex marriage have been gleefully mocking Mrs. Davis because it was discovered that she has been married four times. The reporter who wrote a scathing piece for U.S. World and News Report offered these snarky comments: “Kim Davis believes so strongly in traditional marriage that she couldn't stop at just one,” and, “I wonder what Kim Davis’ first, second and third husbands think of her take on marriage?” A New York Times reporter tweeted this: “Wow. That Kentucky clerk has quite a record of biblical transgressions.”

However, all these preening reporters are quite aware that Mrs. Davis did not convert to Christianity until just four years ago, long after her three divorces.

Wait. What?! Everyone is mocking her for “biblical transgressions” that happened before she even believed the Bible is the Word of God? Everyone is jumping ugly on this woman because she didn’t embody the Christian view of marriage during a time before she converted to Christianity? Does that seem even remotely fair?

Instead of all the snark, a more accurate headline would be this: “Kentucky clerk did not follow Christianity when she was not a Christian.” Hmm, not quite as sensational, is it?

I realize Kim Davis’ refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples has a lot of people very upset. At this moment in history the mob rule—er, I mean, the majority view, says we must celebrate all things gay. Personally, I think she should’ve simply resigned. But being tossed in the slammer (while, for example, Hillary Clinton remains free?!) just goes to show that the Lavender Mafia absolutely will not tolerate ANY dissent.

Speaking of Hillary, she offered this comment after Mrs. Davis was jailed: “[Government] officials should be held to their duty to uphold the law—end of story.” OMG! I didn’t realize Hillary was trying her hand at stand-up comedy! What a line, especially coming from someone who evaded public-record laws, violated the Espionage Act, and obstructed justice by destroying evidence. Oh, she’s a hoot! Hillary should get her own Comedy Central special.

Another sad aspect of the Kim Davis story is the mainstream media’s complete inability to report on religious issues. I mean, they have no clue what faith is. In this case, they have no understanding of one of the most basic concepts of Christianity: repentance and forgiveness, and turning one’s life around after professing faith in Christ.

Another example: Earlier this week the Pope announced that priests may forgive women of the sin of abortion. Not a single news outlet that I saw understood that priests in virtually all of the U.S. already are allowed to do this. However, the grand prize for “faith illiteracy” goes to MSNBC, which reported on the Pope’s announcement with this headline: “Pope says priests can allow this Catholic sin [abortion].”

Allow? As in saying it’s OK?! Um, look, I understand that MSNBC has very high progressive standards; that is, they hire only atheists. But is it too much to ask that SOMEONE on the staff has even a slight idea of what religion is?

And just think, everyone groaned and said Cardinal George was being hysterical when he offered this prediction a few years ago: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” 

We are definitely living in a post-Christian culture, and the next 5 or 10 or 100 years are going to be very interesting.