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Perfect Storm

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.” Abraham Lincoln, 1862 Address to Congress

Shipwreck_in_Stormy_Seas_by_Joseph_Vernet,_National_Gallery,_London Public DomainIn 1997 Sebastian Junger published his first major book.[i] In “The Perfect Storm” Junger described the final voyage of the Andrea Gail, a six-man crewed commercial fishing vessel out of Gloucester, MA[ii] in 1991. The ‘perfect storm’ was hatched by the combining forces of a classic North Atlantic Nor’easter and Hurricane Grace, a late season brute coming up out of the Caribbean.  “A mature hurricane is by far the most powerful event on Earth,” wrote Junger, “The combined nuclear arsenals of the United States and the former Soviet Union don’t contain enough energy to keep a hurricane going for one day.” There were 60 mile per hour winds, but they generated 75-foot waves that overwhelmed the ship.

Today we face a similar perfect storm, but our victory over it will not be as simple as finding a safe harbor or running from it to an open sea. Our enemy is not wind and waves, but a revolution that has been building for three hundred years and broke full force upon us in the sixties. The classic Nor’easter in this analogy is good old-fashioned concupiscence, hedonism, and the hopeless quest for happiness through means insufficient to sustain it. The hurricane that accelerated the perfect storm into frenzy is the post-modern madness of self-fulfillment and the illusion that we can be anyone or anything we please.

One devastating manifestation of the perfect storm has been called by many, the “Sexual Revolution,” and it was to have freed us from the traditional chains of marriage and responsibility. More accurately I believe, it has been named the “Lonely Revolution’ because of the desolation visited on our culture, our morality, and most damaging on our marriages and families.

“Even in a world that’s being shipwrecked, remain brave and strong.” St. Hildegard of Bingen

The human costs of the Lonely Revolution are well documented (See links in the box below). What we also must attend to is the underlying creed that fuels it. The late Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman wrote that naming our times “post-modern” was neither illustrative nor particularly useful. He coined a better term in his book, “Liquid Modernity.”[iii] Too many find themselves adrift in isolated individual survival pods, essentially disconnected, fatherless both in family and metaphorically.  We struggle with “the growing conviction that change is the only permanence, and uncertainty the only certainty.” He wrote further, “Forms of modern life may differ in quite a few respects – but what unites them all is precisely their fragility, temporariness, vulnerability, and inclination to constant change. To ‘be modern’ means to modernize – compulsively, obsessively; not so much just ‘to be’, let alone to keep its identity intact, but forever ‘becoming’, avoiding completion, staying underdefined. Each new structure which replaces the previous one as soon as it is declared old-fashioned and past its use-by date is only another momentary settlement – acknowledged as temporary and ‘until further notice’”[iv].

Thus, we drift untethered, unmoored, alone. No disconnection is more unsettling than the hook up culture of the Lonely Revolution, which separates men and women in an essential way. No longer is the profound union of sex defined by marriage, commitment, love, mutual total gift of self, and respect. It is one-night stands of sweaty sheets and furtive morning after departures. Of obsessive seeking of meaning in pleasure and bogus intimacy, but with no real path to contentment or fulfillment.

Neither war nor pestilence has undermined our civilization more effectively than the dishonest dogma that sex and marriage and children are not connected, and that we must make sure that disconnection is implemented such that the intrinsic male and female human bond stays broken.[v]

“Character is formed in the stormy billows of the world.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe[vi]

This a passage with a quote posted by a friend last week on just one aspect of this dreadful storm.

“So, prolife feminism, in a nutshell, states that for most of history women were treated as property. Obviously, this is patriarchy. And patriarchy, among other things, is the epitome of “might makes right” thinking.

“It says, “Because I am bigger, stronger, and have more power and wealth than you, I can treat you however I choose. I can control you, abuse you, and even use violence against you if I want!”

“Through our liberation as women, we are no longer thought of as property (in most of America at least) but many feminists have adopted that very same patriarchal way thinking, which I guess makes sense as we’ve been seeped in for ages. Anyway, now they are applying this “might makes right” mentality to their very own children in the womb without even realizing it.

“WE are the bigger, stronger, more powerful ones, and rather than using our strength and privilege to protect the vulnerable, we’re merely passing that same patriarchal flavor of dehumanizing oppression down to the unborn by denying their agency, and humanity.

“And here’s the kicker – that old shitty patriarchy still wins anyway! Because by promoting abortion as the ultimate “choice” (even though for so many women it’s anything but a choice, but I digress) our capitalist hellscape of unrelenting production doesn’t have to slow down one bit. It can keep chugging along with all of us happy little cogs in the machine going without things like paid family leave, universal healthcare, accommodations on college campuses for pregnant and parenting students, or ya know, other things like Amazon workers who need to be relocated to a desk job for 9 months… yeah, no, none of that, gross. Progress that says female fertility isn’t a liability? Boooo.

“Abortion on demand keeps the status quo neatly in place and reminds us little ladies that in order to operate outside of the home, we must physically take on the male normative form which is never with child.

“Abortion is simply the flesh tax we must pay – sacrificing the lives of our own children – for entry into YOUR world.

“And then we are told to call that bullshit “equality.””

-Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa

Abortion as liberation or what is peddled as bodily autonomy as a defense of it are perfect propagandizing to enable male carelessness. The woman is not liberated; it is the man who is licensed to engage in the baby making act without obligation or respect or dignity or self-emptying gift to one another or commitment to the profound responsibility of child raising or love.

And then we are told to call that bullshit “equality.”

Headline grabbing corporations which purport to “value” the bodily autonomy and freedom of their female employees now offer pay for abortions and transportation to states that allow abortions. Vanity Fair, MSNBC, and all the usual suspects heap praise on their generosity. Such phony philanthropy panders to the lies into which women have been sentenced by the sexual revolution culture. Pervasive indoctrination reinforces the deadly message that killing their children is freedom for women.

The primary motivation for corporations is blatantly obvious:  to enhance the bottom line. Please, we are not fools. A full-term birth, even without complications risk, parental leave, and an additional insured in the family plan health insurance is ten or twenty-fold times more expensive than an abortion even including transportation, room, and board. Especially so in large corporations that self-insure, but even in smaller companies, health insurance premiums are renegotiated every year based on experience and costs.  And that doesn’t begin to consider lost productivity, retraining replacements, and later time off for childcare. High fives all around in the Human Resource Department: big woke culture points and a big win in the board room.

Let’s not be naive: there is no altruism in paying for a plane ticket to obliterate a life.[vii]

And then we are told to call that bullshit “equality.”

Another recent post from another friend:  The terms “fetus” and “zygote” are no different than “toddler” or “teenager;” they refer to stages of human development. Toddlers possess the same dignity as teenagers just as fetuses and zygotes possess the same dignity as any other human.[viii] Hence, every human life begins in the same way, and absent violence or disease proceeds apace through all his or her stages from conception to natural death.  The science of embryology is clear and consistent.

JPII Quote copyright CatholicVoteProponents dearly love to frame the conversation in superficially clever emotional terms (“Keep your rosaries off our ovaries.” Or “Our bodies, Ourselves.”) or some version of freedom necessary for women to succeed or marginalizing the pro-life position as religious ‘extremism.’ They decline the opportunity to conduct a reasoned moral argument. The syllogism looks like this: A.) It is always morally repugnant, and no justification exists to deliberately attack and destroy innocent human life. B.) A fetus is just another word for small developing human being. Therefore, C.) Deliberate killing of a human fetus is morally repugnant. No religion is required for the propositions or the conclusion. Some prominent atheists are pro-life advocates with arguments based on logic, science, and the existence of objective truth that is knowable.[ix]

I look forward to the defenses which will surely come. Challenge the propositions or the logic as you may. Will they be coming as science deniers – not really a human being? Or will they be submitting a moral proposal that the large and powerful have a ‘right’ to take the life of the small and defenseless when their developing lives are judged sufficiently inconvenient? I will fight that battle until I can no longer stand.

The fairy tale with a happy ending is that an ‘unplanned’ and problematic child is a malignancy, a robbery, a weakening of equality, and that this burgeoning, undefined life ought to be expendable. But grotesquely underlying this narrative like an ogre under the bridge is a terrible truth.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Illustration 1: “Shipwreck in Stormy Seas,” by Joseph Vernet, National Gallery, London, Public Domain

Illustration 2: From CatholicVote

[i] http://www.sebastianjunger.com/the-perfect-storm He has sincIe published many great books I have read, which you can find at the link as well. His mother hired Albert DeSalvo to do some handyman work in her house in Belmont when Junger was a child, a narrative of which Mr. Junger included in his book “A Death in Belmont” about DeSalvo, the ‘Boston Strangler.’ More recently he produced a marvelous documentary based on his book, “War,” and his time as an embedded journalist with a platoon during their 15-month deployment in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.  Much good reading here if you haven’t enjoyed the skill and imagery of Mr. Junger’s work.

[ii] An acclaimed movie followed, which helped bring Mark Wahlberg to star status as the captain of the Andrea Gail.

[iii] Many thanks to Genevieve Kineke who introduced me to Bauman and “Liquid Modernity” in her superb talk on the irreplaceable role of motherhood in all its wonderful manifestations in the family and spiritually. If you can find her speaking and especially if she is giving her presentation on “How Elastic is Motherhood,” get to it.

[iv] From “Liquid Modernity,” Zygmunt Bauman, 2000, Polity Press, in association with Blackwell Publishers, LTD, Cambridge, UK

[v] See links below in a separate box in essays and charts that speak eloquently about these effects and illusions.

[vi] In Goethe’s 1790 play Torquato Tasso the character Leonora speaks (act 1, scene 2) the lines “Es bildet ein Talent sich in der Stille / Sich ein Charakter in dem Strom der Welt”  From Stack Exchange: https://literature.stackexchange.com/

[vii] Why Big Business Loves Abortion

[viii] Every embryological text states something similar to this from Princeton.edu: Life Begins at Fertilization with the Embryo’s Conception. “Development of the embryo begins at Stage 1 when a sperm fertilizes an oocyte and together they form a zygote.” “Human development begins after the union of male and female gametes or germ cells during a process known as fertilization (conception).”

[ix] Secular humanist/atheist video for life.

Links to accompany ‘Perfect Storm’ post

The Zealous Faith of Secularism (How the Sexual Revolution became a dogma), First Things, Dr. Mary Eberstadt

Five Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution Part I   The Catholic Thing, Dr. Mary Eberstadt

Five Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution Part II   The Catholic Thing, Dr. Mary Eberstadt

The Growing Feminist Rejection of the Sexual Revolution, Crisis Magazine, Austin Ruse

Dr. Anthony Esolen Podcast about his book “Sex and the Unreal City” and why the Sexual Revolution has produced so many lonely people.  Presented at Magdalen College  The Loneliness Revolution

Millennials and the Loneliness Epidemic  Forbes

Inside the Adolescent Mental Health Crisis NY Times

The American Family Today Pew Research

The Loneliness Pandemic Harvard Magazine

Bitter Pill – Economics, First Things, Timothy Reichert

The Long-Term Struggle for Hearts and Minds, The Catholic Thing, David Carlin

Great collection of Public Discourse essays about a post Dobbs decision America and common myths about abortion.

Some samples:

Marco Rubio is Right: The Life of a New Human Being Begins at Conception, BY PATRICK LEE, CHRISTOPHER O. TOLLEFSEN AND ROBERT P. GEORGE

Forty Years Later: It’s Time for a New Feminism, BY ELISE ITALIANO

The Lazy Slander of the Pro-Life Cause (Answers the slander that pro-life advocates only care for the baby before it is born), BY HELEN ALVARÉ, GREG PFUNDSTEIN, MATTHEW SCHMITZ, AND RYAN T. ANDERSON

Why the Arguments about “Bodily Autonomy” and “Forced Birth” Fail to Justify Abortion, BY RYAN T. ANDERSON AND ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS

Many more thoughtful and well written essays on various related topics regarding common myths and what a post Roe country will look like.

Index of all essays on the topic from Public Discourse

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Weltschmerz

“In the groves of their academy, at the end of every vista, you see nothing but the gallows.” Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke, 1790

In the seventeenth century the French author Francois de La Rochefoucauld famously wrote that hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. I wonder if the hypocrites who prompted the quote cared whether they were caught out. Recent events in the Rhode Island legislature indicate that the current batch of hypocrites want only to avoid a memorable line that will make the Providence Journal or WPRI in the five o’clock news and show up in their opponent’s talking points in the next election. Little heed seems to be paid to how conspicuous is their cynical hypocrisy to listeners, only matters if it will cost them votes. Hypocrisy is expected, even celebrated, if it’s sufficiently clever and the goals align with the progressive vision.

A Providence legislator, Dan McKearnan, speaking on the floor of the House said that his “deep faith” (Catholic} informed his advocacy and that he trusted women to “make holy choices.” Holy choices. The choices they would make when the legislation passed would be to kill or not to kill their offspring, to “terminate” their pregnancy, which the legislation (H5125a,) sanctioned up to the moment of birth. Forty weeks. Full term, a full four months past viability. A fetus one second, someone’s baby the next. Or someone’s tiny corpse.

In a television news debate on the bill that has passed the House and is waiting Senate action, Rabbi Sarah Mack stated that the bill was a victory for freedom and rightly favored “existing life.” Existing life. Must have cut those boring embryology courses in school. Every major embryology text marks conception as the beginning of human life.  So, science was not her strength, but did she sleep in when they covered Jeremiah 1:5? “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born, I set you apart.” Perhaps Rabbi Mack stayed too late at lunch playing bridge in the dining commons when her professor taught Isaiah 49:1. “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother He named my name.” Or returned late from Fort Lauderdale on spring break when they reviewed the exegesis on Psalm 139:13. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” She said, and rightly so, that it was not right that religion should dictate legislation. However, when legislation first ignores science and then fails to make a moral judgment informed by a conscience formed by faith or justice or reason or protection of the most vulnerable, well, that’s a sadder tale.

“We have obligations to mankind at large, which are not in consequence of any voluntary pact. They arise from the relation of man to man, and the relation of man to God, which are not matters of choice.” Edmund Burke

The bill was named the Reproductive Privacy Act, which is a further irony in that it is concerned with not with “reproduction,” but with its lethal inhibition. The “privacy” allusion is a tip of the hat to Roe v. Wade, which cited privacy as the foundation for usurping every state’s authority and instantly negated all legislation controlling abortion. The slippery ground for a privacy foundation was created by citing the Griswold v. Connecticut contraception case. One of the most infamous passages in Supreme Court history proposed this nonsense: “The foregoing cases suggest that specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.  Various guarantees create zones of privacy.” So, the Supreme Court decision that has spelled doom for sixty million pre-born Americans is sustained by a gauzy contrivance of emanations, penumbras and zones of privacy, suspended on a spider’s web.

A second spider’s web, upon which hangs the first, is the blind certainty that supports the progressive enterprise: the myth of human perfectionism – that progress is linear and will always move us closer towards some ideal future where human frailty and tendency towards prejudice, violence, using others for personal gain or pleasure will diminish to nothing as enlightened (and coercive) governance leads us to the promised land. Just the history in our own times, especially in the century immediately preceding this one, when various Utopian ideologies delivered the bloodiest hundred years in human history. The twentieth century alone provides the evidence that such beliefs are at best naïve, and at worst deliberate utilitarian delusions in pursuit of a totalitarian agenda.

The natural heir to that bloody century is our own. War, oppression, human trafficking are obvious and persistent horrors. Far worse is the dehumanization of a whole class of human beings, and it has wrought the highest tally, the single highest cause of death in the world and in our country last year that overwhelms the toll of any other. Disease, war, murder, terrorism, cancer, starvation, unclean waters are eclipsed in their body counts. Simply pronounce that yet-to-be-born humans are not human, and we contrive a cardboard culture that promises human fulfillment based on the lie of autonomy. We will secure economic futures built on killing our own children, feed our worst self-absorbed selves, and let it metastasize[i]. The largest single cause of death in the world in 2018 was abortion – 42 million, with over a million of those tiny victims in our own country.  Eleven million and counting rapidly year to date this year.[ii] We masquerade it as medical care, yet once exposed to the light sickens all who see it.[iii] Set up the kill and call it freedom, call it liberation, even call it virtue. “Weep not for me, (mothers of Jerusalem), weep for yourselves and for your children.”

“The Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time—for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with its eternal rays. Hence the encouragement we have given to all those schemes of thought such as Creative Evolution, Scientific Humanism, or Communism, which fix men’s attention on the Future, on the very core of temporality. Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the Future. Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, (New York: Macmillan Co.,1943), p.xv

[i] For a good article on the metastasis, see in this week’s Public Discourse, the article by Anthony Esolen: When Reason Does Not Suffice: Why Our Culture Still Accepts Abortion https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2019/04/50665/

[ii] From the Worldometers site.

[iii] From the true story of Abby Johnson, former employee of the year and director of a Texas Planned Parenthood facility. In “Unplanned” she tells her story. Here is the pivotal scene that changed her life. Watch it reflect. https://youtu.be/Z9bMwP2CLP8

 

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Filed under Faith and Reason, Politics and government

Transitions

Guest blog post – Rita Parquette

In the mid-seventies, I worked as an obstetrical nurse in the labor and delivery rooms of Augusta General Hospital in Maine. Post Roe v Wade, the transition was well underway from abortion as a rare medical necessity to save the life of the mother to common. We witnessed the practice grow from rare to wildfire – sixty million in the U.S. since those early days. The near religious fervor of the pro-abortion lobby seeking ever fewer constraints placed on killing their offspring, at first was a small minority, but well financed. They rode a wave of ironically named ‘liberation’ and ran over all compunctions and objections. Roe was the most liberal decision regarding abortion in the world at that time.  It allowed abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.

During that time, nurses were sometimes demeaned by a few doctors, but they held firm as they were able. One firm stand for many of us was abortion. We observed with justified concern the decreasing empathy and hardening treatment of both mothers and babies from those doctors who shared one characteristic in their practices: they added abortion provider to their resumes. The doctors plying the termination trade were having difficulty finding OR nurses to attend them in the Augusta General operating room in the basement; at one point the head nurse on the upper OB floor asked us to “help out our doctors.” We refused. Our job was healing and preserving, not deliberately taking life. This was not a religious decision, but a humanitarian one and conformed to the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm.

“Those eyes that had hardly opened to the light of the earthly sun forever and ever were closed to the light of the earthly sun…” From “God Speaks,” “Holy Innocents” Charles Peguy

One anecdote remains always vivid in my memory and haunts me to this day, nearly forty-five years later. On a typical busy evening, I was helping two young mothers in labor. We had moved on from the scopolamine doping of women to more humane and dignified obstetrical practices. My practice was to try and calm their fear, then guide them through controlled breathing and relaxation techniques.  One of my patients was only about sixteen weeks pregnant, and we had no neo-natal intensive care facilities in Augusta. Optimally we would attempt to arrest her sporadic and weak contractions. Standard practice was to start an IV. Hydration and improved electrolyte balance at times could stop premature labor, and the pregnancy could proceed to term. Not that night.

Dr. R, one of the more zealous of the pro-abortion OB/GYN practitioners, entered the labor room and spoke briefly to the young mother; I was busy with another patient and not privy to the conversation. He then strode over and instructed me curtly to put an ampule of Pitocin into the IV.  Pitocin is a synthetic version of oxytocin, which is a natural powerful hormone that induces more rapid and stronger contractions to intensify labor.  We were trying to retard labor or stop it to give the baby her best chance, so I was surprised, then aghast. I refused and told him that if he wanted Pitocin into that IV, he would have to do it himself! We used metal folding clipboards for medical charts. While I was busy standing at the nurse’s high station writing my own notes, he flung this patient’s metal chart about five feet, hard, and hit me on my left side in the ribs. I never saw it coming. Then he added the Pitocin into the IV. The labor intensified.  I was there for the mother and her baby.  I monitored the babies heart beat with a fetal stethoscope and told the mother I was getting a good heart beat and added that information to my notes.

Inevitably she was ready for delivery and wheeled into the delivery room. At this point, Dr. R’s friend, an anesthesiologist entered the scene.  We had many wonderful doctors at our hospital, but Dr. R and this particular anesthesiologist were not among them.   This anesthesiologist’s favorite way to summon a nurse was to whistle with two fingers in his mouth.  He put my patient deeply under, something rarely done because of risk to the newborn infant. The Pitocin accelerated labor, delivery ran its predictable course, and the unconscious mother delivered her tiny baby girl.  Dr. R dropped the baby into a stainless-steel basin nearby normally used to receive the placenta. He finished up quickly and left the delivery room before the mother awoke.

Immediately, a nursery nurse, whom I had already warned about the coming of this small baby, rescued the baby from her cold metal refuse bucket, wrapped and carried her to the newborn warming station where she suctioned her in a futile attempt to clear her breathing passages and stimulate breathing. She then rubbed and did her best to comfort this tiny girl. After over ten minutes without a breath, her heart ceased its beat.  The scene felt surreal to me; I was out of sync with the events and with the doctors – like a dream, a disturbing dream. I did not know what else I could do. Something like this had never happened to me or the other nurse.

Epilogue reflections:

When the mother woke from the anesthesia, I told her that her baby was born with a heartbeat but was unable to breath. Still somewhat drowsy, I tried to comfort her, but she seemed hard to reach.  I think she too might have felt like she was in a surreal world and not sure how she got there.  After her discharge, the mother called a mortician and a funeral was held.  The funeral home director received the doctor’s notes, my nurse’s notes and the notes of the nursery nurse who had done her best for the baby. Both doctors described the little girl as macerated, born dead, indeed they agreed she had been dead for a while. Both sets of nurse’s notes described her true condition. Since medical notes can wind up as legal documents, the funeral director notified the hospital administrator of the discrepancy and conflicting narratives. When the nursing supervisor for our shift came to me for an explanation, I assured her the nurse’s notes were the accurate ones and explained exactly what happened. She gave me a knowing look, and I never heard another word.

A couple of years later, when we had returned to the faith of our youth, I confessed this incident to our pastor, who remains a dear friend to this day. He suggested lovingly that in the circumstances I tried my best and that I needed to forgive myself. Father Joe further suggested that I should name the baby and pray for her mom and for all that had happened around that difficult night.  I named her Gabriella and do pray about this still. I hope to see her again some fine day and have a conversation.

A final related episode comes to mind. The equally troubled nursery room nurse had a discussion with an experienced and humane pediatrician the next day. She explained to him what had happened and asked if we had done the right thing in trying to save her and delivering all the professional care we could muster for that little girl. He smiled sadly and looked into her eyes. He assured her, “Where there is life, there is always hope.”

 “I AM says God, Master of the Three Virtues.  Faith is a faithful wife. Charity is an ardent mother. But Hope is a tiny girl.” “God Speaks, “Hope” Charles Peguy

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Filed under Personal and family life