Saturday, April 3, 2010

Lefty's Caption Contest #5

Saturday on Lefty's is Caption Contest Day. If you have an idea for a funny caption respond in the comments section for the photo above. At the end of the weekend we'll pick the best one and post it on our Comedy page! While you're at it, check out our old Caption Contest winners here.

This photo from Chicago Sun Times website.


The winner of this week's caption contest is Mark. You can see the captioned image here.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Is Catholicism’s Greatest P.R. Strength Also Her Greatest Weakness?

Through the recent amass of commentary on the sex scandals sweeping the Catholic Church, I’ve noticed how the Vatican’s greatest “public relations” strength is also her greatest weakness. If the Pope coughs, the whole world finds out by way of the church’s global hierarchy of cardinals, archbishops, bishops, vicars, priests, then on to the domestic church, our families. We then donate boxes of tissues to our local parish as a way of reaching out to the Pope who has a cold. (Most of the time, this sort of thing would even reach the press.) This works to the Vatican’s great advantage when a message of morality is sent out into the world (i.e. peace, love, solidarity, etc). As we have seen in many other instances, but most recently, it also serves as the greatest disadvantage (with widespread criticisms of the Catholic Church popping up daily). Between calls for Canon Law reform and insulting political cartoons, I am frustrated by the amount of energy that is spent on the Vatican. When is the last time you watched CNN and saw breaking news flash across the screen: “The Archbishop of Canterbury Makes Decision to Divorce His Third Wife.” Or “Reverend Jacobs of ‘Middlebury Little Rock Church of the Christ, His Savior’ Molested Two 16 Year Old Boys in 1970s.” Or “Preacher Jane Accused of Hiding ‘Send His Message MegaChurch, Inc.’ Finances to Cover Up Gay Youth Pastor Scandal.”

Through all the cover-ups that have happened in the Church’s history there, gratefully, has also been more accountability in the world’s most globalized, organized institution than any other could provide. As much as it has saddened me to see a few of our (once) most beloved clergy fall and commit atrocious acts, it scares me to think how much more of these sorts of things are happening throughout the world in lesser-organized, more splintered institutions.

In the 30% of America’s Christian churches which are Catholic, victims of sexual abuse should be able to feel some sense of recourse (especially now, as new standards of liability have been set worldwide). But what about those victims in the other 70% of Christian churches in America who invariably suffer from the same sorts of scandals as ours? Who will a child tell? – His parents? The authorities? And even if it breaks the news – where is the accountability? Sure, the officiant may be fired and can even be sent to jail – but is that enough to deter others in his position in churches similar to his?

A small town church scandal (even one involving jail time) would never make it out of the local news.
On the other hand, a small town Catholic Church scandal would make national, perhaps even international, news as Catholics, globally, would demand an apology from the Pope himself. It is then that our breaking news headlines would read: “The Vatican Submits Apology to Entire World Amidst Recent Sex Scandal in Singleton, Alabama.”

Because of the Church’s global network, Catholic Clergy are linked as a body of one – when one falls, they all suffer. If Preacher Jane covers up a scandal at “Send His Message, MegaChurch, Inc.” unconnected protestant clergy are not portrayed in the news as corrupt pedophiles. Yet, Catholic Clergymen are.

I pray for justice for all victims of sexual abuse scandals -- including the thousands of ethical Catholic Clergymen who have been unjustly portrayed and the thousands of victims worldwide who have no one to turn to. May they find peace and hope in the Lord’s Passion, as all Christians will be reminded to do this Easter holiday.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Deconstructing the American Closet

There are days I wake up and ask myself "Why the hell is America, in 2010, still so homophobic?"

All the discussion about Don't Ask, Don't Tell has had me thinking about this issue lately. While the President and most esteemed military leaders have come out in favor of repeal, there are others in the military who claim that having openly gay servicemen would destroy cohesion or make others feel uncomfortable. I really see no rational difference between this and claims of being uncomfortable around African Americans or Latinos. The military needs to grow up and hold itself to a higher standard.

On another note- today, Puerto Rican pop musician Ricky Martin came out about his homosexuality. He had this to say:
...I decided to move on with my life not sharing with the world my entire truth. Allowing myself to be seduced by fear and insecurity became a self-fulfilling prophecy of sabotage. Today I take full responsibility for my decisions and my actions...
...These years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn't even know existed...
...I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.
Many of us could have guessed that Ricky Martin was gay, so why is this such a big issue? Why do we live in a world where homosexuals even need to "come out?" In Martin's words (I encourage you to read them all), we find an intense fear and sense of social pressure that drives many to keep quiet. It also brings to mind other celebrities that have been finding refuge in the "Glass Closet," where society is aware of one's sexual orientation yet no declaration has been made. Some, like American Idol runner-up, Adam Lambert, have recently come out officially. I commend him for doing so.

The current culture of "coming out" and the discussion of Don't Ask, Don't Tell should remind us of how far we have yet to come with regard to civil rights. We mustn't use the 1960s civil rights legislation or the 2008 General Election (during which Proposition 8 passed) to assume a state of arrival. We are far from the promised land.

In so many regards, whether it be economic justice for minorities and women, or civil rights for our GLBT citizens, the fight for civil rights in America is still alive.

I have a dream, that one day America will respect the marriages of all consenting adults, that Notre Dame will formally protect and respect its GLBT students and workers, and that our children will grow up in a world where the American closet is an antique in our history books.

Until then, fight on!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Evening Tunes: Sleep Now in the Fire

What's up, Lefties? We hope you're enjoying your weekend. Here's a little treat for you, brought to you by Rage Against the Machine (Directed by Michael Moore!). This is one of my favorite Rage videos, and covers some very pertinent topics in contemporary politics. Since financial regulation is something we ought to be talking about, I figured this video hits the spot. Consider also the fact that this video came from 2000. Bonus: note the reference to health care at 1:16.

Note: This video is NOT from YouTube, but from Dailymotion. YouTube, unfortunately, is turning into a dirty capitalist wasteland where every record company has the site by the balls. Take a look for yourself at how many videos have the message "embedding disabled by request" on their embed boxes now. I, for one, hope the online community sticks it to the companies and finds an alternative to get around this garbage. In the same way that music piracy has forced companies to become more innovative and competitive, giving the customers what they want, I would love to see the online community flip the bird to these schemes and let YouTube know we wont stand for this crap. In that light, enjoy this great video, which is embedded with all of my rage right now.

Why Diplomacy Matters

The other day, I attended a lecture by the distinguished British diplomat Sir Ivor Roberts. Listening to him speak, I began to think about the modern American distaste for diplomacy. What fascinates me is not that Americans do not believe in diplomacy, but the reasons for the skepticism. Were the attitude based on a general cynicism about the efficacy of government, I would find such views understandable. However, many Americans do have faith in the government, so long as it acts by the sword rather than the pen. Diplomacy is viewed as weak. But more than that, it is viewed as impossibly ineffective. America's enemies cannot be reasoned with. They are crazed monsters who hate our freedom and will stop at nothing to annihilate us.

Give me a break.

Let's look specifically at two related parties addressed by Sir Roberts in his lecture: Iran and al-Qaeda. Both seen as symbols of Islamic extremism of the worst kind, they seem to be prime examples of why diplomacy has no place in the modern world. Like Roberts, I reject this notion.

Iran is a huge problem for the United States. It is not only an abusive theocracy, but one with aspirations of nuclear armament. The view held by many is that, as a theocracy, it cannot be reasoned with. It is willing to sacrifice itself before giving into American demands. We therefore have no option but war.

I do not believe this view holds up to scrutiny. History contradicts it. The USSR was another brutal enemy of the U.S. During the McCarthy era, the cries heard today were prevalent then. It seemed ludicrous to attempt to negotiate with the Soviets. However, the Cold War progressed without the US and the USSR engaging in hot warfare. In the end, process of d├ętente worked.

I do not believe that Iran is impossible to deal with peacefully. I believe neither Ahmadinejad nor Khamenei to be suicidal. They know that, were they to launch an attack on Israel, or any other ally of the US, the government would be destroyed in a heartbeat. Iran knows it has nothing to gain by acting violently. However, it has plenty to gain by flexing its military muscles. By responding so dramatically to signs of Iranian aggression, the US is simply validating Iran's geopolitical significance. This is exactly what Iran wants. The government does not need to be overthrown, it needs to be engaged.

Al-Qaeda presents a more multi-faceted situation. We are not going to see Bin Laden in attendance at any global summits. However, the fact that al-Qaeda is a non-state actor makes diplomacy even more important. You cannot defeat terror with bombs. The last seven years wasted in Iraq have made that immensely clear. The only way to stop terrorism is to turn public opinion away from it. Violence breeds violence. Sir Roberts famously once said that George W. Bush is al-Qaeda's best recruiting tool. He is right. Al-Qaeda has no capital to siege. For each leader killed, more emerge.

So what do we do? According to Roberts, part of the answer lies not in Afghanistan or Iraq, but in Israel and Palestine. Much of the animosity towards America stems from the mishandling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is not the place for a detailed analysis of the conflict, but suffice it to say that its resolution would do wonders for America's image, which in turn would only hurt al-Qaeda. This indirect approach is the only real way to handle terrorism. Terrorism is a symptom of anti-Western sentiment. Treating symptoms is never as effective as treating underlying problems.

The bottom line is this: violence should not be the primary means of conflict resolution in the modern world. It should always be an option, but the challenges facing America are too complex to simply bomb away. The Obama administration has shown some desire to reverse the trigger-happy policies of the previous administration, but there is still much to be done. America must get to a place where it leads the world through diplomatic power, not military might. Diplomacy is not dead. But in America, it seems to be on life support. I implore you to not lose faith. Keep diplomacy alive.