The Department of Homeland Security Wishes Me a Happy Birthday

I just got a Birthday gift from the Department of Homeland Security: my green card. It arrived 3 weeks too early, too.

It’s really green, too.

I understand it’s a coincidence it arrived on my Birthday but, still, it’s nice. Besides, my university is about to initiate the renewal of my work visa, which the card makes unnecessary. Yippee!

There will be several things to celebrate on my St. Louis weekend.

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Illinois Bishops Are Not That Smart

With all due respect, people, the quality of bishops we get here in Illinois does not seem to be extremely high. See the following excerpt from a talk by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of the Catholic diocese of Peoria, Illinois:

Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care.

In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, President Obama – with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.

Stalin punished abortion by shooting both the doctors who performed them and women who chose to have them. This means that being “pro-abortion” does not make you similar to Stalin. Just the opposite.

As for churches, Stalin had a very close relationship with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. Every priest worked for the KGB revealing what parishioners said in confessions. Churches routinely held services in honor of “our God-given leader Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin.”

I also want to add that you’ve got to be a pretty shameless, horrible human being to compare ANY American politician of today with Hitler or Stalin. I mean, I dislike George W. Bush and Sarah Palin. But it would not occur to me to compare them to vicious dictators who burned people in gas chambers, imprisoned small children for the sins of their fathers, and annihilated tens of millions of their own compatriots. It’s OK to disagree with Obama and dislike him. But can we do that without raising the specter of Stalin and Hitler? There are still people around who have survived the GULAG and the Holocaust. There are folks who survived both. Seriously, Obama’s healthcare plan, as flawed as it might be (and I think it’s very flawed) does not rise to the level of Buchenwald.

The Hunger Games Trilogy: Catching Fire and the Purpose of Men

Thanks to reader V.’s recommendation, I have spent another sleepless night reading the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire. I found it to be a lot better than the first. The model of “one hero and a bunch of pathetic people and nasty evildoers” does nothing for me. In Catching Fire, though, that model is abandoned for the sake of a much more interesting model where people resist, cooperate, and there is no single hero who is a lot better at everything than everybody else. I have always been bothered by the “Superman plot” which revolves around the idea that we all need a hero with superhuman powers to save us all from our pathetic weaknesses.

What I find disconcerting in the novel, however, is how the male protagonist, Peeta, is presented as a person whose only goal and overpowering interest is to serve the needs of the “fair lady.” How would we feel about a 16-year-old female protagonist who tells a boy that her entire life is about him and that life has no meaning if he isn’t there? A female protagonist who shows no interest in her parents, siblings, or even pets, who has no friends of her own, who disappears when the boy she likes dismisses her and reappears as soon as he shows some interest or has need of her services? A female protagonist who tells the boy she wants to die so that he can go ahead and marry some other girl?

I think we  would all passionately condemn the novel as extremely patriarchal and promoting the image of women as subservient to men and as having no value of their own apart from male needs. Doesn’t it make sense for us, then, to feel equally bothered by a book that denies a male character any other role as being an uncomplaining and unquestioning servant of a girl?

The inhabitants of Panem at least manage to rebel against the authorities that enslave them. I hope Peeta does the same by the end of the 3rd novel in the trilogy.

Clarissa at 4

I was also a very lazy child. I refused to walk until I was almost five and forced my mother to push me around in a pram stroller that looked as follows:

As my mother walked pushing the pram, people would smile and look inside, expecting to see a baby. Then, they’d see a 4-year-old and become scared.

“Your child must be very sick if she doesn’t even sit at this age,” they’d say compassionately.

“Oh yes,” my mother would respond grimly. “Her disease is called laziness.”

Clarissa at 8

Since it’s my Birthday, I think some childhood memories are in order.

I was a very VERY spoiled child. The woman who was our neighbor when I was a kid tells the following story. Once, she came over to chat with my mother. After a while, 8-year-old Clarissa came home from school. In complete silence, she marched into the room, laid down on the sofa, hoisted her legs up in the air, and remained in that position.

“Erm, I’m sorry, what is she doing?” the neighbor asked.

“Oh, she is waiting for somebody to change her pants,” my mother explained. “She doesn’t dress herself yet.”