Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Publicans and the Price of Fame

Every good Catholic boy and girl remembers the parable of the two men praying in the temple, the Pharisee and the "Publican" (a title given to a tax collector in the ancient Roman Empire, and an object of scorn among the Jewish people).

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14)

There was a Sunday at the Latin Mass, when Father Paul Scalia reflected on that Gospel reading for the day, as he began his sermon thus ...

"I know what all of you are thinking right now: 'I'm glad I'm not like that Pharisee.' And that's the trap that we fall into …"

It was greeted with mild laughter, not to mention consensus. All of us who hold to any sort of ideal or set of convictions are going to fall short, and the higher we set the bar for ourselves, the more likely it is to happen. That is why conservatives get derided more for their bad behavior than do liberals, which conservatives would know, if only they stopped whining long enough about a "double standard" of their own wise choosing. That is also why, when all is said and done, only the Grace and Mercy of the Almighty can truly save us. Our works here on earth, while a component of the living out of that Grace, are merely its effect, not its cause.

Many of us don't learn our lesson the first time. If that isn't bad enough, it's worse when there's an audience.

Earlier this year, on March 15, Bristol Palin, the daughter of former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, announced her engagement to a former Marine and Medal of Honor winner. On May 18, with the happy occasion only days away, her mother announced that the wedding had been called off. On June 25, Bristol announced that she was pregnant with her second child, the first having been sired by her previous and less-accomplished fiancĂ©. In an interview with People magazine, she said that abortion was not an option, that the pregnancy itself was planned (if not its timing), and that it would not conflict with her work as a paid speaker for the Candie Foundation, which "educates America's youth about the consequences of teen pregnancy … work[ing] to shape the way youth in America think about teen pregnancy and parenthood."

Bristol also insists that she doesn't want any lectures or sympathy. She's getting plenty of the former, from the usual bottom-feeders of televised punditry who are unlikely to set the bar quite as high as she might. But she's also getting praise.

"The Five" co-host Greg Gutfeld blasted Bristol Palin’s haters Tuesday after her pregnancy announcement, saying they "would have been more supportive" if she simply had an abortion … "Her pregnancy points out the sins on both sides," the host continued. "On the right, if you cite the illegitimacy of black inner cities, then do so here. Sex happens where the young and bored congregate, without supervision or goals. On the left, your mockery reminds us of how you secretly value abortion and its thinning of the troubled herd. You know you love it."

I have no sympathy for Bristol, but I do have a suggestion. I'm not famous enough to gain her attention. Then again, the only reason she is, is because her mother once ran for public office.

There. I said it.

And it's true. She knows it's true. Her mother knows it's true. Hell, YOU know it's true. Having said all that, there's nothing wrong with being famous. There's also nothing wrong with being famous for who one's mother is. There's even nothing wrong with being famous for who one's mother is as a stepping stone for opportunity, so long as it's ultimately gained on one's own merits. And having said all that as well, there remains the possibility that the good will provided by the high profile of one's family can eventually be exhausted.

To put it another way, young lady, having a famous mom may not be working out as you'd planned, and it's time to try another option -- like, don't be famous.

I'll repeat that for you, dear: DON'T. BE. FAMOUS.

Don't accept speaking engagements or spots on reality television, even if you think you need the money. (After taking in more than a quarter of a million dollars from the Carrie Foundation in 2009, please tell me you've saved up for a rainy day by now.) Aspire to be the woman that nobody recognizes when shopping for produce at the supermarket. After all, there are ways to disguise your appearance as noted by the public. Just ask those other famous people you met in the last seven years. When all that's over with, and the kids are old enough, you can go back to getting a business degree at community college, just like the riff-raff whose calls or text messages you haven't returned in, say, the last seven years. Rejoice in giving new life, whatever the circumstances, keeping the blessed event off the magazine covers, with the attention normally reserved for the Duchess of Cambridge. Maybe along the way you'll meet an ordinary man with extraordinary virtue, one who loves children, even if they're not his own, and with whom you'll actually go through with closing the deal. If you're lucky (and I hope you are), he won't want the glare of public notoriety any more than you can (apparently) handle.

Face it, girl, you had your day in the spotlight. It was fun while it lasted. You had opportunity handed to you on a silver platter, through virtually no merit of your own, and you blew it. But take heart in knowing you only got your wings clipped, as opposed to crashing and burning. For this, you can thank two people who (apparently) CAN handle public notoriety. That would be your parents, who probably should have told you, if they didn't already while you weren't paying attention, that fame and fortune aren't always what they're cracked up to be, don't you think?

Or don't you?

(POSTSCRIPT: Gutfeld made an excellent point, but he may have missed another one, if unaware: “Sex happens where the young and bored congregate, without supervision or goals.” Hold that thought, and if you have to ask why, I can't explain it to you.)

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

My Canadian Moment

Today is Canada Day for some reason having to do with the British Crown deciding to throw them a bone that resembled self-determination, which they accepted without much of a fuss. I'm actually not sure, which is to be expected, since Americans know so little about their neighbors to the north, while they in turn are so completely on to their southern neighbors (that is, "neighbours").

Personally, I never met a Canadian I couldn't get along with (but for two exceptions, both from British Columbia, one of them an old Scout leader who spends too much time in the woods to develop a sense of social grace on the internet, the other a Catholic writer who spends too much time lecturing others about civility on the internet to practice it herself, but those are each another story ...). This video is a completely false but not necessarily misleading account of the story of this great and generally-more-polite-than-American nation, as told by Will O'Neill.

Tonight I'll raise a glass to them all, probably Moosehead. It's the least I could do … eh?