Theology, “Pawn Sacrifice” and Populist Paranoia

A friend messaged me today and inquired if I were doing okay.  I have been pretty quiet on social media and old-fashioned outreach since Christmas.

Some of that was by design, some imposed on me by a colonoscopy procedure that hit me a little harder than I expected.  While my results were stellar, the side effects of headache and pain were greater than anticipated.  But then, I have aged some since my last experience with this examination.  And my back was in better shape.

The self-imposed part of my more quiet time has been to binge watch “The Crown” and “Outlander.”  I am finding I enjoy being able to watch all episodes of the series I most appreciate back to back to back.  It is more like reading a good book you can’t put down, or being willing to watch an extended movie classic because it is – classic.

But I have not entirely disengaged from the occasional Facebook post and some tweeting.  Oddly, I wandered into the middle of a Twitter dispute involving Fr. James Martin, SJ and Professor C.C. Pecknold of the Catholic University of America.

I guess my original tweets made it look like I was siding with Fr. Martin too much, because Professor Pecknold’s supporters piled on a bit.  They accused me of lacking objectivity. As the Twitter war progressed to an all-out editorial on the subject by Pecknold, I felt both men were at fault in an incident neither was willing to let go. Subsequent tweeting by Fr. Martin proved that.  I have respect for both of them, with one being more socially and ideologically liberal than the other.  I have learned from both and respect both.

That seemed to get lost in all the pleas for me to be more “objective” somehow.  I thought calling both out for unnecessary roughness was being objective, but evidently there is some back story here I am not privy to nor did I care to take the time to research.

Because when it comes to theological opinions, this is my view: whoever is speaking, whatever their social viewpoint and liberal to conservative ideological bent, my advice is take what the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart in what that person is saying, and discard the rest.  That is the Spirit’s job – to help you hear what it is God feels you need to hear from whatever source you need to hear it.

It is not worth being in spiritual warfare with a fellow brother or sister about matters of God.  And yes – you can hear truth in both extremes, as well as in the center of things.  No one point of view holds the deed to absolute truth.

Trust me, if we get it wrong down here, we will hear about it when Christ returns.  It is called Judgement.  Since I am shooting for Divine Mercy, hopefully I will not experience it.  But, it is only a hope.  I am humble enough to know that it is a fate I may not easily achieve.

It’s just I don’t want to spend any time in Purgatory, because it is a concept that I still have trouble embracing.  I get what it means theologically and why it is a part of Catholic doctrine.  It is not that I don’t see the sense of it.  Maybe it is the Protestant still stuck in me.  Either Jesus died on the cross for me to save me from my sin, or his death holds no meaning.  It was a useless Passion he endured.  And I do not believe his Passion was without purpose.

I am sure I will get plenty of theological pushback on that one!  Hold your fire.  I do get the purpose of Purgatory.  I just hope not to have to experience it, especially if, as some theologians suggest, it makes your longing for union with God to be greater than it already is.

So, while recuperating these past two days and being drawn into theological dispute, I also found some movie time.  I wasn’t sure how dramatically interesting it would be, but I watched the movie “Pawn Sacrifice” with Toby Maguire and Liev Schreiber this afternoon.  It was fascinating.

It shows so beautifully – as did “Amadeus” – what a fine line there is between genius and madness, and how delicate that line is, how easily broken.  Especially when the genius is improperly nurtured by those who perhaps recognize it, but do not understand how to protect it.  And those who would use it to their own distinct advantage, which in this case would have been everyone in the nation in 1972-but most especially his “handler” and the U.S. government.

I am not sure Fischer was aware he was carrying the expectation of the nation on his shoulders.  He was too insular for that realization.  But he did recognize others were benefitting from his brilliance.  That much was not paranoia.

But oh how beautifully Maguire played those notes – from his ripping apart hotel rooms looking for Soviet era “bugging” devices to coming to believe world conspiracy theories that still have hold in some quarters to this day.  Couple that with an obnoxious personality, and it is amazing Fr. Bill Lombardy, played by Peter Sarsgaard, stayed with him through his stunning defeat of Spassky in Game 6 of the tournament.  (Lombardy was the “moral voice” in the movie, though just as fascinated and drawn by Fischer’s brilliance as the next.)

But what was most intriguing was how Spassky, played with supreme confidence by Schreiber, began to “catch” Fischer’s paranoia.  At first, he thought it was a stratagem.  Then he began to experience his own set of paranoid feelings.  Even though he had no way of knowing that Fischer’s explosive craziness was real, it unnerved Spassky and he “caught” the paranoia bug, right down into speaking into the chandeliers of his hotel suite because he believed his own Soviet government was bugging him.

As fascinating was the way Spassky was flummoxed at Fischer’s unorthodox chess moves, which he had never played before.  All of the preparation and study Spassky put into his play was out the window, because Fischer was willing to test theoretical moves instead of those conventionally known and used.   Spassky was playing based on past, predicted behavior Fischer had previously shown in his play.  Fischer was playing based on probabilities not before thought of, let alone tried.

It is a movie that is a perfect analogy to this Trumpian era.  For the past year, everyone has said that Trump will “settle down” and behave “more predictably.”  I posit that will not happen.  Trump thrives on the emotional chaos he creates for others.  He is as out of touch with reality as was Fischer.  But unlike Fischer, Trump’s theoretical populism (which really isn’t populism at all) has real world consequences for each of us who are citizens of this country.

The question is do we, like Spassky, succumb to the paranoiac world view of Trump and his cadre?  Or can we keep our Joe Cool sunglasses from slipping and our confidence in our own reality high?

I especially hope the latter for Robert Mueller and his team, as well as those who support them.

Otherwise, Trump will pull a move no one saw coming, and it will be his game to win.




Mary’s Heart at Christmas

I wish just once in my life someone I loved cared about what I really thought; how I really felt emotionally about something. It has never been my luck.

Last night my son was given a Christmas present I would not have bought him in a million years. Expressing a desire to have something and the reality of possessing it are two different things.

It is not good enough that his friends have one. Just as it is not good enough he started smoking when he was a teen just because his friends did it. This was the same kid that came unglued at ten when he saw me puff off a friend’s cigarette and made me vow never to smoke again. I cared about what he thought, and I haven’t touched a cigarette since.

It is not good enough that he is a 40-year-old man who could have purchased this gift for himself. Left to his own devices, I doubt he ever would.

My son is a particular, deliberate person. He would never be foolish. That doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t.  It doesn’t make this gift less deadly.

Never have I heard him express a desire to own this gift, though my daughter-in-law mentioned to me he had said something in passing.

He doesn’t need my permission to have it.  The person who gave it to him didn’t need my permission to give it to him.  But it would have been nice if for either a moment either had considered how I felt about it.

You see, no matter how old he grows, I am always his mother.  I am the one who carried him for 9 months in my womb. I am the one who still remembers what it felt like to hold him, to rock him, how he smelled, how sweetly he looked asleep in my arms.

I am the one who agonized for every hurt he has endured in life, wondering if I did the right things raising him pretty much alone.  Wishing I could take all his pain upon myself so he didn’t have to feel it.  The one who has had to stand mute and allow him as an adult to make his choices and live with the consequences, because that is what you do for your children when they become adults – let them be one.

But this is something I have to make my feelings known about, it matters that much to me.  As a Catholic, I try so hard to follow Mary in discipleship.  I understand that includes living with a pierced heart if anything bad were to ever happen to my son.  And hers was pierced seven times over with a sword.

But I don’t know if I can model her mercy and grace if anything were to happen to my son as a result of this gift. It might be beyond me to have forgiveness for it.

Heaven help me.  Jesus, I trust in you.







Failing Blogging 101

I am failing Blogging 101 – try to post something new every day to build your audience of readers.

The past two weeks, I have not had a day that has not been busy to the brim with ministry and community outreach projects that had Christmas deadlines.  There. Just. Was. No. Time.

Hemingway would have found this unacceptable, I am sure.  Then again, as hard as he drank, maybe he didn’t write EVERY day either.

Yet that idea of sitting down and writing something, anything, every single day has been drummed into me from writing courses in college and later writing seminars.  If you don’t write every single day, evidently you aren’t a real writer, the didactic goes.

It is not that I am not trying.  It is not that I haven’t been praying to God to pave the way for this practice.

It just seems that the more things I try to push out of my way to get to this place, the more responsibility for other projects seem to fall on my shoulders.  My English and journalism teachers may have been preparing me for the life of a writer.  My parents drummed the need to be responsible into me, even if it was for things that as a child, I should have had no responsibility for.  Like their financial situation, for one.

But there it is.  The result of growing up in a home steeped in alcohol.  You either become like those you live with, or you become hyper-responsible and very sober in terms of personality.  I went the latter route.

Which is why it is so difficult for me to turn down those in a position of “authority” of any type, be it a boss, a pastor, or a community leader with whom I am working.  And it is important, social outreach work, as well as evangelization, teaching and spiritual renewal of the Church that I find myself becoming increasingly involved.

In God’s plan, what does He want more – my words, or my deeds?

Maybe I cling to the words because they were the first things that ever brought me praise, whether it was my reading aloud in first grade to the first essay on a robin’s spring that I wrote in grade school.  My writing made me stand apart from my classmates – only in a good way, not in the shame filled way I was used to feeling because of my family history.

Yet if my words stir emotions, does my presence to someone as a reflection of Christ mean more than they do?  His words, not mine.  His voice speaking through me, not my voice leading them to Him.  The latter is my ego, I know.  But why did God give me this gift if He didn’t want me to use it, if He didn’t want people to pay that 99 cents to download that book of poetry? What am I here for if not to write?  It seems like that has been my raison d’etre for so long, I don’t know how to have another.  And I don’t trust that the other ways carrying the same meaning.  Again, my ego, not God’s will.

So please be in prayer for me that I know what God would truly have me spend my time doing.  Because for the next two months, it looks like being part of large teams of people to bring special events to our community on the subject of sex trafficking of minors and to our parish on mercy so that it may be renewed spiritually after many wounds to it.

I am not sure what this makes me.  I just know it doesn’t make me a writer in the conventional understanding of that word.  And it haunts me.

Hey! Leo DM’D Me!

So I guess I need to stop blogging about my lovelorn past.

All it earned me was a DM on Twitter from someone with a private account pretending to be Leonardo DiCaprio.

Yeah. Right. I have been down the scammer road before. Once I let “Leo” know this, he quickly stopped engaging and didn’t ask again if I thought I could make a personal difference in saving the environment.

Hey, if NASA can’t convince Donald Trump climate change is real and that we should rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, I am sure the $5 I can afford to contribute this month would really not offset the damage we do daily to lovely Mother Earth.

Seriously, though, who do these people trying to adopt the personas of celebrities think they are kidding?

Clearly he had been creative with the use of the name (lowercase “l” for the first name and “l” added to last). Also the person copied the look of DiCaprio’s account accurately-although this guy had about 11 followers while the genuine article has 18 million plus.

And I wasn’t one of them at the time the alleged Leo DM’d me. So that also made it a spurious remark that he uses his private account to interact with people who follow him individually.

I mean, maybe. But seriously, me?  While it’s true I buy my underwear ar Victoria’s Secret, I assure you it is not Angel Runway Ready Wear.  Besides, I don’t think I am Leo’s type. Not only am I way too short, I am way too old.

However, this person was using the same link to DiCaprio’s foundation that is on his verified account. So anyone out there who reads this who knows the real Leo, please let him know his humanitarian effforts are being used as a ruse.

I would notify Twitter, but they didn’t respond when the “German General” trying to “romance” me turned menacing when I called him out on his scam, alleging then he was really from the Taliban and would “send his boys to kill me” if I didn’t send him $5,000.

Maybe Leo will have better luck getting Twitter to respond to this one than I did the last.

And I Love Him

Do you think it is possible to love someone for 52 years and not really know that person?

I grew up in a very small Indiana town that was rural for 3/4ths of the year and a summer vacation place on a huge lake from June-August.  I started First Grade with the same 40 some odd students I ended up graduating with.

Oh, I had had some school girl crushes – everyone had one on our local doctor’s son, as he was the cutest boy in our class.

And of course, I was deeply, madly, fiercely in love with Paul McCartney for the first few years after the Beatles hit the United States.  Who wasn’t?  Then they went psychedelic, and I didn’t.

Being such a small community school, by the time I reached junior high, we shared classrooms with the high schoolers, intermingling with them in the hall between classroom periods.

I am not sure when I first saw him – sometime between classes I would imagine.  He was two years older than I, tall, with jet black hair and the most amazing blue eyes I have ever seen, before or since.  They were electric blue and stood out against the paleness of his skin.  I thought he was the most beautiful boy I had ever seen.

A nerd before such a word existed, I was incredibly shy and self-conscious.  I had the weirdest haircuts and styles, based on whether my mother did my perms and cuts or she took me up to see Phyllis at the beauty shop.  I had “blossomed” early, but let the other kids in my class convince me I was fat and nothing to look at.  The only time I had any self-assurance was when I knew the answer to a history question, or had written a great essay in English class or assumed an alternate identify in a school play.

Then of course, there was the whole issue of my birth.  Since my last name was different than my grandparents who were raising me, I was an anomaly of my times in 1960’s north eastern Indiana.  The fact that my grandfather – whom I always called Daddy, as he was the only one I had ever had – was the town bartender and a major drunk didn’t help the cause.  The people who drank with him loved him – still, the mother in me now realizes why I was never invited to the other kids’ parties or why they were never allowed to spend the night at my house.  I would never have let my son alone with alcoholics either.  Still, it didn’t make the hurting go away.

But for two years, I lived in a fantasy between class bells, hoping to see the object of my affection as I passed from one class to the next.  I would look for him every day, peering at him between the bodies of the other students as he passed by.  If he looked my way, I would quickly avert my eyes.

We had a friend in common, an older girl who worked at a local grocery store and lived near him.  She told me once she had kissed him.  My heart broke to hear that.  I don’t think she meant to be cruel; I hope not, anyway.

Every time I went to a high school basketball game, I went just to watch him play.  Everyone knew I had this major crush – even him.  Everyone knew who I was rooting for.  I so wanted to be a cheerleader, pretty, slim and blonde so he would notice me.  But I was none of those things.  For his part, he bore my stolen glances between classes stoically.  Dear Lord, I wonder how much teasing he got that I of all people was mad about him.  Poor fellow.

When I was 13, my Dad realized his major dream in life – to run his own restaurant and be his own boss for once in his life.  It would mean moving across the state line into Ohio about 30 minutes or so from where we lived.  I vividly remember the last day of my 8th grade school year.  I was wearing a white blouse and a blue plaid pencil skirt with suspenders and the new tortoise shell eyeglasses that only increased my shyness.

That day, as I passed him in the hall, the boy I loved looked at me and said “hi.”

I wouldn’t see him again for almost 20 years.

At 17, my family had moved back to Indiana when – the lease on the restaurant up – the bank took our home, furniture and car. Allegedly three years of slavery left my parents owing them money, for which all our worldly possessions were the collateral.    I was too busy finishing my senior year and working to be on the lookout for the boy I had loved so much.  And soon I would be away to California, not to ever come back for more than a week at a time after that.

It was on a visit back to my hometown that I saw him again at what, if memory serves, was called the Tastee Freeze or the Frosty Freeze – something like that.  I had gone in on a hot summer day to get a Coke to drink and he was sitting there eating ice cream with his two little boys. I was much changed by then.  My hair was long and stylishly done, I wore a size five romper and contacts instead of glasses.

He called hello to me by name and I returned it as easily as if we had been friendly a lifetime ago, passing one another in the school hallways between bells. I asked what he was up to and he told me he had married and was running his father-in-law’s store in a neighboring town.  I told him I had been a journalist and gone on to work in public relations for a large utility in California and that I, too, had a little boy, but he was not with me on this trip.  I had divorced and he was still visiting in California with his Dad that summer.

And then I said good-bye, climbed into my car, and drove away.

I would think of him from time to time, but not that often.  There were other loves.  Each time I hoped it would be “the one.”  It never was.

For the past couple of nights, I have dreamed about that first boy I ever loved.  And last night, sitting at Mass, dead tired after a long weekend of service projects revolving around Christmas, I was lonely for him.  I physically craved his presence beside me so that I could put my head on his shoulder and he could hold me in my weariness.  I wanted what so many women at my Church seem to have – a long, long marriage to someone who knew me as a girl and loved me from the moment he laid eyes on me, as I had loved him.

I don’t know what would have happened if – instead of going to California – I had stayed in my hometown, struggling to make ends meet on a waitress salary while studying Comparative Literature at the Indiana-Purdue University campus in Fort Wayne.  Maybe our paths would have crossed.  Maybe I would have ended up having those 50 golden years that everyone around me seems to have had.  Maybe I could have rested my head on his shoulder last night when I was so tired and drawn comfort and strength.

But that is not the path God laid out for me.  It was a fantasy then, and today it is only a few fleeting dreams in the darkest part of the night.

One of my favorite Beatles’ songs – sung by Paul, of course – was “And I Love Her.”

It only needs a change of pronoun to say what I still feel, 52 years later.



I Dated the D.A.

Dating a District Attorney is no guarantee the person is a righteous man who has no secrets that are illicit.

I know.  I dated one when I was in my early 30s and was working as a newspaper reporter in a neighboring community to the one in which he served.

As I did not cover the court house beat, it did not seem like I was crossing any ethical lines.  That he quickly moved in when a friend of his and I stopped dating should have been a warning sign.

It was not a long dating experience.  It did have an embarrassing side to it when I got called for jury duty and had to go through voir dire.  After I was asked if I knew anyone seated at either the prosecution or defense tables, I had to concede that I knew the District Attorney prosecuting the case.  Then it became “How did I know him.”  I conceded we dated.  Then it was “What type of dating relationship did you have?” And I think I answered something along the lines of “The kind where you go out to dinner.”  Then it was a question more provocative, in terms of how would I describe the “type” of relationship we had had.  My answer was “The kind adults do.” Meanwhile, the fellow in question sat smirking at the prosecution table, enjoying the show.

Of course, I was excused.  I should have been excused based on the fact that I was a reporter who covered the police beat.  (Meaning I went to look at the logs of the local city police and/or called their spokesperson for an update on the latest crimes.  I did not follow cases to trial.)

There was no reason to go into all that other detailed questioning designed to get me to admit whether or not it had been a sexual relationship.  It was sport for the judge and my former date.

Later, this same “date” would be arrested in his home for possessing child pornographic material.  That my son once rode alone in his sports car with him still turns my stomach.  Fortunately, my son was always outspoken when he felt he was ill-treated.  Still, when you are a mother, your mind goes there.

But what woman wouldn’t presume that a member of the court was anything other than upstanding if she had no other information at the time to tell her otherwise?

So my question to the voters of Alabama is:  if I, as a 30-something woman and a local news reporter, did not know there was anything wrong with this man’s sexual predilections – how do you hold a 14-year-old girl to account?  Or one who is 16?  I don’t care if it is the “age of consent.”  It is an age still far too young for a 32-year-old man to be dating.  Enough of this “well, if a man wants a virgin” for a wife nonsense.  The truth is, most men just want to have sex.  And having sex with a virgin is a plus to them.

This is not to castigate all men.  Most keep their impulses to themselves.  But I can tell you with great certainty that the ones who don’t – they don’t stop doing what they do.  It is a sickness.  Be it Roy Moore trolling the mall for teenage girls as prey, or Al Franken “accidentally” touching a woman’s breast but failing to move his hand and apologize.  As much as I fell in love with Franken as a politician when I read his book, doing that is no “accident.” It is pure “how far can I go and get away with it.”

Just ask Donald Trump how far he goes.  Actually, you don’t have to do that.  He has already told us.  On tape.  In front of 8 witnesses.

But hey, now he thinks the tape is fake.  Sure, Mr. President.  Just like there is “no collusion, no collusion.”

When people show you who they really are – believe them.  I have learned to do so.

Sunday in the Park?

I can’t believe it. Tomorrow (or rather later today) I have my first Sunday in forever where I have – not one single obligation to anyone but me.

Having lectored at Church tonight, I have kept my Mass obligation for Sunday. With Flynn’s plea and his cooperation with Mueller, I feel the dam is about to burst on the Trump administration and I can breathe again.  It doesn’t feel like the Constitution is quite on the endangered species list after all. And I have decided the GOP is going to do what the GOP is going to do because they are stubborn and tribalistic, as well as focused only on the wealthy. Hopefully the mid-terms will take care of them.

It no longer feels I must come up with a pithy tweet that encapsulates the fate of the world if Trump goes unimpeded in his Presidency – because even if he stays, that cannot happen now. He has been hampered by his own overestimation of himself. He has been found out to be the king with no clothes after all. Sadly, his courtiers have naked souls as well.

Maybe I am getting ahead of myself, feeling this way. But my relief feels immense. Perhaps I can enjoy my golden years after all.

Still, my most important quandary is what to do with my day.  Finish the four piles of laundry sorted on my bedroom floor? Clean the fridge? Wrap presents? Lay about reading? Go and see “The Orient Express?” (My friends say it’s excellent.

I know what I won’t do for one day – pay a bit of attention to the news.  I may be building myself a rose colored bubble that will burst come Monday.

Until then, frankly Scarlett, fiddle-dee-dee  Tomorrow’s another day.