Learning Notes Week of April 24
4 hours ago
Late Wednesday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs hinted the presidential cooler will likely be stocked with what he understood to be the two guests' own personal favorites -- Red Stripe and Blue Moon.
"The president will drink Bud Light," Mr. Gibbs added.
The problem is that all three beers are products of foreign companies. Red Stripe is brewed by London-based Diageo PLC. Blue Moon is sold by a joint venture in which London-based SABMiller has a majority stake.
And Bud Light? It is made by Anheuser-Busch -- which is now known as Anseuser-Busch InBev NV after getting bought last year by a giant Belgian-Brazilian company.
Among rival brewers, the news fell flat. "We would hope they would pick a family-owned, American beer to lubricate the conversation," said Bill Manley, a spokesman for the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., a California-based brewer that happens to be family-owned.
Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Co., which brews Samuel Adams, decried "the foreign domination of something so basic and important to our culture as beer."
Genesee Brewery, Rochester, N.Y., released a statement congratulating the president for having beer at the meeting but adding: "We just hope the next time the President has a beer, he chooses an American beer, made by American workers, and an American-owned brewery like Genesee."
For the past several days, David von Storch, co-founder of Capitol City Brewing Company -- which owns a brewpub just a few blocks from the White House -- has been lobbying the administration to serve his company's "Equality Ale."
"What better beer to have them drink than the only beer brewed in the District of Columbia, Capitol City Brewing Company Equality Ale!" Mr. von Storch wrote in an email he sent Tuesday to several White House staffers.
When questioned by reporters on Tuesday, Mr. Gibbs, the White House spokesman, tackled the beer issue head-on. "As I understand it -- I have not heard this, I've read this, so I'll just repeat what I've read, that Professor Gates said he liked Red Stripe, and I believe Sergeant Crowley mentioned to the president that he liked Blue Moon. So we'll have the gamut covered tomorrow afternoon. I think we're still thinking, weather permitting, the picnic table out back. All right?"
Dan Kenary, president of Boston-based Harpoon Brewery, said he wanted to make a run at getting some of his beer into the meeting but couldn't find any intermediaries with close White House contacts. "I think just showing up at the gate with a case of Harpoon would make them look at us funny," he said.
Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally believed to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion. I remember well, for instance, the blind animal terror which ensued when some townie set off the civil defense sirens as a joke. Someone said it was a nuclear attack; TV and radio reception, never good there in the mountains, happened to be particularly bad that night, and in the ensuing stampede for the telephones, the switchboard shorted out, plunging the school into a violent and almost unimaginable panic. Cars collided in the parking lot. People screamed, wept, gave away their possessions, huddled in small groups for comfort and warmth. Some hippies baracaded themselves in the Science Building, in the lone bomb shelter, and refused to let anyone in who didn't know the words to "Sugar Magnolia". Factions formed, leaders rose from the chaos. Though the world, in fact, was not destroyed, everyone had a marvelous time and people spoke fondly of the event for years afterward.Factions formed, leaders rose from the chaos. A golden line in context. It's become a catchphrase here.
--The Secret History, Donna Tartt, Chapter 7
Which is not to say I’m against work. Indeed, what also came out that afternoon were the many tasks I—like so many other working/co-parenting/married mothers—have been doing for so many years and tearfully declared I would continue doing. I can pick up our girls from school every day; I can feed them dinner and kiss their noses and tell them stories; I can take them to their doctor and dentist appointments; I can earn my half—sometimes more—of the money; I can pay the bills; I can refinance the house at the best possible interest rate; I can drive my husband to the airport; in his absence, I can sort his mail; I can be home to let the plumber in on Thursday between nine and three, and I can wait for the cable guy; I can make dinner conversation with any family member; I can ask friendly questions about anybody’s day; I can administer hugs as needed to children, adults, dogs, cats; I can empty the litter box; I can stir wet food into dry.
Which is to say I can work at a career and child care and joint homeownership and even platonic male-female friendship. However, in this cluttered forest of my 40s, what I cannot authentically reconjure is the ancient dream of brides, even with the Oprah fluffery of weekly “date nights,” when gauzy candlelight obscures the messy house, child talk is nixed and silky lingerie donned, so the two of you can look into each other’s eyes and feel that “spark” again. Do you see? Given my staggering working mother’s to-do list, I cannot take on yet another arduous home- and self-improvement project, that of rekindling our romance. Sobered by this failure as a mother—which is to say, my failure as a wife—I’ve since begun a journey of reading, thinking, and listening to what’s going on in other 21st-century American families. And along the way, I’ve begun to wonder, what with all the abject and swallowed misery: Why do we still insist on marriage? Sure, it made sense to agrarian families before 1900, when to farm the land, one needed two spouses, grandparents, and a raft of children. But now that we have white-collar work and washing machines, and our life expectancy has shot from 47 to 77, isn’t the idea of lifelong marriage obsolete?
But it is now our second Girls’ Night dinner since my horrifying announcement, and Rachel has eschewed Ian’s customary wine-club Bordeaux and is mixing some alarmingly strong martinis.
Leaning forward heavily across the bar, she swirls her glass and huskily drops the bomb: “I have to tell you—since we talked, I too have started thinking divorce.” “No!” we girls exclaim. With a stab of nausea, I suddenly feel as though now that I’ve touched my pool of friends with my black pen, a cloud of ink is enveloping them.
“You can’t!” Renata cries. “Ian—he’s the perfect father! The perfect husband! Look at this … kitchen!”
It’s true: the kitchen is a prime example of Ian’s contribution to their union. He based the design of the remodel on an old farmhouse kitchen they saw during their trip to Tuscany, and of course—carpentry being another of his hobbies—he did all the details himself, including building the shelves. One of the room’s marvels is how ingeniously and snugly all the specialty kitchenware is housed—the hanging copper pots, the garlic press, the mandolin, the lemon zester, the French press coffeemaker …
“Ian won’t have sex with me,” Rachel says flatly. “He has not touched my body in two years. He says it’s because I’ve gained weight.” Again, we stoutly protest, but she goes on. “And he thinks I’m a bad mother—he says I’m sloppy and inattentive.”
The list of violations unfurls. Last week, Rachel mistakenly gave the wrong medication to the dog, a mistake Ian would never make. She also forgot to deglaze the saucepan and missed the window to book the family’s Seattle flights on Expedia, whose chiming bargains Ian meticulously tracks.
Rachel sees herself as a failed mother, and is depressed and chronically overworked at her $120,000-a-year job (which she must cling to for the benefits because Ian freelances). At night, horny and sleepless, she paces the exquisite kitchen, gobbling mini Dove bars.
“You know, it’s funny,” says Ellen, after a moment of gloom. (Passing note: Ellen has been married for 18 years, and she also, famously, never has sex. There were the hot 20s with Ron and the making-the-babies 30s, and in the 40s there is … nothing. Ellen had originally picked Ron because she was tired of all the bad boys, and Ron was settle-down husband material. What she didn’t know was that after the age of 38, thanks to Mr. Very Settled-Down, she was never going to have regular sex with a man again.)
“When marriage was invented,” Ellen continues, “it was considered to be a kind of trade union for a woman, her protection against the sexually wandering male. But what’s happened to the sexually wandering male?”
In our parents’ era, the guy hit 45, got the toupee, drove the red Porsche, and left his family for the young, hot secretary. We are unable to imagine any of the husbands driving anything with fewer than five seat belts.
“Ron only goes as far as the den,” Ellen says. “He has his Internet porn bookmarked on the computer.”
“Ian has his Cook’s Illustrated,” Rachel adds. “And his—his men’s online fennel club.”
So, herewith, some modest proposals. Clearly, research shows that what’s best for children is domestic stability and not having to bond with, and to be left by, ever new stepparent figures. Less important is whether or not their overworked parents are logging “date night” (or feeling the magic). So why don’t we accept marriage as a splitting-the-mortgage arrangement? As Fisher suggests, rekindling the romance is, for many of us, biologically unnatural, particularly after the kids come. (Says another friend of mine, about his wife of 23 years: “My heart doesn’t lift when she walks in the room. It sinks, slightly.”) If high-revving women are sexually frustrated, let them have some sort of French arrangement where they have two men, the postfeminist model dad building shelves, cooking bouillabaise, and ignoring them in the home, and the occasional fun-loving boyfriend the kids never see. Alternately, if both spouses find life already rather exhausting, never mind chasing around for sex. Long-married husbands and wives should pleasantly agree to be friends, to set the bedroom aglow at night by the mute opening of separate laptops and just be done with it. More than anything, aside from providing insulation from the world at large, that kind of arrangement could be the perfect way to be left alone.
As far as the children are concerned, how about the tribal approach (a natural, according to both primate and human evolution)? Let children between the ages of 1 and 5 be raised in a household of mothers and their female kin. Let the men/husbands/boyfriends come in once or twice a week to build shelves, prepare that bouillabaisse, or provide sex.
Or best of all, after the breast-feeding and toddler years are through, let those nurturing superdads be the custodial parents! Let the Type A moms obsessively work, write checks, and forget to feed the dog. Let the dads then, if they wish, kick out those sloppy working mothers and run effective households, hiring the appropriate staff, if need be. To a certain extent, men today may have more clarity about what it takes to raise children in the modern age. They don’t, for instance, have today’s working mother’s ambivalence and emotional stickiness.
In any case, here’s my final piece of advice: avoid marriage—or you too may suffer the emotional pain, the humiliation, and the logistical difficulty, not to mention the expense, of breaking up a long-term union at midlife for something as demonstrably fleeting as love.
Paul tells us our Faith is a shield.And from his talk to teenagers on social justice:
There are a lot of things to say about Faith, but let me highlight three aspects.
Faith is about knowledge—it matters that we know our Faith;
Faith is about obedience to what Christ teaches—it matters that we live our Faith;
And above all…
Faith is a choice of the will—which is why the habits of faith matter, because they’ll help us stand our ground and keep our choice strong when it’s not easy.
Notice Faith is a shield—not the sword. Our Faith is not mainly an offensive weapon, but a means of defense—against the attacks of the enemy.
"Flaming arrows" sound pretty scary, but St. Paul assures us our shield of Faith will do the job.
Remember, our Faith is not just ours—when we speak of our Faith, we mean our personal, individual choice of faith, but we also speak of the Faith of the Church. Remember that from the Ritual of Baptism?
Right before the child or the adult is baptized, the deacon or priest asks that person—or others to speak for her—to renounce the devil, and profess faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Everyone joins in, and then the priest says, "This is our Faith. This is the Faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen!"
When we recall that people die for that profession, even at this hour, those words take on new meaning, don’t they?
My point is, we have as our shield not only our personal faith, but the Faith of the Church, the whole Church. But it has to be personal, too; we have to be used to holding it, with a familiar grip—or we’ll fumble and drop it at the first sign of trouble.
Now, that example raises a couple of issues associate with the Church’s social teaching, did you notice?
What do you think the Church says about unions?
Ø People have a right to form or associate with unions—Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII.
Ø Unions should be about advancing the good of working people but not at the expense of others’ legitimate rights and the common good
Ø Catholics should not affiliate with unions if they aren’t compatible with Catholic teaching in general.
What the Church does not say about unions:
Ø That working people must belong to them.
Ø That unions are always right or should always prevail.
Ø That unions should be about employee versus employer: Pope Leo suggested the possibility of unions including employers—what idea was he trying to cultivate there?
Solidarity: i.e., yes, I am my brother’s keeper.
Related to this is the "common good." The idea is that sometimes I have to ask, not just what’s good for me, but what’s good for…us.
Let’s go back to that example: you go buy food in the store. You pay for it. You eat it. But you decided to buy some extra food and drop it off at the food pantry on the way home: you remembered the poor man, Lazarus.
Now, are you finished thinking about "justice" in this case?
Ø What about the workers who produced the food or brought it to you?
Ø What about the way the food was produced—care for the natural environment?
The workers involved in bringing this food to you are entitled to a fair wage and just working conditions—did they have the ability to negotiate and bargain collectively if they wanted to?
Assuming any methodized sexual intercourse devised to avoid pregnancy by an otherwise open-to-life-marital-couple can actually "work," who bears responsibility for the method? I seriously question whether NFP, for many, isn't a misogynous practice -- imposing upon women an undue share of the physical and emotional burden of the theologically questionable quest of planning pregnancy.The woman presenting the "no it isn't" view did a perfectly decent job of presenting the standard arguments for NFP, but I'd like to dig into one aspect in particular, especially given that by the sixth comment on the article we already see a theology student trying to argue that the "planning" involved in Natural Family Planning is really no different than the use of barrier methods of contraception since it involves "the intention of having sex without baby" and is thus "using one's intellect to create a tool which limits the possibility of procreation".
First, we must be real. Modern NFP practices demand daily bodily measurements of women, not men.... A woman most desires sexual intimacy when she is at her most fertile.... This is also the moment when we are most likely to conceive a child. It's the moment NFP-practicing women measure and chart and predict as "fertility awareness," a "maybe-child" zone. For NFP-practicing women avoiding pregnancy, it is the moment they must say "no" to both themselves and their spouses....
I don't buy it. It sounds like a scheme to impose on women who wish to time pregnancies an almost penal practice of self-measurement, self-control, and self-denial, while requiring, at a minimum, a sort of suffering acquiescence from a spouse whose interest in the chart becomes rather strategic....
NFP needs to go the same way as the rhythm method -- which did not "work" and was, more importantly, female unfriendly. In its place, perhaps we all need to suck it up and admit what the theology asks of us: Have sex whenever you both want to... and expect a baby every time. Otherwise, don't copulate. That's a fair burden on both spouses.