Monday, August 11, 2003

Free will and classroom decor

Steven Den Beste recently wrote about a news story about the University of Central Florida. Evidently, there is a debate about whether flags should be placed in the classrooms.

This story reminds me of something that happened in the mid 90s at Georgetown University. There was a movement there to ensure that a crucifix was placed in every classroom at the Jesuit, Catholic University. The details are sketchy, but as I understood the story, there were those who felt that it was inappropriate to hang a crucifix in the classrooms because it may offend some of the non-Christian students.

Both of these stories make me feel a bit like I have fallen through the looking glass and into an alternate reality.

Perhaps I am overly simplistic but… Wouldn’t a crucifix be a standard accoutrement in a Catholic classroom? Why wouldn’t a state university have the US flag up? Heck, put up the Florida state flag while you are at it!

A bit of history here… I am an alumna of both a Jesuit and Dominican school and have attended Catholic schools from the age of 14. In every classroom I studied in both a crucifix and a flag was at the front of the class. There were also usually students from a variety of faiths and from a variety of countries. In each case, they knew when they choose to attend these schools that it was a Catholic, American school and could be expected to decorate accordingly.

Recently I returned to the small Catholic university that I attended as an undergraduate. There is now a fairly sizeable population of Muslim students who attend the school. When I picked up the school paper I discovered that there was talk of converting the schools Catholic chapel into an ‘interdenominational worship space’ and that the school needs to strive to consider the ‘feelings’ of our non-Catholic students.

As an alumna, if the next time I stop by my alma mater there is a ‘interdenominational worship space’ instead of the chapel I will ask to be removed from the mailing list rather than be bearing a check for the school. Instead, I will donate my money to the Mother House to assist the nuns who toiled to build the school and educate all who attended to the best of their ability in the name of Christ.

Perhaps we can view it as a victory of sorts that the most important thing some students have to be upset about is the decorating choices of their university. After all, they are not concerned that they are being denied their civil rights, as the university students in Iran are.

At the same time if the American flag or a crucifix offends them in any way they can choose to go to a school that is not affiliated with either the state, or a religious denomination that offends them.

I hope that the University of Central Florida chooses to place flags in the classrooms, and I hope that those who are offended by their placement consider that it is the ideals that the Stars and Stripes represent that ensure their right to be offended.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Talk about a guilt trip

Jay posted a message about my recent disappearing act. I have to admit that guilt trip has worked…

The reason that my posts have recently been few and far between is that I have been helping out a friend. It is the same friend who I have spoken about who has MS.

As a side effect of some of her treatments for MS she has recently had one of her hips replaced. It is sort of hard to explain but one way to stop her exacerbations (bad attacks) of MS is to give her steroids and that has resulted in destroying her hips. (Now I know why athletes seem to have hip replacements at such a high rate.)

The cool thing is that she was able to get the minimally invasive surgery with the plastic hip. Normally that would have been a four-hour surgery with a two-week recuperation time. Unfortunately with her MS there is no way that this would go ‘normally’ she was in surgery for just under eight hours and even now two weeks out from her surgery she needs someone with her at all times.

This is where bad news becomes good. I did not get my dream job that I was perfect for. As I was about to spiral into a bottomless depression at my sad lack of employment and seeming inability to get a job my friend called and needed my help. If I had gotten that dream job I would not have been able to help my friend now when she needs is so badly.

To be honest, the last couple of weeks have reminded me clearly why I choose not to go into medicine. I am almost constantly exhausted because taking care of her is a full time job – unfortunately one that I am not being paid for. What time I get online I use to catch up on my favorite blogs however, my time helping my friend these last days has left me drained and intellectually empty.

To be honest there are only so many ‘Bionic Woman' jokes you can make to your 30 year old friend when trying to cheer her up after a hip replacement.

Hopefully this coming week I will get back to a regular posting schedule. My friend is doing much better and I should be able to cede my nursing duties soon. I am very sorry for the lack of posting.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Gay Marriage

There has been a lot of talk lately about the concept of ‘Gay Marriage’. I personally tend to watch these discussions from the position of a bemused bystander.

Here in the US freedom of speech and religion are very serious issues. However, as a libertarian I figure that I don't particularly care what the law is on gay marriage as long as I am not forced into one!

I really don't care and can't understand what makes people so crazed on this issue on both sides. If you are gay and want to legalize gay marriage then work through the political system to get that accomplished. If you are not gay and do not want to have gay marriage legalized then go ahead and let your elected representative know that. Both sides have a valid position and we do not all have to agree on this in order to live in the same country.

Even if Gay marriage laws are passed your church is not required to have them or recognize them. Heck, I'm Catholic and there are plenty of marriages out there that are not recognized by my church. Does that make those people less married in the eyes of law and society? NO.

I just want to point out that most people who I know on either side of the issue have very little exposure to and understanding of why the other side believes as it does. I have found on more than one occasion that I am a 'translator' of sorts. I am personally quite conservative and politically land on the libertarian wing of the Republican party. On the other hand I have MANY gay friends and I tend to be their 'token' conservative friend. When I go to parties at their place it can sometimes become intimidating because I suddenly have to 'defend' the position of the entire conservative portion of America. Conversely, when I am sitting around with conservative friends I work hard to make sure that they understand the real concerns of my gay friends.

I just want to point out something here as a bit of free advice to those working towards legalized gay marriage. The gay population is not officially tracked through the census (to the best of my knowledge) and has been defined as anywhere between 2% and 10%. No matter what the percentage gay marriage is an issue that will not be passed without the cooperation of many straight members of society.

The best way to gain that support (in my view) is not to attack straight peoples beliefs, institutions and organizations. In particular attacking the faiths of someone who holds different views than you is counter productive. Rather point out the inequalities that are a fact of daily life for gay citizens who often feel that they are not afforded the rights and responsibilities of full citizenship because of the fact that they are gay. That will often help to open eyes and change minds.