If there is a competition over who’s busiest and most important, I lose. Here is my concession speech.

Alright, I won’t rehash what I wrote yesterday.

I entered into the octagon and found myself in a Parenting Death Match. The “who has it harder, whose job is tougher, who’s busier, who’s more important, who sleeps less, eats less, has less downtime, and less fun” competition. The “whose life is more miserable, because a miserable life is more important and compelling than a joyous one” contest.

That thing where we see who can beat their chest and play their violin the loudest.

That thing. That thing where we argue about whether dads have it tougher than moms, or moms have it tougher than dads, or Stay at Home moms have it tougher than working moms, or parents have it tougher than non-parents, or I have it tougher than you, or he than her, or her than him, or my dog than your dog, etc, etc, and so forth.

Honest to God, I only wanted to suggest that we all have our struggles, and nobody can measure the struggle of another or proclaim theirs to be The Greatest Struggle or The Toughest Existence. Harmony — especially between husbands and wives — is the answer. That’s what I wanted to say. That’s what I wanted you to take from it.

But maybe I didn’t communicate that message well. Or maybe people purposely twisted my words. Or maybe a combination of both. Maybe I shouldn’t have tied the message to a commentary about a greeting card commercial, because the message was relevant regardless of any commercial.

Maybe.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter now.

I’m putting all of that aside. What I want to do is cede defeat. I’m going to declare myself a loser of a game that I’m not sure I ever wanted to play. I’ve written about parenting many times, and every time I end up in this battle, so it’s my fault.

Here’s the truth: I can’t speak for any other parent, mom or dad, but I can tell you that my life is not the most challenging, the most important, the most hectic, the busiest, the most demanding, or the most tiring. My life is somewhere in the middle, I imagine. My life, my parenting, is likely in the realm of mediocrity.

I’m sharing this with you because I’m tired of the contest, of the competitive suffering, of the need we feel to portray our lives in a way that somehow makes other lives pale in the spotlight we’ve shone on ourselves.

So let me tell you about being a parent. This isn’t the universal story of Being a Parent, but the small little story of Matt Walsh Being a Parent.

Here is what comes to mind:

I think first of the joy.

You don’t hear about the joy of parenting very often. It’s like we take it as an insult if someone accuses us of enjoying ourselves. But I do feel a great joy. I don’t know that it’s The Greatest Joy Anyone Has Ever Felt, but it’s my greatest joy. It probably isn’t The Greatest Anyone Has Ever Felt, because our ability to experience true joy depends on our ability to fight off our selfishness and insecurities, and enter into something bigger than ourselves. I am too weak and selfish to enter Joy with the fullness that a better man or woman might — parent or non-parent — so my Joy is fainter, but it’s mine, and it’s real.

I can’t describe it exactly. It’s something beyond happiness. Happiness, for me, is a nice afternoon. Football on a Sunday. A cookout. Music. Bacon cheeseburgers.

Joy is in the same waters, but deeper. It’s my wife, my daughter, my son. It’s the wholeness that I find with them. The completion. The newness of it, the familiarity of it, the love, the hope, the excitement. The realization that I am where I belong, and whatever brought me to this point was worth the price, and wherever we’re going is worth the trouble. That’s Joy, to me. That’s parenting.

Joy is this picture of my daughter:

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And this of my son:

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That’s joy. Whatever hardships they might bring into my life, it could never be so hard as to rob me of it, unless I allow myself to be robbed of it.

I know there are people living and feeling none of these things. Feeling isolated and alone, like their existence is futile and random. These people — whoever they are, and whatever they ‘do for a living’ — have a tougher life than me, and the basic job of existing is harder for them.

I think of the sacrifice.

I don’t believe that I’ve made The Most Sacrifices Anyone Has Ever Made For Anything, and certainly plenty of soldiers and firefighters have given more for their cause than I have for mine.

I’ve sacrificed some free time, some money, some space in my house, though I was only wasting those things before, so the net loss is minimal. I’ve given up sleep and relaxation, though not completely, or anywhere near completely. I’m sure plenty of people without kids sleep less and relax less than I do. I don’t think my ability to sleep and relax reflects one way or another on my worthiness as a human being or a parent. Maybe some parents hardly sleep at all, for years at a time, and maybe some never relax at all, for decades on end, but that hasn’t been my experience so far.

I’ve sacrificed some peace of mind, but, to be honest, I’ve never had very much of that anyway.  I don’t know that I worry more now, but I do worry more about other people — my wife and kids — and so I think I’ve actually improved in the worrying department.

I’d believe it if you told me that you don’t have kids yet you have more worries than me. You could be a cancer patient, for all I know. You could live in a third world country. You could have a dying parent. You could be homeless or starving. You could live a normal life on the surface, but be plagued with doubt and anxiety beneath it.

I think of the physical and emotional toll.

Parenting can be a physical strain. It’s a bigger strain for my wife — who bore the pregnancy, birthed the twins, and now spends more time carrying them around throughout the day — but it can be exhausting for me, too.

I’m quite sure there are people who have more demanded of them physically. I’ve never worked as a brick layer, or a roofer, or a commercial fisherman, or a farmer, but I’d bet they’re more worn and weary than I am at the end of the day. Sure, their jobs ‘end,’ but the physical intensity of working a construction site in July is far beyond anything I’ve personally gone through as a parent.

The emotion that this work, the work of parenting, brings out of me can be confusing and conflicting. There are high highs and low lows, but the highs are higher than the lows are low, if that makes any sense at all. In the end, I am a human, and so I experience emotions on a spectrum. If I want to rise to the peaks of Joy that parenting offers me, I have to accept the risk that I’ll sometimes fall into the valleys of misery which exist in the same plane as the joys.

As for the misery of it, I don’t think I’ve been More Miserable Than Anyone, parent or non-parent. I certainly hope I haven’t, and hope that I never am. I know a man who used to work forensics in the inner city. He saw things I couldn’t fathom, experienced a misery I can’t understand, and all without, really, any of the fun and happiness of parenting. Just bleak and grey, death and murder. I don’t know that he was a parent at this point in his life, but he surely suffered more than I have, personally.

I think of the responsibilities.

I feel the profound weight of responsibility, more than I have at any other point in my life. I doubt that I have The Most Responsibilities In The World, and if you told me that you aren’t a parent but you have more responsibilities, I’d believe you. You could be a surgeon or a Head of State, for all I know. You could be a general, trusted with the lives of many men on the field of battle.

I don’t know where I rank on the list, but it doesn’t matter. My responsibilities are mine, they’ve been given to me, so they are everything. I know my wife feels the weight in an enormous way, though in a different way. She is with the kids every day, all day, most of the time. I’m not, but I know that I have to provide for my family. I know that it falls on me to keep a roof over their heads and clothes on their back. I know that if I fail, I will drag my children and my wife down with me, and that fact is very present in my mind, all of the time.

When I’m not working to earn a living for us, I’m helping around the house. Cleaning dishes, changing diapers, whatever needs to be done. I’m sure I do more than some dads, but less than others. I could be better, more helpful, and I know that.

All of these things, for me, are secondary. The greatest responsibility, the heaviest burden that I carry, that my wife carries, is the duty to help our children be virtuous and godly. We’re merely laying the groundwork now, and I suppose that foundation won’t be tested until our kids reach the age of reason and start choosing to do right for the sake of what is right, or wrong for the sake of their own selfishness.

I know that my job and my wife’s job, more than anything, above everything, more important than paying the bills or teaching them the ABC’s, is to put them on a path towards heaven. God gave them to me — to us — and said, “Here, now bring them Home.” If we can feed them organic food and get them involved in a lot of healthy outdoor activities along the way, great. But none of that matters — it’s all for nothing — if we fail in our First Duty.

The only time I will speak for other parents is now, to say that all parents who love their children want them to be virtuous, because that is the nature of love. I can also say that there is no greater responsibility in the universe than this — when the fate of another human being’s soul is entrusted to you, at least to some degree.

This is parenting to me.

This is me, the parent.

It’s a very middling tale, I realize. When the awards are given to the busiest, the most stressed, the happiest, the saddest, the most important, the most perfect, the most responsible, my name will not be called. I’m sure of this, so sure that I haven’t even written an acceptance speech.

Take this as my white flag. No need to email me anymore to defend your title of Most Active and Most Essential. You win. I can’t compete.

I don’t want to anymore. I don’t think we should. I don’t think it’s healthy. I don’t think it matters.

Ours lives are to be lived, not endlessly compared and ranked against the projected lives of those around us.

At least that’s how it seems to this average guy.

 

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Motherhood isn’t tougher than fatherhood, but maybe we should all stop competing

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I have to admit upfront that I have developed an immunity to ‘tearjerker’ viral ads. You see, I fell into a vat of Hallmark Cards and maple syrup when I was a child, and emerged from that scarring incident completely impervious to the sugary, contrived sentimentality of clever marketing campaigns.

I’m constantly greeted by people posting videos on Facebook, promising that, if I just watch to the end, I’ll ‘be a wreck’ because it’s the ‘saddest/sweetest thing’ I’ll have ‘EVER seen, EVER.’  Usually I skim right past, but sometimes I’ll click the link like the sucker that I am, and yet again confirm that I am incapable of shedding a tear over a commercial for sponges or minivans.

All of this emoting also damages everyone’s credibility. Honestly, I don’t know how to take someone who posts a status about how they just returned from a funeral and it was the saddest experience of their life, when I saw them write the same thing about a dish detergent advertisement three days ago.

In any event, I am in the minority, so the emotional manipulation will continue. Here’s the latest example: a greeting card company posted a fake job listing online. They then ‘interviewed’ several candidates for what they billed as ‘the toughest job in the world.’ The blogs that reposted the video promised a ‘surprise’ ending, but I guessed the surprise within 3 seconds of hitting play: the ‘toughest job in the world’ is motherhood, and these unemployed applicants, while not in line for any actual paying gig, were offered a great lesson about the importance of moms.

Never mind the cruelty of tricking desperate job seekers (so desperate that they apparently applied for a job that sounds like indentured servitude) into thinking that they were in line for a position, only to pull the rug out, all in the name of ‘sending a message’ —  and without even offering a useful parting gift, like a gas card or a can of beans or something.

Also never mind how the fake interviewer and the fake listing describe this position:

-Must be willing to stand “ALL of the time.”

-Must work 135 hours or more a week.

-No breaks.

-No rest.

-No sleep.

-Can’t eat, except when your ‘associate’ (your child, get it?) says you can.

I have twins. I’m a parent. Parenting is hard, my wife would agree. But we aren’t up and going 20 HOURS A DAY EVERY WEEK, ALL YEAR. Come on, already. We sleep. We both sleep. We have time to ourselves. We watched a movie last Friday. This past weekend, we had a cookout, twice. We had fun. You know what? The kids ADDED to the fun. We actually like having them around, if you can believe it. Parenting isn’t quite the miserable slog that some parents love to paint it.

I used to work two jobs — overnights at a radio station and evenings at a fast food place — I got much less sleep in those days than I do now. Even more recently, I’d get up at 330 AM and get to work at 4 AM. I was more tired then, much more tired.

Standing “all of the time”? NO rest at all? NO sleep at all? Who are we supposed to be parenting here? A chimpanzee on speed? If parenting literally required you to be up and going all the time, every day, with no breaks, little food, and no sleep — you’d be dead. Every parent in the world would be dead. What you’re describing here are the conditions of a North Korean prison camp, not a home in the American suburbs.

Not to mention, if your children dictate your schedule to that extent, you’re doing something wrong. Oh, they can be demanding, for sure. But my mother had six kids and I’m pretty sure she still ate on occasion. She also had time alone with my dad. They were organized. They knew how to put us in our place and prevent us from completely commandeering the household.

OK, now put the ad aside, never mind the ad. It’s only relevant in so far as it reveals a troubling attitude; an attitude that makes these sorts of commercials so effective; an attitude that portrays parenting as the most torturous endeavor anyone could possibly attempt.

I’m all for being real with people, but all we accomplish is making otherwise fine young men and women utterly petrified of starting a family. They constantly hear that you’ll never sleep, your life is over, and you’ll never have fun again, unless you learn to define ‘fun’ as ‘poopy diapers and bankruptcy.’ And then we wonder why birthrates are plummeting?

But worse even than the weird ‘competitive suffering’ pastime that is both uniquely American and very prevalent in (though by no means exclusive to) parenting circles, is the increasingly noticeable habit of diminishing the role of fatherhood in all of this.

It’s no secret that pop culture and advertisers have long taken to portraying men, and especially husbands and fathers, as bumbling nincompoops, incapable of changing a diaper or microwaving a bag of popcorn without burning the house down. The real trouble is that, I think, many people endorse this kind of message unintentionally.

Remember, the greeting card ad declared MOTHERHOOD to be the ‘toughest job,’ even though it described (with great hyperbole) the duties of parents in general. Yes, it’s a Mother’s Day commercial, but we all know that not a single company would ever conceive of making a Father’s Day commercial proclaiming specifically fatherhood to be ‘the toughest job’ in the world, and if they did, many of the folks who loved this ad would hate that one.

It’s not like calling motherhood THE toughest job in the world only vaguely insinuates that it’s tougher than fatherhood — it screams it. So, when I noticed all of these married women reposting the ad, and accompanying it with their own caption, reiterating that their job is THE toughest, I couldn’t help but wonder how their husbands factor into that equation.

I’m not out to say that being a dad is ‘harder’ than being a mom. I’m saying that they are different, and ingrained in those differences are challenges and hardships that the other could only faintly understand. I say faintly because much of what makes a thing hard — especially an enormous, all encompassing thing like parenting — rests on how you, the individual, processes it. Hard, when it comes to mothering and fathering, is less a matter of physical exhaustion, and more a matter of the emotional, mental, and spiritual weight that comes with such a profound and serious responsibility.

If I were to say that my ‘job as a parent’ is ‘harder’ than my wife’s, I would be claiming to carry a heavier burden on my heart and in my head. But how dare I say such a thing? How would I have the right? How could a statement like that have any chance of helping a marriage at all? What is it designed to do, other than hoist guilt and inferiority onto your spouse?

I would never say it, and I would never think it. My wife, I’m certain, wouldn’t either. She has verbalized that she knows it can’t be easy to shoulder the responsibility of providing for a family. And I have told her that I know it isn’t easy to be so constantly immersed in the daily task of caring for two young children.

And we both know that our greatest task as parents — above educating our children, above feeding them, above changing their diapers, above clothing them, even above keeping them safe — is to help them become virtuous, and to bring them closer to God.

This is the ultimate duty of a parent, and it is NOT easy. My kids are babies, but this is the single, solitary aspect of parenthood that weighs on me more than anything. This is my cross. This is my wife’s cross. We carry our own, each of us, but we carry them together as much as we can. All I want for my children is for them to be good. I know they will experience unhappiness, I know they will suffer, I know they will hurt, I know they will die — God willing they will die long after I’m buried in the ground. But I pray that Julia becomes a good woman, a virtuous woman, and Luke grows into a good man, a virtuous man.

This is my task. This is my wife’s task. This is why it’s important for a child to have both a mother and a father, and why those roles are meaningful. It’s got nothing to do with who vacuums the carpet or who makes dinner, it has everything to do with the unique ways in which a woman and a man can demonstrate virtue, and in demonstrating it, instill it. Any parent — mom or dad, but hopefully both — who takes this on, has taken on a tough job. In some ways, yes, perhaps the toughest. Certainly not more physically demanding than working in a coal mine, and definitely not nearly as dangerous as being a Marine Corps sniper in Afghanistan, and not more exhausting than being a surgeon or even a waitress working a double on a Friday night, and not more troubling than being a mortician or a forensics expert.

But, save the religious life, there’s only one job where you are directly responsible for the state of another human being’s soul — parenting. For that reason, and ONLY that reason, parenting has a claim to the ‘toughest’ title. But, really, there is no title. And anyone worried about it probably needs help being virtuous themselves.

Of course, some women are single moms, and all of this really does land at their feet. But some men are single fathers, or fathers in marriages with women who act in ways that would earn men the title of ‘deadbeat dads.’ We can’t say that about women, only men, but that doesn’t mean the behavior that earns the label is somehow gender specific.

One day maybe we’ll realize that parenting is designed, biologically, physically, and spiritually, to be work — not a job at all, really — that is best accomplished through the harmony of husband and wife. When we elevate one above the other, or dismiss the role of one for the sake of the other, we bring chaos into that natural harmony.

But, then again, this is all a message that won’t necessarily help anyone sell greeting cards or hand soap, so what’s the point?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 312 Comments

Three things that all of you serfs and peasants shouldn’t say on Tax Day

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I recently took to Twitter to vent my righteous rage at the proliferation of list articles.
You know, list articles: the crutch used by many a lazy blogger who’d rather write in short, choppy, numbered sentences instead of full paragraphs, because full paragraphs necessitate the formation of full thoughts, which only come to those who write because they actually have something to say.

The worst brand of list article has to be the “things you shouldn’t say to ____ ” spiels you see pop up on your newsfeed 12 times a day. Just Google the phrase “things you shouldn’t say” and you’ll find a million such articles, informing you that there are, for instance, 10 things you shouldn’t say to a person in a wheelchair, 7 things you shouldn’t say to someone with anxiety, 16 things you shouldn’t say to a guy who can’t grow a beard, and, obviously, many different lists explaining many things you shouldn’t say to women or minorities, or especially minority women in wheelchairs who have anxiety about the fact that they can’t grow beards.

Interesting note: the bartender community has taken a special liking to the “list phrases that other people are now prohibited from uttering in my presence” craze. Search “things you shouldn’t say to bartenders” and you’ll find dozens of entries, including a Buzzfeed post (of course) that ranks 61 things you shouldn’t say to this surprisingly sensitive group of emotional snowflakes.

In other words, don’t speak to bartenders at all. They’ve had enough of human speech altogether.

Now, I begin with this lengthy setup in an attempt to confront my apparent contradiction head on. I hate list articles, but here I am with a list article. A “things you shouldn’t say” list article, no less. Does this make me a hypocrite? Perhaps, except that I fully admit to my laziness in this particular instance. I’ve written over 400 posts and only formatted them into convenient list-structure, I think, twice (including this one). I’m entitled to a pass, right?

Fine. Maybe not.

But I do feel OK telling you things you shouldn’t say, because I’m not telling you to stop saying them TO ME for my own benefit, but rather stop saying them in general, for your benefit, and for the sake of truth, justice, and the American Way.

So, in honor of Tax Day, I’ve written a list of three things you shouldn’t say as you enjoy the cheer and merriment of this joyous American holiday:

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1. “I’m paying my taxes.”

“My” implies ownership. It communicates a certain level of inherent, natural responsibility toward the subject. So it makes sense for me to refer to “my bill” at Applebee’s or “my credit card debt”. They are both the result of a contractual agreement I personally entered into and accepted. Even if the spinach dip was overpriced, and even if Visa is kicking me up and down the sidewalk with interest and penalties, I still knowingly and willingly consented to assuming the financial cost in return for a good or service. I own it. It’s mine. It’s nobody else’s. In fact, it’s important for me to stipulate my Applebee’s bill from your Applebee’s bill because we entered into different agreements for different products. I’m certainly not on the hook for your bill, especially because I’m drinking ice water while you’re over there chugging margaritas like it’s Cinco de Mayo.

Your tax bill is different than your bar tab or the money you owe Netflix. You didn’t agree to this. You have absolutely no control over it.

You might say that taxes have always been like that and always will be, and you’re right. But, in modern times, with a government that spends 3.5 trillion dollars a year — making it the most expensive bureaucracy that’s existed anywhere on the planet ever in history — the gap between taxation and the ‘public good’ has never been more vast. It’s kind of hard to whisper even the faintest suggestion that our government limits itself to expenditures necessary to fulfill only its lawful and constitutional obligations, when it spends, in a single year, almost as much money as physically exists on the planet.

Did you catch that? If you wanted to outspend the government next year, you’d have to first steal every single physical dollar and coin that exists on Earth, and you still might not have enough.

And, since the government spends even what it doesn’t have, we have accrued a debt so enormous that the numbers cannot be understood by the human mind. Any notion of taxation with representation has been completely buried under this pile of debt so inconceivably massive that it could touch the moon (literally).

Politicians take your money and use it for whatever they like, and whatever they like almost always involves gaining power and influence. Again, you’ll tell me that politicians have always used taxes for this purpose, and you’re right, but they’ve never been able to steal this much, and they’ve never been so proficient in stealing it (while, in every other area, so utterly lacking in proficiency).

Your money will be taken and allocated to fund abortion clinics, and foreign governments, and entitlements, and studies to determine whether cocaine makes Japanese quail horny, or if Chinese prostitutes can be taught to drink responsibly, or how to best teach the benefits of genital washing in the third world. When you say that you owe this amount, you are saying that you are personally indebted to Planned Parenthood, and the government of Uganda, and every individual on every welfare program, and every study about lustful quail. Or else you are saying that a politician’s power to tax is absolute and unlimited, and their saying that you have this debt is enough to make that debt into some kind of existential reality.

The point is that this debt belongs to the powers that created it. They will take from you, but you do not owe it. There is no “social contract”. We are churning out generations of Americans born into a bankruptcy they did not cause, created to pay for things they did not buy, to benefit people they’ll never meet. Entire generations emerging into the world with a giant ‘IOU’ branded on their foreheads; emblazoned there because the Americans that came before them lacked the courage and discipline to stop the government gravy train in its tracks.

These are not your taxes. They will come from your pockets and out of the mouths of your children, but you do not owe them.

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2. “I’m paying my taxes today.”

“Today”. You’re paying taxes “today”, you say? Well, that’s true. But the statement seems to imply that you don’t pay taxes every other day.

Oh, but you do.

You pay taxes today, but that does not make today unique.

If you’ll allow it, I would like to take you on a tour of your average day. This is what it looks like, whether we call it “Tax Day” or not:

You wake up.

You get out of bed and flip on a light. And you are taxed. You stumble into the bathroom and use the toilet. And you are taxed when you flush, and again when you turn on the shower, and again when you go to the faucet to brush your teeth (unless you’re one of those “brush my teeth in the shower” deviants). You put on clothing, which were taxed when you bought them. You slip on your taxed socks and tie your taxed shoes. You go downstairs. You use your taxed coffee machine. You pay a tax on the electricity. You grab a frozen breakfast burrito, which you paid taxes on, and stick it in the microwave, which you paid taxes on, and turned on the microwave using that taxed electricity again. You decide to check out the morning news while you enjoy your gourmet meal. Good thing you’ve got that taxed TV and that taxed digital cable. OK, quit stalling. Time to get to work. You grab your taxed cell phone and call your boss to tell him you’re running late. You paid about a dozen different taxes on that phone call. You leave your house, which is perpetually taxed, and get into your car, which was taxed. You drive down the street, burning that oh-so-taxed gasoline. Maybe you pass through a toll, maybe you’re stopped along the way and charged 128 dollars for not wearing a seatbelt. Maybe you get flashed by a red light camera. Maybe you have to park in a metered spot. Tax. Tax. Tax. Tax.

You haven’t even made it to your job yet, and the government’s fleeced you for a bucket of cash. Then you punch the clock at work and that’s where the real taxing begins.

See, in America, “the Land of the Free,” we pay taxes on everything we buy and everything we use; we pay taxes on where we live and what we eat; we pay taxes when we drive down the road or stay in the house; we pay taxes on whatever we sell, whatever we earn, and whatever we save. We pay taxes to live and we pay taxes to die. Some people live in states without a sales tax, but they still pay taxes when they buy things, because there are so many taxes and fees embedded into the price of any good or service.

Our Founding Fathers would rather wage an armed revolt against the world’s greatest superpower than pay a tax on their Snapple; we, on the other hand, would rather pay taxes on literally every conceivable facet of our existence, than be accused of “extremism” for questioning the government’s alleged absolute power to levy taxes on everything, all the time, without any discernible limitations.

My, how times have changed.

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3. “I just filed my taxes and I’m getting 400 dollars from the federal government!”

Please don’t celebrate the tax return you’re “getting”.

You aren’t getting anything. That’s your money. The government took it, held onto it for a year, and now they’re returning it without interest. If some guy at work stole a hundred bucks from your wallet and then, after you tracked him down and harassed him about it, he gave you back a small portion of it, would you run through the halls jumping for joy? Would you thank him for returning your own money? Or would you smack him upside the head and tell him to give you back the rest with interest, or you’ll break his kneecaps with a tire iron?

OK maybe you wouldn’t go all Al Capone on his sorry behind (I mean, I did just catch you drinking a fruity cocktail at Applebee’s) but I think you’d respect yourself enough to not act like he just did you a favor by returning some of the cash he jacked from your wallet.

Now, imagine that your friend took your money, or even that he borrowed it, but he told you that he would not return it until you completed a stack of paperwork and submitted it to him on a deadline determined by him, the debtor? And what if he boasted that any failures on your end to check the appropriate box or dot the appropriate ‘i’ would result in him refusing to give you back your own money, and it may even mean that you have to pay him more?

That’s the withholding system in a nut shell, a system signed into law by FDR, designed to alleviate the burden of tax collecting from the shoulders of tax collectors, and place it instead on individuals and business owners. It gives the government the ability to acquire an interest-free loan from millions of American citizens. But don’t worry: it’s totally necessary. If everyone had to physically cut a check for the actual amount of ‘their’ tax debt — like we self-employed folks must do — there would be riots in the streets.

As it stands, Daddy Government simply slips into your wallet, takes a chunk of your paycheck, very nicely and painlessly, and then, a year later, gives you a smaller chunk back. Hooray! The populace goes from certain revolt to literally thanking Uncle Sam for the pleasure of having a portion of their own earning returned, sans the interest it could have accrued sitting in a savings account.

And that’s America in the year 2014.

Happy Tax Day, fellow serfs.

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And Twitter.

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UPDATE: CarolBeth Hawn on Facebook reminds me that my list of taxes you pay in the morning was woefully in complete:

You forgot to mention that the milk (taxed) you put into your coffee (taxed) had the following tax-line: Farmer (income tax) has land (property tax) on which he grazes his cows (tax on grass seed, tax on fertilizer spread by tractor, tax to buy tractor, which was also taxed in its production, tax on gas for tractor, tax on replacement tires and parts for tractor, which were also taxed in production), the  cows were raised from calves produced on farm (capital gains) and visited by vet (tax on products, vet is also taxed ad nauseum) from semen purchased from an exchange (taxed), which are raised and milked in a milk shed or barn (more property tax) using equipment purchased (taxed, both on purchase and on production) and bottled (more equipment taxed on purchase and in production), sold to Meadow Gold (taxed ad nauseum), trucked to the grocery store in a refrigerated truck (taxed, taxed, taxed, gas tax), sold to store (sale is taxed, store is taxed ad nauseum) where it sits in big, taxed refrigerators, until you go to the store (gas tax, tax on vehicle) and purchase the milk (taxed) for your coffee (taxed). This is, of course, an abbreviated list. We’d need a flow chart to do it justice. The amazing thing isn’t that things cost so much, it is that they cost so LITTLE, being taxed on every level as they are!

Posted in Uncategorized | 299 Comments

Here’s what happened to that money I asked you to give

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A quick note to the readers of this blog who, a few months ago, donated around 17,000 dollars to help my brother and the others on his mission trip provide medicine and clean water to a poor town in Guatemala.

He returned a couple of weeks back, and asked if I would post a thank you note and update on my blog, so that you could see the fruits of your charity.

I told him I’d post it, but he’d have to pay a 200 dollar fee.

That was a joke.

The fee is 300.

In all seriousness, I get some satisfaction out of knowing that something tangible and real has come from this little blog of mine. Rather, it came from you, but I’m happy to be a facilitator of the exchange.

Here’s Joe’s letter:

Dear friends,

Thank you once again for your generous contributions to my mission trip. Everything went according to plan (for the most part). On March 8 we left for Guatemala and arrived back at Christendom the following Sunday, March 16. We were lead by our Pastor, Father Planty, and another Christendom staff member Josh Peterson. We worked with the Missionary Sisters of the Poor Jesus in the small Guatemalan town of El Progresso and a Canadian relief organization, the Doppenbergs.

The majority of our work consisted in working in a remote Guatemalan town digging a trench one mile long to connect this town with their water supply. Working alongside the Guatemalan men, women and even children we finished the ditch by Saturday. The days were long and exhausting but very rewarding. We dug on mountain sides with inclines of nearly 70 degrees and at time had to dig and pick ax through straight rock. In one 30 minute stretch three pick axes were broken due to the rock formations. In the meantime, Father Planty administered to the sick Guatemalans who, in the remote villages, rarely receive spiritual care. And with the money donated the Sisters were able to buy and administer medical supplies to hundreds of children through a series of day clinics set up in the villages. After digging the trench, laying the pipe, creating a ditch 10 feet deep for the 10,000 gallon tank and covering the pipe the project was completed on the last day.

This project, which includes a water filtration system, all made possible by your contributions, will have a direct and immediate impact on the lives of all the people in this village. Now a clean and reliable source of water exists for a entire town, due in large part to your charity.

It was truly one of the most amazing and fulfilling experiences of my life, and a week I will never forget. If not for your donations, we would not have been able to provide these essential services. Most importantly, above all else, we were able to share Christ’s love with our brothers and sisters in Guatemala. Again, thank you for your help, and God bless.

Sincerely,

Joe Walsh

I’m told they also had the funds to conduct an alpaca grooming seminar, which will hopefully aid in my quest to rid the Earth of the scourge of unkempt alpacas.

In any case, thank you all for your kindness. It’s easy to just sort of skim right by a blog post where some guy is trying to get you to give money to poor people. You don’t gain anything from clicking the Paypal link and sending a few dollars (or more than a few). But you gave, anyway.

Thank you.

And thanks for reading.

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Posted in Uncategorized | 50 Comments

I don’t respect the president or his office, and neither should you

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Of all the flaccid refrains constantly shrieked by the hordes of Statist sycophants, the worst is probably this:

“Even if you don’t respect Obama, you should still respect the office!”

Respect ‘the office,’ they say.

Definition of respect: to hold in esteem or honor.

Synonyms for respect: deference, awe, reverence.

As you might imagine, I was recently reacquainted with the rather sickening idea that I have a duty to show reverence for a political office, when I wrote a post last week where I merely called the president a liar. Indeed, anytime you criticize the president with an intent more serious than playfully teasing him for picking the wrong team in his March Madness bracket — anytime you attack authority, particularly presidential authority, particularly THIS president’s authority — the ‘respect the office’ propagators will come streaming in, fingers-a-wagging and heads-a-shaking.

‘Respect the office,’ they gush. Noticeably, the folks most concerned with respecting Obama’s office weren’t to be heard from during that certain eight year period where Bush was daily cut down as anything from Hitler Incarnate

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to a barely literate monkey

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to the subject for a slapstick Comedy Central sitcom.

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But the hypocrisy of Obama’s Minions should be put aside for the moment.

If I only engaged their points when they demonstrate a willingness to apply their position evenly and equally, I’d never be able to engage them at all (which would probably be best for all involved).  We know that the left wingers who ask that we respect the office have a tendency to define the phrase differently depending on its occupant. If the man in the office is Obama, ‘respect’ means ‘total and absolute acceptance of everything done and said by anyone in the Executive Branch.’ Whereas, when the man in the office is a Republican, ‘respect’ means ‘call him a Hitler monkey and burn him in effigy while chanting voodoo curses against him and his progeny.’

The contrast between the two might be nuanced, but you can detect it if you look closely.

In any case, Republican or Democrat, Hitler or Secular Messiah, is there anything to be said for this ‘respect the office’ notion?

I don’t think so, but then, the whole concept confuses me. Honestly, I don’t even know what ‘respecting the office’ means in the context of our constitutional republic, where our politicians are supposed to be public servants, and where they don’t do anything to earn the office other than spend a lot of money on political ads.

I know what it means to honor and respect your parents just because they’re your parents. I know what it means for a child to respect his teacher just because she’s his teacher. I know, and have written about, what it means for a woman to respect her husband because he is her husband, and a man to respect his wife because she is his wife. But, as far as I can tell, the responsibility to respect the ‘office’ of a politician falls squarely on the shoulders of the politician who holds it. And, even in that case, his job isn’t to respect the office, so much as to live up to the expectations of the voters who awarded him the position — and, far more important than the feelings of the voters, to uphold the law.

The ‘office’ is, after all, just an office. It isn’t some detached entity that exists on its own somewhere in the dimensions of time and space, and will live on even without being physically occupied.

The office is also not a divine birthright. This is not a monarchy. They are not royalty. Why should I respect the ‘office of the presidency’ anymore than I should respect the office of a plumber or a secretary? If a plumber or a secretary lied all the time, I’d call them a liar.

It’s true that we shouldn’t hurl racial slurs and dishonest ad hominem insults at the president — regardless of who he is — but that isn’t because of his office. That’s just because he’s a person, and we shouldn’t do that to any person. It’s not the dignity of any office that we have a responsibility to uphold, but the dignity of a human being.

Coincidentally, the dignity of the human being is the precise sort of dignity that this president desecrates when he promotes infanticide and wishes ‘God’s blessings’ on a room full of wealthy abortionists, or when he brutally murders hundreds of women and children via drone attacks and then brags that he’s “really good at killing people,” or when he arms terrorists and drug cartels without a thought as to the innocent lives that will be lost as a result.

It’s a sad state of affairs, indeed. We’ve reached a point where a wide swath of the country finds itself more concerned with respect for a political office than for life itself.

Of course, I’m sure there are some people who vehemently disagree with Obama, yet would sing in the ‘respect the office’ choir, and would consistently apply the principle to all presidents, regardless of affiliation. I respect that. I actually respect it. I  respect it because I honor it, and I honor it because it is a conviction born of integrity and pure intention. A politician’s job, on the other hand, is born of mere necessity, and I feel indifference towards it, until I’m given a reason to feel disgust or admiration (usually it’s the former, obviously).

These people aren’t necessarily in the Statist horde I mentioned above, but they’ve unwittingly aligned themselves with that mob, and so I’d urge them to reconsider.

The Bible tells us to submit to governing authority, and that such authority comes from God (Romans 13). But nobody in America thinks that this requires us to lie before the Powers that Be like dogs, and follow them blindly into our own slavery. If they did interpret that passage in that way, I imagine they’d already have returned to the British Motherland and said ‘sorry, my bad,’ over that whole unfortunate Revolution misunderstanding.

Besides, here in America, the governing authority is the Constitution. The Constitution — a set of laws, rooted in respect for life and liberty, planted in the soil of Natural Law and watered, as Jefferson said, with the blood of tyrants. The Constitution is our authority. The Constitution is the law. In this nation, the law does not rest with one man, or any collection of men.

In this nation, we prostrate ourselves to no one, other than the Lord.

Let our president bow to royalty if he so desires, but, as free people, that is not our warrant.

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Respecting the office, when considered by someone other than a progressive hypocrite, seems well and fine. But I’m afraid that, in application, it makes it difficult for us to hold for our politicians that one feeling that the preservation of Liberty surely requires: skepticism.

Here in the United States, where the power allegedly resides with the people, the one thing that a political office automatically earns from its constituents is a healthy apprehension. The one thing, above everything, that we MUST do with political authority is question it. On this point, you really can’t have your American Pie and eat it too. It’s one or the other. Either our duty as watchful citizens is to doubt our politicians and their offices, or it is to respect them. One protects liberty, the other destroys it.

For a man who respects his wife, or a woman who respects her husband, or a child who respects his mother, it is understood that their apprehensions should be tamed by their respect for the other — respect that isn’t earned, but owed. The loving husband and the dutiful child give their wives and their parents, respectively, the benefit of the doubt.

A citizen, on the other hand, unless he or she is a total fool, knows that politicians should be given the benefit of the doubt about as often as it’s given to sex offenders or kleptomaniacs (especially considering the fact that our presidents have sometimes fallen under all three categories, *cough* Bill Clinton).

There’s a logistical problem with respecting the office, too. Namely, the Office of the Presidency as prescribed in the constitution is one thing, while the Office of the Presidency as currently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is quite another. If I was at all inclined to respect the office, I could only consider respecting the former, as the former has Constitutional authority, and the Constitution is the law, and a just and righteous law is the Providence of God. But I run into the technical difficult that the former no longer exists, and hasn’t, arguably, since the conclusion of the Civil War.

The Office of the Presidency now possesses powers that stretch far beyond anything ever lawfully granted it, and it wields an authority that has accumulated over the decades through the illegal conquests of power hungry politicians.

When you respect the Office of the Presidency, you are either respecting the president himself, or you’re respecting this bloated perversion of a political station, one that has been used to murder and oppress.

Respect? If anything, the office should be hated. Hated until some respectable person is elected by respectable voters to convert the monstrosity back to the limited, yet important, post that our Founders established.

For now, don’t worry about respecting any office.

If you have to worry about something, worry about the federal agents in Nevada surrounding a cattle ranch and arresting protestors because his cows supposedly inconvenienced a few endangered turtles.

Worry about the bureaucrats who kidnapped a child in Massachusetts because her parents disagreed with a psychiatric diagnosis.

Worry about the IRS official who targeted Obama’s political opponents, or the Attorney General who perjured himself in front of Congress.

Worry about our liberties. Respect that. Respect our liberty. The politicians don’t need your respect, and they haven’t earned it.

****

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Posted in Uncategorized | 255 Comments

Good news, fellas! Only women are required to be modest, apparently.

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I feel scandalized.

I was scrolling my Facebook newsfeed (there’s my first mistake) and suddenly my eyes were viciously assaulted by immodest and improper images that had been posted by someone clearly begging for attention; some shameless floozy selfishly attempting to enflame lust and covetousness in the heart of the unsuspecting viewer.

I should mention that the person in the images was a man, and he was, mercifully, fully clothed.

In fact, the focus of the photo wasn’t even a person at all. My Facebook ‘friend’ had posted a picture of his expensive new boat. I know that it was expensive, because he alluded to the steep price in the caption, saying that he has the ‘best wife in the world’ because she ‘actually let [him] buy this.’

You see what he did there (besides insinuating that the value of his spouse depends on her cooperation with his desire to purchase pricey recreational equipment)? Lest you accuse him of being uncouth, he cloaked his boast in a compliment of his ‘best wife,’ which means he actually disguised a brag by wrapping it in another brag. That’s kind of like hiding the shame of eating a Cinnabon by lathering it in a gallon of butter.

Impressive.

And immodest — intended to present a one dimensional image of success and luxury, thus, if all goes according to plan, send everyone else plunging into a salty stew of envy and resentment.

Immodest because it calls attention to him, while saying nothing of value about him as a person, a unique entity of spirit and flesh. It turns him into an object — an object of jealousy.

Immodest because it is arrogant and dishonest.

I bring this up because — and I’m not sure why this is the case, maybe it’s the warming temperatures — I’ve received several emails in the last few weeks on the subject of modesty. Most of them boil down to a request that I share my opinion on the topic.

Like this one from James:

I’ve been reading your blog now for a while and have greatly enjoyed all of it… I was wondering if you could say something about societies abolition of modesty, both in the church and in more secular environments. It seems that nearly all churches (even the Catholic Church) have neglected the topic of modesty for fear of losing touch with popular opinion and coming across as “judgmental”… Most churches and pastors don’t so much as mention the topic – even when an attractive 18 year old walks into church wearing yoga pants and a deep cut V-neck.

And this one from Beth:

Matt, can you write something about modesty? I get so tiret of these girls walking around showing everything off and then they act up SO surprised when they get treated like sh*t by men. Maybe if they had more respect for themselves… When I grew up, girls were taught to be modest and protect their purity. What’s your opinion? Modest is hottest I think.

And this from Laura:

Matt, help! I just started a huge war on my Facebook page about modesty, simply because I said that I was having trouble finding a modest bathing suit for my daughter. You wouldn’t want to chime in on this subject would you? I’ve always been taught that modest is hottest…

And this from Matt (a different Matt):

I just read your post from a while ago about porn. I agree with it but I think you’ve left something out. Women need to help men in their struggles with lust by attempting to dress modestly. Everyone is afraid to say that but it’s true. In our society it’s like we’ve completely given up on modesty…

I have to confess, though I am an opinionated blowhard in most respects, the whole idea of having an opinion about modesty seems a bit odd. Modesty is a virtue, like courage or integrity. Or rather, modesty is an integral dimension of Greek and Christian philosophy’s Cardinal Virtue of temperance, otherwise known as restraint. So what opinion can you really have of it, other than, ‘yes, I am in favor’?

OK, I’m being naïve, I realize. Nowadays, virtues have to be defended at a conceptual level. The world has always had unvirtuous men and women, but rarely has it been populated by so many people who deny the fundamental and intrinsic importance of virtue itself.

Modesty is good, and good things are always hard to do, so weaklings (like yours truly) have always struggled to do them. But now — thanks in large part to the tireless work of academia, pop culture, mass media, liberal feminists, the legions of Hell (excuse my redundancy) — the weak have taken control and flipped the universe upside down, claiming that they ought not do those good things, because the good things aren’t so good at all. There is no good, they say, or if there is a good, it’s the opposite of whatever our grandparents and every generation that’s existed anywhere on the planet before them would have identified as good.

This is all a long way of saying that, yes, maybe it’s necessary to expand on the reasons why, yes, I am in favor of modesty, and, yes, I think women should dress modestly, but, no, I don’t think the whole burden of modesty should be laid at the feet of womankind.

Modesty, I’m aware, is a hot topic in both Christian and feminist circles.

Side note: Here’s the part where I’m breathlessly told that it’s possible to be both a Christian and a feminist, and here’s the part where I insist that any Christian who thinks Christianity needs to be baptized in the waters of feminism doesn’t understand Christianity or feminism. Whatever redemptive qualities exist in some streams of feminism have already existed in perfect form in Christianity for the past two millennia, without all the arguably problematic teachings about the ethical importance of murdering babies and voting for Barbara Mikulski.

Unfortunately, when a topic is ‘hot’ we know that means lots of  points are made by lots of people, and most of the points miss the point.  Nearly everything I’ve read about modesty — for or against — concentrate solely and exclusively on a woman’s responsibility to be modest in how she dresses, or else her right to be free from the suffocating oppression of longer skirts and one-piece bathing suits.

Somehow, men are left out of the conversation, much to our delight. We speak as though modesty were a feminine virtue, when in fact, all virtues are universal. The discussion about a woman’s outfit only touches on one solitary aspect of modesty. It doesn’t define the issue. In fact, it doesn’t even help us in our quest to get to the definition, if all we do is argue about V-necks and bathing suits. If I were to attempt a definition of modesty based on the way in which we speak of it, I would have to assume that it means: “A particular dress code for women. The end.”

See, women aren’t the only ones called to be modest, for the same reason that firefighters aren’t the only ones called to be courageous. A certain sort of courage might be especially required of firefighters, and a certain sort of modesty might be especially required of women, but we’re all destined for a fire of a different kind if we think those two virtues are solely contained within those two contexts.

If you can bear it, I’m going to get all Catholic-y on you for a moment.

The Catechism has this to say about modesty:

Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden… It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.

There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements… Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.

The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person.

I’m not sure how to sufficiently summarize that, but I know how it shouldn’t be summarized:

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Modest is hottest might work as a bumper sticker, because it rhymes and it’s three words long, but it makes for a woefully abysmal defense of modesty. The point of modesty isn’t to better achieve the intended results of immodesty. Modesty isn’t virtuous because it’s ‘hot,’ it’s virtuous because it’s concerned with something far greater than being hot.

Modesty protects the “dignity and solidarity” of a person, and inspires a “way of life” which allows him or her to “resist the allurement of fashion” and the pressures of “prevailing ideologies.” Modesty “respects the human person.”

So why should a woman dress modestly? Because it’ll help her maintain a shallow image of “hotness” to every stranger she passes by on the street? No, if that is her goal than she is being immodest, whether she’s dressed in a burka or her birthday suit. The ‘modest is hottest’ mantra seems to encourage not modesty, but a more modest immodesty.

We are modest for the sake of our dignity, so as to avoid making of ourselves a shell, a construction, a label, a category; a phantom of someone else’s desires. We are modest because the motivation behind immodesty will leave us vulnerable to shifting trends and popular ideologies. Every one of these modern trends and ideologies are designed to help us project a falsehood, leaving our true essence buried under the noise and commotion of it all. The immodest person, you might say, turns themselves into a marketing strategy.

Skimpy clothes are just one way to project that falsehood and market the lie; just one way to undermine our dignity; just one way to subjugate ourselves to changing trends and hollow fashions. There are many other ways. My friend with the boat demonstrated one of them. When I drove by a big house in a nice neighborhood the other day, and thought about my smaller house, and felt a ping of envy for the family in the bigger one, and chose to bask in that envy for a few moments, I conveniently demonstrated still another way to be immodest.

If I were to go to the store and purchase a shirt with a giant brand name plastered across the front of it, I would be immodest — attempting to call attention in a way that undermines my human dignity, while objectifying myself; in this case, I’d have made myself into an object like a billboard or a catalogue for the company whose name I’ve paid to advertise.

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Really, skimpy or not skimpy, most of the clothing on the rack nowadays could be considered immodest. Much of it is ridiculous and flashy, cleverly marketed to consumers who wish to conform to whatever fabricated fabric trends the fashion industry has concocted this week.

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Meanwhile, men who stare at women are guilty of immodesty, regardless of what the woman is wearing. It’s true that she really should take into account the struggles and weaknesses of those around her, and try humbly to avoid being a stumbling block. But I think this “stumbling block” rationale sometimes falls flat because it seems as though men aren’t expected to take any initiative to avoid stumbling in the first place, block or no block. We are painted as helpless victims of our own passions; pathetic little boys who can’t be expected to avert our eyes and control our thoughts.

Besides, millions of American men have cluttered their minds with so much pornography, disordering their sexual passions so profoundly, that there’s no telling what will set them off. This is not the fault of women, nor can women be expected to conform their habits to combat whatever fetish the man in their midst might spend his downtime Googling. Part of the problem (and there are many problems) with pornography, is that it drives a wedge between intimacy and sex, reducing the man to a passive consumer, a John, and the woman to a collection of body parts. The will of sex, the love, the power of it — all flushed down the drain, leaving all parties concerned with only some flat and flimsy cartoonish imitation of what was once romantic and erotic, procreative and redemptive.

I’m not sure that women can combat this phenomenon by minding their necklines, but they should nonetheless concern themselves with elevating those around them, rather than encouraging their Brothers in Christ to sin.

What I’m trying to do is present a slightly more complex vision of modesty. One that puts the onus on all people — male and female alike — and extends beyond legalistic bickering about precisely how many centimeters of skin one should leave uncovered. Modesty is much bigger than a dress code, and as far as dress codes go, it is true that it changes depending on the culture and the occasion.

The hazard of an overly legalistic view of modesty is that it’s forced to ignore context entirely. Whatever your feelings on bathing suits (I can tell you for sure that we will not be buying bikinis for our daughter), we all agree that you’ll show more skin at the beach than at the grocery store or the DMV. Nudity is appropriate in an anatomy textbook, but would be out of place and inappropriate in a math textbook. We all wear less in the summer than in the winter. There’s a difference between the nudity you might see on the National Geographic channel and the kind of nudity you might see on Cinemax at 2AM.

Context, culture, occasion, motivation. All of these things, quite reasonably, govern our clothing choices. Modesty should also govern our clothing, but we don’t know how to submit our wardrobes to the demands of modesty until we understand how to submit our entire beings to the demands of modesty.

So, do I think women should dress modestly? Yes, but if we’re assigning virtues exclusively to one gender, why don’t we give the girls honesty, prudence, and fortitude, too? There, now that women have covered all the virtues, us guys can have some fun with the vices.

Party time, fellas.

Or else, if that plan seems problematic, we can all just share the virtuous burden, and work on being better people — modest people — no matter what we’re wearing.

Posted in Uncategorized | 338 Comments

Thank God for the gender wage gap

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It’s Equal Pay Day, everyone!

As per tradition, progressives mark the occasion by using fabricated numbers to drive a destructive narrative of division and faux-victimhood.

In other words, Equal Pay Day is just like any other day, except with more hashtags.

During the State of the Union, Obama referred to the ‘wage gap’ as a ‘workplace policy that belongs in a Mad Men episode.’ Dutifully, his cattle constituents have latched onto the State-approved talking point and run with it:

This afternoon, Obama again addressed the phantom wage gap by signing another executive order, and delivering a few pandering remarks on a stage strategically decorated with mutli-cultural female props.

Despite the fact that the White House has admitted that the “women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns” rhetoric is misleading and false, Obama chose to regurgitate it anyway:

“Now, here’s the challenge:  Today, the average full-time working woman earns just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns; for African American women, Latinas, it’s even less.  And in 2014, that’s an embarrassment.  It is wrong.”

As many have pointed out, the hypocrisy here is staggering. In Obama’s own staff, women make substantially less than men. Even in the Senate, the Democrat leaders have all selected men as their top aides.

Imagine the arrogance of a man who gallops in front of cameras, pledging to rescue all of womanhood from the oppressive grasp of the national wage gap, while electing to maintain those disparities for the females in his immediate employ.

Wow. Next thing you know, the dude will be sermonizing about the evils of guns while surrounded by armed men, or preaching about the dastardly One Percent while hoarding millions of dollars and refusing to donate his entire presidential salary to the poor.

Ah, but surely even this president couldn’t be that unwilling to live by the standards he wishes to impose upon the rest of us.

So I’d like to cut Obama some slack (he’s earned it!) and instead address the two primary suppositions behind the ‘wage gap’ rhetoric.

First, that anything useful can be gleaned from the vague statement that ‘women earn less than men,’ and second, that the actual existence of a wage gap automatically proves discrimination.

Let’s start with the first thing first:

Do women make ’77 cents for every dollar men earn’? Sure, according to some figures. But that statistic is about as meaningful as saying, ‘women give birth to one hundred percent of the babies’ or that they ‘spend a billion dollars more each year at the gynecologist.’ All of these things  are probably true, but if you cite them in an effort to prove discrimination, you are being ridiculous.

You’re also lying.

The ’77 cents’ figure lies by omission.

Purposefully left out of the equation are relevant details like: tenure, job title, hours worked, region, experience, skill level, industry, occupation, safety risks, education level and difficulty. The figure simply compares all women and all men who work over 35 hours in any job, in any part of the country, for any period of time, at any experience level, however poorly or however competently.

A receptionist working 38 hours a week at your local dentist’s office is evenly stacked up against a stock broker or a coal miner. The salary of a male neurosurgeon is compared to a female manicurist. A male electrician is contrasted against a Denny’s waitress.

In all cases, the disparity is shoved under the ‘wage gap’ blanket, and used to paint a picture of sexism and paternalistic oppression.

Men are more likely to work dangerous, physically demanding, high stress jobs. They’re more likely to work weekends and holidays. They’re more likely to be willing to relocate. They’re more likely to pursue jobs in higher paying fields.

Loggers and steel workers are paid well, but the job requires the sort of brute force that most women don’t possess. A job on an offshore oil rig will pay handsomely because of the risks, the physical nature of the work, and the demands it places on your time. You will find more men taking these positions than women, but are we ready to chalk that up to ‘discrimination’?

Women business owners earn 50 percent less than men business owners. Does this mean women business owners are discriminating against themselves? Does it mean that customers often refuse to patronize a certain establishment if they find out it’s owned by a woman?

Probably not.

So, 77 cents on the dollar? Ok, and…? What does that prove?

This is the kind of math only done by politicians and propagandists. If you need workable and realistic numbers — statistics that tell you something important or relevant or even slightly functional — you would, obviously, control for factors that threaten to wildly skew your data, disproportionately impact the equation, and fog your ultimate conclusion.

Imagine this hypothetical. A crazy guy puts a gun to your head:

Guy with gun: Do some research and come back with one solid figure that will give me the clearest insight into gender discrimination in the workplace, or I’ll kill you!

You: Ok, here! I’ve got it! Women earn 77 percent of what men earn!

Guy with gun: Hmmm, that is compelling. Did you control for hours worked?

You: No.

Guy with gun: Type of job?

You: No.

Guy with gun: Experience level?

You: No.

Guy with gun: Tenure?

You: No.

Guy with gun: Geographic region? Risk? Skill level? Overtime? Holidays?

You: Well, no. And no. And no. And no. And no.

Guy with gun: So this is a number that merely reflects the fact that, broadly speaking, women and men work different hours, in different fields, with different skills, with different educational backgrounds, for different periods of time, in different parts of the country, in different positions, assuming different degrees of risk?

You: Yes.

Guy with gun: [BLAM]

See how that hypothetical ended? You died.

But don’t worry, you wouldn’t die in real life, because in real life you wouldn’t use that 77 percent figure if you felt any incentive to be honest and forthright. This is a number that works only for stump speeches and Facebook debates. It clouds the issue, and that is its precise purpose.

Now, all of this said, what if you narrow the field down a bit and still find a gap?

You’ve probably seen this study bandied about. According to research published last year, female doctors make about 50 grand less annually than male doctors.

Ah, a smoking gun of sexism and misogyny. Discrimination, at last! What else could it be?

Well, it could be, for one thing, the fact that women gravitate towards pediatrics while men are more likely to be surgeons and radiologists. Men go for the higher paying specialties, and women tend to become family care doctors.

Surgeons make more than pediatricians. Women are more likely to be pediatricians. Hence, women are more likely to make less money in the medical field. Discrimination?

No, it’s called choice.

Indeed, no matter where you look, you probably won’t find demonstrable and provable sexism, but you will find women making choices that lead to more time at home, more time working with children, and lower wages.

And thank God for that.

The Department of Labor — hardly a conservative think tank — published its own report on the wage gap. They admit that “economic research has identified numerous factors that contribute to the observed difference between wages paid to women and wages paid to men, commonly called the gender wage gap. Many relate to differences in the choices and behavior of women and men in balancing their work, personal, and family lives. These factors include, most notably, the occupations and industries in which they work, and their human capital development, work experience, career interruptions, and motherhood.” Read the full report here.

No matter what the progressive radicals say, many women still put family above fortune. Their nurturing instincts still often drive them towards caring for kids — whether their own or someone else’s.

And thank God for that.

Despite the urgings of these consumerist drones who place ‘professional success’ and ‘workplace advancement’ above all things, many people still decide to strive for something deeper.

And thank God for that.

The gender wage gap exists, in large part, because women are still more likely to take time off when they have kids, and if they do return to the workforce, they’re more likely to make professional choices that prioritize their children over their careers.

And thank God for that.

When you lament the ‘wage gap’ you are lamenting the fact that women like to be with their families, and they frequently choose jobs that allow them to care for children. You might see this as a travesty of justice, but I see it as something absolutely healthy, empowering, and wonderful.

If you really want to come up with a statistic that gives insight into sexism, you’d need to look at people with the same tenure and job title, working the same hours, in the same region, with the same experience, with the same skill level, in the same industry, in the same occupation, with the safety risks, with the same education and competency level and doing a task with the same difficulty, but then you’d also need to ensure that they have the same professional ambitions, made the same choices, have the same priorities and proclivities and personal inclinations, and are a part of the same sort of family dynamic.

Then, once you’ve somehow numerically quantified all of that, you merely have to come up with the ability to peer into an employer’s soul and determine if discrimination and sexism are behind the pay differences between all of these individuals. But this would require you to first disprove other biases. You’d have to rule out a prejudice based on age, or personality, or body odor, or any multitude of other human characteristics that might cause another human to view them in a positive or negative light.

There. Simple enough.

Come back when you’ve done all the calculations.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to see the wage gap as an indication that men and women are different, make different choices, and have different goals and ambitions that manifest themselves in different ways, and are achieved through different means.

And thank God for that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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