Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Disposable Children

Two days ago, in Catholic parishes all over the world, we commemorated the Feast of the Holy Innocents. The reasons for this feast are to remember the children slaughtered by King Herod's regime, as he hunted down the Christ Child. In contemporary times, we use this feast to remember all children who've died, whether through accident, illness, stillbirth, miscarriage, abortion, or other causes. Churches will give parishioners the opportunity to light candles, in remembrance of these precious ones.

Many pro-life Catholics look at this feast in another sense. They especially remember the children slaughtered by abortion and pray for the mothers and children sorely affected by this blight on society. They use it as a time to pray for the U.S. government, that we may end this scourge through legal means. However, I've come across other issues that spread the same mentality: that children are disposable. None of these issues proclaims this more loudly than the sentencing of juvenile offenders to life without parole or to death sentences. This issue came to light as I was surfing the Net and came across a Frontline special regarding this. I then read a report put forth by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International on the effects of such sentences on these youngsters.

It broke my heart.

It broke my heart that a country that proclaimed freedom and justice would rather let a child rot in jail than at least attempt to rehabilitate them back into society. It broke my heart that this same great nation would proclaim hypocrisy, using programs that condemn people and prove ineffective, in the name of political gain. Finally, it broke my heart that these same politicians, who proclaim that this is a "Christian nation" would go against the words of the God they believe in and treat young people as if they were disposable.

I understand that young people are capable of horrendous crimes. I believe that they, like their adult counterparts, should be punished. Yet punishment occurs with the hope that behavior will change, which means that a rehabilitation component must accompany any sentence. Also, while young people may know right and wrong, substantial studies prove that they act on impulse, without FULL comprehension of what they're doing. Furthermore, greater societal problems (poverty, illiteracy, minority status, family abuse) seriously impact those who do end up with these drastic punishments, all of which can affect the opportunities for true crime reduction. All of this points to a society where criminals regress in behavior and people are told that they are throwaways.

While these children may not be "innocent" (though there is some debate in some of these cases), the result is still the same: they are treated as if there is nothing of value to them, as if they were only meant for a dumpster. Even worse, it happens to those most neglected by society, in the same way abortion does: the poor, the non-white, the uneducated, those deemed "unimportant". The effects are devastating and the cost to society, both economically and otherwise, is astronomical. In the end, it's the same result as abortion: society's way of cleansing itself of those deemed undesirable. It's quite frightening.

Although this feast is two days past, we would do well to remember it all year round. Let's remember all of our children, innocent or not, who have been banished and forgotten by an indifferent society. Let's pray and fight for true justice to be done.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, for Tomorrow We Die

And many did........

In this season, we celebrate the birth of a King who promised justice. May justice and peace come to the nation of Iran.....And may our leaders be examples of both....

May all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.....

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Home Stretch

It's finals week and I'm mostly finished. Aside from a paper that needs revision and a test that's too easy, I'm done. With an abundance of work completed, I'm taking time to reflect on everything: my life, my dreams, my goals, my faith, even this blog.

Throughout this year, I've gone through a bulwark of changes. I chose a major and minor, completed an internship, started paying my own bills, took risks, questioned my faith, and started establishing myself, in my school, my job, my city, my church, and among my friends. I've never been more stable at any other point in my life though, at the same time, I feel my life has gotten crazier.

At this point, I cannot say I know where I'm going. I finally realized that no one in college truly knows what they're doing with the rest of our lives. If adults twice my age still haven't figured it out, I figured I could cut myself some slack, considering I'm so young I can't even legally drink at the moment. I can say that I've found themes that haven't changed. I still love international relations, I still want to work on women's rights and in health care (in some capacity), I still have this need to work on a consistent pro-life ethic (in both my personal and professional life, addressing poverty as well as other issues), I still want to do something that aids in economic development. Emphasis on the word "something". I choose to be vague because, as I've mentioned, I have no idea. I'm still figuring that out.

I still want to volunteer overseas. That I can say with certainty. For me, it's like college in the sense that I consider it a vital path in every aspect in my life (whether professional, spiritual, social, or personal). I hope to volunteer in a Spanish-speaking country, working on either human rights, health care, or women's issues (or a combination of the three), for about a year or two. I would like to go when I'm twenty-three, figuring I'd have time to raise money and get some experience in the real world before I peace out. However, with what organization, for what exact mission, I cannot say. I'm keeping my options open and doing plenty of research. All I can say is that it's something I need to do, but I don't know the exact ins and outs right now.

As for my personal life, I feel like an endless set of contradictions. I find myself becoming more cynical, more jaded, yet more hopeful with each passing day. I find that I have become both meaner and kinder. More liberal in politics, yet more conservative in my personal life. More open to people, yet more guarded about certain things. More aware of the world, yet realizing how little I can ever hope to know. More Catholic than I've ever been yet certainly not as legalized about it. More of an academic yet more eager to finish school. I have more faith in people and less at the same time. I cannot really explain any of this.

I don't know what will become of this blog. I realized I've written some good stuff yet other portions are merely the rants of a youngster who needs to do something more constructive with her time. I hope to improve the quality of my writing and, even more, write on more interesting and relative topics. We shall see what 2010 brings.

These are just a few of my thoughts regarding the year. I'm both afraid and excited for next year. Whatever happens, I'll take it as it comes.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thoughts on an article from TIME-a bit more theological than I intended to go.....,8599,1940395-1,00.html

I found this article really interesting, simply because my parents and I discuss this all the time.

People seem to think that an increase in technology will bring about an absence of suffering and that they can prevent their kids from experiencing disappointment. Hate to break it to them, but as long as we're human (and broken by sin), there will always be disappointment. Kids skin their knees and hit their heads (yet they survive). Students fail tests and adults lose their jobs. Friendships, romantic relationships, sadly, even marriages break apart. We hurt each other, especially those we love dearly. People die.

Yet, behind the sadness and disappointment, there is beauty. There is a reason for discipline, a motive for perseverance. For the things we fail at, there's something only we can succeed at. For the words that hurt us, there are words that can heal. For every moment of pain, there's an even brighter moment of glory and pain, like a rainy day, can be seen as beautiful too. Finally, for the dark death that sin brings, there is the Light of Christ.

I always wondered why God let us suffer. There is no easy answer to that one. But, when I think of that question, I first think, "We chose to know good and evil.....that's where the evil part comes in." Yet, even more, I realize that He does this to bring us closer to Him. He wants to make us grow stronger, but that first takes experiencing weakness. He wants us to know joy, but we can't appreciate it without knowing pain. He wants to fill us....but we can't realize it without first being hungry.

Far from exploring the world,these kids are raised to become afraid of it. Far from relaxing and enjoying beauty, they're stressed and burned out from being spread too thin. Far from following their own God-given talents, they believe they're not worth much if they can't do everything. Far from honoring and acknowledging that they are made in the image of God, they're worried about being perfect for someone else.

When I see society moving away from God, it's not just the big ways like abortion, extreme poverty, torture, or the suppression of human rights. It's in the more subtle ways, the suppression of creativity, the ban on exploration. It's in the magazines telling women to look like Barbie (unless they want to be alone forever), the college seminars telling kids that heavy schedules are more important than their health, their families, or even the desire to explore what it is THEY want out of life. It's the emphasis on money and status over character and talent. It's the fear of pain over the willingness to persevere. It's the prevention of people becoming their full potentials, the potentials that God gave them.

With this, we're losing a sense of responsibility, an acknowledgment of free will, a drive to solve problems, and an astronomical amount of inspiration. This truly saddens me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why I can't stand sidewalk counseling.....

Most people who know me, despite my liberal viewpoints, would know that I'm also pro-life. I was the kid in high school who wore a Rock for Life T-shirt, complete with fetus playing guitar on the front and an inflammatory message on the back. In college, I've attended my fair share of anti-abortion protests, I volunteer at a CPC (a non-coercive, non-deceptive one, I may add) and I'm planning to attend a March for Life with my friends this coming January. Yet, I have my own issues with the pro-life movement. I don't like that none of the major pro-life organizations also denounce family planning counseling and contraceptive usage. I don't like that many politicians who claim to be "pro-life" also are too willing to cut funding for SCHIP, public education, or WIC, programs that would actually help the mother and child before and after birth. Mainly, the one thing I cannot stand: Sidewalk Counseling.

Sidewalk counselors make me ashamed to admit that I am pro-life. From my own observations (not all, but a good portion) as well as video footage (, all I see are people harassing women. They surround them like vultures, armed with Bibles, rosaries and Our Lady of Guadalupe, repeating their pleas over and over again. "Don't kill your baby, it's a decision you can never take back!" "We'll take care of you!" They don't stop with speaking or shouting. They'll do everything they can to get as close as possible to the girls and women, to the point of grabbing them (something that is a violation of the law). Some of these girls look so young, younger than my sister, and frightened. Meanwhile, you have people in the background chanting Bible verses about sin, hell, and murder. It's quite the scary scene.

I do not support abortion. I don't see it as a right. I see it as a sign that we've failed. If women cannot keep a job, access health insurance, or face a world free from stigma, have we met the needs of women? If so many of our teenagers are getting pregnant, where have we failed in that regard? And if so many health issues and complications arise from pregnancy, are scientists conducting research, in order that we may be able to save two lives? These are the questions that run through my mind.

At the same time, if abortion is a right in this nation, if it is seen as a sad but necessary evil, how can you berate those girls and women for their choices? The choice to terminate a pregnancy rarely comes easy. Most women want their pregnancies to be positive experiences. Many dream of a healthy child, a little boy or girl. At the same time, if you're just barely feeding yourself, how can you take care of a kid? What if adoption is not presented well, but is used as a coercion tactic (look up Leslee Unruh)? What if you have serious medical issues, serious enough that one or both of you could die? What if you were the survivor of rape/incest? What if you could lose a scholarship? What if you could lose your job? What if your partner was abusive or neglectful? What if you were trying to figure out how to care for children you already had?

I believe we need to focus on these ills, to focus on bearing burdens and creating solutions for these larger issues. At the same time, I do not believe it wise, compassionate or a good use of faith to browbeat these women. Abortion comes with possible physical complications (as every medical procedure does) and emotional experiences that differ from woman to woman. Yes, it ends a life. No, it's not always easy. It's scary. The whole experience is scary. They know what it means to be pregnant. They've thought and prayed about their choices. Many think it won't happen to them until it does.

Is it too much for the pro-life movement to step back and have some compassion? If we're going to make any progress at all, it isn't through chasing after people on a day that's already stressful for them.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I bind my heart in a code of silence,
A wall of strict stone,
Armed with gun and cannon,
Fortified by the most valiant
Of soldiers.

For, if I revealed to you,
What it is I truly feel,
I might as well perish
In the cruelest of

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Moment of Meditation

Let us take a moment to remember Jasper Howard, a UCONN student, athlete, friend to many, and expectant father, who was murdered this past weekend.

May all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

May the Angels lead you into Paradise, may the martyrs great you at your arrival and lead you into the Holy City, Jerusalem. May the choirs of angels greet you and like Lazarus, who was once a poor man, may you have eternal rest.

I pray for him, those he left behind, and for the safety of all I know and don't know who attend.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Doubting Thomas" = Defensor Fidelis?

I am a Catholic. If you know me, this is usually the first thing you come to know. If you don't, you usually figure it out pretty quickly. I'm proud to be Catholic. My weekend plans include a Sunday Mass, my bag contains a rosary, and I'm involved in my Catholic community in many different ways. I also have the habit of connecting everything to a saints' day (example: "I'm seeing a U2 concert on the Feast of St. Michael!" Yeah, I'm that person). I live by Church teaching, even the hard ones, but at the same time, through all of it, there are many disagreements I hold with the Church. I believe contraception should be a couple's choice, that women should be welcomed into the priesthood, that maybe premarital sex, when done out of love, isn't as horrible a sin, even if it's not my personal cup of tea. I believe that religion shouldn't influence public policy with regards to same sex marriage and I don't understand why priests should be discouraged and forbidden from marriage (this for the Roman Rite-Eastern Rite is different).

Yet many things in my life have made me defend the Church, even despite my own disagreements.

I attend a very liberal university. This in and of itself would not be a problem, except that the words "liberal" and "tolerant" only apply if you agree completely with what others say (making the words meaningless). Though I myself am very politically liberal, my Catholic faith and pro-life beliefs have gotten me into hot water with many of my classmates. I have had experiences where I was the only person in my bio class who actively stood against turning human embryos into commodities. I've been the only person in my class defending the Church, not even when I absolutely agreed with the Pope but because my professor or classmates turned the discussion from honest inquiry to an excuse to bash Catholics, conservatives and other groups. I've been told my views are ridiculous and that my religion is horrible because of past events that no one in the Church has any control over. I've had friends come out of class frustrated for believing the same thing. I'm even afraid to get the groups I help run involved in certain events, because I'm afraid of situations devolving into a fiery pit of arrogance, insults, and an utter lack of respect or decency.

To me, the Church is my family. Even when I question my faith in God, I cannot deny the spiritual and cultural home I've found in Catholicism, nor can I deny the friendships and communities I've found because of it. Even as I question my priest on views of birth control or homosexuality, I cannot deny the good man of God that he is or underestimate the power of his faith, love and intellect combined. I cannot deny the peace I find in attending Mass or saying a rosary, even if I wish I could see a woman on that altar with the Church's blessing. Moreover, I cannot deny the honest inquiry, both intellectual and spiritual, of many theologians, the hope and faith that they are getting something right, that they really are following the will of God. I also cannot deny the heroes of Catholicism, the heroes that inspire me in my own faith, my own activism, the people whose faith was their momentum and reason for all that they did, even if it lead to their deaths. Even if I myself cringe at the wealth of the Church, I cannot deny the selflessness of the many Catholics, lay, religious and clergy, who give their hearts, minds and souls for the cause of Christ and the cause of justice.

Yes, I have my own struggles with certain teachings. At the same time, for this reason, I defend them and those who believe in, simply because I understand. I hate bigotry and disrespect more than I disagree with the men of Rome. Also, while I disagree with my family on certain things, I would never let someone speak ill of my own mother and father. Neither will I allow someone to speak evil of the main source that inspires me to do good: my faith in God through the Church.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

No Excuse

I went to U2 last week with a dear friend of mine. The whole time, I was so excited, seeing my favorite band, my favorite celebrity, people who have not just inspired me with their music but with their passion to create a better world. This is a band whose music has calmed me during times of stress and whose mission motivates me to push forward with all that I believe in. The whole time, I kept screaming, "I can't believe I'm seeing Bono!" My friend looked at me and said, "Who knows? Maybe someone someday will say, 'I can't believe I'm seeing Katie!'"

Immediately, I rebuked him. I'll admit, I'm a very proud person, it's my biggest flaw, and I just don't take compliments well. Looking back, I feel bad, because I know he meant it, but at the time, I just could not stand an accusation of greatness. Yet, it was an event I went to tonight, an event on Interfaith Leadership with Eboo Patel as the speaker, that made me realize I had no excuse. I do no good hiding behind my insecurities. Humility does not come from being less of who I am but from being all of who I am, all of the time.

Throughout the talk, Mr. Patel brought up several points. One of his key points was that the population of Iraq, Afghanistan, and India, all troublesome spots in our world, are very young populations. Disadvantaged youth are hearing a message of faith that is only accompanied by a gun or a bomb. At the same time, religious leaders who have made a difference, such as Gandhi, Dr. King, and the Dalai Lama, all started their leadership in their late teens/early twenties. As the head of my school's Interfaith Council and as a young person myself, these stories hit me hard.

I've always wanted to do something great, to define my life by a life of courage, service, and compassion but have always felt I wasn't good enough, talented enough, intelligent enough, faithful enough, or kind enough. Yet I feel God has been correcting me in that regard. I would say, "I wish I could combine music and international issues like Bono." "Bono didn't read music when he started and he didn't finish college. You do both things." "I wish I could be as great as Mother Teresa." "She did her work despite little opportunity. You have been given a lot." "I wish I could (insert whatever)." "Well, my child, DO IT!"

It's an absolute sin to hide who you are, to wall yourself in the mask of insecurity, for fear of greatness. That's not humility. That's pride masquerading as such. It walls you inside yourself and prevents you from being great, from shining your light to all people and living as who you were made to be. The leaders of the world did not focus on their own securities. They focused on the work that needed to be done and the talents and skills they could offer to do it. I know I myself could do better with that.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What Am I Doing?

Right now, I stand about a year and a half away from my degree. The culmination of my undergraduate life, the fated next step into "the real world", and the expectation to figure out my adult life loom closer than I'd like to think about sometimes. I will come out of school with a degree in International Studies, possibly a minor in Economics, and more maturity in 3.5 years than I've ever gained in twenty. People ask me about it, ask what I'm planning to do and are extremely willing to offer advice.

You want to know something? It scares the crap out of me.

The thing is, I really don't know what I want to do. To be perfectly honest, I'm not ready for a "real life" just yet. I shudder at the thought of sitting at a desk all day. I can't imagine what a "career" for me looks like. I'll have to pay back my debt. At the same time, school is starting to get old for me. I love my major, I love what I'm learning, but at the same time, as usual, I'm restless. Restless to travel, to see the world, to actually see what I read in all of my books and learn in my classes as well as the work I do on the outside. I feel like I'm either sitting down reading all day and writing papers, or working my butt off so I can read all day and write papers, so I can have a piece of paper that says I completed education in areas of my choosing. For what purpose?

I see the worth of education, don't get me wrong. And I do hold a strong fascination with regard to what I'm learning. But I hate this sitting still. I feel like I'm not actually doing anything, not accomplishing anything. I hate that I feel I'm not making a difference. I hate that it all feels superficial to me. Everyone says, "Do this for your resume," "This will be so useful", "You'll make so much money", without realizing that I don't care, I truly don't care about worldly success or riches. All I want, with regards to that, is the bare essentials: a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food on my table. The rest, I just want to travel, to experience life in all of its fullness, and to find some way, some way, to make my own corner of the world just a tiny bit better.

I've been told enough to care about my appearance, my reputation, my resume, my career, and my bank account. I've come to realize that I never really did. I care about working hard, living with integrity, and embracing my dreams. I believe in responsibility, but I'm not the kind who gives up easily. I care about looking more than seeing, listening more than hearing, and loving more than fighting.

I will use my education to empower myself. I will use my experience to learn about the world, about how to deal with it, about how to make change in it. Otherwise, to hell with how it all looks. I wasn't looking for that in the first place. May God smite me if I ever was.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Faith and Oppression

I am a Catholic. Catholic convert, Catholic all the way, Catholic till the grave sort of Catholic. I am the kind who will wake up early for Mass if I can't attend any other one, I always carry a rosary, and I am known to utilize words like "transubstantiation" in every day conversation. I truly love my faith and for most people, it's probably the first thing they learn about me. Over the years, I've wrestled with doubts and questions, only to emerge from them stronger.

Yet, there's something that troubles me about it. Not my faith in and of itself, not the doctrine, not the liturgy, not even some of its harder moral teachings. No, what troubles me is how the leaders of the institution based off my faith have gotten away with impunity for so many crimes committed against humanity.

The Crusades and the Inquisition are the two most common examples thrown around when it comes to faith and violence, but these are not the ones I'm speaking of. It could be argued, for the Crusades, that there was a genuine need to protect the pilgrim roads (not defending the Europeans but there was violence and horror on both sides). The Inquisition was horrible enough but we all know about this. No, I'm speaking of acts such as the maltreatment of peoples in the Americas and of the cover up of child molestation. While the Church has apologized for the former two, it still has not done anything about the latter two. As a Catholic woman, activist, and believer in justice, this sickens me.

The child molestation case speaks out the strongest. While there have been clergy who've been arrested and subsequently defrocked (the latter by the Church), the Church has not spoken out against this widespread scandal. While it's true, the Church is taking extra precautions, the fact that we have not heard an apology or condemnation for these crimes from the Pope or Bishops speaks volumes to me. It's almost as if they would like to protect the Church's reputation more than they would the children entrusted into their care. I've always been bothered by the fact that there's already little in the way of ministry for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, a sick part of my gut wonders if this is why.

Another case, a case that receives little attention, is the maltreatment of the original peoples of the American continent. While, yes, we hear about the genocide at the hands of the Europeans, the forced conversions, the destruction of civilizations, the raping of women and pillaging of cities, there are some things that go unnoticed. In this case, I'm speaking of the mission schools, where children were torn from the embrace of their families to be civilized and "saved" by people who did so in the name of God and the Church. These children were physically abused for speaking their language or praying the way they knew how, molested by school employees (many of them clergy) and forced from their families for long periods of time. While the Church does not bear sole responsibility for this (indeed, the government does as well, as do many other institutions), we have not heard a public statement from the Church either in apology or in condemnation of these crimes. Why?

Jesus taught justice, mercy, kindness, and spoke in defense for the least of these. I want to know how an institution supposedly based in Him had strayed so far from this calling and why those who claim to speak for Him won't speak in defense of the people He entrusted to love and protect. I understand we cannot undo these crimes. Yet I demand my leaders to remain accountable to the people. If they cannot do this, I question whether they are really on God's authority or their own.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Race and "All-American Culture"

I went to a talk about race in America today. This talk was held in light of Sotomayor's recent confirmation as well as Henry Louis Gates' recent arrest, begging the following question: Can America ever be post-racial? I'll admit, this talk filled me with a multitude of questions, especially when considering the impact...

I knew that, even today, we still face problems with race in our society. In a way, I see it as an identity crisis. We don't know how to identify ourselves (by race, ethnicity, culture, and how do we define race anyway? By continent of origin or shade of skin?) or each other (which term is less offensive? Black or African American?). Even if we do identify strongly with a certain culture, what are the ramifications of that? For example, should we choose to name our child a certain name or dress in a different fashion, will we be penalized by a greater society who views anything other than white, Anglo and Protestant as lower class?

If I had to fill out race or ethnicity on a government form or standardized test, I would choose "white". That is what society has told me to pick. Yet, if you ask me for my ethnicity, I will say Italian-American. For me, that is true. I have a parent who was born on the Italian peninsula and a grandparent who, to my knowledge, has never left. I also grew up around Italian American culture and, for a child with the blood in her veins, it made sense for me to claim that as my culture as well. Yet, even I went through a cultural identity crisis.

Number one, I'm not full Italian. I'm not even half Italian. Ethnically, I'm a quarter. Yet, because of all I have mentioned, I identify with it very strongly, even more when I'm away from home. Even so, I've had people raise their eyebrows at me and question why I'd identify if the only full-blood relative I can claim is a grandparent. While that hasn't been especially problematic, it seems strange to different people. I wonder how that works if you're a quarter of another race. How do you identify?

Number two, I don't look like the ideal Italian. When people consider Italian, they usually think thick, dark hair (that's everywhere), dark eyes, and very dark skin. While my hair is certainly dark, it isn't thick and while my eyes, brows and lashes are very dark, my skin is fair. As a result, while other Italians will believe me when I state my heritage, most non-Italians will not because "you're too white!" It does smack of ignorance, especially when you consider that northern Italians tend to be lighter (and I am of Tuscan descent), that there are blond Sicilian, Neapolitan, and Calabrese Italians, and that many Italian Americans are not full blooded anyway. At the same time, it shows that, in many people's eyes, race and ethnicity relate to skin color. What happens when that deviates? Could you identify as African American if your parents are from South Africa, but your skin is white, as a result of earlier, European origins?

Number 3, Southern Europeans are not immune to the influence of white, Anglo, Protestant culture. Even today, even though we're now considered "white" (not a century ago), there has always been the expectation of assimilation. Slurs against Italian Americans such as "guinea" or "Guido" no longer have the effect that they once did but stereotypes still follow those who "act Italian". For example, the Mafia stereotype. If you are Italian and proud of it, especially through your father's side, people always (hopefully, jokingly) assume you have Mafia ancestry and that they shouldn't slight you or your uncle will come after them with a hubcap or something (and some of us will admit to joking about it, however imprudent that was when we were younger and not as bright). Or, you choose to name your kid a name like Dante, Dominic, Maria, Antonio, and people make comments about how the kid will grow up to be a gangster (because criminals obviously don't have names like Johnny or Lisa...oh, wait....). Or, if your guy friends are Italian, people make comments like, "Be careful, Italian boys are so sketchy!" ( I'm pretty sure sketchiness, as well as nobility of character, are equal opportunity qualities, thus there is no logic behind that statement). How many people are assumed to be criminals because of their ethnicity? How many are told that their cultural practices are inferior because they're not north-west European in origin? How many are told that they aren't worthy of dating someone because of a stereotype that marks them forever?

This is how I see the issue of race, as an Italian American. Yet, because I'm white, I'm still one of the privileged groups. I'm so curious now. For all our talk about how it doesn't or shouldn't matter, if it really did not, all these issues would be moot. Now, how do we solve this?

Monday, September 7, 2009


Her love is like the child
That was never born,
Gone before first breath,
Dead before the words
Could dare leave her lips,
Torn apart in the chaos,
The carnage of her heart.

Her love is like the flower
Nipped before first bloom,
Lost before the petals
Would dare break free
And show the world
Their boldness and beauty,
Their fire of color.

Her love is like the fortress,
Guarded by stone and steel,
With weapons imposing their might
And soldiers ready to attack,
Forbidding anyone from entry
And any emotions from escaping.
Her love was invincible.

Yet the kiss of his arrival
Shattered the stone of her spirit,
Seared her heart in the flashes of flames,
Consumed the recesses of her existence,
Tortured her worse than the Spanish had dreamed,
And slaughtered the last of her defenders,
Leaving her in the wake of catastrophe.

It was this kiss,
This tender touch of lip to lip,
The smell of soap and taste of mint,
The slight embrace of hands and waist,
That destroyed her heart,
Cut down her guard,
And saved her soul.

Monday, August 24, 2009

One thing I'll never understand.....

Being a college student, I often get asked about my degree program, like most other students. Of course, as always, I answer that I am an International Studies major, focusing on Latin America and Development. This is usually followed by a "What are you going to do with THAT???"

I don't mind being asked about my life dreams and goals but this question bugs me for a couple reasons. One, I don't think a college education should just be about vocational training (especially as jobs can and do change) and two, how many teens and twenty-somethings can honestly say they know what to do with the rest of their lives? Aside from maybe something heavily specialized (business, engineering, etc), does a piece of paper really determine exactly what will occur in the future?

College was never supposed to be about vocational training. A college education was meant to broaden the mind of a young student, to allow them to explore various fields, ideas and ways of thinking, to encourage them to ultimately decide for themselves, whether it was what they wanted in their education or what they wanted in life. That's why, in colleges everywhere, business majors have to take classes like art history and music majors have to take science. In my case, my major requires me to take classes in history, government, economics, and foreign language. Regardless of what I do with my life, that knowledge base can only serve me well. As for the job aspect, that's what internships, networking, and workshops are for. They don't care whether you're highly specialized. Most employers want someone who is passionate, who works hard and who can think. For these reasons alone, a college education is not worthless.

As for me being a "lazy" person because I don't know, well, as I've said, that's most of us in life, no matter how old we are. Unless you're involved in something requiring a high degree of specialization, chances are that you'll have different jobs throughout your life. I interned at a non-profit over the summer and saw people go on to endeavors such as USAID, the UN, overseas volunteer programs, or grad school. Most of these people are a few years older than myself and have had their fair share of life experience. If I, at the age of twenty, don't know what I want and I'm still in school, waiting tables and I just completed my first internship, I don't think I need to have it all figured out to a T just yet. That does not make me lazy. It just means I'm still figuring it out and as I have my share of jobs and opportunities, my purpose in life will become clearer.

So, if you're a young college student, feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders , don't sweat it. I dare and defy anyone to figure it out right away. Also, sometimes people are just curious and want to know. They aren't always out to criticize your choices. Likewise, on the other side, keep that in mind. Many of us face enough pressure trying to maintain good grades while working, staying involved, and seeing our friends. We don't need an existential crisis added to the mix. I'm pretty sure that, as college students, we're good enough at generating those on our own.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fair Warrior

She stands, proud, strong, and secure. Her armor is buckled tight, shining like new, as she prepares for battle. She is nervous but seemingly unafraid, with a determined look and dignified smile. She clenches her teeth and heads for the battlefield.

The day is rough and battle is rougher. She fights with intensity, a feat for a small, seemingly slight girl, yet her strength is impeccable and her attitude ferocious. She is not afraid to run out to the front lines, to give herself up for her comrades, her cause, her country. There is pain, but she ignores it. There is no time.

The war is won. Her armor newly polished, her face triumphant, the crud of war washed away, she is given honor, honor for valor, for courage, and for strength. There is now peace and justice in their fair land. Comrades laugh, embrace, and drink to victory. There are wounds, but now is the time for celebration. She celebrates harder than them all, feasting and drinking because life is too short.

The night is over. She is in her chamber, her armor on its stand, her weapons put down. There are no clothes for war, feasting, or even play but merely a soft, thin garment, enveloping her muscular yet small, graceful figure. She picks up her beads, to pray for thanksgiving, protection, and peace. As she does, she finally notices she is wounded, the blood staining her soft garment, the pain spreading down her side.

It is only in that garment, the garment that does not protect but exposes (even her bare breasts), with the beads, the beads that symbolize the most heartfelt of prayers, that she allows herself to acknowledge these wounds. And then, only then, she begins to cry. Even after the victory of battle.

"Too nice?" or "Too scared to tell the truth?"

In the wake of the tragic shooting in PA, committed by a Mr. George Sodini, I've been seeing articles, articles talking about "nice guys". Not guys who are truly nice, but the way we tend to tell guys that they're "too nice", in an attempt to get them off our backs. Or how guys feel that, because they are "nice", they are thus deserving of anything a girl can do to get their attention.

This makes me wonder: why are we all so dishonest when it comes to whether or not we actually like someone? Why are we so afraid to tell the truth? Is it that hard to say, "I'm just not that into you?" or "I like you as a friend, not as a boy/girlfriend?" Or, if you don't even like them as a friend, "Because I don't," "I just met you," and "I'm not even friends with you," aren't good enough reasons? Why do we have to make niceness a reason?

Bottom line: relationships come and go and none are dependent on whether you're too nice or not. I think we need to stop getting hung up over whether or not the opposite or same sex finds us attractive and concentrate on being good people, people who are true to themselves and others. People who treat others right and don't expect anything in return. People who focus on living life to the fullest and giving everything they can. Because that IS sexy, that IS attractive and regardless, life is too short and the rest of the world too capricious for any other alternative.

So don't worry about whether you're too nice or not. And if you don't like someone who likes you, be upfront and honest. Tactful, but honest.....and yes, that's something all of us, myself included, need to work on.

Monday, August 17, 2009

How are you still Catholic???

This question hurts when asked. Yes, if you haven't figured it out by now, I am a practicing Catholic. Not a cradle Catholic either, but a crazy convert. I "swam the Tiber", so to speak, when I was in my teens and while I've been through storms, questions, and crises, I know I could never leave my faith without first cutting off one of my limbs. It really is that dear to me.

In addition to my Catholicism, I am also a feminist (yet still pro-life, yes, I make it work), an activist, an environmentalist (learning how to be a better one) and a political moderate who leans a bit left of center. I don't do anything stereotypically "bad" but I have nothing against going out with my friends, staying out late (provided I don't have a test or a long day at work) and the occasional smoke of hookah. I question my faith and I certainly question its teachings regarding some issues (cough:women priests:cough). Mainly though, I am an outspoken rabble rouser and I am not afraid to make my voice heard on matters important to me, especially on certain topics such as the death penalty, pro-life, sexual assault, hunger, poverty (especially the feminization of poverty), gender inequity, and foreign assistance reform (by the way, get your Senators to cosponsor S. 1524, please!). So, when I do this, I am very shocked to hear this question.

You see, it's not in spite of my faith that I stand up for these things, but rather because of my faith. My faith is in Jesus Christ and Jesus told us that we were to take care of and stand up for the least of these, because by doing so, we were actually serving Him. I believe that. I also believe that God is love, that love is a choice and when chosen, endures through the ages, but it's more than an emotion because it has to last through the hard times. Even with all my questions, that's why I stay with the Church, because I do believe I find God there, and if He is love, then there is something that surpasses a human institution. And that faith has given me the courage to do things I NEVER imagined that I would do before hitting 20, whether it was lobbying Congress, speaking authoritatively on hunger issues, or a few matters too personal to mention on the Internet. Even with my doubts, the Church is where I found God and my faith has been the glue that's kept me together, even when I've thought I was breaking inside.

Finally, the God I believe in created man and woman as equals, to be treated with dignity and respect. The Church social teachings echo that in every aspect of life, for example, why we're pro-life for ALL life, not just the unborn. For that matter, we're also pro-quality of life and believe in the necessity of a living wage for every man and woman. And, for every bad apple that's come out of the Church, every child molesting, power abusing priest (and to be honest, you'll find them in married households and public school systems everywhere else, it's not just the priesthood), there has been someone like Mother Teresa, who gave up her convent life to cart the dying off the streets of Calcutta. Or Monseñor Oscar Romero, who used his position as Archbishop to stand up for the poor, even till he was murdered by death squads while saying Mass. Or St. Maximillian Kolbe, who gave up his life for someone else while in a concentration camp. Or St. Francis of Assisi.....I mean, by their fruits, you shall know them, right?

I will still question, because I'm human. And, for the record, I'm not perfect. I'm not good. I'm certainly no saint. I just keep trying and I pick myself up as needed. While I'm at it, I will continue to speak up, because that's why I believe in what I believe in. And, as for being young and having some fun, well, barring a few mortal sins, the wedding at Cana proves that there's no sin in that!

After all, I did name this blog after Doubting Thomas. It helps to know I'm not the only one. At the same time, I will die before I deny what I believe in. Because, to me, it's like breathing and there's no way to live without air.

Monday, August 3, 2009


I'm twenty years old. Twenty. Out of my teens. Two years of legal adulthood under my belt, but one year shy of legal drinking age. Five years till I get lower car insurance rates. Twenty, with two years of college down, one and a half to go, a lease with my name on it, first baby steps into career world via an internship that is soon to end, and a life that could not be more crazy but wonderful than it is right now. What does this all mean?

I've been able to do a lot, accomplish quite a bit and experience a ton of events and emotions, painful, joyful, tough, sweet, quiet, loud, but every moment no more or less beautiful than the one that had just passed. I've regained faith in my God, a new found respect for my government, and an awe and amazement at the potential of people to be indescribably good.

I never thought I'd get to see my President as close as the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Or give Communion at the Pope's Mass. Or get, not one, but two, TWO opportunities to see my favorite band of all time. Or lobby my Congressman and have him support what I wanted (and find out from his office that he did end up supporting it). Or see something as beautiful as giant roses in the nation's capital (yes, the Cathedral, Memorial Day). Or experience non-profit work in all of its facets, from the exciting to banal). Or even go to Medieval Times, random! I never thought I'd be lucky enough to be a part of all that.

Where do I go after I finish? Will I still be in the city I love so much, the city that brought me from the last vestiges of my childhood to the first steps of womanhood? Or am I meant for something else? The Mediterranean? Central America? Two regions of the world I constantly talk about, study, read about in the news, and learn the languages of? Or somewhere else in the U.S. or in the world that needs me? Will I join the Peace Corps? A Catholic program? Get a job at a non-profit? Still wait tables as I wait for what's right? Go to midwife school? Where am I going? What was I meant for? It may be the start of my life......I just want to start right......

It's been a crazy whirlwind so far. Breathless, lovely, ugly, painful, joyful, with tears and laughter, prayers and curses, people who broke my heart and people who sparked it and brought it to life. People who've touched my life deeply and people who've hurt me hard. Moments that made me smile and moments that had me hiding behind a cup of coffee and a pillow. I'm blessed to have had the life I've had so far. And I'm not afraid of my destiny. Just curious to see what's behind the blind curve....:)

In moments of pain and moments of joy, God is good and life has never felt so right.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Intro to Real Life-Turning 20 in a Bad Economy

Everyone says that the best thing you can do in this economy is to stay in school. Upon first hearing it, it makes sense. While you're in school full-time, you don't need to worry about finding a full-time job with health insurance and other benefits. School is a chance to improve your skill set, to make yourself more marketable in better times. Above all, it buys you that last word: time.....

Yet everyone seems to forget one thing: school is expensive. Private school prices are through the roof and public schools are either hiking up their tuition or turning away a great deal of applicants (as everyone is applying to them now). Not to mention, bills don't stop just because of school. Landlords still expect rent, grocers still expect payment, and the Internet is certainly not free. On campus living is much more expensive than off and off-campus living requires sincere diligence. Even with scholarships, financial aid, and other support, education, while worthy, is still an investment. In short, as my father always says, TANSTAAFL, "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."

Due to these crazy economic times, I've decided to start learning to live on my own, while still in school. It sounds scary, but a bit of practice this summer has helped quell some of my fears. In addition, I've taken it upon myself to start learning how to budget. As I have done so, however, I've realized a lot of the financial mistakes I've made in the last year, simply because it was a skill I had not yet learned. At the same time, I've also realized how many of my peers really are not informed about money. Considering the decisions many college students make, whether it's spending too much on restaurants or taking out the equivalent of a mortgage before buying a house, it's frightening.

As a result, I will be writing more about money, possibly moving those posts onto another blog. I find it necessary and vital that young people, especially women (who fall into credit card debt and others more often) learn more about money. I wish I had learned more, but I'm glad for the chance to start. It means I'll be better prepared when I graduate. I hope others can be as well.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Vegan Fridays-have been postponed.....

Due to an insanely busy schedule, I've decided to not restart Vegan Fridays till Lent. However, to those who have been paying attention, you are certainly free to practice and if you would like to contribute, let me know.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Vegan Fridays: An account of creation

“And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” Gen 1:30 (NRSV)

Creator. What does that word inspire? An artist, bringing a scene to life on a dry wooden door, thus making a cathedral? A poet, making the words come alive with only paper or ink? A chef, turning the most basic of food and spice into an elaborate feast? Or is it something greater?

The act of Creation, as mentioned above, involves breathing life into something with none, whether that’s an artist creating a scene or God creating the earth. In fact, the Hebrew word for breath is “ruah,” which also means spirit. Thus, it means the spirit of God resides in every living creature, as we all have been brought to life by the Creator’s breath. All living creatures, from humans to fish to birds to cows to every other animal, are sustained by this breath, this spirit.

As we are linked by this kick-start of life, God has provided for us the plants of the earth to food. Every plant. Some may benefit some animals, while others benefit others, but it is all the same. As this God is Creator, it means there is always enough, enough for all who are in need.

The lies of the earth are that there is scarcity, that there is enough for some but not for all. In fact, we comfort ourselves with these lies, using them as an excuse to feed all our grain to livestock, turning against fellow members of created beings for less efficient food. We use it to justify destroying Creation with pesticide and with misusing lifesaving drugs to produce as much as possible. We use it to turn against those who would be our partners, not allowing them to trade with us and turning them to waste, drugs and violence for refusing to treat their part of Creation as equal to ours.

For today’s Vegan Friday devotion, I recommend a salad for lunch. Use the freshest vegetables you can find, with a light dressing for flavor. Say grace beforehand, thanking the Creator for the food provided. And take some time today to learn about how we treat the animals we expect to eat. Is this what our Creator, our Spirit, our Breath had in mind for us?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

May all the souls of the faithful departed..........

It's been a weird couple of weeks...first with Oscar, second with the Metro crash and now this...


Friday, June 19, 2009

Vegan Friday-An Old School Custom With a Modern Twist

At BFW, we are always focusing on stewardship. As God created the earth and every creature within it, it is our duty as humans, as those made in His (Her) image, to care for the earth and share with each other. Thus, if we do not take care of our planet, many will go hungry. So environmentalism is actually a Christian duty and moral obligation, to ensure that the poor will be fed.

One way of saving the environment is to become a vegan. Not raising animals for food allows more grain to go into the stomachs of hungry human beings. Also, it reduces the amount of topsoil erosion and water contamination (from animal wastes). However, as an Italian American girl who loves her Mediterranean cuisine (as well as steak fajitas, thanks to a job at a Mexican restaurant), the idea of going vegan frightens me a bit. Yet, two Lutheran ladies from Long Island inspired me to think of something......

I met these two at BFW’s National Gathering. They are both truly awesome, socially active and encouraging others around them to do likewise. They are very active in environmental issues and have been recycling long before their community even instituted the practice. We were having a conversation over breakfast, when I made reference to my “Italian appetite” (I had put together a very full plate and managed to pack away everything). One of them laughed and mentioned that her husband is Italian-American as well. We both laughed over the veracity of certain stereotypes (yes, most of us can quote The Godfather, A Bronx Tale, and Goodfellas). Later, she mentioned how her husband, though now Lutheran, had been raised as a Catholic (like most Italians) and, while he no longer practices the faith of his birth, still cannot bring himself to eat meat on Fridays.

As a Catholic myself, though I have not practiced this tradition (I usually only abstain on Lenten Fridays), I carry a great deal of respect for the older customs. You see, Friday is a solemn day, as it is the day when Jesus died, so abstaining from meat was to honor the sacrifice of Jesus, the sacrifice that renewed the face of the earth. So Catholics all over, up until Vatican II, gave up meat every Friday and throughout all of Lent.

A sacrifice that renewed the earth and saved humankind from sin……..what about a sacrifice that also renews the earth and saves humanity, only this time, from hunger? If we collectively gave up animal products, at least for a day, how much of the planet could we save? How much grain could we save? Obviously, this would have to be a collective effort. Yet if it was, how much impact could we have?

So I hope you will all join me each Friday, as we meditate on Christ’s passion and death and make this sacrifice for Him and for our brothers and sisters. For each Friday, I shall write a meditation. And yes, we will have Vegan Lent as well. I hope you will join me as I practice an old school custom with a modern twist.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Letters From My Godchild

When I was fifteen, there was only one thing I truly wanted for my birthday. That thing was the opportunity to sponsor a child. Through my parish in my hometown, I was able to get in contact with Christian Foundation for Children and Aging and ended up sponsoring a bright Honduran boy, not much older than my brother. His name is Oscar and he comes from a close, loving family. He loves to play, to laugh, and to sing. His favorite subjects are math and Spanish.

Today, I just received heartbreaking news that Oscar has decided to quit school. He made it through primary school (a big feat for a Honduran child) but has to now work with his father to help his family. Thus, there will be no more school for this intelligent boy.

As you can imagine, even though he has decided this, it kills me. It kills me that education is not considered an automatic right of these children, but a privilege reserved for only the elite among our kind. It kills me that so many children are caught between helping their families eat and continuing their education. It kills me that, in this country, people care more about whether two men marry each other than whether a child can go to bed with a full tummy or learn how to read and write. Finally, it kills me that, regardless of what I did, the system is still the same at the end of the day. It kills me that this system failed my godchild.

This is why I encourage you all to write or call your Congressman (or woman and your Senators while you're at it) and tell them to co-sponsor the bill H.R.2139, the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act. Our government spends less than one percent of all funds on foreign aid and the money that we do spend is managed badly. At the same time, when foreign aid is used correctly, it makes a world of difference. Because of aid, more people have access to anti-retroviral drugs to treat HIV than ever before. Because of foreign aid, 29 million more children in Africa have the opportunity to attend school. Even in places like Iraq, the areas with the least casualties are the ones being helped by U.S. AID, according to a couple of experts who have asked to remain nameless (and yes, I have heard them speak today, at our National Gathering for Bread for the World).

Our economy is tough. I am not suggesting that the U.S. forget its own poor and hungry people. Rather, I am pointing out the sad truth. As tough as our situation is over here, it is infinitely worse in places like Honduras, places like Ethiopia. Places where one sick day can cost a livelihood, where one natural disaster can set back any hope for development by several years. Places where children have to choose between school and food, where mothers are likely to lose at least two children before the tender age of five. Places where people die of AIDS because drug companies worry more about their so-called intellectual rights more than the people they have the power to save.

This is a question of our security, of our ability as a nation to truly promote liberty and justice for all, FOR ALL. We are obligated, as individuals and as a nation, to fight for those two values, those we claim to hold so dearly, and those that many of our brave ones give their lives for. We have the chance to make a true and lasting change. But it's not "the government" doing this, it's we the people because we live in a democracy, a government by the people for the people. We have the power of the vote, of the pen, and of the voice. We need to use every weapon in our arsenal and stand for our brothers and sisters. Otherwise, we cannot stand at all.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dreams in Life

It's funny how these change each year, as my life gets more direction and focus. Nevertheless, enjoy:

1. Love God always and find ways to get closer to Him (that one hasn't changed).

2. Become either a foreign service officer (for USAID), public health official, midwife, or a mix of the three and help my nation and the world in my own fashion.

3. Play in a band and enjoy making music with some mad chill people, regardless of whether or not fame or fortune comes along (and I pray it does not).

4. Own a bar called Doubting Tom's and have it be more like a coffee shop with a liquor license. Drinks would be served after five and it would be a place of the arts and of intellectual discourse. Though we would serve alcohol, it's not a place to get rowdy and if you do, you will be asked to leave the premises. This is a place of class, culture, discussion, and only the very best of drinks.

5. Own a motorcycle. It's more fuel efficient anyway.

6. Get tattoos. These have changed. I want a red fleur-de-lis on the inside of my right wrist. Fleur-de-lys are the symbol of Joan of Arc (my Confirmation patron) and it's French for "flower of life" (for my vivacity). Red ones symbolize Florence and Scotland, two places I claim ancestry (thus a symbol of my "Gaelic and Garlic" ancestry). On my left wrist, I want a circlet of flames. For I believe it is Heaven, not Hell that is hot (and in Inferno, Satan was placed in ice, not fire), since love is hot. I want it on my left, because it was long believed that those veins were the ones that flowed directly into the heart. I never want to lose the fire I hold for the things I believe in and hold dearly, thus that symbolism and reminder.

7. Fall in love with someone amazing, marry them, and have a couple kids. This one, while seemingly ordinary, is truly extraordinary. I believe it's a priviledge to be able to take part in the amazing love and creative force of humanity's being. I hope it is one that I am priviledged to enjoy.

8. Live in Italy for a year or two and really learn the language and culture.

9. Read Dante's The Divine Comedy in the original Italian it was written in.

10. Train for a marathon in Kenya.

11. Become fluent in as many languages as possible.

12. Run a non-profit.

13.Really learn what Mother Teresa meant by "loving till it hurts."

14. Write a song and perform it in public.

15. Write a book.

16. Take a pilgrimage to Fátima, Jerusalem, and Assisi.

17. Go to Spain, to Valencia, and perfect my paella.

18. Live in a developing country.

19. Never stop fighting.

20. Never stop loving.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Life of Service

At my internship yesterday, I was asked to take on a huge project. Did this involve extensive research, a fully thought out marketing plan, a strategy that would end hunger now and for all time? No. A new intern is coming in to join us next week and I was asked to clean out a cubicle that had not seen organization since possibly 2006 (yes, I checked the dates).

What does this have to do with hunger? Absolutely nothing. Yet I found God had a few things to teach me.

You see, I find that the theme of my life is service. My school is called the School of International Service and my career goals include such aspirations as foreign service, public health, and midwifery (as well as owning my own bar when I retire from all that adventure). I work as a waitress to bring in cash (causing my colleagues to joke about how I really do feed the hungry wherever I go). I also am constantly volunteering, whether at the pregnancy center where I serve as a receptionist or through various activities with friends. I say this not to boast, but to share why this would be crucial.

I find that it's the same with people at my university. We have a high amount of volunteers and a good portion of idealists whose aim is to go to the developing world and save the children. It's a wonderful attitude and I'm proud of the fact we have so many who help out their own communities as well as our neighbors abroad. However, one thing that gets lost in the idea of service is the act that makes it service in the first place.

If you cannot get on the ground and sort through trash, do mind numbing work for someone who would not have time, willingly perform a task that offers no pleasure and no visible reward, or work past your fears, anxieties and prejudices to carry out a greater good, you are not truly serving. If you cannot walk humbly and do everything, including the banal, boring, and thankless, but with the understanding that it is worth your while, you are not serving.

Service is supposed to make you humble. Not in the sense that you think less of yourself, but in the sense that you think of yourself less, that you don't consider yourself "too good" for anyone or anything. It's not that you are not confident or secure but rather, quite the opposite. You are confident and secure enough in who you are and where you stand in the scheme of things, that you don't need to make that known. You know that those things don't matter, that you can at least do for others what you'd hope and pray they'd do for you, when that time comes.

I never thought I'd be cleaning out cubicles and doing kitchen duty (something each department has to do) in an office. At the same time, I'm grateful. For I have no right to say that I am serving if I cannot serve in the most basic of ways. Sometimes, they're the ways that actually matter.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me....." Luke 4:18

Fire fills my heart,
Fills my soul,
As I ache to receive
The warmth of Your love.

For Your love is mighty,
Cleansing, creating,
Turning the stuff of
My soul to white ash.

They say Hell is hot,
But Heaven is hotter,
Love's flashes like those
Of a raging flame.

Your love is life-giving,
Your heat fills me
With unstoppable speed,
Your light with unending warmth.

Unlike others,
This fire never dies,
But the embers live on,
Smoldering in my heart,
Kindling the depths of my soul.

Happy Pentecost Monday, everyone!

Killing in the Name of "Pro-Life"

I went into my Yahoo account this afternoon to find the headline, "Abortion doc gunned down at church" staring straight at me. I read on to hear that he was a doctor who performed late-term abortions, that his clinic was one of three that performed abortions after the fifth month of pregnancy. He was serving as an usher in his parish the day he was shot, while his wife was singing in the choir. Immediately, a few thoughts came to my mind.

First, I believe abortion is wrong. I won't deny that. I think it's a sad state for women when circumstances are so desperate, the only way to deal with a pregnancy is to get rid of it. For me, I find that society is not doing enough and that women are not fully empowered if we had to make that choice. Also, I find that it causes a certain mindset, that some babies are worth more than others, that some humans are worth more than others, just because of who their parents are, how much money they have, how old (or young) they are, or whether or not they have disabilities. As for late term abortions, I find that to be a cruel, barbaric practice and if a child is viable and could survive, why would we even resort to something like that? Especially considering some of these practices are more harmful for women than actually giving birth.

That said, I think gunning down a doctor who performs abortions is always wrong. Always. As much as I think his practice was cruel, I cannot forget that the doctor in question truly believed he was helping women and children and that his mission was to save life, even if it meant death. I cannot forget that he was a husband, possibly a father himself and probably went to medical school because he sincerely believed in helping people. I cannot forget that it is not up to us to judge when it's all right to take life away, but to leave it to God, much like the pro-life movement advocates.

If you are truly pro-life, you have to support everyone's basic right to life. That includes the right of the unborn child, the pregnant mother, the prisoner, the sick, the old, yourself (so suicide is not an option), the soldier, the poor, and others. This includes the lives of all, even if you do not believe yourself that someone is worthy. I do believe self-defense is pro-life, but only if you are honestly preventing the loss of more life (this includes in time of war). However, going after someone and brutally murdering them is not pro-life. It merely puts you on the same level as the person you are trying to stop.

I do not claim these people as pro-life. I believe that witness must be met with non-violent resistance. Humanity knows enough suffering, enough death. Let's try not to add more to the equation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Your love hurts me.......

Your love hurts me, Love
Like a slap on my face,
Like a sword through my soul,
Like fire in my stomach,
Your love hurts me.

Your love hurts me, Love
Your tenderness is torture,
Your kindness is killing,
Even your smiles smite me.
Your love hurts me.

Your love hurts me, Love
The touch of your hand
Makes me swoon as your
Lips burn fire against my face.
Your love hurts me.

Your love hurts me, Love
But I'd be happy to die sweetly,
Nestled in the warmth of your arms,
Near the secrets of your heart,
Buried in the sweetness of your soul.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Four Months and Four Days.........

Till what?

.................The Feast of St. Michael? Yes, but not what I was going for......though, I do have to say, St. Michael is the badass of the saints...........

..................A friend of mine's birthday? Also true, but not what I was going for......

..................The last day of September? Actually, that's September 30th........

OK, OK......

I'm going to see the love of my life........

That love being U2!!!!!!!!!!

In CONCERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Near where I live!!!!!!

Goodnight, Beautiful

Goodnight, Beautiful
I whisper to you
As I hold you in my arms
And gaze into your eyes,
Clear windows to Heaven,
One last time till morning.

Goodnight, Beautiful.
No more fears, no frets.
My hands trace the surface
Of your back,
Easing your muscles,
Soothing your soul.

Goodnight, Beautiful.
Breathe, just breathe.
You've fought a battle of the heart
And were wounded
But you forget so easily
That sleep is what heals wounds.

Goodnight, Beautiful.
Nothing can harm you
When you're at my side.
So let me hold you tonight
And we will sleep.

Goodnight, Beautiful.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Thoughts On Marriage

My girl friends and I have been talking about our dreams, one of those dreams being far-off marriages. While we are very young and understand that marriage and family are a long time coming, we're still able to dream about it, the ups and downs, the beauty and pain, the creation of a new existence. But even more, for me, it gives me the forum to explore an idea that, quite frankly, terrifies me.

Despite my nearly twenty years on this planet, I am painfully shy and innocent when it comes to romance. I've only had one boyfriend, but we were very young and long-distance at that, so it never really developed beyond the very beginning stages of looks, smiles, and flirty behavior. I've had some bad experiences in the past and have had facts about myself that I've had to come to terms with. I'm also a devout Catholic and kept myself quite sheltered on purpose throughout my teen years, arrested in a state of naivete up until my first year of college. Furthermore, I keep myself very busy and I would also be worried about ruining friendships.

To be truly honest, the idea of being vulnerable, dropping my mask, and allowing someone into my soul scares me more than the fires of Hell itself. As the great poet (and fellow Florentine) Dante Alighieri once said, "Love is quickly caught in the gentle heart." He said this in his canto about lust, meaning that love can very easily get you burned. I am afraid of losing myself, of disappearing into the person I love, only to find that they themselves have disappeared. I am afraid they'd expect me to abandon who I was, that I'd be demanded to disappear. I'm afraid of being used. Most importantly, I do not want to lose control.

I've finally realized that it's all OK. I'm not financially or emotionally ready for something as great as marriage and to be honest, I have no time to fall in love. I feel like women especially have this competitive streak with all of this but I wonder why competition is necessary? Not all of us are ready, a good deal of us don't have experience, and most of the guys our age are immature anyway. As for the argument about our circadian rhythms, I firmly believe it will all happen in its own time (and if I marry at an age too late for bio children, I will adopt older ones, who tend to get forgotten about). Why are we rushing? Why do we go after people who are not good for us, only to have someone? Why is it a big deal if we're twenty years old and have never been kissed?

I now understand the reasoning behind most of my fears. I'm finally OK with it. I don't have to marry tomorrow and I'll know it's right when it's right. I'm enjoying where I am now, in this moment, hanging out with my girl friends and living in a glorious city. At the same time, I do hope to get to that point, where I can invite someone to share souls. I dream of the day I unite myself with someone and take part in the greatest mysteries behind human existence and the inner workings of the human heart. Until then, I live as the person I am, single, free, young, and innocent. The time will come and right now, it's not time yet.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Psalm 24:1-A Reflection

This verse is as follows, "All the earth is the LORD's, and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell within."

I'll admit, I don't read the Bible that often (typical Catholic ;-)) and when I do, it's definitely the New Testament. Yet, this verse stands out for me, as I intern at an anti-hunger organization (well, haven't really seen one that is pro-hunger....) and am learning more every day about stewardship and sustainability.

Nearly a billion people in the world go hungry. Approximately 3 million children under the age of five will die each year due to undernourishment and far more live with it every day. In the U.S. alone, 11.7 million children live in households where they have to skip meals. We have the second highest infant mortality rate in the developed world partially because so many people go hungry.

Why do so many go hungry, given the world's resources? Why do so many children in the U.S., the richest and most powerful in the world, go to bed without dinner?

It's because we live in a world based on ownership, rather than stewardship. Food and water, rather than basic rights and needs, have become commodities to be bought and sold. Everything is driven by the markets and prices. Food prices are rising, making it harder for families to afford basic grains. Farmers have the ability to produce surpluses, but the prices are so low, it's not even profitable. Water has become a source of conflict. Yet, in the U.S., we use water like it's going out of style. We process food to the point where it's no longer natural and make it cheap as possible, while healthy, natural food has become a privilege for those who can afford it. We suck our natural resources dry for want of money and consumption, without a care for our brothers and sisters who may not have as much.

Basing value on ownership, I believe, fosters a sense of entitlement, a sense of worthiness based on purchasing power. Focus is placed on the individual, rather than the collective. I deserve healthy food because I worked for it. I deserve water because I worked for it. Poor people are lazy. Who cares if our planet is destroyed, as long as I'm the one ruling it? After all, I am human, therefore, I should be king.

Stewardship, on the other hand, places focus on something greater than the self. Whether you call it "God", "the collective voice of humanity", it doesn't matter. The emphasis is on the fact that the resources aren't truly your own and that they should be used wisely. Whether or not we all believe in God, we can all believe that we are all sharing space, whether we like it or not. Whether or not we believe global warming is caused by man, we can all come to the conclusion that we need to use our resources in a way that does not damage our planet. Finally, whether or not we believe humanity is good or evil, I defy anyone to refuse a thirsty child a glass of water.

Our possessions and money don't come with us after death. Our looks fade and our bodies decay. Our houses are useless to us. Qualities and legacies are immortal. Everything else is finite. Let us be wise about what is finite and go after what is infinite.

It certainly adds a new perspective to my day.......

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Name Change

Some of you who read my blog (though I don't understand why you would) may wonder why I changed the name from "Caffè Firenze" to "Doubting Tom's." To be honest, I did not even know I would change the name until relatively recently. Why such a switch?

I took a look at the tone my blog was taking. Instead of containing poetry, stories, and exotic happenings/art work (as a good café would), it contains rants, questions, and ponderings about life. Rants about women's rights, questions about God, and loud voices railing against injustice just seem to be a very odd fit for a quaint, classy Italian café, if they fit at all. I no longer felt I was drinking espresso in the Renaissance capital of the world, having discussions about beauty. Thus, the need to change.

Why "Doubting Tom's"? The name came from a recent conversation with a friend of mine. I was telling her about a parish I hope to be attending soon, named after St. Thomas. When asked which one, I said St. Thomas the Apostle and she immediately replied, "Doubting Thomas church. How appropriate for you" (after my tendency to question the very things I believe in the most). After marinating on it, I imagined a bar with an intellectual atmosphere, books of theology, politics and philosophy over a pint of Guinness, a bar a parish would attend after Mass or for Theology on Tap. Thus, Doubting Tom's was born.

As someone who constantly questions everything around me, wondering what life is and what life should be like, as someone who questions the very faith she'd willingly die for, how much more appropriate is it to name my space after the apostle who questioned Christ Himself?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Take Back the Night

Tonight on campus, we are hosting our "Take Back the Night" event, as April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. "Take Back the Night" is a campaign encouraging people to speak out against sexual assault and domestic violence and takes place on campuses all over the country. It involves the Clothesline project (where people can make T-shirts detailing their experiences), a march around campus with chanting, and testimonies from survivors. It's intense. Especially as many of us have friends, family and others who've been through this, or maybe we've been through things ourselves but have never told anyone.

What I love most about the campaign is that it's about breaking the silence. Even today, there's a stigma against being assaulted, whether you're a woman or a man. People don't believe you, they think it was your fault, that you are somewhat asking for it by wearing that miniskirt or by drinking, that you're stupid to trust people or walk home late at night, that maybe you can't be trusted to choose good relationships, and that the people you love would never hurt you. People are afraid of going to the police, for fear or retaliation or humiliation in the courts (those lawyers will rip your character to shreds in order to prove their client innocent). If it's happening in your family, you could be afraid of telling someone, since those words may be your last.

I'm going to tell you all something right now. If something like this happens to you, it's not your fault, you're not alone, you're not crazy and you're not stupid. The only person at fault is the one who did it. If that applies to mugging, autotheft, and extortion, it also applies to this type of violence. You have a right to your emotions, they aren't irrational. They're your soul's way of recognizing that YOU HAVE BEEN WRONGED! Someone overstepped their boundaries in the worst way imaginable and abused power and strength in a way that's grotesque beyond imagination. We should trust in people, trust that adults can be adults and that people can be fair and kind. Sadly, that trust was betrayed in horrible ways. Ladies, I don't care what you were wearing, whom you've slept with in the past (which doesn't make you a bad person, regardless of the amount of degrading terms), your sexuality, what you were drinking, etc. No excuse. Men, I don't care what your sexuality is, how you were assaulted, or whether or not you should have been able to "fight them off." They wronged YOU, they should be the humiliated ones.

We are human beings. As human beings, we were endowed with basic human rights, to life, liberty and property. This includes rights as simple as being treated like human beings, as having the right to consent to sexual activity, as not being beaten or killed because we spent a penny too much at the corner store and had the nerve to leave when we smelled violence. Criminals are masterminds and know how to work the system, how to prey on victims. We all are in the wrong place at the wrong time from time to time. We've all misjudged people. Do we deserve to be punished for that in such an evil manner?

I ask everyone to speak out, to fight back. Don't let the criminals win. This is everyone's issue, not just a woman's issue (since women aren't the only ones getting raped anyway). And if you find yourself saying, "They deserved this," "Well, that's what she gets for wearing something like that," "He should be happy to be so lucky," "She's a slut anyway," I ask you to remember the people in your life. Is there something they're not saying? And would you dare say such things if it happened to them? Finally, what if it happened to you?

Stealing is a crime. Especially when it involves trust, innocence, the security of our bodies, and a basic belief in human goodness. Let's steal it all back tonight.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Music, Love and Politics

She stares at him, deep dark eyes boring into his own. What is he thinking about? she wonders to herself. He acknowledges her soft gaze with a smile, then lowers his to the book in his hands. The title? Second Treatise on Government.

Of course. How was it that she always loved the political boys best? They were her best friends, her lovers, her brothers from other mothers (and fathers, but it doesn't rhyme). Maybe it was the debates they had, for she certainly held views of her own. Maybe it was their intelligence, their passion, the fire that would leap into their eyes and their voices as they expressed anger over an unjust policy or excitement about the upcoming elections. Maybe it was their sense of duty, their love of country, their desire to change things for the better. Maybe it was their humor, for they actually understood all the cartoons in the newspapers, the jokes made by British comedians. Or maybe it was just because they were hot. After all, a good portion of them would fit the definition of a "looker."

But this one was different. Instead of the raging fires of activism, his soul possessed a calm, still river of inner peace. While he cared about people and issues, it wasn't his way to start a war or mess with politics too much. He loved politics as she did, but from more of an intellectual sense. He was more relational than anything else. Rather than try to make big changes, he wanted to just be there for people, to help them realize that someone cared. He was more of an artist than a politician anyway, always singing, playing music, drawing pictures and designs with a skill level that surpassed mere doodling. He was also spiritual, grounded in the sense that he was connected greater to something other than himself. He was kind, funny in his own way, and possessed an endearing sense of awkwardness, what with his embarrassment at having accidentally brushed her leg with his own and his over-the-top way of making her laugh.

Her cell alarm rings. Time for class. She gets up to leave, he with her. Though they must part at the door, he passes her something. A piece of paper. Loose leaf with black ink, simple print, yet straightforward. Only four words:

En rue Saint Divine

She smiles. Song lyrics. The keys to her heart. She looks up to thank him but he has already vanished.


Friday, March 27, 2009

A Day Somewhere......

Doesn't mean you live there......

I love my school, I love my major, but one problem I've been finding (in myself and others) is that we have this attitude about how we must know a place because we've spent time there. You know. The people who go to Paris for a week and now apparently know all about French people and culture. The people who go to Kigali or Nairobi and all of a sudden, they completely understand the plight of people in the developing world. I'll admit, I am completely guilty of this myself, having had similar thoughts after my own trip to Europe, but I'm admitting that I am definitely trying to fix things now. This attitude is not a good one to have.

You will never know a nation as well as the people who were raised in it. To suggest otherwise is extreme arrogance. Not only that, but different people in that country will have different impressions. For example, in the US, someone from New York, NY is probably going to think differently than someone from Kissimmee, FL, just because they are two different regions. Not to mention that different countries can have different ethnicities within that country, certainly different class systems, etc. Even more than that, people in general are different. No one thinks exactly the same, acts exactly the same, etc. Thus, you will encounter many different impressions of a certain place, most of them depending on a person's situation and how that situation has formed their perception.

So please, let's stop pretending we know a place. It's ignorant, it's arrogant, and it's not helping anyone. We may have learned something, have had different experiences, maybe even ended up living there for awhile. But living does not equate with knowing. Again, I am completely guilty of this myself, so I'm not trying to be hypocritical. This is something I've realized and I think we should stop. People are people, not categories.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


She stands there,
Watching, waiting,
The wind rushing through
Her long, dark hair.

An angel appears,
Surrounded by fire,
A radiant white flame.
"A child is coming."

Her child is born.
She rejoices in life,
Kissing, cuddling
Simply loving.

Her child grows up.
Strong, handsome,
Kind, caring,
He'd make a fine husband.

Her child starts a fire,
Loving, defending,
Praying, speaking,
All for the least of us.

Her child is killed,
Suffering, bleeding
Wounded, weeping
"King of the Jews."

God asked her a favor.
She accepted a request,
And watched her son
Save humanity.

The More You See, the Less You Know

They see her. They see her everyday. They think they know everything.

They know she's a good girl, that she wouldn't hurt anything, unless she needed to defend someone. They know she goes to Mass every week, sometimes even twice, and that she wears Jesus and Mary around her neck. They know she's a stellar student with straight A's and a brilliant mind. They know she helps out at homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and organizes campaigns for different causes. They know that she's sweet and that if you ask her for an inch, she'll give you a mile. They know she's a leader, that she steps to the plate for any task that needs to be accomplished.

What they don't know.........

They don't know that she cusses. Not little cusses either, like "crap" or "piss" but ones that would make Eminem feel ashamed. They don't know that she drinks with friends, under their caring eyes and never too much, but drinks all the same. They don't know about her loves, some of whom they'd be shocked to find out. They don't know that while she loves her faith, there is so much she disagrees with, that she's really not as traditional as others think. They don't know she's not overly conservative, she's merely innocent and slightly naive by circumstance.

They don't know that she cries at night, wishing people would see her as a person, not as the parts they'd like to see. They don't know that she feels ashamed for some of what she's done, which is why she heads to the confessional once a week (all this time, they thought, "Why is a nice girl like her doing in confession so frequently?") They don't know that, like everyone else, she wants to be loved "like that" but that is forbidden to her, as people around her feel like they have to protect her more than they can love her. They don't know that, while she tries not to seem vain, she feels she's not pretty enough for anyone. They don't know that she is inside angry. Angry at injustice, angry at her friends, angry at God, but most of all, angry at herself.

Yet she's not a hypocrite either. She would admit to all of this and more. When asked about anything, she answers unless circumstance is not appropriate. She's honest and doesn't hide. She can't anyway. Her face, at least, is honest.

They just never cared to find out.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gender, Research, and Role Construction

I still remember the summer when Larry Summers, former President of Harvard University, had made comments regarding the aptitude of both men and women, something about men being better at math and science due to brain differences. There was and still is a lot of controversy around such statements. Many women, who had built up careers around math and science, were quite offended and the coverage caused by it all was my first introduction into the biological/social arguments of gender roles and construction.

I have no problem with opinions like that, provided you've done research to back it up and I'd have no problem if it were fact. Then it would be similar to the fact that women get pregnant, men do not, it's a fact of life.

I do, however, have a problem with labeling people based on their gender (or race/class/orientation/creed/etc) and making arbitrary statements based on such factors. When we have a society that labels people, we have a society that prejudges people, and consequently, we depart from our values of freedom and egalitarianism. It's not facts I have a problem with, it's attitudes, judgments, and arbitrary decisions that lead to the loss of freedom based on superficial qualities.

For example:
1. An argument the other day: One thing I've always noticed is that, with the parenting of kids, the father gets twice the kudos for doing things a mother would do. When I made this statement in class (and was backed up by many other students and my professor, who had witnessed similar occurrences), another student justified it, telling me that women should be more responsible, since they have a "biological connection" to the child. But what about men who just happen to be more nurturing? What about women who, while they love their children, are not the "perfect, stay-at-home, constantly with the kids" mom model still embraced by society, to some extent? What about adoptive parents? Doesn't that negate the love they hold for their own children, because they don't have the "biological connection" given by pregnancy or breastfeeding? What about abusive biological parents? Apparently, the "biological connection" doesn't make them nurturing at all.

2. "Women have less spatial ability": while there is some US research to confirm this fact, is it because they naturally don't have it or because we constantly tell them that they don't and don't really give them a reason to have any? For example, from a young age, many of the toys for boys (blocks, etc) encourage spatial ability and (albeit, very basic) engineering skills. For girls, the toys mostly revolve around fashion, beauty, motherhood, and kitchens. Nothing wrong with the toys themselves, but not a lot of scientific/spatial ability/etc going on with those. Also, in countries with more egalitarian expectations for boys and girls (i.e. former Eastern Bloc countries), they have found that girls' spatial abilities equal those of the boys.

3. "Girls can't do science": Problem is, I have intensely for five years (i.e. most of my secondary education and my first year of college). I did pretty well too, until I burned out my freshman year of college. But I did it! And I still retain a lot of those skills, which I use in my social science classes (data collection and analysis, mathematical formulas, etc do come into play in my economics and poli-sci classes). Also, the knowledge I've gained helps me understand and explain causes important to me, such as about HIV/AIDS medicine, pro-life, the environment, and other things. I may not become the doctor I thought I would be in high school, but I still see myself going into fields like public health and making a difference there. I know this one has been about me, but I'm just saying, my femininity has not prevented me from understanding scientific concepts. Also, what about famous scientists like Mme. Curie, etc?

4. "PMS makes women too angry for politics": Excuse me? Well, if we're going to bring hormones into it, then men shouldn't be in politics at all because their high testosterone levels will make them too violent and they will destroy the world through nuclear warfare. Seriously, the only point I'd find it appropriate to even ask a woman about her cycle would be in a medical setting, the only judgments made being about health issues or pregnancy. Most women, you wouldn't know unless a) she told you or b) ladies, you know what I'm talking about on this one. While it is true that hormonal influxes can cause emotional changes, most of us adults can keep a lid on our extreme emotions, regardless of whatever our bodies are doing (unless we're in dire conditions, but that's another story). It has no bearing at all on whether a female politician is going to lead us into Armageddon.

I could go on but I think I've made my point. Find your facts before spouting off opinions. Remember, even if research is done, it often begs more questions than the ones originally asked. Finally, instead of thinking in terms of masculine, feminine, racial, etc, we should think in terms of humanity. Like Dr. King said, we should not judge by the color of skin (or the presence of certain chromosomes), but on the content of character. Instead of trying to figure out who's smarter, why don't we judge that, as others, based on the people standing in front of us, rather than pre-conceived notions?

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Saga

He was an adventurer, searching for love and the meaning of life. She was an activist, struggling for justice while trying to find who she was. When they met, amidst politics, music, and Jesus, they could not stand each other. Yet the force that sought to keep them apart would be the force that ultimately brought them together..........

So begins the story of Maria D'Amato and Sebastian Orsolini. Theirs would be a story that no one would ever forget......

Stay tuned...........

My experience with the Cherokees

I went to Cherokee Nation, North Carolina, land of the Eastern Band Cherokees, for my spring break as an alternative break. For those who don't know, at my school, alternative breaks are a wonderful opportunity for students to combine service with a chance to learn about a culture or situation (such as DC's education system) that we may not be familiar with. For Spring Break this year, trips were offered to El Salvador (to witness the elections), Northern Ireland (to learn about religious tolerance and peace building) and staying in DC (to learn about the educational system and the challenges it faces).

To be honest, I didn't intend to go away at first. I thought I would just stay and take the chance to work, make some more money than I normally would. I thought I would until I found out about the trip to Cherokee.

My main reason for going was the opportunity I would lose by not going. This opportunity was the chance to learn about the Cherokee people, their customs, their culture. You see, even though the Native Americans were the first people in this country, all I really learned about them was : a) they ate with the Pilgrims on Thanksgiving (that's what they told us in elementary school anyway), b) Said settlers then proceeded to kill them all, c) Andrew Jackson signed the Order of Indian Removal, forcing them to leave, d) something vague about mission schools, and e) they had a lot of casinos. Sadly, we never really learned about their government, culture, spirituality, or even that they were just like any of the rest of us (even in movies, all you really see of them are medicine men and chiefs, saying "How?" all the time and beating on drums).

They never told us that tribal governments were sovereign lands of their own, subject only to the US federal government. They never told us that they were never allowed to try non-natives in a tribal court. They told us about sweat lodges and vision quests, but they never told us about the significance of the two acts or even which tribes practiced them for which reasons (Cherokees for physical healing, Lakota for spiritual and physical). They never told us how our government had a hand in sterilizing Lakota women in South Dakota (at least this example, written in Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog), how they also had a hand in instituting mission schools, which further victimized Native Americans as children. They told us about George Gist, who came up with the Cherokee alphabet, but never told us the language was making a comeback through immersion schools. They told us how Andrew Jackson forced the Cherokees out but never about those who stayed behind. We heard about casinos, but never the fact that the money generated from that builds more industry and sends kids to college. Furthermore, we heard about all the problems faced on reservations, with alcoholism, diabetes, sexual assault, but we never heard about the overall strength and vitality of a people, determined to have their culture survive despite the generations of odds against them.

These are not a dying people. Sure, their rituals may be borrowed, to make up for the ones that were lost. Sure, many of them are not purely Cherokee anymore but are a mix of different backgrounds (as are we all. I may identify culturally as Italian American while ethnically, I'm only a quarter Italian). Sure, reservations and boundaries have their own problems (as do all states, cities, and towns), but we never hear about the successes (new businesses, immersion schools, opportunities for college grads to make a difference within their communities). We hear about tribes being victimized by the government, we never hear about the Native Americans rising to power in order to help change that.

These (and many others) were the first people here. They did not die out with the influx of smallpox and Europeans. These were a people that, despite every obstacle, survived and work to maintain their culture. Even today, they still fight for their rights, whether it's the right to ceremony or to govern their own lands. But they are not weak. They are not obselete, outdated, only good for a nice Thanksgiving story, gambling and feather headdresses (Eddie Izzard, "I love all this!). These are the people who had shown us the way when we first came here, who had given us things like a deep respect for women and nature and the necessity to always maintain peace and a sense of brotherhood, even in war. We do not honor them through pity. We honor them through memory and through acknowledging their dignity and rights as people, regardless of identity. They are a people, not just a chapter in a history book. It would serve us well to remember that, and to pass that along to our children.