Is silence consent? Virtue vs. virtue signalling

Yesterday, I tussled with some friends over the issue of “virtue signalling.”

In the immediate aftermath of the hideous events in Charlottesville, my social media was flooded with friends passionately denouncing racism and white supremacism. Some of the denunciations included an exhortation for all decent folk to do the same: You must speak up. You must take a stand. You must say something. Silence is consent.

Then followed a wave of irritable scoffers who refused to join in the mass denunciation. Their arguments were pretty solid: Of course we reject racism. Of course we’re anti-Nazi. It doesn’t do any good to say so on social media. The only reason you’d do so is to get your social piety card punched, and that’s just cheap and gross. Tomorrow it’ll be another thing that we’re all required to say. Who can keep up? Let’s just talk about what interests us, and refuse to be pushed around by a mob, even if the mob is correct.

Let’s untangle this a bit.

There are most certainly some folks who latch on to every cause, and their passion never rises above virtue signalling. They never act, but they never stop patting themselves on the back for saying the right thing when it’s popular to say it (and somehow, they never feel the urge to speak up when their cause is unpopular). One day, they’re slapping a flag overlay on their profile picture; the next day, they’re wearing safety pins; the next, they’re insisting that everyone stop what they’re doing and sign a useless change.org petition. And that’s all they do. They endlessly congratulate themselves as they flit from one cause to the next, from passion to passion, never seeming to notice that they stopped talking about yesterday’s all-consuming cause as soon as the hashtag stopped trending.

This is pure virtue signalling, and it’s gross. It changes nothing, it means nothing, and it’s actually counterproductive, as it relieves us from truly thinking, engaging, and acting. It’s the ultimate participation trophy: Hooray, you had the courage to be on Twitter and retweet something popular! Go put your feet up, you warrior, you.

So, phooey on this.

There is, however, another large group of people who were saying things very similar to what the virtue signallers were saying: I reject racism. I denounce Nazis. They don’t belong here; they don’t speak for me. America is better than this.

These folks felt like that had to say something, because they were confronted with something so monstrous and incomprehensible, they could not be silent. They wanted to do something, and there was nothing to be done — nothing but saying something. So they said something.

This isn’t virtue signalling. This is the normal, healthy response of a human being who feels appropriate sorrow, appropriate outrage toward aggressors, and appropriate compassion toward victims. It would be best, and truly virtuous, to follow up a public statement with some kind of action —  praying, perhaps, or getting more involved in local politics, or sending a note to someone who identifies with the victim. But there’s nothing inherently odious or insincere about responding to evil with a loud, public “Hell, no.”

I have heard from people who identify with the victims — from people raising black kids, for instance — that it gives them great comfort to hear a crowd of people loudly defending them. It would hurt, and be frightening, not to hear it. That in itself is good reason to speak up.

I have also heard from people who’ve said, “I have been too timid to speak up in the past. I’ve let racist jokes slide, and I’ve let insults go unchallenged. Now I see where silence leads, and I’m not going to be silent anymore.” This isn’t posturing; this is conversion of heart. Not virtue signalling, but a sign of actual virtue.

Mere words aren’t always empty, even if they’re popular words.

But what about the claim that silence is consent? This is more complicated. We have heard over and over that evil triumphs when good men do nothing. If an individual is silent, that may not mean that he consents to evil, but if every single individual decides that he’s going to sit this one out because everyone already knows that racism is bad . . . well, if that worked, we’d have a lot fewer names to remember on Memorial Day. And Holocaust Remembrance Day. And so on. If everyone is silent except the ones chanting, “Sieg heil,” then yes, silence is consent.

At the same time, when everyone is shouting at the same time, very little gets heard. When the crowd is screaming at you to start screaming, too, it’s hard to think, and impossible to say something more nuanced than “HELL NO.” And sometimes we expend all our energy in screaming, and then it’s hard to feel we have to do something else, such as actually doing something.

So, sometimes thoughtful, reasonable, courageous people don’t say anything in public. This doesn’t mean they’re cowards, and it doesn’t mean they’re complicit. It doesn’t mean they’re privately rooting for evil.

At the same time, sometimes thoughtful, reasonable, courageous people feel like they cannot be silent in public. This doesn’t mean they are smug, shallow, social justice warriors who are only in it for the applause.

If it’s wrong to demand that Every0ne Use the Hashtag Now Or Else You Are the Problem, it’s also wrong to demand that Everyone Shut Up Because We Know Why You’re Flapping Your Useless SJW Lips. We would all do well to give each other a little clearance when something horrible happens. People respond differently to trauma. This is a feature of social discourse, not a bug.

When we demand unanimity — either of speech or of silence — we’re making ourselves weaker, not stronger. When everyone is saying (or refusing to say) the same thing, we’re like a flock of cloned sheep: A single superbug can take us all out, bam.

Of course, all of the above applies to private people. But if it’s your job to speak out, like if you’re the president of the United States, then you have a clear obligation to condemn specific evil acts and specific evil groups, and silence or vagueness is rightly construed as consent. Damn.

But for the rest of us? You could always just split the difference and let your sousaphone do the talking.

God bless the sousaphone man. More like him, please. And more wiggle room for each other, please, as we hash out our response to the intolerable.

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What’s for supper? Vol. 94: Meat the rainbow!

Sorry this post is so long. I just can’t seem to stop talking.

Quick question: Do the photos load up more slowly or look different from usual? I’m trying a slightly different thing. Let me know!

On to the food.

SATURDAY
Birthday party!

It was a beach party, so of course the day started with thunder and downpours. But it cleared up! The rain just chased all the cowards away, so we had the place to ourselves by party time.

It was sort of a Moana party, so we cleaned out the last of the luau decorations and leis from the dollar store. The cake was the Heart of Te Fiti:

Ehh, close enough. If we needed it to restore the life to our island, I would have looked harder for the green sugar.

I tried Wilton food color spray (affiliate link, certified Kosher, not for sale in Catalina Island. Now you know) for the first time. I was terrified of making it like amateurish graffiti, so I didn’t use enough. Will probably try this stuff again if I need to do a sunset cake or an underwater effect. It smelled like chicken noodle soup, though.

I honestly can’t remember what we had for supper. Maybe burgers.

***

SUNDAY
Kids had hot dogs, chips, strawberries and blueberries; we had steak

What happened, see, was we are planning to take the kids to a giant water-and-amusement park this weekend, so we felt okay skipping the county fair this year. But then I had a sudden thought. What if we just went ourselves? 

We do have happy times at the fair, but it’s so exhausting and stressful with a crowd of kids. Without them, there would be no bracelets that cost a million dollars, no emotional agony as one kid sorely regrets squandering his One Food Treat on fried dough instead of cotton candy, no sunburned babies, no panic when kids wander away to check out the goats, no grousing, no exhausted toddlers, no “sorry, you’re still not tall enough to ride this ride,” no throwing up, no dehydration, etc.

None of this:

Just fun! Fun fun fun!

So off we went, and . . . very quickly ran out of things to do. I got some fried pickles. We pretended to consider buying a piglet. We went on the Tilt-a-Whirl, and that was nice, but then Pharaoh’s Fury was horrible. HORRIBLE. Just plain scary, with no delightful terror or exquisite tingle of fear. We just both felt like we were going to die the whole time, which we were, and it went on and on and on as death whistled past our ears and everything familiar and safe careened far, far away. When it was finally over, we staggered over to a bench and just sat there wobbling for a while. Then we gave our tickets to some kid and went to Chili’s.

***

MONDAY
Cilantro lime chicken, rice

A new-to-me recipe from Damn Delicious. It’s supposed to be for the slow cooker, but Fisher quantities didn’t fit in one Crock Pot, and I feel like the Instant Pot slow cooker isn’t hot enough.

I took a “before” picture because it was so pretty, and I wasn’t sure what it would look like cooked:

So I started it out in the IP for a few hours, then put it on high pressure manual for five minutes. I added a little water, because I wasn’t sure if there was enough liquid for the IP, but it would have been better without; it was a little soupy. I shredded the chicken easily with a fork and served it over white rice or wrapped in tortillas.

It was a good combination of flavors and textures, subject to lots of variation. Will definitely make again. Damn Delicious bills this as a make-ahead freezer meal, because you just prep everything and then throw it into the pot all together, and that’s it.

I know it’s tiresome, but it really is true that fresh ingredients make food so much better. Some days I feel very bitter about going to the trouble of those extra steps (usually because I forgot to buy the quickie version), but I’m always glad I did it when it’s time to eat. Fresh lime juice, fresh cilantro, fresh garlic, yaaas. I did use frozen corn, and it was snappy and flavorful.

***

TUESDAY
Deconstructed pork shish kabob, watermelon

Bone-in pork picnic was super cheap, so I bought two, for maybe seven pounds total. I cut the meat off the bone, trimmed the fat, and cubed it, then mixed it up with four sweet peppers, about 16 ounces of halved mushrooms, two red onions, and a few cups of marinade. All the food was cut to the size you’d want for threading it on a skewer.

The marinade: olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, red pepper flakes.

I didn’t have time to let it marinate, but just spread it in a single layer on my two giant sheet pans (which I continue to love. We’ve put them through their paces and they have not warped a bit)

and put them under a hot broiler (one pan at a time, so they could get direct heat) until it was blackened.

Everyone loved it. It wasn’t quite the same as food cooked on the grill, because what is? But it was still delicious.

Definitely making this again. You could easily use bottled Italian dressing for the marinade. Although [irritating ticking noise made with my cheek] fresh ingredients, ya know.

***

WEDNESDAY
Kids had fish tacos, we had Chinese

Our plan was to ditch the kids again (because it’s summer! Adults should have fun in summer, too!) and I’d meet my husband at his office an hour away, and we’d have Indian take-out on a blanket for an outdoor Bollywood movie.

But I had only cleared half my schedule, and realized I’d be a country mouse fighting rush-hour traffic in the city, and then we’d have to go home in separate cars at the end of the night. Too much like dorm life with curfews! So we ditched the kids anyway, and he taught me how to drive stick shift in a parking lot. Our last stick shift lesson was almost twenty years ago. This one went better than the last time, in the same way that . . . well, you’ll just have to supply your own joke about something that was a miserable disaster the first time, but then was fine the second time. Then we got Chinese food (I had hot and sour soup, a dragon roll, and a silly drink called a Fog Cutter) and a little walk and a little drive in the dark. I do love that man.

And I love having kids who can put together a meal at home! They cooked, ate, cleaned up, changed the baby, and organized tooth brushing before we got back. IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU. All you need is five teenagers.

***

THURSDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, hot pretzels

I was completely wiped out by dinner time, so I asked the kids to deal with it. It seems I forgot to buy extra bread for sandwiches, so dinner was on the feeble side. Oh, well. We were supposed to have string beans from the garden, but nobody felt like picking them except for the really incompetent ones.

***

FRIDAY
I think spaghetti.

***
And it’s time to start thinking about last hurrah of summer meals! Or maybe special eclipse meals. Or Perseid meals. Whatcha got?

Chasing pleasures and chasing God

All licit pleasures can lead us to God. All licit pleasures can prepare us to enjoy the eternal presence of God. That is what pleasure is for: to teach us, to form us, to remind us of what we once knew before our forefather Adam brought darkness and distance and forgetfulness between us and our creator. It is perverse to try to prolong pleasure past its purpose. It is profound to try to submerge ourselves in the source of all pleasure.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly here.

Photo by Katya Austin on Unsplash

We’re still running! A Couch to 5K update

Back in April, I wrote about the Couch to 5K program, which aims to transform sedentary people into runners. Seems like time for a little update.

We did complete the program. We’re still running, and we don’t intend to stop. I mean, we stop and go home and have lunch and stuff, but we haven’t let a single week go by without running, and most weeks, we run three, four, or five times. Today, we ran 2.5 miles, which is the longest distance we’ve done together.

I know. That’s not 5K! Well, when you get close to the end of the Couch to 5K program, it starts giving you the option of running for a certain distance or a certain time, and we always chose time (I think it ends at 31 minutes of running), falling short of the suggested distance. Once the program was over, we focused on keeping up the habit of running regularly, rather than upping the ante. Some weeks, being sick and busy, it was a struggle to get a mile in three times a week. We just wanted to make sure we didn’t stop just because the program was over.

And we are slow. Slow as hell. But we are gradually increasing the distance we go, and are working our way up to a 5K run in the fall, when it will be cooler. In New Hampshire, there is no such thing as a flat route, so we always end up trotting up and down, here and there, on dirt, on pavement, on gravel, and on grass, and some of the hills are killers. There are frogs and flaming orange salamanders in the road, and turkeys and turkey buzzards angrily launch themselves into the air as we pass, because we are annoying. We talk about the kids and politics and sex and what will become of us all, and what we want to have for supper. Occasionally we have a little fight as we run. Sometimes, I’m wheezing and gasping, and I just focus on not stopping or throwing up. Other times, it’s fluid and almost euphoric, and I feel like I could go forever. The weird thing is, it’s very hard to predict what kind of run it will be.

It’s far, far easier to run before 10 a.m., when it’s shady, the air is dry, and there’s a little breeze. Humidity makes running awful. But nothing feels better than being done with a run and knowing that, whatever else happens that day, you didn’t quit.

After we finished the program and proved to ourselves that we’re sticking with this thing, we bought ourselves some new shoes. We went to an athletic store, where they measured our feet, watched us walk and run, talked about our routine, and then gave us a variety of suitable shoes to try.

I settled on a pair of New Balance shoes (W860PG7, if you’re interested- see photo at top). They’re not too stiff or heavy, but are much more structured than the Walmart $15 pair I had been using. They are nice and wide, which I need for my feet that have splayed out after being barefoot and pregnant for almost twenty years. They don’t feel all that much different when I’m actually running, but my feet feel perfectly fine the rest of the day, which is amazing. With my crummy shoes, my feet were always sore, and sometimes I felt stabbing pains in my soles. These NB shoes have a pretty firm medial post, which apparently keeps my feet from pronating, or rolling inward, which makes your arches collapse or something. I wasn’t really listening, but it sounded bad.

The shoe people noticed similar issues with my husband’s feet, and he chose Nike Air Zoom Structure 20s. His feet feel better while he’s actually running, and he has less trouble with his ankles and knees during the day.

Each pair cost over $100, which kind of knocked the air out of me; but we figured we were paying partly for the guidance; and also we don’t spend any other money on running. We just run, and want to keep running. So it’s cheaper than a gym membership, and cheaper than physical therapy from running in crap shoes.

Other observations: Don’t skip the frickin warm-up, even if you’re in a hurry. Among other benefits, it gets your lungs going, so it’s not a horrible shock when you suddenly launch into a run and can’t breathe.

-If I’m struggling and getting tense and taking short little choppy steps, it’s helpful to think to myself, “Light and loose. Light and loose.” I need to remember to use my whole body and to be as fluid as possible, and that makes it easier to keep going.

-Always go pee one last time before you leave the house, even if you don’t feel like you need to.

We both have bad days and good days, and we don’t always match up; but when we do run, the rest of the day is always better than the days when we don’t run. I find myself thinking it’s reasonable to take the kids to the beach after dinner, rather than just flopping on the couch and turning into upholstery. I try to remember to offer up the run for different people’s intentions.

As I can’t seem to stop mentioning, I’m still pretty fat. I’m just not ready to stop eating mashed potatoes, is what it comes down to. But I feel so much more confident. My back never hurts anymore. I sleep well most nights, instead of almost never. My knees and other joints, despite everyone’s dire warnings, feel fine. My husband and I are alone together for over half an hour three times a week. And nothing, nothing, beats that feeling of starting something hard and scary and keeping at it until it starts to feel easy.

Yep, we’re gonna keep running.

Cash in on curvy before the bubble pops!

Listen! Did you hear that? It was the floopy sound of body fat peaking as a social issue. In about ten social media minutes (which is the equivalent of forty dog years. Unless they are dogs who know how to surf. Then it about evens out), not even grad students blogging in pale yellow letters with a black background are going to want to talk about fatness anymore. Quick, while it’s still a tiny bit trendy, let’s cash in and corner that curvy market.

Okay, maybe it’s a rounded corner. Which is every bit as beautiful as right angles. Every. Bit.

Here are my ideas, and you can have ’em:

Curvy Spirituality I don’t know what it is, but it will make a million dollars. The gift pack comes encased in a pink naugahyde binder with a little inflation valve so you can Plus Size Your Blessings™. Other possibilities: a Biblical cookbook expansion pack. From Eden’s Fruit to Ezekiel’s Poop Cakes: Salivating Your Way Through Salvation History. Something something milk and honey. I dunno, this needs some work. You’re smart, you’ll figure it out.

Beach Towel Bellio. It’s like a little patio for your belly, see? You want to lie down on your side on the beach like all the normals, but your belly floops over the edge of the towel and gets all gritty in the sand because you just had to listen to your husband and get a tankini, which does come with high-waisted bottoms but which is not magic. No bueno!

Well, no más. Just affix the terry cloth Bellio (believe it or not, that name has not been trademarked yet. I checked) to your beach towel with the velcro tabs (included), spread out your accommodating new Bellio, and your tummy stays comfy and dry, at least until someone accidentally steps on it. Bellio is not responsible for stepped-on bellies.

BMI Bechdel Test. I guess this could be an app or something. If you want to bring in that coveted demographic of females size 18-32, your movie must include at least one woman with pants size in double digits, and, if she is in a relationship with a man, his attitude toward her pants size must not be featured as a major part of his character development. Seriously, he doesn’t get any medals for being in the same room with the gal sporting a bra extender.

Also he can’t be gay. Nice try, loopholers.

Curvy Music. Again, I don’t know what it is, but I know people would buy it. If there’s a market for German Reggae and Horror Country, then there’s a market for Curvy . . .

You know what, just stop everything and listen to this German Reggae.

Is . . . is that a dulcimer?

Curvy Barbies. Oh, wait, we already have these. Everyone was very enthusiastic about them last year, because these dolls were going to Fix Our Daughters. Right after they were done being fixed by playing with dolls that shriek, “STEM is cool!” every time you pat them on the ass.

So I was at the Walmart yesterday with some time to kill, and what did I see on the clearance rack? Rank upon rank of Curvy Barbies, all proudly hippy, all sporting thighs that were physically capable of supporting a torso, all tarted up just as whorishly as their rail-thin sisters, all beaming mindlessly into the stratosphere . . . and all unsold.

Dammit, I think I missed the wave. Hold me! Comfort me! No, not like that! Bring me some sour cream, you fool.

***
***
Image: decal on Amazon. Please do not buy this decal.

Mite makes right

There’s a reason treasure is more popular than pennies.

But woe to me if I keep on being snarky to someone who is trying hard to make amends, trying hard to be a better person. I wouldn’t smack a coin out of the hand of a widow who’s being as generous as she can be, and I shouldn’t despise a message like the one I got. I should, in fact, follow his example.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image by Erica Zabowski via Flickr (Creative Commons)

What’s for supper? Vol. 93: Bei mir bist du shwarm

In which I cook and complain my way through another week. Join me, won’t you?

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips

Saturday seems like so long ago, and yet the week flew by. Good thing I wrote down meals so there’s some evidence the week even existed.

Speaking of which, have I told you lately how much it helps to have a meal plan blackboard? I’m not the super organized type [the universe chuckles mirthlessly, choking back a sob of agreement], but I lurve my blackboard menu. I have one similar to this one hanging in my kitchen. Some days, there is no more wonderful feeling than lifting up your eyes and seeing right there in black and white what you’re supposed to be doing. One damn thing settled, anyway.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken shawarma, grilled baby eggplant

This meal never fails. We usually use this recipe from the New York Times and cook boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the oven. (Note: If you want to save a NYT recipe, copy it for your records now! You only get a certain number of free views, and you’ll definitely want to return to this one repeatedly.) I set the meat marinating, and then we went to the beach, where the water is clear as clear can be, the salamanders are plentiful, and everything is nice.

It’s a pond at the peak of a series of hills, so I suppose the water is all fresh and new.

This time, for the shawarma, we used the same marinade but cooked bone-in thighs with skin on the grill. The marinade didn’t permeate the meat as much as it does when it’s skinless, of course, but it was a reasonable trade-off, as the skin was fabulous.

We also cooked up the red onions from the marinade.

We may have told the kids to go sit down for dinner and then stood out by the grill sopping up marinade with pita bread for a good ten minutes while the chicken “finished cooking.”

We served it with pita bread, four kinds of olives, feta cheese, cucumbers, a variety of tomatoes, and yogurt quivering with crushed garlic, lemon juice, and fresh parsley.

This is one of those meals where, if you were an ancient Roman elite guy and you were rich and happy and well-respected and you just ate the shawarma, you’d start to think about warm baths and sharp blades, because it’s all downhill from here.

I am fun!

We had these cute little baby eggplants. It says on the internet that baby eggplant skin is tender enough to eat, but it kind of wasn’t. We sliced it pretty thick (the long way, so it wouldn’t fall through the grill. We need one of those veg basket things), then brushed it with olive oil and sprinkled on salt and pepper, and put them on the grill.

Not bad, not ravishing. Looking at the eggplants, that was ravishing.

Impudent strumpets.

***

MONDAY
Chicken nuggets, broccoli

I chose an easy dinner because Monday night was ANNUAL OPERA AND FANCY SNACK NITE!! Last summer, we showed the kids Don Giovanni, which we all, even the illiterate ones, enjoyed immensely. I really wanted them to see The Marriage of Figaro, but it seemed like we should watch The Barber of Seville First. We set up a free trial of Met Opera On Demand. I dunno, I almost fell asleep. Rosina could go suck an egg. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for a bunch of people fussing over letters. Anyway, we assembled fancy crackers and an assortment of cheeses (brie, sharp cheddar, some kind of herbed gouda or something, and some honey goat cheese), mini eclairs, rolled chocolate wafers, and cherries and strawberries. This is where Aldi really shines.

Look how cultured:

The kids enjoyed the opera more than I did, so that was a win. But I want to watch The Marriage of Figaro next! Or Carmen. I’ve never seen Carmen.

***

TUESDAY
Pizza

Tuesday escapes me. I imagine we were running around.

***

WEDNESDAY
Chicken pesto pasta salad

I had high hopes for enchiladas on Wednesday, so I started some pork in the slow cooker with a can of Coke, half a jar of jalapenos, about six cloves of minced garlic, a chopped onion, salt, pepper, and maybe some chili powder. It cooked allllll day and smelled better and better and better, but then I had to go run 2.3 miles, do some writing, do an interview for SiriusXM radio, drive some kids to work and appointments, finish writing in the library, go home, and drag a washing machine, a TV, and a bunch of demolished cabinets to the dump (and got some dump mugs!), and then I realized I had promised to take four kids out for haircuts. So there was No Time For Enchiladas.

Instead, I poached about five chicken breasts, then cubed them and mixed the chicken up with bowtie pasta, olive oil, chopped fresh basil, minced garlic, a ton of parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and some jarred pesto sauce just to help it along, because we all need a little help.

Tasted more interesting than it looks. Oh, pesto, you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind.

***

THURSDAY
Pork enchiladas, chips and salsa

All Thursday, the spicy pork howled and clamored from the fridge to be brought forth into new life as enchiladas, and it would not be denied. So fine, I dragged out the meat and shredded it onto a shallow pan, then browned it up until it was a little crisp under the broiler.

I more or less followed Pioneer Woman’s instructions for enchiladas, dipping both sides of the tortillas in warm sauce, then rolling them up with meat, cheese, and onions, and topping them with more sauce, cheese, green onions, chili powder, and tomatoes. I made some with red enchilada sauce and some with green, and served it with sour cream. Probably the green onions would have been better added after the enchiladas cooked, ooops. They were still divine.

A little gummy on the ends, but who isn’t?

***

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

I’ll probably use this Instant Pot recipe for mac and cheese from Copy Kat recipes. It’s not anyone’s favorite, but it’s so very easy.

I’ll tell you what, I worked too freaking hard this week, and I am pigzausted. That’s like exhausted, but pig. So much running around, so many appointments and shows and concerts and trips and extra jobs and trotting back and forth and back and forth like a wind-up toy. I think I’ll declare next week lump it or leave it week. Frozen burritos all around, and keep ’em coming.

I kinda look pregnant, and I kinda don’t care.

Warning: Lady essay ahead.

Today, while we were running, I asked my husband, “Okay. Do I look pregnant?”

He got that blissful expression on his face that husbands get when their wives ask neutral and in-no-way-dangerous questions like this. I added, to ease up on the poor guy a bit, “Sometimes. In some clothes. Do I?” And he said, “Yes.”

Message me for our address, so you can mail him his medal for courage.

And then he told me how beautiful I am, and how much progress I’ve made since we started running. Which is true, and which I expected him to say. The thing that surprised me was how little it hurt to hear him say that I look pregnant.

I gave birth to our tenth child almost two and a half years ago. I had a bad year last year and gained a bunch of weight, and now I’m working on losing some of it. I’m running several times a week, eating less, and correcting a lot of bad habits and bad attitudes surrounding food. But I have this solid, poochy belly. I see people glancing at it, wondering if I’m pregnant again, and I don’t blame them.

I guess I have diastasis recti, or separated abdominal muscles. All those little unborn savages weren’t content to eat all my nutrients, suck the calcium out of my teeth, permanently jack up my hips, and turn my brain into gruel; they had to tear apart my muscles from the inside, too! The ingrates! And now they want a ride to the library!

There are special exercises you can do to heal your diastasis recti. They’re not terribly hard. I’m already in the habit of exercising, so it wouldn’t be that difficult to do some abdomen work. But I just, deep in the heart of me, don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like I need to be “healed” of having a poochy abdomen. It’s not that I’m proud of my belly. I’m not big into that “Yeah, bay-bee, I EARNED these tiger stripes and if you don’t say my stretch marks are BEAUTIFUL than you are RAPING MY SELF WORTH and I WON’T LET THAT HAPPEN DO YOU HEAR ME?” stuff.

At the same time, every cell in my body, every corner of my soul utterly lacks the motivation to make it appear that I haven’t had ten children. I don’t enjoy being a fatty. But there are so many worse things I could be. I could hate my body, or be filled with self-loathing, or feel that I don’t deserve love because I’m a size 18. And I don’t do any of that. I’m taking care of myself, and I feel pretty good.

This is by no means a condemnation of women who are working hard to get back into pre-baby shape. I think you ladies are amazing. I will freely admit I’m mostly just too lazy to even look up the exercises, much less do them faithfully. I don’t think there’s anything morally superior about leaving my tired muscles alone, and I don’t think that losing belly fat is a sign of self-hatred. For some women, taking on the challenge of getting back to pre-baby shape is the right thing for their mental health, maybe even for their spiritual growth. Maybe they just want to look nicer. Yay, ladies! I’m sincerely impressed!

But for me, at age 42, married almost twenty years, sending the first two kids off to college . . . I’m moving on to the next stage of my life. Where I am, it just doesn’t seem important to erase all evidence of the previous stage of my life. I had a bunch of babies; I look like I had a bunch of babies. So what? I’ll buy brighter lipstick and go out anyway.

Check back with me in a couple of weeks, and I’ll probably be all teary and desperately scrolling through shape wear reviews. Right now, though, I feel kind of like a moderately strong, moderately attractive, moderately confident woman who doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about belly fat. It feels pretty good.

I’m sharing this because maybe you don’t have anyone in your life telling you that it’s not the end of the world to be fat. So here I am telling you: It’s not!

Dems Ditch Pro-choice Litmus Test; Secret Thoughts of Many Laid Bare

Well, that’s probably wishful thinking on both counts. We’ll see if it’s really true that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will now be willing to support pro-life democratic candidates. Yesterday,

Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) said there will be no litmus tests for candidates as Democrats seek to find a winning roster to regain the House majority in 2018.

“There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates,” said Luján, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman. “As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America.”

I’m under no illusion that there will be a sudden, widespread softening of hearts toward the unborn in the Democratic party. This is pure strategy. They finally figured out that they’ll never get Congress back if they don’t at least crack the door for pro-lifers. (I could have told them that twelve years ago, but I’m just a voter in a swing state, so who listens to me?) They’re not even pretending there is some kind of actual ideological shift. They’re just trying to keep up with the tide.

Pro-choice dems are already furious at this softening of the DCCC stance,  predictably. For many Democrats, abortion truly is the holy grail, and if you compromise on abortion, then you’re treyf.

But guess what? Republicans are also furious, because their free meal ticket is suddenly not their exclusive property. I’ve long since shed the illusion that the Republican leadership is rife with tenderness and compassion toward the unborn. “Vote for me or the baby gets it,” as Mark Shea frequently puts it, has been a quick ticket to success for republicans for decades now. All a republican candidate has to do is say, “I’m kinda pro-life, and the other guy isn’t,” and good-hearted Catholics and evangelicals will believe (and tell others) they have a moral obligation to vote for him, and will turn a blind eye to every other hideous personal and ideological flaw that would normally be intolerable in a paperboy, never mind a governor, a congressman, or president.

If Republicans were truly pro-life, they’d all be rejoicing at the idea that Democrats are rejiggering their platform to let in even the possibility of more pro-life representatives.

But they’re all . . . not. LifeNews reprinted a column that gives a pretty balanced assessment of the dem strategy and reactions from the left so far; but the comments on social media are filled with mockery and jeers. “Yeah, right! Don’t fall for their LIES!!!” We’re too smart to vote for some lying politician just because they say they’re pro-life!

Yeah, right, indeed. We’re too smart for that.

Meanwhile, as Fr. Pavone bids us “rejoice” in our “pro-life victories” following the 2016 election, Planned Parenthood is still fully funded, and it’s only sheer incompetence that’s saved Medicaid, the go-to source of prenatal care for poor women and their unborn children, from being axed by a “pro-life” Congress. Hoo-ray, we have a conservative on the Supreme Court. So far, he’s oh-so-pro-lifely refuse to stay the execution of eight guys who had to be executed right away for the very serious reason that the lethal injection drug was about to expire, so.  Even LifeSiteNews is not terribly impressed at Gorsuch, who was not so long ago touted as the reason Catholics not only can but must vote for Trump. (I actually like Gorsuch; but I liked Merrick Garland, too. Remember, SC justices aren’t supposed to be pro-life or pro-choice; they’re supposed to be pro-Constitution.)

The part I’m interested in is twofold:

First, I want to see just how many Democrats really are pro-life, even a little bit, but they haven’t felt free to say so. I know there are some, and I know they’ve been treated like crap for far too long. I expect to see more of it among young up-and-comers, because young people in general are increasingly pro-life. Decades of 4D sonograms’ll do that to you, I guess.

Second, I want to see just how many Republican voters will suddenly recall they care deeply about other issues besides abortion. I cannot count how many times during the election I heard: “Abortion is the only issue that matters. I’m a one-issue voter. If a candidate even just says he’s pro-life, then I have to vote for him, no matter what else he says or does.  And you also have to, or I’m telling your bishop.”

This is why we got Trump: Because he was smart enough to flick the pro-life worm right into the spot where all the conservatives were biting, and then he reeled them in, easy peasy, no actual action necessary. Throw ’em in the cooler, flick again.

So what happens when Democrats are allowed to say they’re pro-life, eh? Will that be enough for Christian voters, since it was enough when Trump was the candidate? Will they say, “Well, this democratic candidate is spouting all kinds of crap that I find personally repugnant, but he says he’s pro-life, and the other guy isn’t, so I guess I have to vote for him“?

We’ll see.

Maybe I’m just dreaming here, but if the Democrats will eventually maybe be allowed to admit that some of them are not crazy about infant dismemberment, will it eventually come about that our Republican overlords will feel more free to admit that some of them care just as little about unborn babies as they do about post-womb babies?

The renegade numbers are small on both sides. I get that. Most dems do harbor pro-choice ideas as a core part of their beliefs, and most republicans do feel pretty strongly that murder is wrong. But there is a hell of a lot less purity in both parties than we’ve been led to believe.

I am a conservative. I’m no longer a Republican, but by every sane and rational measurement, I am a conservative. If you think I’m crazy to say so, you need to make friends with the late William F. Buckley (if you can make him stop spinning in his grave long enough), or my pal Winston Churchill, because you MAGAs don’t even know what a conservative is.

I and most of my truly conservative friends haven’t had the luxury of voting for someone we actually believe in for years and years and years. Could it be that, maybe in the next election, or the next one after that, we’ll be allowed to assess and elect a candidate based on his individual principles and merits?

All I want is someone I can vote for without dying inside. I’ll probably never get it. But if we’re moving toward an era when “pro-life” or “pro-choice” lose their magical power to summon campaign funds and principled votes, then maybe at least we’ll see who really believes in what, and why.