Friday, March 30, 2012

I Am A Catholic: Ridicule Me

Washington D.C. played the host of last week's "Reason Rally" on March 24, 2012. The Rally gathered atheists and agnostics from around the nation. Its sole purpose: to mock religion and its beliefs.
Headlining the rally was Richard Dawkins, a renowned British anti-religious advocate. The following paragraph is a part of his speech to a reported 20,000 people on the National Mall (significantly around 180,000
people less than are present for the March for Life, a significantly less publicized national event.)

“Religion makes specific claims about the universe which need to be substantiated, and need to be challenged – and if necessary, need to be ridiculed with contempt.”

Later, he told the crowd to ask a religious person to express their faith, saying:

“For example, if they say they're Catholic: Do you really believe, that when a priest blesses a wafer, it turns into the body of Christ? Are you seriously telling me you believe that? Are you seriously saying that wine turns into blood?”

“Mock them,” he told the crowd. “Ridicule them! In public!”

The crowd cheered uproariously.
This is sad.
How can any one say that a person should be mocked and ridiculed simply because of their religious beliefs? How can people cheer for that?
When Mel Gibson publicly made comments that mocked and ridiculed the Jewish people, the media scolded him.
When troops in the United States army burned copies of the Qu'ran, President Barack Obama himself apologized to the Muslim religion.
When Richard Dawkins singles out the Catholic belief (no other religion is specifically mentioned throughout his speech) and calls for the American people to mock and ridicule the Catholic belief in the Eucharist and says it all on the National Mall, the very site where Dr. Martin Luther King called for equal treatment of all men, people cheered.
It reminds me of another famous speech in which a man called for the subhuman treatment of Jews in Germany. Many rallies were held on the site of this speech, and later, laws would be written in order to repress the Jewish people and would be named for the site. The Nuremberg Laws gave a legal definition of what a Jewish person was and then redefined rights for a Jewish person, who was considered a subhuman second-class citizen.
As many of you know, the Obama Administration has recently passed the Health and Human Services Mandate requiring all organizations, regardless of religious beliefs, to supply their employees with contraceptives. To the Catholic Church, this is a crucial blow to one of its beliefs. And although President Obama himself gave a speech promising to accommodate the beliefs of religion, the law has not been changed. I know; I have read the entire thing. The only change states that the insurance company will supply the contraceptives. However, this accommodation is flawed because the Catholic Church will still be paying for the insurance companies to provide contraceptives. It is a sneaky, bureaucratic method that breaks the second amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America and suspends the rights of Catholics across the nation.
The law will begin to be enforced in August of 2013. If, by that time, the law is not changed, then I will become a second-class citizen of the United States of America, suspended of my right to religious liberty; a right that is upheld by the same Constitution as an inalienable human right.
Reason can affirm this: The suspension of my inalienable human rights makes me subhuman.
I am a human.
I am an American.
I am a Catholic.
But for how much longer?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Round 3

I'm sure some of you were wondering about my post yesterday and how this had to do with anything that Above the Norm stands for, besides the obvious laugh or two. Even God enjoys a good laugh. And that's something I realized.
As I sat in the back, holding a gauze pad soaked in some dosage of chemicals to my head, I couldn't help but laugh. Here's why.
I love scars. I think they're cool. I have several noticeable ones.
The first one, chronologically, came when I was eight or nine years old and fell off a cliff I was climbing in a creek. Given, I was only about twelve feet off the ground, but I feel directly on my knee, splitting the skin in two places on a jagged rock.
The second one is actually less visible. When I was eleven, a frisbee hit me in the mouth and cracked a front tooth in half. The other half was replaced with plastic, and so the scar is more like an odd shading in the lower left half of my front tooth.
The third one is my right index finger which was sliced 9 centimeters deep by a meat slicer, and, due to a poor stitching job, remains quite disfigured.
And now, the fourth, being my head wound.
In between them lie many burn scars from flat-top grills, ovens, and frying oil, several cut scars from kitchen knives, and four small points in my left arm that are, ironically, match the position of four fork prongs...which, again ironically, was the weapon that inflicted them. (One of my best friends and one of the best drummers I know is somewhere laughing about a simple accident that has since become legendary.)
But what is my point?
We all have our scars. Some physical, some mental, some emotional. Some even spiritual. Most of us have some in all of these areas.
But that's only all the more reason to help each other heal from these scars, some of them still fresh enough to be called wounds. I know that whenever I've had wounds, my family and friends have been there to support me. And I've seen my family and friends support many others. I've seen my father support many of his friends who come into his restaurant, and they in turn support us. My father once told me that a man's character can never be replaced by money, which is why no man is ever forced into poverty, and that a man's character is always worth more than money, which is what makes a man rich. (Or, at least, something along those lines.)
I've seen some of the richest men in the world, and I have experienced their support, kindness, and ability to super-glue a man's head together. And I know my father is one of the richest men I've ever known because of this.
I laughed in that back room because I realized that while I was hurt, I was no longer hurting. Not really.
Christ had his scars. Many of them in his head, pierced not by window panes, but thorns. I have one piercing in my head; he had dozens. I have a cut in one finger; he had two holes in both hands. I think we often underestimate just how much the Son of God was scarred by our sins. But also underestimate His power to bestow upon all mankind the grace that is needed to support one another in both healing wounds of the past and protecting from wounds in the future.
May God bless and heal all of our scars, and may He grant us the grace to aid one another.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Round 2

As some of you may know, last June I was caught up in an unfortunate incident involving a finger, a belligerent fish monger, and a meat-slicer (only there was really no fish monger.) Shortly thereafter, said finger was stitched back together. However, it was stitched misfortunately so, and thus doth my right ring finger appear jagged and misshapen.
I am currently sitting in the office of my dad's restaurant, the Madison Diner (home to the best Bean Soup in the Midwest), with super glue holding my head together.
Yes. I, Sebastian Misleh, not one year after the last incident, and not even six months since having broken a finger while fighting a piano (I won), have experienced a whole new method of laceration repairs.
But Sebastian, why do you have super glue on your head?
A good question, my good fellow. Allow me to explain.
This morning, I pulled in to work at precisely 7:05 AM. It was still rather dark outside, and there were no lights shining in my direction. As I shut the door to my car and turned the corner, I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my head. I realized that I had smashed my head into the sharp, metal corner of the window panes that open outwards. However, the pain increased as I felt the warmth of blood pour down my face and begin to drip onto my glasses. My first thought: I am not going to the hospital and paying too much money for a poor stitching job. I remained affirmed in my conviction for the remainder of the day.
I rushed inside, and saw my father sitting at the counter. Upon seeing me, he knew what had happened, and we quickly cleaned up the wound. It was rather deep, and even though it did not necessarily hurt a great deal, it just kept bleeding. Within about fifteen minutes, we had got the bleeding down and bandaged it. I continued to work while trying to figure out what we would do.
And then, he entered.
Rob Radford, boxing trainer extraordinaire, and a good friend of my father. He had taught us how to box, and it was at his gym where we used to box. Upon hearing the story, he explained that although he had some one to go train, he would be back within several hours and would bring his "kit."
So, as a fitting end to the story that I was brutally attacked by a window pane, and although I eventually beat it into submission, it left me greatly scarred (that is what happened), Rob cleaned me up, stuck some iodine and other such fun stuffs into the gash, and then super-glued the wound shut.
Wow, Sebastian. Sounds like you've had a rough time.
No. Not at all. I did good work with my dad today, fed some people, defeated a malevolent window pane, thereby ridding the world of one more great evil, and then proceeded to glue my head back together in traditional boxing style (check off the ol' bucket list.)
And I didn't go to the hospital and get stitches.
Round 2, victory.
Ready for Round 3!
(But don't tell my mom that.)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The King Has Returned

I know what some of you might be thinking. King returning? Oh, dear. He's doing a Return of the King post...
HA! Wrong.
So, I was recently watching Disney's epic "The Lion King" with my little brothers. And you know what I realized? This movie means more to society, specifically men, than we might first realize. Allow me to explain.
Men look up to their fathers. I know I did. My father has always been a model of a good man for me; a Mufasa, if you will. But what about when the father is taken out of the picture?
Simba looks up to his father, and honestly, Disney's portrayal of a good father/son relationship is quite poignant and moving. Even more so when his father is taken from him.
How many sons have grown up without a father? How many sons have suffered at the lack of a father-figure, a true man? And how many sons have run away from their true destiny to be true men, to be kings?
Simba runs away from his past, most noticeably, the loss of his father. The idea that it was his fault because he couldn't be man enough to protect and save his father. The lie that he is weak is fed to him in the worst way imaginable. And he believes it.
Many men of the world have run away from their problems. Men run away from their families, just as their fathers have run away from them. Men run away from the truth of human nature, specifically sexuality: that men are meant to be strong. But it is hard. No one said it would be easy. And so, men run. Oddly enough, they run away from their "problems" into the real problem: the lie that sex is for pleasure alone, and that it is easy.
Now, Simba certainly doesn't run to such an escape. In fact, his escape is simply a life of worry-free luxury, no responsibility. But isn't that what many men do with their sexuality? No responsibility?
Anyway, Simba is suddenly thrown into a change of heart when his heart is, indeed, captivated by Nala. As a true woman should, Nala encourages and even challenges Simba to take back his responsibility, his throne, his manhood.
Can we all admit for a second that the right woman can change everything? Their powers of attraction are unrivaled in the world of men, and so when used rightly, the right woman can take the right man down the right path in an extraordinary way.
And so, the change in Simba's heart is sparked. But he is still hesitant. There is still another wound that no woman can heal. Simba must confront his past and, in doing so, the loss of his father.
Even for men who have never lost their father, or who have been raised by great fathers, this idea is a constant. No one's father is perfect, and even though a father can show a son the door to true manhood, the son must open it.
And so, Simba opens it. After realizing that he is a reflection of his father, Simba realizes that in order to rightly respect his father, to continue the legacy of good men, Simba must return and confront his past.
Scar is, in many ways, the embodiment of every man's greatest fear: that there is some one greater than him. Simba believes that his father's death is his own fault, thus making Scar more worthy of the throne. It is only when he sees that Scar's "greatness" rests in lies that Simba realizes the lies he has followed are just as evil.
Men follow the lie that their sexuality is weak. Not nearly as great as the next man. Men forget their manhood. It is only those men who do confront it that know the truth. That they have remembered who they are. It is then that Simba realizes the truth in his father's words.

"You have forgotten me. You have forgotten who you are, and so forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the circle of life. Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one, true king. Remember who you are."

If only more men heard these words from their fathers. Or from their Father.
After Simba defeats his past, defeats Scar, he assumes the throne on pride rock (to epic music, might I add.) Simba shows his glory by declaring to his pride that his glory, his "pride" (therein lies the irony) rests not in him, but in his father.
When will we men be able to show with true humility that our glory rests not in ourselves, but in Our Father?
I do believe that there are good men out there who have heard these words spoken by Our Father and have returned to themselves.
All men can learn a lesson from Simba. A true man, a true king, is only as much a man, as much a king, as he is ready to be a man for the right reasons. For love of people, for love of family, and for love of God.
Remember who you are.