Good Morning, Italy, freed for what?

This is pretty much another political rant, because I see a lack of knowledge surroundings some situations and patience was never one of my virtues. Today (25th of April) is a bank holiday in Italy, celebrating the Allied forces liberating Italy from the Nazi occupation in WWII. It’s a contentious holiday, seen by some on the right as having been hijacked with partisan concerns, but mostly a day when those living at the borders flood to Swiss shopping centers for a good designer bargain they can try and claim to have been bought in Via Montenapoleone unless you bump into someone you know doing exactly the same as you.

However, if only this was the worst thing I could say about Milan! Times have changed since I have last set foot in the city and not just its airports.
It is with great disconcert that I have watched certain factions of the Leave vote in the UK (namely, the opposite side of the spectrum from the globalist moderates like myself) begin to take notice of one of the joint deputy Prime Minister of Italy, whose party has moved from anti-South feelings to anti-EU ones with surprising agility, to the point that people actually voted League in the South. On the surface, he appears no more damaging than Nigel Farage, a demagogue perhaps, but whose biggest damage would be another dent in the EU armour, and arguably not quite as big as the UK’s one.
This is not, unfortunately, the full story: first of all, he is far less innocuous than the British populist leader (who, himself, many would say is not innocuous at all).

A lot of the Brexit discourse in the UK has been revolving around the dismantling of the accusation that Leavers are racists: there are genuine arguments that uncontrolled immigration without infrastructures keeping up with the numbers has affected people, and if the rhetoric has at times been borderline or downright problematic, and if actual racists have been involved in the campaign, it is more like an occupational hazard than the desired outcome. The internal battle for the official Leave campaign is an indication of this. Still, there is a reticence to give much space to people who have any affiliations, however remote, with parties like the BNP. While research has found a limited degree of support for some of their policies over the years, as soon as they were declared as such, the support dropped. Other similar parties, get a few people rallied for a march every now and then but have no real shot to power.

That is not the case for Italy, where two representatives of the biggest party have praised known fascist groups in an alleged alliance over the elections in Lombardy (Borghezio and Bastoni, if you’re wondering). Events and marches have been organised around the date, and monuments to victims of fascism have been desecrated. Just earlier today, a banner appeared at one of these marches in Piazzale Loreto in Milan: “Honour to Benito Mussolini”. The Nazi salute seems to have made an appearance once again too (as it has done at all these various protests, a number of them at the center of petitions for the right to take place). A march commemorating the 100th anniversary of fascism has taken place, and a group in SS uniforms joined a parade for the feast of Liberation and was met with the comment that it was giving people a more comprehensive view of the history. A regional organiser for one of the many neo-fascist groups (Casapound) has been arrested on charges of attempted murders in Genoa. I could have linked all the articles in question but they are all in Italian, and if you can speak Italian they are all the results that come up in various tags on Il Fatto Quotidiano, which is (love it or loathe it) an independent newspaper not funded through any public money, which doesn’t have much partisanship except perhaps a tinge of that radical chic anti-establishment attitude that comes so naturally to the Italians.

As a person on the right (as of the latest political quiz, a “kind young capitalist”), I feel pretty “homeless” when it comes to voting in Italian elections: while I am most aligned with the UDC, the nature of Italian elections requiring coalitions means that a vote for them ends up as a vote for parties I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole. It’s pretty grim that there is no true political centre, especially at a time when the extremes are winning the argument. I have thought about whether to ever go back and bring with me the lessons of being involved in a moderate conservative party in a country that values freedom so much, and who knows what the future brings. For now, I can only lament the loss of those who, like my family, fought against a monster which is rising from the ashes like a dark phoenix. Meanwhile, I live in a world that throws the accusation of fascism around with hardly any thought to what it all really meant, and what a real resurgence looks like, and I just want the world to stop so I can get off.

Continue Reading

5 decisive issues in US Politics at present

Focused image of the incipit of the US constitution

British politics seems to be really divisive at the minute, but we are in good company. To distract you all from the hundredth Meaningful Vote, I have a little something on US politics. As you know I wrote about US politics before: The US Presidential Elections, The Battle for Liberty, Why America Needs One Nation Conservatism. Today I will look at the issues that I think will be the most decisive in the next election, from observation of the conversations that I see happening around me on Twitter. Believe it or not, I don’t just fangirl around Beto O’Rourke. You may think that’s a bit of an echo chamber and not representative of the wider population, but I still think that what people from all sides say, and what articles they share has a lot to suggest.

The first thing that is under everybody’s eyes is that the Democratic nomination doesn’t seem to be quite as determined as it was the last time around, when a lot of the momentum around Hillary Clinton came from the hopes of seeing a Madam President for the first time. As Michelle Obama enjoys her time as a former first Lady giving talks around her memoir, which I aim to pick up after the Catholic Literary Challenge, and denies ever wanting to try for president herself, the hopes of all women who want their daughters to grow up seeing that their sex doesn’t stop them from being President are revived by the record number of women running for it this time around. With 5 women contending for one nomination, the spectrum of the policies that fall within the Democratic umbrella is pretty wide. With Donald Trump’s approval among women hitting an all-time low, I would not be surprised if the nomination is won by one of them, despite the number of women not voting on identity politics like Susan Sarandon who was a known Bernie Sanders supporter, and probably a chunk that will back the charming young Texan. Whoever wins the nomination, it seems clear that the policy platform will make a difference in who gets the votes in the key places that are not automatically blue, and also the key votes of Republicans who are not happy with Trump.

Healthcare
Stumble upon any thread about the NHS and among the usual suspects you will always find at least one American who wishes they had state healthcare. You will also stumble upon people adamant that if you had such socialist policy the state will control your body and the body of your children, in a great misunderstanding of the law surrounding cases like the late Alfie Evans’. Most people, however, realise that there is a halfway through between the state controlling your life, and people dying because they can’t afford medication.

Gun Control
Parallel to London’s biggest issue at the moment being knife crime, the problem of gun violence in the US is as pressing as it is controversial. There are a lot of different arguments about gun control and it can be hard to get to grips with exactly who believes what when it comes to guns, but this article from USC Price has been helpful to me in wrapping my head around the issue, as well as a friendly chat about the way Chicago tackles it in the Subsidiarity episode of the Good Conversation Podcast. There are sensible arguments (as well as less sensible ones) on both sides, but I tend to err in favour of controls, although I don’t think it will be the only thing needed to fix the broken situation.

Taxes  
As controversial as the previous two issues, one policy that seems to be gaining strength is the idea of taxing the rich. I believe it’s a misguided policy, but there needs to be some work around making society fairer, and getting the right tax system is a part of that. I favour taxation of goods over taxations of earnings and think the luxury tax that was tried and failed to achieve its objectives in the 90s was on the correct trajectory, if not the greatest policy in the way it was formulated.

Gender Politics
Not a day goes by without a polarisation around gender issues, in which many Catholics find themselves in a bit of an awkward position that doesn’t fit with either political programme in full. On the Republican side, most seem to not have major issues with the platform, and many people can be (to an extent) sympathetic to the fear that progressivism for the sake of it can go too far even if they’d never touch the Republican platform with a barge pole. Bringing the Democratic platform away from the concerns of progressive Academia, and focusing more on the day to day concerns of working people (especially at the lower end of the income spectrum) is likely to swing some of the progress made by Trump.

Immigration 
Trump’s money-sucking wall project, and tougher immigration, are one of the reasons why he won in 2016. Many people have been shocked by the excessive harshness of situations at the border, even if they are ideologically in favour of reducing illegal immigration. A compassionate solution to the problem, as well as making sure that the issues perceived as the fault of immigration, but which are bigger than that, get their solutions too. In a strange twist of events I agree with Ocasio-Cortez in a point she made on Twitter recently about international development and the role it plays on immigration numbers.

I’d be interested in hearing from those of you in the US what you think are the issues, how they will evolve in the next year and a half, but also if you are supporting someone in particular and what in their platform excites you. I didn’t have much scope to look at independents and what will those who did not support the biggest opponent but are unhappy with the President do this time. My emails are open for guest posts if that applies to you and you want to share it, or link me your favourite posts by yourself or others. I realise I never write on continental politics (I don’t have much of an audience there), so if you want to see more of that let me know and I will oblige.

Continue Reading

How Christians can change politics

Five people fist-bumping

My original post idea for this prompt (Cooperation) was joint discipleship, so it is ironic that I am scrambling to post this late on the 2nd day of the Word on Fire Digital Summit, while I catch up with the videos for Day 1 still, and my old friend Prof Stephen talking about ex-Catholics as the topic of the conference is evangelising the unaffiliated. Joint discipleship is a concept that spans across denominations, but in the Catholic Church it’s usually seen as part of what marriage is: apart from the prayer partners in the Blessed is She prayer pledges, you usually hear about walking the walk together as a couple. The person you marry is responsible to help you and not hinder you from getting to heaven. I’m not the only Catholic who has often felt the lack of an emphasis on fellowship beyond religious communities and small groups at retreats. There is a heavy emphasis on individual piety, and often a Catholic prayer group ends up being people doing individual devotions (like the rosary or a novena) together as a group. There is little emphasis on walking together when you are not a family, despite the Bible being a story of journeying together. It came as no surprise that a point that makes people leave the Church is the lack of fellowship, and one reason why I am invested in ecumenism and in particular receptive ecumenism (which is about what we can learn from other churches). Our parishes really should consider learning the concept of life groups, and the offer of ministries started by converts is already there ready to be dived into.

In 2018 I have been reading the Bible minus the Deuterocanonical books (which I’m reading now) in a year through the She Reads Truth app, alongside my Anglican boyfriend using the men’s version. It wasn’t just a walk together as a couple, as in fact we rarely did it together, and we even less discussed much of what we read, but the app had accumulated comments over the years which contained prayer requests, questions, and resources in response. While theologically not Catholic, this small thing is a beautiful way to see a Catholic understanding of the Church, as being outside of time. Thanks to technology, I was reading the same passage and praying that the prayers of someone who was in a tricky situation 3 years prior had been answered. It was like having a small group on my iPhone. Cooperation is “the action or process of working together to the same end”, and the Church as the Body of Christ is made of different organs which cooperate for the health and wellbeing of the body. While I rarely felt like I was cooperating, especially when I saw them struggling to understand passages that are obvious in Catholic teachings but did not add a comment, I still felt a sense of walking together. How much more powerful would we be if we took the race we are running not as a marathon where maybe we don’t compete with one another, but still do our own thing and focus on the goal, and instead see it as a race run in a team, where no matter how long it takes to end it, you only win if the whole team gets to the finish line?

Anyway, as the deadline for this post approached, the importance of cooperation became evident in other aspects of life. I haven’t written much about politics lately, but I am slowly recovering from the burnout of the 2017-2018 period and I’ve followed with great interest the events that lead to the creation of the Independent Group. It is a peculiar instance of cooperation on one side and lack of cooperation on another. As 3 Tory MPs have (at time of writing) resigned the whip to join the group, it is a clear example of cooperation in the centre-ground over a non-party-political issue (namely the EU referendum). However, if one looks at the other side of the isle where the majority of member MPs came from, it becomes apparent that there was a lack of cooperation, or perhaps cooperation to the wrong end.  Many people felt strongly enough that there is a problem with antisemitism in the Labour Party, and the leadership did not responded adequately, that they left the party. Still, a lot of the issues faced on the government side have to do with lack of cooperation, and the PM’s understandable but misguided attempt to find a compromise that would make the different factions cooperate for the good of the country, although nobody can really agree on what that good actually is.

While people more and more try to push Christians away from public life, it becomes apparent to me that we are the people best placed to revive the much needed culture of cooperation: we may disagree on how to achieve our goals on earth, but we are united by our faith and its imperative that our end goal is not what policies we can implement, but furthering the coming of the Kingdom of God. This end goal acts as the north on the compass when deciding about policy, and how to achieve a common ground between parties that emphasise different, often opposing, things. At a time when everything seems to boil down to winning the argument, tribalism rules the day, and accusation of treason are thrown around to those who try to bridge the gap, it is as needed as it is countercultural. As Christians are already swimming against the current, maybe it’s time to double down our efforts to clean up the poisoned waters of politics.

Today’s post is part of the Love Blog Challenge on the topic of Cooperation.

Meet your hosts

Brita of Belle Brita

Woman in pink and purple flower dress and white straw hat in front of pink flowers

Brita Long is the pink and sparkly personality behind the Christian feminist lifestyle blog, Belle Brita. On her blog and social media, you’ll discover more than authentic storytelling–she’s brutally honest about pursuing a fulfilling and joyful life even with Crohn’s Disease and depression.

 

 

 

Charlene of Enduring All Things

Woman with purple hair and glasses
Charlene is a 20 something wife and fur-mama living in Portland, Oregon. She’s a follower of Christ, watcher of SciFi, reader of fantasy, singer of show tunes, and lover of her husband! She uses her blog, Enduring All Things to help couples build a marriage that will endure whatever comes their way.

 

 

 


Continue Reading

I Changed My Mind About Feminism

Woman wearing t-shirt saying resilient

In the past, I wrote a post about how, as a white, pro-life woman on the centre-right of politics, I felt that my energy was better spent working for change on the things that matter to me instead of trying to be accepted into a left-wing movement that sees my whole existence as problematic. If you want to read the full thing, you can find it here (On Feminism)However, 3 years on, Gilette released an advert calling for men to stand up against toxic masculinity, and the reaction on the right was that Gilette had embraced PC-culture and that feminism hates men because to them all masculinity is toxic and the fact people equate being a jerk with being masculine is problematic and therefore I changed my mind.

We need right-wing women to be in the movement. People cannot be left to dismiss something as important because the people making the argument live and breathe Marxist theory. Over the past few years I have been relatively involved in what one may term Catholic feminism, which is more of a movement promoting the lay leadership of women in the Catholic Church than a force for change in the larger feminist movement. It exists as a reaction to the idea that, for the Church to value women, she has to make them priests, and such stuff of nonsense. It exists, also, to an extent, as a force for change in the larger feminist movement, except that often the women involved come to face the same stumbling blocks that I have faced, and that made me write what I wrote in 2016. If it feels like an uphill battle within the Church, with people saying horrible things to Lauren of Brick House in the City for a t-shirt that has the word feminism on it among others, it’s even more uphill outside of it, when the very essence of Catholicism is rejected. Still, as a Catholic, I cannot see the affronts on the dignity of men that go on within the movement and outside of it and stand by any longer.

Toxic masculinity is a thing. Yes, left-wing feminism may appear to be intent on feminising anything, and as a Catholic who believe in two genders which are different but have equal value I understand the frustration with what is perceived as an attack on masculinity, but for heaven’s sake can we not avoid going to the polar opposite? The antidote to an attack on masculinity is not to attack masculinity by making it something it’s not. We have plenty of Biblical examples of what healthy masculinity looks like, but also secular ones. Beyond some obvious innate characteristics that are linked to the biological sex of a person, a lot of what we perceive as feminine or masculine is coloured by societal expectations, and often it’s about societal circles and not even the whole of society can agree on what traits to value. Take for example the Victorian times, when you had muscular Christianity and dandyism as conflicting ideas of what a man ought to be like.  

Masculinity is about strength, not violence. If your masculinity is threatened by carrying a baby, a vulnerable creature that needs protecting, you have a problem. If your masculinity is threatened by not being able to harass a woman on the street, you have a problem. If your masculinity is threatened by being told not to bully people with homophobic slurs that use femininity as an insult, you have a problem. If your masculinity is threatened by saying that boys don’t have to have a fight to be boys, you have a problem. Confusing strength which is moral, emotional and spiritual as well as physical, with being violent and assertive and bossy is a sign that you aren’t quite as strong as you think.

While rates have been decreasing, men in the UK are 3 times more likely than women to die by suicide. It remains the biggest killer of men, especially younger ones. Chances are, if you haven’t been depressed yourself, you know at least someone else who has, or someone who died because of how bad it was. I have lost more than two close friends to this over the years, and that’s without counting the people I know more broadly. A lot has been said about how men find it harder to open up, with many campaigns around it. Sadly, I often see comments on social media that reinforce the stigma around it and, you guessed it, they all move from the premise that people need to toughen up. As if this elusive idea of toughening up was not the problem all along. As a Catholic feminist, I have to challenge the idea there is something wrong in being soft, and the implications that allow people to use femininity as an insult.

In the Bible, God is described with many attributes, some of them masculine and some of them feminine. While the Incarnation was a man, the Hebrew and Aramaic words for the Holy Spirit are feminine (in Greek they are neutral), and this alone should tell us something about the importance of femininity even without reading Mulieris Dignitatem (which, by the way, you should). But there’s more. Pro-abortion feminism has long tried to cut men out of the conversation around pregnancy when the men are pro-life, but I don’t see that much uproar about men who coerce women into abortions for going against a woman’s choice. The silence is even more deafening about the pain of men who see their fatherhood stolen from them. Some even go as far as dismissing the pain of miscarriages to make an ideological point. Conceiving children takes two people, and often it’s the case that a single father raises them. Equality in parenting is not demasculinizing men, but a recognition not only that life isn’t perfect, but that God created the two sexes as equals in His image, to cooperate. The law should reflect that, from parental leave at work to divorce settlements. As a Catholic feminist, I have to challenge every instance that attacks the God-given dignity of either sex.

We are always calling for more women in leadership, but we are also asking them to see everything that makes them women as a hindrance to this goal. We also see plenty of stigma around men joining what are seen as feminine professions. I recently watched “The Blind Side”, a film based on the real life story of an American football player, and I find it a good example of what I mean about this attitude. American Football, like rugby, is a physical and even violent sport. Throughout the film, one particular characteristic of Michael is highlighted. It was not his size and physical strength (although unusual), or the moral one that had him overcome the difficulties of his early life, but his protective nature that made him the champion he was. We should see personality traits that are not what we traditionally associate with leadership and power as a strength, and help people fulfill their ambitions while embracing them, especially children if one has them. As a Catholic feminist, I have to challenge the idea that a woman’s fertility is a hindrance instead of a gift to a society that needs young people.

As a woman on the right I will always have a problem with the Marxist narratives that come from the current and previous wave of feminism; freedom is important to me as a political concept, as is my one nation belief in mitigating one’s freedom with a desire for the common good, and it’s this desire for the common good that moves me not to remain a bystander in a world where the equality of the sexes seems as far from reach as ever.

This post is part of the Love Blog Challenge on the topic of Change.

Meet your hosts

Brita of Belle Brita

Woman in pink and purple flower dress and white straw hat in front of pink flowers

Brita Long is the pink and sparkly personality behind the Christian feminist lifestyle blog, Belle Brita. On her blog and social media, you’ll discover more than authentic storytelling–she’s brutally honest about pursuing a fulfilling and joyful life even with Crohn’s Disease and depression.

 

 

 

Shoshanah of From L.A. to LA

Woman with two small children sitting in an empty stadium.

Shoshanah is a California girl who moved to Louisiana and fell in love. (Hence her blog, From L.A. to LA.) She is the mother of a 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son. She loves all things pumpkin, reading (especially historical fiction), and gingerbread lattes.


Continue Reading

Mary Poppins Returns: A Parable on the state of British Politics

Woman with chestnut brown hair holding colourful balloons

For someone who has reached political burnout, I seem to be unable to keep away from the subject, but, in a way, my faith-based commitment to the common good means that I can’t leave it behind 100%. I managed to forget about it, and the fact I have a phone, for the 3 hours I’ve been in a cinema on Tuesday afternoon, but when the excitement of seeing a classic come back to life with a moral lesson that life repeats itself wore down, and real life came back hitting me in the face like a polar wind, the need for a magical solution to the problems plaguing us all became strong. If you have not seen the film, I suggest you skip this post until you do and I hope to see you for the next one in the meantime, or have a look around the archives, there’s some good stuff in there if I may say so myself.

The film ends with a song that is new and familiar, and that intimates that there’s nowhere to go but up. Like a kite. Got it yet? The song, to me and a few other people, seems to have not only remade Let’s go fly a kite, but also A Spoonful of Sugar, and that’s probably why it stuck to me as a parable of the state of British Politics in January 2019. As Oscar Wilde said, we’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. Only that I would say most of us are looking straight at the gutter, instead of realising that the only way is up.

The last big political phenomenon of 2018 have been the Gilets Jaunes, a model that seems to have been imported by the disaffected of Britain, and I would assume with largely the same mix of conspiracy theories that sound like a secular rendition of the Church in Danger and the age old threat of the Papists. People are angry and want to be listened to, but the anger is misplaced at the only reasonable outcome of trying to negotiate with a party that is trying to maximise their own returns (the EU), and amounts to a constitutional crisis. The real targets of that anger, which in many cases legitimately is the EU, seems to get a pass. It would be best if everyone just took a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, and we just moved forward to negotiate the actual trade deal for the future, but so far Mary Poppins hasn’t turned out to rescue us.

She turned up, though, to rescue a 25 years-older Michael Banks in his time of need. Michael, a widower well portrayed by Ben Whishaw (who seems to be in everything as much as Olivia Colman), is facing the threat of repossession of his home, and falls for the false help of a character which his children recognise in its duplicitousness. Banks is a well-meaning but broken man: he lost his ability to function with his late wife. It’s how everyone who lives with grief is, especially in the first year. Things just became overwhelming and then one wrong thing follows another until the mess can’t be unravelled, if not by the magical intervention that brings to the finale.

As every fable ever written, it is not difficult to ascribe to it meanings beyond the literal ones. So, with all due respect to grieving widows and widowers, we could see Michael Banks as the PM, losing power over her circumstances in the 2017 election, and Mrs Banks as the 2015 majority. The loan taken at the bank is the agreement with the DUP, which will come back to bite our anti-hero. We see the Leave Left encapsulated in Jane, who is a lovely activist for a labour association splitting her time between her core cause, saving her family home, and her blossoming romance with Bertie 2.0 (isn’t Lin-Manuel Miranda SO CUTE despite his horrid affected accent? Didn’t he watch enough EastEnders while preparing for this character?). Jack, as the character’s real name is, is pretty much your stereotypical centrist dad, so it’s no surprise that a) he looks up to the lovely London Sky when he is lost and b) he’s on Mary’s side, ending up in a duet with her to a song that warns us that while “the cover is nice, the cover is not the book.” 

Corbyn makes an appearance as the admiral, he really is on the side of his neighbours but seems mostly concerned with the fact that Big Ben doesn’t strike on time (which really is a hint to how the situation will be resolved). Helen the maid is the part of the cabinet that decided to support May’s Withdrawal Agreement; she also is well-meaning but overwhelmed at the situation after the death of her mistress. The lady with a dog on Cherry Tree Lane is any PM of an EU country that has ever said anything in support of May, offered help when it was too late and just to salvage the situation rather than resolve it. There is one last character on the side of Mary, her cousin Topsy, otherwise known as Donald Trump. It’s not just a matter of foreign accent and ridiculous hair, but the entire situation around the second Wednesdays shows how the party that she was supposed to help is the one that helps her the most and really, that’s true of Trump and May beyond the walking down the stairs hand in hand bit.

Then we get to the villains. Quite obviously Wilkins is a sum of all of the EU decision makers who tried to appear like they were being reasonable and on May’s side while simultaneously undermining her. I’m in two minds about who exactly is Hamilton Gooding: it could be both the arch-remainers actively undermining the PM’s deal because it’s not remain, and the arch-brexiteers who are also actively undermining the PM’s deal because they wanted WTO all along. I believe it fits both options: the first one because he is diligently following orders, and so that makes him the minion of the EU the way they are; the second option is because few people are Adolf Eichmann, and he probably has an agenda to push in following the orders to the letter. His companion, Frye, instead, shows compassion towards the Banks and tries to buy them more time to find the proof of the shares and keep the house, even when the plan is clearly to repossess as many houses as possible. He’s everyone in this scenario, both in Parliament and the EU, that has ever tried to stop the clear intent to make an example of Britain to stop other countries from leaving the EU, and has been trying to find some form of compromise among all parties involved. The children are the members of the public, victims of the circumstances, with Georgie in particular being me and all others who have ever argued that the EU were the wolves.

As March looms and everyone keeps asking me what my situation is going to be like in 2 months’ time, we are, like the Banks’, scraping to find proof of the shares and get to the bank by the last stroke of midnight. Will our Centrist Dad Jack (it could be any MPs, but I think Paul Masterton has auditioned for the job) manage to rally his fellow lamplighters (MPs) and save the situation at the eleventh hour (or more accurately the 5 minutes before midnight, or the final vote in Parliament), or will he need the miracle works of Mary Poppins coming in to salvage the situation once again? In the words of Alessandro Manzoni, ai posteri l’ardua sentenza.

Continue Reading
1 2 3 8