Contrasts

Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.
Edgar Allan Poe


(Getty image)

For whatever reason, I get daily Travel and Leisure as well as Conde Nash travel emails.
I suppose it’s because once upon a time, I most likely subscribed to something.

Yet during this time of quarantine, I have not much cared to be a virtual traveler.
I might be an armchair quarterback when watching my beloved college football
but I definitely prefer to be a real-life traveler.

And so I’ve pretty much trashed all the travel notices I’ve received these oh so many weeks,
as I’ve wondered if travel will ever be what it was.

While scrolling through emails yesterday, something interesting actually piqued my curiosity.

It was an article with 21 pictures of what a locked-down Italy looked like.

If you’ve ever been to Italy then you know it seems as if the country is comprised of
more tourists than local residents.

Tourism has gotten so overwhelming that the Italian government was having to issue hefty
fines to bring a bit of calm amongst the throngs of madness.
It is said that there are very few real Venetians or even Florentines who still remain
in their collective overrun cities.

And so I was curious as to what a mostly deserted Itlay might look like.

The images were eerily serene.
However, knowing of the death toll that Itlay has experienced and the hardship this tiny country
has endured, viewing the images was not necessarily for a cursory glance on a rainy
Sunday afternoon.

There was a poignancy found in the images.
An emptiness.
A sadness.

There was the image of a single figure, a pope, clad in white and sitting alone in a darkened and
empty St Peter’s square observing the solemnity of the Easter Vigil…

To the ruins of the Coliseum surreally quiet and alone for the first time in centuries.

The empty gondolas bobbing up and down in eerily empty canals…

Yet I think it was the image (seen above) of the small church in Venice with photographs of
its parishioners taped to the pews that touched me the most as to how this pandemic has effected our
collective human family.

The small parish priest had asked his parishioners to please mail or email him
their pictures so he could, in turn, tape them to the pews in order that they could “be in attendance”
with him…there in the quiet and still little church, as he conducted Easter mass…alone.

Since all church services were canceled this Easter,
one pastor in Venice asked his parishioners for their photographs,
then placed them in the sanctuary and performed Mass for them on Easter Sunday.

https://www.cntraveler.com/gallery/photos-of-italy-on-lockdown-from-a-vacant-colosseum-to-empty-churches-on-easter?utm_source=nl&utm_brand=cnt&utm_mailing=CNT_Daily_PM_041920&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_medium=email

I next read a heartbreaking story of a woman who was unable to visit her dying father in the
the hospital due to the quarantine.
The hospital was only five miles from her home, but her dad had contracted the virus
after having to go to the hospital following a fall at home.

He had been in good health up to his fall and was expected to be fine.
But while in the hospital, he developed a cough and fever…with the hospital realizing its greatest fear…
their patients were contracting the virus within the hospital itself.

The story is difficult to read as it is helplessly sad.

One of his four grown children relays how she and her siblings
stayed on the phone with their father for his final 36 hours of life
simply listening to his labored breathing before finally, there was no more sound.

‘We hear you, Dad’: A daughter stays on the phone for hours and hours as
her father dies alone from coronavirus

https://www.yahoo.com/news/hear-dad-daughter-stays-phone-120345094.html

And yet the enormity of all of this heartbreak, sorrow, isolation and emptiness is contrasted
by petty partisan politics.

Following the first two articles, I read two very different types of articles.
Articles by Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Gingrich is indeed a very smart and astute man.
He is currently on lockdown in Itlay as his wife is US Ambassador to the Vatican.
A position the late journalist Cokie Robert’s mother once held.

The former Speaker of the House was expressing his frustration with the current speaker,
Speaker Pelosi, and the squabbles she is currently having with the President over passing
a bill intended to bring financial aid to small businesses.

If anyone is hurting right now, it is our small businesses.
They have had to either shutter their doors or operate
very sparingly.
They have had to let go of employees.
Many cannot contiue paying their bills with no business to be had.

Yet the Speaker continues to refuse to work with the President.

The impeachment fiasco was bad enough…but we now have real people,
not celebrities, not high-end athletes, not entertainers, not politicians, but real people…t
he you and me kind of people..who need help— and they need it now!

And yet…we have people like Madame Speaker who continues to want to play cat and mouse.

Madame Speaker was being interviewed from her home by a late-night talk show host.
It seems she was standing in her kitchen in front of her two rather fancy Wolf sub-zero
refrigerators while babbling on about having to spend 58 dollars for 5 pints of ice cream as she
desperately needed to restock what she and her husband had already eaten.

58 bucks on high end ice cream while there are folks who can’t pay their bills
because they’ve lost their livelihood or worse, their health.

Something is wrong in all of this.

When we need help–many of the very people we elected to help us, choose to eat
expensive ice cream instead.
No wonder Speaker Gingrich sees the correlation between Marie Antoinette telling
a starving French population to simply eat cake while our Speaker of the house
eats her posh ice cream—as a President is trying desperately to bring aid
to those in desperate need.

Newt Gingrich: Coronavirus crisis makes some leaders believe they have god-like decision-making capacity

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/newt-gingrich-coronavirus-crisis-makes-some-leaders-believe-they-have-god-like-decision-making-capacity

Newt Gingrich: Like Marie Antoinette, Princess Pelosi enjoys luxuries but ignores needs of desperate people

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/newt-gingrich-the-job-killing-democrats

the seeds have been planted…

Who stands firm?
Only the one for whom the final standard is not his reason,
his principles, his conscience, his freedom, his virtue,
but who is ready to sacrifice all these,
when in faith and sole allegiance to God he is called to obedient and responsible action:
the responsible person, whose life will be nothing but an answer to God’s question and call.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

DSCN3632
(tigerlilly seeds / Julie Cook / 2016)

The post originally intended for yesterday was to be one of butterflies…
of the lovely, amazing, peaceful and inspiring happy side of life…
It was to be a light and airy, happy and colorful sort of post…

All the images had been taken, chosen and uploaded…
the text had been written…as all was ready for posting…

And then a truck ran into a crowd of holiday revelers in Nice, France…

There were…
Children with dolls and ice-cream…
young couples holding hands…
grandparents remembering when…
tourists basking in the celebration…
as locals relished their independence…

Innocents…contended and happy individuals….much like the butterflies….

And suddenly, just like that, life was no longer about butterflies or anything else lovely, light or etherial…

Reality hit, once again, and it hit hard and fast….

Yet we neither want nor like reality with all of its ugly hard and fast..
We still want the butterflies…
the light, happy, pretty images…
We don’t want to see the macabre surrealism of the mangled bodies of children with their loving dolls keeping silent vigil.

That isn’t why we come to the internet..
We don’t want to see, hear or read the truth of reality..
Rather we prefer to disconnect from Reality as we relish in savoring the pretty,
the colorful, the light, the nice…

When Dietrich Bonhoeffer was arrested in 1943 for taking part in the assassination attempt against Adolph Hitler, it came as a shock to many who had known the young Lutheran pastor…a shock that he would be involved in such an act because he was known for his pacifism…
and how on earth could a pacifist ever take part in the conscious decision to take the life of another….

But what many did not know was that Bonhoeffer, along his Catholic co-conspiritiors of which Pope Pius XII could be counted, had used the writings of St.Thomas Aquinas to justify their taking an active role in the fight against evil and tyrannical powers.

The moral issue here is that of tyrannicide…
the killing of a tyrant, and specifically, the killing of a tyrant by a private person for the common good. Technically, there are two classes of tyrants: a tyrant by usurpation (tyrannus in titulo), a ruler who has illegitimately seized power; and a tyrant by oppression (tyrannus in regimine), a ruler who wields power unjustly, oppressively, and arbitrarily.

The key conditions for a justifiable act of tyrannicide in this case include that the killing be necessary to end the usurpation and restore legitimate authority; that there is no higher authority available that is able and willing to depose the usurper; and that there is no probability that the tyrannicide will result in even greater evil than allowing the usurper to remain in power.

However, if the tyrant by oppression attacks the citizen, jeopardizes the welfare of the community with the intent leading it to destruction or killing the citizens, or commits other evils, then a private citizen can morally commit an act of justifiable tyrannicide. Moreover, if because of the tyrant’s rule, a nation cannot defend itself, is on the course of destruction, and has no lawful means to depose or to condemn the tyrant, then a citizen may commit an act of justifiable tyrannicide. Interestingly, many modern political philosophers would posit that a leader who abuses power and has become tyrannical ipso facto loses legitimacy and becomes an usurper.
(Catholic Resource Education Center / Fr William Saunders)

And whereas it appears in such teachings against the hand of evil that the Church actually condones such acts of killing and assassinations, it must be noted that the Church does not actively teach nor proclaim such concepts…as some detractors may beg to differ.

…yet Aquinas’s writings and teachings remain buried in the layers of the historical fabric within the Church… percolating ever so often upward from the historical depths of time into the present light of a gloomy world as the faithful sit staring, once again, in disbelief at the ongoing images of evil wondering what is truly just…

These seeds of evil and death however were sown a very long time ago.

First with the falling of light into darkness…
Secondly with the determined choice of will in the acceptance of a seemingly simple apple.
and lastly with the death of a brother by the hands of a brother…

Yet the growth of those seeds did not end with the birth of both evil and death.

It has been said that the Magna Carta is one of the single greatest charters ever written by man as it has been the single building block for all civil societies ever since its proclamation and implementation at Runnymede, in England in 1215, by then King John and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langdon.
Even the American Colonists based their own formation of a constitution on the Magna Carta…

It has struggled throughout the course of the past 800 years. It has been amended, abridged and reassigned, and yet, it has continued as the chief cornerstone of Western Civilization.

This ancient charter, steeped in the protection of the rights of all individuals, has helped to formulate judicial systems as it has directed the workings of all governments rooted in the democratic liberties throughout Western Civilization.
It is a lynchpin to our western civility and society as we know it today.

The same civility and democratic liberty that is in sharp contrast to Muslim Sharia law.

It has always been, in part, the responsibility of the Church, in conjunction with the leading governments, to help protect those very civil liberties of all citizens in a democratic society.
It has been her, the Church’s, moral and ethical responsibility—
Yet she too has often failed at the task.

Yet it is this duty to and for the faithful that often puts her at odds with acting governments as she has often been the last bastion between hope and collapse.
All the while as she has tried to maintain her separation from those very governments of those people both hers and not.

Sharia Law and its use of the word of Mohammad stands in stalk contrast to the civil liberties of Western Civilization as it also stands in sharp contrast to the foundations of our Judaeo / Christian society.
We see this power play struggle daily.

And whereas the Church and her members have long recognized the importance of protecting the liberties of the individual citizen, the current Administration of the United States, as well as its fellow administrations of various governments throughout Western Civilization, has failed and continues to fail to see the correlation or relevance to the contrast between the protection of freedom verses that of the tolerance of tyranny.

The civil liberties, the equality, the judicial process, the democratic freedoms enjoyed by the West are nothing short of polarizing to the Sharia Law of Mohammed–
the two are not and will never be compatible…

And until our leaders can understand that one small fact, we will continue witnessing the repercussion of this massive collision.

All the while as Islamic extremists continue the systematic killing of innocent victims who merely wish to live life in their respective democratic societies.

Sadly yet undeniably the butterflies have been replaced by the ugly reality of the hard and fast truth of our current world.

“Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
John 18:37

Contrasts

“There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.”
Charles Dickens

DSCN1356
(Photograph: Callaway Gardens/ Butterfly House/ Pine Mt. GA/ Julie Cook/2013)

Shadow and light–a world of contrasts….Essential in art, essential in photography, often complicating and even upsetting in life.

I’m off to Dad’s today— my weekly visit….or so I hope. Check the “office” (aka Julie’s old bedroom), look over the pile of mail on the desk. Are there bills needing attention? Are all utilities current…prayers said, fingers crossed it will be a wonderful and equally uneventful visit.

Somedays Dad is, well, Dad. There is light in his eye, the mischievous Dad who acts like a little kid, eavesdropping on conversation when everyone thinks he’s not paying attention, sneaking more chocolate when he’s been told no more (that use to be glasses of scotch but that got to be a bit disastrous so all scotch had to be disposed of–now the drink, or imbibing, of choice is chocolate, a little safer).

At other times there is an emptiness to the watery eyes…as if no light is on and no one is home. A resignation to life when physically things are still greatly intact. No excuse as to not using the ol legs in order of getting up and walking, but there is no desire..shuffling works when getting up is absolutely a must. A pity and a shame that this is to me, who insists on not wasting good health…which always falls on deaf ears— but laziness is not a new trait sadly.

So today is a day of contrasts to be sure–happiness and sadness all entwined not knowing which I shall met, if not both.
After last week’s meetings with lawyers, the constant conversation now is… “you need to take Nany’s secretary next time you come visit, and all of mother’s furniture”..(which mind you is the majority of the house)….
“Dad, I’m not loading up ya’ll’s furniture and taking it with me.”
“Well you need to start getting everything”
“Dad, I’m not taking a-part the house, ya’ll are still living in it and using your things”
“Well you just need to take what you want”
“Dad, I’ll worry about that later….
now he wants to address the concept of no time like the present…where was that attitude when the phone and the lights got cut off?!…..

Yes Scarlett, I shall worry about that another day (note reference to Gone With The Wind as any southern girl worth her salts has more Scarlett than Melanie lurking within—that is if she wants to survive in this world she best have more of Scarlett, sadly)

So today is just a visit. There shall be no confrontations with discussions of moving to assisted living. No meeting with lawyers and discussions of wills. No trips to the bank and looking throughout safety deposit boxes. No fussing over the unpaid bills. No taking of the furniture and pictures off walls and emptying of houses while occupants still just sit watching TV 24/7….just a nice little uneventful visit with my dad and step mom.

Oh the contrasts of life—–