“open up the blinds, realize I am blessed with LIFE” – March for Life 2012

January 27, 2012

You know how sometimes you wake up in the morning with a certain song playing in your head?  This is the song I woke up to today…a little throwback to 2005:

It’s called “Can I Live?” by Nick Cannon, in which Cannon recounts his mother’s struggle to decide whether to abort him or not.  It’s a rare pro-life song by a popular cultural icon.

It’s interesting that this of all songs would get stuck in my head (seemingly out of nowhere) now — in the wake of the March for Life 2012.  Even though I’m an ocean away, I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about the March from facebook friends and Catholic news sites (though most of the “major” news sources like the New York Times, typically, seemed to have forgotten to cover it).

What’s really cool to hear is the number of people who came out to support the March.  Number estimates reach up to 400,000 or even 500,000 protestors.  500,000!  To put that into perspective, that’s more than the Civil Rights March of 1963 (250,000), the GLBT Rally in DC of 2o09 (100,000), and the Occupy Movements in the U.S. on 10/15/2011 (the largest single day of protests in OWS, 100,000) combined.

And what’s super cool — and what makes me even prouder to be part of this generation — is that the March for Life was primarily comprised of young people.  (And these aren’t “the unwashed and angry young people occupying Wall Street.”  Rather, they’re young people who know how to “have a peaceful, well organized and legal protest and still be radical.”)

We have lots to look forward to as Catholics and pro-lifers in general.  Life is a gift, a blessing, and a right.  It’s our duty to defend life for the generations to come.  Till the next March, keep praying, keep advocating, and keep loving life.

n.b. incidentally, the  title of this post does not come from “Can I Live?”  It’s a verse from the song “Paving the Way” by Incise.  I just really like the lyrics and thought they’d be relevant to the post…

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Dean Martin: “Cooler” than Frank Sinatra?

January 18, 2012

In my quest for sophistication, I’ve started listening to Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra of the Rat Pack a lot recently.

After hearing their music and reading some brief biographies, I’ve come to admire both of these men for their confidence and class.  Cigarette or martini in hand, these virtuosos could sing, act, and crack jokes.  Both flourished out of rocky beginnings:  Martin was an amateur boxer who fought in bare-knuckle bouts because he couldn’t afford wrapping tape, while Sinatra had to carry his own P.A. system to perform at run-down saloons.  And in their Rat Pack heyday, they were comfortable enough to crack innocuous jokes about race, religion, and gender yet ultimately principled enough to refuse to perform at clubs that excluded African-Americans and Jews.

These were cool guys.  Just listening to Martin’s “Who’s Got the Action?” and Sinatra’s “I Won’t Dance” when I wake up every morning makes me feel like a cooler person for the rest of the day, for real.  In a sense, they’ve joined the ever-growing ranks of role models in my life as I seek to become a more complete person.

So, why am I talking about Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra in a Catholic blog?  (It’s not just because both of them were born and raised Catholic.)

It has to do with the idea of role models. Especially when we are growing up, the role models we choose for ourselves are critical to who we become.  A lot of the time, these role models of ours come from popular culture; they are often recognized throughout much of society and demonstrate distinctive behavior or ideals that we want to emulate.

The reason I think that Dean Martin is “cooler” than Frank Sinatra — I use “cooler” facetiously, considering he was nicknamed the “King of Cool” — or, rather, the reason that I like Martin better as a role model, is that he seemed to have his priorities straight.

Though Martin divorced three times (once for his wife’s alcoholism, another time in the midst of a mid-life crisis), he was always if not outwardly recognized as a family man.  A father of 8, he cared immensely for his family even after his divorces, and he often left immediately after performances to spend time with his kids.  It’s said that Sinatra was actually quite irked that Martin preferred quiet time with his family to a rowdy time with the Rat Pack.  Martin was also shattered when his son Dean Paul Martin died in a plane crash and bowed out of a reunion tour with Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Furthermore, Martin, unlike Sinatra, enjoyed solitude.  While he always was able to have fun during a night on the town , he much preferred being at home with his family, or playing golf, or eating alone at his favorite Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills.

These two characteristics — a love of family and an ability to be alone with oneself– are important to emulate, particularly for Catholics. Catholics need to keep the family strong because familial love is often a child’s first experience of God’s love.  Catholics also should learn to be alone with themselves sometimes, because in doing so, we can better discern God’s call and contemplate our lives.

As his divorces show, Martin wasn’t perfect.  He also liked to keep up a persona of hard-drinking and irreverence; it got him the admiration and adulation he needed to stay a popular performer.  But Martin didn’t really need the attention.  In his private life, he knew what really mattered.  And that is what makes him, I think, “forever cool.”