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Monday, September 6, 2010

A Mouthful of Fish Tacos and Earful of Philosophy...

It was another crazy day of running around; we woke up in a haste on Saturday morning to make it to church in time for 9:00a Confession. My wife had a couple of real estate showings starting at 10:00a, before driving to a rental listing in Kendall to take photos and leave a lockbox.

Meanwhile, I took the girls to breakfast, dropped off our friends’ daughter, who slept over our house, and then drove to Miami Springs to pick up our son. (He stayed overnight at my parents’ house Friday so that my wife and I could have a date night, while the girls attended a Camp Rock II watch party with friends.)

The kids and I met up with my wife at about noon and, after a short stop at a bookstore, we headed to another sales listing before going to a birthday party for one of my 6-year-old daughter’s classmates at 2:30p (the first of a month-long hectic social calendar for our kindergartener).

Since we didn’t have much time, we decided to stop for a quick bite at a small Mexican restaurant on our way to the party. The restaurant is a quaint quasi fast-food place; the kind where you order at the counter and they bring the food out to you while you find a table, which are not always readily available.

Fortunately, we went kind of late for the Saturday lunch crowd, which had waned more than usual. We found a table in the back of the place, near the condiments counter and the soda dispenser, right next to another table where a couple sat with two other women and a toddler.

Before our meals arrived and we pounced on the complimentary nacho chips (since we were all hungry), we paused for a brief prayer, which we accustom to do, whenever we eat together as a family.

Shortly, after we finished, we were unavoidably privy to a very spirited conversation at the table next to us, which afterwards my wife and I wondered if it had been prompted by our Sign of the Cross and subsequent prayer.  It's not like we were trying to hear what they were saying but, because of our proximity and their loud voices, we really couldn't help but to hear.

The older woman in the group (probably in her early 50’s) was talking to the younger women (I want to say early 40’s) about the state of our society; making the argument that we have lost our way in America. However, not in the sense that I would describe our waywardness, instead, she insisted that we are becoming a nation of intolerance (she used the term “white supremacists”), where people are constantly interfering with others’ rights to live life the way they choose. (The old “live and let live” perspective that I wholeheartedly disagree with (see here) and which is commonly reinforced in various forms in the media.

The older woman said, “Things are so much better in Europe. Everyone respects one another and allows others to live the way they want to live.” (Funny she would mention that, because Europe is suffering through one of the greatest sociocultural crisis in recent history, where the nurturing of secularism and relativism and the minimization of Christian principals, is leading to a decay in moral standards, a devaluation of the family, and a dwindling population, which experts are very concerned about.) (see here and here)

Somewhere, the conversation deviated to the raising of boys.

The vocal one in the group began to rant about how our culture indoctrinates men from the time they are two years old against crying and they grow up to be callus and insensitive men who never show emotions because "men don't cry." “What’s wrong with men crying,” she asks, “but we train them from childhood that they can’t express their feelings.”

Look, anybody that knows me understands that I’m probably as emotional as any man and in certain situations am not afraid to show my emotions and leave myself vulnerable.  But, having that said, I’m definitely not going to encourage my 3-year-old son to be crying all the time because I might suppress his “feelings.” I sure don’t want to raise a sissy boy who will get more grief for crying while growing up than from controlling his tears over silliness.

As my wife and I are working through our fish tacos (which, by the way, were excellent), the older woman continued, “Just like I tell my sons, all religions are the same. Some kneel, some stand, some sit, some sing, some have more rules, some have less but they are all the same. It really doesn’t matter from one religion to another.” (Was that meant for us to hear? It was certainly loud enough for most of the tables around us to hear).

Ok., (these are fighting words) I was biting my lip at that point (although trying to concentrate on the tasty tacos, refried beans and rice and ignore the unsavory conversation at the table next to us). I briefly considered jumping into the discussion (although it sounded more like a monologue since the younger women were basically listening and agreeing and the man was totally staying out of it) but then thought better than to get into an argument about religion with a total stranger at a restaurant in front of my children (who were oblivious to the entire conversation).

I can get a bit passionate and animated and no doubt, this woman would not have taken lightly to my objection (it is funny how progressive-minded people call social conservatives intolerant but try to disagree with their views and see how tolerant and open-minded they really are to opposing views. Only they are right and we, the “narrow-minded,” are wrong.)

Her argument on religion strikes at the heart of what I feel is one of the ills that most maligns our society; truth has been pushed, distorted, and diluted to such a point that, for many, it is unrecognizable. Morality, which is based on truth, becomes a matter of personal preference, according to its acceptance by the culture.

The problem with this argument, known as moral relativism, which claims there is no absolute truth, is that if there is no absolute truth then the person arguing for it, is probably wrong.

His truth becomes his. My truth becomes mine and there is no right and wrong. Then it becomes an argument of which truth is truer; an exercise in futility.

However, when we look at the world in which we live, there are truths that we all agree with, such as injustices against oppressed sectors of society. Today, racism and slavery are universally rejected as wrong. However, at one time in early American history, they were accepted and endorsed. So, because they were accepted, were they right?

Because the Taliban don't think women should get an education and that is tolerated by certain segments of their culture, is it right for them to poison girls in schools in Afghanistan?  Wouldn’t that, according to the moral relativist, be subjective to their understanding of truth and what their society accepts?

So, you see, there is right and wrong and there is an Absolute Truth (which I call God); not a God that is in every living thing, as some believe, who confuse a love for creation as a love for the Creator.  God can't be molded to our preferences and personal whims.  He is an immovable constant and stands for an absolute right and wrong.  We adjust to God.  God does not adjust to us.

Abraham Lincoln once stated, "Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right."

At the end of the day, we can never convince someone that is already convinced in their “absolute” truth, nor can we debate and force our beliefs on those who don’t want to hear it.

All we can do is to serve as examples of the right by the way we live our lives and fight against the wrong to the best of our ability.

Hopefully, with God’s help, our Europe-society-loving, sensitive man and any-religion-will-do lunch neighbor will eventually see the light.

As, we finished our meals, and got ready to leave, the man, who had been quite through the entire conversation, turned to us and said, “Your children are very well behaved.”

Yes, they are well behaved, I thought, because we teach them right from wrong and to believe in an Absolute Truth.

“Most of the time,” my wife said, as we got up and left.

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