Category - Culture

1
San Vitores: Hero or Villain?
2
Here We Go Again!
3
Wear your mask if you must, but don’t let it stifle you!
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Healing Hearts, Mending Divisions
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What’s going on these days?
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The Knock on the Door… Again and Again
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Let’s Hear it for Shame V: Retrieving the Old Tool.
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Let’s Hear it for Shame IV: In Place of Shame

San Vitores: Hero or Villain?

Stand outside the new Guam museum and read what’s inscribed on the wall:  “Before these (Spanish) people arrived, we didn’t know rats, flies, mosquitoes… and disease.”  Just to underscore that point, there are the statues of the chiefs (Hurao and Aguarin) who resisted the foreigners, those despoilers of this land.

Cross the street and catch the Sunday mass at the cathedral, with its own array of statues, its spirited singing, and its faithful followers. This all started, of course, with Diego Luis de San Vitores and his companions, who came to share their faith with the people of these islands.

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Here We Go Again!

A few years ago I wrote an autobiographical essay that I called “How My God Has Changed.”  Not just my notion of God really, but my whole thinking about life as I aged. This piece, which may never be published, is a reflection on how all those sharp distinctions I learned when I was young have been blurred over time. Saints and sinners, body and soul, spiritual and secular as a starter. But also: us and them, friends and enemies, native and foreigner, and so much else in life that had been divided by rigid boundary markers.

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Wear your mask if you must, but don’t let it stifle you!

The face mask that we wear in these days of the COVID-19 pandemic is still every bit as strange to me as it was two months ago when we began wearing it. 

Part of the reason is what a mask signified when I was growing up. The masked men in the old Westerns I watched were bandits–the bad guys riding into town to take what they could and run. They were the bank robbers, disguising their voices along with their faces, as they demanded all the money in the safe. Of course, there was also that other masked man, The Lone Ranger, who had other reasons for wanting to hide his identity. But most of those in disguise were up to no good, and we kids watching the old black-and-white movies knew it.

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Healing Hearts, Mending Divisions

Last year sometime I had just finished a short talk at a Rotary Club meeting on the film we were making on the homeless people here on the island. (The film is finished but can’t be released until this lock down is ended.) One of the men raised his hand to ask a question. “You’ve lived a long life and have done a lot. Why don’t you just settle back and enjoy retirement?”

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What’s going on these days?

What’s going on these days?

A fair question, and one that a friend of mine asked me the other day. If you were to look at the photos on my Facebook page, the answer might be: group hugs and lots of food.

In fact, though, that is only part of the answer. There’s surely nothing wrong with friendship and food, but while waiting for the next group meal, we have to find something useful to do. (That insistence is part of my Teutonic DNA, I suppose.) Of course, I have masses and other parish responsibilities here in Dededo. Besides that, there is the obligatory 30-45 minutes of exercise each day–at the village basketball court if the kids happen to feel kind to old-timers, or on the treadmill in front of the mammoth TV screen watching a sports event or an ancient movie.

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The Knock on the Door… Again and Again

At first it felt noble to offer help to the needy. The knock on my door… the sad face on the other side… I reach into my wallet and put a bill into someone?s hand… repaid by a little smile and the warm glow inside that I had done a good deed.

Then the pace picks up, I find. The knocks on the door become more frequent… three or four times a day, sometime even more. They also become more insistent. A few days ago, beginning at six in the morning, I listened to someone knock for 25 minutes as I tried to keep my temper under some semblance of control. The gospels may urge answering the pleas of the poor, but for me to do so then would have been an invitation to commit homicide.

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Let’s Hear it for Shame V: Retrieving the Old Tool.

“Let’s Hear it for Shame,” a Five Part Series

At the risk of sounding like the old fogey that I am (80 years old, after all), I offer my thoughts on the passing of a key social tool. ?Let?s Hear It For Shame? is the title of this five-part series.

  1. The Shame Game
  2. Once Upon a Time
  3. Blaming Shame
  4. In Place of Shame
  5. Retrieving the Old Tool

V: Retrieving the Old Tool

With a little imaginative innovation, why can?t we reclaim a proper use of shame???


Individualism seems to be the bottom line in our society today, here in the islands as well as in the US. The government increasingly sees itself as the protector of every individual?even those in the tight embrace of the family?against mistreatment of any kind. In today?s society the government feels that it must do everything, including protecting children from their parents. In the past, our polity relied on small communities, including families, for a great measure of self-policing. The latter was done without handcuffs, much less jail cells, but it depended on strong doses of shame being administered as needed.

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Let’s Hear it for Shame IV: In Place of Shame

“Let’s Hear it for Shame,” a Five Part Series

At the risk of sounding like the old fogey that I am (80 years old, after all), I offer my thoughts on the passing of a key social tool. ?Let?s Hear It For Shame? is the title of this five-part series.

  1. The Shame Game
  2. Once Upon a Time
  3. Blaming Shame
  4. In Place of Shame
  5. Retrieving the Old Tool

IV: In Place of Shame

If we think that shaming someone is harmful, let?s pause to consider the alternative.?


If we really believe that shame must not be used to control unacceptable behavior, then what can we use?  Well, we can always resort to far worse kinds of punishment to do the job. Over the past forty or fifty years we have done just that as the criminal justice system has expanded enormously. This happened just as shame was judged to be a less effective, or maybe a less acceptable tool of social control.

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