Most Tea Partiers Agree: Innocent, Unborn Life is Sacred

Note: I’d originally written the piece that follows about a year ago for Palin Drone, but felt it was worth a re-post in the wake of this revolting piece of eco-terrorist propaganda, Virginia Ironside’s soulless advocacy for child murder in the name of “compassion”, the upcoming midterm elections and the latest finding that most Tea Partiers are social, fiscal and national security conservatives.

That the last bit would surprise anyone is perplexing. As an avid, active Tea Partier here in South Florida since Tea Party Fort Lauderdale set up its weekly gatherings at the corner of US 1 and Oakland Park Blvd in February of 2009, I can report that the overwhelming majority of participants are pro-life, pro-gun, pro-military, pro-war on Global Jihad, pro-limited government and pro-personal responsibility and freedom.

Posing with Danita Kilcullen, one of the founders of Tea Party Fort Lauderdale.

If pro-abortion advocates had their way, many of the world’s greatest achievers and contributors would never have been afforded the opportunity to leave an indelible mark upon civilization due to the less-than-ideal circumstances surrounding their births and physicality (not to mention the whim of their mothers). After all, Winston Churchill had a speech impediment. Abraham Lincoln was born into poverty. And Leonardo da Vinci was the illegitimate product of an unwed mother.

Not too long ago, I attended a BBQ at the home of a close friend. In the midst of the merriment, the conversation somehow digressed into an impassioned abortion debate as we sat around the kitchen table, in one of those strange progressions where a simple, innocuous inquiry like “How is your family?” segued into a heated argument over whether life begins at conception.

Ok, that’s quite a stretch, so let me explain.

The friend in question’s family is still dealing with the ramifications of losing a very young child to an aggressive, destructive brain tumor a few years back. Later that day, she was going to attend a family dinner commemorating what would’ve been his eighth birthday. (Having been deeply involved with the family during the horrific, 10-month ordeal in which every instinct of the grieving, heart-broken parents centered around how to best comfort, love and ease the child’s pain, I find Virginia Ironside’s comments that much more repugnant and offensive).

Somewhere in the mix of lingering grief, heartache and anger, she launched into an understandable tirade about the unfairness of it all, especially given the fact that the boy had two loving parents who provided a good home. Up until that point, I agreed with everything she’d stated.

However in the next breath, she began railing against pregnant teenagers, unwed mothers and even young married adults who willingly reproduce (i.e. choose life) long before they themselves have reached a certain level of maturity and financial security. Now I certainly don’t condone teenagers having babies, or even partaking in the activity that leads to their creation; in an ideal scenario, everyone would wait until marriage, or at least until their 20s (when the chances of emotionally maturity are much higher) before having sex — and when they did, they’d take proper precautions if not ready to care for the needs of an infant. And in a perfect world, if they did actually use birth control, it would never fail. Not ever. Not even once.

But as I said, we don’t live in a perfect world. Does that somehow designate unplanned life as disposable?

Bristol Palin and her son Tripp.

Pro-life advocates who walk the walk like Briston Palin don’t think so. And as someone who knows how difficult it is to practically abide by one’s belief in the sanctity of human life, she’s actively reaching out to teenage girls in an effort to help them prevent pregnancies until securing a better future for themselves, one that hopefully includes a loving, devoted spouse and father.

Having said that, let’s take a look at the issue from the “ideal circumstances” standpoint.

In a side-by-side comparison, if a married couple in their 30s with stable careers, and two 16 year-old high school sweethearts lacking two nickels to rub against each conceive a child, is the life of the former couple’s unborn child somehow more worthy than that of the latter, though neither unborn creation had actually been given a choice — so to speak — about their conception?

Using my friend’s logic, the answer would be yes. She’d flatly stated that since young people are “too selfish” to give up their babies for adoption, they should abort them if they cannot adequately provide for their material needs. Of course, if we didn’t live in a “hook up” culture that glamorizes meaningless, casual sex, devalues God and preaches moral relativism, there would be far fewer unplanned pregnancies to deal with in the first place. But that’s a discussion for another post.

I can and often do agree to disagree with friends, for the sake of the relationship. In this case, the woman in question is a wonderful person for whom I’d do just about anything. What was frustrating to me on that particular day though, was her unwillingness to let me put forth my point of view; every time I tried to make a counter-argument she’d cut me off. It didn’t help that our other female friend kept interjecting hard luck stories about her boyfriend’s childhood to support the financial wealth justification — notwithstanding the fact that he’d gone on to achieve great success after growing up a poor kid in a large Irish-Catholic family.

It was kind of like being a guest on The Factor: Before I could complete a sentence, one of them would cut me off. Or, they’d immediately shoot down my premise. For example, when I mentioned that I was once an unplanned pregnancy and as such, was also very grateful that my parents were pro-life, my statement was dismissed because after all, my father was a doctor.

Me: “Yes, that is true but at the time my dad was struggling to get his surgical practice going, barely paying the mortgage on our two-story colonial, which he couldn’t afford to fully furnish.”

Friend: “Bah! Your parents knew that once he got his career off the ground, the money would come in.”

Me: “Fair enough, but suppose God forbid, my dad had been in some kind of accident, leaving him incapacitated and unable to perform surgery while my mom was still in the first trimester. Would that have then justified an abortion? Or what if it had happened years down the road, forcing my mother to take over as breadwinner. She’s a pretty smart lady, but in all likelihood, would never have been able to replace my dad’s income, which would have taken us down quite a few notches on the economic scale — maybe even into borderline poverty. We would then be in the dire financial circumstances that according to your premise, justify abortion.”

My point again: there are no guarantees in life. Even if a child is born into a near-perfect situation, it could all change in the blink of an eye before he or she is out of diapers. When you get right down to it, innocent human life is innocent human life. Either we believe it is sacred — flawed though it may be — or we don’t. There is no in-between.

And whether it’s Hitler or Stalin committing mass genocide against the handicapped and entire races of people they deemed inferior; government bureaucrats determining whether it’s cost-effective for your 75 year-old mother to have her recommended hip-replacement surgery; or well-intentioned people buying into abortion based on a subjective quality of life argument, all have one thing in common: a deliberate rejection of the laws of God and nature in favor of some Utopian pie-in-the-sky ideal. I can think of 50 million reasons why that is just plain wrong.

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Sleepless in Savannah, Part Five

Sleepless in Savannah, Part Five

Continued from Part Four:

Things took a turn for the better when Tre and I decided to hail a cab back to the Dresser Palmer House. Our driver was a friendly, Savannah born-and-bred man who took issue with the whole concept of his city as a supernatural phenomenon: “Ma’am, I’ve lived in Savannah for 56 years and I ain’t once seen a ghost — they just play that up for the tourists!”
“Feel better?” Tre asked, playfully poking me in the arm. I had to admit, it did feel good to hear a native deny Savannah’s spectre tales so vehemently. However, there was still one more thing left to do.

After generously tipping our driver for the safe trip back and the reassurance (I was starting to believe I’d actually sleep that night), we entered the main floor of the house to chat with the evening manager. We’d been told someone was on the premesis at all times, and I wanted to get his or her take on the rumors we’d heard about the Inn.

We called out as we walked through the French doors and into the lovely dining area, which was already arranged with fine china and silverware for the next day’s gourmet breakfast. We heard a sweet, friendly voice with a slight drawl respond before an adorable African-American young woman approached us from the back kitchen.

“Hi, I’m Deedee! How can I help y’all?”

“Is this place haunted? My friend here is scared to death,” Tre noted.

“Heck, no!” she stated, rather emphatically. “I’ve been working here for 7 years and I told the owners if I ever once saw a ghost, I was outta here!”

I felt like I could breathe again. We chatted for several minutes, during which Deedee informed us that while some places in the city were indeed, haunted, she’d never experienced any problems at the Dresser Palmer House. Relieved, I took her by the arm and thanked her, as if to prove to myself that she really was a flesh and blood human being.

Upon returning to our room, though, I was still a little spooked. I’ve never been a fan of old buildings, having been raised in new homes where we’d always been the first inhabitants (I am my mother’s daughter; I’d rather buy brand-new clothes at a discount store than buy anything that had once been worn by a stranger). Despite the comforting words of Deedee and the Cabbie, I never did sleep that night.

Tre graciously offered to let me keep the TV on all night (which I gratefully accepted) and periodically rolled over to inquire in a sleepy voice about my well-being. I was touched by the gesture, but just couldn’t relax enough to drift off to dreamland. I decided that Savannah was a place to explore with a big, strong manly man, with whom a girl could snuggle up when things went bump in the night. And of course, the city’s romantic aura definitely favored couples.

In any case, I never saw or heard anything terrifying that night, though old houses tend to make noise just fine on their own; Dresser Palmer House was no exception. It didn’t help that our next-door neighbors had their television blaring, but I was willing to cut them some slack. For all I knew, they were ill-at-ease, too.

The next morning, on pure adrenalin, I cheerfully accompanied Tre down to breakfast, where we made the acquaintance of a nice couple from Wisconsin, over homemade spinach quiche and coffee. Scott and Kristin regaled us with tales of the haunted pub crawl they’d taken the night before, and confirmed some pretty strange occurances (cold spots, footsteps on the stairs, etc.).

But the most chilling story they shared involved the 17Hundred90 Inn, home of Anna, the Ghost. Anna was a young girl of 17 back in the 18th Century, whose family forced her to marry a man old enough to be her grandfather. He was the original owner of the Inn and basically made her his slave, forcing her to do all of the Inn’s dirty work (which, in the days before running water, must have been thoroughly disgusting). He also beat her regularly.

When Anna fell in love with a strapping young sailor and made plans to run away with him, the Old Geezer uncovered their plot, and locked Anna in Room 204, where he beat her to within an inch of her life, then threw her to her death over the balcony. To this day, she haunts that very room, crying for her true love.

Unbelievably, there’s a one-year waiting list for honeymooners, who apparently have nothing better to do on their wedding night than enjoy a wild confrontation with a despondant spirit (which doesn’t bode well for the marriage). As the story goes, couples are rudely awakened in the middle of the night by a levitating Anna, crying her dearly-departed eyes out. People have reported feeling the tears on their faces and having their lingerie stolen. Reports say that couples run from the room in horror in the middle of the night and head for the safety of the closest hotel chain.

We all wondered why anyone would find that entertaining, but figured the Inn’s new owners are laughing themselves all the way to the bank.

Luckily for sleep-deprived me, Tre loves to drive and took the wheel for the rest of our journey back to South Florida. I am happy to report that my condo stood just as I left, and my sleeping patterns have returned to normal.

Despite all of the weirdness, I’d be willing to revisit Savannah on the arm of a strong, understanding gentleman. Until then, I think I’ll stick to visiting happy places like the beach and Disneyworld. Sleep well, Savannah!

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Sleepless in Savannah, Part Four

Sleepless in Savannah, Part Four

Continued from Part Three:

So much for looking fear in the eye…all I wanted to do at that point was run as far and as fast as I could from “historic” Savannah and into the safety of my peaceful condo in Boca Raton. Alas, we were still a long 6-hour drive away from my well-manicured town on Florida’s Gold Coast, and besides, we were technically still on vacation.

Not wanting to ruin the fun for Tre, I urged her to take the tour without me; after all, it was a Saturday night, and the place was bustling. I would blend in with the crowds, stick to the main streets and explore some “safe” places, like gift shops and ice cream parlors. After a “spirited” debate (which, thankfully left our friendship intact), we decided to leave the ghost tour for another day, and take in some Savannah nightlife.

Despite my emphasis on the spooks, Savannah has much to offer in this regard; whatever your musical preference, you can surely find an enjoyable venue in this city — from jazz clubs to country western bars to dueling pianos. Tre and I eventually camped out at Savannah Smiles, a high-energy, fun-lovin’ place with hot pianos, cold brews and — lest we forget — playful ghosts. Three times during the evening, the musical mayhem was interrupted by unexplained power failures, which didn’t seem to bother the (mostly drunk) huge crowd. In fact, no explanation or apology ensued for each blackout; instead, such events appeared to be a matter of course, with the underlying assumption that when the “spirit moved them” the power would turn on again.

Surrounded by so many revelers, the blackouts didn’t bother me, though I tried not to drink too much club soda with lime, since I wasn’t sure if the haunts were also frequenting the Ladies Room. I am glad I hung in there, too, or I would have missed a thoroughly enjoyable “duel” between the North and South, in which one piano player represented the “Yankees” side and the other the “Rebels.” Each would sing a few verses of either Yankee Doodle Dandy or The Land of Cotton (not sure if that’s the exact title, but since it begins “Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton,” that seems a pretty good guess). Anyway, that song always brings Elvis — one of my all-time favorites — to mind. I could just hear his deep, masculine voice warbling this tribute to his beloved Dixie.

For that reason perhaps, along with others, I have always had an affinity for the South, despite my Northeastern upbringing. For as long as I can remember I have been attracted to Southern accents, friendliness, love of country and tradition. The South possesses a shared identity and culture that no other region of the country can claim. As I cheered for the Southern side in this musical duel, my friend (a Floridian by way of New York)passionately threw her support behind the Yanks and wondered why I was fervently rooting for “the other side.” Not surprisingly — we were in the heart of the deep South after all — the Rebels won the duel, but not before supplying the deliriously happy piano players with lots of US currency.

Later, as we strolled along the streets of Savannah, every once in a while a streetlight would inexplicably turn off, and Tre would remind me that she is indeed clairvoyant, and thus well-accustomed to this kind of eerie occurance.

As the hour drew closer to return to our haunted Inn, fear and dread began to overwhelm me again. Would we be confronted by a revenge-seeking ghost in the wee hours of the morning???? I guess I was about to find out.

More to come in the next post!
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Moving Beyond the Mafia

Note: This piece originally appeared on Smart Girl Nation and Parcbench, written before the mind-boggling popularity of Jersey Shore hit its peak. As I noted on Parcbench, I’ve never actually watched Jersey Shore, but have heard enough about it to know it’s just another show replete with negative stereotypes of Americans with Italian heritage. Wonder when Hollywood will be ready to do something really different and create show about a normal Italian American family facing the same problems and sharing the same experiences as other Americans. I won’t hold my breath.

 

Moving Beyond the Mafia

Surprise! Most Americans of Italian descent speak proper English, work in legitimate professions and make positive contributions to society. So where are they in pop culture?

Mom and Dad, dancing at a recent family gathering.

Mom and Dad, dancing at a recent family gathering.

Let me begin by stating I abhor the notion of a “hyphenated” American. Raised in a patriotic, middle-class family that enthusiastically celebrated quintessential American holidays like Independence Day and Thanksgiving; actively participated in politics at the local, state and national levels; and sincerely appreciated the opportunities the USA afforded all of us, I have always considered myself an American first. Growing up as the youngest of five children, I related well to classic television programs like Little House on the Prairie and Eight is Enough, where conflicts arose out of such relatable things as sibling rivalry and the struggle to resist temptation when presented with a sometimes ambiguous choice between right and wrong.

None of the characters in the above-mentioned programs are Americans of Italian descent, yet they very much mirrored the folks I interacted with on a daily basis, whether family members, friends or acquaintances. The former series, with its emphasis on Christianity and faith, brought to life the values reinforced in my own home and Catholic school; the latter, although not overtly religious, also presented moral conflicts (e.g. when Joanie appeared naked in a stage production of a Midsummer Night’s Dream, to the horror of her unsuspecting father). Yet ironically, whenever pop culture did present characters in film or television that were specifically designated as Italian Americans, more often than not, I’d be left wondering where the hell these people came from.

Even the mostly positive portrayals tended to miss the mark. Take Arthur Fonzarelli(a.k.a. “The Fonz” or “Fonzie”) of Happy Days, for instance. A high school dropout and hard-working mechanic, he and his mother were abandoned by his father when he was just a young child. Fonzie is a typical womanizer who amazes establishment characters like Richie Cunningham with his prowess in attracting one hot babe after another, despite his cavalier love ‘em and leave ‘em relationship philosophy. And while he does evolve over the course of the series, eventually earning his high school diploma and becoming part-owner of Arnold’s Restaurant, he is mostly remembered for catchphrases like “Aaaay!” and for snapping his fingers at any random, attractive “chick” who caught his eye, causing her to immediately stop whatever she was doing and rush over to his side.

At the movie theater, things were not much better. Sure, there was Sly Stallone’s Rocky, a film celebrating a scrappy, determined southpaw who against all odds finds incredible success as a professional boxer. Our inspiring hero is also a religious, patriotic family man who seeks counsel from his neighborhood priest before going into the ring, and genuinely falls in love with shy, late-bloomer Adrian, whom he eventually marries (can anyone ever forget his primitive howls of “Adrian!” while standing behind the ropes, beaten and bloodied, at the film’s conclusion?).

Now don’t get me wrong: as a Philadelphia native and a sucker for a good triumph-over-tragedy story, I absolutely love the character of Rocky Balboa. I’m just wondering where the educated, proper-English-speaking, Italian-American suburban dwellers with whom I am intimately acquainted, are represented in the entertainment industry. Most Hollywood productions would leave aliens visiting from outer space with the impression that all Italians are mobsters, wife-beaters (or at the very least, skirt chasers) and hooligans who either operate outside of the law or precariously on its fringes.

The most egregious example in recent times is of course, The Sopranos, described by Wikipedia as “a major commercial and critical success,” and “the most financially successful cable series in the history of television,” frequently hailed by critics as “one of the greatest television series of all time.” For those who have been hiding under a rock for the past ten years, the drama revolves around mobster Tony Soprano, a man who constantly struggles to reconcile the competing obligations of family with his role as head of a crime syndicate. Stereotypically, Tony’s problems include an overbearing mother and an inclination to cheat on his wife, in spite of his love for her.

David Chase (himself an Italian-American), The Sopranos creator, based the plot and characters on his own personal life and experiences growing up in New Jersey—in his own words, “applying his own family dynamic to mobsters.” Raised on gangster films like The Public Enemy and the crime series, The Untouchables, Mr. Chase “thought the Mafia setting would allow him to explore themes such as Italian-American identity and the nature of violence.”

I don’t begrudge David Chase his right to free speech or his authentic remembrances of childhood and adolescence. But it’s exceedingly frustrating that my upbringing and experience as an Italian-American are rarely, if ever, celebrated anywhere in pop culture. Where’s the representation of folks like my maternal grandfather, Raphael, who arrived on American shores at the age of eight with his widowed mother and two brothers? A gifted scholar, he learned and spoke proper English, attended the prestigious Central High School in Germantown, Philadelphia, and graduated from Temple University School of Pharmacy in 1919—an almost unheard of achievement for an immigrant. He then opened up a thriving corner drugstore, which became a neighborhood landmark for over 25 years.

Where are Italian-Americans like my Uncle Dan, an Admiral in the United States Navy? Where are all the strong, yet loving women like my Aunt Emma, who owned her own beauty salon, or my mom’s cousin Millicent, the first female graduate of Temple University School of Pharmacy? What about talented musicians like my cousins Joseph, Francis, Robert and William DePasquale, all of whom were in the Philadelphia Orchestra? Whither decent, upstanding men like my father, Dr. Alphonse J. DiGiovanni, son of blue-collar immigrants who worked his way through medical school and went on to a distinguished career as a general and vascular surgeon?

The DiGiovanni Family at my brother Mark’s wedding, 1993.

And let’s not forget about offspring. Out of my four siblings, two became successful attorneys (brother, Mark and sister, Carolyn), one a respected pathologist (brother, Paul) and still another, a productive, loving human being who beat the odds and worked for 24 years in material services at a local hospital (brother Ralph, born with Down syndrome in 1959). Among my closest friends and extended family members, there’s Trish Doll, owner of a renowned PR firm; Frank Lavalla, highly competent dentist and entrepreneur; and Theresa Bonnie, small business owner and moving estimator extraordinaire. (While this list is impressive, it is by no means exhaustive. I wish I could include every individual that comes to mind, but alas, space constraints do not allow for that).

None of the aforementioned people have mob ties, nor do they talk as if they have a mouthful of food they forgot to swallow. All are bright, intelligent, law-abiding citizens who continue to make meaningful contributions to their country, clients and family. Yet none are represented specifically as Italian-Americans on film or television. That is a grave disservice, not only to them, but to their hard-working immigrant forefathers who came to America in search of a better life, and left an indelible mark on the country in the process.

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