Questions that challenge us

From my post over at OSV Daily Take:

Over the last 24 hours, my 12-year-old son has been asking difficult questions. Last night he wanted to know about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He asked whether any country could hit us with a nuclear missile and whether we had a way to stop it. The notion of detente didn’t seem to sit that well with his still innocent mind. How could mutually assured destruction be a good thing, he seemed to ask with his eyes if not his words…continue reading.

A short clip you need to watch now

I came across this ad from Catholics Come Home and just sat at my computer and cried while I watched it. It’s that good. Like a Catholic version of the movie “Defending Your Life.” Click HERE and take two minutes to see what I mean. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

NY is going to ‘Drop the Rock’ — finally

This issue is important to me, so I’m running my OSV Daily Take post here as well:

On the surface, drug laws don’t seem like they could ever be a bad thing, and yet in New York State they have been a terrible thing for many people who committed minor offenses but had to serve prison sentences under the draconian 1970s legislation known as the Rockefeller drug laws. These laws, which were put in place by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller during a time of rising heroin use, require judges to mete out harsh mandatory prison sentences even for the most minor drug crimes. The result has been the devastation of countless lives that would otherwise have been saved by treatment. I know that because I saw it happen first hand.

Back in the 1980s, a dear friend of mine, a talented young man who was more like a younger brother than a friend, got involved with the wrong people. Before long, he was addicted to cocaine and began a downward spiral into a terrible world that he did not know how to escape. I watched him suffer. I saw him try to break free. He was eventually tricked into believing that if he delivered this one packet of drugs from one dealer to another, he would save a friend in trouble. He agreed, and he was arrested, set up by someone looking to save his own hide.

This otherwise beautiful, sweet, spiritual kid had a thriving hair salon and was well on his way to recovery when the Rockefeller drug laws ensnared him. He lost everything and had to serve hard prison time. I can remember many Friday nights during those long months when my friend would call collect from prison, desperate to hear a friendly voice amid the harsh life he faced every day. A gentle soul by nature, my friend told me how he had to act tough, scary, in order to protect himself behind bars.

My friend was one of the lucky ones but no thanks to the justice system. He managed to come out of prison as sweet and kind as ever. He rebuilt his business into something even better than it was before, and he stayed clean until the day he died of cancer a week before he would have turned 36.

I learned so much from my friend. I asked him to take me to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting so I could understand what he was dealing with. He did. I asked him to explain to me what it was like to live with the monkey of drug addiction on his back day after day. He did. He let me know a world that was foreign to me, and it helped me see the face of drug addiction in a real and powerful way. Even all these years later, I can remember being amazed by his resiliency, his determination, and his utter lack of anger toward a system that should have offered him treatment but instead locked him up with common criminals.

The Rockefeller drug laws, which the Church in New York has long opposed, have done similar things to thousands of young people, parents, families. They have ruined lives because they do not allow a judge to take into account a person’s history, or lack of criminal history. Non-violent, first-time, minor drug offenders should not be incarcerated when they can be rehabilitated through the most basic treatment programs.

It is a feather in New York Gov. David Paterson’s cap that he has managed to reach a deal that will dismantle these drug laws and replace prison sentences with drug treatment for minor offenders. The system must focus on dealers and drug lords and not on the people at their mercy.

Have you hugged your colon today?

For weeks now I’ve been meaning to talk about my colon. Well, not just my colon, but your colon, too. March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, something that is near and dear to my, um, colon. Before this month ends I want to urge you to think about colon health. If you are over 50, please get a colonoscopy. If you are younger than 50 and have ANY family history of any diseases of the colon, please get a colonoscopy. It is not nearly as bad as it sounds. Trust me.

Next month it will be 21 years since my mother died of colon cancer at age 47. She was the picture of health, or so it seemed, until the cancer was diagnosed. So, obviously, the 50-year-old age limit should be lowered. Colon cancer affects lots of people long before they ever hit that magic age. Quite frankly, given what we know about prevention and the tests available for diagnosis, no one needs to die of this disease. I certainly don’t plan to die of it. I’m going to die of something, but is sure won’t be colon cancer. I’m 46 and I’ve had two, count ’em, two, colonoscopies already. I’m now on a once-every-two-years schedule because of my family history. That is not a fun prospect, but it sure beats following in my mother’s footsteps.

If you were reading my blog last year, you got a bird’s eye view of my colon. I don’t want my new readers to miss out. So here it is again for old time’s sake, a first-hand look at the inside of my colon, and a damn fine colon it is.

You, too, may have such a photogenic colon, but you’ll never know until you go for the test. Now go for the test.

And in case you’re not quite sure what you could be doing to try to prevent colon cancer, there just happened to be this article in the papers today. Not good news for you red meat eaters, but we vegetarians sure do take some comfort in it. Red meat is no friend to the colon. Cut it out or at least cut it down. High fat diets aren’t so great either. Click HERE to read about dietary suggestions for colon health.

People don’t like to talk about colon cancer. It’s not a “pretty” disease, not that any disease is pretty but this one sure fares worse than many others. In fact, it’s shrouded in a bizarre kind of shame. But colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in this country, so it’s time to give this disease some long-warranted attention.

Next year I plan to remind you of all this at the beginning of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. By then I might even be passing out blue colon cancer “buddy bracelets” to add to the excitement. See, a good reason to read my blog for at least one more year. Now go talk to your doctor and sign up for a colonscopy before you “forget.”

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