Optimism is a great gift.
Being able to focus on the positive aspects of a situation, while minimizing our preoccupation with the negatives, can free us from anxiety. It’s what allows us to press on and accomplish good things in the face of adverse conditions.
In 1944, songwriter Johnny Mercer captured the essence of that gift in this lyric:
“You’ve got to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive
E-lim-i-nate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
And don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.”
That bit of pop music hopefulness was a tonic at the height of World War II. Little wonder the song became a hit.
Emphasizing the positive can be a problem, however, when it encourages us to make compromises in our moral judgment. It may be human nature to stress the virtues of people we admire — favorite athletes or performers, for instance, even political figures — while ignoring their flaws, idiosyncrasies, and bad personal decisions.
Trying to live the way celebrities do, or following their ill-considered advice on pressing current issues, can get us into all kinds of trouble.
We face an even greater danger when our focus becomes so narrow that we not only downplay negative factors but actually deny what’s real. This becomes a kind of blindness — a distinctly spiritual blindness — one that’s rampant in society today.
That blindness drew attention during the recent International Women’s Day, when First Lady Jill Biden bestowed the State Department’s annual International Women of Courage Awards. According to State’s website, “a group of twelve extraordinary women from around the world” were honored for their work in building “a brighter future for all.”
In particular, award recipient Alba Rueda was described as someone who had shown bravery while being “kicked out of classrooms, barred from sitting for exams, refused job opportunities, subjected to violence, and rejected by her family” for efforts to “end violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ-plus community in Argentina.”
The award raised eyebrows because Alba Rueda is a “transgender woman.” Which is to say: a man.
Fox News reported some of the humorous reactions that lit up Twitter:
“Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, R-Ark., said, ‘It’s International Women’s Day — a good time to remember that Democrats can’t even tell you what a woman is.’
“‘Nice of FLOTUS to encourage the diminishment of women on ‘international women’s day.’ Erasing women is abusive,’ Dana Loesch, host of ‘The Dana Show,’ tweeted.
“‘International Women’s Day: Not just for women anymore,’ conservative Twitter personality Andrea Katherine wrote in reply.
“‘Apparently men are a lot better at being women than women are. Step up your game, ladies,’ Townhall columnist and radio personality Derek Hunter joked.”
…and on and on.
Defying all reality — not to mention Genesis 1:27 (“male and female He created them”) — a person who was born male, but who believes he’s a woman, received an award intended for females who demonstrate womanly courage. And the citation was validated by no less than the wife of the President.
Surely such a denial of God’s creation is spiritual blindness.
Not to be outdone by Dr. Jill, Joe Biden demonstrated his own spiritual blindness in reacting to a bill advocated by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The bill would prohibit anyone below the age of 18 from undergoing so-called “gender reassignment” surgery, or receiving hormones and hormone blocking medications prescribed in advance of the procedure.
Whatever your views on transgenderism, requiring a young person who’s considering “gender reassignment” to wait until at least voting age before taking such an irrevocable step seems like a sensible approach.
Well, not to Joe Biden.
Interviewed by CBS’ Kal Penn, Biden claimed the Florida bill was “cruel.” He recalled a saying of his mother, describing DeSantis’ position as “close to sinful.”
Now, set aside the ludicrous notion of the nation’s foremost “Catholic” abortion supporter pronouncing on what’s sinful. The proportion of the population diagnosed with actual gender dysphoria (the psychiatric term for transgenderism) is only about .3 percent. By the time those who are gender-confused reach maturity, the statistic drops to .1 percent.
It’s clear that most people embrace their true biological gender identity, though some do it a bit late. Despite that, Biden would set children free to take powerful drugs (some of which are associated with cancer and other destructive illnesses), and to choose surgical self-mutilation.
His obliviousness about the danger which transgender ideology poses to the young is tragic evidence of the spiritual blindness that prevails today.
And it does prevail, in so many areas of life. Even the current banking crisis reveals an aspect of it. We’re watching the consequences of greed and financial recklessness — bad judgments, wild speculations, a propensity to gamble with other people’s money — and a certain blind optimism that that government will always come to the aid of financial institutions considered too big and too important within the economy to be allowed to fail.
That too is spiritual blindness.
In the ninth chapter of John’s Gospel Jesus cures a blind man. When asked who had cured him, the man at first doesn’t know. Gradually, he realizes it was Jesus, and eventually he comes to understand who and what Jesus is: God.
It takes him a little while, but eventually he achieves insight. Both his physical and his spiritual blindness are gone. No amount of optimism helped him. Only Jesus.
We need to make the same progression. It’s way past time for our eyes to be opened.
This essay is based on a homily delivered by Fr. Orsi. It can be viewed online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=IN5UbMh50LM
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