The encyclical of Pope Francis

And so the pope has weighed in about climate change, rebuking profit-seekers and the undue influence of industrial advancement and technology on society. He lambastes the effect of these developments upon the poor and upon the planet’s fragility. Man does not have dominion over the earth, he avers, as those who cite Genesis insist, that justifies practices like excessive mining, or fishing with unfair means. In the latter, he specifies gill netting.

Further, Pope Francis brings up two papal predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, as lecturers on the same theme. Ours is not to till the earth indiscriminately, Francis says, but to conserve. Again and again he goes to the complaint of too many poor who are made to suffer by the desecration of our planet’s atmosphere.

So far so good. Here is where I go off Pope Francis track. All this talk of the overwhelming poor who are the victims of advances in technology points up his glaring avoidance of the matter of helping the poor control their suffering numbers by — perish the notion! — contraception.

Certainly he does not condone the abomination of children born in poverty and growing up stunted from deprivation of proper food and nurturing; naturally, he wouldn’t even approach the topic of contraception for the middle class and wealthy. He does not say: We are all in this together, the desperately poor and the fortunate ones, all should limit their numbers in order to conserve the Earth and thus reduce the degradation of the atmosphere with our smoke and chemicals and overfishing (I wish he could have used the power of his office to mention Japan’s killing of whales for “research” purposes, but then that would have been too specific). Instead, the watchword is, as always, “Human life is precious.” How so? By being born unwanted, unfed, ignored? By being forced into a hostile world?

Instead, the papal blind eye remains turned away from the glaring situation of overpopulation of all quartersP, and remains faithful to Church doctrine appropriate for the time when the Creationist Couple, Adam and Eve, were the only human inhabitants of a pristine Earth.

I can sympathize with Pope Francis. Awkward to alter Church doctrine to suit, isn’t it?


Italians aren’t doing it anymore

May I ask a favor? Would any one interested enough to read a book or books of mine kindly review it/them? Thank you so much.

What the Italians don’t seem to do anymore is maintain the custom of couples being engaged for long, long periods of time before getting hitched, finally. I recall two women in my office at ARAMCO, one engaged going on 10 years, the other for eight. Salaries being so low, they lived with their parents while saving money for the future. I imagine their men were doing the same thing.

Liliana kept lists of her various layaway purchases, the method by which I acquired my splendid coat. She had half her living room furniture paid for by the time I met her. I don’t know what Berti was doing for his share of their life together, but I did know he worked for the Anagrafe, Italy’s God-blesses den of bureaucracy. There, behind a counter, Berti accepted applications from citizens trying to get permits to turn on their lights or turn them off, or sell an apartment, or, for all I know — move to another city. Actually, I heard that last bit from someone but cannot vouch for the information. Berti’s salary would have been dismal.

Lillian eventually did marry her Berti but within a year they were separated. Had they discovered something about each other not known before? Was married bliss not the bliss they had sought so long, after all? Was it all so dull, dull, in the end?

But — decades and decades later in 1989 when I returned with Renato to visit his family — I was bemused to learn that various members of the family were living IN SIN and appeared to have no plans ever to marry. And they were very casual about it, with an insouciance very much 21st century.

So interesting, I thought, so revolutionary for old Italy. Never in Sicily, though, you can bet on it.

The bespoke coat

In Rome those early years I had a coat but it was getting pretty tired looking. As my salary at ARAMCO (Arabian American Oil Company) translated into about $75, which went mostly toward rent together with my sister Maria and bus fare, acquiring a new outer garment posed a serious conundrum. My mother kept house for us, and her hard wear fell upon her little bound feet. It was torture for her to go to market and do the necessary to manage. We all needed something or other to replenish the few things we were able to bring out of China.

A co-worker told me about layaway plans at a fabric store, and I rushed over there after work. Why yes, the store salesman assured me, I could have any kind I wanted. All I had to do was select style and fabric and put down 10% and pay so much a month for….when could I pay it off? It came out to two years, but I went for it, how else was it possible otherwise?

I chose the thickest, richest camelhair that wasn’t really camelhair but had a furry finish to it. As for style, I ordered it extra large and extra long. I wanted a lot of coat for my money. I have a photo of me wearing it in the Borghese Gardens. I looked lost in its folds and probably weary of its weight, but it was a grand garment.

American Sniper

Chris Kyle’s account of his four deployments in Iraq, mostly as sniper, comes across of a man hugely enjoying his job. He says so himself, and in so doing presents the point of view of the fighter on the front contemptuous of the command above. Some of them, not all. In his opinion, too many battles were lost because of overcautiousness, while he would have pitched into them without qualms.

Kyle’s marriage to Taya is always being put on the back burner, through one child, then another, while he is away on the front. She is understandably resentful of his absences, more so that he enjoys his deployments so much. His closeness to his buddies is what makes them a good fighting unit, but with that comes terrible grief at the deaths of some.

He mentions more acronyms than I can maneuver around, but one, the Polish GROM, earned high praise. The marines, too, come through for him. One point he makes applies even today, that the soldiers of Iraq feel loyalty only to their own tribes, not the country of Iraq, and their performance in battle all too often reflects this, shall we say, lack of commitment.

Taya makes her own entries in the book, and they are what every abandoned wife would say and feel. Resentment as he takes off each time and deathly fear of losing him. And each time he returns Kyle finds himself increasingly the outsider.

Kyle helped found FITCO, an organization providing at-home fitness equipment for emotionally and physically wounded vets. His murder at the age of 39 by another vet presents the continued consequence of war.

The last pages written by Taya, almost too sad to read, belong indelibly with Chris Kyle’s story.

The lonely empress

I will do an Internet search for the lady after this, but an acquaintance’s offhand remark has made me think of her. The woman said, “He keeps saying he’s Persian but doesn’t he know they’re called Iranians now?” No, I wanted to say, but let it go, that it seemed to me the man was repudiating Iranians and identified with the old order of Persia.

I was in Rome, a raw exile from Shanghai, owner of one pair of shoes, when I was invited to a party by a film producer staying at the Excelsior Hotel. The entourage seated in the lobby as I passed flanked a sad-eyed brunette who did not speak to her attendants, merely sitting in silence while the others chatted, albeit quietly.

I realized she was Empress Soraya of Persia, who was recently written up in the Rome Daily American as being on the cusp of divorce by the Shah. The story said she was deep in his affections but her inability to produce an heir was endangering his reign and his council was pressing him to discard her. I remembered that she was partly German. Years later I read that she had moved to Germany. That scene has stayed with me. So much has changed in that ancient Persia, a nation of Aryans, not Arab as many think, its storied past obliterated, that I sympathized entirely with the man who refused to say he was from Iran.

My interview with the film producer? I had met him through my Italian boyfriend whose sister was an actress, and he had expressed interest in me, which, it turned out, was strictly in me, myself, and not anything to do with being in films. Exactly like a lame scene in the movies, there was no party. I left five minutes after entering his hotel suite; at least he gave me money for a taxi home.