Perspective on Libertarianism

Being a libertarian woman, in my experience, is lonely. It’s like being part of a club with only three people, and one of them is your cousin. I’ve found myself running parallel to a lot of people in what they think and how they perceive me. I am close to being enough for either political party, but there is always a limit, a barrier, that keeps me from fully engaging. I’ve felt isolated from most political discussions since I was in high school. While I was accepted as democratic from my democratic friends, and conservative by my conservative friends, I felt like I could never be honest with either group out of fear of being judged.

 I can say, genuinely, that I have met very few women who were libertarian. Even professors I have had classes with consider libertarianism for men in their 20’s. It’s not that I am uncomfortable being a libertarian, it’s more so that I feel like I am being forced to either vanilla or strawberry ice cream when all I wanted was a chocolate bar. Most people I have been honest with typically consider me an anarchist. I don’t see myself as an anarchist, just as someone who wants options and variety in voting and representation. 

Just because I’m a libertarian doesn’t mean that I hate the government. Actually, I would like to one day work in foreign service. I don’t hate public schools, the USPS, or feminism. I’m this weird creature that exists in the rare forgotten, in between the two parties, without feeling myself in either. I can have a progressive voice while retaining certain conservative values, and I think that’s great. Again, I like options, but I wish more people saw libertarianism without thinking of a frat boy high on Atlas Shrugged.

I would like to comfortably say what I think without being labelled as a part of a “phase” or a “Texan version of a Democrat.” Is it really so erroneous to lie between the two extremes? I’m not one to be extremely political, and I don’t really believe in pressing my beliefs on other people. I don’t see organizations for libertarian women, instead we get grouped in with conservative women like we believe the exact same things.

 Most libertarians don’t bother voting in elections because neither party really exhibits their platforms. Voting for libertarian candidates is often considered a wasted vote. It’s unfortunate enough that the political system attempts to pull libertarians either way, but it’s worse to see it within your own friend groups. 

Many people like to think of politicians and Washington, D.C. as some distant and poor reflection of real society, but we as a community have internalized the same exact polarization. Before you as a reader dismiss this idea, think of this: How many friends do you still have that you disagree with either politically or religiously? Why would someone not seek these different ideas/ people out?

It’s lonely to be a libertarian woman because of these polarized groups we form amongst ourselves. It’s hard not to be enough for either party, not to feel comfortable voicing my own opinions when I know the social pressure tells me to go along with or accept things I disagree with. It’s hard to be dissected by people who claim to know your political identity better than you do. I’m dismissed by the political system, discounted as someone with a juvenile interpretation of parties, and shamed for wanting something more than what is offered. 

Even though I don’t always feel welcomed in political conversation, I like being a libertarian. I really enjoy having a foot in both doors. I like agreeing with some parts of liberalism and some parts of conservatism, it makes things more challenging and conversation on why I’m not socially conservative/ economically leftist more interesting. 

It’s kind of a problematic notion that someone should fit into two distinctive categories without room in between. In essence, I’m not going to change because someone wants me to, or because my demographic is underrepresented in elections. I would like to think that there is room for an “independent woman” in politics who believes in access to birth control and less federal tax. I don’t think libertarianism is as much of a fad as it is perceived as, if anything it is a change in generational thinking. 

An Interview with Daphne Dabney

On Sat. Dec. 19, 2020, outside of the chancery for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, the main office for the Catholic Church in San Antonio, a prayer rally was held in favor of a prominent priest who has been persecuted by the hierarchy, Father Clay Hunt. Fr. Clay was a priest in Del Rio and significantly grew the church in that area. More recently he served in prison ministry, before ultimately having all of his faculties removed. Here is a recent video of his sister describing the rally.

Below is an interview with Fr. Clay’s sister, Daphne, which took place on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020.

Q: What is Fr. Clay being accused of? 

A: I can’t speak on the details, but what I can say is that there are no sexual charges, there are no abuse charges, there are no major charges of substance in anything like that. And those are the things that get priests removed. When you think of a priest getting stripped of his faculties, what’s the first thing you think of? The main ones that you think of, those do not apply in this case. Any little thing that might have happened, they have brought that to light to make it seem like a huge thing, which is where we are now. There is nothing of substance of any major magnitude that they have against Fr. Clay.

Q: What do you think is the reason that they don’t like Fr. Clay?

A: Fr. Clay is faithful to the core to the teachings of the Catholic Church. His inability to be swayed and to be controlled and to have any other agenda put upon him but the agenda of leading people toward Christ, the inability of leadership in the diocese to do that, that is where the rub is. They’re given specific topics to not preach on, and those are the exact topics that need to be talked about. They are the things of the soul, especially in our times, when things are getting crazier by the minute, as far as morality goes. And, he’s the kind of priest that makes people squirm in their seat, because he tells it how it is. He’s not interested in being politically correct. He’s interested in leading people to Christ, which is the ultimate responsibility of a priest. Unfortunately, the leadership of the diocese seems to have other interests in mind, and more worldly views. It’s no secret that Fr. Clay tells it how it is. There are two resources that anybody needs to look at it to know the truth, and that’s the Bible, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Anything against that, he’s not gonna be silenced.

Q: As Fr. Clay’s sister, do you have any stories of his virtue when he was growing up?

A: Well one thing is, this guy doesn’t stop. He never stops. In fact, to the point that his family has been like, ‘OK, you have to sleep. You cannot keep burning the candle at both ends.’ He would completely deteriorate his own health before letting someone be without him. He would be at the hospital at all hours of the day and night. He would go to people’s houses. Of course this is before all this stuff happened, because now he’s literally shackled. But yeah we will tell him, look you have to take care of yourself, but he will just go and go and go. That’s always been very impressive to me. He puts himself last, after everybody else. On a more personal note, I was fortunate, as the sister 17 years younger him, to have been at home when he was discerning the priesthood and when he was in school. There was a period of time when I was in my most formative years, probably in junior high, when he was home for awhile, and he prayed with me every day. You know, when you’re a kid, that might not be the main thing you would want to do, but he would just be so encouraging and I knew that I didn’t have an option. It would be every night, we would lay on the couch together, and we would pray the divine mercy chaplet, every night. And he would say for the sake of his sorrowful PASSION! very loudly because I would fall asleep, and I would jump up awake again and say ‘have mercy on us and on the whole world.’ That’s a very endearing time to me, a time that I know my faith was being formed very solidly and solely because of him. You know, he’s wonderful with children, bringing the youth to the faith. It’s incredible watching him with young people and how influential he is with them. It’s very cool.

Q: Why are you having the rally tomorrow? What’s the desired effect?

A: So, for the rally tomorrow, really at this point, Fr. Clay’s faculties are completely removed. He can’t do anything as a priest, besides his own personal Mass that he says for himself every day. Being the kind of person that he is, that he puts everybody before himself, this is especially excruciating. Not because of any other reason than that he wants to serve. He wants to do what he was called to do, his mission that he was put on this earth for. I don’t think the leadership in the diocese realizes how serious we are about Father Clay. He is in danger of being completely removed from the priesthood, which in a way he is already, but is still technically a priest. But it is to the point that they want him completely out of the priesthood. So he could be completely removed. It is our time for us, as the laity, to come forward and say, ‘this is not ok. Enough is enough. This is a good priest, and he only wants to do good by people.’ It’s time for the voices of the people of the Archdiocese of San Antonio to be heard, and for them to see the impact that he has had and the amount of lives he has changed. Pope Benedict XVI said, ‘The laity is co-responsible for the Church’s being and acting.’ We have a responsibility to the church. We are co-responsible, with the leadership, the priests, the clergy, and the laity. It is time for us to step up, because the acting part right now, how the leadership is acting, is contrary to the mission of the church.

Q: Are you optimistic for Fr. Clay?

A: I’m very optimistic. Absolutely. I know, I know, we know, as faithful Catholics, as Christians, that the Lord has a plan. We know that. I believe that, Fr. Clay believes that, our family is very at peace knowing this, and also knowing the amount of love and support that he has. I truly pray that there is conversion of heart, and that the Lord softens hearts in the diocese who are responsible for these decisions, and that there is a reconciliation. That’s the ultimate goal in all of this, to have a reconciliation. I hope that we can co-exist and be in peace and on the same mission with each other. I have so much faith that he will have his faculties back. He has way too much good left to do on this earth as a priest.

Q: How specifically do you think a solution will be reached for Fr. Clay?

A: I believe that it has to come from the laity. From our prayers for the softening and reconciliation, but also in our voices. It has to. If we stay silent, this will get pushed under the rug, just like it has for many other good clergy in the diocese before Fr. Clay. I think they picked on the wrong priest, to be honest. I think the influence and love that Fr. Clay has with the people of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, I don’t think they considered that when starting all of this.

Q: What ministry do you think Fr. Clay would do well in if he could get his faculties back?

A: I know he would be so happy to serve anywhere. Just put him anywhere and he would be so happy and grateful for it. He was a missionary priest for many years, so he served in all different capacities as a priest, and he just loves to serve God’s people wherever he is. Personally, like I said earlier, he has a very unique perspective when it comes to the youth, especially the years when you typically make bad decisions. He was a wild child, and then he had a major conversion to come to the priesthood, and that shocked anybody who knew him. It was like, ‘what? Clay Hunt is becoming a priest?’ Because of those experiences and because he knows that life, he would be an amazing priest to have working with youth in any capacity. I think he would be incredible at college ministry, I think he’d be incredible at putting on retreats for the youth and just bringing people in. Because people love Fr. Clay for a reason. He’s real. He will not hide things from his past. He’s open about it and he shares so that he can spare others from making decisions that may be harmful. That is so needed with the youth, these days, especially now. Now, more than ever, we need somebody speaking major truths to the youth, whether that’s junior high, high school, college, whatever. Those years are so formative for the rest of your life. I think he would be incredible and the kids would love him. He would be really fulfilled by doing that work. When I was in college, my priest was not very good at all. He was like 90 years old and very wishy washy. I prayed, ‘man, we need someone powerful in here to share the gospel in a powerful way.’ So yeah, I think he would do amazing in that capacity.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: Well, just like I said, this problem is a lot bigger than just Fr. Clay. It’s something that even if people don’t know Fr. Clay, everyone should unite behind. The silence and oppression of the clergy is real. If we are going to uphold the integrity of the Church and be that co-responsibility in our acting and our being as a Church, we have to unite behind this. For all of them, not just for him.

Before the rally and Fr. Clay had his faculties removed, the Catholic Student Group at Trinity University requested to have Father Clay as a priest in three separate letters to the Archbishop of San Antonio. That request was denied.

A Review of the Scottish Play

From October 2 – October 11 and October 16 – October 25, the Classic Theatre of San Antonio performed Macbeth, directed by Joe Groscinski. This performance took on one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays–a tale of fatal ambition, mistrust, and ironic fate.

The stage lights up, a grim glow of green cascading across the platform. It has a ghastly hue, blending with the darkness of the outside theater. I adjust myself in the lawn chair, arms crossed, staring at each end of the green-tinted stage, a loud sense of foreboding filling the empty silence. 

I wait but a few moments, all but the timid sounds of the evening road defying the solemn silence. Suddenly, the theater erupts with noise. Foreign shouts fill the room, the metallic clash of swords and claymores jolting the audience. Actors and actresses rush out from either side of the stage, dressed in Old Scottish warrior garb. The dreadful silence moments before is dispensed, replaced by fury and war.

Then, as suddenly as it began, the noises fade. The soldiers swiftly leave the stage. The theater once again embraces a nothingness, as I wait with fevered anticipation for the first act to begin. 

From October 2 – October 11 and October 16 – October 25, the Classic Theatre of San Antonio performed Macbeth, directed by Joe Groscinski. This performance took on one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays–a tale of fatal ambition, mistrust, and ironic fate.

The play begins with three witches (Emily Huber, Alyx Gonales, Kayce Roye) discussing their plans to meet Macbeth (John Stillwaggon). After a battle with Norwegians, Macbeth and Banquo (Christina Casella) are confronted by the three witches, who tell Macbeth a prophecy of him becoming King of Scotland. He tells this to Lady Macbeth (Carolyn Dellinger) in the form of a letter. Lady Macbeth scoffs at the indecisive tone of the letter, hardening her own heart and ambition.

Lady Macbeth incites Macbeth to ruthlessly act on the prophecy, as they both plan a series of murders to gain the throne, such as the murder of King Duncan, his friend Banquo, and Macduff’s (Zach Lewis) wife and kids.

Sometime after his reign, Malcolm (Hunter Wulff), Macduff, Siward (John Manzke) and English soldiers march to confront Macbeth in Dunsinane. Shortly before the confrontation, Lady Macbeth kills herself, leaving Macbeth in a stupor before the battle. The forces clash, with Macbeth’s army being defeated, and Macduff killing Macbeth. The performance ends with Malcolm being hailed as King of Scotland. 

There is no doubt that Macbeth being performed in the month of Halloween was intentional, and the phenomenal portrayal of the three witches confirms my suspicions. Although I would hesitate to call this adaptation scary as a whole, it did frame the story’s themes of fate and ambition in a spectacularly grim way. This framing can be seen in John Stillwaggon’s profound portrayal of Macbeth.

Stillwaggon’s first appearance comes beside Christina Casella’s Banquo. Here, Banquo’s portrayal serves as a perfect foil, arrogant and haughty, to Stillwaggon’s mirthful yet reserved demeanor. But in their encounter with the three witches, I notice another trait within Stillwaggon’s portrayal: his innocence. 

His interactions are hesitant and wary, his speech and mannerisms filled with reluctance. Stillwaggon bears the mantle of an innocent hero skeptical to the allures of power.

And slowly, he tears this mantle down.

The gradual change from Stillwaggon’s noble portrayal of Macbeth to a murderous tyrant starts with his exchanges with Carolyn Dellinger’s Lady Macbeth. Dellinger’s first scene with Macbeth’s letter is admirable. The mocking tone she adopts when reading his letter compliments her visible contempt for Macbeth’s indecisiveness. Dellinger’s interplay with Stillwaggon is exceptional. She becomes a furious muse, the allure in her tone and speech descending them both into mad ambition. 

Stillwaggon displays the state of Macbeth’s mind to the audience, from his need to appease his wife, to the cascading madness that is accompanied with killing King Duncan. His portrayals of Macbeth’s emotions are so raw and genuine, that I could not help but briefly pardon the mad tyrant he would become. 

But Stillwaggon’s ebbing flow of happiness and guilt, remorse and pride, resolve and fear, is stopped upon news of Lady Macbeth’s death. From there, Macbeth’s famous “Tomorrow soliloquy” is recited.

I always likened the soliloquy to a descent–the first lines filled with frustration and fury, and the last words dying out with disheartened purpose.

But in Stillwaggon’s soliloquy, he presents a tone of disheartened purpose from the very first line. His delivery of each line is desolate and morose, every word like an echo, drawing from the broken will of a hollowed man. In this scene, I cannot feel any sorrow for Macbeth. I feel nothing, as I see not a soul in despair, but a man so hardened and consumed by his fate, he has no soul at all. 

Stillwaggon’s portrayal of Macbeth is profound, from his first appearance to his very end.

Besides the phenomenal acting from the cast, there are many other captivating things about the performance. The battle scenes are well done, with entertaining swordplay and excellent choreography. The appearances of the witches are exceptionally theatrical, with ghastly lighting, chilling sound effects, and their grim attire serving them well. Lastly, the costume and set design is remarkable, allowing the audience to engage with the historic backdrop of the play. 

Overall, I see the performance as a traditional adaptation of Macbeth. However, the individual performances of the cast members are uniquely remarkable, and to certain aspects, revolutionizing. 

Social Class in “Emma” and “Clueless”

Emma is not about Emma, but about class issues, social structure. It is a study of the interactions between individuals from various social classes and the rigid rules of society that constrain all interactions. Those are very difficult things to convey on-screen in a way that stays true to the plot while also keeping the audience’s attention.

Emma is one of my favorite Jane Austen novels. Despite its rather large cast of unlikable characters, the novel is delightfully clever and funny.  I enjoy watching as Emma Woodhouse grows up from a shallow and spoiled girl into a woman whom not only her friends and neighbors admire, but the reader as well. Her character growth is exciting to watch, and the reader cheers her on as she slowly grows and changes into a better person.

Although Emma Woodhouse is not entirely likable, she always tells herself that she is doing what is best for those around her. She involves herself in matchmaking for her friends and neighbors in Highbury. While the novel is, technically, about Emma, it is moreso about the society in which Emma and her neighbors live and the various codified interactions they have with those of different social classes. Emma is a novel about social structure and class, and the conflicts that arise when living in a society as stratefied as Regency-era England. 

Emma (2020) is the most recent adaptation of the classic novel. However, it struggles to compete with Clueless (1995), an adaptation of the novel set in the modern world and focused on the love-lives of privileged teenagers in Los Angeles, California. Although Anya-Taylor Joy is a good actress and does an admirable job in portraying Emma Woodhouse, Emma does not have a likable protagonist. This is, perhaps, the way in which the film stays closest to the source material. For most of the 2020 movie, Emma is an unlikable character, much as she is at the beginning of Austen’s novel.

I can’t lie. Emma is an aesthetically pleasing movie. Director Autumn de Wilde is most known for her photography, and her eye for a pleasing picture makes itself known in the film. The colors, sets, and cinematography are beautiful. The eye-catching costumes contrast beautifully with the neutral and more sedate backgrounds. 

But the theme of the movie feels all wrong. Admittedly, I couldn’t get myself to finish the movie. Although it felt like a waste of the $3.99 I paid to rent the movie, I had to turn off the movie three-quarters of the way in. I thought the movie was terrible. While the plot points were true to those in the novel, it all felt like it lacked Austen’s wit and humor. Sure, there were funny moments, and I appreciated how the score made several scenes ironic and laughable. 

But it lacked the distinct charm and relatability which makes both the novel and Clueless such classics. The characters are written and portrayed in such a way that it is difficult for the modern audience to relate to them, but at the same time, they’re not so antique-feeling that one can see them as charming vestiges of a long-gone era. 

Emma is a difficult story to elegantly and successfully adapt for a modern audience. At its core, Austen’s Emma is about social class. Miss Harriet Smith is potentially of high enough social status to marry the vicar, Mr. Eliot, but certainly not of the right social status to marry Mr. Knightley. Emma Woodhouse is of too high status to ever consider marrying Mr. Eliot, but of the right status to consider either Mr. Knightley or Mr. Churchill. And this list of overlapping social statuses goes on and on and dictates most–if not all–of the novel. 

An adaptation must handle these class issues in a way that makes sense to its audience. Emma features potential couples who are not only ill-suited because of their incompatible personalities and temperament, but also because of their vastly different social standing. 1995’s Clueless handles this issue by setting the scene in a system of semi-rigid social classes with which we are all familiar: Hollywood-imagined high school, riddled with stereotypical divisions of social standing. 

The newest adaptation of Emma does not handle this issue as elegantly. The social classes are unclear, although they are alluded to and somewhat illustrated by showing the differences in clothing, manners, and homes. Mr. Knightley does allude to Harriet Smith’s social standing when he tells Emma why the girl is foolish for turning down her first proposal. Still, he never exactly explains why, or that Mr. Elton is somewhere on the social totem pole below land-owning members of society like Mr. Knightey but above tenant farmers like the Martins. 

Emma is lacking a quality that I cannot explain in words. Unlike Pride and Prejudice (2005) or even Mansfield Park (1999), Emma does not make itself easily relatable to its audience. The struggles Emma and the other characters face do not become the struggles of the audience. Throughout the movie, I was struggling to make myself care about the plot and about each of the characters, and I’ve read Emma multiple times because I love it. 

Emma is, in my opinion, a much more difficult story to adapt to the screen than any of Austen’s other novels. Emma is not about Emma, but about class issues, social structure. It is a study of the interactions between individuals from various social classes and the rigid rules of society that constrain all interactions. Those are very difficult things to convey on-screen in a way that stays true to the plot while also keeping the audience’s attention. 

Clueless is able to do this so much more easily than Emma because of its modern setting. We are all familiar with the social structure and rules of hierarchy in Cher Horowitz’s life. Rather than being confused or annoyed at the ways societal expectations nudge characters in particular directions, we understand without the film having to deviate into a long-winded explanation. Emma lacks this ease, and honestly, it makes the film difficult to watch. 

Get to Know TU Clubs

This semester is a very strange one to be a tiger, especially for first year students. Rather than being able to attend the annual Student Involvement Fair and being overwhelmed by students handing out fliers, goody-bags, stickers, and cookies, the Class of 2024 attended an online zoom session with various clubs after watching their self-made introductory videos.

To help Tower readers–especially freshmen–find their niche on campus, I’ve interviewed officers from four different clubs to explain their club, how it enhances student life at Trinity University, and why new students should attend their meetings.

Tigers for Life is dedicated to discussing various pro-life issues on campus, educating members and Trinity students, and volunteering and engaging in activism to support the goals of the Pro-Life Movement. According to club president Angelique Lopez (Class of 2022): “Tigers for Life enhances student life at Trinity by bringing more diverse conversations about topics that are important yet a lot of people are uncomfortable talking about. By having weekly meetings and frequent information tables, we seek to educate and spread awareness about end-of-life issues such as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, In Vitro Fertilization and embryonic stem cell research. In addition, Tigers for Life seeks to enhance student life at Trinity with its new Pregnant on Campus Initiative which aims to make Trinity more inclusive to pregnant and parenting students. Hopefully, with this initiative, we can help end the stigma against pregnant and parenting students and eventually be able to provide some kind of financial aid for those students.

“If students are interested in learning more about end-of-life issues such as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, IVF and embryonic stem cell research, or would like to volunteer helping women with crisis pregnancies, Tigers for Life is a great group to join and welcomes both pro-life and pro-choice students. 

“Tigers for Life remains dedicated to our mission of defending the value and dignity of all human lives this semester, whether on or off campus. In accordance with this mission, the health and safety of our members, classmates and community are of utmost importance given the circumstances this fall. For the time being, we are hosting all club gatherings virtually, but we will adjust our plans in accordance with university guidelines to come and with our members’ circumstances and wishes.” Tigers for Life holds weekly meetings via Zoom every Thursday from 6-7pm.

The Young Conservatives of Texas is the only politically-oriented club on campus for Conservative students. They focus on discussions about both conservative philosophy and policy and often volunteer on various local campaigns. According to the current president, Nathan Darsch (Class of 2022), “YCT enhances student life at Trinity by giving students a place to listen to and be part of more conservative discussion that otherwise wouldn’t have been on Trinity’s campus.

“Any Trinity student can come to our meetings and join us in our discussions. We are actively looking for conservative or libertarian students that believe in the ideas and ideals laid out in the Constitution and by the Founding Fathers.” To keep their sense of community during COVID-19, YCT will “be holding meetings and many of our social events over zoom. Despite having to do most things over Zoom, we hope to still be able to do a few activities on and around campus so that club members can work together and feel like they are part of the community,” said Darsch. YCT holds its weekly meetings every Tuesday from 6-7pm via Zoom.

This semester is the first semester in many years in which Trinity University has had its own chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL). Club founders Zachary Neeley (Class of 2021) and Timothy Yen (Class of 2022) founded YAL “to provide an on-campus home for libertarian students at Trinity that could serve the two-fold purpose of talking about issues libertarians care about in a libertarian setting and acting as a way for libertarians to get to know each other in an open and friendly environment,” said Neeley. He and Yen both expressed that they had attended meetings held by YCT, but did not feel that they could talk about libertarian issues they cared about in the majority-conservative meetings. 

Yen said that YAL enhances student life at Trinity because their “approach to campus politics is very simple: cooperation. We want to engage with other clubs on campus, both political and non-political, in the areas where our values and positions overlap. Libertarianism is a political philosophy, but the paradigm of libertarianism, which I like to summarize as ‘don’t hurt others, and don’t take their stuff,’ can be applied to daily life as well. Recently, there has been a project called ‘The Trinity Way’ where students anonymously submit complaints and stories about their experiences at Trinity. I think many of these problems can be fixed using the libertarian framework of resolving issues outside of institutions of authority. We understand that we are not policymakers, but we would like to bring attention to certain issues that we care about as libertarians, such as the war on drugs and the atrocities in Yemen enabled in no small part by the United States.” 

While YAL is primarily made up of libertarian members, Yen said that YAL “welcome[s] all political ideologues to our meetings. We plan on being transparent with our meeting topics, so if anyone may be interested in a certain issue, or perhaps debate us on an issue, they are more than welcome to join us for those meetings. Libertarians have internal debates too, and we’d love to have Trinity students, both those who identify as libertarians and those who don’t, to weigh in.”

YAL holds weekly meetings via zoom from 5-6pm CST. In addition to this, Yen said that “We also have a GroupMe chat, where we often talk about politics, but we also try to build a community by talking about music, sports, and our lives outside of politics. We actually have a lot in common besides politics, and I feel very lucky that we have the infrastructure to continue our friendship and community while we are not together geographically. Additionally, we engage our members by giving them the opportunity to vote on what kind of posts we put on our Twitter (@TrinityYal) and Instagram (@yalibertytrinityu).” 

The Catholic Student Group (CSG) at Trinity does its best to foster in students both a deep love for Christ and a greater understanding of Catholic teachings. According to the current president, Alex Jacobs (Class of 2020), “CSG enhances student life at Trinity in several ways. First and foremost, we bring the sacraments to campus, primarily the sacraments of Confession and Eucharist. The power of these sacraments is eternal life, which is the greatest life enhancement you could possibly get. Although only a minority of the students on campus actually take advantage of these sacraments, the grace contained in them is the grace of Christ, which is infinite, and so their effects are not limited only to the people who receive them. The people who receive the sacraments on campus become beacons of light, through which God shines his grace on the rest of the campus.

CSG accepts all interested members, particularly “both Catholics and people who are interested in Catholicism. We have opportunities to learn about the faith and can provide any truth-seekers with ample resources to bring that search to term. We will have Mass regularly at 5pm in Parker Chapel. Furthermore, we plan to have some zoom events as well as some random outdoor gatherings with small numbers of people. We also have Bible studies that people are always welcome to join. Some of our zooms will be speakers.”

Saint Ignatius of Antioch: A Model for Our Times

Like St. Ignatius, do not be afraid. Do not worry about what people say about you for living out your faith.

What does it really mean to be a Christian? In other words, what does it mean to follow Christ Jesus? How do we know what is his will, and how do we act upon it? Well, first and foremost, we must acknowledge Christ. We must acknowledge Him as truly the Son of God, and we must do so before others: “I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8-9). In acknowledging Christ, we must undoubtedly do so with our words, and we should not be afraid to do so. We should not fear those who can kill the body, but rather, the one who “can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna” (Matthew 10:28). As a matter of fact, instead of being afraid of persecution for living out the Christian life, we should “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:13-14). This is the wonderful promise of redemption, and ultimately reveals the truth that Jesus, and only Jesus, can answer the suffering we experience in this world. The answer to suffering, in other words, is not to remove it from our life, but to redeem it, by uniting it to the suffering of Christ: “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Today, we celebrate the feast of a true Christian, a man who followed Christ to the end, who remained “steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). This man is Saint Ignatius of Antioch.

St. Ignatius was what’s called an early Church Father, and the Church Fathers are absolutely necessary in order to understand what it means to be a Christian. The Catholic Church has, throughout the centuries, drawn on their writings for her theology, because they lived so closely to the time of Christ and were so united to the Apostles. If you have not read any of the writings of the Church Fathers, you really must do so, and St. Ignatius of Antioch is a great place to start.

St. Ignatius was born around the year 50 AD in Syria. He was the third Bishop of Antioch, immediately succeeding Evodius, who had immediately succeeded Saint Peter, Prince of the Apostles. St. Peter was ultimately the first Bishop of Rome, also known as the first Pope, and was eventually martyred in what is now Vatican City. St. Peter himself appointed St. Ignatius to the See of Antioch. Because St. Ignatius received his consecration as bishop at the hands of the first pope, he was greatly honored. 

During his time as Bishop of Antioch, he spent much of his time encouraging his flock to be steadfast in the face of persecution. He gave the faithful of Antioch hope during the persecutions of Emperor Dormitian, who reigned from 81-96 AD. St. Ignatius himself escaped the persecution of Dormitian, but he was not as lucky during the reign of Emperor Trajan, who was emperor shortly after Dormitian. That is, if we should consider it lucky to escape martyrdom. St. Ignatius certainly would have considered himself unlucky if he did escape! In his letter to the Romans, in which he requested that Roman Christians not try to save him from martyrdom, he said: “I beseech of you not to show an unseasonable good-will towards me. Allow me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God. I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ.”

In the year 106 AD, Trajan mandated that everyone, regardless of religious belief, give thanks to the pagan gods for the success Trajan had over the Scythians. If anyone refused to worship these pagan gods, he would be killed. In 107 AD, Trajan was passing through Antioch, and he was told that St. Ignatius openly confessed Christ and preached against these persecutions. Trajan had Ignatius brought before him, and St. Ignatius eloquently, courageously, and even joyfully, rebuked the emperor and welcomed the threat of martyrdom. Trajan ordered that St. Ignatius be chained and brought to Rome, to be fed to beasts in the Coliseum. To this day, his relics are in the Basilica of St. Clement in Rome. 

One thing that is so clearly exemplified in St. Ignatius’s writings is the presence of Catholic doctrine. The Early Church Fathers in general demonstrate the reality that the early Church truly was the Catholic Church, the same Catholic Church that exists to this day, but St. Ignatius is particularly important, because of his clarity, bluntness, and temporal proximity to the Apostles. To take just one quote from his writings, he states in his letter to the Philadelphians: 

Make no mistake, my brothers, if anyone joins a schismatic he will not inherit God’s Kingdom. If anyone walks in the way of heresy, he is out of sympathy of the Passion. Be careful, then, to observe a single Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and one cup of his blood that makes us one, and one altar, just as there is one bishop along with the presbytery and the deacons, my fellow slaves. In that way whatever you do is in line with God’s will.

Let’s go back now to our initial question: What does it mean to follow Christ, and how do we know what is his will? Here, St. Ignatius gives a synopsis of what this means and how to live that out practically. He states very bluntly that those who join schismatic groups, in other words, those who break off from the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church founded by Christ, will not inherit God’s kingdom. The way one knows whether they are in a schismatic group, according to St. Ignatius, is if they are out of communion with the bishops appointed by the Church Christ founded. He states that people who break communion with the Church are separated from Christ’s passion, which is the only means of salvation. In addition, he notes the absolute necessity of observing the truth of the real, not symbolic, presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He states that the Eucharist is truly the flesh and blood of our Lord, and that we must be very careful to make sure we are acknowledging that reality, in accordance with the words of Jesus Christ Himself and the Church he founded.

This quote also demonstrates the hierarchical nature of the early Christian Church, which had an episcopate (the bishops), presbyterate (the priests), and the diaconate (the deacons), which is the exact structure that exists to this day in the Catholic Church, and all of the apostolic Churches, the Orthodox included. This is why reading the Church Fathers is so necessary: We must know how to follow Christ, not only in the way we ourselves interpret Scripture, but in the way that Christ himself intended us to follow him. And a good way to know how he intended us to follow him is to look and see what the earliest Christians thought, because they lived and worked with the Apostles. 

Do not be afraid. Do not worry about what people say about you for living out your faith.

Furthermore, if you find yourself in fear over the times we are living in, over the hostility to the Christian faith that pervades our culture, I want to encourage you. Do not be afraid. Do not worry about what people say about you for living out your faith. It is only natural that following Christ, we too, should be persecuted, just as He was: “If the world hates you, know that it hated me first” (John 15:18). Go out there and proclaim the truth, and proclaim it boldly, because if people do not know now, they will eventually, and now is better than later: “God greatly exalted him, and bestowed upon him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 4:9-11).

Use Quarantine to Grow Your Faith

Love is to will the good of the other. And willing the good, that is, choosing the good, of the other, is difficult, because oftentimes it involves sacrificing our own desires.

There is not one person whom COVID-19 has not affected, whether patients who have contracted the virus or those of us in quarantine. Regardless, the most important question to be answered, which many people are asking, but many are also ignoring, is the following: how do we respond spiritually? The answer is the same as it has always been, namely, to be a saint. But how?

Well, speaking from experience, I have no idea. However, one thing is certain: in order to be a saint, one must choose to be. The difference between those who become saints–canonized or not–and those who do not become saints is a choice. Rather, it is a series of choices that puts the person on a path to holiness and conformity to the person of Jesus Christ. While we must take advantage of all of the spiritual tools available to help us grow in our spiritual life, these tools will do nothing if the person’s free will is not in a state of cooperation with the grace of God.

If a person wants the spiritual life to be easy, then they also will not be able to pursue sanctity. They are confused about who the Lord is. The Lord Jesus said it clear as day: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Lk 9:23-24). So we must be clear what we are getting into. The person we follow is not Buddha, it is not Gandhi, it is not Joel Osteen, and it is not even your priest. The person we follow is the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last. He is Truth incarnate and He is an everlasting Father. But He is all of these things crucified. And we likewise must be crucified, that we may rise again with Him on the last day. “For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection” (Rom. 6:5). So we need to be clear that there is no easy trick to becoming a saint, other than to simply choose to be. And doing this is hard. But with God’s grace, it is eminently possible.

This is all nice and true, but how specifically can we accept the gift of God’s grace and become holy during this time of the virus? This will differ from person to person, but we can start with Jesus’s command to love our neighbor. Most likely, the people we are spending the most time with are our family members, who may also happen to drive most of us insane when all quarantined together for weeks. While this sounds like a nightmare at first glance, it’s actually the opposite when you look at it from God’s perspective. What is love? Love is to will the good of the other. And willing the good, that is, choosing the good, of the other, is difficult, because oftentimes it involves sacrificing our own desires. Someone might do something extremely bothersome in your home and get on your nerves. Instead of impulsively responding to your desire to tell them to stop doing whatever is bothering you, take that annoyance and unite it to Jesus. We might not want to do the dishes, and we might not want to help make our home a more peaceful place. Well, do them anyway and unite it with Jesus. When Jesus said to pick up your cross, He didn’t mean you’re going to be walking around with a physical cross all the time. Rather, we have all sorts of varying sufferings of various sizes. We can take the little sufferings and crosses that often happen in family life and unite them with Christ’s passion. This is infinitely beautiful and redemptive. It’s part of St. Therese’s little way, and it’s absolutely the truth. 

In addition to loving our family and neighbor, even, and especially, when we don’t want to, we must also love God. We do this by avoiding evil and doing good. The evil we must avoid is sin. If you have sin in your life (we all do, don’t worry), you need to work to avoid it. This is impossible on your own strength, but it’s extremely easy for God. Look around you; God created everything. And you doubt his ability to sanctify you and remove sin from your heart? Of course He can do that. Sin can only be avoided if it is acknowledged, so honestly examine your conscience to see what kind of sins you might be lying to yourself about. Once you have examined yourself, you must turn back to goodness. The only way we can turn back to goodness is through grace, and this is distinctly found in prayer. 

Prayer is the pillar of the spiritual life, and without it, we will not be able to love our neighbor, we will not be able to avoid sin, and we certainly won’t have much luck loving God. Every day, when you wake up, the first thing you should do is pray. Don’t go looking at your texts. Save that for later. The very beginning of your day should be devoted to booting up your spiritual system to be able to handle the trials of the day, as well as to be receptive and grateful for the many blessings God will give you during that day. At a bare minimum, you should spend ten minutes with God before you start living out the day God gives you. If you don’t do this, it’s going to be much harder to get through the day in terms of doing good and avoiding evil. This prayer should continue throughout the day, and be supplemented with spiritual reading such as the gospels, other scriptures, or other spiritual books such as the lives of some saints you find interesting. You might turn to Jesus randomly with aspirations, asking Him to show you His love and mercy throughout the day. 

So, to keep this short and to the point, let’s review the keys to the spiritual life during quarantine. First, love your neighbor and be kind and patient, especially when it’s hard. If you can’t be nice and are in a bad mood, just keep your mouth shut, but not in a passive aggressive way. This is a hard balance, but ask Jesus to help you and He will. Second, avoid sin, and examine your conscience so you can actually acknowledge your sins. And third, you must pray. Through prayer will you receive grace to be able to live the spiritual life during quarantine. With all of this time on your hands, I bet you can find some time to connect with the Creator of the universe. Probably a significant amount of time. 

If you can keep all of these things in mind, you can become a little saint, whether you become canonized or not. Enough reading this article and get after it!

“The Alamo” (1960) at the Alamo

The Alamo offered a free showing of the 1960 Western epic on the last Friday of the anniversary of the real siege.

The excitement hit as soon as my eyes fell upon the mission itself. The lights hitting the cracked stones created a beautiful effect of shadow. Continuing to the right of the mission, greeting the Texas Ranger, and walking through the archway all heightened my excitement. Finally, I entered the living history encampment where the movie was shown. With the David Crockett hotel in the foreground, I—and the coonskin hat on my head—settled in to watch The Alamo (1960). 

The start of the movie follows the thirty-two Tennessee volunteers and their leader, Colonel David Crockett, on their last journey to the Alamo. At the Alamo, Colonel William Travis is attempting to slow down the Mexican army, led by Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. When a letter from Colonel James Fannin tells Travis that their reinforcements were stopped by the Mexican army, the need for more men to defend the Alamo increases. 

Throughout the movie, the portrayal of the three main American leaders of the Battle of the Alamo (Travis, Crockett and Bowie) was quite historically accurate. Travis, played by Laurie Harvey, is a highly trained military leader who demands the same level of military standards for all the men in the mission. His leadership style foils Crockett’s, played by John Wayne, who lets his men decide if they want to stay and die defending the Alamo–with some clever persuasion. Bowie, played by Richard Widmark, undergoes the most character development due to the incredibly hard choice he faces at the battle. Bowie’s original plan is to destroy the mission and the cannons, leaving nothing for the Mexican forces to retrieve or use against the rebels. As the siege begins, Travis gives the men the choice to stay or go. At this moment, Bowie is ready to leave the mission, both for practical reasons and his ongoing friction with the stiff, inflexible Travis. However, Bowie changes his mind. He hops off his horse and stands behind Travis. This scene replaces the “line in the sand” moment, which historians still argue over today and is portrayed differently in other Alamo movies. 

Fun fact—this frame from the movie tributes the famous oil painting El Jaleo by John Singer Sargent.
Fun fact—this frame from the movie tributes the famous oil painting El Jaleo by John Singer Sargent.

I was surprised at the portrayal of the Mexican army in this movie version. In typical fashion, the Mexican army is portrayed as a brutal force that murders the Alamo defenders in cold blood. But, in this version, the army seems highly trained and polished. The extras in the movie demonstrated good horsemanship on the screen. Compared to the ragtag volunteer defenders of the Alamo, the Mexican army showed off their beautiful uniforms and military training as they marched towards the defenders. After one of the first scrimmages of the siege, there is a scene with some of the volunteers on their post on the main gate talking about the men of the Mexican army, admiring them for continuing to march towards the walls even though the men around them face destruction by the defenders. Later on in the siege, the army strikes an agreement with the troops that they will allow the women and children to leave the mission peacefully and go wherever they please. This show of humanity continues after the last battle when Susanna Dickinson is spared, along with her daughter and slave. The army shows respect towards Susanna as they give her a donkey and provisions to help her make the journey back to safety. This is the last scene of the movie. While nobody talks, the Mexican army behaves towards Dickinson with great honor. Even Santa Anna himself takes off his hat as Susanna passes him.  

This was a once in a lifetime experience. I had the honor of watching this movie on its sixtieth anniversary at the Alamo itself as a part of the thirteen-day celebration of the 184th anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo. Watching the siege on the screen while sitting where it actually took place was an amazing experience. I was able to appreciate not only the movie, but also the Battle of the Alamo on a whole new level.

A Review of “Masses and Man” Performed by TUPS

Trinity Theatre’s “Masses and Man” balances modernist quirks with true feeling.

    As I sit down, I notice the steady stream of people pouring into the Cafe Theater. Mellow chatter ensues, and I stretch out my legs. I showed up 15 minutes early to the performance and figure I would relax. Suddenly, after most settle in their seats, someone enters the room, dressed all in black, and sits among the audience. She has an eerie yet intent look about her, mindful of the surrounding crowd yet focusing on the stage. As I continue to stare, the lights suddenly go off, her silhouette fading into the surrounding darkness. New lights leap up before me. Two women, dressed similarly in that uncanny black attire, appear on stage. After an impassioned dialogue, the first figure questions the other, but in a tone somehow directed at the audience: “Comrade, are you ready?”

    From February 14 to February 17, the Trinity University Players performed “Masses and Man,” directed by Alex Oliver. It is a play about social revolution in the early 1900s. Although political in background, the play explores human nature through German expressionism.

    The story starts off with a Woman (Lauren Keith) attempting to join a worker’s committee. Despite her initial excitement in pursuing a social utopia, her eagerness wavers when confronted by the Nameless (Kathleen Arbogast). Discontent with the Woman’s notions of a paradise through peace, the Nameless urges for a utopia achieved through violence. The Woman refuses, and prevents acts of violence throughout the story. This leads her into capture by the state. Yet, despite help from both her bourgeois husband and the Nameless, the Woman willingly remains in prison to prevent a warden’s death. Ultimately, the Woman is executed.

    In a letter to an early producer, the author Ernst Toller states that his play “can only have a spiritual, never a concrete, reality.” This is the fundamental vision of German expressionism: that objectivity and reality are dictated by inner feelings. This performance captures this sentiment profoundly.

    Although I am reluctant to call the play “spiritual,” it did have a metaphysical atmosphere. The performance relies on physical expression to elevate the actors’ presence in the play. The puppet-stringed pantomime of the bankers (Sarah Bastos, Alex Bradley) is executed to an overexaggerated degree. Their movements are uncanny, the puppeteering motions allowing the actors to embody an eerie social reality. But what I found particularly intriguing were the movements of the Nameless. The performance makes her more than a mere frustrated idealist. In her first appearance, she comes down from the stage. Her movements are nimble yet deliberate, swift across rows of chairs like a serpent gliding across still grass, ghastly chants from the other actors rising like an array of tempting hisses, the captivated audience held by her alluring speech of revolution and change. In this, the Nameless transcends the state of actor on stage to embody humanity’s desire for volatile passion. 

    Naturally, one would wonder whether an expressionist play would lessen the presence of dialogue, favoring physical movement. Fortunately, the execution of the dialogue is superb. The characters are tasked with achieving convincing dialogue to attempt to garner sympathy for their cause from the audience. The passionate, heartwarming and empathetic pleas of the Woman contrast with the inciting, inflamed and rousing appeal of the Nameless. In this thematic and emotional conflict, I could not help but become heavily invested, struggling to either embrace the Woman’s compassionate innocence or empathize with the Nameless’ harrowing frustration. 

In other words, the dialogue was not lessened by the expressionism, nor vice-versa. Instead, expression and dialogue flowed together in the play, both helping create a metaphysical, captivating and deep atmosphere. 

    Personally, I had never seen a German expressionist play before attending this performance. My expectation was that the play would rely on physical expression–rather than substantial dialogue–to tell the story. But after seeing the performance, my perception was thoroughly proven wrong. Although it certainly deviates from the classic play structure, the performance has all the trappings of a traditional tragedy but is further enhanced by profound expressionism and dialogue.

Counterpoint: Let Music Be

So what if the genres bleed together? Who says they have to represent history?

Because I like to hear musicians play their instruments, I’ve never been a big fan of country or rap. I’ll always have a soft spot for some country music because of my family, and plenty of hip hop beat doctors (especially drummers) show sparks of real creativity. Both genres are also easy to underestimate, hiding long, dramatic histories behind usually simple three-minute tracks. But while both genres have gems of genius lyrics, they also have a bad knack for hiding real playing skill behind music machines and a thick foreground of words–but that opinion is just my own.

I should also make it clear that “Old Town Road” is my least favorite song of all time. There’s absolutely no competition. I first heard it when I was living in Isabel and the baseball team had it playing during the warmup before a game. I was reading Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway on my balcony for some class, which was already torment enough, when “Old Town Road” wafted over from the field like some kind of terrible musical fart. A jazz fusion rendition of Justin Bieber’s “Baby” would have been like a sweet kiss compared to the ear-piercing strains of “Old Town Road.”

That said, I’m glad that America was the birthplace of this Frankenstein’s monster, and I don’t think it’s a severe departure from country music. The song is garish, boastful, and hard to categorize–naturally, it belongs to us Americans. On top of that, country music has been taking a steady spin down the toilet for decades as the genre tries ever harder to become a parody of itself. Every track takes a studio packed with trained musicians and a writing credit line longer than a sports team roster. Singers scrape the bottom of the same shared barrel for unoriginal bumper-sticker lyrics to be sung in outlandish accents. Even the subgenres of so-called red dirt or outlaw country too often rely on copying a flat portrait of rural life.

This process is much, much older than “Old Town Road” or “The Git Up.” Tractor rap infected the genre years ago, and the pop influence crept in with the rhinestones. Waylon Jennings noticed back in the 1970s that old Hank Williams didn’t exactly do it this-a-way. Ever since Chet Atkins decided he needed to back up his guitar with a full orchestra, country music has fled slowly but steadily away from purity.

Rap is fresher than country because it’s newer, but like rock music before it, rap’s rebellious attitude will wane as its popularity grows. Between well-meaning activists trying to castrate the genre and suburban kids somehow making money off low-effort beats they manufacture in their spare time, it’s possible that process has already begun.

So what if the genres bleed together? Who says genres have to represent a flash-frozen portion of history? Besides, in some ways, “Old Town Road” represents a good chunk of our American world today. On my high school football team south of Dallas, almost every player, black and white, knew Busta Rhymes’ part from “Look At Me Now” word for word. A lot of those white guys also knew “All My Exes Live In Texas” front and back. If that doesn’t seem clean or cut-and-dry, that’s because people just aren’t. Only in college do we see people trying their hardest to abide by the racial lines others draw for them. I get that a lot of liberals who can’t get outside of their own politics are trying their damnedest to redefine Texas music, but they won’t succeed anymore than conservatives will because music–even bad music, but especially the best music–is a living, organic thing that we cannot pin down or contain. Because “Old Town Road” just plain sucks, the best of all genres, new and old, will grow and outlast it.