Thursday, July 12, 2012

It Doesn't Take Common Sense to Know.....that we need to get to know each other better.

It Doesn't Take Common Sense to Know.....that we need to get to know each other better.

First I need to give you a little bit of background on me so you can get an idea about where my opinions come from. I am a twenty two year old unemployed recent college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in political science. In no way am I saying that my opinion is the right one nor am I saying anyone else’s political opinion is absolutely wrong. I am just simply saying that I have opinions that suit me and the way I think. When I graduated from High School in 2007 I was absolutely sure that I was a Republican as well as a conservative thinker. Graduating from a catholic high school and growing up in an extremely conservative Italian family I was very sure of those opinions. The truth is that a month before graduation I had a life changing experience, it certainly was a thought changing experience. It truly was a moment in my life when I realized that everything I believed might be wrong and that you should never approach anything blindly.

It was April of 2007 and I was teaching Sunday school. I was finishing up my senior service by teaching catechism. One day a student started crying in class, I took him into the hall and asked him why he was crying, he said “I am really sad and I don’t want to be here”. I responded like a teacher at first “well we have to be here don’t you want to learn about God and Jesus’ teachings?” He said “I do but I am just really sad right now” I said “Why are you sad, did something happen?” I had to word that carefully because I was not allowed to ask him if anything was happening at home, it was “to intrusive and none of my business” according to the head nun. “They are here to learn about the lord and his teaching and you are here to teach them that properly and according to catholic canon” she told us all at orientation. Regardless, the student decided to tell me what had happened the Friday before class. He told me that he was afraid. I said “afraid of what?” knowing I was asking too much according to the sister, I felt bad for the child and hoped I could help him. He told me something horrible, “Mr. Pezzino?” he said “My cousin killed himself and I am afraid that he is in hell....I overheard my mother talking to my grandma and they were really sad because they thought he might be in hell” he began crying really hard and asked me “Is he in hell Mr. Pezzino?” I cannot explain the thoughts that went though my head. I had no idea how to respond! I knew though that I could not respond with the “catholic answer” the answer I knew but could not say to a sobbing child who just lost his cousin. So I responded how any compassionate human would respond to the question. I said “Your cousin is of course in heaven with God. He is looking down on you right now upset that you are sad. God forgives all who are truly sorry. Life is a precious thing but God will not punish someone for not wanting to live anymore.” “So my cousin is in heaven?” he said. “Of course he is” I responded. I then brought him down to the office told the secretary that he wasn’t feeling well and to call his mother to come pick him up. He was in no condition to listen to me talk for two hours. 

After leaving him in the office I felt good about my answer. I felt like I did the right thing “the good Christian thing” and I was so sure everything that I believed was right. I knew that the power of God to make someone feel better was right. Not because of some mystical idea but because knowing that God is there to help and guide you, and that it was simply a good thing. How could anyone tell me different? Little did I know that I would be telling my self that wasn’t true? 

Two weeks later I was having difficulty because I needed to develop a lesson plan about the Ten Commandments and I was having difficulty deciding how I was going to teach the seventh commandment to second and third graders without talking about sex. For those of you who don’t know the seventh commandment it is “Thou shall not commit adultery”. I decided that I would yield to the nun who was in charge of the Sunday school. After speaking to her about my concerns and confusion she decided that she would come into my class and teach the lesson for me. So I sat in the back of the classroom grading the homework I had assigned from the week before and she began teaching. Now when I approached her early that morning she said that she would just teach the seventh commandment but for some reason she decided that she would teach all ten. Far be it from me to interrupt a woman of the cloth so I decided to sit back and see how they used to do it back in the day. So while I was grading I would get quick sound bites of the things she was saying. For example likening Elmo to a false God, she felt that children’s obsession with Elmo and Pokémon was blasphemous and that when they made there first confession this is something they should bring up to the priest. I couldn’t help but think that was a little antiquated for 2007, but I decided what the hell, these kids know she is just old. After a while though it became evident that this woman would have been considered extreme during the dark ages! As I sat in awe of this woman’s ignorance I saw a hand rise ever so hesitantly and slow. My stomach dropped and I wave of terror came over me. It was the student from two weeks earlier who had just told me that he was scared his cousin was in hell. She called on him and the words came out of his mouth that I was terrified to hear, “Sister, my cousin killed himself, is he in hell?” I stood and began to speak “sister can I……” she put her hand up very forcefully meaning that I should be quiet, and made eye contact with me indicating that I needed to sit down. I did do so as if she put me in some mystical catholic trance. This is the moment when my entire view and outlook on life changed. The moment when I realized that everything I believed, deserved and needed to be questioned. She bent down and said the words I will never forget, “your cousin is BURNING in hell, with the rest of the sinners.” Not only was there an audible gasp throughout the class but the saddest thing I have ever experienced happened. The child began sobbing and looked back at me. I have no idea how to explain the look that he gave me. It can only simply be described as betrayal, as if I was the one who lied to him. I was furious inside, how a woman with no more power then me in the grand scheme of things could simply undo the good that I had done. How she could take away the comfort of an eight year old so quickly without even thinking about it. Then I realized it’s not the thought of God that comforts us, its the way we treat each other. It was the thought of the power of God that made this child feel sad in the first place and it was me who comforted him. Then it was the sister who took away the comfort I gave that child not God. I would like to say that there is some heroic ending to this story like I walked up to the sister and beat the crap out of her or even some sort of verbal exchange, but not even that. I guess at the time the significance of the event hadn’t sunk in yet or even made sense. I know that I so desperately wanted to say something or do something but I just didn’t and I am fortunate enough to say that in my life that is one of my only regrets.

What does that story have to do with anything? The story is not intended to be used for atheistic purposes or in any means take a stance against religion. It is not my intention to espouse specific religious beliefs or values but simply use common sense to make political decisions and opinions. If that experience taught me anything it was to question everything and believe nothing. My religious views should not be of any significance or concern and I will do my best to make sure that my opinions are based solely on facts and common sense thinking. My intention truly is, to try and explain how common sense thinking should be applied and that if we cannot use common sense then we will fail as a society.

When I talk about my politics with people, they tell me that you can only have either liberal ideals or conservative ideals. I argue that is completely false. Simply based on the fact every situation has more then one explanation. My mother has always said to me that there are two sides to every story and then there is the truth. I have used that ideal throughout my entire life. The simple fact is that nothing should be defined as liberal or conservative. There should simply just be right or wrong. I know that sounds childish and naïve but that is part of common sense thinking. Not that common sense thinking is childish and naïve but common sense thinking forces you to look for the most simple and honest explanation to any situation. I have also been told throughout my life that I need to choose a side or that my values have influenced my political opinions. To that I cannot definitively say that’s wrong, maybe if I grew up in a more liberal household I would have less conservative views, but again though I must reinforce that I don’t believe that my opinions are specific to any ideology except my own.

Written by: Salvatore Pezzino Jr.
Edited by: Julius Motal


  1. Thanks for sharing this... though this obviously wasn't my first time hearing that story!

    I disagree, though, that "common sense" decisions alone will force our country to head in the right direction. I think that if we fostered a more open and accepting attitude in our society, decisions on many social issues could be based on "common sense" - gay marriage, universal healthcare, etc. However, there are many ways to achieve a particular end even in circumstances such as those - that's where you often have more "liberally minded" and "conservatively minded" individuals clashing. For example, whether you pursue near-universal healthcare through an individual mandate, healthcare tax credit, single payer system, or market deregulation. More often than not, I think that "liberal" and "conservative" are used to describe a particular approach to a problem. I think that you can have approaches that are any mix of liberal, conservative, right, and wrong.

  2. Common sense decisions will force our country to head in the right direction because it is a lack of common sense that has the county in a deadlock. This country is polarized to the left and right so much that people can't see past there own party. Universal healthcare is wrong or right based solely on your party. I agree that there are moderates out there who are more accepting of the idea of universal healthcare but when it comes to how it will be implemented conservative leanings or liberal leanings come out. Now I know that sounds completely wrong because no one truly thinks in the middle. But then it comes down to which makes the most sense. Which side makes the most common sense, analyzing every side of an issue and determining which one will work is the best course of action. As I said that may sound childish, naive, and even impractical. But even if we just tried to look for what makes the most common sense and not necessarily looked for the absolute, then you can't deny this country would be in much better shape then it is right now. For way to long this country has worked under the idea that if my party says its right then it must be right. Just look at the change of political party ideologies throughout american history.

    I agree that there are liberal approaches and conservative approaches used to describe particular problems. My problem is, that there are only two approaches to a problem. We pretty much agree on this issue. I am just saying that although many issues can be approached with a mix of ideologies, politicians and many people in this country do not do that. Hence I feel that it takes common sense to know that these ideologies need to be mixed. To you and I it just makes sense to look at things like this but to many many people including people we both know, common sense just isn't very common.

    Finally I do believe there are absolute truths and absolute common sense decisions that can be made. For example the most obvious is gay marriage. That is an absolute, all you need to use is a little common sense to know that there is nothing wrong with gay marriage. Attacks and laws on gay rights is based solely on religious ideologies and complete ignorance. Not allowing gay people to express themselves equally as anyone else is truly a disgrace and something that can easily be fixed by using common sense.