Saturday, January 26, 2013

Peace laureates my ass!

Am going to Chicago in a few months to do some research & thought it would be fun to look up the women I was in a novitiate with for a few years after graduating high school. To a working class kid with no money & no dreams, graduation looked like the Cliffs of Moher: a 600 foot drop. So I became a novice in an order which worked with children who had learning disabilities since I love kids & was especially interested in those with learning problems.

It was a conservative order of Italian peasants become nuns; I don’t say that haughtily since options were surely more limited for young women farmers in Italy during the 1940s than they were for a working class woman in the 1960s. The order didn’t take a liking to me since I refused to use physical force on the children & intervened repeatedly when other nuns would beat a child. I was soon removed from child care & assigned to the kitchen to be trained as a cook. My family never could afford meat & I had never seen it raw. Confronted with giant cow tongues, the rancid smell of powdered eggs, & institutional cooking affronted all my hopes for my life & set me on a collision course with the abbess.

At that time, the Vietnam war was becoming public & one of my older brothers was shipped there in a Marine unit. I was concerned about him & the war so I would get newspapers the chaplain left in the kitchen, turn to articles on the war, & read while I peeled potatoes. Another novice serving in the kitchen named Sr. Arlene was a misanthropic & constipated personality with a disturbing dark side & a particular disapproval of me--who she snortingly called “the wayward novice” & (inexplicably) “a female Elmer Gantry.” She once described to me her visit to a home for the offspring of human & animal matings. (Even with a high schoolers understanding of biology I knew she was talking through her ass.) She reported me to the abbess for reading the newspapers & I was called on the carpet & ordered to never read them again.

I never did read the papers again but every morning before my kitchen duties I was sent to the chaplain’s house accompanied by a monitor to clean his toilet. That was a punishment for openly detesting him since he told the abbess I wasn’t smart enough to go to college for nursing or teaching. I still gloat today that I never once cleaned his stinking latrine. I would lock the door, put the toilet seat down, flush & run the faucet, & read Time & Newsweek (which he kept in a rack on the door) on the Vietnam war--a Jesuitical but useful distinction between the spirit & the letter of the vow of obedience.

Soon enough I left the joint, sent home only in a shabby over-sized dress from Sears & wearing my nun shoes. Within the year I was marching against the war. But I loved many of my fellow novices & went to visit them a few times when antiwar conferences were held in Chicago. My Carmelite younger sister told me they were still using photos of me with the children to recruit at nun conferences years after I left.

So this is the hilarious part--showing that life is filled with many unintended sarcasms. As I searched the order’s website to see if any of my friends are still in Chicago, I found out that our snitching, mean-spirited, & still in need of prunes-faced Sr. Arlene is now a superior in Manila, Philippines & in 2005 won the Gusi International Peace Prize. Now do you see how Obomba won the Nobel Peace Prize!? Now do you see why it’s foolish to take these prizes seriously!? Sr. Arlene, who had a dozen other character flaws I haven’t bothered to mention (but if you goad me just a little I’ll be glad to elaborate) got a peace prize when she didn’t have a serene bone in her body! God bless her & may hell receive her graciously!

(Sr. Arlene is the nun in the middle in an outfit they couldn’t have ordered me to wear.)

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