The War on Holidays

Ah yes, the fairly recently-deceased Andy Williams…I inserted that song by that artist here because he’s the most old-timey, Christianisty singer I can think of offhand.

But listen to the song.  He’s not singing “Merry Christmas.”  He’s singing…GASP…”Happy Holidays!”  And he’s not singing about creches, but instead about all the secular Xmas (more on that word later) symbols of Christmas that there are, and then some. Heavens, what’s Fox News going to say.  Well, this song predates Fox News by decades, as did Andy Williams.  And Fox News has never said anything.

The fact is, time was that “Happy Holidays” was not considered shocking or anti-Christian at all.  Nope, back then, people tried to keep “Christ” out of “Christmas” by wishing each other “Merry Xmas.”  Problem is, in some language or another, “X” refers to the savior. This was back in the 1960’s, however, when no one bothered to look at that language to find out what it referred to.  It was a very different world back then.  Honest.  All this Christian shit didn’t whip itself up into its present full-fledged frenzy until the 1980’s or so.  (That’s not to say it didn’t exist, but I will tell you that back then, a man considered to be an arch-conservative — Barry Goldwater — warned of dire consequences if any of those religious whackos got into government.  50 years later…)

In those days, religion and politics didn’t mix; in fact, in polite company, they weren’t even discussed.  In fact, one of the (bogus) concerns about John Kennedy was that he was Catholic and might be beholden to the Pope.  But when priests insisted on getting involved in anti-war activities, the Vatican shut them down.  Hard to imagine, but true. Anyway, the 1940’s through the 1960’s were the decades when Christmas was stripped of whatever Christianity it had.  It is not a recent development, trust me.  And no, there is no “war on Christmas.”

Mind you, I have friends in countries that are largely Christian, such as Australia, who inform me that it is now illegal to wish someone “Merry Christmas” in public.  Since the wingnut revolution is in its infancy in that country, it’s hard to know if this is true or just misinformation.  The point is, however, in the U.S. it is not illegal, nor is is likely to become so.  Christmas is too profitable to do away with.

However, Fox News is fussing and fuming and turning purple about the phrase “Happy Holidays.”  Let’s clarify something here: (1) there are not just one but MANY festivals of light — and Christmas is a festival of light, as it has deeply Pagan roots — around the winter solstice.  And although the U.S. remains largely Christian, a lot of Christians aren’t particularly Christian and the remainder of the population celebrates all sorts of stuff like Yule, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and so forth.  And you can’t always tell what someone is celebrating by looking at them.  So, “Happy Holidays,” which means “Happy HOLY days,” is a good alternative to taking a wild guess.

What Fox News is going after here is not a “war on Christmas,” since there is none and even if there were, it is hardly symbolized by the use of “Happy Holidays.”  No, what they are after is promoting religious discrimination against those who celebrate other holidays, or those who just think Christmas is one big fat overblown pain in the ass.  Like the true bullies they are, Fox News projects their intention onto others; thus, the bogus “War on Christmas” has been born. The trouble is that these attempts to control what everyone says and thinks chip away at our true freedoms, which are freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  All the whining in the world can’t disguise the minefield that has been created, especially for those of us who must deal with a diverse public.

From me you will hear Happy Holidays if I don’t know you.  You will hear Blessed Yule if I do.  The vast majority of people are okay with that. And for those who are not, I only ask them to turn off their TV set.  Thank you.

Please. Don’t Drag Jesus Into This.

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan apparently did a nice suck-up job yesterday at Mass, comparing Pope Benedict to Jesus.

Yes, I am mindful that to faithful Catholics, the Pope is the representative of Christ on Earth.  The Pope therefore must have a penis.  And because he is the head of what has become a large and soul-less corporation, he must also keep deep, dark secrets — you know, like sexual abuse of minors.

Looks like Pope Benedict is almost as good at that as he is at declaring his own flawlessness.  Clearly I missed something in my religious training if I don’t know why that is supposed to be admirable.

And now they are dragging poor Jesus into this…

My religious tradition looks upon Jesus as one of the great mystics and teachers, but we are mindful that he himself warned against worshipping him (Jesus) as a god.  He would likely be horrified at all of this king/prince/pauper/kingdom crap, and all the accompanying injustices that have been going on in his name for a couple of millennia — not to mention all the good ‘ol Muscle-Man SuperHero Jesus crap that’s currently going on in the U.S.

Like I said, poor Jesus.

And to the Catholic Church: you folks have no business comparing any among your number to Jesus or any other decent human being.

The Blameless Mr. Bush

If you can follow the logic, the Republicans have occupied the White House for very roughly two-thirds of the last 40 years, yet the Democrats are to blame for the crisis the county — and the world it resides in — is experiencing.

I can’t follow the logic. It’s a little like blaming the hapless ACORN for the mortgage bust…oh, wait, the Republicans already did that. Never mind. The Catholic Church, which has been playing the role of an ultra-conservative poltergeist in U.S. social policy while hiding behind its tax exemption, has withdrawn its million-dollar support of ACORN — not because of the mortgage thingie (which never had anything to do with ACORN to begin with), but for that silly episode of Mickey Mouse registering to vote a few thousand times. At this point, I almost feel sorry for ACORN. For me, that’s saying a lot. Imagine being stuck between the Republicans and the Catholic Church. Talk about a rock and a hard place…

Anyway, speaking of rocks, the latest Republican brainstorm is that George Bush had nothing to do with anything. Bill Clinton did it. Never mind that Clinton has been out of office for 8 years; George is a nice man who has merely been extremely unlucky to follow the evil Clinton into office and have to deal with all the hell that allegedly broke loose as a result of an 8 year Clinton administration.

With the exception of the “unlucky” part, (which is recent), in the early days of the Bush administration, right up through September 11, 2001, we heard this “Clinton’s fault” stuff a lot. It didn’t make sense to me even back then. Yes, Clinton was in office 8 years, but he spent at least half that time dealing with a Republican Congress that kept impeaching him, or at least trying to. They didn’t seem to be able to get much else done.

Here’s another point to consider: Clinton was a fiscal conservative. As he was a fiscal conservative without also being a social conservative, he actually managed to get stuff done — pretty much on his own, since Congress spent most of its time studying its neocon navel during the Clinton administration. Under his watch, the U.S. budget was balanced. I guess Republican logic says that he’s been lurking around in the 8 years since creating the biggest deficit in U.S. history. But they fail to explain how he has managed that, or why he would even try.

And again, there’s that nagging fact that the Republicans have occupied the White House pretty much of the time since 1968. But still, it’s Bill Clinton’s fault. I’m even hearing that some of it is Jimmy Carter’s fault. (Remember him? No? Why am I not surprised?)

Awfully powerful, these Democrats. At least, they must be awfully effective: they accomplished more mischief in 12 years than the Republicans allegedly managed to clean up in the remaining 28.

To be fair, there are some signs of sanity now that I hadn’t seen in the last several years. One of them is the sudden, if infrequent criticism of the formerly unassailable Ronald Reagan. To my mind, this is the idiot who started the cascade of idiocy that enabled the stolen elections of 2000 and 2004 that resulted in an 8-year Bush administration.

This criticism, (still faint and infrequent as a mysterious radio signal from outer space), as well as the suddenly accurate recollections of Reagan’s less saintly moments in office, is reassuring — kind of like a dementia victim responding to a drug that enhances long-term recall. We do need to remember, not through Republican cloudy lenses, but with some sort of sharpness and accuracy. To be sure, Reagan did not cause the crises of the past 8 years any more than did Clinton. But what his administration did do was give ol’ George a chance. There was a time when nobody that stupid could get elected, even as uneasily as Dubya did. But the Reagan Machine, which morphed into the Contract On America in the 1990’s, opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box.

Quickly, as if the cosmos itself had had quite enough of this nonsense, weird, eerie stuff started to happen: 9/11/01 was just the start. That was easily blamed on Clinton, who had left office less than a year earlier. It was especially easy to blame Clinton if you ignored the fact that Bush had brushed off a warning about the impending attacks a month before they occurred.

Then we invaded Afghanistan. Then Iraq. Then Katrina happened — certainly that was not Bush’s fault, but the “heck of a job” in responding to it was.

Illegal immigration mushroomed out of control, and Bush’s response to an angry populace was only to call them “racist.” He sent Mexicans in to fix New Orleans, at least until word got out that U.S. contractors who had gone there had been sent home after being forced to train Mexican companies to do their jobs. After that scheme failed, apparently nothing further was done to resurrect New Orleans.

Mexican Presidents, in the meantime, were allowed to parade around the U.S., talking of “reconquista.” More recently, their troops have repeatedly entered the U.S. And yet, nothing has been done. We’ve barely even heard about it. (No, this is not a racist neocon fantasy, folks, this is real.)

Nothing was done about the deteriorating healthcare system. Nothing. Not enough money, Bush claimed. This leads one to wonder where all the money for the financial-giant bailouts is coming from, as it would have more than paid for an overhaul of the healthcare system. And that’s not all…

Jobs continued to be shipped overseas, even as millions of new bodies arrived on our shores and poured over our borders with little or nothing being done to stop them until very recently. Overall, it’s estimated we lost at least half a million jobs in the early 2000s, even as we added several million immigrants to our residents list. There’s an obvious problem with the math there, as well as another obvious problem: even when we ended up with 300,000,000 people in the U.S., U.S. corporations claimed they still couldn’t find enough good help and needed to import some more bodies — hundreds of thousands of them annually, in fact. And they usually got their way because nothing was being done to stop them.

Nothing was done about the ailing planet except to deny that it was ailing.

Nothing was done about the housing crisis except to deny that there was a housing crisis, which only became apparent after the mortgage market crashed to an extent that almost no one but a truly rabid neocon could succeed in blaming it on the tiny, hapless, stupid, blubbering, bleeding-heart ACORN, the unwitting left-wing patsy of immigration-crazy, cheap-labor, ultra-conservative big business and the Catholic Church. Never mind that a lot of us had been wondering for years how people who were earning less than $100,000 a year — and the vast majority of us were — could afford the $700,000+ McMansions that were springing up all over the place, as perfectly viable older homes were needlessly knocked down or became hideously overpriced themselves.

And now, just about everything in the financial markets has collapsed. Money is being given away in buckets and barrels to the very people who engineered the collapse through their own greed. You and I are left to pay the bill while AIG continues to throw staff parties and pay their executives millions. GM and Ford now have their hands out, even though it’s their own fault that they were caught with lots full of gas-guzzling SUVs at the same time that gas prices soared over $4.00 a gallon and Exxon rolled in the dough while trying to excuse it by claiming that they were not really rolling in dough because the dough was…I don’t know. Barely covering executive salaries, perhaps?

And nothing was done — at least, nothing was done as quickly as the financial-market bailout. What was done for the average person came slowly and was not much help. In fact, I was just thinking that I really do not want, but really need a new car and really, because of my Bush-era salary (which at this point I’m lucky to have at all), can’t afford one. Where’s my handout?

It’s all Bill Clinton’s fault. Remember that.

George Bush must have been vacationing at his ranch the past 8 years.

(for further comment, read http://www.truthout.org/110608A and http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=goodbye_and_good_riddance)