Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy/Merry

BeneGram is not even two months old yet, and we already have our first sizable hiatus, the first of what I'm sure will be occasional hiatuses (yeah, that's the correct plural -- I looked it up). Things have been busy and there are a few situations close to me that warrant my concern more than blogging right now. They also serve to remind us that no time of year is joyous for everybody, and we should remember that as we move through large crowds, whether it's during the holidays or not. Everyone has his or her own troubles to bear -- a layoff, a family illness, a recent loss, a divorce -- and they put into perspective griping about mall traffic or the price of wrapping paper.

The following is another column I had published in Press Newspapers of Delaware County (www.countypressonline.com), this one about two years ago, during the normal December blitz. I thought I should get this in before January. The lefties love griping about President Bush's "war on science," and righties love railing against the "war on Christmas." Q.: What do the two "wars" have in common? A.: Neither one actually exists.

Have a safe and happy 2009.

Nothing Wrong with "Happy Holidays"

Several years ago, while toiling away at a local retail establishment, I affixed a few signs to our drive-through windows. Scattered throughout them were the proper names "Kwanzaa," "Christmas," "Hanukkah," "Ramadan," and "Winter Solstice." At the bottom of each sheet, I wrote, "Whatever you celebrate, enjoy the season."

After my day off, I returned to work and was informed by a colleague that one of our customers had griped about my signs, hollering something to the effect of, "Don’t you get it? These other people don’t even care about their holidays! It’s Christmas!"

Evidently, that malcontent was ahead of his or her time, because in 2006 we now allegedly have a "war on Christmas." While I have no personal problem with Bill O’Reilly or any other pundit making this contention – I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it.

Every shopping center I drive by has red-and-green-and-gold decorations up. Practically every sitcom is doing its ripoff of It's a Wonderful Life. At least one major radio station has been hitting us with all manner of yuletide music, 24-7, since mid-November. (And last year I counted three.) If there’s some sort of "war on Christmas" going on, whoever declared it is losing soundly.

Hey, I like getting presents for family and friends as much as the next bloke. I’ve been to a few Christmas parties already this season, and I’ve even performed some of the music myself. But I’m not about to have a fruitcake-inspired hissy fit just because the cashier at Boscov’s wished me "happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." (See, folks: Christmas is a holiday. It’s in there somewhere. Relax.)

I wish the people in my family "Merry Christmas" when the time is right. I say "Happy Hanukkah" to my Jewish friends. But I have friends who are dyed-in-the-wool atheists, and I wouldn’t dream of giving them a greeting that doesn’t apply to them and may, in fact, make them feel uncomfortable.

I can hear charges of being "too PC" already. Well, before anyone created the concept of "political correctness" we had another thing going around called "being nice to people" and one called "don’t exclude anyone."

Ah, the "war on Christmas" people say, but Christmas is a time that can be enjoyed by one and all, regardless of religion. Okay, then why does it seem that those making this argument are the same people telling us to "put the ‘Christ’ back in Christmas"?

If you want to argue that Christmas is becoming too secular, and that we’re forgetting the "reason for the season," fine – I won’t disagree. But we can’t have it both ways, gang. If you’re acknowledging that Christmas ought to remain true to the story of Bethlehem, then you can’t turn around and demand that Best Buy employees wish every customer "Merry Christmas," even when said customer is sporting a yarmulke.

So, please: enough of the boycotting department stores because of what you hear as you’re heading out the door with $600 of Salad Shooters®. (You should be nice to store clerks every day, because it’s thankless work, but that’s another issue.) There’s nothing anti-Christmas about saying "happy holidays" or "season’s greetings" or the even more secular "peace." Be nice to the dude at Genuardi’s, no matter which of these he happens to say to you. It’s the Christian thing to do.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Yep, Still Timely

The following piece of mine originally appeared in the COUNTY PRESS (www.countypressonline.com) and its sister newspapers for which I work. I thank the editorial staff for the opportunity. It appeared back in October but the issues raised are still quite germane. Hope you're all enjoying your Tofurkey® Day Weekend:

In this increasingly heated political year, some intimations made about Sen. Barack Obama are off-base, such as that he practices Islam. (I doubt he does, not that it should matter.) Obsessing over whether or not Obama wears a flag-pin has detracted from other things.Unfortunately, the mainstream media have back-burnered stories far more legitimate and troubling than Bristol Palin's Myspace page or the pronunciation of the word "nuclear."

Much has been made of Obama’s community organizing. The actual story is the nature of that "organizing": his work on the behalf of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). Obama served as legal counsel for ACORN, served there as leadership trainer, and, this year, donated $800,000 to the organization. ACORN intimidated banks into offering risky loans to people who couldn’t pay them back, leading to the sub-prime lending crisis devastating the global economy.

ACORN is also the focus of a voter-fraud investigation. The FBI has raided ACORN offices in Nevada and North Carolina. More suspicious activity has occurred in Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida, and Tennessee. (Q.: What do these have in common? A.: Almost all are swing states.) For example, Indianapolis now has 105% of its population registered to vote. That’s right: the city somehow has more "registered voters" than actual residents. In Nevada, names from the Dallas Cowboys’ roster are appearing on voter-registration lists. Voter fraud ­-- including imposters to match the fake names on Election Day -- is a danger in Nevada, one of the states where no photo ID is required upon voting.

Obama is in the top three U.S. Senatorial recipients of donations from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who bought up the aforementioned unwise loans. For years, Sen. John McCain – along with Alan Greenspan, Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight director Armando Falcon, and President Bush (seventeen times) – called for more oversight, forecasting the likelihood of impending financial doom. Congressional Democrats (and, yes, a handful of Republicans) chose not to heed the warning, calling Fannie and Freddie financially sound.

McCain, one of those who sought to prevent this crisis, is now absurdly being blamed for it, while people like Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Christopher Dodd are being politely asked "what went wrong," when they should be sitting on the other end of the interrogation table.

Long after Sen. Hillary Clinton mentioned it during the Democratic primaries, the fact that Obama began his political career in the home of unrepentant terrorist William Ayers is finally being covered, albeit reluctantly. Some argue that Obama was only eight when Ayers’s group bombed the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol, but he was certainly much older when he willingly allied himself with Ayers.

While in the Illinois State Senate, Obama went well beyond the pro-choice/pro-life debate by voting four times against protecting newborns who survived failed attempts at abortion. (Just type “Obama BAIPA” into YouTube.)

Not only Republicans should be greatly disturbed over the mainstream media's information blockade. A frightening precedent is set when Americans, whatever their party or race, cannot make an informed decision because they're deliberately deprived of the facts.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

And So We Begin

Part of my first post will be, well, to see if this thing works properly, but part will be to launch something I've been meaning to do for a few years now. Some have asked, since I write about one odd thing or another, when I'm going to get my own blog. Well, this is as good a time as any, as Tuesday's elections have reenergized my angst.

That's not to say, of course, that this will be a completely conservative vehicle. Far from it. See the color-coding on my site? That means I'm in a red-purple sort of mood. I'm not beholden to any one party or viewpoint 100%; I dislike the idea of having to adopt any market basket of ideas. There will be plenty of apolitical commenting/griping here, as well.

Comments will be permitted, but I plan on moderating strongly once would-be commenters start trickling in. Each blogger must determine the amount of incivility, profanity, or nastiness (s)he will allow, and I'm still sort of finding my way.

So this thing will be on board just as soon as I click on the...