Looks More Like a Rut Than Tradition

The happy holiday season is now upon us.  Actually, it never left.  We are in perpetual holiday mode, which should say something about modern society. What that says escapes me, but it would have to be profound to deal with the depths of the ruts we now find ourselves in.  When you see Christmas decorations in the stores before you see Halloween candy, then you know it is just one giant marketing season.  Christmas supplies now start making their way to the shelves alongside the back-to-school sales.  We heard Christmas music in one store while we shopped for Halloween items.

Chief among the offenders of what used to be a nice November holiday is the Black Friday sales that follow.  It is hard to keep calling it Black Friday when the event starts early in the week on websites and continues into the following week.  No retailer wants anyone else to get a jump on him so they all start opening the stores earlier and earlier for the “Friday” sales.  Thanksgiving used to be a day to spend with relatives and friends.  Everything was closed and we actually had a day to retreat to our homes to give thanks and eat a lot.  Now it is “hurry up and eat, the stores are open!”

English: DC USA, Target, Black Friday

English: DC USA, Target, Black Friday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last year Black Friday started at sometime on Turkey Thursday for the brick and mortar stores.  I fear that in just a few years the old tradition of spending time with family and friends, even if it was only because all the stores are closed, will give rise to another day to race to the shopping mall.  We want to stand in line to get the next “cabbage patch doll” (look it up) or whatever the hot item will be this year.  Is there a general lack of time between the fourth Thursday in November and Christmas Day that crass commercialism must encroach on one of the two days where just about every business was closed?  (The other, of course, is Christmas Day.)

I realize that for some it is the thrill of the hunt, but for others it is like lemmings to the sea.  Do you think that if you are not out in the post-Thanksgiving dinner madness that you will have to admit to friends that you did not participate in the widespread seasonal opportunity to spend more money than you would like.  If you get the items you want, you will probably spend more in the store on other things, which is exactly what merchants want.  If we are willing to shop in the wee hours of the morning, why not let us shop all night long?  This may cost you dearly, and it certainly shortens the holiday of mall workers everywhere.

Another newly absurd practice is Christmas music on the radio.  The commercial station that plays all Christmas music in season has a warped idea of what the season is.  Having found that playing all Christmas music all day long in season was very popular, they decided to start earlier, and earlier and earlier.  You can listen to Christmas music from Halloween until the end of the year.  Like AM radios stations of yore, however, they seem to have a limited playlist.  How many times over two months can you listen to Burl Ives’ “Holly Jolly Christmas,” Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” Gene Autry’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and of course Bing Crosby forever crooning “White Christmas?”  Every artist who has had more than two hit albums has recorded Christmas music, if not indeed a Christmas Album.  What about everyone else?  Can we get something new before we watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” or “It’s a Wonderful Life” one more time?

O Christmas tree

The thoughts of these limitations did not fall on deaf ears, XM radio has trotted out multiple Christmas channels.  One of the good traits is they are commercial free, unless you count the constant plugging of their other channels.  You can hear songs from the 1940’s through the present.  Glenn Miller band played “Jingle Bells” and Frank Sinatra sang “Silent Night” for me while I made my happy way down crowded streets and “city sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in…,” but I digress.  “Siriusly,” I am not advocating you Christmas rush your way to your computer to get a subscription to satellite radio.  Newer cars have USB ports anyway, so I guess you can bring along any music on your digital playlist.

I have saved the worst of the holiday ruts for last.  It seems that going over the river and through the mall to grandma’s house is not always a good idea.  While your attendance at a family gathering may seem more like a command performance than an invitation, it does not mean you actually have to go.  Yes, I know grandma will be disappointed if you do not bring your fake smile and weary mate to the gathering, but she will get over it if you stop in at other times during the season.  Work on a good lie…I mean story, and stick with it.  Many family gatherings turn into ugly affairs. People who might not normally get together during the year are appeasing grandmas and showing up to an event.  They would rather be at a sports bar or in their own homes.  Pent up feelings are likely to leak out.  After a flaming rum punch, or whatever alcohol your prefer, you might just tell Uncle Orville what you really think of him.  The injury that does will probably fester until the next holiday gathering.

There will be plenty of survival guides on Word Press and all the other blog sites.  You Tubers will be busy making videos to help you through the madness.  I will take a pass on that.  I did start watching a video of someone explaining Black Friday traditions.  At first I thought it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but then I decided the young vlogger was just dead wrong.  Beware advice from teenagers and twenty-somethings who play video games all season and anger their parents by not showing up at these dreadfully uncomfortable holiday soirées.  Oh wait, maybe they have something there!

OR go for some “Cold Weather songs”
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside!” at teepee12.com

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WORDS OF A WELL-KNOWN AMERICAN

He has faded from the news despite the big splash he made at one time. Last year they even made a movie about him. Do you remember the story? What do you think of him now?

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Next month a movie about this American will be released.  Is he a patriot or a traitor?  A villain or a hero?  Do you feel the same way about him now as you did two years ago?

How do your opinions compare?

We all have opinions about our country. While some of us are Democrats and others are Republicans, and while some are Libertarians and others are right of the Tea Party, we can generally all agree on certain aspects of the American government and our basic freedoms. Nobody wants our rights taken away and we all want to be good patriots, but what is a good patriot?

constitution_1_of_4_630

“Being a patriot means knowing when to protect your country, knowing when to protect your Constitution, knowing when to protect your countrymen…” and nothing would seem more certain than this. That is what one well-known American had to say recently, but not all are in…

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THE NEXT TO LAST STOP

Guns. Violence. Hate. Crime. Some summertime stories are not so pleasant.

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The Inconvenience Store, by Rich Paschall

It was a peaceful summer evening.  The sun had just set.  The air was warm and the light breeze was refreshing.  Jorge had walked three blocks from his small apartment to the local convenience store for a Big Drink and Big Sandwich combination.  He had little food at home and did not feel like making anything anyway.  It felt good to take a walk on such a pleasant evening.  There was nothing quite like summer in the city.

There were a few others in the small store but Jorge paid no attention to them.  He went directly to the soft drink machine and then on to the Sandwich Stop.  After he made his selection, he noticed there was a bit of a commotion at the front of the store.

Three young men rushed in.  They looked like they were in their late teens or…

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Separate Is Not Equal

The Case for Equality

Segregation in the United States was struck down in the landmark decision in Brown versus Board of Education (Topeka, Kansas).  The court held in a unanimous vote that the policy of separate but equal was inherently flawed.  This set aside an 1896 ruling that allowed for separate black and white schools, not to mention other institutions.  By 1954 the court had realized the flaws of the earlier thinking, perhaps marred by personal prejudices, and ruled against the notion of separate but equal.  The establishment of two separate classes of people meant by its very nature that they were unequal in standing.

Despite the high court ruling, discrimination and segregation continued to exist throughout the 1950’s.  In fact it took federal government intervention in the 1960’s to force the end of segregation at some southern schools.  Governors Ross Barnett of Mississippi and George Wallace of Alabama famously tried to stop integration of universities in their states and maintain segregation.  While Governor Wallace remained popular in his state, Barnett, an avowed segregationist, was a one term governor.  Ending segregation by court ruling, did not change the opinions of many.

The prejudices of earlier times continued to plague the following decades, court rulings not withstanding.  It was impossible to erase generations of discrimination with some decisions of the court.  Indeed, many grew up learning discrimination and hatred in their own homes.  It would not so easily be set aside.

While a variety of equal rights were secured through the remainder of the 20th century by court ruling and legislation, there was one area where discrimination was being written into state laws.  Indeed the fear card started to be played anew when rights for certain citizens were being discussed.  It started when the Hawaii Supreme Court held in 1993 that the refusal to grant same-sex marriages was discriminatory.  In the years that immediately followed many states, including Hawaii, wrote laws to ban same-sex marriage.  In 1998 voters in Hawaii gave the legislature the right to define marriage as an opposite sex couple.

The systematic adoption of such laws across the country set up two classes of people.  The 104th Congress piled on in 1996 with the now infamous Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  This law institutionalized discrimination and denied basic benefits to same sex couples that were provided to opposite sex couples in almost a thousand laws. This included estate benefits or right to inherit, joint tax filings, survivor social security benefits, and so on.  The very establishment of another class of citizen would be the eventual downfall of DOMA.5doma

The federal government had always held that whoever a state recognized as married was married, but then they tried to deny benefits under DOMA to those a state found to be married.  The most egregious example was brought to the attention of the high court in United States v. Windsor.  It was a fight taken up on behalf of an elderly woman whose marriage in New York did not seem to matter to the feds when her partner died and they took everything.  They did not recognize her right to inherit.  Either the feds recognized the marriages that were recognized by states, or they did not.  They could not have two classes of citizens.  The court saw DOMA as “a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment” and struck down some of its provisions.

Despite this ruling, as well as overturning California’s attempt to ban gay marriage through Proposition 8, there are still a majority of states that declare that a particular two people in love are not equal to another two people in love.  It is the case of setting up another class of citizen.  Apparently, many states are still under the notion this is OK.  People talk about the institution of marriage as if some God came down from on high with a set of rules about this.

Yes, I already know what some are thinking, but since I do not know ancient Aramaic, I will not pretend that the interpretations and translations of the Bible handed me by the religious right are necessarily correct.  Nor do I buy into any of the other scare tactics they use to convince us to set up a separate class.  That separate class thing just does not stand up against any test when Supreme Court justices have to sit and listen to it.

In the new political climate states are introducing “religious freedom laws” and “bathroom laws” that are discriminatory at their cores.  They allow for setting up separate classes and separate treatments of various people, not because of criminal activity, but for who they are, who they love, who they identify as.  Will the current high court strike down this discrimination, or institutionalize it as present leaders would like to do?

Decoration Day

This article has been posted before.  It has been received with a bit of skepticism over the origins of the day.  It is likely that the practice of decorating the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War was taken up in many places during and immediately after the war, unknown to one another.  Some of these practices were reported in newspapers of the time, while others were passed down orally and written down later.  These later versions may have been supported by anecdotal evidence that is now hard, if not impossible, to prove.
Where exactly the practice of decorating graves started, and who should claim the origin is not really the point anymore, is it?  A tradition of decorating graves, and the meaning of the “holiday” are now largely lost.  This loss of historic knowledge, along with the loss of so many American soldiers, is the true sadness of the day.

Who will decorate the graves?

What bugs me most about our national holidays is that few people know what they are really about. It seems that we take it as some sort of extra vacation day and that we should all go out and have a party somewhere. The only exception to this might be Thanksgiving Day which remains on the traditional fourth Thursday of November. Most people gather with their families to give thanks at the dinner table. Of course, some are giving thanks that there are 3 football games on television and you can watch all day long. Even this tradition is starting to be eroded by commerce.

Other holidays are excuses for a party, 3 day weekend trip, backyard barbecue or attendance at a sporting event. If you ask someone of a younger generation the meaning of Thanksgiving, he might tell you it is the day we have football games in Detroit, Dallas and wherever the NFL will get ratings.  Christmas is when Santa comes, Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes, July 4th is when we shoot off fireworks and Labor Day is the end of summer so we should have one big old barbecue or party. The meaning of New Year’s Eve changed since Dick Clark no longer counts down the final seconds of the year and the NCAA destroyed New Year’s Day by moving most bowl games to other days.

When I went to search for Memorial Day online, I immediately got “Memorial Day sales.” That would probably be good if I needed a new mattress or backyard pool. I see news reports covering how Americans are hitting the road due to low gas prices. The cynic in me thinks the oil companies planned this to sell more gasoline. It also seems to be a good day for photo opportunities for politicians. They will lay wreathes at tombs of unknown soldiers, as long as there are cameras nearby. And the Washington DC website promotes the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally along with events that seem a little more patriotic.

When I was young, my grandmother referred to this holiday as Decoration Day. On May 30th, the Memorial Day holiday then, we would usually go to the cemetery and decorate the graves with geraniums. Some cemeteries put small flags at the graves of those who served in the military. We were told this was the meaning of the holiday. I had no idea how close to the truth this was. After the American Civil War a date was set aside to decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers. Southern women had already taken up the practice of decorating the graves of fallen confederate soldiers during the war. In the 20th century the day was dedicated to all Americans who paid the ultimate price in combat. Decorating graves could be symbolized by presidents laying a wreath at the tomb of unknown soldiers as there would be no one in particular to decorate those graves.

The official name was Decoration Day until Congress changed it to Memorial Day in 1967. In 1968 they took a bold step toward destroying its meaning, however, when they moved four holidays to Mondays. Now May 30th is not the holiday (although it will fall there some years) and Memorial Day has become part of an annual three-day vacation. We can be so caught up in the hoopla we forget what the day is all about. “What time do we meet?” “What shall I bring?” “What is the forecast?” “What time is the game?” “Decorate what? The backyard?”

My father is buried in a military section of a cemetery in another state. Although I can not be there, I know someone will decorate his grave and there will be a small American flag on each military grave. Taps will be played. That is the true essence of the day.

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DOING WHAT WE MUST: SURVIVING IF YOU CAN’T PAY FOR DRUGS – A GUEST POST

Healthcare has been a hot topic for years. Meanwhile, some are relying on alternate methods of treatment. Drop over to SERENDIPTY to read a guest post.

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Poetry Corner

Up the Down Staircase

Down staircase

Down staircase (Photo credit: quinet)

One way says up.
One way says down.
Go where you want to go
When no one’s around.

File these reports,
Attendance and tests.
Please, teachers, always think
Of doing your best.

Take on a class.
Challenge the world.
Share in the dreams
Of each boy and girl.

Up the Down Staircase, not down.
Down the Up Staircase, not up.
Let it be a challenge to you.
Never think that you should give up.

Up the Down Staircase, not down.
Down the Up Staircase, not up.
Shake up the school and enjoy every sound
And Up the Down Staircase, not down!

(Copyright Richard Paschall, music by Michael F. Teolis)

Based on ideas from the play Up the Down Staircase, dramatized by Christopher Sergel, book by Bel Kaufman.  The bestseller was also made into a 1967 movie.

THANKS, NOW LEAVE

Some community organizations serve their members and alumni well. Others struggle under the weight of their “leadership.”

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Not Welcome Anymore, by Rich Paschall

Roger was a busy guy.  In recent months he absolutely could not find time to fit one more thing into his schedule.  The local pastor, Jared, was even busier and usually kept to a tight schedule.  His time was parceled out like the hosts he distributed on Sunday.  So it was a bit of a surprise when he dropped an email on Roger asking to meet.  “Perhaps we can get together for coffee on Thursday afternoon or Saturday morning,” the message read.  Roger picked Saturday.

When Roger turned 60 he had promised himself there would be no more big projects.  He felt he was done with community organizing, large social events, and big family gatherings.  “All the work should be done by someone else,” he thought.  But then there always seemed to be another great idea and that meant “one last hurrah.”

When a long time…

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YOU’VE EITHER GOT IT OR NOT

Whether you are going out dancing or to the local inn for dinner, you need some style.

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Style, by Rich Paschall

Perhaps you have noticed that it seems to be dying out.  You are probably glad of it too.  You did not like it.  You may even have been insulted by it, so it is so long and farewell.  It should be like many style statements we have seen over recent generations.  It is here for a while, then reason sets in.

Of course, we are talking about that so-called “fashion trend” that saw young men wearing their baggy jeans below their rear ends so that we could see their boxer shorts.  I am sure this did as much for makers of boxer shorts as it did for sellers of baggy jeans.  Perhaps these guys have started to realize just how crazy this was.  There may have been some cheap thrill in letting us see their underwear, but as a practical point of view it could not…

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