One Jew’s Christmas

 

 

by Walter Brasch

 

I am a Jew.

I don’t mind receiving Christmas cards or being wished a “Merry Christmas” from friends, clerks, or even in junk mail trying to sell me something no sane person should ever buy. My wife and I even send Christmas cards, with messages of peace and joy, to our friends who are Christians or who we don’t know their religion.

I like Christmas music and Christmas carolers, even if some have voices that crack now and then, perhaps from the cold.

At home, from as early as I could remember, my family bought and decorated a Christmas tree, and gave gifts to each other and our friends. Usually we put a Star of David on the tree, undoubtedly an act of heresy for many Jews and Christians. We learned about Christmas—and about Chanukah, the “feast of lights,” an eight day celebration of joy and remembrance of the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem at a time when it seemed as if a miracle had saved the Jews from darkness during the Maccabean revolt in the second century BCE.

This year, my wife and I have a two-foot tall cypress tree, decorated with angels and small LED lights, a gift from a devout Christian. We weren’t offended by the gift; we accepted it and displayed it on a table in our dining room in the spirit of friendship. In Spring, we’ll plant the tree in our backyard and hope it grows strong and tall, giving us shade and oxygen, perhaps serving as a sanctuary for birds, squirrels, and other wildlife.

What I do mind is the pomposity of some of the religious right who deliberately accost me, often with an arrogant sneer on their lips, to order me to accept their “well wishes” of  a “Merry Christmas.” Their implication is “Merry Christmas—or else!” It’s their way of saying their religion is the one correct religion, that all others are wrong.

 The problem is that although I am secure in my beliefs and try to understand and tolerate other beliefs, the extreme right is neither secure nor does it tolerate difference or dissent.

Right wing commentators at Fox News are in their final week of what has become a holiday tradition of claiming there is a “War on Christmas.” The lies and distortions told by these Shepherds of Deceit, and parroted by their unchallenging flock of followers, proves that at least in this manufactured war, truth is the first victim.

 The Far-Right-But-Usually-Wrong claim that godless liberals are out to destroy Christmas, and point to numerous examples, giving some facts but never the truth.  

They are furious that many stores wish their customers a “Happy Holiday” and not a “Merry Christmas,” unable to understand that sensitivity to all persons’ religions isn’t some kind of heresy. The ultra-right American Family Association even posts lists of stores that are open on Christmas, have their clerks wish customers a “Happy Holiday,” and don’t celebrate Christmas the way they believe it should be celebrated. (Of course, the AFA doesn’t attack its close ally, the NRA, which on its website wishes everyone “Happy Holidays.”)

Because of their own ignorance, they have no concept of why public schools may teach about Christmas or even have students sing carols but can’t put manger scenes on the front lawn. Nevertheless, the Extremists of Ignorance and Intolerance parade the Constitution as their own personal shield, without having read the document and its analyses, commentaries, and judicial opinions that define it, and can’t understand there is a strict separation of church and state. The Founding Fathers, especially Franklin and Jefferson, were clear about that. They were also clear that this is a nation where a majority of its people professes to be Christians, but it is not a “Christian nation.” There is a distinct difference.

The ultra-right—some of whom stanchly believe Barack Obama is not only a Muslim but wasn’t even born in the U.S—follow the guiding star of Fox to wrongly claim that the President Obama hates Christianity so much that he won’t even put up a Christmas tree but calls it a “holiday tree.” Perhaps they were too busy imbibing the bigotry in their mugs to know that the President and his family helped light the National Christmas Tree near the White House, wished Americans a “Merry Christmas,” and even told a bit about what Christians believe is a divine birth.

When confronted by facts, these fundamentalists point out that the Puritans, the ones who fled England for religious freedom, demanded adherence to a strict code of Protestant principles—and if it was good enough for the first American “citizens,” it’s good enough for the rest of us. What they never learned, obviously, is that the Puritans banned Christmas celebrations, declaring them to be pagan festivals.

If the Fox pundits, leading their sheep into the abyss of ignorance in a counter-attack in a war that doesn’t exist, would take a few moments to think before blathering inanities, they might realize that the man they worship was called “the Prince of Peace” not the “General of War.”

[Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist and multimedia producer. His latest book is the mystery novel, Before the First Snow.]

           

 

 

Don’t Do Unto Others As They May Decide to Do Unto You

American Christians are quite vocal in the belief they’re oppressed, but it’s hard to feel their pain. They’re the overwhelming majority in this country. Virtually every member of every legislative body and every elected representative is Christian. Their lobbies are as potent as any on K St. The government funds them by not taxing them. They routinely work to defeat bills clear majorities want and that deprive citizens – sometimes other Christians – of their civil rights.

If that’s oppression, sign me up. It sounds like a sweet deal.

However, there are persecuted and oppressed Christians. For example, many countries with real zero tolerance for anything other than their God and prophet. They sometimes force Christians from their homes, turn them into refugees, or kill them.

Meanwhile, American Christians busy themselves with important issues like the proper etymology of Christmas v. Holiday. Living in their secure homes and working in their secure jobs they feel it’s their God-given right to rewrite history books, let pedophiles escape unpunished, or denigrate science because it doesn’t completely jibe with their Bible.

There’s no doubt the intolerance against Christians in countries like Iraq is awful. It’s the tyranny of the majority directed against the few. But except for the degree of modern persecution (the Christians don’t exactly have a bloodless history either), how is that any different from the tyranny of the American majority against the minority here?

I’m not a Christian and I’m sure there are many Christians who’d argue I have no right to an opinion about their religion. However, I’d point out that by the same logic, Christians have no right to an opinion about Islam or me or Druids. But, they never seem shy about exercising the same freedoms they seem unwilling to share with anyone other than themselves.

It is the Christian Sabbath, the last one before the holiest of Christian holy days. Whether you call it Christmas, the holidays, or Festivus, it seems like a good time for Christians, indeed everyone, regardless of religion or the lack thereof, to borrow the concepts of peace and harmony espoused in the Bible, the Quran, and most other religious texts in the world.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

 

Weekly Mulch: How to Avoid Gobbling Your Way Through the Holidays

Editor’s Note: Happy Thanksgiving from the Media Consortium! This week, we aren’t stopping The Audit, The Pulse, The Diaspora, or The Mulch, but we are taking a bit of a break. Expect shorter blog posts, and The Diaspora and The Mulch will be posted on Wednesday afternoon, instead of their usual Thursday and Friday postings. We’ll return to our normal schedule next week.

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

Tomorrow marks the day that, as a nation, we put aside our usual habits and begin a weeks-long push to eat, buy, and generally consume as much as possible in the spirit of the holiday season. Thanksgiving and Black Friday are only the first sprint, the gateway to latkes, holiday party hors d’oeuvres, Secret Santa shopping, and party-dress buying that will culminate in a hangover after a booze-soaked New Year’s Eve.

There’s really no escape, and to some extent, who would want to miss out? (Cranberry sauce! Christmas cookies!) But it’s not exactly a sustainable lifestyle, even for six weeks. Here are some guideposts to help light the way through.

Turkey trouble

A sad fact about commercially raised turkeys: Even the ones pardoned by the President are destined to live short lives. As Jill Richardson writes at AlterNet, “The Broad-Breasted Whites who receive presidential pardons have gone to Disneyland to peacefully live out the remainder of their lives since 2005, but as of last Thanksgiving, half of the pardoned turkeys did not survive long enough to celebrate a second Thanksgiving.”

It’s not news that commercial methods of raising poultry give rise to creatures that are more fit to die than to live. So think about buying a heritage bird this year.

Or, go veggie! Carol Deppe’s ode to potatoes, also at AlterNet, is enough to convince the most hardened meat-eater that tubers are one of the best ways to thrive. For a little more diversity of Thanksgiving-specific options, peruse this New York Times gallery which has veggie options good enough to make meat-eaters jealous.

But wait, there’s more!

  • In the past few weeks, reusable grocery bags have been tarred as germ-incubators. But before leaving canvas bags behind for epic Thanksgiving grocery runs, consider where those reports originated. As Jessica Belsky writes at Change.org:

Earlier this year, the ACC [American Chemistry Council]—which represents such upstanding citizens as Exxon and Chevron—paid for a study that concluded that unwashed reusable bags can be contaminated with bacteria. Let’s remember that these are the same folks who recently lobbied to keep the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby bottles. Big Plastic is using fear-mongering tactics to get health-conscious environmentalists to switch back to disposable, single-use plastic grocery bags.

Plus, there’s a simple solution to germy bags: wash them.

Want to enjoy a real savings stampede? Consider celebrating Buy Nothing Day. Enjoy a day without buying. Give your cash and credit cards a day off with you. Store them in the refrigerator next to your Thanksgiving leftovers. Trade, barter, and share. Enjoy the luxury of living the money-free life for a day.

Of course, Christmas and Hanukkah presents have to bought at some point. Here are two green-friendly gift ideas: via Earth Focus, Fate of the World, a video game that challenges players to save the world from climate change; or via Care2, for those of us who must drive a car and have cash to burn, a Porsche. Apparently every single model will soon be available as a hybrid.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Mulch: How to Avoid Gobbling Your Way Through the Holidays

Editor’s Note: Happy Thanksgiving from the Media Consortium! This week, we aren’t stopping The Audit, The Pulse, The Diaspora, or The Mulch, but we are taking a bit of a break. Expect shorter blog posts, and The Diaspora and The Mulch will be posted on Wednesday afternoon, instead of their usual Thursday and Friday postings. We’ll return to our normal schedule next week.

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

Tomorrow marks the day that, as a nation, we put aside our usual habits and begin a weeks-long push to eat, buy, and generally consume as much as possible in the spirit of the holiday season. Thanksgiving and Black Friday are only the first sprint, the gateway to latkes, holiday party hors d’oeuvres, Secret Santa shopping, and party-dress buying that will culminate in a hangover after a booze-soaked New Year’s Eve.

There’s really no escape, and to some extent, who would want to miss out? (Cranberry sauce! Christmas cookies!) But it’s not exactly a sustainable lifestyle, even for six weeks. Here are some guideposts to help light the way through.

Turkey trouble

A sad fact about commercially raised turkeys: Even the ones pardoned by the President are destined to live short lives. As Jill Richardson writes at AlterNet, “The Broad-Breasted Whites who receive presidential pardons have gone to Disneyland to peacefully live out the remainder of their lives since 2005, but as of last Thanksgiving, half of the pardoned turkeys did not survive long enough to celebrate a second Thanksgiving.”

It’s not news that commercial methods of raising poultry give rise to creatures that are more fit to die than to live. So think about buying a heritage bird this year.

Or, go veggie! Carol Deppe’s ode to potatoes, also at AlterNet, is enough to convince the most hardened meat-eater that tubers are one of the best ways to thrive. For a little more diversity of Thanksgiving-specific options, peruse this New York Times gallery which has veggie options good enough to make meat-eaters jealous.

But wait, there’s more!

  • In the past few weeks, reusable grocery bags have been tarred as germ-incubators. But before leaving canvas bags behind for epic Thanksgiving grocery runs, consider where those reports originated. As Jessica Belsky writes at Change.org:

Earlier this year, the ACC [American Chemistry Council]—which represents such upstanding citizens as Exxon and Chevron—paid for a study that concluded that unwashed reusable bags can be contaminated with bacteria. Let’s remember that these are the same folks who recently lobbied to keep the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby bottles. Big Plastic is using fear-mongering tactics to get health-conscious environmentalists to switch back to disposable, single-use plastic grocery bags.

Plus, there’s a simple solution to germy bags: wash them.

Want to enjoy a real savings stampede? Consider celebrating Buy Nothing Day. Enjoy a day without buying. Give your cash and credit cards a day off with you. Store them in the refrigerator next to your Thanksgiving leftovers. Trade, barter, and share. Enjoy the luxury of living the money-free life for a day.

Of course, Christmas and Hanukkah presents have to bought at some point. Here are two green-friendly gift ideas: via Earth Focus, Fate of the World, a video game that challenges players to save the world from climate change; or via Care2, for those of us who must drive a car and have cash to burn, a Porsche. Apparently every single model will soon be available as a hybrid.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Mulch: How to Avoid Gobbling Your Way Through the Holidays

Editor’s Note: Happy Thanksgiving from the Media Consortium! This week, we aren’t stopping The Audit, The Pulse, The Diaspora, or The Mulch, but we are taking a bit of a break. Expect shorter blog posts, and The Diaspora and The Mulch will be posted on Wednesday afternoon, instead of their usual Thursday and Friday postings. We’ll return to our normal schedule next week.

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

Tomorrow marks the day that, as a nation, we put aside our usual habits and begin a weeks-long push to eat, buy, and generally consume as much as possible in the spirit of the holiday season. Thanksgiving and Black Friday are only the first sprint, the gateway to latkes, holiday party hors d’oeuvres, Secret Santa shopping, and party-dress buying that will culminate in a hangover after a booze-soaked New Year’s Eve.

There’s really no escape, and to some extent, who would want to miss out? (Cranberry sauce! Christmas cookies!) But it’s not exactly a sustainable lifestyle, even for six weeks. Here are some guideposts to help light the way through.

Turkey trouble

A sad fact about commercially raised turkeys: Even the ones pardoned by the President are destined to live short lives. As Jill Richardson writes at AlterNet, “The Broad-Breasted Whites who receive presidential pardons have gone to Disneyland to peacefully live out the remainder of their lives since 2005, but as of last Thanksgiving, half of the pardoned turkeys did not survive long enough to celebrate a second Thanksgiving.”

It’s not news that commercial methods of raising poultry give rise to creatures that are more fit to die than to live. So think about buying a heritage bird this year.

Or, go veggie! Carol Deppe’s ode to potatoes, also at AlterNet, is enough to convince the most hardened meat-eater that tubers are one of the best ways to thrive. For a little more diversity of Thanksgiving-specific options, peruse this New York Times gallery which has veggie options good enough to make meat-eaters jealous.

But wait, there’s more!

  • In the past few weeks, reusable grocery bags have been tarred as germ-incubators. But before leaving canvas bags behind for epic Thanksgiving grocery runs, consider where those reports originated. As Jessica Belsky writes at Change.org:

Earlier this year, the ACC [American Chemistry Council]—which represents such upstanding citizens as Exxon and Chevron—paid for a study that concluded that unwashed reusable bags can be contaminated with bacteria. Let’s remember that these are the same folks who recently lobbied to keep the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby bottles. Big Plastic is using fear-mongering tactics to get health-conscious environmentalists to switch back to disposable, single-use plastic grocery bags.

Plus, there’s a simple solution to germy bags: wash them.

Want to enjoy a real savings stampede? Consider celebrating Buy Nothing Day. Enjoy a day without buying. Give your cash and credit cards a day off with you. Store them in the refrigerator next to your Thanksgiving leftovers. Trade, barter, and share. Enjoy the luxury of living the money-free life for a day.

Of course, Christmas and Hanukkah presents have to bought at some point. Here are two green-friendly gift ideas: via Earth Focus, Fate of the World, a video game that challenges players to save the world from climate change; or via Care2, for those of us who must drive a car and have cash to burn, a Porsche. Apparently every single model will soon be available as a hybrid.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Diaries

Advertise Blogads