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.]

           

 

 

The Right Wing War Against The Future

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" – Statute of Liberty

For the past two years the Republicans, the tea-partiers, and the other wing-nuts have been waging war, but despite the prognosticators on cable and the talking heads they are not at war with President Obama, the Muslims, or the Latinos. These folks are not upset about health-care reform, deficits, or bail-outs. This war is not about secret Muslim terrorist’s plots, socialist takeovers, or gangster governments. What we are witnessing is the historic battle between those who cling to a false sense of history against what they see as an uncertain and frightening future. A future that is frightening because it is looking darker and more foreign.

For all of the talk about the promise that is America the truth is that there is and always has been a large segment of our society that has sought to prevent the inevitable movement into tomorrow. The one constant in life is change and those cultures that have resisted change have done so at their own demise. It’s not like we don’t have thousands of years of human history to study and learn from. But let's not forget that the Flat Earth Society still meets annually. All we have to do is look at our own brief history to witness the lengths that some will go to prevent the march of time. Our history is filled with anti-immigrant, anti-religion, and racial prejudice all under the same pretense of maintaining someone’s version of their America that didn’t include the unfortunate groups who were targeted.

It is mind boggling to me how those who sought change, tolerance, and what appeared to be an embracing of the future by electing our current president could so easily be frightened by the rhetoric of those who for personal gain are willing to stoke the fears of so many. I believe that America is schizophrenic. On the one hand we want to be perceived as this nation of tolerance and equal opportunity and on the other hand we cling to this desire to maintain the status quo. Change is great so long as nothing really changes or change is what other people need to do. I believe that there is a deep seated fear within all of us that we try to keep hidden. A fear that dates back to the beginning of human time that if fed or left to fester can lead to unspeakable horrors in the human soul.

We all at some point have had to face this fear of the others. Some of us have been able to confront these fears and overcome them and are better people for it. However, there is also a segment of the population who has chosen not to confront these fears and instead have chosen to allow innuendo and stereotypes to reinforce their worst fears about their fellow citizens. I guess it just goes to show that if you repeat something often enough and loud enough some people will eventually begin to believe it. What is troubling to me about this current state of political discourse is that the further we get into the term of this president the more people begin to question his religion, his right to be president, and even his Americaness.

What the wing-nuts don’t seem to understand is that in a republic form of democracy the representatives govern by the agreement of the governed. Once you delegitimize the government then anarchy and chaos are sure to follow. You can’t throw gas on the conspiracy crowd by calling the government illegitimate and unlawful and then expect them to recognize it for the rhetoric that it is. I don’t think there is any serious person who would argue that our government is broken, but those who have for years worked to break it should not be rewarded for their efforts.

We have a choice in America as we’ve always had. We can cling to our fear of the future and each other choosing to try and go backwards. The problem with that strategy is that you can never go backwards because the world you are trying to recapture never truly existed. Or we can continue on the path we have embarked on choosing rather than fearing change we embrace it and rationally direct it.

The liberties of none are safe unless the liberties of all are protected. – Justice William O. Douglas

The Disputed Truth

The Right Wing War Against The Future

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" – Statute of Liberty

For the past two years the Republicans, the tea-partiers, and the other wing-nuts have been waging war, but despite the prognosticators on cable and the talking heads they are not at war with President Obama, the Muslims, or the Latinos. These folks are not upset about health-care reform, deficits, or bail-outs. This war is not about secret Muslim terrorist’s plots, socialist takeovers, or gangster governments. What we are witnessing is the historic battle between those who cling to a false sense of history against what they see as an uncertain and frightening future. A future that is frightening because it is looking darker and more foreign.

For all of the talk about the promise that is America the truth is that there is and always has been a large segment of our society that has sought to prevent the inevitable movement into tomorrow. The one constant in life is change and those cultures that have resisted change have done so at their own demise. It’s not like we don’t have thousands of years of human history to study and learn from. But let's not forget that the Flat Earth Society still meets annually. All we have to do is look at our own brief history to witness the lengths that some will go to prevent the march of time. Our history is filled with anti-immigrant, anti-religion, and racial prejudice all under the same pretense of maintaining someone’s version of their America that didn’t include the unfortunate groups who were targeted.

It is mind boggling to me how those who sought change, tolerance, and what appeared to be an embracing of the future by electing our current president could so easily be frightened by the rhetoric of those who for personal gain are willing to stoke the fears of so many. I believe that America is schizophrenic. On the one hand we want to be perceived as this nation of tolerance and equal opportunity and on the other hand we cling to this desire to maintain the status quo. Change is great so long as nothing really changes or change is what other people need to do. I believe that there is a deep seated fear within all of us that we try to keep hidden. A fear that dates back to the beginning of human time that if fed or left to fester can lead to unspeakable horrors in the human soul.

We all at some point have had to face this fear of the others. Some of us have been able to confront these fears and overcome them and are better people for it. However, there is also a segment of the population who has chosen not to confront these fears and instead have chosen to allow innuendo and stereotypes to reinforce their worst fears about their fellow citizens. I guess it just goes to show that if you repeat something often enough and loud enough some people will eventually begin to believe it. What is troubling to me about this current state of political discourse is that the further we get into the term of this president the more people begin to question his religion, his right to be president, and even his Americaness.

What the wing-nuts don’t seem to understand is that in a republic form of democracy the representatives govern by the agreement of the governed. Once you delegitimize the government then anarchy and chaos are sure to follow. You can’t throw gas on the conspiracy crowd by calling the government illegitimate and unlawful and then expect them to recognize it for the rhetoric that it is. I don’t think there is any serious person who would argue that our government is broken, but those who have for years worked to break it should not be rewarded for their efforts.

We have a choice in America as we’ve always had. We can cling to our fear of the future and each other choosing to try and go backwards. The problem with that strategy is that you can never go backwards because the world you are trying to recapture never truly existed. Or we can continue on the path we have embarked on choosing rather than fearing change we embrace it and rationally direct it.

The liberties of none are safe unless the liberties of all are protected. – Justice William O. Douglas

The Disputed Truth

Phyllis Schlafly's Remarks over "Unmarried Women" Draw Fire

At age 85, Phyllis Schafly is still kicking and now drawing fire for remarks made at a fundraiser for Andrew “Rocky” Raczkowski, a conservative vying in a four-way GOP primary in Michigan's Ninth Congressional District.

"Unmarried women, 70% of unmarried women, voted for Obama, and this is because when you kick your husband out, you've got to have big brother government to be your provider," said Schlafly, president of the ultra right wing Eagle Forum and doyenne of the American conservative movement. She went to accuse the Obama administration of trying to win support by providing government relief to various groups, such as unmarried women.

On Thursday, in an interview with Talking Points Memo, Schlafly repeated her link of single women, Obama and welfare, and added "Yes, I said that. It's true too. All welfare goes to unmarried moms. They are trying to line up their constituency for Obama and Democrats against Republican candidates."

Schlafly went on to tell TPM's Christina Bellantoni that she doesn't care if Republicans are targeted over her comments since she thinks they are truthful.

Well, Schlafly is correct that 70 percent of single women did vote for the Democratic ticket but that demographic has been trending Democratic for some time now. In 2004, 62 percent of single women supported Democrat John Kerry, while 37 percent voted to re-elect President Bush. Clinton, in contrast, only received 53 percent of the single women vote in 1992.

According to the most recent Census data, 22 percent of the voting-age public are never-married women and as voting bloc, never-married women have been gaining in clout. Once deemed to be a politically inconsequential voting block—marriage has always been a top social factor that controls voting—single women are slowly starting to become an important voting block. In the 2000 general election, the number of unmarried women voting was 19 percent with that number jumping to 22.4 percent in 2004. In 2008, single women represented 24 percent of the electorate and according to Greenberg, Quinlan Rosner 70 percent of unmarried women with and without children did support Obama.

The share of unmarried voters, male and female, in 2008 was 34 percent down from 37 percent in 2004. In 2008, married voters went for McCain by 5 and unmarried voters for Obama by 32 - a difference of 37 points but this is largely a factor that Obama carried 66 percent of the 29 and under age demographic.

And while three in four families on welfare are headed by unmarried women, the number of families on welfare had been falling steadily since peaking in 1995. Nine months into the Great Recession, the number of American families receiving cash assistance stood at just 1.6 million in September 2008, the most recent date for which national tallies are available. Furthermore the New York Times reported that amidst soaring unemployment and the worst economic crisis in decades, 18 states cut their welfare rolls in 2008, and nationally the number of people receiving cash assistance remained at or near the lowest in more than 40 years. While welfare rolls rose in 2009 for the first time in 15 years, the 5 percent increase was dwarfed by spikes in the number of people receiving food stamps and unemployment insurance.

The cash-assistance program that once helped more than 14 million people served an average of 4 million in the 2009 fiscal year, up from 3.8 million in fiscal 2008. By comparison, there were more than 37 million people receiving food stamps in September, an increase of 18 percent from the year before. The number receiving unemployment benefits more than doubled, to about 9.1 million. To suggest that unmarried women voted for Obama because they were looking to go on welfare is beyond the pale and speaks to the vile callousness of Phyllis Schlafly.

Meanwhile the Democrats are jumping on Schlafly's remarks targeting GOP candidates endorsed by her Eagle Forum. From TPM:

Democrats plan to jump on the 75 Republican candidates for federal office that Schlafly's Eagle Forum has endorsed and donated to -- a list that includes Todd Tiahrt in the Kansas Republican primary for Senate, Ken Buck in the Colorado Republican primary for Senate, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and his Senate Conservatives Fund and Sen. David Vitter. Already, reporters in Vitter's home state of Louisiana are getting releases from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pressing them to ask Vitter if he agrees with Schlafly. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is doing the same thing to Eagle Forum-endorsed House candidates, painting Republicans on dozens of ballots -- including Rep. Michele Bachmann and Scott Rigell in the competitive VA-02 race -- as "extreme" and saying the candidate should refuse Schlafly's endorsement.

The Christian Right Meets Punk

Jason "Molotov" Mitchell, a former wedding videographer now 30, is the founder and president of the independent motion picture company Illuminati Pictures that is based in North Carolina. Founded in 2003, his production company has made over a hundred commercial projects, documentaries, music videos, and short films. He's also an evangelical Christian who has had the word "zealot" tattooed in Old English on his forearm and oh he advocates the death penalty for gays. The zealot is a reference to the Christian Zealot Movement that advocates an in your face, no holds barred radical if warped form of Christianity.

Anyone holding to the original tenets of Christianity has been labeled extremists, radicals, zealots.

And so it began, the birth of the Zealot Movement, an underground cause dedicated to the power and love of the Gospel, protected against misuse by the core tenets of the Four Pillars. No one can claim to be a zealot and a drug user at the same time, nor would he want to, considering the intensity of our opposition to that lifestyle. The same goes for the lukewarm believer and his fornication. The line has been drawn for the committed and noncommittal alike. There is forgiveness, but God’s grace is not a place to wipe your feet.

Our weapon of choice is music. Music, a force dating before the birth of man, is a sword with which we battle the powers of this world, and great for the breaking of chains and curses. We wage war in the underground through music and we will shatter the walls of this world’s empire, dead to ourselves and alive in Christ.

…We are children of the Sword, the face of Truth on a dying planet. We are the worldwide tribe and at the feet of our King the nations will bow. We are the pure and royal priesthood. All that we put our hands to must prosper. We are servants to man, relentless in our toil, driven by love of the Greatest Servant. We are the Brotherhood of Christ. Our family does not break like those of the fallen world. We are the enemies of injustice and defenders of those without defense. Our eyes are the coals of righteousness and our hearts burn with hatred for all that is evil. We are the warriors. We are the fearless. We are the Zealots.

Together with his wife Patricia who performs as DJ Dolce, they make videos for World Net Daily, the Internet site founded by Joseph and Elizabeth Farah, that is home to the most vile and offensive right wing hate found on the web today. If there is a conspiracy theory to expound, odds are that it first found wings on World Net Daily (WND).

Molotov Mitchell first gained notoriety in 2008 for producing 13-minute attack video called A Video Portrait of Barack Hussein Obama that pretty was a foretaste of all the right wing slurs that have been leveled at the President - that Obama is a Muslim who hates Christians, that he is foreign born, that he is a socialist, that he is a racist that hates white people. 

Prior to his assault on then candidate Obama, Mitchell produced and hosted a Christian, political, comedy talk show called "Flamethrower" which began airing nationally in October 2007 on a Christian television network called Faith TV. He came to the attention of WND over a episode that Faith TV refused to air called "All Things Islam" that show a likeness of the face of the Prophet Mohammed on a cookie. 

A regular weekly feature on WND is a "comedy" review of the week's news called "News, News" anchored by Molotov's wife DJ Dolce that so unfunny that it has to be backed by a laugh track. In an recent episode, DJ Dolce notes that it is unacceptable to use the n-word but perfectly fine to call Barney Frank a "faggot."

Over at Box Turtle Bulletin, Timothy Kincaid notes the obvious: World Net Daily is a hate site.

World Net Daily makes no bones about being virulently anti-gay. However, most anti-gays make at least a shallow attempt not to say, “we don’t hate” and try to keep their language – in public – from including the worst slurs.

But it looks like WND has given up all pretenses.

WND has a recurring “comedy” feature called News! News! with D.J. Dolce, WorldNetDaily Exclusive Commentary. Dolce, the wife of Molotov Mitchell, shares her husband’s contempt for gay people. But while he masks his animus in religion (he endorses the death penalty for gay people using Scripture), Dolce just engages in slurs and endorses bigotry.

…It’s been a while since I’ve seen hatred expressed to blatantly in public.

Frankly, it was pretty obvious after this beauty:

Diaries

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