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Monday, December 12, 2011

What Occupy Means to Me

(Ed. note I previously published this as a response to a Letter to the Editor of a local paper)

While the press and punditry argue over how best to marginalize the Occupy movement, something real is going on. Something that is far, far more like the original Tea Party than the bland, mainstream effort that held sway during the last election cycle. While today's Tea Party movement found its roots on common ground with the Occupy protesters, their willingness to be led from behind by the same corporate puppeteers that they rail against forces one to recognize the divide between the two movements. There is real truth in the Occupy standpoint. Even those so unwilling to publicly admit these truths must, in their own minds, agree that they are beyond dispute.

Money, and the pursuit of it, is fundamental to the American way of life, but that pursuit has supplanted the ideals of fairness, equitable treatment and due process. The wealthiest among us buy the influence of our elected leaders, who then create laws and legislation that favor those contributors. This is contrary to our pursuit of the American Dream.

Aspects of American life that citizens have traditionally viewed as American Rights have been systematically legislated away, to be replaced with police in battle armor and arrests for participating in the very activities our founders died to give us by writing it into our nation's Constitution.

Citizens of these United States have allowed these transgressions. We have believed that our leaders have our best interests at heart, even while we encourage a political system that extols the mediocre over the brilliant and the faithful over the logical. When American citizens have been pushed to the brink and finally wake up, we are faced with the system we have created. That system, and those who profit from it, don't much care for ideas of liberation.

The Occupy protests are the first of this awakening. One that will reach us all eventually, when the masters of our money have finally picked the last pennies from our pockets. The protestors I've seen on the news are not the true representation of this movement. People of all ages, all nationalities and all faiths are waking up to the reality that the rules for obtaining the American Dream are not the same for everyone, as we had been promised. There are different rules for those who can pay to write the rules.

This is the underlying flaw in our system. Its not about tents, or drum circles or "dirty hippies". Its about realizing that the people we trusted to look after our nation have let us down. This is the basic undercurrent of every failed system of government in history. But, in America, it still belongs to us. We are still the shepherds of our Republic. Its high time we started acting like it. That is what the Occupiers really want.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Happy Holidays and the War on Christmas.

When I set out to write this, I had no intention of making it a shrill rant on the evils of society or its supposed protectors, the media. I had simply hoped to spell out the reasons that saying "Happy Holidays" is okay. Here are a few;

Its shorter than saying "Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, happy season for whatever you celebrate and a Happy New Year", (It also fits on a card much better than the above).

It includes everyone, regardless of faith, or lack thereof.

It doesn't diminish my faith, your faith or anyone else's faith or lack thereof.

Obvious, right? So, why is this such an issue?

There is no "War on Christmas". This is merely another tool in the tool chest of those who want you to be afraid.

People fear change. Change to their strongly-held beliefs, change to their way of life. This is understandable. Its very human to fear stuff. Like the dark, or ever-increasing nighttime. Much like the Pagans who celebrated on the longest night of the year because the nights would start to get shorter from that point on.

If someone on the "news" tells you about something and you fear that thing, you will tune in again, in the hopes that it has been resolved. If it hasn't, (or can't be because it isn't really a real thing), you will tune in to watch them commiserate with you over your fears.

The season of winter, the winter solstice, Saturnalia and all of the other longest-night-of-the-year celebrations took place hundreds and sometimes thousands of years before the birth of Christ. The Catholic Church placed this holiday on this time of year to help them in their efforts to convert the Pagans as the Roman army conquered the known world. A noble cause, some might suggest, and I won't argue that point here. That doesn't diminish, however, the laughable pious indignation over infusing the holiday with images of Santa or multicultural acceptance.

I just can't believe Jesus would be upset over someone wishing you a happy holiday.

Many of those same holier-than-thou individuals, when faced with this indisputable fact, will turn around to point out that the U.S. is a Christian nation, founded on Christian ideals. The pilgrims came here for religious freedom, so how dare you secular humanists try to take the "Christ" out of Christmas?

When you tell them that the Puritans who settled here for "religious freedom" came here because they didn't want to be ruled by the edicts of the Pope, and wanted to worship in a more stringent, Bible-based way, they nod smugly. When you add that the Pilgrims actually banned Christmas, made it a crime to decorate or celebrate the "holy day" and even levied a fine against those who uttered the words, "Merry Christmas", you can expect blank stares and charges of "liberal medis bias".

The point is, you can change someone's mind based on an idea. You can have your mind changed about something when faced with a better idea. Beliefs, however, are hard to shake. Too hard, for some. For some people, their beliefs are the glue that holds them together. If that sounds like you, its okay. There is nothing wrong with believing stuff, even in light of a contrary argument. The danger comes from allowing others to exploit those beliefs and convince you that your way of life is threatened by someone wishing you happiness.

Its not a code. Its not a subversive way to secularize the populace. Its just people who don't want to engage in the battle over figuring out who celebrates what day. Its just people wishing you and yours happiness.

Take it in the spirit that it is given. It would be rude not to do so.

So, to you and yours... Happy Harmonica!