Friday, December 31, 2010


Just in Time for the New Year

Skip the beauty parlor. Never mind the freshly pressed pinafore. We know what it's all about.

Order yours now!

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Mulling a Christmas Whine, Singing Instead

I bought the book pictured here for a four-year-old in my life. It's a great book, and I knew that his mama would enjoy it as much as he would. When you are very small, the gifts come in bright paper and are parked under a glittering tree. You must feel that you are being loved as much as your rival, your sibling, with the materialistic attesting to that. Whew!

There isn't a lot of holiday drama at our house. This year we have resisted the regular Christmas preparations, save the few gifts to our faraway near and dear. We don't have a tree; our aging dog now has two beds in the living room to accommodate the fluctuations in her bodily aches and pains. There simply isn't room for anything else, unless we block access to the bird feeder. In Vermont it gets cold, and I'm of the mind that we're all in this together, so no blocking the way to replenishing the bird feeder.
It's always well stocked.

I am about to go upstairs and finish the shirt I've made for Spousie. We haven't done much about gifts this year, and it's fine. We did splurge on a Jesus toaster for our best friends here, two theologians, who can appreciate the gifts of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Toast. We dined with them last night, then went off to the church I joined this year for a carol-filled service. Lovely! They are the friends I have longed for here--it took over a decade to find friends we could cherish as we do these.

This afternoon Spousie and I will initiate ourselves into a tradition clearly Mexican: we will learn to make tamales. We love to cook together and haven't done enough of it lately, so this initiative makes great sense.

In church last night I found myself contemplating the Christmas story with my usual skepticism. I could visualize Mary, approached by an angel about the sacred honor bestowed upon her saying, "Yeah, right" when told how she would conceive without 'knowing' a man. I could wonder how all the fuss made by the heavenly hosts the night of the dear savior's birth could be followed by... well, nothing more than a little adolescent rebellion... for about 30 years before the story would pick up and intensify again.

It didn't matter, really. What has always mattered to me are the teachings of Jesus and little, if any, of the folderol surrounding him and embraced and distorted by Republicans and other sanctified scoundrels.
What has mattered to me is the pulsing of those teachings into our slow-growing consciousnesses, something called hope that defies the despair of any given moment, something that persists, irrationally, bringing us to a better version of ourselves than the one before. Reinhold Niebuhr, Jimmy Carter's favorite theologian, puts it this way:

“Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love.”

So from our tree-less home, I offer you the gratitude I have come to know, extend the
blessings bestowed on me to you.

Merry Christmas from Vermont.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Taking the Holy Out of War

Uh, guys... got a minute?

I don't mean to bust up a good demonstration. I'm in the mood for one myself. Still, there seems to be a misunderstanding here, and I'd feel negligent if I didn't offer a national confession, infidel though I may be.

While Americans may not really 'get' Islam, your faith isn't the problem. Oh, your current behavior is pretty unnerving when you decide to blow yourself up among the clueless. It isn't a great strategy for getting your message out. It only makes you seem weirder. But as I said, your actual faith isn't the problem.

You see, Americans simply want your stuff. And in this case, your stuff is your natural resources.

It isn't personal, either. Americans want your stuff, no matter what your race, religion, and creed. We want to exploit the tropics, plunder the minerals, make off with the lucre, regardless of its description and location. We want to stake our fortunes on ripping you off by taking your stuff at the absolute bottom dollar.

Here I am describing the Ultimate Americans--the ones with the most money. They're running around buying up all the cocoa beans in order to drive up the price of chocolate. They're making sure that the gas prices are rising again (damn that cartel! they sigh, casting their eyes heavenward). They're racing into other countries and convincing them to buy up our crappier, more obsolete arms and driving them into debt.

It's wrong, wrong, wrong, but it really isn't about Islam. Insulting your faith is a cynical ploy to provide photo-ops like the one above, the better to conceal what the conflict is really about--money.

My dear fellow children of God/Allah/the Light, please understand that you are being manipulated. Nothing creeps out the people who are paying attention like Behead those who insult Islam. The problem is, I'm just not sure who's paying attention. Certainly not your real oppressors. And you do have real oppressors. You've just done a lousy job of identifying them.

Don't blow yourself up among the clueless shoppers who crowd the mall or surround whatever holiday tree. They're lost lambs who are as manipulated as you are. They're being led down the lane of lies by a bunch of jerks from Fox News who would love to wage generations of war, paid for by the sacrifices of you and yours and our good-hearted but less affluent kids who think they're protecting Freedom.


Like you, they're showing up because some spokesman has convinced them it's important. But big boys in the economic stratospheres has deemed you both disposable, simply moving parts in the machines of their making.

So calm down about the insults to Islam. Looking at belief traditions from the outside is a little bit like taking lovemaking out of context. You can't help but think that the strange, the foreign is weird. But we're all pawns in somebody else's game, and unless I'm mistaken, we'd all be better off fighting our real enemies. They're too rich and isolated from the rest of us to do any more than send their personal shoppers to malls. Tune into one of their mouthpieces and listen to their disdain for the 9/11 families or even the vets, who are returning with traumas that we can't dream of in our worst nightmares. Don't expect anything better for yourselves.

It isn't about Islam. It's not even about Israel. It's about the Big Boys and their lust for your Stuff.


Saturday, December 11, 2010


He's Our Guy

Don't believe the New York Times on this one.

Bernie didn't 'rail' about the Bush tax cuts for hours. He did attempt to re-educate the American public on the cynical sub-text of the Republicans' latest strategy to deprive Obama of a backbone, and he did use the filibuster for this purpose.

He pointed out that the so-called 'compromise' that Obama had come to wasn't a compromise at all. There were no starting principles that Obama compromised on. That the so-called payroll tax 'relief' was a way of turning off the tap into Social Security, a system still solvent in spite of Republican attempts to feed it into what is surely a private enterprise system run by unrepentant Wall Street fat cats, the better to balloon future bonuses in the name of that false god, the free market. And so much more. He started at 10:30 in the morning and was still at it when we finally turned to other things at dinnertime.

These are my name-calling summations, not Bernie's. He didn't resort to the sort of name-calling I employ here. He was every bit the statesman we need him to be. He simply poured his heart and soul into excellent rational discourse and served it up for the education of a distracted and misled American public.

Bernie was first our Congressman, our 'lone' Representative, as it's usually put, since Vermont has only one. I-Vermont, as it says on whatever TV screen, since he is a Social Democrat, an up-front Socialist, seated on the bland Democratic side of the aisle.

Now he's a lone Senator, standing up for working families and other disenfranchised Americans all across the country, not because Vermont doesn't have two.

Nobody showed up to help him.

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