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Please, J.K. Rowling, More Stories

The current Harry Potter moviefest that I’m enjoying with my son has inspired me to make a request of J.K. Rowling. I love these stores – we’ve read all the books multiple times – because they give me hope. It’s just that simple. They give me hope.

So, I navigated over to her website at http://www.jkrowling.com and – sure, why not? – clicked on the contact link.

The Blair Partnership represents J.K. Rowling internationally and across all media. Please direct any queries to info@theblairpartnership.com and a member of the team will be in touch directly. J.K. Rowling very rarely does interviews or public speaking, and when she does they are usually around a new project or charitable commitment. Please note that she does not undertake fee-paying public speaking engagements. Because of the huge volume of requests coming in, J.K. Rowling also regrets she is unable to…

Yada yada yada. Well, ok, fair enough. I sent the following email, but just in case there isn’t any analysis or reporting of the communications, I’m also posting it here. You never know, maybe they do some version of web analytics, social media harvest, or even a Net Promoter Score (put me in the “I would definitively recommend” bucket).

To Whom it May Concern:

I am aware that the illustrious J.K. Rowling could not possibly respond to the billions of her readers, but I am hoping that you maintain some sort of thematic statistics for her.

If so, may I add to the numbers of those who pray that she considers creating more stories that work at multiple levels for children and adults alike? I pray for very few things.

There are so very few such nourishing narratives that do (or can) burst into our mainstream cultures as they exist today. In the Potter books (and films – one must include the films) human complexity is better grasped in these contexts that show how important existential choices are (whether or not someone has quite enough information, whether or not situations are fair, whether or not you think anything you do will make a difference to yourself or anyone else). The stories allow us to feel (with the very deepest of empathy and intuition) compassion and pity and courage and friendship and trust and even alienation. That they do so with a marvelous reinvention of all the long-standing traditions of literature, fairy tale, and even institutional satire gives incredible depth to the world she crafted and creates the speculative but nuanced expansion of imagination that used to be the basis of all liberal education.

In short, the Potter stories give me hope during what I consider to be rather dark times.

My son Ben (now 12) has grown up with the Potter story. It has given us so many opportunities to discuss life’s issues and mysteries in a common language. I can tell you – definitively – that navigating the terrain of the characters and story have made a significant difference to his own evolving character and intellectual/creative/spiritual development. He understands being true to himself, and the meaning of friendship, and the gifts of love, awareness, grace, support. He has internal reference points for things that are difficult to articulate, but can be recognized. And he doesn’t simplify into simple dualities and sound bites. He learns to ask better questions. Thank you for this gift to my son, and to me, and to all the others, everywhere.

I love the woman of her personal history and of her effects in the world, but please – more stories. The world so desperately needs them.

Pre-Election Roundup

Some various items from the last few weeks…

World Poll: Strongly Favors Barack Obama – Only Pakistan’s respondents said they would prefer to see Mitt Romney win November’s election.

THE CHOICE: The New Yorker’s Endorsement of Barack Obama

Politifact Truth-o-Meter

How U.S. Stimulus Bested U.K. Austerity

Sorry, U.S. Recoveries Really Aren’t Different

Team Romney still fighting arithmetic

The Plutocracy Will Go to Extremes to Keep the 1% in Control

Bork? Bolton? 9 Romney Advisers You Need to Know About

‘Moderate Mitt': Neocon Trojan Horse

Under Romney’s Plan, US Auto Makers Would Have Died

Romney & Company Shipped Every Single Delphi UAW Job to China

Mormon Mitt in Bed with Big Tobacco

Inside Bain’s Chinese Sensata Factories, Where Workers Put in 12-Hour Days for $.99-$1.35 an Hour

Employees of Romney Family’s Secret Bank Tied to Fraud, Money Laundering and Drug Cartels

Romney Lied in Court And Then Screwed Over His Friend’s Wife During Nasty Divorce With Staples Founder

Romney Supports Welfare – For Corporations

GOP Platform Calls for Nuking What’s Left of McCain-Feingold Law

Romney Cites Study Based On Repealing Almost All Middle Class Tax Breaks To Bolster His Tax Plan

Gender Inequality Map – Women in Utah have it the worst. There, the average working woman makes 55 cents for every dollar the average working man makes.

Marco Rubio Helps Demonstrate that the GOP Simply Opposes Paying Women Fairly

GOP Rep. Tells Employers To Intimidate Their Workers Into Voting For Romney

Faith Leaders Condemn GOP Senate Candidate’s Statement That Rape Pregnancies Are A ‘Gift From God’

Court Requires Disabled Rape Victim To Prove She Resisted

Pennsylvania Bill Would Reduce Welfare Benefits For Women Who Cannot Prove They Were Raped

GOP Congressman Says Abortion Is Never Necessary To Save A Woman’s Life

“LOVE PATRIARCHALISM”—ITS UNDERSIDE IS HATE by Carol P. Christ

Anti-Choicers Show Their True Colors

Did the Climate Deniers Win?

Palin, Trump continue to lead right-wing hate party against Obama

With ‘Dreams From My Real Father,’ Have Obama Haters Hit Rock Bottom?

Ayn Rand Would Be Proud: Soup Kitchen in Paul Ryan’s Photo Op Loses Funds, Gets Attacked By Conservative Trolls

Maryland pastor tells anti-gay group: LGBT people are ‘worthy of death’

Missouri Pastor Goes Viral on Gawker: Separation of Church and Hate

Paul Broun: Evolution, Big Bang ‘Lies Straight From The Pit Of Hell’ – Broun is a high-ranking member of the House Science Committee, of which Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) is also a member.

Tea Party Voter Suppression Group Under Investigation

Clear Channel takes down voter fraud billboards – The anonymous sponsor of the ads is still unknown. Clear Channel Outdoor is affiliated with Clear Channel Communications, which is majority-owned by private equity firms Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners.

FBI Investigating Hoax Letters to Voters in Florida

Ohio county sends voters wrong election date, directions to polls

Third instance of Republican voter registration dumping found in Virginia

Virginia AG won’t investigate GOP worker who dumped voter registration forms

Department of Justice: Investigate Tagg Romney owning voting machine in Ohio

Georgia Charter Schools, Amendment 1 (2012) – Vote No!

Georgia Multi-Year Rental Agreements, Amendment 2 (2012) – Vote No!

These aren’t REAL reasons to dislike Mitt Romney? Part I

Another day, another whisper campaign. I received this somewhat sarcastic email “Top Ten Reasons to Dislike Mitt Romney” from one of the usual places. To the person who sent this to me: I forgive you for trying to provoke me with things like this. You’ve given me the gift of a blog post topic.

The idea of the piece is to present a rebuttal to people who might not think Mitt Romney is all that likeable (including some who might – gasp – support Barack Obama!). It suggests that the “media” is misleading you about his “likability.” Keep that in mind as you judge the merits of the argument for yourself. Check in with your own intuition too – do you find him likable?

It is both amusing and disheartening to read some of the comments from some people who don’t even grasp the sarcastic undercurrent. “What’s wrong with having no scandals? Why does having sons with no prison record make him unlikable?” Seriously?

Here’s my take on what is, at least, an opinion piece intended to sway you.  I’ve spared you the huge red fugly font of the email.

 

A lot is being said in the media about Mitt Romney not being “likable” or that he doesn’t “relate well” to people. Frankly, we struggled to understand why. So after much research, we have come up with a Top Ten List to explain this “unlikablility.”

We”? Who is this “we”? Research?

Top Ten Reasons To Dislike Mitt Romney:

1. Handsome with gracious, statesmanlike aura. Looks like every central casting’s #1 choice for Commander-in-Chief.

The alignment of the presidential role with a particular appearance is interesting. Whatever do you mean? Does the Commander-in-Chief have to be real white and male, awkward and snobby? He has the commanding presence of a Gerald Ford and the grace of a John Kerry, or is it the other way around? As long as he doesn’t speak to people, I guess you could argue that he looks the part that some would sterotype as a “central casting” choice for President, if you like that combed-back Vitalis look.

But cast your mind back, and compare/contrast with some that were actually cast as President:

2. Been married to ONE woman his entire life, and has been faithful to her, including through her bouts with breast cancer and MS.

He was married when still a child, his entire life? Only kidding.

Each man should be assessed for his own decisions and actions, and Mitt seems to have been faithful to and supportive of Ann. The repercussions would be severe for him if he weren’t, especially as a Bishop within a very anti-divorce subculture that views marriage itself as well as divorce in a very unusual way.

When talking of a Mormon, you might avoid putting ONE in all caps like that. Better not to call attention to the fact that polygamy used to be a big part of the culture, and in some scions of that group, still is. To be fair, both Romney and Obama have a family branch involving polygamy. Mitt’s own father even had his own “birther” controversy.

While it’s all good that the Romney marriage has appeared to be stable, the Republicans, even most of the so-called “religious right,” seemed to have little problem supporting men like Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich while denouncing a sitting President who has been faithful and loving to his wife and family.

So it’s really a matter of priorities, isn’t it?

3. No scandals or skeletons in his closet. (How boring is that?)

Really? You’re not counting his sexy fugitive great-grandfather, tracked by federal marshals as he tried to plant polygamy throughout the Southwest? Whatever you want to say about that, it’s not boring. Can’t talk at all about the story of Mitt’s father, a Mexican-born child of American citizens who became Governor of Michigan and was able to run for the Republican nomination for President in 1968 despite his support for civil rights and opposition to the Vietnam War? He seems interesting.

No? Just Bishop Willard Mitt, named for hotel magnate J. Willard Marriot, huh? Well, if you insist.

Here’s a few, or just look at his record as Governor of Massachusetts and draw your own conclusions. You could look at where he claimed residency, for example.

4. Can’t speak in a fake, southern,”black preacher voice” when necessary.

Wow – that took a turn.

Maybe you’re underestimating Mitt – has he tried? He has the background as a Bishop, so he’s the actual preacher. I for one would love to see footage of some of his sermons.

What exactly is being implied here against Barack Obama? When exactly has that occurred, and why would the writer think it be “necessary”? What is being emphasized, and what reaction is intended from the reader?

5. Highly intelligent. Graduated cum laude from both Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School …and by the way, his academic records are NOT sealed.

Sure, Mitt is a smart guy. So is Obama. I think we’re (at least temporarily) past an attraction for dim presidential candidates, right? Um, right? Right?

No other presidential candidate but Barack Obama has ever been asked to prove fitness to serve by releasing academic records – or a birth certificate, for that matter. Along with the usual slurs about not being a “real” American – questioning his religion and his patriotism – this is intended to imply that there’s some sort of problem with his credentials.

It’s not true that Mitt Romney has released his academic transcripts, nor is that the norm. He went to Cranbrook School (a private boys’ academy), Stanford University (for only a year), Brigham Young University, and Harvard University Law School/Harvard University Business School. For what it’s worth, I did find one report card obtained by a Boston newspaper reflecting one stage of Mitt’s earlier schooling, but I’m willing to grant some slack. Mitt Romney was really only interested in business, but his father had advised him that a law degree would be valuable to his career so he enrolled at the newly-created four-year joint Juris Doctor/Master of Business Administration program coordinated between Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School – that part is true. By the time Romney arrived at Harvard, his father had run a major corporation, been elected three times as Michigan’s governor, been a presidential nominee, and was serving as a US Cabinet secretary.

Speaking as a former academic here, I don’t think Barack Obama had the same kind of social advantage or class advantage that Romney had. I also find it a little hard to believe that he didn’t have to have a pretty stellar academic record to be the president of the Harvard Law Review.

6. Doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol, and has never done drugs, not even in the counter-culture age when he went to college. Too square for today’s America?

Oh, he’s square all right, but probably not too much so for a lot of Americans. His contradictory statements on topics such as Vietnam suggest that he didn’t really “catch the drift” of his generation’s concerns. Mitt only went to Stanford for a year, then took deferments against the draft to go to France and be a missionary (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57449254/at-stanford-romney-got-his-bearings-in-a-year-of-change): “In July of 1966, the same month he left for France to serve his mission, the Selective Service granted Romney a 4-D categorization as a “minister of religion or divinity student.” This deferment status was controversial at the time, as critics argued that it allowed young Mormon men to avoid the draft disproportionately. The practice of granting 4-D deferments to Mormons for the purpose of serving their missions sparked a federal lawsuit by non-Mormons in Utah, and the LDS Church eventually cut down on the number of missionaries it permitted to receive 4-D status.”

But hey – good for him for not getting into addictive behaviors centered on drug use. He had a lot of support for that decision from the very strict LDS (Mormon) restrictions on such matters. I would think that setting a good example to his newly-converted fiancé back in the day might have also been a motivation – but that’s just speculation.

7. Represents an America of “yesterday”, where people believed in God, went to Church, didn’t screw around, worked hard, and became a SUCCESS!

Wow – the golden age fallacy – it always strikes a nerve, doesn’t it?

Maybe the word “yesterday” is in scare quotes for an actual reason? This so-called “yesterday” – when is it? Which people? When?

Are we talking about that “yesterday” when people from a privileged background didn’t have an advantage? The time when everyone agreed on religion? The age when life was fair? Or an archetypal fantasy from childhood, when life seemed less complicated because, well, you were a child? Do some research and tell me when this golden age existed.

From the other side, are there no Americans who believe in God or go to church (assuming for a moment that this a measure of goodness)? Depending on whether you’re talking about infidelity or laziness, are there no hard workers left, no faithful spouses anywhere?

And – is there an implied claim that there are no Americans who take profit without work, or who suffer from lack of opportunity? On what basis does each community and each individual measure success?

When I think about a world of Rockwell paintings, it creeps me out.

I don’t see the obvious connection between Mitt Romney and a work ethic, especially in any way that Barack Obama’s biography does not meet or exceed. To my mind, Barack’s story is much closer to the American Dream narrative – it’s even pretty close to that rare Horatio Alger story.  This email aims to work with the resentment that many working people have toward the unemployed, and it also carries some resonance to previous demonizing and scapegoating propaganda campaigns.

Read some history, especially actual stories of people’s lives in America and elsewhere, for an antidote to this kind of thinking.

8. Has a family of five great sons….and none of them have police records or are in drug rehab. But of course, they were raised by a stay-at-home mom, and that “choice” deserves America ‘s scorn.

Hold me down. Seriously. This one is just ridiculously obnoxious.

Let’s start with this cause-effect correlation between working moms and the criminality and drug use of their offspring. How dare you! So is this email aimed just at men? Where was that study showing the connection again? See how insidious this kind of thing can be? What do *you* think is the subtext here? What is being implied?

There’s nothing wrong with moms either choosing to work or choosing to stay at home, but there are actual economic concerns here. Many American moms don’t have much of a “choice” – either for reasons of community, religion or economics – but to stay at home. Many American moms don’t have access to millions of dollars that free them from worry about how their children will be fed, clothed, educated and housed. Most moms, even moms who have good jobs and/or are married to someone with a good income, are not free from the anxiety that they might lose their health benefits or financial security (as a result of companies that reap profits even when jobs are closed down, for instance). Most moms don’t have to worry about their Olympic horse’s dressage event either, so maybe it all evens out.

But it’s really a very good thing for a president to hear, to listen, and to care about a range of American experience, so as to make decisions that will most benefit all the people, not just the few.

Mitt and Ann Romney do have five grown sons (as well as a number of grandchildren):  Tagg, Matt, Josh, Ben, and Craig. It looks probable that they don’t have police records or drug abuse issues. Tagg Romney is a Managing Partner at Solamere Capital who co-founded the company and has previously worked as Chief Marketing Officer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, VP of onfield marketing at Reebok, and Director of Strategic Planning at Elan Pharmaceuticals. Tagg founded and subsequently sold Season Perks. Tagg worked for each of his father’s three political campaigns, and worked as a consultant at Monitor Group and McKinsey and Co. Tagg has a BA in Economics from Brigham Young University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Matt Romney works as VP of Strategy and Investments at Excel Realty Holdings. He was previously a Project Manager for Microsoft Corporation and held marketing and project management positions for Polaroid Corporation and Lavastorm, Inc. Matt received a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Harvard Business School and a Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University. Josh Romney is a Real Estate Developer and owner of Romney Ventures and previous Acquisition Analyst for Intercontinental Real Estate. He is also an advisor to Utah Governor Gary Herbert, and helped his dad with the 2008 Presidential Campaign. He also got his BA from Brigham Young University and his MBA from Harvard Business School. Ben Romney is a Medical Student who also got his Bachelors Degree from Brigham Young University. Craig is an Advertising Music Producer who also got his Bachelors Degree from Brigham Young University. None has served in the military, but they probably all did their stints as Mormon missionaries and Romney claims they served their country by helping him.

Barack and Michelle Obama have two young daughters: Malia Ann was born on July 4, 1998, and Natasha (known as Sasha), was born on June 10, 2001. Sasha is the youngest child to reside in the White House since John F. Kennedy, Jr. arrived as an infant in 1961. Girls are good too, right?  Or not?

9. Oh yes…..he’s a MORMON. We need to be very afraid of that very strange religion that teaches its members to be clean-living, patriotic, fiscally conservative, charitable, self-reliant, and honest.

Ask around in Utah, and perhaps among some former Mormons, about that. But – live and let live.

I believe in the constitutional rights of freedom of religion and the separation of church and state, and the closer we stick to this very American value, the better off both the state and church are.  The Church of Latter-Day Saints does have significant weirdness, but so do many other religious groups. I would think that the discomfort level would be higher among very conservative christian groups, many of whom do not consider Mormons to be real Christians, so this might be a bit of damage control.

More Americans know that Romney is Mormon than can correctly identify President Obama as Christian (49%).

Although most Americans say it is important for a president to have strong religious beliefs, party affiliation ― rather than religion ― drives voter preferences. It’s a matter of priorities, right?

Among Americans who know Romney’s religion, 6 in 10 say they are comfortable with it. Republicans (68%) are more likely than Independents (62%) and Democrats (51%) to express comfort with Romney’s religious affiliation. But nearly one in four white evangelicals say they are uncomfortable with Romney’s Mormonism, higher than any other religious group except atheists/agnostics (30%). The percentage of Americans who know that Obama is a Christian has increased from 38 to 49 percent since 2010, but there has been little change in the percentage who mistakenly believe that he is Muslim (19% in 2010; 17% in 2012). Perceptions of Obama’s faith fall into partisan camps: Nearly a third of Republicans believe that Obama is Muslim, compared to 16% independents and 8% of Democrats. Just 7% of Democrats and liberal-leaning Americans have concerns about Obama’s faith (see http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/poll-romney-may-see-an-evangelical-enthusiasm-gap/2012/07/26/gJQAitt5BX_story.html)

For myself, I would have liked to see Romney make some statement, like John F. Kennedy did, about the difference between personal beliefs and governing all Americans.

10. And one more point…..pundits say because of his wealth, he can’t relate to ordinary Americans. I guess that’s because he made that money HIMSELF…..as opposed to marrying it or inheriting it from Dad. Apparently, he didn’t understand that actually working at a job and earning your own money made you unrelatable to Americans.

You guess? It’s not apparent, and… well…. Sigh…  The bulk of his wealth came from capital gains, not salary or actual income, and much of it is sheltered outside the country. Is that “working at a job” in any sense that you as the reader can relate to, outside of your lottery-winning fantasy? There are some aspects that emerge in his comments that show that he is pretty out of touch, yes.  All that (and there’s a lot of all that) aside, it’s not the money that actually makes him unlikeable – it’s something far more important.

But that’s more than enough for today. To be continued…

Update: Or not. There will be no Part II. That’s enough for smart people to continue with their own thoughts…

The Changing View of God’s Will – or Witches and Doctors and Priests, Oh My

“You have no power here! Begone! – before someone drops a house on you too!”

Long, long ago there were healing women, women wise with the knowledge of herbs, of sound and smell and taste, of birthing and guidance and support. Their various mindsets are probably not ones that we can fully understand or inhabit today, although an undeniable hunger for their possible stories is evident in our fictions. History may be written by the winners, but speculative imagination is open to all.

Such women had an important role in small communities, until their role was re-interpreted. A strong patriarchal movement, armed with the authority of a monotheistic God, saw women with any sort of power as a threat. Their own stories cast women as inferior and sinful and subordinate to men. Women were no longer allowed to own their own land, and their bodies were to be thought of – and treated accordingly – as property. Powerful women, women with any sort of unapproved education, were to be disempowered: by making them seem subhuman (and/or superhuman), by cutting off ties to their kinship networks, and by casting doubts on their existential right to exist, such that communities would feel that it was wrong to “consort” with them. Women, and especially intelligent women, became the enemy (All our “wars” do the same thing – “othering” the human as less-than-human).

The outcast has power, too, of a sort, but after such events as the Inquisition and the infamous Witch Hunts, the burnings at the stake (how much worse than a crucifixion), the drownings of “water tests” and the like, much of the understanding and knowledge that might have been accessed later – through whatever methods of succession they might have had – was probably lost. Women seeking to reclaim the figure of the goddess, latter-day herbalists, Wiccans and witches, and all the overlapping seekers who blend them and other perspectives in their own attempts to balance the spirit, all have in common a yearning for the denied and nearly exterminated appreciation of the female principle, whatever that might look like. Because of this yearning, and the inherent oppositional and defensive position, there is sometimes a reversion to awkward and unfair gender binaries, but how can there be spiritual balance and integration and movement of all, even now, when male and female have been out of touch for so long and in such alienating ways?

I start with the ancient healing woman who became cast in the role of the witch because I don’t think we’ve come to terms with gender, knowledge, and healing. Our cures are poisons, our poisons are cures. It’s all in the amount, it’s all in discernment, it’s all in complexity. It’s hard to convey, and our stories are inadequate. Our mythos doesn’t function. Our logos is a weapon. And so, the vision of the ancient woman is a comfort to me. It carries things that cannot be conveyed otherwise, like music does. Like art.

Spiritual traditions, despite their wings of the horrible, all have a heart, no matter how it might be eclipsed, in the love and compassion that is the wellspring of all insight and communion. Every sacred book has its wisdom in this deep truth, no matter how its other pages may incite cruelty. It is the choice of each community and of each person to decide whether to take the paragraphs of the ancient libraries as an excuse for their dark side to oppress and to kill, or to read them as stories that illustrate the truth of the dangers of the human soul, in order to propel consciousness into a different space – the space of empathy, and discernment. Perhaps there’s more than one reason that you never hear the story from the point of view of the Canaanite.

Science and medicine have had moments of confrontation with religious communities – even when they have been members themselves. I think of Galileo, Mendel and Darwin – all of whom proposed understandings that seemed to undermine established teachings and were seen as a threat. On the other hand, the churches have had times of amazing institutional support – founding universities, building and supporting hospitals. The religious world is not monolithic of course, but eventually it seems that scientific discoveries are incorporated into religious understandings in some way – and the hanging sense that religious views don’t change is an illusion. The very existence of all the subgroups and diverse views among just the American protestant wing of the christian religion exemplify that, but even the more ancient religions include a spectrum of views, ranging across flavors militant, orthodox, literal, evangelist, conservative, scholarly, social-activist, meditative, welcoming. To me, the religious brand is less important than this kind of sub-grouping. From what I can tell, the fanatical haters are much the same across all religions, as are the compassionate lovers.

If God’s will is understood as something that is so fragile as to be easily undermined by human knowledge, things get dark. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity” as the poet W.B. Yeats succinctly put it. Those who believe they are representing God’s will seek to impose it as though it required their assistance. In this view, there is suspicion towards the cosmos, and paranoia about non-members.

If God’s will is understood more as “how it’s going to be” regardless of human decision, free will and action, then that is not threatened by much of anything, much less by better understanding our universe and our own niche within it. In this view, there is trust in the cosmos, and acceptance of both our sufferings and our various beings – whether in the form of women, of doctors – whether in extending the life of the aged, or by treating addiction or depression or a heart condition, or using birth control to better plan for thriving families. How do we know God’s will isn’t for humans to learn to make better decisions? Jesus was a healer. There is no reason in this perspective not to try, and no reason to throw away the gifts that we have been given.

If people believe both these at once, or in a syncopated rhythm, then odd things start to happen. They sometimes take on the role of God for others. Preachers and politicians believe that they speak for God. Doctors become arrogant, scientists mistake the model for the reality, communities project both good and evil onto the “what is” such that they cannot accept either the strengths or the weaknesses of science and medicine and religion and politics. Science becomes another “faith” and scientific method is considered discardable – or science becomes a perfect totality rather than a self-correcting and evolving set of theories (narratives that attempt to explain replicable experimental results). Religion inserts itself as scientific description and loses the deeper truths of its narratives. Some people become fearful and defensive, others violent. Lies become more acceptable. Truths lose the “scene” in which they have meaning, and are used as weapons.

H.L. Mencken describes the “inferior man” as one who (among other things) lives in fear: “The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear – fear of the unknown, the complex, and the inexplicable.” Such a man – or woman – will always fear anyone that that is perceived as different. He/she feels others must be dominated, controlled, and forced to be predictable, to follow commands, so that his/her own inferiority remains concealed, even from himself or herself. I was careful here to include both genders, but…

It’s especially disheartening to me that many women can’t see the various attempts to put women back in the box for what they are, but I have hope and confidence because of the many women (and men!) who observe injustice and who work, each in their own way, to be themselves and to encourage others. I think that despite our regressions here, we will continue to move ahead – onwards and upwards. We could have been much more. Maybe we still will be.

In some ways, it all goes back to how comfortable a community is with the idea that humans are allowed to explore knowledge, to ask questions, and to act on their current understandings. Some seem complacent about having knowledge of good and evil – or at least their internal definitions of such are rarely questioned – but the return of the repressed haunts them. Who do they have to control to maintain their community? Are women who use birth control witches? Sluts? Good way to rein them in, but go big! Shouldn’t insurance companies control them? Shouldn’t employers tightly define coverage?

But why should an employer define coverage for a person on “moral grounds”? What a nasty mess. First of all – the implicit ideology that it implies – that the worker has taken the previous role of the woman-as-property – is about the best evidence for the reality of the class war (and the rise of the dominionist theocrats) that I’ve seen. Beyond that, if you know anything about the extremes of non-intervention against a fixed idea of “God’s will,” you are aware of the many deaths resulting from refusing blood transfusions, and from childbirth, and from replacing medical treatment with prayer, and – in extreme cases – all of the injuries and deaths resulting from various pathologies centered on delusions about what God might want someone to do or not do (assuming for a moment that all claims about God are not delusional or at least inadequate). All armies claim that God is on their side, after all, don’t they? As George Carlin noted, someone has got to be wrong. Could it be – ALL of them?

Suppose your insurance company or business is owned by someone who thinks that your health issue is a punishment from God, and that in his/her/their judgment you don’t deserve treatment? Do you honestly believe this wouldn’t happen? We can vote with our feet by not working for such employers – if we’re in a position to do so – not everyone is. Over half this country is currently living in poverty, or very close to it. The “job creators” are still much more likely to skim the profits off the top and take them off to the Caymans, or Dubai, or to invest in global pursuits outside the American economy. In America, consumer rights across the board is the only fair position. If a religious community doesn’t want members of their flock to use science – however the subset of “wrong” medicine and science is currently defined, let them convince each to their own conscience. Sure, some will be condemned to an early and perhaps unjustified death, but at least then it was their own choice.

The roles of doctor and priest and priestess and healer and witch are intertwined. Each uses psychology. There are placebo effects. There is authority, and there is scapegoating. Sometimes overblown claims about power take hold, and abuses are legion. But each also draws on the will of the wounded, the will to live, the will to heal.

Perhaps each could help the other because of this, if they ever would. If healing has physical and spiritual aspects, and if psychology helps, and if there are different constellations of knowledge with overlapping themes and recurring narratives, maybe science can learn to tell better stories, maybe religious groups can embrace the totality of the human to a better spirit, maybe there can be better integration, better education, better cooperation, to promote the general welfare for the betterment of all.

But the power corruption is deep, deep, deep. I don’t forget the witches burning, the lynchings and the attempted genocides, especially when I read the comments of our contemporary brownshirts, fascists, and inquisitors, our bigots, our smug self-righteous, our haters.

I stand against the haters, in the way of the statue crying. It is almost impossibly sad. The utter, utter waste of it. The ignorance and greed and insecurity that it represents is such a huge loss to us all.

We’ve all come a long way, baby. Women and men, of all religions and races and kinds. But the backlash is severe.

In politics, the framing is always about our choice – but the choice is deeper than who we think might be best at representing our country’s values or our interests. The choice is really much more about who we choose to be – given our scientific knowledge, our spiritual path, our understanding of the human, our hopes for the future. Do we bother to seek a deeper understanding? Are we more comfortable with being told who we are and what God expects us to do, or not do, or do we see the acts of questioning about our meaning and constructing our character as life’s continuing project? Are we arrogant and oppressive and destructive, or are we working alone and together to try to make our communities, our nation, and our world a better place for thriving? For…all…the people.

When the healers and the knowers and the questioners become the enemy, it’s a dark dark place to live. That’s why I light a candle, and write, and smell the flowers, and commune with the trees – in hopes that a slight echo might come back across the ethereal plane to give me strength. Perhaps in turn my little spark might help to jump the gap in our country’s synapses, and echo forward to our daughters and sons of the future.

Think deeply, and just as hard as you can. Appreciate. Pay attention. Ask questions. Love.

Americans Who Betray the Most Basic American Values

Listen up, you so-called Patriots. Any power interest that dehumanizes other Americans, other people, IS THE BAD GUY. What does it take for you to understand that?

I’m getting very tired of receiving hate propaganda in my email. The latest bit followed the predictable pattern – taking one small fact and spinning it to appeal to the dark side of the reader. In 2009, President Obama appointed two highly-qualified people to important posts. Today, in 2012, I get an email called “Wolves Will Be Herding the Sheep.”

The email in question even had its own links to Snopes and to the official announcement, but most people are too lazy to look. They just look at the commentary:

Well, boys and girls, today the fox is guarding the hen house. The wolves will be herding the sheep!
Obama appointed two devout Muslims to homeland security posts. Obama and Janet Napolitano appointed Arif Alikhan, a devout Muslim, as Assistant Secretary for Policy Development. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano swore-in Kareem Shora, a devout Muslim, who was born in Damascus, Syria, as ADC National Executive Director as a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC).
NOTE: Has anyone ever heard a new government official being identified as a ‘devout Catholic,” a “devout Jew” or a “devout Protestant”…? Just wondering.
Devout Muslims being appointed to critical Homeland Security positions? Doesn’t this make you feel safer already?? That should make our home land much safer, huh!?
Wasn’t it “devout Muslim men” who flew planes into U.S. buildings 10 years ago? Wasn’t it a “devout Muslim man” who killed 13 at Fort Hood ?
Please forward this important information to any who cares about the future of our Country.

To me, this is so obvious as to not need explaining, but obviously there are some very, very misled or very, very stupid people in this country, because this stuff – that seems so transparent- actually seems to work. These are Americans, highly qualified Americans, who were appointed to these posts, and for good reasons – not that it was even enough to prevent the use of hate flicks for training.

This message is hateful and more importantly, inaccurate. By the way, if we really expect to deal with ANY extremists, including the Hatriot movement or the dominionist “Christian” theocrats or groups like the KKK, we’ve got to learn that appealing to the darkness – through generalizing, scapegoating, fear mongering, or any other dehumanizing effort is wrong. It’s more than wrong. It’s the E word.

America is not at war with Islam. Or with Christianity. But you know, in every religion and in every country and in every large group there seems to be a subset of people who hate, who dehumanize others, who flip logic to manipulate people, and who have little to no capacity for kindness, caring or dialogue. They only care about power, authority, and control. These groups have created centuries of misery, and they make a mockery of the ideals of their religion, country, or the group’s reason for being. You will know them by their fruits. But false prophets always seem to be able to mislead large crowds, no matter what country or century they happen to be operating in.

Do people not understand the idea of America? Do they not understand that this mistake is fatal to the spirit of this country? We absolutely cannot dehumanize other people. Have we learned nothing from our own mistakes, not to mention the history of the word? The Hatriot movement and the dominionist theocrats are the mirror image of the other extremists around the world.

It’s extremely lazy and extremely dangerous to generalize from singular people or events to an entire religion, or country, or race, or class.

Anyone who insinuates that a group is subhuman – then tries to claim that it’s American to think so – is not a friend of America.

Don’t be fooled. I pray you’re better than that. I pray more of our countrymen and countrywomen come to their senses soon.

I’ve given up on trying to explain anything to the contemporary brownshirts. So many have gone past the point of reason or teaching or dialogue. It’s reached a tipping point – they’re gone. A saint would keep trying, but I’m no saint. All I can do anymore is to grieve the reality. May the universe have mercy on their souls.

Be careful out there.

Pivot Vector, Or

For some time now, I’ve been playing with news and opinion items, and using Facebook posts more than I’ve been creating my own work. I haven’t even bothered to add my own comments to what I post – only quoting some pithy bit and hoping that others might glean something from it. While a vector is a worthwhile thing, I’d rather the thought be the meme. It’s a laziness and sadness that has moved me into a pivot function. I’ve been playing with language today, but am tired and downcast, and so once again lack the essential oomph that pulls me in to writing. When I first started this blog, it helped me to establish a discipline of writing. No matter how short or inconsequential the post, it put me into the useful habit of writing. Once I was warmed to this habit, everything was much less intimidating, and I started writing a lot.

Now I’ve fallen back into just getting through a day as best I can, with nothing left over. The most frightening thing to me about this mode is that years pass. They pass quickly. They pass in a kind of a dream. I don’t feel that I’m accomplishing anything. I’m not enthralled with any particular issue, question or topic. I’m disheartened about America, generally, because far too many of her people appear willfully ignorant, hateful, fearful, small and despicable. Sometimes I have empathy, and I can understand how it can happen. I can usually find things to like about most people, but the collective hysteria of groups often terrifies me. Even the scapegoats have scapegoats now. I feel a violence under the surface, and I don’t know where or when it’s going to burst out next. Homeopathic tension release happens now and again… but I think that whatever your politics or religion or economic situation might be, it’s hard to miss that we’re being lied to every day, manipulated every day, pandered to and promised to and fed bull at a level that is only tolerable because people have learned to self-select their favorite flavor of it. And everyone wants to rant in generalities and cliches, spouting things they haven’t researched at all, and in a kind of sanctimonious assumption of audience agreement. I look at it all with only two possibilities of response – anger and tears. I was happier when I had less information about other people’s beliefs and thoughts. There was mystery, and I assumed that figurative language and irony and humor were universally understood, and that people would prefer to act out of their best, not their worst, and that people asked themselves questions and had auto-discounting factors when they heard things. Commercials trained us, I thought, to ask – what are they selling here, and why? Who is this aimed at, and why would someone think this would… move these refrigerators?

I’ve been culture-jamming, trying to put other possibilities out there, but I’m not the one thinking them up. I love being an amplifier for certain voices, but I’ve given up on my own voice. It seems so selfish for me to carve out time to write a poem, or a novel, or even a little essay. And yet, I’m not really involved in anything either – no community for emergent spirituality, no political campaign, no protest or demonstration. I just observe… amplify… criticize…

I’ve been paying attention to how very hard things can be in this country – at the personal level, among friends – but I can’t wave a magic wand and I’ll never run for office. What can I do?

— So sorry. Don’t know how to make it better. Empathy. Hugs. Please don’t kill yourself. We’d miss you. They were never going to give you a promotion anyway. What do you expect from an organization like that? Yes, you should be making more. I know this is degrading. You have to drive how far to work that shit job? Don’t listen to your brother, he clearly has issues. No, don’t let them infantilize you. Why are you buying this? That’s terrible. Sorry for your loss. I can’t believe that happened. No, it’s not fair at all. I have no idea. Hope I won’t have to make friends with the guys under the bridge. Are you that insecure that you have to brag in every conversation? No, it’s not you. Well, maybe it’s a little bit you, but not in the way you think. Yes, they lied. That’s horrible. Now that he knows you love him, he treats you like you don’t matter? Why stay? Such a waste. He could have done anything he set his mind to. Twenty years of work – for nothing. How can I possibly owe this much? The one percent? That’s mean – let’s assume people can handle a decimal point. We’re really talking about the .1, or the .01, or the .001, or even the .0001, aren’t we? What does it matter, we’re screwed. How could we have let this happen? Why didn’t I see this coming? Does she have to be such an asshat? Will you please stop undermining everything I do? Yes, an arrest normally means it’s over. Well, look, maybe a smaller place. Please don’t give up. You have friends. Leave me alone! There’s nothing I can do. Can’t I just read for a while? Go away. No, no, no. I’m listening. I understand. What can I do? I don’t know where she finds the energy. How does he have time for that? Are you f’ing kidding me? —

Trying to listen, trying to understand, trying to be a better person, trying not to be angry, trying not to cry, trying to have some energy, trying to get through until there is something to look forward to again, trying not to be depressed, trying to be a good friend, trying not to destroy anything, trying to get the household in order, trying to be a good wife, trying to be a good mom, trying not to grieve too much or too often, trying not to get lost in the moon and the stars, trying to help, trying not to be the problem, trying to judge fairly, trying to move on, trying to be sane.

Going introvert, cocooning. Giving it all up to the cosmos every night, overwhelmed and grateful. Feeling calm infuse me. Appreciating sleep. Having powerful, surreal dreams. Feeling light and love and quiet joy – but only for a while. Only for a little while.

Perhaps the gate has opened up a few nanometers.

“Science means simply the aggregate of all the recipes that are always successful. All the rest is literature.” ~ Paul Valery

“When I cannot sing my heart, I can only speak my mind.” ~ John Lennon

A-flurried about the “war on Christmas”? Read this!

This is the single best essay that I’ve read on the subject of Christmas “wars.”

Whatever your views on “the reason for the season,” whatever prejudices you harbor, whatever hatemongers have influenced your thinking, whether you call yourself a christian or not (and whether or not you even have any sense for what that could really mean), please don’t send me a single further email or a message on Facebook or a status about being a “real American” until you have read this post.

I am quoting it in its entirety in case the blog goes away. I never want to lose it. Kudos to Ray Garton!

An Open Letter To Christians: Merry Christmas From An Atheist
Posted on December 13, 2010 by Ray Garton

That’s right, I didn’t say “happy holidays” or “seasons greetings” — I said “merry Christmas.” And yes, I’m an atheist, one who loves the Christmas season so much that I tend to get into the spirit of the holiday a little earlier than most. I love the decorations, the music, the gift-giving, the mythology — all of it. This often surprises people because I tend to have a dark sense of humor and an unsentimental, pragmatic worldview. But every December, you’ll find me singing along with Nat King Cole and Dean Martin as I decorate the tree; you’ll find me getting misty-eyed and sniffly when George Bailey comes to understand how many lives his mundane existence has touched and influenced; you’ll hear me wishing “merry Christmas” — and yes, sometimes “happy holidays” — to total strangers. And I’ll say it again — I’m an atheist.

Before I go any further, I want to make sure that word is clearly understood. There seem to be a lot of people who think an atheist is an angry, immoral person who eats babies and sodomizes house pets, and that simply isn’t the case. I just turned 48 years old and I’ve been with my wife for 22 wonderful monogamous years. I am a passionate lover of animals, especially cats and dogs. I give of my time and money to charitable causes. I have never been arrested. I vote, pay my taxes and try to stay as informed as possible. I have a strong sense of justice, of right and wrong, and I adhere to it without compromise. I am a fiercely loyal friend and a lover of life — my own and others. My goal each day is to be a better person than I was yesterday and to live my life in a way that improves the lives of those around me. I point this out not to be immodest or seek praise but to show you that I am, for the most part, not unlike most people living their lives and pursuing happiness on this earth. Only one thing makes me an atheist: I am not a person of faith. I do not believe in gods or demons, heaven or hell, angels or ghosts, or anything else that requires a leap of faith in the absence of factual proof. That’s all being an atheist means, nothing more. It certainly doesn’t mean that I hate people of faith — I don’t hate anyone. You will find no more passionate supporter of America’s freedom of religion than I. While I might not share your faith, I would fight to the death for your right to practice and express it, because your freedom is also my freedom. Here’s how I see the relationship between you and me: We may differ on the matter of religion and we might disagree politically, but chances are we have more in common than in conflict and we’re all in this together, so there’s no reason in the world for us to oppose one another.

Having said that, I have a question: What’s all this I keep hearing about a “war on Christmas?” I keep reading stories in the news about Christians who are angry because the phrase “happy holidays” is often used during the Christmas season and they believe this phrase somehow diminishes the Christian celebration of Christmas. With each passing year, these stories increase in number and this sentiment becomes more hostile. TV and radio hosts keep saying that “secularists” are trying to abolish Jesus and that Christianity is under attack, that atheists are taking a bulldozer to America’s Christians. It comes up every year at this time, which happens to be my favorite time of year, and frankly, I’m starting to get a little irritated by it. During a season when the words “peace on earth, good will toward men” are so often spoken and sung, a lot of people are getting angry and talking about “war” — and they are the very people who are supposed to be singing about “peace on earth, good will toward men!”

Now, maybe you’re not one of them. Maybe you don’t buy into this idea of a “war on Christmas.” But if you are — if you honestly believe that the Christian celebration of Christmas is under attack by a secular conspiracy to remove Jesus Christ from the holiday and silence Christians — I hope you will indulge me and, for just a little while, try to look at this situation from a different perspective, one that perhaps you have not considered. Please bear with me.

I don’t know anyone who genuinely hates Christmas. Oh, sure, people complain about it when it comes along — all the commercial hustle, the crowds, the pressure to buy, buy, buy. But ultimately, everyone I know enjoys the holiday and if asked seriously, I doubt they would change a thing. The people I know celebrate the holiday in different ways and for different reasons. Some celebrate it as a religious holiday, others as a secular holiday. There are many ways to celebrate in the Christmas season, and not all of them are Christmas. There’s Hanukkah, the winter solstice, Yule, Kwanzaa — it’s a time of the year that contains many holidays. Given that, what’s wrong with saying “happy holidays?” The word “holiday,” after all, means “holy day.” It comes from the Old English word hāligdæghālig meaning “holy” and dæg meaning “day” — and it’s been in use since before the 12th century. How is the acknowledgment of a season of “holy days” anti-Christian? It’s an inclusive greeting that embraces the entire season. I usually say “merry Christmas” because that’s the holiday I celebrate in a secular fashion, but I often say “happy holidays,” too, because I am aware of the different holidays celebrated at this time of year, and that covers all of them.

But some insist that the use of the phrase “happy holidays” is just another tactic in the “war on Christmas,” which is part of the greater effort to remove Christianity from the United States. Where did this “war on Christmas” come from? When did it start? Who’s fighting it and why? More importantly … is this thing for real? You might not know the answers to those questions. I didn’t. So I did some research.

In 1959, the John Birch Society, a far-right organization that sees anti-American and communist conspiracies in just about everything, released a pamphlet called “There Goes Christmas!” written by Hubert Kregeloh. The pamphlet claimed, “One of the techniques now being applied by the Reds to weaken the pillar of religion in our country is the drive to take Christ out of Christmas — to denude the event of its religious meaning.” The John Birch Society believed the UN was being used to crush religious belief:

The UN fanatics launched their assault on Christmas in 1958, but too late to get very far before the holy day was at hand. They are already busy, however, at this very moment, on efforts to poison the 1959 Christmas season with their high-pressure propaganda. What they now want to put over on the American people is simply this: Department stores throughout the country are to utilize UN symbols and emblems as Christmas decorations.

These “UN symbols and emblems” were simply secular Christmas decorations that did not employ religious imagery, decorations that had been around for some time. The pamphlet claimed this was a plot to destroy Christianity and called on patriotic Americans to boycott any stores that displayed such decorations. No one took this very seriously in 1959 — this was, after all, the John Birch Society. The conspiracy theory did not catch on. But it was to come back a few decades later.

In the 1990s, Peter Brimelow, a British American financial journalist, was an editor at Fortune magazine when he decided he didn’t like the phrase “happy holidays.” He told the Daily Beast, “I just got real interested in the issue because I noticed over the years there was this social shift taking place where people no longer said ‘Merry Christmas.’” In his book Alien Nation, Brimelow wrote that “weird aliens with dubious habits” were damaging the “ethnic core” of white Christian America and were part of a “multicultural struggle to abolish America.” He saw the trend toward saying “happy holidays” as part of this sinister movement and decided to do something about it.

Brimelow and conservative British political journalist John O’Sullivan, who was then editor of the conservative magazine National Review, had an idea: A yearly competition in the magazine for the “the most egregious attempt to suppress Christmas.” But before O’Sullivan could implement the idea, he was booted from his position as editor in 1997. Even the staunch conservatives at the National Review wanted nothing to do with Brimelow and O’Sullivan and their increasingly hostile attitudes toward racial minorities and immigrants. So Brimelow founded VDare, an anti-immigration online journal which the Southern Poverty Law Center categorized as a “hate journal” in 2003. VDare became the home of Brimelow’s “Annual War on Christmas Competition.”

The winner of the competition in 2001 was Tom Piatak’s article “Happy Holidays? Bah! Humbug!”. In the article, Tom Piatak writes that today’s celebration of Christmas in America bears a “closer resemblance to the Nazis’ Julfest” than the Christmases of old, like those celebrated during Piatak’s childhood. He specifically targets other holidays and religions as the source of the problem:

Teaching children about Kwanzaa, rather than about the Christmas carols and spirituals developed by blacks, inculcates negative lessons about whites instead of positive ones about blacks. Teaching children about Hanukkah, rather than the beliefs that actually sustained Jews on their sometimes tragic and tumultuous historical journey, inculcates negative lessons about Christianity, not positive ones about Judaism.

VDare’s 2005 winner, “Christmas, Jews, De-Assimilation and Decline” by Steve Sailer, is much more specific. Sailer is a writer who has, in the past, shown enthusiasm for Eugenics and believes black people to be inferior. In a 2005 article for Vdare called “Racial Reality and the New Orleans Nightmare,” he wrote of black people, “The plain fact is that they tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups. Thus they need stricter moral guidance from society.” In his competition-winning article about the “war on Christmas,” Sailer complains that, although Jews wrote many of today’s most popular Christmas songs, those songs were secular, and these days, they aren’t even doing that, because rather than being grateful for the piles of money they’ve been able to make off of Christianity, all they want to do is destroy the Christian tradition of Christmas.

With just a little research, it becomes very clear that the roots of today’s “war on Christmas” are deeply imbedded in the soil of racial hatred and religious bigotry. The people responsible for pointing out this “war” and making the most noise about it in the 1990s were white supremacists and anti-Semites.

By the middle of the past decade, the cry of “war” had been picked up by media figures. TV and radio personality John Gibson published a book in 2005 called The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than you Thought. Gibson, a former Fox News anchor, relates several anecdotes that involve towns deciding to call their Christmas parades “holiday parades” or including symbols of other religions in their holiday displays. He sees a widespread conspiracy at work which is not only bent on removing any Christian significance from Christianity, but which is part of a “revolution against Christianity.” Behind this conspiracy, he claims, are “a cabal of secularists, so-called humanists, trial lawyers, cultural relativists and liberal, guilt-wracked Christians.” He includes in this cabal civil rights organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union — and he even includes Christian churches that try to be inclusive, calling them “institutional backers of the war on Christmas.” He writes, “These are the churches that marry gays and turn their backs on preborn babies.” He claims that the members of these churches “vote for John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, and Barney Frank.”

Here’s the score so far. Those who say there’s a “war on Christmas” blame it on a conspiracy to eradicate Christianity that is the work of communists, the UN, non-caucasian people and immigrants, Jews, secular humanists, the ACLU, anyone who supports gay rights or a woman’s right to choose, and any Christians who vote for Democrats.

Perhaps the loudest voice calling to let slip the dogs of Christmas war is Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly. Just in case you’re not familiar with O’Reilly, he’s the guy who was sued for sexual harassment in 2004 by Andrea Mackris, an associate producer on his Fox News show The O’Reilly Factor. According to court documents, Mackris was subjected to repeated verbal harassment by O’Reilly, who commonly peppered their conversations with lewd references to the size of his penis, the women who were “amazed” by it, his fondness for phone sex, vibrators and explicit sexual fantasies about what he’d like to do to Mackris in the shower with a loofa. He masturbated and climaxed during more than one telephone conversation with her, and while having dinner with Mackris and her friend, he repeatedly propositioned them both and talked about an upcoming trip to Italy to meet the pope, during which his pregnant wife would be staying home with his daughter. He then “implied he was looking forward to some extra-marital dalliances with the ‘hot’ Italian women.” All of this was done against Mackris’s will and despite her repeated appeals to him to stop. In 2004, when Mackris pointed out that O’Reilly had engaged in similarly inappropriate behavior with other women working on his show and warned him to be more cautious before one of them told someone, he said words to this effect:

If any woman ever breathed a word, I’ll make her pay so dearly that she’ll wish she’d never been born. I’ll rake her through the mud, bring up things in her life and make her so miserable that she’ll be destroyed. And besides, she wouldn’t be able to afford the lawyers I can or endure it financially as long as I can. And nobody would believe her, it’d be her word against mine and who would they believe? Me or some unstable woman making crazy accusations. They’d see her as some psycho, someone unstable. Besides, I’d never make the mistake of picking unstable crazy girls like that.

He further pointed out that any woman who blew the whistle on his behavior would have more to contend with than O’Reilly alone.

If you cross Fox News Channel, it’s not just me, it’s [Fox News president] Roger Ailes who will go after you. I’m the street guy out front making noise about the issues, but Ailes operates behind the scenes, strategizes and makes things happen so that one day, BAM! The person gets what’s coming to them but never sees it coming. Look at Al Franken, one day he’s going to get a knock on his door and his life as he’s known it will change forever. That day will happen, trust me.

O’Reilly never denied any of Mackris’s claims, but filed a countersuit. The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum and both suits were dropped.

But that was more than six years ago. Today, Bill O’Reilly is concerned about what he sees as an attack on Christians and Christianity, because obviously, following the teachings of Jesus Christ is a priority in O’Reilly’s life. On November 28, 2005, O’Reilly said on his Fox News show, “Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born.” He hammers this subject relentlessly, claiming that it’s all part of “a very secret plan” that is designed to “diminish Christian philosophy in the USA.” Every year, O’Reilly sounds off about stores and companies that choose to use the phrase “happy holidays” rather than “merry Christmas” in their marketing campaigns, and every year, the complaints get angrier, louder and wilder. According to O’Reilly, saying “happy holidays” will lead to the “legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage,” and will wipe Christianity off the map in America.

More and more media figures — Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage — have jumped on the “Christmas war” wagon. But all of this anger and shouting is not confined to the media. In 2002, the Alliance Defense Fund, an organization of Christian activist lawyers co-founded by James Dobson, began organizing hundreds of lawyers all over the country to pounce on anything they perceived as a threat to Christmas by filing lawsuits. A number of other Christian activist organizations do the same thing every year, filling the courts with lawsuits defending the most popular and beloved holiday in America from … whatever. Senior legal council for the Alliance Defense Fund, Mike Johnson, once said, “It’s a sad day in America when you have to retain a lawyer to wish someone a merry Christmas.”

There’s just one problem with that: It’s never happened. No one has ever had to seek legal representation for wishing someone “merry Christmas.” Johnson’s remark is based entirely on fantasy. In fact, none of the things these people are so wildly upset about are happening! No one is trying to destroy Christmas. It remains the most popular holiday in America. Stores and businesses that use the phrase “happy holidays” do so because they know their customers include not only people who engage in the Christian celebration of Christmas but those who celebrate the other holidays during this season, and those who are not religious at all. The last people on the planet who would want to destroy Christmas are those who benefit most from it — department stores, toy stores, retail chains of all kinds. These businesses depend on Christmas! Why would they want to do anything to alter the holiday in any way? All they’re doing is being inclusive, trying to bring in more people. American businesses have no interest in banishing Christianity, only in beefing up their profits. They’re doing that by broadening their appeal with more nonspecific acknowledgments of the season, like “happy holidays” and “season’s greetings.” If you think business in America is devoted to the Christian religion — or any religion at all — you haven’t been paying attention. Business worships only the dollar and always has.

The anecdotes frequently cited by people like John Gibson in his 2005 book are part of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those upset about the “war on Christmas” — who are not the majority of Americans, by the way — have become so loud and so angry that businesses and other organizations have become over-sensitive to the possibility of offending people at Christmas time, so they sometimes go too far in their efforts to be inclusive by calling Christmas trees “holiday trees” or Christmas parades “holiday parades.” Then the Christmas warriors point to those things as examples of an evil conspiracy to wipe the baby Jesus out of the holiday — a conspiracy that does not exist.

There is no “war on Christmas.” Right now, in 2010, Americans are just as free to celebrate the religious holidays that come at this time of year as they ever have been, all of it fully supported by the United States Supreme Court. Lynch v. Donnelly, a 1984 Supreme Court ruling, determined that nativity scenes are allowed on public property along with the three wise men, the Christmas star, Christmas trees, snowmen, candy canes — there is no prohibition against Christianity. Government-sponsored displays must include representations of other religions and secular symbols of holiday celebration as well because the government is constitutionally prohibited from recognizing a single religion above all others. This is, as they say, the American way. We are a nation of people of all faiths and no faith. In public schools, students are allowed to hand out religious-themed holiday cards and literature. And if they aren’t allowed to do that, guess who steps in to represent them and defend their rights? That evil organization that so many believe to be a big player in the “war on Christmas,” the ACLU. Sometimes, the anger expressed by so many people about the nonexistent “war on Christmas” makes school administrators and others too cautious, occasionally to the point of stepping on people’s rights. In 2003, a group of students at Westfield High School in Massachusetts were suspended for handing out candy canes that had Christian messages attached to them. The ACLU intervened on their behalf, filed an amicus brief and succeeded in having the suspensions revoked. But an article by Jerry Falwell on the far-right website Newsmax.com states:

The fact is, students have the right to free speech in the form of verbal or written expression during non-instructional class time. And yes, students have just as much right to speak on religious topics as they do on secular topics — no matter what the ACLU might propagate.

The ACLU propagates no such thing. The ACLU has no conflict with students, or anyone else, expressing their religious beliefs — it fights to support that right! Anyone who tells you the ACLU is anti-Christian is either misinformed or is deliberately trying to misinform you. That accusation is repeated so often that I think it’s fair to say it is a blatant, intentional lie. And the idea that the ACLU is one of the organizations waging a war on Christmas is ludicrous! In 2002, the ACLU filed a brief supporting the right of the Church of the Good News to run ads criticizing the secularization of Christmas and promoting Christianity as the “one true religion” when the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority refused to post the paid advertisements and declined to sell any more ad space to the church. I ask you — why would an organization that’s trying to abolish the Christian celebration of Christmas do that?

The organization vigorously defends the religious rights of Christians and people of all faiths in America. Here are a few examples of that from the year 2005 alone:

Louisiana: When Mormon prison inmate Norman Sanders was not allowed access to Mormon religious texts and services, the ACLU sued the Department of Corrections on his behalf.

New Jersey: When second-grade student Olivia Turton was prohibited from singing the song “Awesome God” in a volunteer after-school talent show, the ACLU filed a motion to submit a friend-of-the-court brief on her behalf.

Oregon: When students at a Seventh-day Adventist school made it to the state basketball tournament and were going to be forced to play tournament games on Saturday, their sabbath, the ACLU filed suit against the Oregon School Activities Association on their behalf

Michigan: Joseph Hanas, a Catholic, was ordered by the court to go through a drug rehabilitation program run by a Pentecostal group that required him to read the bible seven hours a day, declare his salvation at the altar, and be tested on Pentecostal principles. The group confiscated Hanas’s rosary and told him Catholicism was evil. When Hanas refused to complete the program and was criminally punished, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit on his behalf.

That last example points out a very important fact — sometimes America’s freedom of religion has to be defended against Christians. That does not mean the ACLU is anti-Christian, it means the ACLU is opposed to any infringement of an American’s freedom of religion, including infringement being committed by Christians.

Just in case you’re thinking that the United States is a Christian nation and everyone should respect, if not personally observe, Christian holidays, I’d like to point out one little problem with that: The United States is not a Christian nation and never was. The majority of Americans are Christian, there is no doubt about that. But that means this is a nation of Christians, not a Christian nation — there’s a big difference. Iran, for example, is a Muslim nation because there is no line drawn between the government of Iran and the Muslim religion — that country is governed by religion. The United States government has no religion. It recognizes no religion but protects the rights of all religions. Our founders were brilliant men. They did not approach the establishment of this nation lightly. Had they intended to establish a Christian nation, it would be abysmally negligent of them not to include that in the United States Constitution. It would be more than negligent — it would be absurd. They had no such intention. The Constitution does not mention the words “god” or “Jesus Christ” and makes no reference to Christianity or the bible or the ten commandments. The only reference to religion in the Constitution specifies no particular religion; it simply bars the government from enforcing or prohibiting the practice of any religion.

The Constitution neither requires nor prohibits any particular celebration of Christmas. It doesn’t even mention Christmas. In 1789, the first Christmas under the United States Constitution, Congress was in session on December 25. Christmas did not become a federal holiday until 1870.

There was only one successful “war on Christmas” in America’s history. It was a war fought by a group of people who were so offended by the celebration of Christmas that they banned it by law and fined anyone who was found engaging in any kind of recognition of the holiday. For 22 years, this group succeeded in abolishing Christmas. This, by the way, was a group of Christians. Puritans in Massachusetts banned Christmas from 1659 to 1681 because they found no biblical support for the holiday, strongly disapproved of its pagan origins and did not like the raucous partying that took place every Christmas. The law stated that anyone found “observing, by abstinence from labor, feasting or any other way any such days as Christmas day, shall pay for every such offense five shillings.” From Andrew Santella’s Slate article, “The War on Christmas, the Prequel”:

After the English Restoration government reclaimed control of Massachusetts from the Puritans in the 1680s, one of the first acts of the newly appointed royal governor of the colony was to sponsor and attend Christmas religious services. Perhaps fearing a militant Puritan backlash, for the 1686 services he was flanked by redcoats. The Puritan disdain for the holiday endured: As late as 1869, public-school kids in Boston could be expelled for skipping class on Christmas Day.

While the 17th-century Quakers did not resort to legislation, they rejected Christmas and refused to do anything to celebrate the holiday. That continued into the early 19th century, when all but a few Pennsylvanians still ignored the holiday.

From Santella’s article:

Observance of Christmas, or the lack thereof, was one way to differentiate among the Christian sects of Colonial and 19th-century America. Anglicans, Moravians, Dutch Reformed, and Lutherans, to name just a few, did; Quakers, Puritans, Separatists, Baptists, and some Presbyterians did not. An 1855 New York Times report on Christmas services in the city noted that Baptist and Methodist churches were closed because they “do not accept the day as a holy one,” while Episcopal and Catholic churches were open and “decked with evergreens.”

We have gone from a time in our past when many Christians rejected Christmas, even to the point of making the celebration illegal, to a time when Christians are angry because people aren’t uttering the correct greeting at Christmas time. But those Christians are angry for no reason other than the fact that some people in the media have told them they should be angry.

The “war on Christmas” is a myth. No one is trying to abolish the Christian celebration of Christmas. Your holiday is safe. The fact is, it’s not your holiday — you simply celebrate it for your own religious reasons. Like most Christian holidays, Christmas grew from pagan roots. Long before anyone ever heard the name “Jesus Christ,” this part of the year has been a time of celebration around the world. The Norse celebrated Yule from the winter solstice through the month of January. Their celebration included the burning of a large log; the celebration lasted as long as that log was burning. Germany honored the pagan god Odin at this time of year. They feared Odin because he was said to fly through the air at night, watching everyone, and he would determine who was naughty and who was nice, then reward the nice and punish the naughty. He was believed to lead a giant Yule hunting party through the sky, riding his flying horse, Sleipnir. The mythology of Santa Claus owes a great deal to Odin. According to Phyllis Siefker, author of Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of St. Nicholas, children would set out their boots filled with straw, carrots or sugar for Sleipnir to eat when he came by. Odin would reward the children for feeding his horse by leaving them candy and gifts. Sound familiar? In the winter, Romans honored Saturn, the god of agriculture, with an enormous hedonistic blowout of a party that included a bounty of food and drink. The social order was turned upside down during this festival — slaves became masters for a month, and peasants were given rule of the city. The upper classes celebrated the birth of the god Mithra, who was believed to have born of a rock.

Even the Christmas tree, which many mistakenly associate with Christianity today, is entirely pagan. A common thread in all the pagan winter celebrations was the significance of plants and trees that remained green all year. Celebrants decorated their homes with trees and hung boughs over their doors and windows. A large evergreen was often put in the town or village square so people could dance around it in celebration. Druid priests used mistletoe in their ceremonies because it represented the birth of a god — and that god was not Jesus Christ. Many worshiped the sun as a god and believed that winter came because that god was ailing. They celebrated the winter solstice because it meant the sun god would soon return, and evergreens were seen as a promise of that return. The greenery also represented the promise that crops and orchards would soon flourish again. Many early American Christians knew this and refused to use holly, mistletoe or other greenery in their celebration of Christmas. Today, many Christians wrongly believe the Christmas tree is a symbol of their religion and get angry if anyone calls it anything other than a Christmas tree.

Are you beginning to see how ridiculous all of this is?

The Christian observance of Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus didn’t begin until the fourth century when Catholic church leaders decided the birth of Christ should be marked as a holiday. With no date given in the bible for Jesus’s birth, they chose December 25 — which put Christmas smack in the middle of all the popular pagan celebrations. This was not accidental — quite the contrary, in fact. It served two purposes. By attaching Christmas to the pagan holiday season, Christianity took advantage of a time of the year during which everyone was already celebrating. Also, it allowed Christianity to absorb the pagan traditions and make them their own. From a History.com article:

By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated. By the Middle Ages, Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion. On Christmas, believers attended church, then celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere similar to today’s Mardi Gras. Each year, a beggar or student would be crowned the “lord of misrule” and eager celebrants played the part of his subjects. The poor would go to the houses of the rich and demand their best food and drink. If owners failed to comply, their visitors would most likely terrorize them with mischief. Christmas became the time of year when the upper classes could repay their real or imagined “debt” to society by entertaining less fortunate citizens.

Reread that first line. Christian leaders popularized Christmas by choosing the pagan holiday season in which to celebrate it … “but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated.”

The “war on Christmas” is a myth that has been created and perpetuated by, among others, anti-Semitic white supremacists, religious bigots and an accused — and undenied — emotional rapist. Frankly, I’m having trouble understanding why anyone would listen to these people, let alone take them seriously. But they do. If you’re one of them, ask yourself these questions:

Why is it so important to these people that you be angry? Why are they so eager to convince you that your religion is being attacked when it isn’t, that your religious rights are being limited when they aren’t? Why are they inventing reasons to turn people against each other in this country?

I’m sure there are multiple answers to each of those questions, and I would be lying if I claimed to know all of them. But I can tell you this much with certainty: As long as you’re angry about the alleged “war on Christmas,” you’re watching their TV shows, listening to their radio shows, paying for memberships on their websites and buying their books and videos and merchandise — and they are getting filthy rich. To them, your anger represents dollar signs. Another thing to consider is the target at which these Christmas warriors are aiming your anger — they are all political. If you can be convinced that your religious liberty is under attack — even if it isn’t — your political support and donations, your votes, your entire political outlook can be influenced and altered, and you can be manipulated into becoming active, making trouble for and weakening the political opponents of the people who want you to stay angry. If you don’t like my answers, don’t stop asking yourself these questions, because they’re important. Whatever the reason, the fact is that you are being manipulated.

On a November, 2005, broadcast of his Fox News show, Bill O’Reilly said, “Anyone offended by the words ‘merry Christmas’ has problems not even St. Nicholas could solve.”

This is probably the only time I will do it, but I agree with O’Reilly. I have friends who are Christians, Jews, Buddhists, pagans — I even know a couple of Satanists — and plenty of friends who are atheists. Not one of them has ever been offended by the words “merry Christmas.” If anything, it’s a greeting that makes them smile. Were I to encounter someone who was offended by “merry Christmas,” believe me, I’m the kind of person who would not hesitate to tell them to lighten the hell up. Anyone offended by “merry Christmas” has a serious problem more closely related to their emotional and mental state than to the holiday. There is something wrong with them. But you know what? I feel exactly the same way about anyone who’s offended by the words “happy holidays.”

The only people I know who are ever offended at Christmas time are Christians who get angry whenever they hear or see the words “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings.” The angriest people I know at Christmas time are not people who are being prohibited from celebrating the holiday as they choose — they are people who are trying to prohibit others from celebrating the holidays in ways they claim to find offensive. If you are one of those people, I have a question. Is your religious faith so weak that you need everyone around you to keep it alive with words of agreement? If so, the problem lies not with others but with you. And if you’re so angered by the simple, pleasant greeting of “happy holidays,” I have another question. It’s a question I ask with no ill intent. I don’t mean to offend or insult, I simply want to understand. The question is this:

What is wrong with you?

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