Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why "Happy Holidays" Matters

I remember a day about fifteen years ago when I opened my mailbox and discovered I had a Christmas card from a couple in my theater group.  It gave me all kinds of warm fuzzies to see they had decided to include me on their holiday card list after all of the years they had known me. I happily opened up the card. 

I received a bit of a surprise when I pulled it from the envelope.  The front of the card said something like, "Celebrate the Festival of Lights."  Opening up the card I read sentiments on the deep meanings of Hanukkah, wishing me the happiest Hanukkah ever.

I had some truly mixed feelings once I read the card.  I was still pleased with the fact that my friends had sent me a card.  I was gracious enough to accept the gesture of good will.  I was not terribly pleased that they were wishing me a happy Hanukkah when Hanukkah was not a holiday I celebrated nor was it one I had ever celebrated.  It smarted a little that people who had known me since I was a teen had assumed what my religious background was and had never even bothered to inquire (if they had, I suppose they would have found out quickly that my background was the same as theirs - Catholic - and that a Christmas card would have been appropriate). 

For my entire I have been mistaken for being Jewish.  I have a Germanic last name, and Germanic countries are often associated with Judaism in an area heavily populated with Jews.  I have an Old-Testament first name, which is also often associated with Judaism.  I have dark, Mediterranean features.  It's pretty easy to assume I'm Jewish given the surface evidence.  However, if you dig beneath the surface and actually ask me what my background is, you'll learn the facts.  My last name is the legacy of my Swiss grandfather (about .2% of Switzerland's population is Jewish so it's hard to use that ethnicity as proof).  My physical appearance is the result of having two Italian grandmothers.  My parents just liked the name Rachel.  To complicate things further, my husband is Jewish.  It's easy for his friends, family, and acquaintances to assume that he would marry within the tribe. Most of the time the confusion hasn't caused anyone any serious embarrassment. Occasionally I'll mention in a group that people always think I'm Jewish and that often produces a chorus of, "You're not?" I can't escape the assumptions and it usually doesn't mean anything.

Coming from a Christian background and being mistaken for Jewish does give me a unique perspective on this whole "War on Christmas" crap.  The current justification for saying, "Merry Christmas" among Christians is that they are simply wishing you well and that you should take that for what it's worth.  To a certain extent I agree.  We should appreciate when someone is simply giving us a greeting of joy on a holiday regardless of whether or not we celebrate it.  That being said, unless you are on the receiving end of a holiday greeting for a holiday you don't celebrate, you will never understand just how weird it feels.  I read a very funny quote from a Jewish guy years ago who said being wished "Merry Christmas" is like being wished, "Happy Birthday," when it's someone else's birthday. 

When someone wishes me, "Happy Hanukkah," my first thought isn't, "How nice of you to say that."  It's, "I'm not Jewish.  I don't celebrate Hanukkah.  Don't assume things about me.  I don't want you to feel bad that you wasted a holiday wish on someone who won't be lighting candles tonight."  Why should wishing "Merry Christmas" to a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Pagan feel any less strange to them?  Christians will never get this.  If I said to a Christian, "Happy Saturnalia," how would they really feel about it?  What if I really were a devout practitioner of Solstice celebrations and truly wanted that Christian to have a good December 21st?  Would that feel any better to them or would they angrily respond, "I'm a CHRISTIAN"?

Sometimes I have this sense of not wanting to hurt people's feelings.  One September Friday a Jewish colleague wished me a Happy New Year (see, it's not just about Christmas) and I sheepishly wished her a Happy New Year in return.  I'm sure she believed, as everyone else does, that I'm Jewish and was speaking on the assumption that I would be celebrating Rosh Hoshanna. While I appreciated the sentiment, I only celebrate New Year's Day once a year and I'm afraid that's in January.  I didn't want to embarrass her by telling her that. I also wondered if I were somehow unworthy of the sentiment. I felt fake.  I felt like a fraud.  If I said to her, "I'm not Jewish," would she say, "Fine.  I take it back"? 

The War on Christmas paranoiacs love to quote Ben Stein on the topic.  That's fine that Ben Stein isn't offended by people wishing him "Merry Christmas."  I also don't think he speaks for all Jews. I think he has his lips permanently affixed to the butt cheeks of the religious right because he wants to maintain political ties with them.  It also makes me wonder if this whole "War on Christmas" is more political than religious.  We have a vocal group of Christians in this country who want the lion's share of political power and want to take over the government as much as possible.  They are using Christmas and Christmas displays as a way of wedging their religion into the public sphere under the name of religious freedom.  Very few non-Christians are offended at a Christmas display in a private home, a church, or private club.  The issue is that such religious displays should not be on government-owned, publicly-funded areas such as schools, public parks, and government offices.  This implies the government is sponsoring a particular religion and government sponsored religion is in direct conflict with the Constitution.  The War on Christmas crowd refuses to believe that.  They claim any objection to removing the trappings of one particular relgion from the public sphere means an all-out assault on their religion and the removal of their rights to celebrate the holiday.

When Kevin and I used to send out Christmas cards, we sent generic, happy holidays/seasons greetings cards to everyone.  We have a mix of friends and family who range in religious beliefs from Jewish to super-Catholic.  Rather than have to nitpick over who gets what cards, we sent cards that conveyed our love and goodwill no matter what specific holiday they celebrated.  We still received Hanukkah cards in return.  We also received Christmas cards.  Some of those Christmas cards have been so blatantly Christian in sentiment that I found myself cringing on Kevin's behalf.  We made an effort to send our well wishes no matter what the religion, but it seemed that family wasn't willing to give us the same respect.  I sometimes wondered if friends and family weren't trying to convert Kevin and bring me back into the fold.  I'll admit that I was less offended by Hanukkah cards.  That's partially because they usually came from Kevin's Jewish friends and family and also because Christianity is rooted in Old Testament traditions.  Christian beliefs are diametrically opposed to Judaism and to me it seems very insensitive to push Jesus on someone whose religion does not acknowledge Him as God.

Do people realize just how insensitive it is to bestow holiday wishes on someone who doesn't celebrate that holiday?  Maybe the other person doesn't mind, but why do you want so badly to risk offending someone who does mind? 

If my friends had just sent a generic "Seasons Greetings" card fifteen years ago, I would never have felt conflicted.

This brings me to the question I ask every year:  If a non-Christian is not allowed to be offended if you assume they are Christian and wish them, "Merry Christmas," then why is it you are allowed to be offended if someone who doesn't know you are Christian wishes you "Happy Holidays"?  What if someone knows you're Christian, but spends time around non-Christians, and says, "Happy Holidays" out of habit?  Why are you allowed to whip yourself into a frenzy because they didn't say "Merry Christmas"?

Let's get a few things straight:

When others wish you "Happy Holidays", they are not doing so because they hate you.

When others wish you "Happy Holidays", they are not deliberately disrespecting your religion.

When others wish you "Happy Holidays", they are not telling you that you personally can't celebrate Christmas.

When others wish you "Happy Holidays", they are not trying to outlaw your religion.

Chances are saying, "Happy Holidays" is just their way of showing respect.  If they don't know someone's religious observances, they aren't going to assume what those beliefs are and thus give you a generic wish of good will. 

If a business hangs a "Happy Holidays" sign in the window, it's likely because the owners want to be inclusive and make money off of all customers.  It's also more cost effective to hang a single sign that says, "Happy Holidays" than it is to hang a sign that says, "Happy Thanksgiving," a sign that says, "Merry Christmas," a sign that says, "Happy Hanukkah," and a sign that says, "Happy New Year." 

Why is this so hard to understand?  "Happy Holidays" isn't hate speech.  It's a way to be inclusive. 

So my biggest Christmas wish continues.  Can we please end this ridiculous, "War on Christmas" paranoia already?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Through Others' Eyes

I have decided that if my FB status is going to be super-long, I should just make it into a short blog.  That way I don't lose my blogging mojo.

Tonight I'm going to be seeing the Juilard String Quartet at the Emelin Theater with Kevin's sister-in-law.  It's something I might not have considered doing before.  I rarely ever pay attention to what's playing at the Emelin unless it's an act I'm dying to see (e.g. Dar Williams, the Wailin' Jennys). 

Ever since Kevin's family relocated to Mamaroneck, I feel as if I'm seeing my town through new eyes. 

Kevin and I like living in Mamaroneck.   We think the town has a lot to offer. Unfortunately we're so busy with work and horses and so many activities that take place out of town that we often ignore what's under our noses.  That is slowly changing.

I see how my SIL and nephew seem so happy in their new home.  They genuinely like the town.  SIL asks me often about the happenings in town.  What are the concerts and the plays?  Where do I shop? What are the best restaurants? (I have made a point to introduce her to DeCicco's and Siren Boutique.)  It can't be easy for them to be newcomers to a new town where they don't know anyone besdies Kevin and me.  It makes sense that they would be looking for as many activities as possible.  It has to be particularly hard for my SIL who is left alone while my nephew is at school and goes out more as he makes new friends.  I'm so happy that they are finding ways to stay occupied and enjoy themselves while they are here.

This is really turning out to be an advantage for me.  In helping them find their way around I am becoming better acquainted with my town.  I'm seeing things in a new way.  I'm doing things I hadn't done before.  I'm exploring my community more.  Tonight it's the Juliard String Quartet.  It looks like I'll be taking the other niece and nephew to see Nut/Cracked, a ballet spoof, at the Emelin in a couple of weeks.  By seeing where I live through someone else's eyes, I'm seeing it in a new way through my own eyes. 

I would encourage everyone to take a second look at where they live and see what it has to offer.  You never know what you might discover.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

No You're Not All Like That, But You Can't Prove It At the Polls

Before I start the main point of my post, I have some observations regarding the outcome of the election.

I had really thought that if Obama were re-elected I would be consumed with schadenfreude. I was looking forward to relishing the wringing of hands, the gnashing of teeth, the clutching of pearls, and the rending of garments from the other side.

Rather than wanting to gloat, I feel surprisingly sympathetic. I’ve been pretty political for most of my life and I know what it’s like to lose an election. Certainly reasonable Republicans are allowed to mourn without a bunch of Democrats screaming, “Ha ha. I told you so.”

The rest of you need to stop your whining.

I’m really annoyed at Republican drama queens. “Oh dear! How will I survive the next four years?” Survive? Really? You are still alive after the last four years. The President of the United States hasn’t put a price on your head. You’re alive, breathing, and if you’re on the internet, have a minimum of shelter and access to a computer or smartphone.  You're not as bad off as you think you are.  Tell the homeless people who barely survived Hurricane Sandy how you're not going to survive the Obama presidency.

I am really tired of Republican princes and princesses complaining about how ruined everything is when they clearly have food, clothing, a home, and a job.  If you have not only the basics to live, but also have luxuries above and beyond that, and are clearly prospering, it's time to shut up.  That goes double for you, Donald Trump.  I am really tired of the stupidity of the Great Republican Myth that says that the government is some kind of Robin Hood, taking tax dollars from the prosperous middle class and giving it as "handouts" to lazy people who don't want to work.

Oh Princess, I hope you never have a close relative who becomes disabled, or a good friend who is a single mother after a divorce that leaves her with nothing, or an elderly parent, in need of a "handout."  Dear Prince, I hope you never find out just how many serious illnesses, or catastrophic accidents, or job losses will cause you to need a "handout" yourself.
Now that I have that off my chest, let's get down to my analysis of why Romney (and also McCain) lost the Presidency.

Stereotypes have long been a convenient way for humans to deal with each other.  Right or wrong, we will always seek out stereotypes as we relate to certain groups.  We will even employ confirmation bias to prove that stereotypes are at least partially correct.

Stereotyped groups may even see the perceived attributes of their group themselves, but they will often protest, "We're not all like that."  This goes for any group perceived to have too many negative attributes: Christians, Muslims, Democrats, Republicans, Men, Women, cat lovers, Star Trek fans, etc..  Any member of a given group is likely to prove that he or she does not fit the negative perceptions others have of that group.

Let's talk about Republicans for a minute.  What are the negative perceptions outsiders have of Republicans.

1. Fanatical devotion to laissez-faire, Randian, trickle-down economics.  They believe that all regulations have to be removed.  No taxes should be paid.  As long as those at the top prosper, they will always provide jobs for people willing to work and wages will be fair.  Government regulations and taxes are the reason why there are no jobs and no good wages, not greed.

2. They are Christian and believe only Christians are good moral people, even if they don't state it outright.  There is a desire for Christian dominionism.

3.  A belief that other countries need to handle their political, economic and military matters according to US wishes.  If they do not comply, US military force should be applied.

4.  Disdain and disgust for poor people.  If they are poor, it is because they are lazy. They might even imply the poor are not Christian enough since God supposedly rewards the righteous with wealth.  All programs to help the poor - even children, the elderly, and the disabled - even though everyone pays into them and everyone is entitled to them - should be abolished because they are the road to communism.  The poor are not Republicans' problem.  Get a job.

5.  Disdain for science, particularly biology and climatology.  No matter how much research is out there, all scientific fact is liberally biased or just plain Satanic.

6.  Women are not allowed self determination.  Republicans refuse to acknowledge that women's reproductive issues are both a public health and an economic issue.  Women are not allowed to control their reproduction, thus making sure that motherhood is the only trajectory their lives can take.  If a woman does not want children, she should not have sex.

7.   Those who desire clean air, clean water, and sustainable resources only do so because they want to destroy business and the economy.  To advocate on behalf of conservation is not to care about public health, or the future of the planet, but to advocate communism.

"But we're not all like that," shout Republicans.

Well, of course you're not all like that (even though Facebook can make it seem that way).  The problem is you let your politicians get away with treating you as if you're all like that.

In the last two presidential primaries I saw the same thing happen both times.  The race started with a field of candidates who embodied every point made above, with one or two more moderate choices.  One by one the extremists were picked off.  Americans proved over and over again that we don't like extremism.  The strong opposition to Rick Perry's dominionist and homophobic campaign ads is proof of that.  In 2008 Republicans picked John McCain, a Republican so moderate that it was rumored John Kerry considered him for a running mate in 2004, and who co-authored a campaign finance reform bill with the liberal Russ Feingold.  In 2012 they went with Mitt Romney, once the governor of the very liberal Massachusetts who isn't even Christian.  One would think Republican politicians would get the picture that some issues should be negotiable.

What did McCain and Romney do?  They picked extremist running mates.  They became the kind of candidates who would proudly embrace every point I made above.  Rather than listen to the majority of people who put them into the campaign, they began to listen to the disappointed extremists.  Soon the candidates ceased to seem moderate and began to adopt that hard line. 

The people who shout the loudest are not always the largest group - they just happen to shout the loudest.  The candidates kept trying to please them to the exclusion of those who might take other positions.  Not only do the hard line positions themselves turn people off, but it also turns voters off when you start taking new positions.  You come off looking like a flip-flopper. 

I'm not sure why I would give advice to Republicans, but I'm going to give my advice for 2016 anyway.  If you want to win, stop pandering to just one group.  Stop assuming all Republicans walk in lockstep with all positions.  Realize your party has as much diversity as the Democrats.  If you don't want to follow my advice, then I'll look forward to our next Democratic POTUS and I'll thank you for making it easy for me.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Yes, Chris Christie Is Still a Republican

Believe it or not, I'm cool with that. 

To say I'm not a fan of the man would be an understatement.  I abhor fat-shaming and yet I have often referred to him as "Governor Fatslob" with glee.  In general my opinion of him is not much higher than it is of most politicians of his ilk.  Nonetheless, he is who he is.  He's allowed to be the kind of politician he wants to be and if the people of New Jersey want to have him in office, it's not really my problem.

Whatever I have thought of him in the past, I commend him for the job he is doing regarding Hurricane Sandy.  He's a lifelong Jersey Boy and it shows.  He is trying very hard to restore his beloved state.
Restoring his state unfortunately includes reaching out to President Obama in order to receive FEMA assistance.  Boy did that seem to open up a can of worms in the Republican party!

The president made a visit to NJ.  Christie welcomed him, toured the disaster areas with him, and discussed relief options.  They worked together civilly and cooperated well.  Christie praised his concern and his efforts.

Now the right wing pundits are coming out in full force.  They have accused Christie of sleeping with the enemy.  They have accused Obama of not actually doing anything.  They are making all kinds of excuses for why Christie would do such a thing.  They even seem to think he's moving to the other side.  He has gone from Romney's chief spokesman to Obama supporter.

What I find particularly amusing is that Romney is now publicly making statements about how Christie was almost his veep candidate.  He reminds us over and over again that Christie was a top choice.  Some liberal pundits are saying this is an apology for Ryan, but to me it seems like an appeal to Christie.  He's begging Christie not to desert him.

This is becoming beyond ridiculous.  Christie put partisan politics aside for the good of his constituents.  While the President of the United States was visiting his state, Christie gave the respect due to the office of the President of the United States.  There is nothing wrong with that.

Christie is still who he is.  He's still a Republican.  Now the rest of you Republicans please unknot your panties!  What has the world come to that when a politician does the right thing and does his job well, that it's now considered a bad move?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Why I Don't Vote Third Party

Let's be frank.  I don't like Obama all that much.

Don't get me wrong.  I don't dislike the man personally. I never met him.  He seems like a good guy - a great family man with an upbeat and positive personality.  He's also quite a tasty crumpet whom I would not kick out of bed for eating crackers. 

Politically, I was always pretty lukewarm about him.  I did not support him in the primaries.  My choices for President were true liberals like Dennis Kucinich or a pre-scandal John Edwards (while we're at it, I'd love to see Howard Dean jump back in the race and if Russ Feingold ever runs for President, I will back him all the way).  When the primaries hit NY and it was down to Obama or Senator Clinton, it was Clinton who had my vote.  Yes, he has had some impressive accomplishments in the past four years, but aside from a few social policies, he's not a true liberal.  This treehugger shivered with disgust at the schmenke-off between Obama and Romney over who was drilling for more oil ("My oilwell is bigger than your oilwell!").  He is also just as buffeted by corporate interests as GW Bush was.

So why vote for him?

To start off, I support underdogs.  The fact that he has been so heavily pilloried by the Republicans just makes me want to anger them by voting for him. They deserve to lose just for being so obnoxious, mean, derogatory, racist, and slandering.  Republicans are just so hateful I want Obama to win just to piss them off. (Just kidding - sort of.)

I think we would be far worse off with a Republican President of course, but there are plenty of Americans out there who would remind me that there are other options.  I shouldn't have to pick the lesser of two evils.

Every time I go to the ballot I see a dizzying array of political parties to choose from: Democratic, Republican, Liberal, Conservative, Libertarian, Right to Life, Working Families, Green - the list goes on.  Some of them put up the same candidate and some are candidates I have never heard of (which I know is the corporate media's fault, blah blah blah).  If Obama and Romney can't make me happy, why not choose someone else?

Let's take a look at the reasons why I don't choose outside the major parties.

First, there are too many parties out there that are single-issue.  Right to Life?  Green?  What if one of those candidates won?  Do they understand that governing takes more than just dedication to a single issue?  Do they realize that being a member of the government means that you have to serve all of your constituents and not just the ones that agree with you on a certain issue?  I don't like single-issue voters, so I sure am not going to vote for a single-issue candidate.

Remember the gubernatorial candidacy of Howard Stern several years ago?  His goal, if elected, was to push through exactly three pieces of legislation before stepping down and letting his lieutenant governor take over.  Was he planning to devote all of his time and energy to three pieces of legislation and let everything else languish while he did this? Would someone else be doing the work he should be doing?  Does that mean my tax dollars would effectively be paying for two governors?  I would not want to waste my vote on a three-issue candidate even if he wasn't planning to stay in office.  What if it took four or more years to accomplish the legislation he was after? 

The other major reason why I don't want to vote third part is simple math.  The more candidates you introduce into a race, the less likely you are to have your government elected by a majority.  All you need is just one more candidate in the race and the next thing you know, someone could be elected with just 34% of the vote.  Should this nation be served by someone whom nearly 70% of the country didn't want? 

I'm not all that happy with third party candidates either.  Back in 2000 I was not going to support Ralph Nader.  Do I like Ralph Nader?  Yes.  Do I think he supports the right causes?  Certainly.  Do I think he's qualified to be President?  Not at all!  He is very good at what he does.  Being a consumer advocate means taking a hard line and fighting for one side.  Being a politician requires an ability to compromise and make deals.  Being President also requires extensive knowledge of foreign policy, economics, and constitutional law. Ralph Nader was eminently unqualified for the office.

What I found ridiculous about the whole candidacy was that people were voting for him not because of his qualifications, but because he was third party.  They were voting for him to make some kind of statement.  Many Nader voters were self-professed libertarians.  That makes me laugh hysterically.  There is nothing libertarian about Ralph Nader. He has dedicated his life to regulations and rules.  In the libertarian rule it's all about free markets and caveat emptor.  Safety and quality is not the government's concern.  He was also running on the Green Party ticket.  A true libertarian isn't going to support environmental regulations either. 

So it continues today that many third-party voters are self-professed libertarians.  That term is a morass of beliefs as it is.  Most people who declare themselves libertarian are usually very liberal or very conservative with their beliefs, but have one or two positions that lie outside the norm (hence my joke that libertarians are just "Republicans who want to do drugs").  To declare yourself libertarian sounds nicely anti-establishment.  If you're calling yourself conservative, you run the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy, religious nutjob.  If you're calling yourself liberal, you run the risk of being perceived as a hippie on welfare.  Besides, not all of your beliefs fall in with the liberal or conservative party line (do anyone's?) so it's better to say you're something else, right?

Who are the third-party candidates these people gravitate to?  There are the likes of Ron Paul (who seems to turn up like a bad penny whether Republicans want him or not) and Gary Johnson.  On the surface their positions can seem quite reasonable.  They want to end foreign military intervention (Yay! I can get behind that). They want to legalize all drugs (I'm pretty skeptical on that).  They want want complete corporate deregulation (I can't get behind that at all).  Libertarian darling Ron Paul seems to support the idea that liberty (as he defines it) is a privilege of white, male property owners.  It makes sense that so many of his supporters are young, white, straight men - they have little to lose under such a government.

Economic libertarianism looks great on paper, but has about as little proof of effectiveness as bloodletting for a disease cure.  Supporters of third-party candidates look at Atlas Shrugged as some kind of historical fact, yet are willfully ignorant of the real history of the Gilded Age and the Great Depression and how America fared under totally unregulated markets.  I would bet that most of us reading this right now would not be living our comfortable, middle-class lives if we lived in the 19th century.  History has shown us again and again that government spending and programs have been vital to the development of the middle class (e.g. public education, minimum wage, the GI Bill.)  I have no desire to vote for someone who wants to take this country further into economic disparity. 

I do digress a bit much.  I suppose I should have just summed it up that third parties really aren't that much better than what we have now.  They may have points I agree with, but then again, so do the existing parties.

Let's get back on point with the political parties that do exist?  Should this country only have two political parties?  If I don't feel the Democratic candidates (or recently offered third parties) properly represent me, then why don't I find one that does? What if this new party were capable of gaining power?

There are over 30 countries around the world that use runoff elections.  This allows multiple parties to be voted on, gradually eliminating the outliers, and finally narrowing the field to two candidates. I like this idea.  This would allow multiple voices to be heard and yet still make the ultimate decision be between two candidates, thus allowing a majority election. I could get behind a system like that.

Then I realized that we already do have such a system.  It's called primaries.  We start with a large field of candidates, people vote for their favorites, and the last person standing makes it to the final round.  It's not a bad system when you think about it.

The problem is we run up against the issue that too many Americans have such contempt for political parties, that they claim independence and make themselves ineligible for the primaries.  Then we're all back to Square 1, complaining about the lesser of two evils. 

Political parties are what they are because of the people who are willing to get involved with them.  Those that don't claim party independence, those that sit out part of the election process, hand over the political parties to those who do participate.  Are political parties stagnant?  Will they always be what they are now? 

Let's think about this for a minute.  The Republican Party today isn't the party of Lincoln.  It's not the party of Teddy Roosevelt.  It's not even the party of Eisenhower.  Just like today's Democratic Party is no longer the party of white southern racists.  The direction a political party takes has a lot to do with who gets involved.  These things can be changed from within.  It means Americans have to put aside their prejudices and be willing to do so.

I have one final reason why I won't vote third party.  The Supreme Court is at stake here. Three justices are likely to retire in the next four years.  If you know your third party candidate doesn't stand a chance of winning, are you willing to take the risk that three new justices could potentially take the country in a whole new direction?  I'm certainly not. I'll take the risk and cast my vote for the candidate who may not always make me happy, but will at least do this much for the country's future.

That doesn't mean I wouldn't be against other political parties someday coming to power in this country.  I just want to know that in the end, there are still just two candidates on the ballot and we still have the rule of majority.  I do not want to be served on behalf of the 34%.

Irksome Facebook Post of the Week

It's baaaaaccccccck!  To think I was able to read FB for weeks without feeling the need to call out someone's irksome meme.  This week  find myself unable to help myself.

What I'm going to say today is going to shock and anger a lot of people.  I'm going to be accused of being hostile to your religion and that I'm "bashing" you.  (Well, at least I would if anyone actually read this blog.)  So be it.  I just can't get over this.

Photo: The remains of what was once Far Rockaway, Queens, NY. The destruction is devestating

Look everyone.  We have a gen-u-ine miracle on our hands.  Someone's entire house was demolished.  He lost his most important possesion, his biggest investment, his source of shelter.  But that's okay.  His Mary-On-The-Half-Shell survived.

Is considering this to be some kind of joyous miracle some kind of joke?

That Mary-On-The-Half-Shell isn't going to rebuild the house.  It's not going to feed the family.  It's something to pray to, and I'm sure that's exactly what you want to do.  Let's pray to a God that saw fit to destroy your house and leave nothing but a Mary-On-The-Half-Shell.  The shell is only big enough to fit a statue of Mary.  The owners of the house will have to spend the next year living in a FEMA trailer.  It will take time, money, and insurance red tape to replace a house.  Had the house stood and statue fallen, the owner could have gone to a garden center and bought a new Mary-On-The-Half-Shell for fifty bucks.

Thanks God for taking my house away and giving me the miracle of an intact Mary-On-The-Half-Shell. Clearly this is proof You exist and love me.

To me it's as silly as the "miracle" of the WTC "cross".  God allowed thousands of people to die on 9/11, but we should all be grateful that He left behind a pair of crisscrossing steel beams.  Constantly seeing any two items in the shape of a cross as automatically holy seems like some kind of religious Freudianism.  Just as any long, thin, item is a phallic symbol in Freud's world, so two crisscrossed items become an automatic symbol of Jesus and have holy power.

I thought the 10 Commandments said that you are not supposed to make graven images.  Statues of saints and Mary and crucifixes with Jesus on them seem to be part of some cosmic loophole in that rule.  It seems as long as they depict the right graven images, it's okay.  They are still imbued with some holy power.  This is despite the likely inaccuracy of the images.  No one really knows what Mary or Jesus looked like.  Chances are pretty good that most traditional iconography got it wrong although Western Christians often don't like to admit that.

I know for religious people this gives some kind of hope and comfort, but I think the mental energy spent venerating photos like this is wasted.  Just as the surviving Mary-On-The-Half -Shell isn't going to do much benefit to the owner of this house, neither will venerating it on Facebook.  How about making a donation to the Red Cross instead? Give the people who lost everything some real help.