Sunday, December 18, 2005

I am not permitted to celebrate Christmas. The fundamentalist extremists have highjacked the holiday of peace and love and created yet another non-issue on which the public is encouraged to draw battle lines.

Yes, in their world, Christmas is a religious event to honor the origins of their belief. However, in the majority of the world, Christmas is simply the latest manifestation of the winter solstice celebrations that have existed for centuries longer than Christianity. Candles, garlands, trees with lights, mistletoe, feasts and expressions of goodwill were all designed to relieve the terror early civilizations felt when the days became shorter and shorter and night seemed to be taking over. On the winter solstice (usually December 21-22 on the current calendar), the trend is reversed and days begin lengthening. It wasn’t until the 4th century CE, when the winter holiday first became ‘Christian.’

“Many, if not most, celebrated the birth of their god-man near the time of the solstice. Emperor Aurelian (270 to 275 CE) blended a number of Pagan solstice celebrations of the nativity of such god-men/saviors as Appolo, Attis, Baal, Dionysus, Helios, Hercules, Horus, Mithra, Osiris, Perseus, and Theseus into a single festival called the "Birthday of the Unconquered Sun" on December 25. At the time, Mithraism and Christianity were fierce competitors. Aurelian had even declared Mithraism the official religion of the Roman Empire in 274 CE. Christianity won out by becoming the new official religion in the 4th century CE… By the beginning of the 4th century CE, there was intense interest in choosing a day to celebrate Yeshua's birthday. The western church leaders selected December 25 because this was already the date recognized throughout the Roman Empire as the birthday of various Pagan gods. Since there was no central Christian authority at the time, it took centuries before the tradition was universally accepted.” -

But modern Christian churches conveniently forget history, preferring the role of victim by proclaiming ungodly America has ‘stolen’ their holiday. Whether to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” is now a matter of intense debate and confrontation. Protesters line up outside Wal-Mart, that bastion of commercialism, to protest a company policy that attempts to consider the diversity of beliefs in our country.

The sharing of peace, love, and goodwill has been lost in the shrillness of exclusivity and an assumed superiority of the Christian religion over all others. The righteous claim they are discriminated against because they are not allowed to force society to conform to their chosen beliefs. And, since I do not share those beliefs, I am no longer permitted to celebrate Christmas.

So I have returned to the origins of the season and celebrate the winter solstice. My family will light a tree and share gifts. We will offer greetings of peace, love, and good wishes to anyone we meet without judgment of their belief system. And I would just bet our celebrations will be more real than many others.
Happy Holidays to you all – whatever they may be!

winter solstice ~ 5,000 BCE
Hanukkah ~ 2nd century BCE
Bodhi Day (Rohatsu) ~ 598 BCE
Christmas ~ 4th century CE
Kwanza ~ 1966 CE

Friday, November 18, 2005

With apologies to Charles Dickens, the past year has been the best of times, and it has been the worst of times. I’ve been privileged to be a resident of this small town – by choice, and after long and careful consideration – for 14 months now, and I have learned that this beautiful little town has a split personality.

At the best of times, I see a community filled with independent, hard-working, selfless individuals who give of themselves at church, the school, the museum, the library, the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary – and many times, at more than one of those places. Hundreds of residents volunteer untold numbers of hours to the annual summer festival because they love their village and want to share that love with the rest of the world. They work together like family, caring and sharing, laughing and loving, and, unfortunately, fighting.

At the worst of times, I see a community so divided by years-old grievances with vaguely-remembered origins that the village officials won’t talk to the Chamber whose old board won’t talk to the new board who won’t talk to the Merchants’ Association who won’t talk to the schools who won’t talk to the village offices – ad nauseum. Isolated gaggles of nay-sayers fan the flames of old battles, refusing to compromise or to forgive. Egos get in the way of any real progress, and he-said/she-said/they-said rumors fill the streets and shops.

And I mourn.

It’s been said I don’t have a say in this fight because I’m not a ‘native.’ Sometimes it takes someone from outside the family to see just how dysfunctional it really is, in order for the family to take charge of fixing the mess they have perpetuated. I’d like to help fix it, but I won’t be stuck in the middle of the factions. I make a concerted effort to get along with everyone, to see all sides of an argument, and to find common ground. Someone with an acknowledged stake in this village needs to step forward, put aside ego, act like an adult, and set a good example of integrity and compromise. I promise you I will be right there with them, working for what is best for the village in all sectors.

I love this town and many of the wonderful people I’ve have the opportunity to work with this year. The village will succeed or fail on the efforts of all the residents together, not any one group fighting its own self-centered war. I, for one, would like to see it succeed.

Finally, I have been nominated to serve on the Chamber of Commerce board and have applied for employment in the village offices. My words may cost me both of those opportunities – so be it. I’ve spent too many years smiling and nodding and trying to avoid controversy to keep silent now, when so much is at stake. Those who have come to know me will understand that my motives are pure. Those who do not will have to judge my words on their own merit.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

With the horrors of Katrina inescapable to any sentient being in the United States, and the fault-finding and finger pointing in high gear, one thing is clear: there is more than enough blame to go around:
  • the arrogant one with means to evacuate who believed they could withstand the hurricane even though all authority and logic told them otherwise - and who now demand that same authority risk others’ lives to rescue them
  • the looters who took advantage of a desperate situation in an attempt to enrich themselves at others’ expense, who then found their booty damaged beyond use, and who finally, in the end, had to leave it all behind anyway just to stay alive
  • the local government who issued mandatory evacuation orders and made no provisions for the poor, infirm, and hospitalized who could not leave on their own
  • the federal rescues agencies who played red-tape waiting games while people suffered and died
  • the federal government which, for countless administrations, cut funding for infrastructure maintenance, and which entrusted FEMA to inexperienced, albeit well-meaning, hands
  • Congress which couldn’t be bothered to cut short their own summer vacations to return Washington and fund the task of rescuing the country from disaster
  • President Bush and company who it seemed waited for someone else to take control, who initially brushed off help offered from other countries, and who displayed a callousness for the victims that shocked even their own supporters
  • the U.S. citizenry who have allowed their elected government officials to deny the poor and disenfranchised a decent living, resources for self-sufficiency, and even a modicum of personal pride
  • the oil companies who have found yet another excuse to raise gas and oil prices beyond belief, and who will continue to post record, obscene, profits
  • the scam artists who have filled the airways and the Internet with Katrina cons to part the generous and caring public from their money
  • the publicity-seekers who are using this tragedy for their five minutes of fame, or the already famous who can’t miss a photo op and the chance to be on the six-o’clock news yet again
  • and finally, more arrogance, from those who dare announce ‘God is punishing the country’ because we don’t live by their rules, which have only a passing resemblance to any god’s rules of love, compassion, and humility, or from those who seek to put a racial spin on an issue that is much more about economics than color of skin

We, as a nation, have not shown ourselves in a very good light this past week. I only hope that, as recovery continues and the displaced thousands begin rebuilding their lives, we will reach out with the same attitude shown by Barry Turner, of Franklinton, Louisiana. The 62-year-old storekeeper has spent the week cleaning debris and sweeping his town, street by street, because, “It needed to be done, so we did what had to be done. Everybody does things. Nobody’s looking for any credit. Who cares? It’s our town. And it’s everybody’s job to put our town back together and that’s what we’re doing.” (Leonard Pitts, Jr., commentary, Dayton Daily News, September 8, 2005)

Friday, August 05, 2005

The two-party political system in the United States is broken, and more and more people are disgusted with the rhetoric from Republicans and Democrats alike. Both parties have been co-opted by fringe extremist groups that refuse to participate in sane, non-partisan debate and compromise that would end the current government deadlock that grips our country. It is a travesty that will continue until the system comes to a complete halt (not too distant future!) or until citizens finally demand true accountability and governance from their elected officials. It’s time people realize neither liberal nor conservative is a bad word, or a bad position; only when either view is taken to narrow-minded extremes do problems arise.

Sufficiently independent moderates who truly serve the best interests of the country as a whole must be given a voice, resources, and power, to return government to a stable, functioning body. Without this return to sanity, the United States will continue on its downward spiral, not only in world opinion, but in internal value and substance as well. As long as elections are based on personalities and polarizing non-issues, truly important topics, i.e., education reform, health care, environmental concerns, will be left unaddressed (except on the negative, finger-pointing level) and without resolution.

The media in general only serves to heighten the tension between the extremes, focusing on ‘red’ and ‘blue’ states as if any one region is all or nothing. The honor and value of cooperation and compromise have been lost in the shrillness of a losing battle on ‘family values’ and an unspecific ‘war on terrorism,’ as if terrorism were that easily defined or identified.

It is interesting to note that the divisiveness of the parties fades considerably the closer one gets to local government. At least in small town America, it is far more important to keep the schools open, the trash collected, and the streets safe than to worry about which party controls village council. And that is as it should be. Some people, of course, insist on keeping the national rhetoric alive, but at a much lower key and with less negative impact on governing than what Washington D.C. seems to face.

I have voted in every available election since 1976, when I turned 18, and consider it my duty to be an informed, involved citizen at the polls. But the current political climate makes that commitment increasingly difficult. I’m tired of choosing the lesser of two evils for any given office, of voting against someone rather than for a candidate who truly embodies the spirit of community service. I would be happy to help my local government by working at the polls, but because I refuse to identity with either of the existing, broken-but-in-charge parties, my offer is not accepted.

So the two-party system continues to chug along, barely functioning, moving on its own tired momentum rather than on inspiration and growth and hope for a better tomorrow. A body in motion tends to stay in motion, but the perpetual motion machine has yet to be invented, and I very seriously doubt our government will be the one to find that impetus. It will grind to a halt without an influx of new ideas and new motivations, and the courage to stand up to the old-school, neo-con, left-wing, radical forces that currently hold us all hostage.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Four in the morning finds me (mostly) wide awake thanks to yet another new drug that has side effects almost as bad as the migraine it’s supposed to prevent. I’d give up on this one, too, were the pain not so excruciatingly intolerable and so unbearably frequent these days that I’m desperate enough to try just about anything. But where, exactly, do I draw the line? At what point is my quality of life so affected as to make the drug worse than the illness? I wish I knew. I’ve been through this routine countless times over the years and still don’t have the answer to that one – and still no answer to the migraines!

Unless someone suffers from migraine themselves, they can’t truly understand, yet everyone has an answer, a cure-all, a remedy that worked for Aunt Suzy or their neighbor’s cousin, one they’re all too ready to share – repeatedly – whenever the subject comes up. So I try not to talk about it. I know they mean well, most of them, but I truly have tried everything out there and nothing works for me, and rehashing the triggers and symptoms and how and why and when and folk remedies and herbals and latest miracle drug, ad nauseum, (no pun intended, really!) does no good. Unfortunately, people who know me can tell by my face when I’m suffering, and immediately launch into yet another litany of headache-fixes. It’s enough to send me into seclusion, as if the migraine alone weren’t.

And those who do not suffer from migraine, and or any type of headache, have no idea how lucky they are, and often scoff at us 'weaklings.' Try facing that down in the midst of stabbing, burning, nauseating, throbbing, pain so bad you can't see straight, much less function.

'Just a headache' might not seem like much compared to life-threatening diseases and debilitating illnesses, but continuous, unrelenting pain - no matter the source - wears down the body, mind and soul in unimagineable ways, and migraine is no exception. So we continue to suffer, usually silently, often unrelieved. And silent support (maybe a gentle (!) pat on the back?) is better than advice!

Friday, June 17, 2005

From Iraq, to Shiavo, to the gas situation, to the economy, Social Security - you name it, and the government has repeatedly shown itself to be totally out of control. And their delusions are growing daily. How do sane people begin to combat such an insidious force? They don't argue with facts, or logic, just their view of 'morality' according to their narrow religion. And the militant left aren’t much better.

My daughter was extremely frustrated recently after a professor (!) at her college pointed out during class that "pedophiles and homosexuals are the same." She didn't know how to respond to someone who didn't care to listen to reason. And the right says colleges are too liberal!

More and more I feel like an outsider watching the country self-destruct, but still having to deal with the consequences. I hesitate to speak out when someone in my town makes a particularly inane comment because I really hate to alienate people, but how else will change happen? My husband and I have discussed Plato’s The Cave at length, and feel it's an apt metaphor for much of what goes on today. But if we can't bring people out of the cave, and they still control our world, how do we deal with the outcomes? A self-sustaining cabin in the woods is more appealing every day.

I rarely watch TV news anymore, either, and while I feel obligated to read the daily paper to keep abreast of issues for my assignments as a freelancer, I think it's starting to depress me. I read Time magazine, NY Times on-line, and some Yahoo headlines, and that's more than enough. But I'm also afraid of what may be happening in the world that I need to know about - not that there's really much I can do about any of it - but I'd hate to be caught unawares by something major.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

So much of my life seems to be a struggle against the status quo. I don’t care about the trappings of a big house (who’s going to clean it?), fancy car (horrible gas mileage and upkeep expense) and designer clothes. I don’t wear make up, color or perm my hair, or get manicures. Simple, natural, real – why does society hate that concept so much?

I want to read, learn, explore the world, share with the global community and love my family. No jet-setting, big social events, obsession over bank accounts or paranoia over identity theft. The latest Homeland Security terror alert is more bother than help, and I really don’t need to hear it. This life is terminal; get used to it.

All the fuss about carbs and fats and personal trainers – what a waste of time and energy. Walk a few blocks; don’t eat that double Big Mac, and stop fretting about what size jeans you can squeeze into. No, I’m not pencil-thin marathoner. I’m 46, 5’9”, 180 pounds, and I’ve worn a size 14 since high school. I’ve given birth to two great kids, and my body shape will never be what it was 25 years ago. I hate to exercise and sweat, but I do like to walk – outside, not on a treadmill in a smelly gym – and enjoy nature. Will I die a few months sooner than someone who obsesses over diets and Pilates? I doubt it, but if I do, I’ll bet my years will be more contented.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Just re-read my earlier post – pretty heavy stuff, for me. I don’t usually go off like that, but life is really hitting back these days and I’ve had about all I can take. So, I let off some steam. Didn’t really make me feel any better, but if someone else reads it and understands my frustrations, then I guess the idea of sharing it all is enough.

Pride? Can’t afford that, so detailing our financial failings doesn’t bother me – too much. It highlights my feelings of failure and inadequacy, but I guess that’s a little thing in light of the whole situation.

My ideal existence of writing, designing web pages, volunteering in the community, maybe traveling with my husband and soul mate to all the places we dream of visiting will have to be put on hold (for the most part) while we meet our obligations to king (Bush) and country. Not that we haven’t tried meeting those obligations in the past; we’re not deadbeats who just don’t care, but life hasn’t been very cooperative. And, as I said earlier, people who have just don’t understand the struggles and frustrations of those who have not.

‘nuf said – for now.

People who have money (enough to pay average living expenses, maybe take a real vacation now and then) have no concept what it is like to have none. Unemployment and a lack of financial saavy can wreck havoc and take a lifetime to recover from - no cash, no credit, no assets, no real possibility of ever reaching even, much less get ahead. We have no luxuries - no boats, motorcylces, new cars, or designer clothes. I shop second-hand stores and garage sales for as much as possible. Medical and dental care? Get real - all we can hope for is no major injury or illness. That's about all the insurance will cover.

Those people take for granted the ability to buy a new car ("But the interest rates are so low!") or a house ("You don't even need a down payment!"). Ever try buying a car with a lousy credit rating? Our last used car (1997) purchase in 2000 came with a usurious 23.95% interest rate. We have three $300 payments left (after five years), the car has over 200,000 miles, needs major repairs, with no hope of fixing or replacing it in the forseeable future.

We've reduced the rent (buy a house? yeah, right!) from $850 to $675 by downsizing (sold nearly all the second-hand furniture we owned) and moving to a two bedroom tri-plex in a small town. And try renting anything when you have pets - that's another whole rant!

So work hard, play by the rules, report all your income as you struggle to start a small business that barely makes a buck, and the IRS will come knocking for their (huge!) cut. And now I have to give up my dream that is just beginning to show a profit and return to the rat race world of corporate America, where 90% of my paycheck will go straight to the IRS.

My husband's pay will cover those little things like rent, food, utilities, insurance, and trying to help two good kids finish college so they don't end up financially hopeless like their parents. And we'll spend the next seven years of our lives working to pay Uncle Sam for the privilege of being Americans, where the only ones who get ahead are the ones who are born with money or who don't play by the rules.