Thursday, December 21, 2017

Santa and the Stranger

Twas the night before Christmas … – C.C. Moore

Santa sat in his easy chair sawing logs when he was awakened by the approaching jingle jangle of Oof-Dah, the house elf.

“Santa,” whispered Oof-Dah, “it’s time.”

Santa wiped the crusty sleep from his blood-shot eyes while squinting toward a novelty clock that hung upon the wall. Rudolph’s hands pointed out the hour and minutes whilst his tail swung away in the rhythmic dance of a pendulum. It took Santa’s peepers a few moments to clear away enough eye-slime to see the time.

“Not again,” he groaned, as much to himself as to Oof-Dah.

There once was a time when Santa loved Christmas. For one thing, Christmas wasn’t a day, but a way of life. In fact, not only was Christmas a way of life, it was THE way of life. This was long before Santa was even called Santa; he was Nicholas, Bishop of Myra.

Towns-folk knew him as a nice old man who mostly spent time tending to the business of his church – reading, writing, preparing sermons, hearing confessions, pronouncing absolutions for the penitent of heart. He visited the homes of the sick, anointing them with oil, offering prayers, a gentle touch upon their fevered brows, baptizing those who appeared ready to take their final journey into the loving arms of God.

Nicholas could often be found wandering the port-side piers, talking to sailors, taking in hand letters to loved ones (to be delivered in the event they did not return from their nautical sojourns). Sailors would occasionally hand Nicholas a coin or two, asking him to help those in need. It didn’t seem like much to those crusty salts, but it was something, and they knew they could, in their own meager way, help Nicholas carry out his charitable work.

Nicholas would also visit the prisons, conversing with both guards and prisoners. Many detainees languished in jail, lost and forgotten by their families – disowned, even. They relied on the mercy of this holy man who brought food and water to help meet their most basic needs.

Sometimes Nicholas was their only visitor; he treated both guards and prisoners with the same love and respect he showed to all people. He reminded the guards that despite the differences of their situations, “all are brothers and sisters,” so he admonished them to “treat one another as you would be treated.”

Nicholas died, as all people do, but he was not forgotten. He exemplified in his own life the way he believed Jesus of Nazareth had lived. There were three pillars to his faith: Do justice; be merciful; walk humbly with God. Beyond that, there was nothing more to do than to practice those principles in all one’s affairs.

Santa looked up with a start. He found himself doing that more and more – reminiscing on the old days when things were simpler, the days before he had been transformed from a living, breathing, loving bishop of far-away Myra to a jolly old elf of the frozen northlands – a mythical creation with so-called magical powers, but no real substance.

Ever since Moore captured him in that fanciful poem, Santa had become a prisoner of Commercial Interests. The kind and gentle saint had been Gulagged – interned in a frozen wasteland from which there was no escape.

No escape, unless …

Oof-Dah gave Santa a wink.

Santa looked at his shackled wrists – chained to the belts of Avarice, Inebriation, and Accumulation – and in just a blink of the eye, his fetters fell away.

Oof-Dah smiled. “You’re free, Santa,” was all he said.

Santa sat there gob smacked. “Wha-happened?” he queried, wondering just how on earth he had been suddenly set free from the shackles of a commercialized perdition.

As Santa pondered the imponderable he glanced at the nearby fireplace. Astride a blazing yule log, a solitary figure stood silently and slipped some keys into a robe that was somehow not consumed by the flames. The Mysterion said not a word, but Santa perceived an answer to his unspoken questions in the face of the One who was not a stranger, but a friend. That message?

Do justice, Be Merciful. Walk humbly with God.

“Ho ho ho-kay,” he laughed, and holding tight the hand that freed him, went about dispensing gifts of love, joy, and peace to all in need.

May all who find themselves in Santa's muck-lucks find themselves likewise unshackled by the One who came to set all people free; Merry Christmas from this, our valley!

Friday, December 1, 2017


I grew up in a Union (Teamsters) home with parents who were "independents" ("We vote for the person we believe to be best for the job") but in the main voted Democrat. Consequently, I considered myself an Independent and also voted, primarily, Democrat.

I grew up in the turmoil of the 60s and fully supported integration, full suffrage for men and women, and was pleased as punch when the voting age dropped to 18 - matching the age of those being drafted for the war in Viet Nam. I appreciated Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty" and saw that as a mighty good. That some people took advantage of the system was an irritant, but no reason to make others go hungry or homeless.

Issues such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the like were way off my radar in those days, but generally I felt they were good things. Our family had medical coverage under my father's Union contract, and many doctors still made house calls, if you can believe it.

While our family might never vote Republican, we never thought of Republicans as the "enemy." I heard the term Southern Democrats and suspected they might be somewhat different than their northern counterparts, but politics wasn't my focus, and so I never really knew or understood what the difference was. I never equated one political party or the other with good guys or bad guys, but I knew the bad guys were Communists, the KKK, Fascists, and Nazis.

I did know that most progressive measures took place when Democrats had charge of both the House and the Senate, and that most bills passed with bipartisan support. There was no voting as a block as best I could tell. The goal was always What is Best for America.

Sadly, that is no longer the case. It isn't the system that is broken but the people running the system - gaming the system. If I were a Republican from the days of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, or Eisenhower and saw what the GOP was doing today, I would abandon them. I will also admit that if I were a Democrat and the Dems began to act as the Democrats during the times of Lincoln and Wilson, I would dump them as well. Both of those extremes are SO antithetical to American values I cannot fathom how anyone would support them or those who espouse such attitudes and behaviors.

Today, this week (and for the past year or more), the Republicans have done all they can to destroy America. They have shifted wealth from your basic standard issue American to the richest of the rich. The rich have not turned those monies into greater income for their employees; they have not built new factories at home; they have not improved the middle class in any way, shape, or form. There is not and has not been any trickle-down benefit obtained by the citizenry.

The purpose of Law is to protect the nation and its citizenry. How does the new tax law being rammed through Congress do that? It doesn't. It increases debt, takes food off the tables of the hungry, removes roofs from home-buyers, lets the sick die (talk about death squads - that is the GOP forte!), and nails shut the door to progress for all but the very rich. That, my friends, is an abomination to the Lord, if there ever was one.

I do not believe writing our congressional delegates and senators accomplishes much of anything. 77% of the people hate what the GOP is doing, but rather than change what they're doing, they're changing their lies to further hide the truth - to bury it so it cannot be seen. Pornography is more honest than that! Congress has simply become a Glory Hole for the gutless wonder in the White House.

No, if we want change, we need to be clear with our congressional men and women of BOTH parties that if they are not working to solve this mess, in 2018 there will be wholesale changes in both houses. If they will not listen to reason, then make them listen to our Purses. Let us close up those puppies.

Let's also outlaw private funding of political campaigns. If Corporations are "People" then let's limit them (and all people) to contributions of no more than $1 each. OR, let's force corporations to live under the tax laws WE the PEOPLE live under. Let's end Corporate Taxes, and put everything under Personal Income Tax rules and regulations. No more "Separate but Equal" treatment of Corporate and Personal Income taxes!