Sunday, January 10, 2010

Why “Happy Holidays” is not the Verbal Equivalent of Giving Jesus the Finger

Now that the lights and candles are back in the attic, the dreidel is shoved in a corner, and most Christmas trees have reached the same uplifting and untimely end that Steve Buscemi experienced in Fargo, I’ve decided it is now finally safe to tackle something that has been bothering me for years, but magnified these last few months, and that is this: It has increased exponentially in popularity (almost exclusively within the reactionist Protestant Christian community, and perhaps more in the South and Midwest than other areas) to be openly offended when one utters “Happy Holidays”, refers to an evergreen as a “Holiday Tree”, or speaks about the time from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve as “The Holiday Season”.

I am most certainly aware that many of the customs and traditions absorbed by Christmas over the years are important to people and their families, yet at the same time they collectively are highly irrelevant and often large distractions from the intent. My frustration is primarily directed at those who are outraged (whether legitimately or falsely, through ignorance or otherwise) in the event that some of these non-original rituals and symbols are “defiled” or “misrepresented”, when in fact they were borrowed, stolen, or absorbed from other holidays or customs, often for political or cultural reasons. I’m speaking of course, of the Christmas tree, its ornaments and candles, evergreens in general, mistletoe, the Yule log and Yuletide, the seasonal occurrence of the holiday itself, etc. I could go on, but there are literally volumes on these topics, some of which I highly recommend below.

My own personal life experience with Christmas as we know it today has been quite similar to many other people I know with Protestant upbringings…a celebration of the Advent season using wreaths and candles, a modern Christmas tree with lights and ornaments of all kinds, a nativity scene, my mother’s semi-addiction to ceramic Snow Village and Dickens Village houses, mistletoe, stockings on the mantle, Santa Claus (but not to an extreme), church services on Christmas Eve, the usual Americanized emphasis on reindeer, snowmen, bells that jingle, and the overabundance of red and green as dictated by the world around me. I now have friends of many faiths, and some of none whatsoever. I’m married to a lifelong Catholic, and although I’m not a “practicing” Christian at this point, one of my life’s passions is the study and understanding of history and religion. And not surprisingly, both are full of idiots, which assist in fueling my other love…of ranting.

Here’s an actual quote from a letter to the editor of the Santa Clarita Signal dated January 1st of 2010:

“Now we are resorting to calling Christmas trees ‘holiday trees?’ Calling it a ‘holiday tree’ is like calling a menorah a candelabra. Maybe we should start referring to menorahs as holiday candles.”

Now, first of all, “candelabra” is the plural form of the word, used when referring to a pair. “Candelabrum” would be the proper term for a single multi-candle apparatus. But let’s ignore that for now and focus on the true idiocy of this statement. “Menorah” should truly refer to the original lamp used in Jewish religious history which burned for a miraculous eight days instead of one, or a replica thereof. “Chanukkiyah” or “Hanukiah” should be used when referring to any candelabrum used during the celebration of Hanukkah. Which brings us to our second point. A chanukkiya or hanukiah IS, in fact, a form of candelabrum, in that it is a single candlestick that holds multiple candles. So…it would be quite fine to refer to it as such. But now let’s delve into the most uninformed aspect of the above statement, the part that should really infuriate all educated individuals the world over, regardless of faith (or lack thereof). The chanukkiya is a recreation of an actual item that was of crucial importance in a story of Jewish triumph, hope, and light. The Christmas tree is nothing of the sort. It has no roots whatsoever in Christianity, nor Jewish history. This couldn’t be a more unfair, imbalanced, or inaccurate comparison. Actually, I’m wrong. Yes it could. If she had become upset that “Easter Eggs” were now to be referred to as “Celebration Yolks”, that would have been slightly more ridiculous.

One can almost feel the arrogance and unnecessarily defensive mindset hiding clumsily behind this writer’s words. This might be the most ironic occurrence of all. In an attempt to defend what she believes to be a part of her faith under attack, another religion has been thrown under the bus. Beyond having the ability to pen a letter and mail/email it to the proper address, I couldn’t be more skeptical of this Signal reader’s grasp on reality.

This problem has many faces and is organized in many ways. Facebook groups have surfaced with names like “It’s Not a Holiday Tree, it’s a Christmas Tree”. Demonstrations have occurred outside of state and federal offices with groups taking offense to the terms “Holiday Ornaments” or “Holiday Wreaths”. And most recently, the gag-inducing cry of “It’s Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays”, as if uttering the latter instantly induces a church burning or kills an infant. And let’s be honest, religion has historically been responsible for enough of that kind of thing on its own.

Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against the use of “Merry Christmas” whatsoever. I’m just asking for some perspective here. This epidemic is moving toward insanity. A few weeks ago, I posted a link to a news story detailing a new product being marketed by a company called Boss Creations. They are trying to put Christ back into Christmas, quite literally…with a 7 ½ foot artificial tree that features a massive crucifix as the trunk. I can’t even begin to wrap my head around how incredibly asinine this is.

For many cultures, especially those of the pagans and Druids, the Winter Solstice signified a time of change. The solstices and equinoxes have long been markers of seasons, fertility, planting, and harvesting. The specific origins are somewhat muddy, but during the cold, harsh winter months, evergreens stood as the sole reminder of life through adversity and hardship, and were used to symbolize these hopes. Trimmings and branches were used to decorate homes. Fruit was hung from trees, and candles affixed to the tips of their branches. I’m truly hopeful that none of this is a surprise to you. For these reasons alone, it is simply not intellectually honest (at the least) to be offended by the “mistreatment” of this icon, or many others, including the ornaments (developed from the hanging fruit), Advent wreaths (ancient Germanic and Scandinavian origins also related to the Solstice), the Yule log (burned remnants of the pagan tree), and the occurrence of the birth of Christ itself (most likely springtime instead, considering the historical events and attendance of shepherds that had been tending flocks in the story). Eventually the tree and its friends listed above were incorporated into Christianity quite easily, being that Christ is seen as the “light of the world”, etc.

Now that we have knocked some of these unfortunate “crusaders” (that’s a fun term, considering…) off their high horses (or at least bumped them onto a Shetland pony), let’s explore another problem with their flawed logic.

It is insinuated by some (and stated outright by others) that “Happy Holidays” or “Xmas” or “Season’s Greetings” somehow demeans or dims the importance of Christmas, and that it is an attempt by non-Christians to shift the focus from Christ and broaden it to be more inclusive, which is an attack against their beliefs and heritage. I have two responses to that claim. The first is “that’s ridiculous”, and the second is “who cares”. The only person that can shake your faith, rattle your beliefs, or change your mind is yourself. For one to have that opinion for any reason seems incredibly naïve and inconsistent with Christ’s teachings as I understand them. And might I suggest that if the one thing that’s really going to put a bee in your bonnet next winter is some poor schmuck that nods at you in the line at the market and says “Happy Holidays”, perhaps the real problem lies within.

The “Holiday Season”, as it stands today, stretches from late November through early January and contains no fewer than ten widely recognized holidays, including Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Yule, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and Epiphany. Regardless of one’s feelings about the legitimacy of one or more of these celebrations, they still exist. In addition to these, there are dozens of lesser know days of celebration related to Catholic, Hindu, Muslim, and Persian practices, just to name a few. And of course, we can’t forget Festivus. So not only is avoiding “Happy Holidays” silly, it’s also factually inaccurate. Also, someone should tell these people that “Xmas” is fine, considering the fact that “X” is the Greek letter for “Chi” and the first letter of the Greek word for “Christ”, not a “broken cross” as I’ve heard before, causing my fact to retch uncontrollably, or even more incorrectly, that it is a method of “spelling Christmas without Christ”. Quite the opposite, in fact. Surely there are some frat boys in their contingent that have made this connection.

Is Christmas out of control? Of course. The first clue should have been when lights and wreaths started going on sale prior to Halloween candy being out of stock. Has it gotten away from what it originally started out to be? Undoubtedly. But don’t be distracted by what you perceive as an attack on your faith, when in reality, the object or tradition you are defending is about as Christian as Santa Claus and stockings. By doing this, you are allowing yourself to become part of the problem, not part of the solution. You begin purchasing ridiculous products designed to make people feel as though they are doing the Christian world a service, when in reality the merchant is capitalizing on their ignorance. I’m going to go out on a limb here (pun intended) and say that if Christ walked into your living room and saw the “CHRIST-mas Tree” by Boss Creations, not only would He say “what in the name of loaves and fishes is THAT thing”, but I’m also pretty sure He wouldn’t be thrilled about his method of agonizing execution being the centerpiece of an object that is supposed to celebrate His birth.

Christians of the world, by all means, unite. But not in a jerky, self-important, historically illiterate way. Educate yourselves, your friends, and your families. Celebrate the true meaning and purpose of Christian holidays, which are noble in spirit. Examine the traditions you deem to be important. Overturn the tables of the moneychangers. And most importantly, don’t get caught up in the middle of the very perversions you claim to be rallying against.

Oh, and a belated “Happy Holidays” to you all.

Links Referenced:

References and Recommended Reading:
Christmas: Its Origin and Associations, Together With its Historical Events. William Francis Dawson
The Origins of Christmas. Joseph F. Kelly
Christmas: A Candid History. Bruce David Forbes

Monday, November 09, 2009

Red Light District

The last few months have been a veritable whirlwind of celebrity death, celebrity embarrassment, historic anniversaries, Bubble Boys, healthcare disputes, teabaggery, and financial volatility. It's sometimes comforting to know that even despite our varying interests, likes or dislikes, or political position, we are ultimately all in this together. And, it is in that spirit, that I would like to touch on a topic that affects all of least all of us that drive or ride in an automobile with any frequency whatsoever. Something that truly binds us at the very roots of humanity itself.

In a broad sense, the personalization of one's possessions is not a new or novel idea. Engravings, brands, and paintings date back to the Upper Paleolithic era, thousands and thousands of years age. In modern culture, it is seen as an expression of individuality and creativity, be it a t-shirt, a guitar case, or a necklace. Do not misunderstand. My disdain for this one particularly dark and decaying branch of an otherwise beautiful and flowering tree is highly isolated and should be looked upon as such. It's one of the few things that can subconsciously make my face retch when behind the wheel, as if I've driven through the recent airborne gift of a skunk, or imagined a T-Pain edition of Rock Band. What is this bee in my bonnet? I'll tell you my friends:

The back of your car is apparently the new social media.

Once upon a time, it used to be that you would become "acquaintances" with another person, perhaps through work, church, or social events, then you'd exchange phone numbers or maybe even an email or two. After a socially acceptable period of time, perhaps you'd "hang out" outside the confines of your normal day-to-day relationship in which you met, such as a party or weekend event. At some point during this phase, you would become what is called "friends". This would involve things such as (but not limited to) going on vacations together, introducing spouses or significant others, learning their middle names, babysitting one another's children, and possibly even making it into their will. Not necessarily in that order. And during the "friendship", you would forge rock-solid bonds built on the foundation of the things that brought you together in the first place. Maybe a favorite football team, the fact that your boys play soccer together, or that Sally and Rachel are on the same dance squad. And, in our day and age, the bonds are strengthened even further by the relatively new and innovative social technology such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogspot, and Flickr. Regardless of time difference or distance, you can see their little tax deductions grow up as if they lived right next door.

But this is rapidly becoming a fading wisp of smoke across the skies of friendship, thanks to a broad-sweeping and overly invasive new technology, brought to you by the closest van or SUV in your neighborhood. You know exactly what I'm talking about, and you should feel the same way:

I am not interested in learning everything there is to know about you while sitting behind your automobile at a red light.

This has become somewhat of a running joke with many of my friends, and my humor is of course, intentional, but I don't want to dilute my animosity toward the absurdity and overuse of the magnetic and adhesive qualities of passenger vehicles. I am not opposed to an allegiance to a sports team, a homeowner's association, or an emissions inspection. I am very happy that you are proud of your children. I do tend to enjoy humorous bumper stickers, especially when they alienate others or make you feel uncomfortable just having looked at them...almost like the traffic-based version of Southpark. My brow begins to furrow ONLY when your tailgate starts to resemble the Berlin Wall instead of a cargo access point.

It is this psychological unrest that has caused me to pen this official listing of overused and annoying "automobile flair", which from this point forward shall be deemed both highly illegal and cause for concern regarding the mental health of the offender. In the fashion of David Letterman, let's order them from least to most annoying.

10. The Apple Logo: I have an ipod. I love it. I also enjoy using Macs. What I don't love is giving somebody one more reason to break into my car, especially considering recent events with my own truck. Why don't you just go ahead and duct-tape a spare key and a lottery ticket to the rear window? Idiot.

9. The Gag-Inducing Religious Sticker: Jesus is most certainly NOT your copilot. You aren't even flying, you are driving. Plus, he would be mortified to ride shotgun knowing what horrors lurk on your rear glass and bumper. Omnipotence, people.

8. The Rear Window Memorial: What is up with this? I am seeing more and more people driving around with slogans like "In Memory of Barnwall McGillicutty, 1967-2008" on the back of their car. I have the utmost respect for the deceased, and I'm sorry for your loss, but if any of my friends ever memorialize me in the form of white stickers and Safety Glass, I give the rest of my friends permission to de-friend said person, both in real life and virtually.

7. The Excessive Cause-Related Ribbons or Flags: I am very glad you support the troops, as do I. Unfortunately one of the freedoms they have inadvertently granted you is the ability to place forty ribbon magnets all over the back of your Caravan alongside the mindless "Freedom Isn't Free" and "These Colors Don't Run" placards. Also, why is there a ribbon for everything now? Every color is taken. All of them. I've even seen plaid ribbons. Bagpipe research?

6. The Flip-Flops Emblazoned With Team Logo: I don't even know what this is supposed to mean. You enjoy Auburn Football as well as comfortable summer footwear? Did it come free with the purchase of team flip-flops? Or does it have a more secretive meaning, like the Ichthys or the Square and Compass, only revealing its "true" meaning to other flippy-floppy people? You can't just start randomly combining phrases and objects, or we are going to end up with "God Bless America" whoopee cushions and "Al-Anon" beer koozies.

5. The Old Campaign Sticker: It's not a rock band. The election is over. Your candidate either won or lost. The only thing this is good for now is giving people one more reason to hate you when you drive like a jackass. Move on.

4. The Euro-esque Vacation Destination Oval: These have totally gotten out of hand. What was once deemed by some people to be "internationally cute" is now just annoying. Contrary to what you might believe, we aren't all enthralled by your clever choice to display the abbreviation to "Saint Simon's Island" in big black letters inside a geometric shape. At least this way people will know (combined with your license tag) two locations they can avoid, thus avoiding YOU.

3. The Sports Magnet With Child's Name: All parents are proud of their children. All children enjoy knowing their parents are their biggest fans. Let's find a more heartwarming way of bonding with your offspring and expressing your parental pride than slapping their name on a magnetic soccer ball and throwing it against the back of your Volvo, shall we?

2. The Stick-Figure Family: I would like to know who originally thought this was remotely acceptable. For those of you who haven't had the privilege, this is a sticker in which each member of the driver's family is represented by a stick figure, often to the point of even including pets. When combined with a "Mackenzie Soccer Ball", a "Taylor Ballet Slipper", a "W" or "O", a "Gout Awareness Ribbon", a "UGA Flip-Flops Magnet" and our #1 winner below, I must tell you, the effect is truly stunning. This is grounds for immediate evil staring if you manage to pass them in traffic, as well as a photo to prove to your friends that you aren't the most disappointing person alive after all.

And the number one most ridiculous annoyance of them all...

1. The Girly Monogram: The one that seems to have really started it all, at least with the trendy female set. And you know, why not. I mean, if I'm behind you in traffic, I probably already know how many kids you have, what sports they play, where you vacation, your favorite team, your party of choice, where you pray, and that you support Whooping Cough research. Why not also tell me what I'd need to know if I wanted to buy you a nice set of personalized towels between here and the next intersection? I've never really understood monograms in general, nor the need of some people to apply them to everything they own. Now including automobiles. Was the car title not enough for you?

If you disagree, let's face it. You're obviously part of the problem. Or as one of my small business-owning friends said to me quite recently, "Jason, if we don't sell them these stickers, they'll just buy them from another store." Well, you may well be right. I'm certainly a fan of free-market capitalism, and I have an enormous amount of respect for all of my buddies who take the daily risk of following a dream. But somewhere along the way, this particular dream turned into a nightmare. If nothing else, before you sell these people a magnetic football with the name "Rupert" on it, I beg you, go out to the parking lot and look at the back of their Tahoe. You wouldn't serve an alcoholic with 8 drinks under their belt another shot, would you?

But as long as we are taking advantage of people and their wallets, you sharp-minded venture capitalists and entrepreneurial types need to get on board before this new method of social networking has set sail. If you can figure out how to advertise your product while at the same time convincing soccer moms, technophiles, or teenagers that it's the "next cool thing" to stick to their ride, then you're going to be swimming in a great big ocean full of Benjamins. Me? I'll be the one quietly cursing your success while adding your creation to this list.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go change my status from "My Other Car is a Broom" to "Save the Pandas".

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, August 23, 2009

You're Not "Wrong"...

(From the movie “The Big Lebowski”, after Walter has threatened a fellow bowler regarding a possible foul during a lead-up to a tournament):

Walter: …and we DO enter the next round-robin, am I wrong?
The Dude: No, you’re not WRONG…
Walter: Am I WRONG?
The Dude: No, you’re not WRONG, Walter, you’re just an asshole.


Over the last couple of weeks, there have been a plethora of skirmishes at town hall meetings and speeches, mostly between our elected officials and (often conservative) constituents. Not surprisingly, this has monopolized news coverage, talk shows, and talk radio. Once again, it seems, America has proven that it’s not what you know, but how loudly you can scream it in front of cameras. But even more recently another phenomenon has become increasingly more prevalent at these events. I’m speaking of the spotlight now placed on certain individuals who (legally) tote firearms to these events, strapped to their belts, thighs, shoulders, or across their backs.

I’m most certainly going to catch flak for some of this piece by certain individuals, so let me go ahead and try to defuse some of the hatred: I am a huge believer in the Constitution. I consider it one of my lifelong goals to understand its true purpose and what it means to us as a people. Therefore, I am also a flag-waving Statesie when it comes to the Bill of Rights, which includes the overly quoted First and Second Amendments. In addition, I am a promoter of common sense (the idea, not the Paine tome…although please read that as well), knowing that just because you “can” do something or it is “legal” to do something…doesn’t necessarily mean it is a “good idea” or “appropriate” to do said thing.

It is also not at ALL my purpose to argue intent here. Meaning, I’m not here to interpret the Framers’ intentions concerning the Constitution or the Amendments. If it were my purpose, I would proceed to state that I thought the intentions of the many Amendments (given time, place, social and political climate) were radically different from how we interpret them today. But already I’ve said too much.

I like guns. I’m a Libertarian, so go ahead and put that in your pipe and smoke it. Handled properly guns serve many uses: Recreation, hunting, self-defense, and so on. I enjoy going to the range or to a field with my brother or with my friends for sport. I respect and trust a person who has taken time to learn the proper way to maintain and carry firearms. My father used to hunt. My relatives have been (and still are) in the military. And, as many presume Evelyn Beatrice Hall (Stephen G. Tallentyre) to have said, “I may not believe in the things you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. Or some such interpretation.

Unless you are being a DICK.

Now let’s be honest. You can be well within your rights, and the law, and still come off as a pompous jackass. Which isn’t exactly HELPED if you are slinging an AR-15 across your back at a Presidential Veterans speech. What are you then? Yep. That’s right. A gun-toting pompous jackass.

What is the ultimate point of this display? Obviously some sort of intended reaction or attention or statement can be directly associated with these peoples’ behavior. Let’s be like Dora and explore:

Most (if not all) of the most recent Town Halls and speeches have been driven primarily by one of two things: Healthcare and/or the economy. Last I checked, Second Amendment rights were nowhere on the “Top Issues” list. At least, not that I am aware of. So why show up with a .45 lashed to your thigh, like Bill Kostric did in New Hampshire? “Because he CAN!” Is the deafening response from the uber-right. And…this is actually factual, and indisputable. He CAN. New Hampshire law states that open carry is 100% permissible in this situation.

Obviously the media ran like Carl Lewis when they saw this. I don’t have to tell you. Educated and literate, you understand what they have been capable of in the past, and even if this is the first you have heard of these occurrences, you have already formulated the lead story in your brilliant mind. “MAN TOTING FIREARM PROTESTS AT RALLY!” “MAN WITH AUTOMATIC WEAPON SHOWS AT PRESIDENTIAL SPEECH!” “MAN CHALLENGES O’REILLY TO A BATTLE OF LOGIC AND RUNS AWAY CONFUSED AND SCARED!” I made that last one up. But it’s probably true.

Let’s do something a bit different. Let’s look less sharply at the media (sigh of relief) and peer more closely at the actual statements from the persons involved, the supposed gun-loving, Second Amendment-defending, common, “salt-of-the-earth” Americans that were the subject of the story here. Disregard what the Left, Right, and undecided have to say about it. Let’s delve into the quotes given to us by Mr. William Kostric (who had a handgun strapped to his thigh outside of a Town Hall) of New Hampshire, and Mr. “I Want To Carry My AR-15 Around But Don’t Want Anyone To Know My Name” (who slung an AR-15 across his back during one of Obama’s Town Halls) from Arizona. And to be fair, I don’t actually know if he resides in Arizona. He was just THERE. Hangin’ out.


William Kostric: “A right not exercised is a right lost.”

Mr. AR-15: “I’m exercising my rights as an American in Arizona.”


I constantly wonder why the “exercising of rights” is the de facto stance of so many nutjob gun enthusiasts. Seriously fellas, you guys are like the Glenn Becks of firearm owners. You are really making everyone else look bad. And by the way, exercising your rights? For fear of loss? Rarely have I met someone as passionate about not having soldiers quartered in their home. Or fervently waving banners proclaiming their right to start a newspaper at the drop of a hat. Or toting placards reading “DOWN WITH DOUBLE JEOPARDY!” Man, they really should. They could totally bring that back. Who’s defending us here? Get up off your asses! These rights must not also be lost!

I said I wouldn’t break down the intent of the Second Amendment vs. “what it has become today”. And I won’t. But certainly we can all agree that combined with additional federal laws, state laws, etc., the Second Amendment isn’t necessarily “at risk”, nor is it as uncomplicated as these people make it out to be. I mean, REALLY. Not only that, but as I stated before, I don’t recall any of these events being “Gun Rights” rallies…


William Kostric: “New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are just horrible places to live if you care about the Second Amendment at all.”


(long Napoleon Dynamite-like sigh)

I don’t even know where to start with this one. Certain STATES are bad to live in if you care about the FEDERALLY-based Second Amendment? Is this a poorly-drawn attempt at saying certain states’ laws are stupid compared to others in his opinion? Is it not, by very definition of being politically conservative, or even a strict Constitutionalist, important for the STATE to exercise more specific powers than those of the federal government? This begins my frustration with peoples’ (mis)understanding of these issues. Rights and laws CAN be held by the Feds, but those of specific nature (not kept and/or outlined by the Feds) are granted to the states. His supposed argument makes my brain hurt. And if his point is that some states won’t let you walk around during a Town Hall with a .45 strapped to your thigh, then, uh…MOVE, Captain Glock. Or maybe only visits states that are okay with that.


William Kostric: “People expected me to get my face planted.”


“People” expected? Or YOU expected? How many people did you poll? This sets the tone and stage for our next discussion. Forget the intent of the Framers, what’s the intent of Mr. Kostric? As with any action-reaction based scenario, there will always be expectations of behavior for all parties involved, mostly based on mores, morals, past experience, values, common social acceptance of situations, etc. And each person’s particular “reality tunnel” (the learned norms in their daily lives through which they see the world), though somewhat similar, will ultimately be the gauge which they use to appropriate their actions. I venture to say that in most of these situations, it is not an “expression of rights” that is the goal by the individual, but a stirring up. They want a reaction. They want to be noticed. They desire attention. And to me, this reveals two problems: 1) Vanity is at play, and when vanity is in question, there can be no noble goal, and 2) This is a severe perversion of the very right they claim to want to promote.


William Kostric: “When someone’s wearing a gun, they’re not automatically a criminal…” ”…the only way to do that is make it an average everyday thing.”

Mr. AR-15: “I think that people need to get out and do it more, so that they get kind of conditioned to it.”


Do it more? Where? Come on. Maybe it sounds good in your head, in theory, like socialism, or Arena Football, or Audioslave. I mean, you get together four talented guys who have rocked your face off over and over again for YEARS, and how could it go wrong, right? But it DOES. It’s just not a good idea. Agendas and expectations get in the way. Wouldn’t this concept also make things more cumbersome? Even in Mr. Kostric’s situation…he was asked to move to private property during the protest in order for him to retain his firearm. Incidentally, it was a church. Don’t get me started. (Oh, and did I forget to mention? Mr. Kostric was holding a sign reading “It Is Time To Water The Tree Of Liberty”…one of the most misunderstood, abused, and misappropriated Jefferson quotes EVER. So he’s not really helping his case, and he’s certainly not doing Jefferson any favors. ) But wouldn’t it be more difficult from state to state? When should you leave it in your car? Can you bring it into work? Why would you? Aren’t there more important things to worry about in your day-to-day? Please say “yes”.

Let’s not even get into the safety concerns, child access, elderly, accidental discharge, etc etc etc. Yawn. Those are played out and we are all aware. But I do want to finish this thing off with a full clip and one in the chamber:

I have a license to drive a car. It’s official. Hologram and everything. I can still be a wackjob and drive a car. There’s no “wackjob” test. In fact, in America it takes wayyyy less to become a PARENT than it does to drive a car. And I think we can agree that plenty of wackjobs have kids and drive cars. So by extrapolation, it’s fair to say that plenty of wackjobs own guns. And don’t tire me with the age-old neo-con NRA argument about legal acquisition of guns vs. illegal acquisition having anything to do with heinous crime. Take a close look at several of the last major horror stories involving firearms. School Shootings? DC Museum? Gym Shooting? Let’s be realistic friends. But I digress. I’m not trying to go on a rampage here. No pun intended. Wackjobs own guns.

I started this with Walter and The Dude because it’s incredibly appropriate. What I didn’t tell those of you beforehand that aren’t familiar with “The Big Lebowski” is that prior to the above quotes, Walter threatens said rival bowling team member with a firearm. Does it matter for the story? Not really. In fact, not at all. What I really wanted you to focus on was very relevant regardless of that: Don’t be the guy at the party with the Ferrari. Don’t come back from London with a crap accent. Don’t flash your Platinum Card at the bar. Don’t “accidentally” let your sleeve ride up so I can see your Rolex. Don’t make me check the tag on your sweater to see that it is Imported Silk. Don’t wave your Drivers License around for no good reason.

And don’t wear a firearm strapped to your leg or back during an unrelated political event. Are you within your rights? Yes. Are you making a statement? Certainly. Are you wrong? No. You’re just an asshole.


Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Letters to a Young Tricenarian

I wanted to publish a letter I wrote today to my cousin Ryan. For those of you who don't know Ryan, he is currently deployed in Iraq for the umpteenth time. Instead of catching up and writing a blog about the election, the bank crisis, and my cuz, I thought this letter would take care of all of them in one shot.


October 29th, 2008


Hey cuz. Hope this letter finds you well.

I write this to you in one of the final months of a steadily tanking presidential administration, during one of the most fierce political battles in history, in the midst of the worst national financial crisis our nation has seen since the the years after Black Tuesday, the worst global financial crisis the world has ever seen, and most importantly, a time when I think most people are secretly tired of seeing Christmas ornaments on display prior to Halloween even taking place. Oh well. At least I have the day off.

I would never “envy” your geographical location, certainly not during these volatile years. However I do think (even though I know you have satellite radio and the AF Network) that missing out on some of the recent media frenzy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Worst of all, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a severe backseat position in the wake of the political mudslinging and fallout from global money mismanagement. How do you and your comrades see this? It pains me to admit that via hindsight, I can confirm what I have already believed: Attention paid to these wars has been nothing more than a blatant abuse of the casualties suffered and stresses endured, only for the morbid and self-centered perverse benefit of those immediately involved, be it a journalist, a politician, a film producer, or a religious zealot. The only members of our communities that truly care about the men and women in your shoes are the brothers, sisters, cousins, daughters, sons, husbands, wives, mothers, and fathers, who have nothing to selfishly gain on a personal level. In fact, we lose more than we care to admit within the exchange rates of the transaction, but in the end, what keeps me comforted (and I hope you, on dark days) are two things: You are bravely and diligently doing your job, and you are there so we do not have to be.

While I might speak of media figures with disdain, I have (as you know) developed a place in my heart for theorists, philosophers, and print journalists, and have actually acquired more useful knowledge from their efforts than from all the talking heads on TV combined. Christopher Hitchens has written a book that I encourage you to read, if you are able to find it. I would have included it in this package myself, but I am actually having trouble locating a copy. It’s titled A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq. The book itself is a cleverly and intelligently written tome, which combines the sometimes stagnant waters of history with justly-deserved pokes of humor and irony. Hitchens is a self-proclaimed “contrarian”, and while I certainly don’t put stock in everything he spews forth, he has a high regard for our military and sees a silver lining in what has become the dark cloud of the storm brewing in the distance…the elephant in the room that the administration seems to be pretending doesn’t exist.

I find myself wishing more and more that I had drilled a hole in your head the last time you visited and installed a GPS tracking device while you slept. I have been overseas myself, but we as a global community are numb and overly dependant on digital communication devices, and I certainly abused them across the pond as well. When you are stateside again, let’s put a tag on your ear in much the same way that marine biologists track dolphins. I think this will help everyone in the family sleep better at night.

I also wanted to thank you for the transatlantic phone call several weeks ago. That was a wonderful surprise, and whether you realized it or not, it also took place on my birthday weekend. It always makes me relax a bit when I know that even in a war-torn country in an undisclosed location, you are able to kick back for a few minutes, enjoy a football game, and give your cousin a call. Shall I thank the Army for their generosity with the phone bill? Or should I expect to contribute a little more via the 1040 when Spring rolls around?

I want to say “keep your chin up” or “hang in there” or some other overly used phrase of pseudo-comfort…which I suspect most people say for their own benefit instead of the recipient’s. But the truth is, you know what you are doing. Maybe a better phrase would be “you didn’t just fall off the watermelon truck”. You are exceptionally brave, strong, open-minded, and loyal. A double-edged sword though it is, you are EXACTLY who I would want in your place. I know no one else who could do a better job doing your job. Though I may not agree with the governance that got us into this situation (and unfortunately keeps us there), the appreciation and awe that most of us feel toward you and others like you should be the fire in your heart. To be this selfless and devoted regardless of the “why” behind the “when” is something I wish I could understand more fully.

All that being said, get your ass back over here. We miss you greatly. As does your ever-expanding immediate family. I can’t even begin to keep up with them now. I think you have seventeen kids and four wives at last count. The oldest kids are Riley, Miley, Liley, and Kiley. And somehow you just married Jessica Alba, Salma Hayek, and Claire Daines. I hear Krissy is teaching them how to cook just as well as she can, but I can sense it will end up being worth it no matter how arduous or daunting a task it may be.

Watch your back. Watch your buddy’s back. Let your team know I love them too. One of the greatest gifts that the religions of the Middle East (born from the ancient history of the very soil you now tread) have ever given us is the concept of Agape.

I love you and miss you. See you soon.

-Jason Ezzell