By Doug Porter
Remember the days when the holidays were supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year?” I do.
That warm and fuzzy feeling was no doubt promoted by all kinds of interests: retailers, religions, and relatives all stirred the holiday wassail of my young mind. Now that I’m older and more worldly I know those less privileged didn’t always share my response to those messages. Still, it was possible –even for a moment– to believe that peace on earth, goodwill to all was where we as a culture wanted to go.
Fast forward to the present and the waning weeks of the year have become just another battleground in the culture wars.
Gays, women, people of color, wage earners, migrants, refugees, and now apparently journalists all end up in the jumble of badwill driving the national discourse.
One Orwellian way to justify all this hate is to frame it as if the perpetrators were victims. That’s how we end up with The War on Christmas.
Onward Christian Warriors
Mark Morford, writing in an op-ed for SF Gate, captures the sentiment behind all this:
I imagine House Republicans in particular, along with all GOP presidential candidates, must experience a whole range of rash, ganglion, delirium, gastrointestinal distress and inexplicable lesions in unhappy places pretty much all the time, given their uncompromising dedication to the imps and demons of Fear.
How else to explain? How else to imagine what these overcooked white males – most with semi-legitimate college degrees – must endure, every day of their lives, as Guardians of the Dumb, as Protectors of the Infantile, as Defenders of That Which Shall Not Be Dislodged By Your Annoying Little Facts?
Try this: 36 House Republicans, grown men and women with actual university educations and privilege for days, just signed on to a hilariously pointless resolution “defending” Christmas.
Do not laugh. It actually happened. Christmas is, conservatives love to remind us every year forever, under attack from the imaginary bogeymen of godless liberalism, spiritual independence, actual thought.
Say Christmas Or Else
An elected official in Texas, the state that has replaced California as the trendsetter for stupid, has taken this holiday hatred to a new level.
From the Huffington Post:
Republican Sid Miller, the state’s agriculture commissioner, said on Facebook that people must say “Merry Christmas” to him or nothing at all.
“If one more person says Happy Holidays to me I just might slap them,” Miller wrote. “Either tell me Merry Christmas or just don’t say anything.”
He included a picture of a cowboy and a pharmacy with a religious sign:
An Extra Day Off for Haters
For about a decade or so I lived in Staunton, Virginia, a town so conservative that airing Rush Limbaugh’s program during lunch was actually used as a business builder for restaurants.
My family left the area as our daughter neared school age, in part because we couldn’t see sending her to schools where students were bussed off campus regularly for ‘instruction’ from various Baptist functionaries.
Staunton is the County Seat for Augusta County, which finds itself in the news because the entire school system was closed down today because a teacher dared to teach.
From the Washington Post:
A geography teacher at the district’s Riverheads High near Staunton, Va., gave an assignment asking students to try their hand at calligraphy by copying a statement in Arabic, according to the Staunton News Leader.
It was the Muslim statement of faith, according to the newspaper: “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”
The assignment was meant to give students a sense for the art of calligraphy, according to the newspaper, and the teacher did not have the students translate the statement into English, require students to recite the statement, or say they believed in it.
But some parents were outraged at what they saw as an attempt to proselytize Islam in a public school, a concern that has been echoed by parents in districts across the country over lessons about Islam. In Tennessee, there has been an uproar over teaching about Islam and ancient Islamic civilization to middle schoolers, prompting state lawmakers to consider legislation limiting the teaching of world religions to high schoolers, according to the Tennessean. A parent in Fairfax County, Va., also reported what she found to be inappropriate lessons about Islam at a school there last year.
Promoting Peace on Earth
Anti-abortion protesters in Colorado Springs are back on the picket lines, even though the nearby Planned Parenthood clinic is still months from being operational following what Republicans refuse to admit was a terrorist attack.
From The Guardian:
The shooting, however, has made it harder for many abortion providers to put picketers in the back of their minds. In the aftermath of the attack, Planned Parenthood and political allies linked the violence to the fiery rhetoric of many abortion foes.
“I won’t be at all surprised to find out that someone who is unstable can easily be motivated or manipulated by extreme rhetoric,” said Dawn Laguens, the executive vice-president of Planned Parenthood.
The National Abortion Federation, an advocacy group for abortion providers, collects incidents of picketing, hate mail and trespassing in the same database that it logs kidnappings of abortion providers, assaults and murders. And picketers have been connected to attempts to gather and publicize personal information about providers.
After the shooting, many former abortion clinic workers who spoke about their experiences easily drew an unbroken line from the picketers to the hate mailers to the stalkers to those who are violent.
Hating on the Hussein in the White House
Four Republican presidential candidates (Cruz, Santorum, Fiorina and Carson) participated in a forum this week staged by a group seeking to fight alleged radical Muslim influence in the higher levels of government.
From the Washington Post:
“It’s scary,” said Bill Newton, 68. “There are so many Iranians just in the White House — Huma Abedin and Valerie Jarrett.” (Abedin, a close aide to Democratic front-runner and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, is the children of Indian and Pakistani parents.)
Scott Stonehocker, 50, said the fears of radical infiltration were realistic — and explained what was otherwise inexplicable about the Obama administration’s policies.
“It kind of reminds me of the era when Communists were inside the government,” he said. “Joe McCarthy has a bad reputation, some of it earned, but he was not entirely wrong.”
Local Uptick in Hate Crimes
Nationally there have been at least 42 violent attacks, threats, assaults, protests, and instances of vandalism against Muslims since the November Paris attacks.
Republican presidential candidates have compared Syrian refugees — most of whom are Muslim — to “rabid dogs,” toyed with the idea of a Muslim national database, and seriously debated temporarily barring Muslims from entering the United States.
An congregation in Orange County responded to attacks by vandals by posting a brightly-colored sign with an American flag that reads, “We are American Sikhs. We pray for the victims of San Bernardino.” Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims and it has resulted in their being victimized in hate crimes, according to Religion News Service.
NBC7 News ran with a story yesterday featuring an FBI saying hate crimes in San Diego have increased in recent years, increasing from 34 incidents in 2012 to 43 in 2013.
In the U.S., race was the largest motivator for hate crimes at 48.5 percent, and more than two-thirds of racial hate crime was against black people, 21.2 percent was against white people and 4.6 percent against Asian people.
Religion also played a factor, accounting for 17.4 percent of hate crimes. About 60 percent of those victims were Jewish and 13.7 percent were Muslim.
Sexual orientation accounted for 20.8 percent of all hate crimes in 2013, the majority against gay men.
Then They Came for Journalists…
In case you’ve missed it, The Donald and The Putin have been publicly trading love notes over the past day or so.
At the end of Donald Trump’s MSNBC interview this morning the host of the program forced the candidate to agree that killing journalists, like they have done Russia lately, was a bad idea. But it took asking a yes or no question to get that admission.
Here’s how it started:
“Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia,” Trump told cohost Mika Brzezinski when asked about Putin praising him as “very talented” the day before.
Scarborough pointed to Putin’s status as a notorious strongman.
“Well, I mean, it’s also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?” Scarborough asked.
“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader,” Trump replied. “Unlike what we have in this country.”
There was more to this conversation than ‘fair use’ conventions say I should post, so I encourage you to read the story in Business Insider with the full quotes.
The Starting Line Over the Holidays
It’s getting to that time of year where newsworthy events start to thin out due to the holidays, so I’ll be changing things up over the next two weeks.
It’s my intent to write some essays reflecting back on the Year That Was, noting accomplishments good and bad that have come across my screen. Unless something really big breaks, there will be no columns December 24th, 25th and 31st, along with January 1st.
The Friday Progressive Calendar of Events usually found in this space will resume on January 8th.
I wish you and your families all the best for all the holidays.
On This Day: 1892 – Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” publicly premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia. 1944 – The Supreme Court upheld the wartime relocation of Japanese-Americans, but also stated that undeniably loyal Americans of Japanese ancestry could not be detained. 1999 – After living atop an ancient redwood in Humboldt County, CA, for two years, environmental activist Julia “Butterfly” Hill came down, ending her anti-logging protest.
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