"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

My Photo
Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Purpose of the Christmas Season

Christmas has been a special time of the year for as long as I remember. People were nicer. Things slowed down a bit so ordinary folks could enjoy the Christmas Season. We had very little when I was growing up. One year when things were especially tight my mother and I walked six blocks on Christmas Eve to purchase a Christmas tree for the two dollars we could afford. I didn?t mind as long as I could open that magical box which contained all of the ornaments, some pre-dating World War I.

As little as we had, we always shared our bounty with folks a few blocks away who had even less. I well can remember the tears of joy running down the cheeks of one family living in a one-room apartment when we came bearing gifts and food for Christmas dinner. These people had traveled to Wisconsin from Alabama to work in the Case Company Plant a few blocks from my home. Tanks were made there during World War II. The War was over. The father of the household, which consisted (if I recall the incident correctly after 59 years) of parents, a grandmother and six children, had been laid off and could not find work.

There was no Christmas tree in this tiny apartment. The children slept on the floor near an oil stove because Wisconsin winters were colder then. Their grandmother slept in a big old overstuffed chair. The parents had a bed. It was shoved off in a corner of this ?living room.? There were no wrapped presents. There was so little it made us mighty thankful for what we did have, which by the standards of that era, wasn?t much. The family did have God and each other. They sang a spiritual for us in thanksgiving for our remembering them. We didn?t know them at all. We never had met. Somehow we found out about their plight and we were not about to let Christmas pass without sharing our blessings.

Christmas was like that. Yes, it was commercialized. Yes, Santa Claus was front and center, being a distorted copy of St. Nicholas, who was Archbishop of Myra in Licia during the 4th Century. St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, secretly would deliver food, clothing and gold to the poor and presents to poor children who had been good during the year.

The Church celebrated St. Nicholas Day on December 6. That blended in nicely with Christmas. I never did find out what happened to that poor family from Alabama, one of several whom we visited in the years following World War II. If any family members are alive I doubt they would remember that nocturnal visit.

Often giving does more for the giver than the recipient. It made our family Christmas better. Because we were Christians we took pride in the celebration of the Holy Day which bears Christ?s name. It didn?t matter that many who advertised Christmas did not accept the Biblical account of the first Christmas.

The late Archbishop Joseph-Marie Raya, who had served for many years in the region where Christ was born, lived, died on the Cross and rose again, would say, ?Don?t be afraid to celebrate Christmas. Enjoy the lights. Enjoy even the advertisements. Don?t worry about commercialism. Whatever [the merchants] do they are proclaiming the birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.? Archbishop Raya was correct. It has upset many Christians that Christmas has been banned from the public square.

Some people, such as conservative columnist Cal Thomas, have said this doesn?t matter. If we celebrate the true meaning of Christmas in our homes and churches let the merchants have their ?Happy Holidays.? Cal and I have been friends for over two decades. No one has been kinder to me about the usefulness of these commentaries. It pains me to disagree with Cal but I must. It is significant that Christmas is banned from most stores. It is highly significant that it has become politically incorrect to wish someone a ?Merry Christmas.? 85% of Americans say they are Christian. 96% of Americans say they celebrate Christmas.

Jewish comedian Jackie Mason, a founder of Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation, hired a car to fly banners that read, "Jews for It's OK to Say 'Merry Christmas.' "On Thursday he drove up and down New York?s Fifth Avenue and stopped at many retails stores in which Merry Christmas was not permitted to be recognized. For the first time in my life - after decades of Christians marginalized, of Christianity being insulted by some comedians, of our Faith ridiculed, I have heard Christians saying, ?Enough is enough.?

Each time retail stores have advertised a Christmas sale the owners may not have cared about the true meaning of Christmas but they were acknowledging the legitimacy of this important Christian Holy Day. That is why it matters that Christmas has been banned from Wal-Mart. I hope Christians take this insult seriously and I hope that the Wal-Mart bottom line suffers during the Christmas Season.

Let us return to a time when ordinary folks were not afraid to wish others a Merry Christmas. Let us return to a time when Christmas was so special that even petty dictators would make a gesture to acknowledge the Christmas Season. Let us return to a time when people were nicer to each other this time of the year and when store clerks wanted to wait on you at Christmastime. Let us return to a time when we remember that we celebrate Christmas in recognition of the gift which God gave to us, His Only Begotten Son, who came into the world to unlock the keys to paradise once more. Therefore, we must share what we have with those less fortunate than ourselves.

You may reason that you donated to the Tsunami Relief and to victims of Hurricane Katrina and of the many tornadoes. There is nothing left. Really? Re-examine what you have. Even if you are among the 5% unemployed and you live below the poverty line, I guarantee you there is someone who is worse off than you.

Christmas is the time for the recognition of that truth. Therefore, it is time to share your possessions with those who are less fortunate. Sharing is one of the many gifts my parents gave me in those years when we had so little. I remain grateful for what they did.

I hope that this Christmas Season you will have a blessed time. I hope you will go out of your way to say, ?Merry Christmas? to anyone who wishes you ?Happy Holidays.? I hope you will remember to thank God for the greatest of all gifts which He gave us. I hope you also will remember to thank Him for continuing to bless us. I hope you will remember to give something to those who have yet to be as blessed as you are. And I hope you will be as thankful as I am for a wonderful family with whom I can share Christmas.

It is rare indeed that Christmas and Hanukkah fall on the same day. Hanukkah, too, is endangered if the God-hating secularists have their way. A reporter for Irish Radio, who interviewed me last week about the Christmas controversy, works in a building in which many European broadcasters share the use of common satellites and common time zones. A Christmas tree was placed in the foyer. Someone placed a menorah next to the Christmas tree, no doubt in recognition that Christmas and Hanukkah fall on the same day this year. The building management removed the menorah because, God forbid, it has religious significance. Now others are demanding that the Christmas tree be removed for the same reason.

Make no mistake about it. If the secular left, the cultural Marxists, succeed in robbing us of Christmas they won?t stop there. It won?t be long before we will no longer be free to worship as we please in our own churches and synagogues.

God so loved the world that he gave us Jesus Christ. I hope and pray God still loves us enough to help us keep the spirit of Christmas not only alive in America but well indeed. Merry Christmas, and as Tiny Tim Cratchit said ?God bless us every one.?

Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.

"Casino Jack" Abramoff

Fraud Trial Will Hit Heart of American Right

The days are gone when "Casino Jack" Abramoff could summon America's most powerful congressmen to his own restaurant near the White House, find jobs for their wives in public relations firms and arrange for their aides to fly business class to glamorous destinations.

Mr Abramoff, 46, used to be one of the most influential people in Washington, the so-called "superlobbyist" whose contacts on Capitol Hill inspired awe.

But now he is at the centre of political storm that is capable of sweeping the Republican majority from Congress next year. The implications for the Right's ambitious plans to remake America in its own image are profound.

Old friends are preparing to testify against Mr Abramoff. The congressmen he once funded are blackening his name and FBI agents and prosecutors are accumulating evidence against him.

His first trial on six charges of fraud and conspiracy begins next month. Norman Ornstein, of the American Enterprise Institute, an influential conservative think-tank, said: "I don't think we have had something of this scope, arrogance and sheer venality in our lifetimes. It is building to an explosion, one that could create immense collateral damage within Congress and in coming elections."

Liberals agree. Thomas Mann, of the Brookings Institution, said: "It's a very big deal. Just the dimensions of the money involved are staggering, even to grizzled Washington veterans. We haven't seen anything like this before."

Asked to name something of comparable seriousness, Mr Mann muses: "Maybe you have to go back to the 19th century, when outside interests basically purchased members of Congress."

Up to 10 congressmen are said to be under investigation for accepting bribes, along with a dozen congressional aides and two members of the Bush administration. All those named so far say they did nothing illegal. A number have returned campaign contributions from Mr Abramoff.

Those under threat are said to include some of the most powerful Republicans in Congress. Among them are Tom DeLay, the former House of Representatives majority leader facing money laundering charges in another case, Senator Conrad Burns who chairs a key budget committee, and Robert Ney, "the mayor of Capitol Hill", who controls the committee running Congress' own affairs.

The three deny any wrongdoing, as do another 17 senior congressmen who each received more than ?17,000 in campaign contributions.

Known to admiring rivals as "Casino Jack" for his ability to tease money from American Indian gaming operations, Mr Abramoff boasted of access to Republican party leaders. Promising rapid results, he raised ?47 million from American Indian tribes.

Many were awash with cash from casino operations on their reservations, an ?11 billion industry. Many tribes wanted influence in Washington, not least to prevent the opening of rival gaming operations close to their businesses. Mr Abramoff offered to do just that and had considerable success.

However, Carlos Hisa, an American Indian client has said of Abramoff and his associates: "A rattlesnake will warn you before it strikes. We got no warning. They did everything behind our back."

Donating campaign money to legislators is normal in America.But prosecutors say Mr Abramoff and his associate Michael Scanlon demanded favours in return. Court documents against Mr Scanlon state that he and Mr Abramoff provided an unnamed congressman with trips, sports tickets, expensive meals and other perks "in exchange for a series of official acts and influence".

Mr Abramoff is alleged to have flown at least 85 congressmen and aides to the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean as he sought to stave off American regulation of its $3-an-hour textile workers, and flew others to a golfing holiday in Scotland.

Mr Scanlon has done a deal with prosecutors and yesterday another associate, Adam Kidan, agreed to give evidence against Mr Abramoff. The pressure on him to cut his own deal is now huge.

The Republican party will face an angry public in November's mid-term elections and, with almost 90 per cent of Americans saying that political corruption is a serious problem, the scandal is reverberating nationwide.

Republicans are already urging voters not to take it out on them.

This week President George W Bush acknowledged the seriousness of the affair, but added: "It seems to me that [Abramoff] was an equal money dispenser, that he was giving money to people in both political parties."

True, but of the ?3 million that Mr Abramoff handed to individual legislators, Democrats received only a third. The rest went to the Republicans.

According to Mr Mann: "When something like this happens, it tends to create a large cloud which invariably rains on the party in power."

Francis Harris in Washington