Saturday, November 26, 2011


Recently, I noticed that a friend on mine had posted the following statement on Facebook.

“I don't care who this offends because this is what I believe. I am sick and tired of every year when CHRISTMAS comes around; there are people who want to take CHRIST out of CHRISTMAS because it might offend someone. Well, how about all of the CHRISTIANS? What about offending us because you are taking our CHRIST out of CHRISTMAS!?!? CHRIST IS CHRISTMAS!!! If you aren't celebrating CHRIST then why are you celebrating? CHRISTMAS is about the birth of our SAVIOR! CHRISTMAS is one of a few holidays left that celebrate my CHRIST! Leave my holiday alone!!! And tell everyone MERRY CHRISTMAS, not Happy Holidays! Repost if your not ashamed”

After I read it, I thought about it for a long while and wondered if what greeting we us at Easter and Christmas was an issue and why.

I began by considering the fact that many people that are not Christians, but still shop in the same establishments as they do throughout the rest of the year, would be offended and how badly.  I think it would be wrong to intentionally offend a person just because they are of a different faith.  So, I started up my handy dandy search engine and stepped off on my quest to see who might be offended.

I decided to look at two possibilities; other religious holidays that share the same season a Christmas and how many people would be offended because of their particular religion.

I discovered only two major celebrations that coincide with the Christmas Season, Kwanza and Chanukah.

Chanukah (Hanukkah) is the Jewish Celebration of Lights which commemorates the reclamation of Jerusalem and the story about the one day supply of nondesecrated oil in the Temple after all the Syrian idols were removed.  Miraculously the oil lasted eight days, until a supply of usable oil arrived so that the Temple could be rededicated.  The celebration begins on December 20th through December 28th in 2011.  The celebration is based on the Jewish calendar so the dates are slightly different on our calendars each year.

Kwanza is a cultural celebration rather than a religious observance.  Kwanza begins on December 26th and ends January 1st.  Kwanza celebrates the African-American culture, who they are, what struggles they have faced and what their vision of the future is.  The name “Kwanza, is derived from the Kiswahili word meaning “first fruits.”

I do not have empirical evidence, but I would suggest that since it is not a religious celebration, most African-Americans would not expect store clerks and wait people to wish them a “Happy Kwanza”, unless it would be a business that actually participated in the celebration.  In my mind, most African-Americans, until the celebration becomes more established, would be offended by hearing “Merry Christmas” as opposed to “Happy Kwanza.”

Unless they are in an establishment that participates in the Chanukah celebration or they wore some identification indicating that they were not Christian but Jewish, I don’t think that Jewish people would be offended if a store clerk or an acquaintance were to wish them a “Merry Christmas.”

In my experiences, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’, a Christian organization, have been the most vocal in correcting me when I would wish them a “Merry Christmas” or mention anything about the holiday.

I walked down the other path I had decided on and looked at the population of the U.S. to see if the ethnic diversity would demand that Christians be more sensitive.

According to the CIA World Factbook, the U. S. is comprised of 79.96% white, 12.85% Black, 4.43% Asian, the other 2%+ is made up of Native Americans and a variety of other ethnic groups.

According to the latest Survey, 76% of the adult population of the United States identify as being Christian.  About 1% identify themselves as Jewish.  14% of respondents claimed no religion at all.  The remaining 9% is made up of Muslims, Buddhist, Hindu and a variety of non-conventional religious disciplines.

When I got to this point I realized that the number of people who would be offended by someone wishing them “Merry Christmas” was very small.  I could see no reason why stores would be concerned about the term.  I asked my wife what she meant when she wished someone “Merry Christmas”; she told me that when she was a lot younger it was a salutation of joy shared with other Christians but that over the years as Christmas became more commercialized, it was just two empty words, spoken out of habit.   That gave me even more to think about.

When I was about eleven or twelve, I remember passing a church’s outside announcement board that had the words ”At Christmas, whose birthday do we celebrate” A little lower was a picture of Santa Claus and another of Jesus Christ.  Above each picture were the word “His” and between them the word “or.”  That vision is as clear to me today as it was fifty-five years ago. And the question even more important that it was then.

Too many Christians complain about how commercial Christmas has become while they are shopping in every store within ten miles of their homes, buying every new gadget, toy, or gizmo on the market, and complaining because the clerks said, “have a nice holiday” as opposed to “Merry Christmas.”

Based on the uproar over the “war on Christmas” that someone with too much time on their hands dreamed up, one would expect to see most churches bursting at the seems on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Guess what!  Attendance has dwindled over the past fifty years to the point that most churches have given up on Christmas Eve services.  Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are filled with the self satisfaction for finding the best, most, and most expensive gifts, most of which will end up in the trash or the fall garage sale to make room for the new batch of stuff that will show up on the December 24th and 25th of the next year.  Most will never tell the Christmas Story much less contemplate its meaning.  The truth is, we don’t celebrate Christmas anymore, we celebrate the retail industry’s season of profits.  We celebrate our ability to spend money we don’t have and scorn those who have nothing to eat.  We celebrate with our big Christmas Eve parties while our brothers and sisters sleep in the cold, under a bridge or in an abandon building.  I hope Jesus does not come back like that.  The greeting we get from store clerks is irrelevant, because whatever greeting they use, those words are devoid of any meaning.

As Christians we should start backtracking to a time when everyone knew what Christmas was about.  Everyone knew the story of the birth of the savior of all mankind.  Giving gifts is fine, but if we call ourselves Christians, its time to walk the walk and celebrate the universes greatest gift, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God!

I hear arguments that Christmas is not the date of the birth of Christ, that it is a pagan holiday.  I know how we got December 25 as the day we celebrate the birth of Christ.   The accuracy of the date is unimportant, the meaning of the celebration, for Christians, is.

As a Christian, I believe the war that started way back in the Garden of Eden, the birth of Christ was just one very important day in the war, soon will come the last battle will be fought and everyone will know the true meaning of Christmas.

I’m glad I was given a push to think about Christmas, as I haven’t for a long time.  I thank that old friend who has caused me to remember whose birthday it is!


Monday, November 21, 2011


I wanted to wait until all the parades, picnics, car dealer’s, grocery store’s and department store’s sales had ended and all the politicians in the country had their five minutes of air time to talk about how much they respect and are devoted to caring for them, in other words until the noise died out for another year.  Now, I can talk about something strange related to Veteran’s Day and me.

Every time I have visited the black marble wall know as the Viet Nam Memorial, located in our nations capital, across the street from the Lincoln Memorial, I have wept openly and unashamedly as I read names of friends, and relatives, carved into my own reflection, looking back at me.

For each name I recognize, a whole encyclopedia of memories come alive in my mind.  I remember the sounds of their voices and the peculiar way each person has of walking; I remember the things we would talk and dream about when we were kids.  For the friends I made after leaving home, I remember how much we all changed during the eight weeks of basic training we endured, and how we thought we were really hot stuff after the various advanced training schools we attended.  I sometimes feel like I can remember every moment we had spent together.  It is an eerie experience but in a much larger sense, it is a cleansing and healing experience.

This year, on Memorial Day and as Veteran’s Day neared, I realized that as much as I remember about the men whose names are etched into the black marble wall, I remember almost nothing about the men’s names that are not etched there.  I had the honor to know and to serve with some of the best young men this country produced; yet all I have are some vague memories of them.  I kept in touch with a few of the guys for a short time, but we each had our own paths to follow and our lives to build.  I wondered why this phenomenon existed, and why, after so many decades, I am just now facing the fact of it’s existence.

Just as an aside, I was Regular Army (RA), meaning I joined the service.  Many of my friends were drafted.  When I joined the service, the draft age was twenty-three.  Many of my friends were as much as eight years older than me.  We would often talk about how unfair it was that they were pulled away from home and family or from college after they had worked so hard to start a life.  I remember that some of the guys had one or two kids and I remember two of the guys were working in research, having already earning a PhD, one in Physics, one in Chemistry.  I do remember one guy I worked with was actually a lecturer in Mathematics at U.C. Berkley, where he earned his PhD.  I remember him because of his education and the fact that he was Chinese and was not an American Citizen.  I remember that one of the guys wanted to coach football at my high school and another guy that had been an English teacher in Washington DC.  The thing that made him so memorable was the fact that he was very soft spoken but was an avid body builder and world-class power lifter.  I am sure that he did not have much classroom disruption.

It is just these few distant and dim memories, of just a few of the fantastic men I served with and who either lived through the Southeast Asian Experience or I have missed their names among the fifty-eight thousand whose names appear on “The Wall.”

I think the reason I remember the dead better than the live is because the owners of those names will always be guys in their late teens or early twenties.  There is not so much to remember because they never had the time to build a life, to build a career, to build a family.  They will always be kids, kids that were snatched away so suddenly, and so violently that some of us have still not processed the fact of their death.  I look in the mirror and I see someone who will be seventy in just a couple of years but when I see the names of my lost friends, I see young kids, most of them younger than some of my grandchildren.

To make my feelings clear, The men, it was an all male fighting force then, I served with, and who lived past their days in the military, were all great men, great friends, and men that America can, and should be, proud of.  Just because their memories have faded does not detract from the pride I have in them and the honor I feel to have been allowed to serve with them.  They are no less precious that those whose names grace The Wall.  The difference is that the dead are memories only; the living are reminders of whatever trauma each person suffered in those early days of our lives.  They make it all too real.

Our veterans deserve more from us than we have given them.  The dilution of Veteran’s benefits over the years is a disgrace.  To know that there are men and women who put their lives on the line for their country can now be found homeless and sleeping under bridges, denied health care for the hidden wounds that many have suffered due to head trauma at the hands of enemy IED makers, denied help in finding decent employment, denied the respect that each of them deserve from each one of us.

This same essay has likely been written by every generation that has faced war throughout history and will be written by every generation to come.  This is just my edition and I would like to use my edition to say to those that left us way too soon, in any armed conflict, THANK YOU and I am sorry for all you have missed.  To those who survived, I would like to say THANK YOU and to say I am sorry for the poor treatment many of you have received and will continue to receive.  I hope things will change for veterans of future generation.

To all Veterans, God bless you for your courage and your service! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Penn State Mess II

When I last wrote about the Penn State mess, in case you did not pick up on it, I was angry.  The longer I wrote, the angrier I became.  Actually, I started out feeling sympathetic toward Coach Paterno.  Before I finished, I had no feeling of sympathy for anyone but the children who were abused, who had their lives shattered by someone they trusted and then watched as the abuser’s actions were ignored by others that could have/should have stopped him.

We all have different methods of learning.  Most are a combination of watching, doing, and listening.  For me, if I write some sort of an outline of the material I am studying, the material becomes clearer and the ideas contained in the material seem to pop out.  As I started writing my last post, I reread the Grand Jury Report that led to the arrests of the first three men, hopefully the first three of many to come, involved in this nightmare of unbelievable proportions.

As I said, I started with a sympathetic attitude toward Coach Paterno.  At sometime in my life, if I can remember back far enough, high school and college sports, especially football, held a prominent place on my list of “most important things in life.”  Coach Paterno was always an important man.  He became an assistant coach at Penn State in 1950; I was six years old.  When I was in high school, he was the heir apparent to the head-coaching job there and did, indeed, become head coach a few years after I left high school.  He was the head-coach at Penn State during the time I was a young adult, throughout my entire career, and seven years after my retirement, until scandal brought his career to an end.  In my eyes, throughout my entire life, he has been a giant.

I grew up in a steel, now rust, town that was part of the historic football fanatic area that includes Canton, Massillon, Akron, and Youngstown in Northeastern Ohio and Aliquippa, And the towns in and around Beaver County Pennsylvania.  It was not at all unusual to see college recruiters at the first practice session of the year and every practice and game for the entire year.  As an assistant coach at Penn State, Coach Paterno would personally visit schools, usually to see a certain player but at times just to see what might be coming down the pike.

So Joe Paterno has been a part of my world for most of my life.  To realize that the giant, a man who preached ethical behavior, a hero in your eyes has turned out to be less than perfect, his moral actions, in critical situations, less than what you would have expected from him has been as traumatic as learning that there really was no Santa Claus.  As I watched Coach Paterno fall, it was through the eyes of a young man learning that sometimes, men’s actions are not as honorable, moral, ethical as his words.

So, I must say goodbye to the Joe Paterno that I have, respected and in that way that young men feel about their role models, loved for a lifetime.  I must have had him mixed up with someone else.  The stench of this scandal even seems to sully the memories of those Friday nights and Saturday afternoons when we believed that some men were special, were heroes, were men we could trust, but in the end they turned out to be just…men.

I pray that the young men who had their lives shattered as little boys will be able to find the help that will allow them to build a normal life and to know for sure that what happened to them was not their fault.  I cannot even imagine their pain.  I hope that now their pain can be eased and the perpetrators of this injustice can feel their own pain.

More about Penn State some other day.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Penn State Mess

Like most of America, I was shocked when the news broke that one of Penn State’s former Assistant Football Coach’s, a former player, founder of an organization that was established to help “at risk kids”, and one time heir apparent to the Head Coaching job held by his friend Joe Paterno, the winingest coach in college football, had been arrested, along with the Athletic Director and a Vice President of the university, on charges relating to the abuse of preteen and teenage boys.  That was a long sentence; I wanted to take your breath away.  The sentence could be a whole page long and not say everything that the opening sentence in this article should say.

It’s been less than forty-eight hours since I saw the first news blurb about this scandal.  In that short time span, two high level officials have been arrested; the head football coach and the university president have been fired.  The institution is under state and federal investigation and the reputation of the university forever sullied.  To the credit of the Board of Trustees of the university, they wasted no time taking bold, decisive actions in removing people who could have and should have stopped the abuse but chose to ignore it for over ten years.

I read the report of the Grand Jury that investigated the allegations and was as shocked and angered as I have been in my life.

According to the report, on a Friday night, a twenty-eight year old Graduate Assistant, who was a former Penn State football player, and now serves as an assistant coach of the team saw an adult man, who he recognized as an assistant coach, performing anal sex on a boy that appeared to be about ten years old.  Instead of stopping the activity and calling the police, he “left immediately, distraught.”  He then called his father who told him to leave the building and come home.  He and his father decided that he, the graduate assistant, had to promptly report what he had seen to Coach Joe Paterno.  So promptly the next morning, Saturday morning, he telephoned Paterno at home and reported what he had seen.
The next day, Sunday, Paterno called the Athletic Director to his home to inform him that a graduate assistant had seen an assistant coach “doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy.”

One and one half weeks later, the Athletic Director and his superior, the Vice President for some stuff, called the graduate assistant to a meeting.  He, the graduate assistant, retold his story.  The two officials told him they would look into it and determine what further action they would take.

The story goes on and on, but I am going to stop here for my commentary on this small part.

Why would a twenty-eight year old man see an adult having anal sex with a ten-year-old child walk away and call his daddy?  That is the first person I would have arrested, for abetting the adult child abuser in his heinous crime.  He had both a moral and legal responsibility to step in and put an end to that crime against a child.  As of this writing, he is still employed as an assistant coach with the Penn State football team.  I don’t know about you but I will stand and cheer the day they drag him away in chains to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

I have to wonder why, on Saturday, when Paterno was notified; he did not immediately call the police, as is his legal and moral responsibility.  He was right to contact his superior but should have done that after he called the police and had them going to arrest the eye witness who had done nothing to stop the activity the night before.  Now, in my eyes, Paterno had become an accessory to the crime of child abuse.  I have always liked and respected Joe Paterno, both as a coach and a man but he has lost the right to those feelings.  He and the graduate assistant should have to pay dearly for letting a sexual predator continue to damage children for nine more years.

Moving up the ladder, the Athletic Director and Vice President, who have been arrested for lying to the Grand Jury, should also be prosecuted for putting more children in danger by refusing to turn their buddy, the child abuser, to walk free.
The next step shocked me more than any of the rest of the people involved, except for the scumbag child abuser himself, the President of the University failed to take action when he was notified of the situation.

Each of the men, except the eyewitness who allowed the child abuse to continue unabated, involved claim they misunderstood the information or followed the university procedure.


Not once did any of these men, and I use the term loosely, put the safety and well being of the children that had been abused or would, because of their inaction, be abused by the monster they all loved.

One last rant, in 1998 the child abuser had been investigated by the Campus Police after allegations, which he admitted to, of inappropriate actions with children were reported.  The monster could have been stopped that early but the County District Attorney decided that there would be no criminal charges and the police were told to close the case.

I will be writing more about this in the days, weeks, and months to come.  For now, let be just say that these so called men make me puke.  Perhaps the person who should shoulder the most guilt for this affair is the twenty-eight year old man that saw a child being abused and just walked away.  Sickening, they are all trash!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

People in The United States Illegally

Is it right that American taxpayers should pay for the care and upbringing of the children of people who are in this country illegally?  Should the children of these criminal families receive aid from American taxpayers to go to college, depriving children of legal American families of both the financial aid and the seat at a university or college that has been taken by the children of people in this country illegally, many of whom were not even born in America, thus not able to claim citizenship regardless of the parents status?

There are many questions that need to be asked and answered about the people that have crossed the boarders into the United States illegally.  Do we, the taxpayers, have a responsibility to provide free healthcare, rent assistance, free food, ease in the ability to obtain drivers licenses state identification cards and to obtain employment at a time when American citizens cannot find jobs?

Recently, as a good will gesture, two American hikers were released, along with a third hiker released earlier, by Iran after being convicted of being in Iran illegally.  Their sentence was eight years in an Iranian prison.  Last year two young American ladies, working as National Geographic Magazine reporters were held in North Korea for illegally crossing into their country.  They were released after former President Bill Clinton went to North Korea and allowed photographs to be taken of him alongside the North Korean leader.

Many people illegally enter our country and take advantage, or make a mockery, of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  By nature of that amendment, anyone born within the boarders of the United States is considered a citizen of the United States.  That part of our constitution served us very well for two centuries.  There was always some degree of abuse of the citizenship provision but it was not until after the Great Society laws and provisions granted housing, food, healthcare, education, and other benefits to anyone who showed up and asked for them.  After legal residents began to make noise about the cost of benefits being extended to people in the country illegally, those who were here for a free ride realized that if they gave birth to a child within the U. S. boarders, that child would be a citizen and that would likely guarantee that the authorities would not be so callous as to send the parents back to their home country and allow the child to stay.  Thus, the concept of the “anchor baby” was born.

I have always been satisfied that the U. S. Constitution has served us well and that, with the possible exception, the amendments to the Constitution have been reasonable and necessary.

I think that over the last two and a half centuries, the congress has been very careful in making changes to the constitution through the amendment process.  I think that, perhaps, the Equal Rights Amendment may be an example of one that should have passed and did not.  The people in most of the several states that constitute the United States did not think it was necessary.  There are other proposed amendments that, in my analysis, should never have been proposed.  A couple of examples would be The Federal Marriage Act and The School Prayer Amendment, neither of which served all the citizens of the United States.  One would exclude large segments of the population from the “Pursuit of Happiness” provisions of the constitution while the other would disregard the religious beliefs of large segments of the population.

There is one amendment, which has been proposed but not passed by congress, which I think would serve the citizens of the United States well.  In 2009, an amendment that would deny citizenship to anyone born in the United States unless at least one parent was a citizen or permanent resident of the U S or was serving in the U S Military.

This amendment would remove the tremendous burden placed on American Citizens through higher taxes, increased cost of health care, and employment to persons in the U S illegally willing to work for very low wages.  I would cheer to see this amendment passed, I am sure it would dramatically, the flow of illegal aliens in the U S and eliminate the “anchor baby, concept.

I would like to see laws passed along with this amendment that would place very heavy penalties on employers who knowingly employ people in this country illegally and place harsh penalties on companies that move their corporate offices to a drop box offshore in order to avoid paying taxes and American companies that move jobs overseas to take advantage of cheap labor and the absence of worker and environmental safety laws.

This is just some of my thoughts for this morning.  What do you think about these issues?