Sunday, January 04, 2004

Little bitty thoughts from my little bitty mind

Here are some Christmas/New Year musings from (I hope) everybody's favorite noisy white male.

John Ashcroft is not my favorite U.S. Attorney General ever, and I'm not totally enamored of every single feature of the PATRIOT Act. But it's been two years and three months since the atrocities of 9/11, and because no attack even vaguely approaching that scale has been inflicted upon the homeland since, I must concede he got something right.

Some of us think the capture of Saddam does not make America safer, but consider; just a week after Saddam was shown to the world as a bearded, exhausted old man being inspected for head lice, Libya's megalomaniac Col. Kadaffi announced he will allow unfettered, unannounced inspections of all his suspected facilities for the manufacture, research and storage of weapons of mass destruction.

Coincidence? Somehow, I doubt it. Colonel Kadaffi may be a little nutty, but he's far from stupid.

1972 Revisited? Unless the Democrats get their act together, we're going to get treated to a rerun of the presidential elections of 1972. That's when a much-despised, moderate Republican incumbent routed a decent, slightly left-of-center Democrat who was a perfectly competent U.S. Senator but who would have been a lousy president.

Howard Dean calls himself "the candidate from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party." OK, but he's also the guy who, had he been president in 2002-2003, would have left Saddam Hussein in his numerous presidential palaces while the UN arms inspectors would have been either still kicked out of Iraq ... or still waiting outside the gates of suspected WMD facilities while some Ba'ath party bureaucrat gave them a song-and-dance about why they weren't allowed to go inside just yet.

Then again, President Dean might have been able to keep the French on our side. Whether that's more important than forcibly ending one of the bloodiest dictatorships in human history is something for future generations to determine.

Modern Graven Images and the Weird Judge Who Wants More of Them

Judge Roy Moore knew he was going to lose in his battle to keep on display, in a taxpayer-supported building, his ugly little graven image of some artist's impression of what the 10 Commandments might have looked like - had they been written in English instead of Hebrew. He's now launching an appeal which he knows he will lose.

His media-savvy grandstanding and utter contempt for both the First Amendment and Second Commandment remind me of two other famous southern demagogues: George Wallace and Huey Long. His object is not to win legal battles so much as to stir up enough anger and confusion to get himself elected to higher federal office.

His stated position, "Idolatry today, idolatry tomorrow, idolatry forever!" is curiously familiar to a lot of Alabamans ... not to mention in direct opposition to one of the 10 Heavenly Laws he says he seeks to honor. I can't imagine why no one else has noticed this, or at least not talked or written about it anywhere I've been lately. I just hope the people of Alabama eventually see through this particular false prophet. We were warned about guys like Moore in the Bible, and the U.S. Constitution gives us the power to stop them. Thank God (literally) and the federal judges who enforce the law, no matter how unpopular it makes them.

The (Wrong) Reason for the Season

Speaking of the Deity, while I certainly enjoy giving and getting gifts, I really do wish we could break Christmas into two holidays, one for the hoopla, the other for a quiet, dignified religious observance. The December occasion would be the loud and festive one; it comes at the traditional time of Saturnalia, the Roman feast days which celebrate the shortest days of the year. That's when it would be appropriate to have a big material deal of a celebration, give everybody presents, gobble figgy pudding and guzzle eggnog. When the days are shortest, what you're celebrating is the beginning of the end of the cold months, the preparation for the rebirth of spring.

Then, sometime in March or April, we could have the religious Christmas observance. It would be much more historically accurate, since spring is when the shepherds would actually have been out watching their flocks and looking for extra-bright stars. Look it up: most Biblical scholars and certainly any sheep herder know that spring, not midwinter, is when the ewes are lambing. In winter, the flocks are sheltered near home, munching fodder, not out in the predator-filled fields under the close watch of shepherds. For the Spring Christmas, we could have the religious holiday, the midnight services, the quiet gatherings of family and friends, the symbolic renewal of faith in the first months of the New Year.

My plan would put the Spring Christmas pretty close to Easter, but what's really wrong with that? It would be far less distressing than our current confusion and endless arguments over whether it's a good thing to combine a spiritual holiday with materialistic fun and games. The combination of Saturnalia with Christmas was a marketing scam aimed at converting Romans, just as allowing graven images into our temples was done to get gentiles with their Hellenistic beliefs and their love of fleshy art to convert to a better religion.

Isn't it time for modern Christians to correct those two specific abominations? But if we do, please don't tell Judge Moore. He's already darn near terminally confused. The overload of all that truth at once might literally kill the poor fellow.

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