Wednesday, December 30, 2015
A politically incorrect Christmas
Say what you want about the conservative, churchgoing Grahams of Lexington County, S.C., but we knew how to cut loose for Christmas. Growing up in the Deep South, I never had the pleasure of a white one, of course. But what we southerners lack in snowfall, we make up for in lard. And sugar. And gravy. Usually in the same dish.
My father is a lifelong fiscal conservative (aka “cheapskate”), yet Christmas was the one time of year he would crack open his wallet. Though he bragged about being “tighter than Dick’s hat band”—a vaguely disquieting southernism that has something to do with frugality—my sister and I awoke to a mountain of presents every Christmas morning.
And I do mean morning. As evangelical Christians, we celebrated Christ’s birth in the early hours of daylight, as the Good Lord intended. People who celebrate Christmas on the eve are either utterly unfamiliar with biblical teaching or Catholic. (I kid, my papist friends.)
For us, Christmas morning always exceeded expectations. The breakfast of spicy Bisquick sausage balls and “mimosas” made with sparkling grape juice never disappointed. Even the music was from Christmas Central Casting. For reasons still unclear to me, gas stations used to give away Christmas albums produced by Firestone and Goodyear (nothing says Christmas like a lube, oil, and a filter). These were all-star collections of Andy, Bing, Burl, and the gang. Mom would stack them on the record player and—assuming the arm of the record changer didn’t get stuck—we’d have a nonstop soundtrack for Christmas morning.
My mom’s philosophy on Christmas present distribution might be called the “Chicago voting” model: early and often.
Do I even need to say that we had a real tree? Of course we did. And not some scruffy pine from the woods behind our house, either. (“Too redneck!”—my mom.) No, sir, Dad would splurge on a Fraser fir bought from the Rotary Club. Did he do it because it sent my sister and me into paroxysms of Christmas glee? Or because it gave him an excuse to screw around with digit-endangering power tools late into the night? Only Santa knows.
I do know that the tree filled our small, 1970s prefab home with an opulent scent of celebration. When I was young, I thought every fancy cocktail party I saw in the movies must smell the way my house did on Christmas. My mom would add to the overall effect with potpourri and stacks of presents around the tree. Her philosophy on Christmas present distribution might be called the “Chicago voting” model: early and often. Just days after the tree went up, we already had significant giftage growing. By Christmas Eve it looked like a dump truck from Macy’s had crashed into our living room.
I remember one Christmas morning in particular. I was 9 years old, and we were having a banner day. My sister and I were exhausted from the sheer volume of presents. Shards of wrapping paper were scattered like shrapnel on the North African desert after Rommel had rolled through. We were just transitioning from the “heartfelt gratitude” portion of the program to the “Hey, that’s mine” ceremonial combat when my dad asked, “Are you sure that’s it?”
I looked under the tree. Nothing. I scanned the post-Christmas carnage. Not an unwrapped package in sight. I glanced at my mom, who was also looking around the room with a “Did I forget something in the attic?” look on her face.
(The fact that I never heard my parents rummaging around the crawlspace over my room late on Christmas Eve is proof that Santa is real.)
Then Dad nodded his head toward the upright piano along the wall. “Look over there,” he said.
I waded through the wrapping paper, peered behind the piano and saw . . . something. A long, leather case leaning against the wall. I dragged it over to our floral-print sofa and laid it on the cheap, olive-green carpet at my father’s feet. “Open it up,” my dad said, a twinkle in his notoriously nontwinkling eyes. There was a zipper at one end. I slid it down, reached in, and pulled out something long and heavy.
“Oh, Simon!” my mother cried.
No, it wasn’t a Red Ryder BB gun. (This was years before “A Christmas Story.”) It was a single-barrel, break action, 20-gauge shotgun. A real live gun.
There aren’t actually words for what I felt in that moment. I was astonished, flabbergasted, stupefied, and more. Of course I hadn’t asked Santa for a shotgun. I hadn’t asked him for a Lamborghini or a date with Princess Leia either, because certain things are simply beyond a boy’s imagination. My shotgun wasn’t a crazy, extravagant Christmas present. It was an impossible one. And yet here I was, holding it in my hand, as my father beamed with satisfaction.
And that’s when it got me. The thrill of hope.
I have very few other specific memories of my childhood Christmases after that. What I do remember are vague feelings of disappointment. It’s not that my Christmases were less bright. They were the high point of my year. But when a child is convinced that Christmas is the season when impossible hopes come true, then he can only be disappointed. For no matter how glorious the gifts beneath the tree are, he has the human capacity to hope for even more.
Christmas is an irrational celebration of the limitlessness of our hopes. And yet, that’s why the disappointment we inevitably feel isn’t a bug. It’s a feature. Unrealized hope is always there to tempt us away from the joy of what we have, the good things already grasped in our hands. Which is why every child has, at least once in his life, cried on Christmas morning.
Now that I’m a father, I’m doing my best to keep my childhood traditions alive: A real tree, spicy sausage balls, and children bursting out of their bedrooms on Christmas morning like joyous, uncaged beasts.
But my favorite moment comes the night before, in the waning hours of Christmas Eve. The children are asleep. The fading fire still burns, though darkly. Music drifts softly through the house (the same Goodyear Christmas soundtrack), and the tree stands in the red-tinged darkness, warm with lights.
I’ve got a drink in one hand, and the other draped over the shoulder of my wife, lying drowsily on the sofa next to me. The warm, heavy scent of the tree fills my lungs and unleashes my memories—memories of my children on Christmases past, along with fresh smiles over how giddy they’ll be in the morning when they see all the wishes Santa made true.
Christmas is an irrational celebration of the limitlessness of our hopes.
I have hopes for my children, these four precious gifts I have been given by grace, though these hopes may seem modest to you. Other parents may fantasize about a family of Nobel Prize winners who star in Oscar-nominated movies in their spare time. Me? I just want them to be healthy, to be happy, and to avoid a few of the painful mistakes I’ve made. A future without sorrow or want. Is that too much for a father to hope for?
I think of my wife, nestled beside me so warm and vulnerable. Dare I hope she loves me even half as much as I love her? She doesn’t talk about it often, but my wife has multiple sclerosis. Every day she wages a solitary battle against her own body, and she does it without complaint. And if that’s not bad enough, she has to live with me—a husband who works in radio and writes on the side, an enthusiastic, but often inept, partner. How does she do it? Why must she? Can’t she just live, without another day of worrying about bills, or struggling with her health, or being let down by her oaf of a husband?
Those days are coming, I know they are. But as I sit beside the tree, so still, so quiet in the light of the fading fire, that knowledge fades, too. I’m drawn away by my own impossible Christmas gift. By the elemental power of a simple story, whose symbols are all around me: A star. A manger. A baby, born so helpless, so alone. And yet somehow, so full of hope.
I don’t notice it, but my eyes are moist. My throat is dry. And there in the pale light of the glistening tree, hope envelops me like swaddling clothes. It warms me like the breath of a newborn child. It fills my lungs. It pumps the very blood through my heart. I close my eyes. I bow my head.
And I believe.
Liberal Activists, Celebrities And Politicians Lose Their Minds Over Tamir Rice Ruling
Evidence be damned!
The Tamir Rice verdict sparked outrage from celebrities, activists and politicians after it was announced Monday that Cleveland police would not go to trial in the death of a 12-year-old boy they fatally shot. Rice was shot Nov. 22, 2014, after appearing to reach for a gun in his waist band.
The gun turned out to be a fake, and the case grabbed national attention as one of the premiere cases in the Black Lives Matter movement.
As protesters took to the streets of Cleveland, Twitter exploded with reaction.
Cleveland officers won’t face charges in shooting death of black boy with toy gun
CLEVELAND — After more than a year of investigation, a grand jury declined to bring charges against either of the two police officers involved in the fatal 2014 shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was playing with a toy weapon in a Cleveland park.
In announcing the decision Monday, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty said he did not recommend that the grand jury bring any charges.
McGinty said he believes both of the Cleveland officers involved were reasonable in their belief that Rice had a real weapon, and that new analysis of the video of the shooting leaves it "indisputable" that the boy was pulling the weapon from his waistband when he was killed.
"The outcome will not cheer anyone, nor should it," McGinty said. "Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes, and miscommunications by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police."
Rice, who was black, was fatally shot by officer Tim Loehmann, a white rookie officer, on Nov. 22, 2014, as the young boy played with a toy gun in a public park. The grand jury also reviewed the actions of Loehmann’s partner, Frank Garmback.
The officers said earlier this month that Rice appeared much older and reached for the toy gun that was tucked in his waistband before Loehmann shot at him.
Police officers are rarely charged after on-duty shootings. There have been at least 975 police fatal shootings in the United States this year, according to a Washington Post database; officers have been charged with a crime in just eight of those shootings.
McGinty said the death of Rice did not meet the standard of a crime.
In a statement issued not long after the prosecutor’s announcement, attorneys for Rice’s family decried the grand jury process and renewed their calls for the Department of Justice to bring federal charges.
"It has been clear for months now that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment," the family attorneys said.
Australia: A government hospital system with three times more bureaucrats than doctors
A review of South Australia's hospital system needs to examine the number of bureaucrats after documents show administrators outnumber doctors, Family First MP Robert Brokenshire has said.
Mr Brokenshire called for an independent review after obtaining the data under Freedom of Information which showed administrators now outnumbered doctors by three to one.
The number of administrators has jumped by more than 1,600 to 13,477 in the past 10 years compared to the number of salaried doctors which rose to 3,897.
The documents also showed the number of executives increased to 113 from 84 - 10 years ago.
Mr Brokenshire said the disparity needed to be examined. "So I'm calling for an independent audit to actually have a look at and put a public report out to say whether or not, all these bureaucratic positions are required at a time when we have unprecedented pressures in our hospitals that our doctors and nurses are trying to cope with," he said.
SA Health said since 2010 there had been a more than 10 per cent reduction in executives working in SA Health and that in May it announced cuts to 25 executive roles and 425 staff from head office.
"South Australia has more doctors and nurses per capita than the national Australian average and there are only two other states that have a lower ratio of administrative and clerical staff per capita than South Australia," the statement read.
"The vast majority of SA Health staff are based on the frontline in local health networks or in roles directly supporting frontline staff."
Australia: Killers and terrorists will be served Halal chicken at 'religious friendly' Christmas lunch at Supermax - because so many of the inmates are Muslim
Christmas dinner inside Goulburn's Supermax prison for many of the inmates will be Halal chicken with cranberry sauce in an aluminium tray slid through the hatch of their four-by-three metre cell door at around 11am on Friday.
An unprecedented number of arrests of terror related suspects has boosted the number of Muslims locked up inside Supermax this Christmas alongside longer term inmates like serial killer Ivan Milat and double murderer Vester Fernando.
Daily Mail Australia can reveal that 37 high risk inmates will be spending the holiday season inside the prison and the increase in Islamic prisoners means there will be more call on the 'religious friendly' meal option on Friday's menu.
Although they are unlikely to be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, Supermax's newer inmates like teenager Raban Alou will find little comfort in the culinary nod to his religion.
Alou was locked up in October for allegedly supplying schoolboy Farhad Jabar, 15, with the gun that killed police accountant Curtis Cheng at Parramatta in western Sydney.
Supermax prison is a modern jail within the larger 19th century jail which lies on the edge of the town of Goulburn, 200km southwest of Sydney.
While Goulburn's main prison, where inmates are caged in open-air yards in a noisy and sometimes menacing rabble, the atmosphere inside Supermax is more like a hospital than a jail.
It feels clinical, and with dozens of the country's worst offenders behind the glass doors of their day rooms like animals in a zoo, it is creepy.
Alou is likely being held in Supermax's segregation area, 7 wing, where all fresh admissions are held as they get used to the high risk management prison's rules and restrictions.
Alou, who is spending his first Christmas inside after being charged with aiding, abetting, counselling and procuring the commission of a terrorist act, will be offered the Halal chicken with potatoes and mixed vegetables.
Muslim inmates can also opt for the vegetarian Christmas lunch option of a spinach and ricotta burger with potatoes and vegetables.
Prepared three days earlier by criminals in one of the state's four prison kitchens in Sydney and regional NSW, the meal will be reheated, placed on a trolley and given to Alou in his cell. For dessert, he will receive a fruit mince pie.
The food will have been precisely measured to be high on vitamins and minerals and low in harmful fat or salt rendering it, many inmates claim, completely tasteless.
After a year in which breaches at Goulburn prison have resulted in escapes, attempted escapes and the amassing of contraband such as mobile phones, security will be tight in Supermax where guards can only interact in pairs with inmates.
In the lead up to Christmas, Corrective Services usually instigates a pre-season crackdown with officers from a special anti-contraband force and dogs searching common areas of the prison to sniff out drugs.
At this time of year, these teams also step up searches of visitors who may try to bring illegal substances into prisons.
Searches unearth stashes of methadone, fruit to make 'jail brew', cannabis, pills, steroids, 'ice', mobile phones and SIM cards, weapons such as shivs made from filed toothbrushes, wood or metal, and other banned items tattoo guns and cigarettes.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.