Monday, December 16, 2013

Reindeer Games

Zwarte Piet
Here are the latest dispatches from the front in the War on Christmas. Another of Fox News' soulless talking blond provocateurs, Megyn Kelly, found her own little hot spot in the frigid northeast snow after her pronouncement last week that both Santa and Jesus were white. While discussing an article written by Slate's Aisha Harris which called for a more inclusive image of kindly Kris Kringle, and described her childhood confusion of seeing a white Santa in the shopping mall and a black Santa in her home, Megyn Kelly said, "this is yet another person claiming it's racist to have a white Santa." Then, attempting a humorous aside for all the world's children who may have been tuned in to The Kelly Files, she added, "by the way for all you kids watching at home, Santa is white but this person is just arguing that maybe we should also have a black Santa." While her panel of white experts looked on in amused fascination, Kelly injected, "Jesus was a white man too. He was a historical figure, that's a verifiable fact," then adding with a wink, "as is Santa. I just wanted you kids to know that." Not knowing when to stop digging, Kelly concluded her Santa diatribe by asking the eternal question, "How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy of the story, and just change Santa from white to black?" After enduring a firestorm of media ridicule, Kelly, who has a law degree, blamed the "liberal press" for "race-baiting." Kelly's remarks are so dumb on so many levels, it's hard to know where to begin, but she has yet to realize that her views reflect a certain smug, white entitlement that gives other Caucasoids a bad name.

St. Nicholas, the patron saint of thieves, prostitutes, sailors, and children, is where the Santa Claus story begins. Nicholas, or Nikolaos, was a fourth century Greek Bishop of Lycia, in what is now modern day Turkey. Known for his generosity to children and the poor, Nicholas may well have been an oily-skinned, Mediterranean man reeking of garlic and feta cheese. A fifteenth century Russian icon in the Swedish National Museum pictures St. Nicholas as a black man. The Westernized version of Santa begins with the Dutch legend of Sinterklaas, who parallels Odin, a major god among the Germanic people. It seems that the white bearded Sinterklaas brings gifts to children on his feast day accompanied by his posse of mischievous helpers with black faces known as "Zwarte Piet," literally translated, "Black Peters,"- Megyn Kelly's worst nightmare.  In the middle ages, the feast day of Sinterklaas, December 6th, was known for mass displays of public drunkenness. Today, Sinterklaas doesn't arrive in Holland in a sleigh, but on a steamboat from Spain, every year in mid-November for your visual entertainment. Sinterklaas was eventually merged with the swarthy St. Nicholas and England's Father Christmas to bring us the jolly Santa we have come to know.

The white Santa didn't emerge until 1881 with a Thomas Nast illustration of Clement Moore's immortal poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," or what is currently known as "The Night Before Christmas." In Moore's poem, old St. Nick is depicted as a morbidly obese, red-suited man with red-cheeks and proboscis gin blossoms, probably indicating a drinking problem, who forces miniature, "tiny," reindeer to haul his fat ass through the snow. If such a man appeared committing these acts during daylight hours, the A.S.P.C.A. would have him arrested for cruelty, especially to poor Rudolph, who wasn't allowed to join in the reindeer games, a bi-ennial, arctic caribou athletic competition. And if Santa is from the North Pole, either he's the only white man there, or he's an indigenous Inuit, an Alaskan people who crossed a land bridge from Asia in the first century AD, known for their high suicide rate- I guess because Eskimo elves are hard to find and Santa only pays minimum wage. This would likewise make Mrs. Claus an Inuit, whose diet consists of fish and caribou. Now we know what happens to the reindeer that can't cut it anymore.

As for Megyn Kelly's "verifiable fact" that Jesus was white- I'm certain that He is on the blue-eyed picture on her wall, but that is in conflict with historical and geographical certainties. We know that Jesus was a Semite, born in Judea, and appeared among his contemporaries as one of them. This means that He was likely a dark-skinned man with curly black hair and facial features typical of the Semitic people of the time- or what some lesser informed individuals once referred to as "Jewish looking." If Jesus sat next to Megyn Kelly in an airport, she would likely report Him to the TSA as a terrorist. Yet Kelly remains oblivious to the heart of the contention that white people should dictate the appearance of what non-whites should revere. It's an extension of the "we want our country back" mentality that has permeated the Tea Party-driven Republican agenda and their propaganda arm, the Fox News Network. In Kelly's world, allowing an ethnic group other than her own a different interpretation of the appearance of a fictional character is an act of inclusion that is simply beyond her comprehension. The renowned, twentieth-century, western philosopher Frank Zappa once said in his 1966 song Trouble Every  Day, "Hey, you know something people? I'm not black, but there's a whole lots a times I wish I could say I'm not white." 

Monday, December 02, 2013

The Pope Is Dope

Although I am not a Catholic, I survived Catholic school, where I learned a thing or two about a Pope or two. So, I can say with all sincerity that the new Pope is dope. My papal-span is like an arc, beginning with Pius XII, who was sometimes referred to as "Hitler's Pope," and ending with Benedict XVI, formerly Joseph Ratzinger, Jr. of the Hitler Youth and the Nazi infantry. The resigned Pope's father, Joseph Ratzinger, Sr., was a member of the Nazi "Order-Police," under the control of the SS, an inconvenient fact that was whitewashed from Pope Benedict's Wikipedia bio. I guess Benedict took his red Prada shoes of the fisherman into retirement with him since Pope Francis would never tolerate such a display of personal vanity. In his short tenure as Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis has given the faithful so much change and hope for the future, he should be called the Barack Obama of Catholicism.

Pope Francis was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio on Dec. 17, 1936. I believe that any Pope who shares my birthday must be destined for greatness. Now I have someone to brag about who was born on the same day as I was besides such Catholic luminaries as Manny Pacquiao, Bob Guccione, and Chris Mathews. It's no coincidence that the new Pope took the name Francis. Born in Buenos Aires, which has one of the largest concentrations of poor of any major city in the world, the new Pope is named for Francis of Assisi, the saint mostly known for his concern for the well being of the poor. Pope Francis has stated that he will remain in the Vatican guesthouse rather than live in the apostolic Palace and he will motor around Vatican City in a 1984 Renault with 186,000 miles on the speedometer. I'm certain the Vatican's guesthouses are nice digs, but it takes discipline to refuse the Palace. Most startling of all was the manifesto written by the Pope last August and released last week.  The 224 page "apostolic exhortation," is called the Joy of Gospel, and though it was mainly written as instruction for priests and pastoral workers, Vatican correspondent John L. Allen wrote in The Catholic Reporter that the work "amounts to Francis' 'I Have a Dream' speech." While adhering to basic Catholic tenets, Francis' populist views, according to Charles Camosy of Fordham University, "would likely be considered too liberal for a prime-time speaking slot at the 2016 DNC convention,"

Of course, Americans of a certain political bent have rejected the Pope's message as radical leftist propaganda. Famous Christian thinker Sarah Palin reared her ugly head to declare the Pope as far too liberal. Other politicians have had so many running commentaries that differ with the Pontiff, I thought it might be fun to compare some quotes:

"Some people continue to defend trickle-down economic theories that place a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power."  Pope Francis
"The supply-side claim is not a claim. It is empirically true and historically convincing that with lower rates of taxation on labor and capital, the factors of production, you’ll get a bigger economy." Former Vice Presidential candidate Jack Kemp

"Justice requires...mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income." Pope Francis
"I know there are some who believe that if you simply take from some and give to others then we’ll all be better off. It’s known as redistribution. It’s never been a characteristic of America."  Mitt Romney

"It is vital that government leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education, and healthcare." Pope Francis
"And what is Obamacare? It is a law as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that allowed slave owners to come to New Hampshire and seize African Americans and use the federal courts to take them back to federal… to slave states.”  New Hampshire State Representative Bill O'Brien

"The Church has no wish to hold back the marvelous progress of science. On the contrary, she rejoices and even delights in acknowledging the enormous potential that God has given to the human mind."  Pope Francis
"All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell."  Georgia Rep. Paul Broun

"Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape."  Pope Francis
"You can't help those who simply will not be helped. One problem that we've had, even in the best of times, is people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice."  Ronald Reagan

"I exhort all countries to a generous openness which, rather than fearing the loss of local identity, will prove capable of creating new forms of cultural synthesis."  Pope Francis
"Just build the damn fence." Senator John McCain

It's so refreshing to hear the Pope say, "We have to state without mincing words that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor." Francis expounded that there could be "no solution" to the world's ills until "the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality." This stuff is enough to make a free-market capitalist's head explode. "I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor." Oh oh. The Pontiff just took out the entire Republican Congressional Caucus. Pope Francis' message appears to be resonating. His favorability rating among Catholics is almost 80 percent and lapsed members are returning to their churches with a renewed commitment. It's incredible what one dedicated man can do to restore faith to a disillusioned people. Just ask Jesus.