Well, today is a national holiday
and, as usual, almost nobody will wake up this morning wondering what exactly
it is that we are celebrating. Most people, me included, rarely question
anything. We just go about our daily lives and accept things as they are
without curiosity or wonder. A long time ago there was a holiday to celebrate
our first president but Congress, in its infinite wisdom, changed it so that
the festivities never fall on George Washington's birthday (February 22). Now
we are stuck with a holiday that has three distinct versions: President's Day,
Presidents' Day, and Presidents Day. I guess you are now free to choose
whichever one suits your fancy. Each version has an implication that begs the
question, “For who am I shopping this day of days, and do I really care?”
Since 1789 we have had 44 men, not
women, who have served as president of our union. You do wonder why anyone
would want to be president. It is one of those 24/7/365 jobs that are probably
more trouble than it is worth unless you desperately need to feel important.
The post has been filled with all kinds of people––men of great intellect, men
of limited vision, slave holders and haberdashers, soldiers and sailors,
aristocrats and common folk, authors and illiterates. One saved the union and
freed the slaves. Another rescued the nation from his wheelchair. Others
contributed nothing and emptied the treasury. Eight of them died in office, one resigned in
disgrace, and one, who appears to be an agent of a foreign power, is hanging on by a thread.
It is interesting that our founding
fathers made the job requirements so few and easy to fill. The president must
be 35 years of age, a natural born citizen, and a resident for 14 years. That’s
In my 50 years of teaching I have always been amused that my
students gleefully celebrate all kinds of holidays throughout the school year
often without having the slightest idea what they are celebrating. When I
taught summer session I always had to share the Declaration of Independence
with my charges because they had never read this extraordinary document of
audacious courage and valor.
Today is Columbus Day and we are parading and shopping in
celebration of a man who had no idea where he was going and, when he got there,
visited untold cruelty on the people he found there. However, he did open up
the New World to plunder and slavery and that is always good from an economic
standpoint that would probably sit well with our friends on Wall Street. The
Spanish have never had it so good. Talk about balance of trade!
What most people do not know is that the year 1492 is also
famous among the Jewish people because that is the year that good Queen
Isabella expelled them from Spain after they had lived there for almost 1500
years. It is entirely possible that Colon’s expedition was completely paid for
by the gold and silver that Isabella forcefully took from the departing
Hebrews. Now, Isabella did not start the problem for the alien Semites. By the
time she came along the Jews had been suffering mightily under Christian rule
for at least a century, but to be expelled without your worldly possessions is
a punishment visited on very few peoples throughout history. We are talking
about at least 200,000 people who were forced to leave or convert. Some of them
left with Colombo, or followed after him, and prospered in the New World so the
end result it was not entirely negative.
Just to put this all in perspective, expelling Jews was a
very popular European policy to which England, France, and Germany also subscribed.
It turns out that the Chosen People have not been very popular in most of the
locales where they settled. You only need to read The Merchant of Venice to get the idea. As the Old Testament tells
us, we wandered for forty years in the desert after the flight from bondage in
Egypt, and we have been wandering ever since. When the Romans expelled the Jews
from Judea in 70AD they started a diaspora that two millennia later recreated
the land of Israel much to the chagrin of the locals who had hoped they would
never return. It is no wonder they are still fighting each other for the past 70
As you can see, this whole Colombo thing is very complicated
and very dirty so I am, once again, suggesting that we call this day Explorers
Day, a celebration everybody can get behind because none of us have any idea
where we are going or what we will do when we get there, but we are all
adventurers in our individual lives. Incredibly, when I was a kid they used to
say that Columbus discovered America! They used to say silly stuff like that
because they figured without scholarship or education the unwashed would buy
whatever they were selling. Thankfully those days are gone…or are they?
Stephen Jablonsky. October 2018
Honoring Doctor King
Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and, since we are all
taking the day off from work thanks to him, it might just be appropriate to
stop for a moment to think about how he lived and why he died.
Every society needs people who, despite their own personal
shortcomings and foibles, are willing to make an effort to better the world they
inhabit. While his words were often inspiring, he walked the walk for equal
rights for all Americans, not just those who had tasted the bitter fruit of
slavery and oppression. He made a real effort to represent the needs of all
those who have been disenfranchised from the halls of power and are often the
forgotten ones when it comes to addressing the basic human right to nutritious food,
decent shelter, and good health care.
He also protested his country’s bloodlust and incessant need
for war mongering, and that was his undoing. His efforts were barely tolerated
by the international power brokers when what he fought for was just better wages
for garbage collectors, but, when his ability to mobilize his fellow citizens
for peace was clearly demonstrated, that was too much for those who stood to
profit from our ill-conceived, criminal escapade in Southeast Asia. Like the
two Kennedy brothers, who also threatened the profitability of the
Military-Industrial Complex, he needed to be removed. In all three murders an
innocent patsy was provided to cover up the deadly professionalism of an
American governmental agency that has issued its own license for madness and
mayhem in the name of national security. Their mission, over time, changed from
the gathering of intelligence to the overthrow of governments and the assassination
of heads of state. Their actions are those of a shadow government whose
sinister exploits are only palatable to the American public in the realm of
cinema. Unfortunately, we have
corporate-sponsored mass media that is loathe to report the truth when it
involves heinous deeds that are deemed unmentionable. Their deceit parallels
the information shell game that is perpetrated on an unsuspecting electorate by
a government that, for a very long time, has institutionalized the art of lying.
Let us no forget that Americans continue to be asked to
sacrifice their lives and fortunes to support our national addiction to
military conquest and world domination. Every time we pretend to better our
society we call it a war–the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, the War on
Poverty–or we go to war and give the endeavor an ironic, PR-tested title like
Operation Iraqi Freedom.
From one January to the next we need to honor Dr. King’s
memory by being ever vigilant and objecting to the home-grown lies and
injustices that prevent this country from fulfilling the dream its founders eloquently
penned so long ago and hoped one day would become a reality.
We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with
certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit
The men who founded this country wrote those words
for us to read today. Even though they could not establish an order that put
those sentiments into full effect then, they penned those principles as a standard
against which we could measure our actions as the country progressed through
the ages. In order to make America better we need citizens who have read the
Declaration of Independence and know about this country’s history since that
fateful day. Easily digestible sound bites, hot dogs, fireworks, and parades
are not enough. We all need to know of the sacrifices that have been made to
establish and maintain this vast republic of indigenous people, slaves, and endless
waves of immigrants. We need to be led by a president who is a true patriot,
providing liberty and justice for all.
sing God Bless America, fire up the grill, and chow down with those you cherish.
The Earth takes one whole
year to travel around the sun. The path it takes is known as an orbit. While it
travels in this orbit it is spinning. The spinning takes 24 hours and gives us
day and night. However, the Earth does not spin straight up and down. It is
tilted relative to the sun. Therefore, the length of the day changes throughout
the year. In the northern hemisphere the longest day of the year is June 21st
and is known as the summer solstice. On that day the tilt faces directly at the
sun. The shortest day of the year is December 21st and is known as the winter
solstice. On that day the tilt is farthest away from the sun. After that the
days get longer by one minute every day.
Cultures around the world
celebrate the winter solstice as the beginning of winter even though it can get
cold and snow in November. The summer solstice signals the beginning of summer
but, for many, Memorial Day in May is their official start. We also celebrate
March 20th as the beginning of spring. On that day we have what is called an equinox.
That is when the sun is directly above the equator at high noon. It is half way
between winter and summer and usually features flowers popping out of the
ground. The equinox happens again on September 23rd. That is the first day of
fall when many people celebrate the final harvest of the growing season.
Because the winter
solstice is a short day and gets dark early many cultures celebrate with
festive lights and candles. Although we do not know when Jesus was born, the
church fathers decided to make December 25th his official birthday early in the
fourth century. This was the date of the winter solstice in the old Roman
calendar. The way we celebrate Christmas (Christ's Mass) is a combination of
many European traditions. Things like Christmas trees, yule logs, and stockings
hung by the fireplace have nothing to do with Bet'lehem. That is the Israeli
town in Galilee where, according to the Gospels, little baby Jesus was born in
a manger, whatever that is.
The tradition of gift
giving has turned Christmas into the biggest economic engine of the year. In
America the shopping season begins the day after Thanksgiving. For some reason
that day is known as Black Friday. That is when almost everything goes on sale
and people do not pay retail prices. They take advantage of deep discounts
offered in stores and online. For cultures that know how to bargain, 15% is not
According to legend,
Santa Claus lives at the North Pole. That is where his workshop, populated by
elves, makes all the toys for good little boys and girls. Jesus, on the other hand, lived in the Middle
East where there were no Christmas trees, sleighs, or reindeer. Maybe those two
never met. Both individuals are legends that have, for many people, become
facts, although I recently saw Santa at my local mall taking selfies with kids
too little to know better. I never remember seeing Jesus at the mall.
Enjoy the holidays with
friends and family! ... and stay warm!!