Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday/Christmas Tree Tax/Shirts or Skins?/Religious Tolerance

Black Friday: The High Holiday of Capitalism

Well, here it is, Black Friday; the high holiday of Capitalism. Thanksgiving got the usual short thrift again this year, stuck as it is between the "Candyween" and
"CreditcardMas ". I guess I can't really blame anyone. After all, it's pretty tough trying to commercialize a tradition of giving thanks for family and friends. Where's the money in that? Besides, Thanksgiving is mostly a food oriented day, punctuated with excessive eating and football, followed by food induced comas (nothing says "thank you" to the All Mighty like overindulgence and a 7 point spread).

I guess what I object to the most is all the Christmas hype. This year I saw my very first commercial (I kid you not) the week before Halloween. Now seriously, in October? There should be a law prohibiting any promotion of a holiday before the preceding holiday. For example, no advertising of Thanksgiving (as if that's going to happen anyway) before Halloween. No Christmas commercials, TV specials, sales or anything else until the day after Thanksgiving. Now doesn't that make more sense? Let's give each holiday its proper due and respect (not to mention our frantic nerves and credit cards a break).

Money Growing on (Christmas) Trees?

Speaking of Christmas, did you hear the latest about Christmas trees? Obama had originally agreed to sign a law applying a 15 cent tax on every fresh cut Christmas tree sold. As if that wasn't outrageous enough, the reason was even more outrageous. According to the Agriculture Department, the tax would apply to all "producers and importers" of 500 trees or more. The USDA went on to say that this new program, and its tax was for the benefit of the Christmas Tree Promotion Board. Now just what is the Christmas Tree Promotion Board you might be asking yourself about now? Well, let me tell you.

The Christmas Tree Promotion Board is a private association of Christmas tree growers who are feeling the stiff competition from the manufactures of artificial Christmas trees (I wonder if there's an Artificial Christmas Tree Promotion Board?). Seems that the board was needing some help getting its message out about the splendors (and smells) of having a fresh Christmas tree in every living room in America. Apparently unable to obtain voluntary cooperation from within the group, they turned to the USDA.

However, after much ridicule, both the Obama Administration and the Agriculture Department agreed that now wasn't a really good time talk about taxing a Christmas tradition and withdrew the program until a more appropriate time (like when the public isn't paying as much attention). Now, just why the federal government is even considering a tax on behalf of a private organization for the benefit of their advertising and PR costs is beyond me. I can only assume that Hannukah bushes are exempt.

For more on the story, check out:

White House Sidelines Christmas Tree Tax

Shirts or Skins?

America, The Land of Free and Home of the Brave right? Well, maybe not. This past May 5, 2011, the Morgan Hill United School District near San Francisco decided to promote the Hispanic heritage (May 5th is the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo). However, some students decided to wear shirts celebrating America. Now, a reasonable person would see no problem with this. However, the principal of Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill ordered those students to either go home and changes shirts or turn their shirts depicting the American flag inside out. As you would expect, a ruckus ensued and the matter went to court.

The previous year there had been some taunts over articles of clothing by both Hispanic and non-Hispanic students. A Mexican flag was hoisted over an American flag. It was shortly taken down by "Anglo" students amid chants of "USA", but it seems that the point was made.

This year, it was decided to honor Hispanic heritage by encouaging Hispanic student to take an extra bit of pride by wearing articles of clothing while the school system modified its curriculum south of the border and even the school cafeterias got into the act with a Hispanic cuisine (if you can call school lunches "cuisine"). The school ordered the offending "Anglo" students to change out of concern that their shirts would result in possible violence while the parent's of those students argued 1st Amendment rights.

Federal District Judge James Ware agreed with the school system that the non-Hispanic students didn't have a right to wear articles of clothing reflecting America, nor by extension, reframe from participating in programs prompting Hispanic culture. The decision is being appealed.

Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday celebrating a victory of outnumbered Mexican forces over a larger and better equipped Imperial French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The chief signifcance of the battle was a major moral boost to the beliggered Mexians trying to purge themselves of the French and preventing the French from extending their support of the Confedercy during the early days of the Civil War (The French, under Emperor Napoleon III was attempting to create a Latin Empire and at the same time supported a divided America. If successful, the French would be able to lay claim to much of the southwest territories. As an aside, the English and the Vatican also supported the cause of the South).

There can be no arguing that Cinco de Mayo is, albeit indirectly, tired to US history. It was certainally a victory for national freedom. However, there can equally be no argument that events in 1848 Germany or the Louisana Purchase from France or Alaska from Russia were just as important events to this country. Indeed, more so. The same came be said for over events such as the British attmept to starve the Irish off their land and the resulting Irish Famine immigration. The point is that we are a multi-culturial nation and we each have a reason to be proud of our ethnic hertitage. But, we've come to this land to "form a more perfect union" as a united people with a common language, traditions, and values. To acknowledge a certain ethnic hertitage is fine in my opinion so far as it does not do so at the exclusion of other ethnic groups. To punish students for expressing their common hertiage as Americans is wrong by any measure. Might there be taunts or even violence? Yes, it's possible. However, what's at stake here is two fold. First, that no ethnic group is above another. All must submit itself to an identity as Americans. Second is the fundimental right of self expression as guarenteed under the Bill of Rights. That one group would be offended demonstrates that more time needs to be spent on American history.

To learn more, check out these two articles:

Court Backs High Schools in Flap Over American Flag T-Shirts

Court backs Morgan Hill school in flag dispute

Just How Much Religious Tolerance Are We Talking About?

Finally, I just had to tell you about this one. Moslems attending Catholic University in Washington DC are miffed that there are crosses on the campus. So miffed in fact, that a lawsuit was filed. Moslem students are citing a violation of their human rights, and alleging that the university will not allow them to form a student association, provide rooms without Christian symbols or provide Halal meals. They allege that they are forced to prayed amid Christian crosses, icons, and pictures.

The university said it had no objection to the forming of a Moslem student association, acknowledging that there is a Jewish student association on campus, and it has been as accommodating as possible, but does not offer specially prepared meals.

The absurdity of this is almost comical if it wasn't so illustrative of what is happening in this country. If you don't want to be around Jewish or Hindu or Christian or Moslem religious symbolism, then don't go there. While they may not have a choice in their home countries, this nation offers individuals the choice of where they can attend school. Although I am not Catholic, I opted to attend Catholic universities for my undergraduate and graduate degrees because of the quality of education I knew I would receive. If I though I would have an issue with priests or nuns (or the required religious curriculum) I would have opted for another school, but I was open to learning about another faith and getting a top tier education to boot.

My suggestion to these students is either suck it up and get on with their education from an outstanding university or go elsewhere. I'm sure the same accommodations already afforded them wouldn't be afforded non-Moslem students in their home countries. Be grateful you're in America.

Here's the article:

Do Crosses at Catholic University Violate "Human Rights" of Muslims?

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