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Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

On Independence Day, with Help from a Founding Mother

Monday, July 4th, 2011

“In the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could.”

Abigail Adams, letter to John Adams, then in Philadelphia, March 31, 1776

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On holidays we like to take a break from our often critical attitude about “what fresh hell” is breaking forth and to say something affirmative about the meaning of the day and why it is celebrated.

Everyone knows that the Fourth of July, which we prefer to think of as Independence Day, celebrates the new United States of America’s (declaration of) independence from Britain. This is true, and this is good.

But, today, after reading that the median pay for a CEO of the top 200 corporations in the U.S. is $10.9 million—$10.9 million for a single individual—up 23% since 2009 (how many jobs could that money create when the unemployment rate has exceeded 9% since May 2009, with at least 15 million lacking any job at all?) . . . and knowing that Congress in its wisdom recently extended the reduced (35%) rate of taxation for those millionaires (rather than let it return to 39%), a reduced taxation that continues for the 10th year to starve the national treasury of desperately needed revenues . . . and while as a related result “leaders” of a purportedly serious and fiscally responsible political party insist in budget deficit talks that revenue increases of any kind are “off the table” . . . Then we have to ask what freedom and what liberty do the ordinary people of this nation have anymore?

Are we the people free from corporate dominion? Are the press and the airwaves free? Are the 15+ million unemployed free to work and earn a living wage? Are the young graduates of our schools free to find jobs worthy of their skills and intelligence? Are workers free to negotiate with employers about their wages and working conditions? Are we citizens free to see a substantial portion of our tax dollars go to education and social safety net programs like health care assistance and Social Security? Are we free to say that the tax dollars we’re compelled to pay will not go to the wars that a majority of the population wants to end? Are women free to determine their own reproductive choices without shame or criminal prosecution? Are their doctors free to advise them simply on the basis of medical science?

Truly it seems that a different form of servitude—or maybe there’s another word for it—has taken hold of this country while a hypnotized, narcotized, War-on-Terror-ized populace is reminded constantly of “our freedoms.” Would these be the same freedoms for which American soldiers who can’t find a job anywhere else are sent to fight in tour after tour of duty in three simultaneous wars, then are brought home, if not in a box, to fend for themselves for jobs and health care?

Just askin’.

But on a more positive note, which we really do want to strike: We do sincerely tip our hats (we wear several) to salute those brave patriots of the Revolutionary War, and to the Founding Fathers who composed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States—but also to the Founding Mothers we rarely hear about, such as Abigail Smith Adams (1744–1818), aka Mrs. John Adams.

Particularly in a year that has seen, “from sea to shining sea,” systematic and relentless efforts by state and federal legislatures to strip away the rights of workers and voters, and rape-like assaults on women’s reproductive freedoms—and when a couple of women are campaigning for the presidency even though they appear not to believe in the idea of governing, or of learning—some passages from the wise Mrs. Adams are worth pondering, and practicing, enacting.

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St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans: Celtic Carnival

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

Before we write a disapproving piece about the assault on Libya, we want to share a few cheerful views of the St. Patrick’s Day parade we enjoyed from beginning to end on Thursday in Marigny and the French Quarter. (See photos after the jump.) We were not in New Orleans for Mardi Gras this year, so this was a welcome taste of Carnival, though of a more Celtic complexion. The Irish in and around New Orleans can’t settle for just one St. Patrick’s Day parade: we count at least a half dozen. The big one was on Saturday the 12th in the Irish Channel, with the throws including not only beads and cups but cabbages and potatoes. The one we saw on Thursday night in Marigny was the Downtown Irish Club Parade.

It says something about this parade—and about New Orleans—that it originated at a bar called Bud Rip’s Old 9th Ward Bar on the corner of Piety and Burgundy.

During this “Celtic Carnival” season, any lenten fasting or penitence is set aside. Mardi Gras is followed by Ash Wednesday, so by the liturgical calendar (most Irish we know are adherents of a religion that observes this calendar) we are in the season of Lent, a period of 40 days’ fasting before Easter. But . . . everything in moderation.

Before the photos, a few words about Patrick (c. 390–461?), the patron saint of Ireland. He was born in Britain but at about age 16 was seized into slavery by Irish raiders; he was a herdsman for six years until he was able to make his way back to Britain. His work as a missionary among the Irish followed a dream in which he was called to return to Ireland. A description from the Oxford Dictionary of Saints shows an admirable figure well worth emulating:

Although he had little learning and less rhetoric, Patrick had sincere simplicity and deep pastoral care. He was concerned with abolishing paganism, idolatry, and sun-worship; he made no distinction of classes in his preaching. . . . One of the traits which he retained as an old man was a consciousness of his being an unlearned exile and formerly a slave and fugitive, who learnt to trust completely in God.

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Staging area, Royal Street & Elysian Fields Avenue

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Happy Mardi Gras 2011

Monday, March 7th, 2011


“To many New Orleanians, Mardi Gras is not just the day itself, but the season leading up to it. . . . In the two weeks before Fat Tuesday these [Mardi Gras] krewes throw their famous parades. Every night, people from every class and neighborhood make plans to meet “at Bacchus” or for Endymion . . . , picking a corner to meet, bringing food and drinks in coolers, and often ladders with specially constructed boxes on top in which children sit to catch the beads and trinkets that spew from the parade floats like water from the fountain of life itself.” —Tom Piazza, Why New Orleans Matters (pp. 97–98)

When the cares of this world grow too heavy, we all need a break from the ordinary, and that is why we have Carnival. And this festive season, which begins at Epiphany and whose climax is Mardi Gras (this year Tuesday, March 8), is a big part of the reason why this blog cares so much about the health and well-being of New Orleans: the city, its people, and its culture. It’s the City That Care Forgot, but also a place that has lately seen too much to worry about (thanks most recently to a company called BP).

But we won’t dwell on the cares just now—that’s what Carnival is for. It’s also for making fun of hardships and folly, flipping ’em around jujitsu-like with a sense of humor, satire, absurdity. Sometimes it’s the only way to deal. Let it go for a while. Lighten up.  The ancient Greeks and Romans, with their bacchanalias and Lupercalia (Carnival’s deep-historical origins), understood that if you don’t cut loose from time to time with a little madness here and there, you get hit with the big madness, the kind that doesn’t go away. Therefore . . .

To all our friends in and around Louisiana, to all who “Be a New Orleanian, Wherever You Are”—we wish a lively and frolicsome Mardi Gras, a celebration of life, humor, imagination, and letting the good times roll, everybody all together.

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“It is rare indeed to have every, or almost every, citizen in a city tuned to the same channel at the same time. Everyone agrees to have a day, the same day, in which no one can be certain what is going to happen. People light out in the morning, often wearing masks or costumes that advance an alternate persona for themselves. They may have certain stops that they know they will want to make, but they are also open to the fact that the winds of the day may lead them elsewhere, and that that is part of the point of it all. One submits to the multifarious flow of chance and felicity, of music and motion.” —Why New Orleans Matters (pp. 98–99)

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Now Entering 2011: Wishes + Promises for the New Year

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

“Here and now I want to make myself clear about those who disparage their fellow citizens on the relief rolls. They say that those on relief are not merely jobless—that they are worthless. Their solution for the relief problem is to end relief—to purge the rolls by starvation. To use the language of the stock broker, our needy unemployed would be care for when, as, and if, some fairy godmother should happen on the scene.

“You and I will continue to refuse to accept that estimate of our unemployed fellow Americans. Your Government is still on the same side of the street with the Good Samaritan and not with those who pass by on the other side.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, draft of “New Deal” speech accepting Democratic party nomination (1932); facsimile in When Art Worked: The New Deal, Art, and Democracy (Rizzoli, 2009), p. 20

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We wish you our readers a good new year in 2011: good luck, steady employment, safe travels, fun with family, and all those good things. We also wish for all a government both at the local and state level and at the national level that takes care of its people—particularly the poor and powerless. This is never the “given,” but the ideal we strive for.

Just as FDR in July 1932 pledged to the nation “a new deal for the American people” (see below), we on a much more modest level promise persistent efforts to push public officials to protect the people, the land, the nation with investments in infrastructure, environmental stewardship, public health and education programs, and so on—and to end the wars that are wasting our nation’s energies and resources, especially our human resources. (Yes, we have our work cut our for us, but we’re not alone.)

“We Must Rebuild Our Strength Here at Home”

So much remains to be done. As ever, we hold that “National Security Begins at Home.” We believe that deep down our president understands this, but he is pushed and driven by powerful forces insisting on War Forever. As Obama said at West Point in December 2009, “we must rebuild our strength here at home . . . . the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.” We’re not sure how sincerely he meant that—or his semi-pledge to draw down troops from Afghanistan in July 2011—but we mean to hold him to his words.

We also mean to support the president when we can (actively, vocally), to give him the progressive backing to be all he can be. We want to help him because the opposition he’ll be facing in the new 112th Congress is likely to be incessant, poisonous, and directly opposed to the humane ideals that the Democratic Party at its best represents—values expressed above by President Roosevelt and stated eloquently the official version of his nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in July 1932:

As we enter this new battle, let us keep always present with us some of the ideals of the Party: The fact that the Democratic Party by tradition and by the continuing logic of history, past and present, is the bearer of liberalism and of progress and at the same time of safety to our institutions. And if this appeal fails, remember well, my friends, that a resentment against the failure of Republican leadership . . . to solve our troubles may degenerate into unreasoning radicalism. . . .

What do the people of America want more than anything else? To my mind, they want two things: work, with all the moral and spiritual values that go with it; and with work, a reasonable measure of security–security for themselves and for their wives and children. Work and security—these are more than words. They are more than facts. They are the spiritual values, the true goal toward which our efforts of reconstruction should lead. . . .

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A Christmas Greeting and Good Wishes

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

In a year that has held good tidings and ill—the usual ingredients with some new and sometimes startling arrangements . . .

We want to take a moment from our Christmas celebrations to wish you and your family and friends a good and cheerful holiday season. We wish you safe and smooth travels wherever you go, and good food and drink and fellowship as you gather with loved ones.

As ever, we pray especially for our fellow Louisianans and Gulf Coast neighbors displaced by the hurricanes and this year’s oil flood, and especially those lost to Hurricane Katrina. We wish them well, we honor the memory of those who are no longer with us, and we hope that others on higher and drier land will continue to remember them too—particularly those with the wealth and political power to lend a hand. (Heartfelt gratitude to generous volunteers everywhere.)

We think also of the men and women in uniform in the endless wars overseas, and those who are posted at over a hundred military bases around the world, and sailing the seven seas, keeping watch for the empire. We wish them safety, some warm fellowship around the mess hall and campfire, and hope they’ll be able to come home soon, safely, to their families.

To all of you we wish a good and healthful new year, a measure of prosperity and good luck with work (finding it or keeping it), endurance through the struggles to come, and some hope and good cheer because the hard times don’t appear likely to end in 2011. But we’ll be there with you in spirit and in action for the work to be done to make this a better, safer world, for humans and other living things.

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Previous years’ Christmas and New Year’s wishes can be found here, here, and here. These wishes we still pray for, and continue to work for.

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Dee-licious crawfish wreath designed by our friends at Dirty Coast. Visit their store at 5631 Magazine Street, New Orleans.



Warm Thanksgiving Wishes to You and All

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

First we’d like to extend a simple, sincere wish for our readers and their families, and all their friends and communities: good food, good health, pleasant company, maybe a few drinks in good fellowship, and better prospects for the days ahead.

As we gather around tables filled with good warm food let us not forget the unemployed, the poor and the homeless, the soldiers and sailors far from home toiling in danger and unimaginable stress. And let’s be thankful for the many volunteers who serve food to the hungry and help veterans and military families, those who care for the sick and the wounded, and let’s give what we can to support their generosity.

What are we thankful for this Thanksgiving Day? Admittedly this time ’round a long list does not spring instantly to mind. But with a little imagination and effort we find that as usual there’s more to be grateful for than first meets the eye. AlterNet lists “8 Things Progressives Can Be Thankful For.” A list published by New Deal 2.0 of “What 20 Leading Progressives Are Thankful For” yields a mostly disappointing collection of gripes disguised as gratitude. They’re clearly not in the mood. Understandably.

We can do better. We’re thankful for the often unsung efforts of many writers, reporters, bloggers, activists, and organizers who get out there and dig into what’s going on and spread the word and mobilize efforts to promote the good and oppose the bad. (Specific example: the bloggers, writers, activists, and just good people who attend the annual Rising Tide conference in New Orleans every August 29 or so, on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.)

After the midterm shellacking we posted a long list of positive, public-friendly legislation (thanks to The Rachel Maddow Show) that the Democrats in the 111th Congress accomplished but forgot to tell the public about before the election. We’re thankful for these laws and reforms—including the infrastructure-friendly Stimulus—and we will keep pushing for more like them, although our hopes are not high for the next Congress.

We’re grateful too that despite all the setbacks public and private—and in some cases prompted by adversity—the human spirit prevails, the determination to endure and improve. Although some despair, thousands, millions of individuals are not giving up. Instead they’re working harder, trying new approaches, helping others, volunteering in often small, modest, invisible but effective ways to make this a better nation, a better world. We’re with you.

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Declare Independence from Endless War

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam,” Riverside Church, New York City, April 4, 1967

While we’re enjoying good old-fashioned 4th of July cookouts, fireworks, and other traditional Independence Day pleasures, let’s also take some time to remember the soldiers far away in Iraq and Afghanistan who are not with their families, as well as those who are recovering (we hope) in military hospitals, and let’s begin mentally drafting letters and phone call messages to the White House and Congress to demand the nation’s independence from those unaffordable wars. Bring the troops home already. We can’t wait until July 2011, which Obama suggested as a potential beginning of a drawdown when he announced the 30,000-troop escalation at West Point last December when the Afghan war was already in its eighth year. (See our assessment of the president’s decision to escalate, “Deeper into Afghanistan: 360 Degrees of Damnation.”)

The explosive revelations in Michael Hastings’s Rolling Stone article “The Runaway General” were only superficially about Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s trash-talking Obama’s national security team. It may be that in the long term the most damaging consequences will be the revelations that the troops in Afghanistan do not support the vaunted counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy for which the additional 30,000+ troops have been “surged” into the hell-hole, and even McChrystal himself has doubts that the COIN strategy can work there (see “Afghanistan: More Insane Than a Quagmire” below). We expect no substantial changes under Gen. David Petraeus, whose 99–o approval by the Senate on June 30 can only be interpreted as a license to do as he will, for as long as he pleases, whatever it may cost.

Costs of War: Unaffordable, Unsustainable, Unconscionable

This past week, when Senate Republicans and Ben Nelson (D-NE) warmed up the nation for the 4th of July festivities by filibustering for a third straight time an extension of unemployment benefits for millions of jobless Americans—15 million are out of work, about the number who were unemployed when Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933—the House approved $80 billion for Afghan war funding. Sounds just like the Bush years. The Center for American Progress reports that “as of July 3, an estimated 1.7 million workers will lose their benefits. If this drags on through July, a total of 3.2 million workers will lose their benefits.”

Think Progress reports that 17 senators from states with double-digit jobless rates have repeatedly voted to filibuster unemployment benefits. Click the chart to read all about it.

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Mardi Gras, Lombardi Gras

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

This is a Carnival where you don’t have to say “Happy Mardi Gras” (tho’ we do, anyway)—it simply is a happy Mardi Gras, and everyone’s been in a crazy happy zone for weeks. People are changing their middle names to WhoDat. Maybe it’s ’cause “Breesus Saves,” and the rest of the Saints do, too. And “Hey Shockey Way.” And then too there’s a palpable relief that a popular new mayor has been elected to bring in energy and action where lethargy, passivity, absentia in officio, and lame excuses have held sway for lo these many years.

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One of our writers penned a history of Mardi Gras for a Macmillan encyclopedia a few years ago while living in Mid-City and bouncing between the parades of the Krewe du VieuxIsisEndymion, Bacchus, Orpheus, and the Society of Saint Anne parade through Bywater into the Quarter on Mardi Gras day . . . Here are some excerpts from that article:

Mardi Gras . . . which many assume is a one-day event, has roots deep in pagan rites of ancient Greece, and is the “climax day” of a whole season of festivities—balls, parties, parades—that begins on Twelfth Night, or Epiphany (also known as January 6). Although the festival is most commonly associated with the Crescent City, the first American Mardi Gras was celebrated in Mobile, in present-day Alabama, in the 1830s (except it was really New Year’s Eve). . . .

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