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Monday, 25 June 2007
The Fourth of July
Topic: The holidays

 Summer is here, which means that the little part of the earth we toil, suffer and occasionally rejoice on is that much closer to the Great Ball of Nuclear Fission otherwise known as the merciless, all consuming god-of-skin cancers. The Sun.  

The Founding Fathers, men in stockings who drank bad coffee rather than tea (you decide which requires greater courage) could have picked a cooler month to make their grandly defiant statement about independence but no, they were in a hurry to tell the lemon-sucking British where to get off and so we’ve been stuck with  July fourth ever since. 

 I suppose they could have picked a worse day, like the twenty-fifth of December. Now that would have been confusing.

I hate to think of all the Christmas trees that would have been burned down by sparklers. But fireworks, however dangerous (like cigars and bad-tempered cats) have always fascinated me. I like to spend the day at my sister’s house. The neighbors shoot off fireworks that would scare a hardened arsonist. Bombs big enough to set off car alarms detonate. Sparks threaten rooftops and the air  thickens with smoke the color of burning paint. As the shock waves bounce from house to house  capillaries burst and eardrums consider rupturing.  No kidding, you would think it was either World War Three or George Bush liberating Temple City.  My wife hates it but I revel in the spectacle of fire arcing in the sky in delirious bursts of artistic chaos. But then I wonder, what are we really celebrating? That we’re free, were free or just nuts?  

 I’ve been helping a student of mine who wishes to take the GED test. In the social studies section of her textbook we read an article about immigration and how people flee their native country to escape poverty and oppression.    My student asked me what oppression is. I told her (relying on that vast storehouse of knowledge that has made me who I am today) that oppression is the loss of freedoms we take for granted. 

“For instance,” I said. “In Saudi Arabia we would be clobbered for doing what we’re doing now. Men and women who aren’t married or related to each other can’t be in the same room!”  Saudi Arabia is a land hot enough to melt M&Ms before they get in your mouth, and women there can’t vote or drive a Volvo. But then there is the Jinadriyah National Festival of folklore and culture, held every February, and I’ve been told that the climate is perfect for growing the most delicious dates; so we shouldn’t say that everything is bad over there.  

Still, the next time you watch a fireworks display or eat a barbecued chicken on Independence Day, consider what life is like without separation of church and state, without women’s rights; and then think about what you can do as a citizen to preserve your basic rights.  

Speak up for the Bill of Rights and drink bad coffee if you have to.   

Posted by james-hazard at 6:15 PM PDT
Updated: Monday, 25 June 2007 6:27 PM PDT
Friday, 15 December 2006
Christmas 2006
Topic: The holidays


The Holiday Season creeps up on you


even when you expect it, peeking around corners like a shy child, whispering words in your ear that remind you of stories woven in songs, tickling your nose with the memory of smells:  bread fresh from the oven, hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. .The weather slowly changes from dry cool to wet, windy cold; and it feels delicious to bundle up in thick clothes and walk over the large brown leaves that still cling to the sidewalk. The moon rides high in the sky but the sun stays low, a lamp flickering in the distance, held by a traveler who may not return. The year draws to an end like the last chapter of a good book. Sit in a quiet room, think about the story of your life, and you may almost feel the earth rotate beneath you like the seat of a comfortable rocking chair.


The green scent of pine, the delicate glitter of glass ornaments, ribbons gold and red and the taste of peppermint spun through a cane of sugar serve to soften all the harsh edges of winter, to remind us that our little collection of fears,    disappointments and tribulations are like dreams that pass in the night. When we awaken on the day we hold most special, the sun hangs a little higher in the sky, like a lamp held by a traveler who is returning from a long journey.


The promise of renewal and rebirth is in the air; and for a time that always seems too short, we may unselfconsciously wish to lead a better life, to hope for a better world, to love this troubled little existence of ours with all our heart.


Hanukah, Christmas or Winter Solstice-call it what you will, it is but a speck of sand in the hourglass; and we are still burdened with bills, never-ending work, worrisome news and the next illness that will knock us flat. Holidays don’t stop the world in its tracks. But behind all of the temporary decorations, over-priced presents, fake snow and mushy movies we may yet learn what the rituals have to teach. As you light the candles, sing the familiar songs, drink eggnog, exchange gifts and prepare the dinners, think of all the people in years past who did as we do now.  The sound of “Happy Holidays!” echoes through the centuries.


No matter where we are or how we live, for a precious few days we may feel part of the vast human family, past, present and future. And then we are no longer in a season; we are in eternity.


Peace on earth, good will toward everyone.

Posted by james-hazard at 3:06 PM PST
Updated: Monday, 23 June 2008 6:19 PM PDT

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