The Season of Consumerism

If Jesus were still alive today, he’d be a Buddhist.

I mean, think about it. Was Jesus a consumer? Did he long for the things that people consider symbols of high status? Did he care for status at all, or did he live as a simple man who needed for only the simple things. Wasn’t his point that life is more than the little things? “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?” – Matthew 16:26. Look at me, I can quote Bible verses too. I guess I seem to understand this, and I’m an agnostic.

So where did this idea come from that the so-called celebration of the birth of Jesus meant buying things? Campaigns have begun to urge Americans to spend more money in order to bolster the economy. “Go out and spend your hard-earned money on gifts for the people you love. It’s what has to be done to make them love you more. And to save our country.” But I guarantee this: If you spend less this Christmas season, the people who mean anything to you won’t stop loving you.

It seems like the consumer drive is getting worse every year. In the 90’s, the fad was Tickle-Me Elmo, or even Furby, and people charged stores and trampled people, leaving them with bruises and broken bones, to get to the idols of desire. This year, it killed someone.

A Wal-Mart worker was killed Friday after “out-of-control” shoppers desperate for bargains broke down the doors at a 5 a.m. sale. Other workers were trampled as they tried to rescue the man, and customers shouted angrily and kept shopping when store officials said they were closing because of the death, police and witnesses said.

At least four other people, including a woman eight months pregnant, were taken to hospitals for observation or minor injuries, and the store in Valley Stream on Long Island was closed for several hours.

Nassau County police said about 2,000 people were gathered outside the store doors. The impatient crowd knocked the man, identified by police as Jdimytai Damour of Queens, to the ground as he opened the doors, leaving a metal portion of the frame crumpled like an accordion.

Dozens of store employees trying to fight their way out to help the man were also getting trampled by the crowd, said police spokesman Lt. Michael Fleming said.

Witnesses said that even as the worker lay on the ground, shoppers streamed into the store, stepping over the 34-year-old man.

It’s old news, I know, but it’s important. It says something so dire about our society. When the deals and the shopping mean more than the lives of the people around us, we have to reevaluate our priorities. People who have families and friends who love them and need them. In the idiomatic “God’s country,” it would seem that the people who follow the teachings of Christ have strayed very far from the ideals of a simple carpenter from two millenia ago.

Where does the gift-giving tradition come from? It could be related to the Magi, but more likely comes out of the traditions of pagan religions, such as in the Roman festival of Saturnalia. Overall, the base concept of Christmas is that of giving, of charity and goodwill toward loved ones and those who are in need. It has evolved into the materialism we see these days because it is much faster and easier to go out and buy something to give to someone else. Not that I’m saying consumerism is such a horrible thing, but as all things it should be done in moderation. We need to remember the season of goodwill and practice charity. Even for those of us who do not prescribe to a certain religion, or those of us who do not celebrate Christmas, the concept of charity and giving is something we can all accept. When people focus so highly on the buying part of the holiday, the meaning becomes diluted.

Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” – Buddha

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Bachmann: An Urban Legend?

It looks like perennial gaffe-happy U.S. Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) is at it again. Her appearance on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews in which she made comments suggesting the anti-American beliefs of now President-Elect Obama and other members of Congress and offering that soneone should launch an inquest into these beliefs (à la Joseph McCarthy), now apparently didn’t happen.

MINNEAPOLIS — Rep. Michele Bachmann has a new explanation for media accounts about comments that she made on cable TV suggesting that Barack Obama and other members of Congress might be “anti-American.”

She’s calling them an “urban legend.”

The Minnesota Republican appeared Tuesday night on Fox News’ show with Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes. Colmes, the show’s resident liberal, read a transcript of Bachmann’s quote from her appearance on Chris Matthews'”Hardball” show on MSNBC before the election. Colmes also offered to have her watch the video of her remarks. But the segment ended before Bachmann could fully respond

From Rochester’s Post-Bulletin

I guess she really does exist in her own little world. I’m still reeling that she actually managed to be re-elected, and I mostly attribute it to her false claims concerning the past of Elwyn Tinklenberg. So now we have another two years to see what she’ll do next. Let’s hope that if she manages something dangerous enough, we can pull her from her seat or at least convince congress to censure her.

Proposition 8 Ramblings

I figured I’d preface this post with Keith Olbermann, who said it best. As you likely have heard, proposition 8 in California passed. It is:

a California State ballot proposition that amended the state Constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. It overrode a decision of the California Supreme Court from earlier in the year, In re Marriage Cases, that had recognized same-sex marriage in California as a fundamental right by overturning the California Defense of Marriage Act. The official ballot title language for Proposition 8 was “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry.” The entirety of the text to be added to the constitution is: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

From Wiki

I’ll warn you in advance that this post will be rather disjointed, since I have several somewhat related points to discuss. I’m really surprised that a state as liberally minded as California could pass such an amendment. I suppose my comprehension of this is a bit skewed since I cannot see why the idea of same-sex marriage is so disturbing to people. Its not as if anyone is being forced to marry someone of the same sex. In fact, this is the business of those choosing to be married and not affecting anyone else. This ties in with abortion in that it is the conservatives, who constantly talk about the government keeping out of other’s lives, wanting the government to check personal choices. Apparently the libertarian thinking relates only to money and the like.

Regardless, there were some interesting statistics involved in the vote:

ABC News exit polls found that blacks voted in support of Prop 8 and to ban gay marriage by heavier margins than other ethnic groups. The exit polls indicated that 70 percent of black voters supported Prop 8, while 49 percent of whites and Asian Americans voted for it and 53 percent of Latinos supported the ban.

I found this to be the most interesting. The fact that people who fought so hard for civil rights in this country, who saw an African American rise above all the racial bias and bigotry to take the highest seat of power in the United States, voted in such numbers to take rights away from another group struggling just as hard is astounding.

Reading WordPress several days ago I found the posting of another blogger, a conservative blogger, with a rather audacious idea: Legally end marriage. That may sound crazy, and if I still had the link to the blog I’d post it, but consider this: Marriage is a religious institution. It has been taken up as a legal term and is used as a legally binding contract. But what if we removed the word “marriage” from the legal books and left it to religions? What if we changed our wording to “civil unions” through the legal system. That way we could allow civil unions for anyone who wanted to get one and let religions handle the marriage world by themselves. Separate church and state, religion and government, as Thomas Jefferson suggested in his letters so many years ago.

And also, since some people at least are aware of my distaste for local radio station AM1500, KSTP talk radio in Minneapolis, I thought I’d discuss something I heard on the show “Garage Logic” two days ago. Host Joe Soucheray was talking about this:

A Stone Age burial in central Germany has yielded the earliest evidence of people living together as a family.

The 4,600-year-old grave contained the remains of a man, woman and two youngsters, and DNA analysis shows they were a mother, father and their children.

“Their unity in death suggests unity in life,” researchers said in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

From MSNBC

He went from talking about this, a scientific finding that suggests that nuclear families existed 4,600 years ago, to suggesting that throughout history no society has ever accepted same-sex marriage. In other words, using this science to support the passing of proposition 8 and thus the outlawing of same-sex marriage. But is our society the first to ever try to allow same-sex marriages? A book by Andrew Sullivan would suggest otherwise:

Same-Sex Marriage in History

One of the recurring clichés of the same-sex marriage debate is that the very notion of such a thing is a radical departure from anything entertained before in human history. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. In many cultures and in many eras, the issue has emerged-and the themes of the arguments are quirkily similar. Same-sex love, as Plato’s Symposium shows, is as ancient as human love, and the question of how it is recognized and understood has bedeviled every human civilization. In most, it has never taken the form of the modern institution of marriage, but in some, surprisingly, it has. In seventeenth-century China and nineteenth-century Africa, for example, the institution seems identical to opposite-sex marriage. In other cultures (see the debate between Brent Shaw and Ralph Hexter) the meaning of same-sex unions remains opaque and complex. In Native American society, marriage between two men was commonplace, but its similarity to contemporary lesbian and gay marriages is far from evident. And today in a number of foreign countries, laws extending civil marriage to gay and lesbian couples have been or will soon be enacted. Judge for yourself what this might mean for our current convulsion. One thing emerges clearly: this issue is not a modern invention. The need to balance human dignity and social norms is as old as civilization itself. Although much of the past history of this debate has been buried until recently, it has begun to emerge again with all the passion that now crackles through modern Western culture.

My suggestion to Soucheray would be to do your research a bit beforehand. It seems a bit preemptive to dive into a conversation on a publicly available media source without examining the background of your suggestions first. Although, I must say that the majority of the “information” provided on AM1500 is not news and shouldn’t be taken as so. It is just the punditry of uniformed individuals ranting on the topics that annoy them and not adding any truly worthwhile suggestions in return.

In the end, I hope that the passing of proposition 8 does not discourage the people in the GLBT community. Keep fighting the good fight and do not go calmly into the night. I’m sure you won’t. I was heartened this last weekend seeing a rally up in the Great Cold North of Duluth, Minnesota. I know that whatever the setbacks, people with a goal and a desire, especially one with such a deep place in the heart, will never stop.

More on the Minnesota Recount

Again, I’d like to stress the fact that the Coleman-Franken race that is being re-examined is being done so by mandatory recount. Because the margin is so small, under the point at which a recount is required by state law (>0.5%), at just 238 votes, the Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, is organizing a recount. Coleman seems to be blaming the recount on Franken:

Coleman urged Franken to waive his right to a recount, saying that the prospect of changing the result was remote and that a recount would be costly to taxpayers (about $86,000).

“I just think the need for the healing process is so important. … hopefully, you don’t have TV ads during an election recount,” Coleman said.

From the Star Tribune

Today, however, Ritchie has commented on Coleman’s use of language during this process:

Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, said it was “unfortunate” that the Coleman campaign was questioning the integrity of the election. He said adjustments are a normal part of the canvassing process before results are official as officials reconcile the ballots and numbers in the voting machines.

“The decision to use words designed to create a cloud over the election is a political strategy,” said Ritchie, a Democrat, at a Capitol news conference. “It’s a well-known political strategy. It’s unfortunate, but it’s their choice of language, not ours.”

From the Examiner

The recount will begin on November 19th and will face a December 5th deadline for submitting results. As for my opinion on the whole process: I’d love to see Franken take the win in the long run, but I don’t really believe that anything will change. They may bring the margin closer, but we’ll see the results by December.

The Minnesota Election Rundown

As you are all aware, or at least I should hope you are, Barack Obama has succeeded in his run for office. I thought I would take a little time to run the stats here in Minnesota, just for fun.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden took Minnesota last night a short time after the polls closed. They managed, in the long run, to take 54.1% of the vote to John McCain and Sarah Palin’s 43.8%, and Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez’s 1.0%, to win Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes. Below that, the Senate race between incumbent Norm Coleman and challenger Al Franken is still in dispute, both currently at 42.0% with Coleman holding 1,211,628 votes and Franken holding 1,210,901. Independent challenger Dean Barkley has 15.2% of the vote. The most likely outcome in the next day or so will be a mandatory recount, as dictated by the Secretary of State. This law states that there will be a mandatory recount should the results fall under one half of one percent.

In US House of Representatives seats, we’ll go district by district. In district one, Democrat incumbent Tim Walz defeated challenger Brian Davis overwhelmingly, 62.5% to 32.9%. In district two, John Kline won over Steve Sarvi, 57.3% to 42.5%. In my own district, three, the highly contested seat that once belonged to Jim Ramstad went to Republican Erik Paulsen over Ashwin Madia, 48.5% to 40.9%. In district four, (D)Betty McCollum beat (R)Ed Matthews 68.4% to 31.3%. In district five, Keith Ellison took the vote over Barb Davis White, 70.9% to 22.0%. In a somewhat surprising result, Michelle Bachmann maintained her seat over challenger Elwyn Tinklenberg 46.4% to 43.4 %. In district seven, Collin Peterson beat Glen Menze, 72.2% to 27.7%. And in district eight, Jim Oberstar maintained his place in Congress over Michael Cummins, 67.6% to 32.2%.

Minnesota State Senate:

Senate District 16

(D)Lisa A. Fobbe  48.3%
(R)Alison Krueger 48.1%

Senate District 63

(D)Ken Kelash     67.3%
(R)Craig Marston  32.4%

And, being lazy, I’m not going to post the entirety of the Minnesota House results, but you can view them all here.

The Minnesota Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, the addition to the Minnesota constitution that helps protect the natural resources and the arts in the state, passed with 56.1% of the vote.

That’s that. All in all, I’m very excited about the results. As you can tell, I’m absolutely amazed and happy about Obama’s victory. The Franken-Coleman battle is going to get tiresome and I can only say that, while I really want Franken to take the seat, I’m hoping he only pushes this so far. Don’t wear us out, and don’t ruin the chances for a Democrat in another six years. The Madia-Paulsen result is sad, but it was close. Both sides played out their parts, and we’ll see what happens in the next election. As for district six, I can only say that I assume Bachmann’s slanderous false ads did the trick. If you voted for her, don’t complain when she puts her foot in her mouth again, or starts something horrendously worrisome.

Congratulations to all the victors, it was one hell of an election.

Vote!

I’m sure everyone is going to say it, but I feel impelled to do so as well. Tomorrow is November 4th, election day. Everyone needs to go out and vote. In fact, I’ve come to the decision that if we all go out to our polling places and vote, we’re more likely to have a concrete answer by Wednesday morning, unlike the last two elections that lasted for so long.

So, I don’t care who you vote for, just vote. It’s easy, satisfying, and its your right.

vote