jump to navigation

December 24, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Arms, Christmas, Uncategorized, War.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

Sadly, little has changed since this first appeared in 2013, though Santa remains as busy in ever in the struggle for social justice; Santa looks forward to seeing you on the picket lines, in the joyful social justice disruptions and, in all likelihood, in jail, with all the other civil disobedients, in 2017!

Taking liberties: Santa Claus rejects NORAD escort, may be placed on no-fly list

 | DECEMBER 20, 2013

Photo: Matt and Cyndi Maxson/flickr
 
In a little-noticed news release from the North Pole, a jolly senior citizen has asked that his image not be co-opted this holiday season by the Canadian War Department and NORAD. In addition, the gentleman, who identified himself as Santa Claus, also refused the militarized escort that NORAD said would be tracking his annual flight around the world.
“I don’t want war planes on my tail, and I don’t want children to think I am in any way associated with the type of organization that plans for things like nuclear war and space warfare,” Claus said in an exclusive telephone interview with rabble.ca. “Your War Department misrepresents me the same way the sales of war toys misrepresent me. I don’t make machine guns and toy tanks, and I certainly do NOT want a warplane escort or to be tracked by an organization which is working to militarize the heavens.”
Claus was particularly concerned that NORAD uses this annual opportunity to glorify warplanes and drones which are used to drop bombs on and mutilate children in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, noting that last week, dozens of people in a Yemeni wedding party were massacred by a drone-fired Hellfire missile.
Santa says he is disturbed to again find himself the focus of the annual military public affairs operation, designed to normalize for children the idea that the military — as well as military alliances which plan and constantly threaten life on the planet with nuclear warfare, pre-emptive invasions and environmental destruction — is a benign outfit.
“I also don’t need to be tracked,” Claus says. “This is the era where we are learning that CSEC in Ottawa and the NSA are watching every move everybody makes, and it’s getting ridiculous. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has gotten ulcers out of concern that every time he sneaks into the bushes to do his business, it winds up on some database somewhere and could be used to embarrass him in front of his fellow creatures.”

 

NORAD deception about Claus
The NORAD Tracks Santa website is a paean to militarism, inviting young children to play at war and offering videos that are recruitment vehicles featuring martial music more akin to a 1980s Tom Cruise bomb-em-up flick than a period of peace and good will to all. Indeed, one four-minute video making the rounds of community newspaper websites around the globe opens with an image not of Santa but of bomber planes.
“One of the videos says I did a test flight in cooperation with NORAD, which is a total lie,” Claus said, bemoaning the fact that the tracking site features numerous tributes to an organization that has the power, along with its other “northern command” partners, to commit the ultimate act of nuclear terrorism and obliterate the globe.
One video features a small child (perhaps the son of U.S. military personnel) stationed in Djibouti, one of over 700 U.S. bases occupying the globe and also the site of a command centre from which drones are launched in countries like Yemen and Somalia. (Djibouti troops do not, notably, maintain a military base protecting their own interests in Florida or Manitoba). While the child talks of going to the beach and riding his bike, the video does not mention that one month ago, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights heard evidence on Djibouti’s role in the U.S.-led (and Canadian-supported) rendition to torture and secret detention program.
The NORAD tracking site also features holiday songs performed by — who else — the Air Force Academy Band.
“In the same way the militaries of the world try to convince us that humanitarian aid cannot be delivered without sniper rifles or bombing the heck out of a village first, now they are trying to show that Christmas cannot happen without all of their firepower, and that Christmas carols cannot be sung unless by people who’ve been trained to kill,” Claus said. “Well, I have news for them. The trillions spent on war are what deprive most children of happy holidays, regardless of when they celebrate them.”
Meanwhile, a heavily redacted Access to Information request appears to reveal why NORAD is tracking Santa, and early indicators are it has nothing to do with his protection nor his mission of delivering joy. 
CSIS names Santa security threat
According to the highly classified document from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), “The Service has reasonable grounds to believe that [name blacked out, but clearly a reference to Claus] is a member of an inadmissible class of persons to Canada based on a variety of associations, travel patterns and other indicators which constitute a threat to the security of Canada.”
Among those highly suspect findings, CSIS notes, is Santa’s long beard (“worn in the traditional Muslim fashion that could inspire some radicalized youth to follow bearded individuals such as Osama bin Laden”), his visitation to countries throughout the Middle East and refusal to demonize anyone (“a disturbing inclination towards supporting the human rights of Palestinians,”), his large donations of gifts (“he may be transporting illicit materials that could place him on the United Nations 1267 list, thereby barring him from travelling with goods that could fall into the wrong hands”), past associations (“[subject] did attend at Robben Island prison compound and provide material aid to Nelson Mandela and other members of African National Congress, which Service maintains was, is, or could be a terrorist organization”), has signed petitions urging the release of immigration detainees (including children detained in refugee jails across Canada) and in support of environmental protections (“Service notes subject supports same causes as eco-terrorists trying to block oil sands development”), and his failure to carry a passport.
“Service also notes that Mr. Claus uses several aliases possibly as a means of avoiding detection, including Jolly St. Nick, Kris Kringle, and, in a special code with woman alleged to be Mrs. Claus, ‘tubby old sock,’ origin for which is still a mystery to Service but further investigation will reveal.” Claus also appears to be under surveillance for carrying of “suspicious” sacks, studious avoidance of customs, and his “religious head gear,” the last of particular concern to Quebec security services attempting to pre-emptively enforce their so-called Charter of Values. 
Is Prancer a closet Muslim?
CSIS also notes with grave concern that at least two of Santa’s reindeer (Prancer and Vixen) have been reading the Koran and allegedly discussed conversion to Islam.
It is not surprising that Claus would be the subject of concern to “security services,” whose main goals tend toward monitoring outbreaks of democracy and free-thinking inquiry while harassing specific targeted communities using the same vague profiling against, for example, members of this country’s Arab Muslim communities. Santa certainly does have a record of being involved in the same social justice causes that everyone from CSIS and the RCMP to the FBI and CIA have deemed threats to national security. For example, Santa was recently arrested with Walmart workers seeking a decent wage, while the busiest resident of the North Pole also managed to take an anti-drones message of Peace to the Australian military. Santa also performed a tripod action for 9 hours in Glasgow this week to protest immigration raids that break down doors and arrest and detain children simply because they are refugees.
While Santa is proud of involving himself in social justice activities, he does get weary of his image being used to glorify war, especially given that he annually views the painful reality that is a result of relying on military might to enforce injustice and resolve conflicts. “We see all the children of the world, the ones who have lost legs and arms and eyes to landmines and cluster bombs, the ones who have watched parents murdered with Canadian bullets and machine guns in Iraq and Afghanistan, the ones whose only wish for Christmas is peace on Earth, or the return of a parent or sibling killed by an aerial bombardment.”
Claus has joined Homes not Bombs members on many occasions through the years as an ambassador of peace through justice and goodwill. As such, he has been arrested by Loblaws for helping distribute food he took from their shelves (to help pay back the tens of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes owed by Loblaws), protesting sanctions against the people of Iraq which killed over one million Iraqis (this with the aid of the Canadian military whose warplanes are set to tail Santa), the use of secret trial security certificates, the production of war toys, L-3 Wescam’s production of drone technology in Burlington, Ont., the Hamilton War Show, and many others.
“There are so many causes for me to support, and I want to support them all, but half the time I’m busy trying to correct the false information about me and what I stand for that’s presented by the military and the media,” Claus said. “I barely have time to speak with you, much less all the other media outlets who request interviews.” 
Christ continues to be detained by CBSA
rabble.ca‘s interview with Claus was cut off when he received a call from one of Canada’s top immigration lawyers, Barb Jackman, to discuss his travel options given the increasingly tight Canadian borders for refugees and the possibility that he may be on Canada’s no-fly list. Indeed, it is unclear whether agents of the Canadian Border Services Agency — a federal department with absolutely no independent oversight — will allow Claus to enter Canada, and there are still many unresolved questions regarding its recent rejection of Jesus Christ, who was deemed a failed refugee claimant and a threat to national security.
Lawyers at the time had asked for information about CSIS interviews with Christ, but because CSIS does not record interviews nor make verbatim notes, there was little to go on. “The Service noted that Christ appeared unusually calm when pressed about his possible association with prostitutes, beggars and lepers,” read a short half-page of notes which were eventually declassified. “Christ also seemed hesitant when asked whether an individual named Joseph was his father, a sign that he was withholding the true nature of his character.” Christ’s anti-government activities also raised a red flag for Canadian border officials.
Christ was also deemed to be a security threat because he allegedly uses a number of aliases, including Prince of Peace, Jesus of Nazareth and the Son of God. He had travelled to Canada, like most refugees, on a false passport, because if he had used his real name on travel documents, Roman authorities may have picked him up before he could have fled the country. Christ was also deemed inadmissible to Canada because of his criminal record; he, like all refugees coming to this country, are considered not worthy of being accepted even if those convictions have occurred in countries where there is no due process or internationally recognized legal system. Worse, refugees who have been convicted of minor offences which would be deemed “summary” (or lesser) offences if convicted here in Canada have their record interpreted as indictable (or more severe) upon their arrival here, regardless of the circumstances.
In another mark against Christ, CBSA points out one particular incident in which the refugee applicant was “particularly violent, overturning a table used by moneychangers in a temple frequented by Canadian money speculators.” Canada’s Criminal Code notes that a terrorist is anyone who “damages property outside of Canada because a person or entity with an interest in the property or occupying the property has a relationship with Canada or a province or is doing business with or on behalf of the Government of Canada or a province.”
While Christ remains in detention with hundreds of never-charged immigration detainees in Lindsay (many of whom are again on hunger strike), Santa will no doubt be writing the phone number of his lawyer on his arm in the event he needs to make that call. If there’s nothing under your tree December 25, you may want to consider posting bail for the latest in a long line of wrongly imprisoned migrants and travellers caught up in the nightmare of Canada’s immigration regime.
Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. ‘national security’ profiling for many years.

_

Advertisements

Stan Freberg’s Classic “Green Christmas” December 24, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Capitalism, Christmas, Humor.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

 

Making/Selling Christmas: Where Your Baubles, Tinsel, Santa Hats and LED Reindeer Come From December 23, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, China, Christmas, christmas village, Labor.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: it’s not just the vulgar materialism that Christmas has been for many decades, but more so the hidden unfreedom of those whose toil blood sweat and tears produce the junk we buy for our children and other family and loved ones.  The Chinese “economic miracle” has certainly been a boon to the Communist Party elites and a small middle class, but no so much for the millions who  leave their villages to slave away in modern day sweat shops.  The notion that socialism can live alongside capitalism is a monumental oxymoron.  The Chinese claim to have socialist politics with a capitalist economy, and I fear that Cuba may go in the same direction.  This is a formula for environmental, social, cultural and political degeneration.  It may look inviting to some in the short run, but in the long run it spells disaster at all levels.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Making/Selling Christmas: Where Your Baubles, Tinsel, Santa Hats and LED Reindeer Come From

Just so you know: Those trinkets of Christmas proclaimed to bring joy to the world – wreaths, lights, stockings, mistletoe, shiny stars and snowflakes and other glittering marvels of tree adornment – are likely made in Yiwu, aka China’s Christmas Village, where the elves are thousands of sweating, under-paid, glue-and-paint-covered migrant workers laboring in 600 steamy fume-filled factories who dream not of a White Christmas, which many know nothing about, but of making enough money to get the hell out of there and back home to the provinces.

The Christmas manufacturing machine in Yiwu, south of Shanghai, is part of a region encompassing 750 companies making millions of holiday geegaws sold at Yiwu’s International Trade Market, a sprawling, five-district, 62,000-booth monument to global consumption the U.N. has declared the “largest small commodity wholesale market in the world.” District Two holds the 400,000 joys of Christmas that make up over 60% of the world’s Christmas decorations: endless corridors lined with mountains of stuff – polystyrene snowmen and snowflakes and Santas, plastic Christmas trees, hand-bent reindeer antlers, intricate LED light shows, stuffed sheep in Santa hats, Father Christmas playing the saxophone – made nearby in sweatshop factories by workers painting and sewing and dipping in glue and paint so toxic in summer heat they go through ten face masks a day. They work 12 hours a day, six days a week and make, in the name of good will toward men, $200-300 a month. The Swedish documentary, Santa’s Workshop, captures their brutal working lives. The plastic fruit of their labors goes to a mostly foreign market increasingly moving online, but also to a growing market within China, where, entirely unsurprisingly, Santa Claus, not Jesus, is the star of the show. There as here, of course, the machine will grind on. But if you don’t want it any fattier, greedier or more toxic, please don’t feed the beast.

 

Merry Christmas and Bang, You’re Dead December 12, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Gun Control/Violence, Humor.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Google_ChromeScreenSnapz005

Trayvon Martin Nativity Display At Claremont United Methodist Church Urges Us Not To Forget Gun Violence Victims December 28, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Gun Control/Violence, Racism, Religion.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: I am not that big on organized Christianity or the nativity myth, but there are some few who call themselves Christian who actually do reflect the ethic of love and peace.  And I am big on remembering Trayvon Martin and the institutionalized racism and gun industry that were responsible for his murder as much as the fool Zimmerman.

 

Posted: 12/27/2013 1:41 pm EST  |  Updated: 12/27/2013 6:02 pm EST Huff Post

Trayvon Martin hasn’t been forgotten at Claremont United Methodist Church in Claremont, Cali.– in fact, he appears front and center in their Nativity display. He serves as a bloody and tragic reminder of the dangers of gun violence and racial privilege in today’s America, reports David Allen of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

Amongst the traditional holy family, Martin sits hunched over in his iconic black hoodie, blood pouring from his chest and pooling at his feet, reports Patch.com. The title of the scene, “A Child is Born, a Son is Given,” is outlined within the blood and evokes themes of both Christmas and Easter, according to artist John Zachary, who has been creating thought-provoking displays since 2007.

tm

Zachary told Allen in an interview that the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who fatally shot the unarmed teenager in 2012, “struck him as a worthy subject for Christmas comment.”

“There is no better time to reflect on gun violence than advent, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus,” says a sign at the church.. “Jesus was born into a state of total vulnerability as an innocent, unarmed child during a time of great violence much like Trayvon Martin.”

As families gather together at Christmas to celebrate, Zachary hopes to get them to think long and hard about their own blessings and privileges. He told Allen that many Christmas traditions of gifts reflect “privilege, and there’s a lot of people who don’t have that privilege. Maybe I should do something that’s provocative, that’s more in keeping with the teachings of Jesus.”

trayvon
Artist John Zachary

This isn’t the first time that the church has used the Nativity as an opportunity to remind people about issues of social justice and inequality, which probably would have been of great concern to Jesus himself. Past displays have included Jesus and Mary as a homeless couple struggling to feed their newborn child, as Iraqi refugees next to U.S. soldiers, as immigrants from Mexico stopped by the wall at the border, among others. In 2011, Zachary’s Nativity display was of the outlines of three couples, two of them same-sex, gathering under the banner “Christ Is Born.”

Sharon Rhodes-Wickett, lead pastor at the church, told Allen that she finds this year’s scene difficult to look at, due to its violence. “It’s hard to look at a young man who’s shot and bleeding to death,” she said. “But even though I’m uncomfortable, that’s the point. We have to take a look at the violence.”

Response to the display has been surprisingly muted. “I thought this would be more controversial, but I come to find out people don’t really like people getting shot,” Zachary told Allen. “They may not agree what to do about it, but they agree it’s a bad thing.”

Rhodes-Wickett said that her congregation is progressive, and that “Most people like something that makes us think and makes us search our hearts.”

sign

Also on HuffPost:

Merry Marxmas December 15, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Christmas, Economic Crisis, Republicans.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: The Republicans make Scrooge look like a Philanthropist, and the enabling Democrats are not far behind.  Which reminds me to advise you to watch your behinds when it comes to your  Social Security and Medicare amongst other things such as food stamps, unemployment benefits, reproduction rights, health care, education grants, etc..  It is fun to mock the Republicans, which is why I pass this on to you, but of course the real villains are the Military Industrial Prison Security Bankster Complex who pull the strings for the puppets who operate our dysfunctional undemocratic so-called government (I only use the word puppets rather than whores to describe the president, congressman and judges so as not to insult those who work in the sex trade industry).

 

 

Scrooge Gets A Tax Cut

 

gty_john_boehner_obama_dm_111222_wblog

Santa Blown out of the Sky: World’s Children Mourn December 25, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Humor, Religion, Right Wing, War on Terror.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

Dateline: North Pole, December 25, 2012

R. Hollander reporting:

A U.S. CIA launched Predator missile went astray shortly after midnight this morning and made a direct hit on Santa and his reindeer just over the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Santa and sleigh were totally obliterated.  Locals reported finding scattered pieces of reindeer flesh and cheap plastic in fields located miles from the point of contact.  Santa had just picked up his payload from his major suppliers in China and was near the beginning of his run.  This unfortunately means that virtually none of the world’s children received Christmas presents this year.  Mrs. Claus is reported in deep mourning.

How this tragedy came to pass is just beginning to emerge.  First reports from the CIA cited Taliban hackers having found their way into the guidance system and sending the missile, originally intended to wipe out Taliban wedding guests, off its course.  President Obama, in sending his condolences to the world’s children, hinted at al Queda terrorist involvement.  This was later confirmed by an anonymous CIA spokesperson, who added that it was also likely that Julian Assange and Bradley Manning were also somehow involved behind the scenes.  When asked by a reporter how Manning could possibly be involved from his prison cell, the spokesperson responded with a wry smile and a winking gesture.

However, within the past hour a previously little known organization is claiming responsibility for the action.  In a communique singed by “White Knight,” representing Knighted Koalition of Khristians Indignant for the Lord of Lords (K.K.K.I.L.L.), details were given about the Predator’s guidance system that gave serious credibility to the claim.  His allegation that the organization recently has received the endorsement of key Republican presidential candidates has not been confirmed.  In explaining the motives for the attack, White Knight claimed that taking out Santa Claus was necessary in order to reverse the trend of children focusing on St. Nick rather than the birth of Jesus at Christmas time.  He suggested that this was an act of “tough love” toward the world’s children, who needed to learn that the worship of Jesus was more important that Chinese-made gizmos and gadgets.

The reaction of several Christianity’s leading evangelicals was echoed by the Rev. Pat Robertson who suggested that in using exclusively male elves, Santa was in effect promoting homosexuality, and that this could not be allowed to continue.

Others have taken a softer line, characterizing the hit on Santa Claus as collateral damage in the War on Terror.

In his attempt to elicit a reaction from a child to this tragedy, this reporter was unable to find a child who was not so tear ridden so as being able to make a statement.

Forget Rudolph: Get your photo taken with Santa — and a grenade launcher November 30, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

//

Ron Kennedy, general manager of the Scottsdale gun club, says the business got the idea for the photo op last year when a club member happened to come in dressed as Santa and other members wanted their picture taken while they were holding their guns.Ron Kennedy, general manager of the Scottsdale gun club, says the business got the idea for the photo op last year when a club member happened to come in dressed as Santa and other members wanted their picture taken while they were holding their guns.

Gordon Murray/AP

Jacques BilleaudThe Associated Press

//

// <![CDATA[
jQuery(document).ready(function () {
if (jQuery('.ts-main_article2_image').width()

PHOENIX—An Arizona gun club is offering a chance for children and their families to pose for photos with Santa while holding pistols and military-style rifles.

One image shows Santa in a wingback chair with a snowflake background, a Christmas tree behind him and flanked by an $80,000 machine-gun and a tripod-mounted rifle.

Next to Santa is a man standing behind a boy, who is holding an unloaded AR-15 with an attached grenade launcher.

Ron Kennedy, general manager of the Scottsdale Gun Club, says the business got the idea for the photo op last year when a club member happened to come in dressed as Santa and other members wanted their picture taken while they were holding their guns.

He says people have used the photos for Christmas cards and Facebook posts.

Barack Obama and Langston Hughes on “Grumblers” and “Merry Christmas” December 27, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Asia, Barack Obama, Cuba, Economic Crisis, Haiti, History, Iraq and Afghanistan, Race, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
2 comments
Posted Wed, 12/23/2009 – 17:24 by Bruce A. Dixon

When US presidents offer us their holiday greeting messages, do we know what are they really saying?  How hard can it be to figure that out?  Langston Hughes died in 1967, but he knew what every US president, including Barack Obama is really saying, underneath and behind the mask.  

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

In a recent interview with one of the few black reporters privileged to be part of the White House press corps, President Obama wasasked

April D. Ryan: Speaking of the African American community, this seems to be a shift in black leadership, as it relates to supporting you. You have the CBC that’s upset with you about targeting on the jobs front — African Americans, 15.6 percent unemployment rate, expected to go to 20 percent; mainstream America 10 percent. Then you have black actors who supported you — Danny Glover, who’s saying that you’ve not changed, your administration is the same as George W. Bush. What are your thoughts about the fact that black leadership is grumbling, and the fact that people are concerned with you being the first African American President, and they thought that there would be a little bit more compassion for black issues?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, April, I think you just engaged in a big generalization in terms of how you asked that question. If you want me to line up all the black actors, for example, who support me, and put them on one side of the room, and a couple who are grumbling on the other, I’m happy to have that.

I think if you look at the polling, in terms of the attitudes of the African American community, there’s overwhelming support for what we’ve tried to do. And, so, is there grumbling? Of course there’s grumbling,

Obama was referring to the relatively mild and tentative criticisms of the Congressional Black Caucus, along with other expressions of disappointment on the part of such activists as actor Danny Glover. The president can ignore, dismiss or disparage the divide between his policies and the opinions of the African American community which supported him. But it’s deep, it’s real, and it’s growing. It’s even historic.

Presidents have been issuing holiday greeting messages from their homes or cozy offices for a long time now, and Obama’s will be on line any minute now. Those interested can probably find it at JackandJillPolitics.com, at whitehouse.gov, and any number of other places. But the ironic 1930 Christmas message of Langston Hughes, the poet laureate of Black America sounds, with the most minor edits, like it could have come from the lips any US president of the past hundred years, including Barack Obama.

Sixty-nine years ago Langston Hughes began his holiday poem Merry Christmas with these lines

Merry Christmas China

From the gun-boats in the river

Ten inch shells for Christmas gifts

And peace on earth forever

At the moment, the U.S. was hip-deep in the Chinese civil war, bankrolling and advising a string of opium-soaked warlord armies against communists and agitators, and conducting naval operations in Chinese rivers and off its coasts. Today our first black president’s Pentagon, headed by the same team that ran George Bush’s Pentagon, sits atop some 800 overseas military bases in a hundred countries with more than 2 million uniformed personnel. Our president will spend more on this military machine than the all the rest of the planet combined, fighting and preparing to fight what the National Security Doctrine calls “multiple overlapping wars” to control resources in distant lands in the interest “free trade and free markets.”

Langston’s Christmas poem draws our attention to a part of the world much in today’s headlines.

Merry Christmas, India

To Gandhi in his cell

From righteous Christian England

Ring out bright Christmas bell

Under our first black president, Afghanistan and Pakistan are part of a vast law-free zone in which daily shellings and air raids go unreported and unremarked except by the families of victims. Assassinations and kidnappings to fill America’s world-wide network of secret prisons have replaced the open incarceration of real and suspected political foes. At least we knew Gandhi’s name, what he was charged with, where he was locked up, what his sentence was, whether he got a day in court and whether his keepers mistreated him. We can’t say that about hundreds or thousands of Obama’s prisoners.

Merry Christmas Africa

From Cairo to he Cape

Sing hallelujah, praise the Lord

For murder and for rape

Some things have changed very little indeed. The four part series “The Ravaging of Africa” to which a link appears in our left column, is a comprehensive indictment of US policy in Africa, which has caused the death of some 26 million Africans since the 1960s, including nearly ten million in Congo alone. America’s role as conscienceless predator was reaffirmed last week in Copenhagen, when the US categorically rejected the notion that it owed the rest of the world a debt for being the single major contributor to climate change over the last century and a half. Africans can drown or starve due to US -initiated climate change, but there will be no technology sharing, no reparations, nothing in the way of human solidarity between Africa and the West if the son of Africa in the White House has anything to say about it.

Langston Hughes draws our attention to the Caribbean, where the US has enforced its will at gunpoint for much of two centuries.

Ring Merry Christmas Haiti

And drown the voodoo drums

We’ll rob you to the Christmas hymns

Until the next Christ comes

Ring Merry Christmas Cuba

(Where Yankee domination

Keeps a nice fat president’s

in a little half-starved nation.)

In Cuba at least, Yankee domination is over. President Obama seems to resent this fact just as much as the last nine presidents, and continues to enforce a warlike economic blockade on Cuba.

And in Haiti, after more than a dozen US invasions and occupations, the US engineered the kidnapping of that country’s elected president, whom Obama will not even allow back in the Western hemisphere. In the name of international cooperation, the US pays for a multinational occupation force from Brazil and other countries to hunt down and kill members of Haiti’s Lavalas party, freeing US Marines for duty elsewhere.

Under the rules, Haiti is to be kept starving and terrorized, prevented by law from feeding or funding itself, owning its own infrastructure or employing its own people. Some things don’t change much.

The Christmas message of Langston Hughes doesn’t forget about domestic affairs either.

And to you down and outers

(“Due to economic laws”)

Oh, eat, drink, be merry

With a breadline Santa Claus–

Jobless levels are the highest they’ve been anywhere since the Great Depression, when Hughes penned his Christmas greeting. But now, just as in 1930, we have a president with an unshakable belief that “a rising tide lifts all boats,” a saying popularized by John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. In this time of economic crisis, President Obama has transferred more wealth to Wall Street from the real economy than all his predecessors combined.

But hard-pressed homeowners and those with heavy debts due to unpayable medical bills remain underwater. Their bailout isn’t coming. The only ones, apart from Wall Street who’ll get anything under an Obama administration will be the military.

President Obama began this December with a belligerent address that used the cadets at West Point as human stage props. At mid-month he went to Copenhagen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and offer another bald-faced set of excuses for wars, kidnappings, secret prisons and the whole panoply of empire. He or his vice president may end it treating us to a Christmas or New Year’s message posing with the troops in occupied Iraq or Afghanistan. The more some things change, the more they stay the same.

We don’t know exactly what Obama will say in his holiday message. But Langston Hughes knew seventy years ago what he will mean.

While all the world hails Christmas

While all the church bells sway

While better still the Christian guns

Proclaim this joyous day

While holy steel that makes us strong

Spits forth a mighty yuletide song

SHOOT Merry Christmas everywhere

Let Merry Christmas GAS the air.

Presidents can always find sycophants, yes-men or yes-women eager to agree to whatever they say, often before they can even say it. All that comes with the job, along with Air Force One and that song they play every time he enters a crowded room. But the the truth is always true, no matter how hotly or how many the deniers, and most of Black America is not in denial on war, peace, mass incarceration or poverty.  The heroes, and the just plain honest will always be those who speak the truth to power.

Langston has been gone from us a long time now. We’ll never know what he might say to a son of Africa in the White House, married to a girl from the south side of Chicago. But nobody on either side of the grave speaks more directly to what our first black president has become than Langston Hughes did seven decades ago. Barack Obama is in power. He can ignore, disparage or dismiss the truth. But it’s still true.  And most of us know it.

We wish the president and first family, along with all our readers and friends around the world a joyous and fulfilling holiday.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and based in Atlanta. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport. Langston Hughes is the poet laureate of Black America and can be reached at public libraries, and at independent and other bookstores everywhere.

The Christmas Truce of 1914 December 25, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Peace, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far
by: Paul J. Magnarella, t r u t h o u t | Report

photo
Christmas truce memorial. (Image: eyeSPIVE / flickr)

Although World War I ranks as one of the most horrific in history, causing about 40 million casualties and up to 20 million military and civilian deaths, it also included a famous and spontaneous peaceful interlude inscribed in chronicles as the unofficial Christmas truce of 1914.

World War I

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, by a Bosnian Serb in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, plunged much of Europe into war. The Entente Powers of France, Russia and Britain stood against the Central Powers of the Austro-Hungarian, German and Ottoman Empires. In mid-September, the German, British and French commands ordered their armies to entrench along a 475-mile Western Front that extended from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier. Four years of brutal, stalemated trench warfare followed. Most trenches were about seven feet deep and six feet wide, topped by a parapet of sandbags. From there, barbed wire entanglements extended into no man’s land. In many places, the no man’s land separating German and British front-line trenches was only 30 to 70 yards wide.

The elements were sometimes more debilitating than the enemy. Standing in the mud and water for days often resulted in feet becoming gangrenous. Excessive exposure to wet and cold caused nephritis, which affected the kidneys. The accumulated rubbish, urine and excreta in the trenches negatively impacted on health. Food scraps and decaying corpses attracted huge numbers of disease-carrying rats. The unwashed men attracted lice that covered their bodies with bite marks and caused “trench fever.” Artillery bursts caused some men to experience shell shock.

Periodically, the aristocratic generals (safely lodged in the rear) ordered the mostly lower-class men in the trenches to make suicidal frontal assaults on enemy trenches. Machine guns and rapid fire rifles simply mowed down attacking men in no man’s land, where their bodies often remained for weeks in a decaying state. The generals never devised a sensible plan to break the cruel stalemate that trench warfare became.

On Christmas Eve, the weather cleared. Rain gave way to a clear cold that froze the mud and water, making movement easier and boots and clothing drier. Having received gift packages from home, the men of both sides were in a festive mood. That evening, along the front line, German troops sang Christmas carols. Many erected candle-lit Christmas trees on their parapets and called out season greetings to their enemies opposite them. Many Entente troops responded with applause, holiday wishes and songs of their own. Concerned, one British battalion command informed Brigade Headquarters: “Germans have illuminated their trenches, are singing songs, and are wishing us a Happy Xmas. Compliments are being exchanged, but [I] am nevertheless taking all military precautions …”

Then, an amazing series of events occurred. Along parts of the British, French and Belgian lines, men from both sides went out into no man’s land unarmed to meet, shake hands and fraternize. The First Battalion Royal Irish Rifles reported Germans calling out: “If you Englishmen come out and talk to us, we won fire.” Scotsmen in Flanders, the 2nd Queen’s Battalion near La Chapelle d’ Armentieres, and the 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers also reported Germans singing “Stille Nacht” (“Silent Night”) and extending invitations to meet in no man’s land.

Christmas Day

On the morning of 25 December, the 2nd Battalion Devons reported seeing the Germans hoist a board with the words, “You no fight, we no fight.” Opposite the 2nd Battalion Border Regiment, the process began with a German officer emerging from his trench waving a white flag. The 2nd Battalion Wiltshires reported men on both sides waving to each other, and then going out into no man’s land to meet unarmed. After initial greetings, both sides agreed to bury their dead comrades, who had been laying in no man’s land for weeks. Some Germans and British worked together in burial parties; a British soldier described a joint funeral service as “a sight one will never forget!” Members of the British Rifle Brigade gave the Germans wooden crosses to mark their graves.

The opposing sides exchanged food, drink, cigarettes, photographs, addresses and sincere wishes for peace. A British officer found the scene “absolutely astounding!” The troops found each other to be quite likable. Many men felt compelled to write home about their experience. A London Rifles Brigade officer: “They [Germans] were really magnificent in the whole thing…. I now have a very different opinion of the Germans.” A Scots Guard: “Some of them are very nice fellows and did not show any hatred, which makes me think they are forced to fight.”

Once no man’s land had been cleared of corpses, some men found areas suitable for soccer games with improvised balls. In places, British and Germans ate Christmas dinner together, sharing whatever they had. They entertained each other with singing and instrumental music.

How It Ended

Many who participated in an informal truce hoped to continue it until New Year’s Day or beyond. But the high commands sternly objected. A German Army order threatened that fraternization with the enemy would be punished as high treason. A British order warned that “Officers and NCOs allowing [fraternization] would be brought before a court martial.” In late December, the high commands ordered artillery bombardments along the front. They did the same in following years to ensure that the 1914 Christmas truce would not be repeated. Despite these measures, a few friendly encounters did occur, but on a much smaller scale than in 1914.

Soldiers Express Themselves

The Christmas truce touched the men deeply as evidenced in their letters and diaries. Various British soldiers wrote the following: “The most wonderful day on record!” “The most extraordinary celebration of Christmas any of us will ever experience!” “This experience has been the most practical demonstration I have seen of Peace on earth and goodwill towards men.”

German troops wrote: “The way we spend Christmas in the trenches sounds almost like a fairy tale.” “It was a Christmas celebration in keeping with the command ‘Peace on earth’ and a memory which will stay with us always.” “Probably the most extraordinary event of the whole year “a soldier’s truce without any higher sanction by officers or generals.”

Speaking in the House of Commons in 1930, Sir H. Kingsley Wood, a former major who had served at the front in 1914 stated: “If we had been left to ourselves there would never have been another shot fired. “It was only the fact that we were being controlled by others that made it necessary for us to start trying to shoot one another again.”

Today, the Christmas truce of 1914 is regarded as evidence of men’s natural desire for peace and friendship, even in the context of a brutal and senseless conflict. However, the 1914 Christmas truce is not unique in history. During the early 19th century, Peninsula War, British and French soldiers at times visited each other, shared rations and played cards. Periodically, during the 1854-56 Crimean War, French, British and Russian troops gathered around the same fire to smoke and drink together. In the American Civil War (1880-81), Yankees and Rebels traded coffee and tobacco and peacefully fished from opposite sides of the same rivers. Throughout history, it has been rare for men fighting at close quarters not to extend friendly gestures and establish informal truces with their enemies.