No One is Indispensable

“Politics is not about power and money games, politics is about the improvement of people’s lives”
– Sen Paul Wellstone (D-MN), paraphrasing Eleanor Roosevelt

Sen Al Franken (D-MN) resigned today from the seat once held by Paul Wellstone. It came after many of his colleagues in the Senate expressed a lack of confidence in him from numerous allegations of inappropriate touching of women.

It is a sad day in Minnesota, but we move on. There are many lessons here, but what’s most important is that in a truly open system based on service to the people of the nation no one is indispensable. We are shaping the Democratic Party to be one which stands for principles first.

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The Eyes of a Child

This time of the year, the holidays bring back memories that allow us to see the world, once again, through the eyes of a child. This is not some sentimental side effect of the rituals we go through, but is in many ways the reason they are important. A few moments spent contemplating this over a swirling mug of cocoa can show that seeing the world through the eyes of a child is actually a vital lesson.

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Charlie Brown Christmas

Christmas is a time for remembering everything that has come before us. It’s not a kind of memorial day when we remember what we lost, but instead a day to remember the great gifts that have come to us over the many years. The circle of gratitude is widened every year as the holiday expands with new love and new memories.

It may be more important this year than ever.

One tradition for many people about my age is “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. In many ways this defines the tension of Christmas itself, even though very little in popular culture has been willing to decry the commercialism that is the true “War on Christmas”. And in the process it gave us a new definition of holiday cheer, bringing Vince Guaraldi’s cool jazz into the warm holiday like a sprig of winter itself.

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It Will Get Better

The big meal is over. The Vikings beat the Lions in a thrilling game. All across the nation people are wandering home, full of obligations fulfilled and too much food. Many have had the chance to actually count their blessings, the real meaning of the day, and understand that they are indeed wealthy.

Not everyone is so blessed, of course. Far too many people are alone and afraid, hungry and isolated. For all of the riches of our land they have been distributed unevenly and, at times, apparently at random. Yet this is indeed a good time to be alive to see the world come together, no matter how difficult it seems.

We have much to be thankful for.

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Religious Freedom

This is an old piece on a critical American value now being questioned.  Where did our ideas of separation of Church and State come from?  This core value is older than the United States itself – and comes from a different place than many expect.

It naturally comes up in my family just before Thanksgiving every year.  The Puritans’ deliverance to America is billed as a search for religious freedom, something which is a core value of our nation. It’s good that we celebrate such a thing, but do the Puritans really deserve credit for it?  The short answer is no, they do not, because they were seeking to establish their own theocracy – and across the ocean where no one would bother them seemed like the perfect place.

Religious tolerance as a founding principle of America came from a different source – William Penn, the “absolute proprietor” of Pennsylvania.  The reason that he doesn’t get the credit he deserves is murky at best, but may have its origins in a prejudice that most of us wouldn’t even understand today.  I think it’s time to correct that.
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Thanksgiving and the New Republic

Thanksgiving is a truly great American holiday. It is a time when people from all over the world blend their traditions into one religious holiday celebrated by Christians, Jews, Moslems, and every other faith alike. To give thanks is universal, and what better way to celebrate deliverance to a land that to many is indeed the Promised Land.

But why is it in November? The very first day of Thanksgiving was held right after the harvest, on a day very similar to the Canadian Thanksgiving on October 12th. Why is it on a Thursday? The answer is that the nation itself was delivered from the horrors of war and recognized by the Treaty of Paris, owing a bit of time for the time it takes to cross the Atlantic and bring the joyous news. It was indeed a time to be thankful – but the story has the Hand of Providence all over it.

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Hero Worship

The days are shorter and the wind bites cold. This is the time of year for transition, from outward to inward, at least among boreal people in the middle of a vast continent. The endless possibilities of summer have closed down and the time comes for reflection.

That’s what the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving, are really all about. America always has a lot to be thankful for but at the same time much to consider on a day apart. One of these is our public discourse and values, soon to be practiced around a large table for many people. Why do we place so much value on a hero who will save us? Why do we place so little faith in our own ability to make things better?

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