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The Impending Death of Thanksgiving as We Knew It: Black Thursday and the War on Thanksgiving

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“Never allow family to stand in the way of opportunity.” The Ferengi 6th Rule of Acquisition 

 I have written before about Black Friday. It is a custom that seems to destroy any meaning of a sacred holiday with greater abandon every passing year. In fact I have been very critical of the abject materialism of Black Friday which I think has its own God, the God of profit. 

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This year the festivities are starting early, in fact in some places people have been lined up since the weekend so they can be first to get the latest greatest gadgets that will be obsolete in less than a year. Not actually that they will be obsolete but rather that new and improved models of the same gadget will be on sale this time next year. The sad thing is that many of the same people who have been lined up since the weekend will be doing it again next year. `

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When it was just Black Friday it was bad enough, especially as Black Friday started encroaching on Thanksgiving. But now the last remaining line between Thanksgiving, the one holiday where getting together with family or friends regardless of your religious beliefs has been obliterated. Thanksgiving is now for all intents and purposes Black Thursday. It like Christmas before it has been sacrificed to the God of materialism and consumerism. It has been sacrificed for corporate profits and the individuals perceived need for stuff. It will be observed on the backs of retail workers making poor wages often with no benefits who will have to sacrifice time with family just to keep their jobs. 

Pope Francis in his first Apostolic Exhortation noted that “the thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits.” He is absolutely correct in this, but churches in the United States, especially supposedly conservative ones say little. 

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I am sorry this is a war on Thanksgiving and a war on vulnerable workers. But then as the Ferengi 111th Rule of Acquisition says “Treat people in your debt like family … exploit them.”

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Religious conservatives and their media allies on Fox News rage about the supposed “War on Christmas” but for decades have sacrificed Christmas on the Godless altar of materialism and consumerism. Now they are throwing the last remaining holiday where families and friends can gather out the window, without saying a word about it. 

Photo 3 credit Making Change at Walmart cropped 2

I wonder which is worse in the eyes of God, to give lip service to the religious aspects of the holiday? Or to mistreat and abuse the most vulnerable workers all while becoming indebted to the banks and corporations who have no regard for the real meaning of any holiday and only seek a greater profit? 

But then “greed is eternal.” So says the 10th Rule of Acquisition.

Goodbye Thanksgiving it was good to know you. 

Peace 

Padre Steve+

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Never Forget, They are Not Just Names… Reflections on War, Loss and Change: Iraq, Afghanistan and Deep Space Nine

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KIRA: Sir, the latest casualty reports have just been posted.
SISKO: How many this time?
KIRA: Including the troops lost at AR five five eight, seventeen hundred and thirty.
SISKO: Seventeen hundred thirty.
KIRA: That’s a lot of names.
SISKO: They’re not just names. It’s important we remember that. We have to remember.

I have had trouble sleeping the past couple of weeks and I think that late last night or early this morning I figured it out.

I am remembering.

It was about this time of year six years ago I was getting ready to celebrate my 24th wedding anniversary with Judy knowing that about a week and a half later I would be leaving for Iraq for duty in Al Anbar Province with our advisors and wondering, if at the height of the war I would come back.

Of course I did come back and the following year in 2008 we celebrated our 25th anniversary as I melted down, collapsing due to PTSD. I was home but I wasn’t.

Every time I see or read a casualty report I still feel a chill, knowing how easily my life could have ended. I saw a report yesterday that four American troops were killed by indirect fire at Bagram Air Base near Kabul. Reading it I remembered the rocket the flew over my head the night I was flying out of Camp Victory for Anbar and how nonchalant I was when a young soldier ran up to me in his PT gear nearly in a panic asking me “what was that?” and my response, “oh it was just a rocket.” We were not far from the eastern perimeter of the base in an area of tents set out as transient quarters gunship helicopters flew over the camp and the city beyond the walls, machine guns rattled in the distance as explosions echoed in the distance as American soldiers and Iraqi security forces battled insurgents not very far from where we sat.

This past week a number of things have been triggering me. The Marines have been conducting exercises at Camp LeJeune and I have heard artillery in the distance and aircraft have been taking off and landing at the auxiliary airfield across the sound a couple miles away.

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Even though it is still two weeks until July 4th the tourists and summer rental types are already shooting off fireworks in the neighborhood near the beach. Last night I barely slept and tonight the tourist insurgents have been going mad with the fireworks. I was out walking Molly when some rather large commercial type fireworks went off a couple hundred yards away on the next street over. I nearly went to ground until I realized that they were only fireworks. I thought about July 4th 2011 when Judy brought Molly down and we went down to the beach to watch the fireworks. That night I was terrified and only the unflappable calm of Molly sitting beside me barking at the fireworks to protect me kept me together. Tonight Molly was as unflappable as ever, not bothered by the explosions. That made me laugh despite the near panic that I found myself. It is amazing what a little dog, now blind but still very relevant can do for someone like me dealing with the PTSD Mad Cow. I hate July 4th now, not what it means but all the explosions.

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Molly supervising my writing in 2008 or 2009

Tonight I was watching Star Trek Deep Space Nine on DVD and the end of the season seven episode The Siege of AR-558 got me a bit. At the end of the episode Captain Sisko and Colonel Kira are discussing the latest casualty lists, which Sisko posts each week for his crew. I quoted it at the beginning of the article and it really spoke to me.

Some 6700 American Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen have died in Iraq or Afghanistan close to 50,000 more wounded and probably a couple hundred thousand afflicted with PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury. Hundreds, if not thousands more, active duty, reserve and former service members have taken their own lives after returning. Of course those numbers don’t count the troops from NATO or the Iraq Coalition Forces, the Iraqi and Afghan troops that have fought and died alongside us or the hundreds of thousands of civilians who have been killed, wounded or driven from their homes.

But they are more than numbers. Every one has a name, the dead and those who have come back in some way forever changed by war. It is important that we never forget that. They cannot be just numbers, otherwise we dehumanize them and avoid the real cost of war, especially the human costs. I think that Smedley Butler said it the best:

“This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all of its attendant miseries. Back -breaking taxation for generations and generations. For a great many years as a soldier I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not only until I retired to civilian life did I fully realize it….”

As I write the situation in Afghanistan is still dangerous and this week I saw another friend, a surgeon from my hospital depart for duty there. Likewise there is much debate about the US and NATO role in the Syrian Civil War, something that seems to me will eventually involve US forces in yet another war.

I guess that is why I can’t sleep and why some of my dreams have been so disturbing lately. I know that I will get through this as I have been through much worse over the past six years.

Another episode of Deep Space Nine entitled Paper Moon that I watched tonight dealt with the young Ferengi officer Nog who was wounded at AR-558, losing a leg and his struggles after returning to the station dealing with the trauma of war, loss and change.

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Nog tells his holographic friend the lounge singer Vic Fontaine played by James Darren When the war began…I was eager. I wanted to test myself. I wanted to prove I had what it took to be a soldier. And I saw a lot of combat. I saw a lot of people get hurt. I saw a lot of people die, but I didn’t think anything was going to happen to me.” I didn’t think that anything would happen to me either, I thought that I was immune from trauma and PTSD, I was an expert in dealing with trauma but I came back changed.

At the end of the episode as he comes to terms with his loss and the change he is asked by his father’s new wife “Are you okay?” and he replies “No. But I will be.”

I will be too. Tonight I hope to sleep.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under iraq,afghanistan, middle east, News and current events, PTSD, Tour in Iraq

I Have a Bridge to Sell You: Don’t Want That? How About These Pills and Money Instead? Padre Steve Muses on Radio Advertising

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Sometimes a writer has to write about something less than serious, even if it has somewhat serious implications….

I have to drive a lot. As such my current vehicle is equipped with Sirius satellite radio. I am not particularly esoteric in my radio tastes. I listen to the Sirius 70’s music channel, “70’s on 7” as well as various sports and news channels. Thankfully the 70s channel is commercial free, however, the others are filled with commercials and these are not your what you see on TV, despite the fact that at one time satellite radio was advertised as being advertisement free. That being said I have enough capitalist in my moderately liberal constitution to tolerate advertising because businesses have to make money.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zK2p5TAhd0s

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjYVk9cz_aE

Now I don’t mind advertising or people and businesses making money, except some of these advertisements, in fact I think most of them seem more than unseemly. They seem to me to be somewhat grotesque in their appeal to the most base, carnal and insidious passions known to humankind. They play on most wanton passions  that we know as people. It is actually fascinating when one decides to listen to the barrage of advertising for products that appeal to every one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Well at least the more exciting ones of them that are not that are not explicitly forbidden by law.

I am actually amazed when I listen to these advertisements. I have kind of lost count of the numbers of different variations in them but here are a few of my favorites.

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I think that the most common ads that I hear are ones for male Erectile Disfunction, or E D, The fascinating thing about these advertisements are the shear numbers and variations of them. There are the supposedly legitimate “real” prescription drugs, in their original prescription form, modified variants that give new life to the languid male sexual appendage in as little as 7 seconds. Of course there are the supposed “generic” versions of these little blue pills of happiness as well as foreign manufactured “organic supplements” that supposedly make the otherwise languid male organ do backflips or something like that all for a fraction of the costs of the real thing. For the first time this week I heard advertisements for female sexual enhancement supplement. That was interesting, but I digress…

Of course we can’t leave out weight loss medications sold over the airwaves and the internet, nor the one that I heard this week on a program to help you gain weight. I thought that answer to gaining weight was eating Big Macs at every meal, but evidently I was wrong, there is a program guaranteed to help you get a fat ass, if you are willing to spend the money. My advice, save the money and spend every waking hour at McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King and Hardy’s with occasional forays to Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme.

Then of course there is money. Money, money, money, must be funny, living in the rich man’s world. I find the money making schemes, or the presented on these radio advertisements to be worthy of a Ferengi, not that there is anything wrong with that because I admire the Ferengi.

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But as much as I admire the Ferengi I am a mere “Hu-man” and have to point out that despite my admiration for the Ferengi that I have a hard time with Hu-mans like me attempting to outdo the Ferengi in the acquisition of capital, earned or swindled. The financial “opportunities” presented include “opportunities” in gold, silver and other precious metals, most of which have lost value after speculators took them to unimagined heights due to world economic uncertainties. Then there is the economic apocalypse promised by those that promote secret ways to avoid the economic catastrophes that they promise, except that they keep running the same commercial that they did last year as if was new. I guess that the warning may not been as critical as the advertisement.

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Then there are the advertisements that promise to deliver people from their debts, especially massive amounts of debts to the IRS and state tax agencies that could only come through attempting to illegally not pay taxes in the first place or those that simply want to escape paying for things that they bought. Those are just a few of the economic scams that await people should they respond to them. There are a host of others including those of payday loan agencies and even unregulated agencies on Indian reservations.

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Of course there are the “Christian” relationship and dating sites like Christian Mingle, which promises to help you “find God’s match for you.” Sorry to sound cynical but I have seen too many Christian friends duped by such sites to believe anything that they advertise. I can’t wait to hear an advertisement for “Christian Mangle” the site that links “Christian” abusers to victims, at least there might be some truth in advertising in it, but again I digress….

All of these advertisements promise to give those desperate enough to send money to them to eliminate debts, both honestly and dishonestly incurred, to get rich quick on the misfortunes of others, to increase sexual drive and performance and even to use God and the internet to find a mate to dominate.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pqXfq3f4jE

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The sad thing is that these are just a sampling of the offerings being marketed to those gullible enough to throw down a credit card number. Somehow the proliferation of such ads makes me long for the days of K-Tel and Ronco back in the 1970s and even the Saturday Night Live satires of them.

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http://www.hulu.com/watch/19046

About the only thing I haven’t heard an advertisement for is premature ejaculation, but I hear that’s coming quickly.* I guess that is why that for the most part I listen to my 70s music, brought to me without commercial advertisements.

So for tonight,

Peace

Padre Steve+

* Credit to Mel Brooks for that line

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