November 2013


Really?  Do even the holidays have to turn into a war?  And I don’t mean in a “War On Christmas” sense of the word.

All this week, the airwaves have been filled with advice for the holiday season, and it hasn’t been advice on how to make the season more charitable or more caring.  “How to browbeat your conservative relative at the holiday dinner.”  “How to annoy the liberals in your family.”

Seriously?  I say this as someone who’s got very strong opinions–I don’t get it.  It’s the holidays.  This is the time to enjoy the company of your family and excessive amounts of food.  Are we really not able to lay down our respective ideologies for a few hours in order to do that?  So there are going to be people at your table who have different political and religious views from you–so what?  We can agree to disagree.  Not everything in life has to be part of some great battle, and if you believe it is, then I feel sad for you.  It means you’ve got issues, and your need to inject drama into every situation probably comes from a psychological source that goes way deeper than politics. 

And even if you believe that the holiday dinner is just another skirmish in the eternal war between good and evil–with all the relatives who disagree with you representing “evil”, naturally!–it is still an age-old military tradition to have a Christmas ceasefire.  I, for one, intend to lay down my weapons while at the family feast, and I wish all of us luck with doing the same.

Since I used to live in Holland, I have to say something about Miley Cyrus lighting up a joint on stage in Amsterdam.  Yeah, I realize this was meant to shock the Americans more than the Dutch, but it was still such a cliched move.  So here are some genuinely shocking things Miley could do in Holland:

*Do a pro-life protest–unlike pot smoking, that’s something people in Amsterdam aren’t used to seeing.  I have no idea if MIley is pro-life, but hey, who cares?  These days, it’s all about controversy for the sake of controversy, right?

*Attend a church service–now that’d be shocking, and it’d probably make for record high attendance at the church.

*Cover up a little–hell, that’d surprise everybody.  Dunno if today’s pop starlets got the memo yet, but the almost-naked look no longer qualifies as “pushing the envelope”.

*Have multiple children–I’m torn about this one.  Europe could use more kids, but do we really want Miley to procreate right now?

*State her disbelief in global warming/evolution/science in general–although coming from an American, this wouldn’t exactly be shocking.  Sadly.

*Organize a street cleaning party.  Holland apparently has a major problem with street litter, or so my Dutch friend tells me.  Maybe she’d get a medal?

*Perform a good song.

I know, I know, that last one is a gratuitous cheap shot, but I couldn’t help myself.  Go ahead, Miley, do something that’ll really shock them (and us)!

A friend of mine once expressed surprise that we celebrate Thanksgiving, since we didn’t grow up in America.  (She was pleasantly surprised.)  Not only do we celebrate it, it’s a very big holiday for us, and the perfect immigrant holiday.  On our first Thanksgiving in the States, we were grateful just to have survived, considering how we arrived in this country with around $200 in our pockets and all that.

Well, times are hard, and we’re still grateful.  Yes, we’re part of the endangered middle class, battling every day not to go extinct, but we’re employed and we’re hanging in there.  We haven’t lost our home, unlike so many of our fellow Americans.  We could afford to have a home because we purchased it together as a family–family is a blessing, too.  Love is difficult, but I love and am loved in return.  Food prices have gone up, but our table will be full again this year and we will be able to indulge in the gluttony which is such an essential part of the holidays here.  Winter weather has arrived, but it’s an Oregon winter, which means the temperatures dip a bit below freezing and everyone freaks out about it.  Obama’s presidency hasn’t been perfect, but after seeing George W. Bush on Jay Leno’s show, I’m grateful for Obama, too.  George, please stick to painting!

My family and I have lived in much darker times than this, and we made it.  And even in Communist Poland, there were things to be thankful for, like being able to get bread at the store, or not going to prison.  I’m not sure that I’m a glass half full person, but I’m at least a glass half-and-half person.  So thank you, life, for our problems not being a lot worse.  And a Happy Thanksgiving to all.

So at least one new poll shows that Mitt Romney would win the presidential election if it were being held today.  There is obvious frustration with the healthcare.gov mess, and rightly so.

I have a slightly different take.  I still wouldn’t vote for Mitt–I don’t like his policy positions any more now than I did back then–but couldn’t we put him to work helping with Obamacare?  After all, he was in charge of the same plan in Massachusetts.  He should be great at helping iron out the glitches.  And what is he doing with himself these days, anyway?  Earning more unnecessary billions?  Taking rides on his car elevator?

Okay, so the above proposal isn’t serious, and I realize it’s for the best that it won’t happen.  But it was so nice to imagine Mitt being useful to this country…for once.

Turning on the news late at night.  Storms devouring people.  Bombs devouring people.  People devouring animals.  How humane were the methods used to devour the animals, they ask?  Animals devouring animals.  Weeds consuming abandoned cities.  Politicians trying to find creative ways to tear each other to pieces.

We listen to the world and we know that the world is not good–this place created on the basis of devouring–no matter how much we try to tell ourselves that it is.  Perhaps all we have left are temporary moments of kindness in our own lives, at least during those times when we aren’t forced to be predatory as well.  Otherwise, let the world devour itself.

Feeling frustrated and tired of the healthcare.gov debacle, so taking a little pop culture break.  Here is Lady Gaga demonstrating her new flying dress:

Come to think of it, maybe we could replace Congress with the Haus of Gaga?  Everything which has happened over the past few weeks has felt like a big performance art piece anyway.  This way it could at least be slightly more glamorous.

It has been a little surreal watching the conservative reaction to Obamacare problems over the past few weeks.  I have never before seen conservatives get this upset over people not having insurance coverage.  The hand wringing as they read the letters from their constituents who have lost their insurance plans…the fiery anger as they ask, what will those poor families do now??  As I watch them cry their crocodile tears, I feel the urge to ask a couple questions–

Where were you guys when many of us were suffering under the existing health care system?  Where were you when people were being refused insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions, or kicked off their insurance plan because it was discovered that they had a doctor’s visit somewhere in their past?  I don’t remember your sadness then–in fact, it seemed that you didn’t care at all.  Okay, I get it.  The website isn’t working and that’s embarrassing.  And it is frustrating for people to lose an insurance plan they happened to like, even if it wasn’t a very good quality plan.  But at least there is a website, and the people who lose their coverage can go to shop on the exchange.  Before, if you were rejected by an insurance company for whatever reason, you were likely to be rejected by other insurance companies as well, and there was nowhere else for you to go.  Did you have anything to say about that?

We know, we know, you’re against Obamacare.  So what is your solution, your alternative?  And please don’t say it’s to leave the health care system as it is now–that’s not an acceptable answer.  If you have a much better idea for fixing health care, what is it, and why didn’t you present it earlier, back when the system badly needed reforming?  You’re whining about it now, but it is too little, too late. 

Where have you been?