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T’is the season of the full mailbox. Every day when I pick up our mail, the box is stuffed with requests for donations. My wife Susan and I get them from everyone – from CARE to the Salvation Army to cancer research to the Red Cross. We get them just like you do because this is the time of year when people think about giving to others – and tax deductions only count if you make that donation before December 31.
Poring over some demographic materials a few years back, I realized that Susan and I are among the top three percent of givers in Southern California. I couldn’t believe my eyes. How could a low-paid Methodist minister give away enough money each year to be in the upper echelon of generosity? Especially with all the wealth in Los Angeles.
Turns out, it wasn’t hard at all. We practice the ancient religious tradition of tithing – we give away 10% of our income.
People often get pretty touchy this time of year. Maybe it’s having to go to the mall. Maybe it’s the stress of dealing with family. Maybe it’s thinking about all those broken resolutions from a year ago. But whatever the reason, Americans tend to lash out at each other more than usual.
A perennial complaint has to do with the so-called “War on Christmas.” Showing that my own people don’t have a monopoly on a persecution complex, some Christian groups are very quick to declare themselves under attack. And to be sure, our on-again-off-again national flirtation with inclusivity does lead many people to say things like “Happy Holidays.” (I know, how hateful!)
Many of these groups and individuals base their indignation on the “fact” that this is a Christian nation. Of course, we are not a Christian nation, though the Judeo-Christian tradition informed many of our earliest values and laws.
(Editor’s Note: In the holiday spirit we present this enlightening poem — with a tip of the hat to Dr. Seuss. Please click on the link for the stanza layout.)
All the Las
Down in La-ville
Liked Christmas a lot…
But the Snitch,
Who lived just North of La-ville,
The Snitch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now please don’t ask why, ‘cause we all know the reason.
What made that old Snitch-man so mean and so sour
Was the way all the Las used up holiday power.
They used it on parties. They used it on shows.
They used it to light up a young reindeer’s nose.
But what made the old Snitch really put up a fight
Was the excess they used on their holiday light.
How he hated the blinking!
(Editor’s note: This letter first appeared on cleanandsafeports.org, coinciding with yesterday’s protests organized by the Occupy movement at ports up and down the West Coast.)
We are the front-line workers who haul container rigs full of imported and exported goods to and from the docks and warehouses every day.
We have been elected by committees of our co-workers at the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York and New Jersey to tell our collective story. We have accepted the honor to speak up for our brothers and sisters about our working conditions despite the risk of retaliation we face. One of us is a mother, the rest of us fathers. Between the five of us we have 11children and one more baby on the way. We have a combined 46 years of experience driving cargo from our shores for America’s stores.
For some time Merle Haggard’s lyrics about vanishing jobs and workmanship have seemed more like a lament than the pep talk they were intended to be:
I wish a Ford and a Chevy
Would still last 10 years
Like they should . . .
When a man could still work, still would.
And are the good times really over for good?
Even with some signs that industry is making a timid return to America, organized labor is struggling to influence political events. The Frying Pan spoke about this on December 8 with UNITE HERE president John Wilhelm, shortly before he introduced honoree DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFL Players Association, at LAANE’s City of Justice Awards Dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Wilhelm, whose union represents hospitality workers across North America,