Larry Ray : Early Christmas? Put Away the Flashing Lights


A string of lights: Don’t expect pretty incentive packages under America’s real Christmas trees this year.
By Larry Ray
/ The Rag Blog / November 8, 2008

It has been like a long Christmas morning since the evening of the November 4th Democratic victory. Tens of millions of us basked in a new feeling of peace on earth and good will toward men. But by now we have already taken off almost all the political ornaments, tinsel and flashing lights from our early stand-in Christmas tree, and have packed them away for another four years.

Don’t expect pretty incentive packages under America’s real Christmas trees this year. This New Year’s day, millions of households will face post-holiday blues not felt in more than half a century. Frigid winter’s increasing chill will punctuate our deep economic crisis. We are slowly realizing that no immediate rescue is in sight. We are stuck with Bush and company till late January next year. The new Obama administration will require time to get effective plans underway. “Maybe some mortgage relief in a few months,” say the hopeful. Meanwhile we watch the daily terrifying cycle of vanishing credit, no one spending leading to layoffs and store closures, leading to a dimmer and dimmer future.

Imagine an early TV broadcast of June Evelyn Bronson Cleaver, of all people, having to tell Beaver and Wally that it will be one present Christmas. Ward still has his job, but he had to take a steep cut in pay and his company pension fund is dwindling daily. Already more than half of the Cleaver’s neighbors have packed up and left as the foreclosure signs went up. June’s spinster aunt, Martha, has had to divide her prescription drug medicines to every other day because there is just not enough money, even living alone. It is the last show of their season and we don’t get to see the ending.

For today’s real families there is no way to leave it to Beaver. Millions of Americans are slowly being reduced to the basics of just having enough to eat, and trying to stay warm. Crime rates are predicted to climb as many normally law abiding people resort to doing what they think it takes to feed their families. As dark times of scarcity face us it is imperative we not lose that newly rekindled sense of hope seen across our nation on the evening of November 4th.

“Yes We Can” requires that we all work together as a connected string of individual bright lights that refuse to burn out as a new Obama administration tackles the huge stack of problems that face us. All Americans regardless of political stripe must find that inner energy, powered by our pride and hope, to keep that essential string of lights burning to fight the darkness we face. Decades of unregulated financial dealings that led to today’s economic nightmare will take a long time to clean up and repair. Bad habits in Washington will have to be broken, and lots of sticky fingers and downward pointing thumbs on Capitol Hill should get broken as well.

The brightest light of all for America would come from a vigorous effort to bring criminal charges against the Bush administration and the neo-conservative, Constitution-trampling knot-heads who need to pay for the serious damage they have done to our great country. For them to ignore subpoenas, wait out the clock, smugly return to their super wealthy protected enclaves as though nothing culpable had happened is not right.

Actually charge and prosecute the powerful? Yes We Can.

[Retired journalist Larry Ray is a Texas native and former Austin news anchor. He also posts at The iHandbill.]

The Rag Blog

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2 Responses to Larry Ray : Early Christmas? Put Away the Flashing Lights

  1. I enjoy reading Larry’s blog; always nice when an article shows up on my favorite blog – THE RAG BLOG.

    Another brilliant piece by Mr. Ray – beautifully said!

    I can only say one thing that might put a bit of a perspective on it because I was extremely poor growing up; my first 18 years were not unlike a lot of kids who had father’s gone in WWII; some of us didn’t get to know our dad’s until we were ready to head off to kindergarten!

    Aside from the tough times with mothers all trying to find work; take care of us as little kids, and worry each night about the safety of not only their husbands who were at war, but of our nation that might be attacked more brutally than on 12/7/1941, when one is also very poor to start with it means there are NO PRESENTS under a Christmas tree because there is NO TREE either!

    When dad came home in December of 1945, it was a blizzard; he stepped off the train at the Kalamazoo Depot – a small 5’7″ – 130# man; duffel bag on his back, and limped toward my mom, me, and my grandfather who’d driven us to the station.

    That year there was no Christmas tree or gifts, but THE GIFT OF MY DAD HOME SAFELY was the greatest gift I ever got!

    Over the years, we had trees when we could find one to cut; we had a present or two when my dad would make them (my wooden play table; my wooden desk – and chair; a wooden crib for the doll my grandmother gave me). My mother would make up boxes of cookies and candies; wrap them in brown paper bag material, and tie with braided twine that we used to bail the hay.

    We learned that Christmas was NOT ABOUT PRESENTS; it was about celebrating another year with family (just like Thanksgiving Day). We learned about the story of Christ, and though I am not a Christian I do believe in the man called Jesus and the good works he did during his short life-time. Because we felt it was Christ’s birthday, it meant nothing more than celebrating the day of a kind person’s birth – any gifts that my parents and grandparents made for us kids was just one more ‘wonderful thing’ to share on that day.

    We didn’t have a ‘holiday season’ – there was nothing like having a ‘buying period’ that starts in November; there was no ‘after Friday’ massive sale and traffic jams to hit the stores for discounted Christmas gift items!

    For me, nothing has changed – never will. On yes, I did leave home at 17; had a job 2 weeks later, and worked myself up to being President of a small company before I ended my 36 years of a working career. Suffice to say, I did not stay ‘poor’ when it came to my financial status and yes, all of my children and grand-kids have had very generous gifts given AT TIMES WE ALL FELT WE COULD AFFORD THEM. But did the joy ever change when we didn’t have the money to give gifts? Nope, never has, and this year while I have a nice surplus of cash for holiday gifts, instead I’m giving CASH to my grown children who are short of money for gift-giving to their kids. I’ve also sent money to a church in the Philippines that I’ve supported for 7 years; money to a young man trying to get educated in another part of the Philippines so he can finalize his degree, and have used the balance of the money to create a gift bag for all of the kids in our immediate neighborhood who have parents who lost their jobs during the past few months.

    When one realizes that MONEY is not what makes the HOLIDAY, then it matters not if there is no tree or gift at a time when others might be ‘cashing in’ on Christmas Day.

    What I do find inspiring about Mr. Ray’s article is the way we need to work like those sparkling lights that are strung together. We also have to remember that the old Christmas lights weren’t quite so ‘smart’ as the newest ones. On the old string of lights, when one bulb burned out, all the lights went out. Nope, in that analogy no ONE should be the cause of the rest of the bulbs to BURN OUT TOO. The new lights are great….

    If one bulb blows
    There’s still another
    who glows

    (brief prose intended).

    For that reason, we have to accept the fact the some of the bulbs on the string many times shine more brightly than others (as Obama does in my opinion). Nevertheless, Obama is not the single shining star on the top of the ‘tree’; his time to shine hasn’t even begun and won’t until 1/20/09, so we can only look to him as our ‘leader’, but not as our savior.

    I think as a nation of frantic consummers; addicted to glitz, glittzer, gizmos, gadgets, and greed, it’s time to base our joys and reasons to celebrate ANY SEASON, on the love and relationship we have with our family, friends, and fellow-man.

    In closing, I don’t think you’ll find any of the web-sites who are focused on world hunger posting any kind of article about how they’ll only get ‘one present’ at Christmas – right now the ones I read (and send money to a few of those causes), are talking about not even having shelter during the aftermath of earthquakes; or drinkable water after being wiped out in floods.

    Maybe I should take the time to find one of those articles, and plop it in the comment section on this post so we can all remind ourselves that we’re just damned lucky we have a computer; are connected to the I-net, and can read not only Larry’s excellent words of wisdom, but that both Richard and Thorne have remained such diligent distributors of truth; they allow us to get our heads back on straight, and indulge in critical thinking. Frankly, that’s enough ‘Christmas Cheer’ for me……

  2. Well, it looks like Happy and I were kids about the same time . . . and I remember those years with the blackout curtains and air raid drills in the small Gulf Coast fishing town where I grew up. My Depression-era parents made Christmas as special as possible and the stockings had apples, oranges and assorted walnuts,almonds and pecans and a cap pistol with several red rolls of caps. Heaven, and abundance in the 1940’s. In the 50’s I even got a Schwinn Flier bicycle with a basket on the front handlebar, which I rode all over town to change out all the Rialto Theatre movie posters in their 2 X 4 chicken wire frames nailed to telephone poles.

    I reminisce for a moment because today I fear I could be speaking in a foreign language as I write for the broader and much younger readers on the internet today. If I reference specifics of the roots from which Happy and I take our power and energy today, many readers might miss the point. Hard to relate to ration stamps, mixing the yellow powdered dye into the large pale white block of glop to make it into “Margarine.” Our whole family walked to the picture show downtown and then back home, sometimes way after dark, and we were happy.

    Then whooosh, and it is almost 2009. The challenge as I see it for those of us who have been around for a long time and still want to to communicate is to write in an interesting and contemporary way that the newer generations will read, and once they are reading, maybe we can eventually get them to even consider having their kids unplug the Playstations and Nintendos and go out and play kick-the-can under the streetlight . . . Nah, probably not kick-the-can. I forgot we are talking about change we can believe in here! Thanks, Happy

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