I guess my ethno-geographically defined sarcasm is intolerable to some who envision a near-monoculture America as the “real” America. Maybe some sensitivity training is in order. And maybe some honesty, too, since the concert in question did include “Deck The Halls,” which is undeniably a Christmas carol. So Mr. Connick’s complaint isn’t even valid -- but readers of his letter, which included the explicit threat of a lawsuit against the school district, would have no way of knowing that in his zeal to make his groundless point, he lied, which is something I don’t associate with Christian tradition. It also seems the common thread in the song list I proposed for next year’s show has been missed by some neighbors who were never exposed to Jewish-American history and seem to find fostering an understanding of the diversity of the very small minority communities in our midst to be so insufferable. They were all written by American Jews. In case nobody ever told you, hear it now: we love Christmas, and much of what Christian Americans enjoy about Christmas stems from our appreciation of, and contributions to your celebratory tradition. And the reason I stated that I was only writing for myself was not to shield myself from being known as a member of one or more institutions in New Paltz -- it was to shield those institutions from accusations that my personal beliefs were indicative of beliefs held by those institutions. I have a right to personal opinions, and I always take full responsibility for myself.
The first thing you should know about Chanukah is that it’s not even an important holiday in the Jewish calendar -- American commercial efforts to “Christmas-ize” it notwithstanding. But more importantly for this discussion, unlike Christmas songs, all Chanukah songs are secular, even if they mention God or miracles. That’s because Chanukah (translates as “rededication”) celebrates the restoration of the capital of Israel in Jerusalem following a bloody rebellion against an occupying European empire -- an historic event. Nearly all Jewish holidays celebrate historic and otherwise physical, human, national events: celebrating the escape from slavery in Egypt; mourning the destruction of the two Temples by invaders; remembering being saved from extermination by various parties (tragically, we have a bunch of those right up to modern times); the planting of the fields; the harvest; the new year, etc. In other words, Chunukah is much more of a Fourth of July than a Christmas. Compare that to Christian holidays, which overwhelmingly recognize the birth of God; the execution of God; the resurrection of God; etc. There is no equivalent of “Silent Night” or “Oh, Holy Night” for Chanukah, nor could there be. Unless people are exposed to that concept, they’ll never know it, and the misunderstandings that divide us will be continued and exacerbated. On the other side of that coin is the reality that there is no way for a Jew, Muslim or Hindu in America to not know EXACTLY what Christmas and Easter are about, songs or no songs, public school or no public school, political correctness or no political correctness.
You may also not be aware how aggressive it is towards tiny minority cultures, particularly those that have suffered gross oppression and atrocities of incomparable scale, when a religion that is in such an overwhelming majority in every single element of our population, culture, economy and political system makes such a point about crying “persecution,” as is the message when someone hunts down and “outs” what they consider manifestations of something they openly call the “war” on Christmas. Every President has been Christian. Most of Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans are Christian. You want a taxpayer complaint? There are over 3000 Christian radio stations broadcasting 24 hours a day, all tax exempt, unlike secular media, which pays taxes on its income and property. Television is full of Christian preaching and broadcasts from churches the size of basketball arenas -- all tax-exempt. Practically every website I use has ads leading to Christian websites -- again, all tax-exempt. Only 76% of Americans identify as Christian, but 83% of Congress is Christian, and with the departure of Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, so are all 50 US governors and the governors of all five territories, which perhaps makes you more comfortable, especially since the overwhelming majority of the Armed Forces officers and enlisted personnel are Christian. Every single chairperson of the American Governor’s Association in its 100-year history has been Christian, including several ordained ministers. The Mel Gibson movie “The Passion of the Christ,” a graphic representation of the “blood libel” which has been the source of 2000 years of horrific abuse of Jews from which they found no safe quarter until 1948, which explicitly condemns “the Jews” for the suffering and death of Jesus, was, despite its extreme violence, marketed in the massive, tax-exempt Christian media as a cause to prevent “Hollywood Jews” from “persecuting” Gibson, thereby earning a terrifying $350 million at American box offices. Banks are closed on Sundays, not Saturdays. School is closed for a whole week for Easter, even though Easter is on a Sunday. From whence stems this fear of having your religion erased from public consciousness at year’s end?
You want to know what bugs me -- in fact actually scares me -- about all this “war on Christmas” griping, and the numbers and money behind promulgating it that you clearly don’t process or comprehend? For a moment let’s set aside that you lied about the concert, since a Christmas song was performed. If you are truly being suppressed in some way, then by extension someone is doing it. Since Christians would be excluded, those of us in the tiny minorities are the ones being accused of being persecutors. Aside from being preposterous and open to ridicule, yes, if you’re not a member of one of these minority groups, then you really don’t have any idea how insulting, and even threatening, these claims sound. The single institution in America that’s undermined Christian religious tradition more than any other is the NFL, but Fox News and the American Family Association don’t get too upset about that. But even that isn’t “war.” You want to see a real war with religious implications? Turn off Fox News, stop spying on local public school concerts and go to Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands of people get killed and maimed in wars, towns leveled, history erased -- not just can’t hear enough of the songs they like at a school concert. Get a grip.
As for me, I’m against wars, real and imagined. I’m for peace. I’ve come to understand that that was Jesus’s message, but you can correct me on that if I’ve been inadequately exposed to your culture. Peace can only come through understanding. I’m for anything that helps expand the opportunity for understanding, and such opportunities are needed now more than ever, and do not come at your expense. You may have the last word. I’m done.
Food for thought
I’d like to propose one of our first resolutions of the New Year, and perhaps the most important one. Here’s how I arrived at it:
A few years ago, Lester Brown, the famous global economist and ecologist, was invited to New Paltz, charging $10,000 for his lecture. Is anyone’s time or advice worth that much?
He began with these pronouncements:
-- The earth’s food supply is determined by its grain supply.
-- For the first time in decades, there is no real grain surplus -- only about 45 days’ worth.
-- One bad weather season could cause a grain shortfall and therefore a food shortfall.
We’re already experiencing that “bad weather” with two events of particular significance.
Last summer, a large region of Russia, including the Moscow area, experienced 100-degree heat for the first time in recent history -- and again on four other occasions. The resulting drought, wildfires and crop loss caused their government to ban wheat sales outside the country.
The second weather extreme, happening as I write, is the incredible flooding in Australia. An area the combined size of Texas and Oklahoma is under water, much of it in grain crops. The effects of this disaster will reverberate around the globe.
Maybe the early warning from Lester Brown was well worth $10,000. It’s reminiscent of Joseph’s early biblical prediction to Pharaoh that the years of plenty would be followed by years of famine. If so, how do we prepare?
Luckily, we’ve already begun the process here in our community by “stocking up” on local farmland and farm markets. How fortunate to have an abundance of both the older family farms and new organic farms in our area. We can definitely increase our food security by weaning ourselves from the distant corporate farms in favor of local growers.
Thus, our most important resolution of 2011 may be to: join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm; try the 100-mile local diet; frequent local farm stands and winter markets; or, for large buyers and restaurateurs, patronize wholesalers who emphasize local produce.
Thanks, Lester. I think you were worth it.
Climate Action Coalition
The state of the state’s fracking status
There was a big sigh of relief when it was announced Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Joe Martens to head the New York State Department of Environmental Protection (DEC). Commissioner Martens, most recently President of the Open Space Institute, will bring a deep understanding of the environmental point of view to the table, as he provides a leadership role to balance the agendas of the state, the environmentalists and the oil and gas industry.
As this controversy to frack or not to frack continues in New York State, our responsibility to keep the water, air and land free from pollution is far from done. Invite everyone you know to call Governor Cuomo (518-474-8390) and Commissioner Martens (518-402-8545). Also, continue to contact your state legislators with your reasons of why we do not want fracking in our state. Here is the link to a short but informative video to share: theecologist.org/trial_investigations/687515/us_natural_gas_drilling_boom_linked_to_pollution_and_social_strife.html.
In 2010 the New York State Senate and Assembly both passed a temporary moratorium to wait for more research on the effects of fracking on the environment and public health much because of all your calls and e-mails. Your actions do make a difference. Remember democracy is not a spectator sport.
Christmas is everywhere
A week before Thanksgiving I happened to be in one of our local malls. The Christmas music was already blaring and I had to walk around scaffolding that was being used to hang huge red and green decorations on the ceiling. And since that day until Dec. 25 I have seen and heard nothing but Christmas -- on the radio, on TV and in all the stores and businesses in my hometown in New Paltz. As a Catholic, I am delighted by the attention given to such a Christian holy day; however, I often wonder what it must feel like to those who don’t celebrate the holiday. Christmas is everywhere.
A few weeks ago, Mr. Frank Connick from Poughkeepsie wrote a letter to the editor of this paper. In it he decries that there is a “War on Christmas” and cites the New Paltz School District as complicit. He states that he has attended many “Winter Concerts” in the district and because there was no mention of Christmas the New Paltz School District is guilty of “purposefully...marginalizing” Christians and showing “contempt for their beliefs and institutions.” Mr. Connick then threatens a “lawsuit” on an “already cash-strapped district.” In his letter Mr. Connick never mentions why, as a resident of Poughkeepsie, he has attended so many New Paltz school functions. I can only assume he comes as a guest. Also in his letter, Mr. Connick never acknowledges the efforts of the children performing. His only grip is that they never sing a song for his holiday. Perhaps Mr. Connick should start by asking for a refund of his admission fee.
I ask Mr. Connick what exactly are those “beliefs and traditions” the schools show contempt for? Would it be Christmas or X-mas? Would it be the nativity scene outside my church or “Candy Cane Lane” neighborhoods? Jesus or Santa? Would “Joy to the World” be his preference or would “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” suffice? The “War on Christmas” is a myth created and perpetuated by the Fox “News” Channel in an effort to garner support for their own War on the Separation of Church and State. Besides Mr. Connick’s letter that is the only place I’ve heard it referenced. This is the same channel that refers to the holiday as “X-mas” in its crawler and has done numerous features on neighborhoods like “Candy Cane Lane.”
Any defense of Christmas should come within Christians themselves for we have allowed the birth of our Savior to become the somewhat garish, commercialized unholy festival it at times appears to be. Perhaps a “War on X-mas” would be more appropriate than picking on school programs. Yes, it would be nice to hear third graders sing “Angels We Have Heard on High,” but if I don’t, I’m sure I’ll hear it on the radio, during a TV commercial, in the mall or better yet, at Mass.
Kevin Patrick Hodgkiss
Snowmobilers should stay off the rail trail
I am hoping this letter will help curtail or put an end to the snowmobilers who continually ignore the rules of the rail trail and who are selfish and ruin the trail for others. In case the reader is one of those snowmobilers who were whizzing by too fast and missed the signage: a) motorized vehicles are not allowed and b) in addition, usage is from dawn to dusk.
After this recent snowfall I thought conditions would be great for cross-country skiing on the rail trail. Unfortunately, the conditions were horrible because the snowmobiles kicked up gravel from the rail trail and mixed it in with the snow and in some places there was no snow at all. At one point I took my skis off and walked back. I ran into other skiers who have also had enough. After the next snowfall, I urge any property owners adjacent to the rail trail or anyone seeing people enter the rail trail on their snowmobiles to call the state police at 626-2800 for those outside New Paltz.
A caring community
On behalf of the Highland Methodist Church Koinonia Food Closet, I would like to take the time to recognize and thank some very wonderful people and organizations. They donated not only food, toys and money, but many of them donated a tremendous amount of time and muscle to help make it possible for some families to have a little nicer Thanksgiving and Christmas: The Highland Rotary; St. Augustine Church; Ladies Auxiliary of the Highland Fire Department; ShopRite of New Paltz; Ladies Auxiliary of the Bloomington Fire Department; Highland Grange; the Highland middle and high school students AND teachers; Café Aurora; Highland Girl Scout Troops 60054, 60143, 60259 and 60062; The Would Restaurant; Bellochio Electric; Phoenix Industries; Pavero Cold Storage; Freihofer’s; and of course the Highland Methodist Church.
As always, in every project, there are a few people that go above and beyond in helping. Without these people, my job would be 100 times harder. So, a special thank you to Stephanie King, who is always there with new ideas to help make the project a little easier; Stephanie Doland, who organizes the toy and gift distribution; Ken and Gerry Kilpatrick, who work relentlessly collecting food and toys; and of course my grandson Kyle Walker, who drives me around collecting and carrying all the turkeys, hams, milk, eggs, etc. (and then carrying them back out to the families’ cars and homes).
I would also like to say, from the bottom of my heart, a HUGE thank you to the Highland Rotary. Without all their financial support (and their physical help), I don’t know if we could do this every year. The Koinonia Food Closet has been helping families in the Highland School District at Thanksgiving and Christmas for about 30 years. This year we distributed approximately 185 food and gift baskets. We couldn’t have done it without the help of a wonderful and caring community. Thank you again Highland. YOU ARE GREAT!
Methodist Church, Koinonia Food Closet
Thanks for the hospitality
On behalf of the New Paltz Rotary Club, I am writing to acknowledge and publicly thank Mike Beck, Mike Katz and the staff of P&G’s Restaurant. Each year the Rotary “takes over” a corner of the restaurant to have our annual old-fashioned photos with Santa event. Mike Beck not only generously provides the space, but also each year makes a matching donation. This fundraiser goes to support the Saint John Bosco home in New Paltz. Mike Katz annually takes a stint as Santa and the rest of the staff graciously “work around” our unwieldy group.
The New Paltz Rotary is a service organization made up of local business people. Anyone interested in learning more about the club is invited to join us for a “mixer” at 36 Main on Friday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m.
for the New Paltz Rotary Club
Helping the needy animals
We would like to express our sincere thanks for the generosity of Bill’s Garage in New Paltz and Hannafords in Modena for permitting us to place receptacles and donation banks within their premises to accommodate our holiday pet food donations for the needy animals in our towns. Many of our neighbors are struggling during these bad economic times. Thankfully, our neighbors were extremely generous this holiday season in providing for needy pets and making this donation drive a success. Special thanks to “Aunt Bea” of New Paltz for initiating the drive and Gina for doing all the footwork and deliveries. Again, thank you neighbors. Bill’s Garage is continuing to accept donations.
Mid-Hudson Animal League
Preserving our freedom in New Paltz
Currently, I live in Delaware County. Like many sons and daughters in the area, I had to go elsewhere to find a job, and ironically I found it in an area where jobs are scarce, such as Delaware County. Delaware is rich in forests, and since I earned a degree in forestry, it fit me well.
I grew up in New Paltz. My mother is from the Village of New Paltz and my father from Highland. I appreciate the opportunity of returning to my hometown, as some cannot since they either live too far away or as some Catskill locals have experienced, can no longer, since their homes were flooded for reservoirs to feed the City of New York. It is nice to see familiar faces and familiar places of where I used to hang out. It’s nice to see some of the changes too. Where I used to ride my bike, there are many more houses where I picked black-caps. Some of the mulberry trees have been shaded out as well, but there are more turkey and deer. Maybe too many deer! Look at your forest under story. It is being plucked by hungry deer!
There are also more police. Maybe too many! Let’s take a look at what they like to browse on. Unlike deer, the police can behave as predators that prey on drunken, anonymous college kids whose families are far away. The police who are charged to serve and protect both visitors and citizens of the Town of New Paltz remind me more of U.S. Marine drill instructors swarming recruits during week one on Parris Island. (Note: Marine drill instructors train U.S. government property to kill enemies of the union in far and away places.)
Although one does not need to serve in the Armed Forces to realize what freedom or respect is, I joined when I was a young 17 year old because I thought our freedom was worth preserving and/or enhancing. When one can no longer stand on the sidewalk of the town where he or she grew up in late at night or question the police of their motives without pocket rummaging, then I believe we as a society have a problem.
Last September I was given a “free room” after hours at the “hotel” in the Ulster County Jail on a bail of $5000 for disorderly conduct (Take note: Please review upcoming police blotters on more severe crimes and contrast their respective bail demands). There at the Ulster County prison I had to be escorted on an elevator by the Ulster County officer. Standing in the corner sharing the awkward elevator silence, coupled with the orange circus suit I was attired in, the officer asked me what I had done. He was surprised and began attesting how this country needed change. “We need a revolution. Freedom has been caste away; taxes are ridiculous and socialism is near.” It was late and went something like that. I mean I was wearing the orange and he the county emblem. The difference between him and the New Paltz police was professionalism. They did what they were paid to do. There was no reason to act like Force Recon assailing Al-Qaeda at 0300 with fingers straight and off the trigger.
The bottom line is that police are paid to uphold the letter of the law. They are a tool of the decision-making body of the municipality. I cannot blame them for doing their jobs, entirely. Although Cool Hand Luke did say, “Callin’ it your job, don’t make it right boss.” What is in question is their professionalism in upholding the law. Their smirking gestures mixed with arrogance are reminiscent of an adolescent, prima donna middle school football team playing home under the lights (I don’t mean to put down our modified team). This is no football or soccer team. This is not a show for your amusement. You are paid to serve those within the town limits. Sometimes they (who you serve) may not say something you like and you may just have to deal with it or act accordingly. Other publicly supported occupations do. They include NYS DEC land managers, school teachers, highway superintendents, etc. Visit a public hearing on gas drilling or a parent teacher conference. It gets heated. A police officer’s first reaction should not be an arrest, followed by pocket rummaging, followed by placing your head on the hood. Arresting someone should be used as a last resort.
My other question, beyond police control, is to the decision-makers and the population that elects them. Are you aware of this show of arrogance? Many older residents probably do not realize this goes on. New Paltz prizes itself on being free and tolerant. Yet, this is far from the truth. Freedom of speech? Freedom to stand on public right-of-ways, search and seizure, detainment, loss of work and pay? What’s next? Pocket rummaging of the women in black as they Jaywalk after standing in front of Elting Library? If standing on the side of a road is truly against village ordinance, then I guess the problem is larger than originally thought. If Jaywalking across the road warrants police arrest, then we have a problem.
I questioned the police the week prior about their show of force on the sidewalk scene. The next week they took their revenge and took my money in court. The intention of good laws is to protect injured persons and property. Show me an injured party. The fact is that there was no injured party, but only the injured ego of the officers that night who failed to serve the rights of those that pay their salaries and are supposed to be protecting. It was late at night and I wasn’t drinking coffee. They probably were drinking coffee and our initial behavior toward each other was even at best. For more information or experience on the matter, simply hang out late at night and look at some of the New Paltz police the wrong way. He or she will gladly serve you (handcuffs and papers). And if you believe in that whole American constitution stuff, it helps to be independently wealthy and not doing anything for the rest of your life, to uphold. Lawyer up or stay off their sidewalks and roads people! I’m sure there is another side to this story, but that’s their right and I respect that.
One at a time
There has been a lot of controversy about the middle school in New Paltz and the repairs that seem to be needed. It is well known that the school is old and in need of repairs. The question is how can we make the repairs affordable?
There has been talk of buying another building to use as a middle school while a new middle school gets built. This idea was voted down by the community because of the tax increase it would cause. There is new talk of grades K-4 attending Duzine, grades 5-7 at Lenape and grades 8-12 at the high school.
Splitting up the grades into three schools temporarily is not a bad idea, but is it necessary to completely rebuild the middle school? Duzine, Lenape and the high school will become over crowded. Classes will become bigger and students will have less one-on-one time with teachers. Students are already at the risk of losing electives and sports due to the economy.
It would benefit the community and the school district if small projects were done one at a time. Repairs and improvements throughout the middle school should be prioritized based on how important and necessary they are. No matter what, old or new, a building will always need repairs and maintenance. By fixing the major issues a section at a time, money will be saved.
Cora Juczak, Jimmy Wells and Alex Vladick, seniors
New Paltz High School
The white elephant
There’s an elephant in our public space. It’s large, but it stands there quietly, knowing what it knows. But the news articles about the shooting in Tucson don’t mention it and the people quoted don’t talk about it. The
National Rifle Association comments that it is “praying for quick recovery of those injured,” but praying won’t bring back the nine-year-old girl or the friend who stopped by to say hello or the other four dead. Nor will a moment of silence restore whatever Congresswoman Giffords lost when a bullet was fired at close range into her head. Nor will all the talk of cooling the political rhetoric (a good idea) stop the next unemployed, mentally unstable, drunk or resentful loner from (legally because he is not yet a criminal) buying a semiautomatic pistol like the one used in this shooting. And (legally in some states) carrying it concealed in public to where he (rarely she) will vent his feelings or feel like somebody by shooting as many people as his weapon allows until he is stopped.
On one side of that elephant that just never goes away you can read “gun control.” Imagine that scene in Tucson if the murderer couldn’t buy a pistol and couldn’t carry it concealed in public. Could he have killed six people and injured another ten if his only weapon was a knife? We are all at the mercy of every person who carries a gun in public. Does it matter to the families of those six dead that the shooter wasn’t a criminal and therefore had the legal right to buy and carry a gun in public in Arizona, a state with weak gun control laws?
The other side of the elephant has “10,100 per year.” In 1994, gun-related deaths in the U.S. were 14/100,000. In Mexico 13, in Canada 4, in Britain less than 1. These countries have stricter gun control laws than we do; Mexico is overwhelmed by guns bought in our country. How many more dead will it take to convince you that guns are too dangerous to allow Americans to carry them outside their homes?
In Britain, mass killings are followed by tightening of gun control laws. Why doesn’t that happen in our country? Are we so sure that we will never be in the wrong place at the wrong time, that we will never date or marry a violent man, that no mentally ill person will choose us as his random target?
Andi Weiss Bartczak
Where is Pope Pius XII when we really need him
Andrew Cuomo is militantly pro-abortion and pro-gay “marriage.” He strongly supports the radical Reproductive Health Act in the New York State Legislature. This proposed law would force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions. In addition, Cuomo took his children to the New York City gay pride parade replete with its blasphemous anti-Catholic hate speech and obscene behavior in front of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Moreover, Cuomo is currently living in sin with his mistress.
Despite all this, Cuomo was publicly praised and given Holy Communion by Bishop Hubbard of the Albany Diocese. This is a monstrous sacrilege and profanation of the Blessed Sacrament. It is also a grave scandal for all faithful Catholics.
Cuomo is actually a resident of the New York Archdiocese. Therefore, as his episcopal shepherd, Archbishop Dolan is obliged to excommunicate Cuomo if he does not formally repudiate his flagrant rejection of Catholic doctrinal teaching.
As for Bishop Hubbard, he should be defrocked. However, this is not likely to happen given the Modernist usurpers in Rome. Where is Pope Pius XII when we really need him?