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God and Empire: Merry Christmas from Dick Cheney
Molly Ivins talks about holiday greetings from the vice president which makes frightening reference to God and empire.
by Molly Ivins - Creators Syndicate
12.26.03 - AUSTIN -- Vice President Cheney's Christmas card this year not only offers best wishes in this holiday season but also bears the following quotation from Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention: "And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?" Food for thought there: a heavy meal, in fact.
Interpreting what the Lord intended by one thing or another has always been a dicey pastime. Ten years ago, we had one of those outbreaks where lots of people do ridiculous things and then claim it was because the Lord told them to. That was the summer a family of 20 people from Floydada, Texas, got naked, piled into a GTO (five kids in the trunk) and drove to Vinton, La., where they ran into a tree. Surprised hell out of the Vinton cops to see 20 nekkid people get out of one car. The family said the Lord told them to do it. There was so much of that kind of thing going around, I developed a theory about a dangerous Lord impersonator being on the loose.
I'm not saying that either Cheney or Franklin has heard from a Lord Impersonator, but just for starters on this empire biz, it was the Roman Empire that crucified Jesus. Then your Turkish Empire, not too tasty. Your Moghuls, ditto. Aztec Empire, fairly liberal on human sacrifice. Of the colonial empires -- French, Dutch, British, Portuguese -- all were contenders for the title of Worst Ever at different times and in different places -- but I think the crown probably goes to the Belgian Empire under King Leopold, believed to be responsible for the deaths of 10 million Africans when the entire Congo was Leopold's private plantation.
Of course, in the United States, we like to believe in American exceptionalism, to see ourselves as the Shining City on the Hill, a light and beacon unto all the world, and -- as it says on that statue given us by our friends, the French -- opening our arms to the world's tired, hungry and poor. We would naturally prefer to forget that the country was founded on genocide and slavery, but we have amongst us many nags and scolds who keep bringing it up, especially when we're having one of our snits of American triumphalism.
All I am saying is I wouldn't be all too sure about the Lord's intentions regarding empire. Just a cheery Christmas thought brought to you by the vice-president and me.
My favorite Christmas card this year says: "We wish you a Merry Christmas" three times on the front. On the inside it says, "AND a Happy New Year ... or not ... Depending on what the elves get for Christmas. After all, we wished you a Merry Christmas three times! Only Santa does this for grins."
I have not heard of one good creche fight this year. We can normally count on a peppy creche controversy to add to the seasonal joy and festive cheer. This occurs when some citizen or public official suffering from an excess of Goodwill Toward Men puts up a religious symbol, often a creche, on public property. Then the ACLU or somebody files a lawsuit, and everybody gets mad at everybody else, leading to slightly less Peace On Earth. As Ann Richards once observed of a controversial star on top of the Texas state capitol: "Oh, I hate to see them take that down. This could be the only chance we'll ever get to find three wise men in that building."
My favorite Christmas visitor (so far) was the chief of the Pojoaque, N.M., Volunteer Fire Department. I love to hear true tales from the Pojoaque fire department (the time the food warehouse burned down and all the popcorn popped is a special favorite). The chief observes that they're getting more and more calls from people who don't have a fire, or even a raccoon in the house, but from people who are sick. The fire trucks come with EMTs (emergency medical technicians), who can handle any number of routine medical emergencies (if you can have a routine emergency) like a person in a diabetic coma or in need of a regular shot. The sick person then refuses to let the firefighters call an ambulance because the ambulance and the emergency room cost money, whereas the fire department does not charge. As a consequence, fire departments across the country are now becoming the frontline for a medical system in increasing disrepair.
So if some homeless woman by any chance had a child in a stable in Pojoaque last night, most likely neither shepherds nor wise men were summoned, but instead volunteer firefighters. Which makes me very happy because I think volunteer firefighters are, by and large, a perfectly wonderful set of people. Merry Christmas to all.
(c) 2003 Creators Syndicate
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