Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas and Gratitude

Every Thanksgiving, I take time to list all the people, events and other things in my life from the previous year, for which I am grateful. This allows me to enter into Advent with a sense of gratitude and hope for the year to come. As in past years I conducted my personal Thanksgiving ritual. However, with the polarization in Congress, the strong clear message of the Occupy Movement that our economic system is fundamentally flawed, the ongoing “head in the sand” attitude of both parties unwilling to address the needs of 12 million undocumented immigrants living in our country, the ongoing threat of gun violence, and the desperate needs for reform in urban public schools, not to mention my own ongoing health struggles, I have found it hard to be thankful.

Yet today, as I approach the celebration of the birth of Jesus, I am reminded that gratitude is a choice not a consequence. I am reminded that each day I can choose to be thankful for the blessings and the challenges in my life. Even though I do not always live up to the values I espouse, I am drawn to a vision of the world articulated in Mary’s Magnificat and rehearsed every Christmas:

               God has performed mighty deeds with his arm
               And has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts
               God has brought down rulers from their thrones
               But has lifted up the humble
               God has filled the hungry with good things
               But has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1.51-53)

No, the vision of a “great reversal” of power and fortune that Mary puts forth is not fulfilled in our time, nor in any time. Yet it is the promise and hope that my faith in Christ gives me and makes me realize who and whose I am in the great scheme of time and history.

So despite my frustrations social, political and personal, I choose this day to be grateful for Life, for friends, for a sense of purpose, and for fellow strugglers like so many of you who read this blog, who like me live into the vision of the world Mary saw with the birth of her son. May we continue to work for a safer, more just, more humane world, even as we give thanks for the lives we have today.


Saturday, December 03, 2011

Yes, Freedom Can Be Expensive

Now that the Occupy Philly protesters have been removed from Dilworth Plaza surrounding City Hall, the city has estimated that the 8 week occupation cost the city $1,052,000, mostly in police overtime. While this number is accurate, its prominence in the media (such as the Philadelphia Inquirer and the major news channels) has shown how skewed the reporting has been. While the media seemed quick to report any isolated incidents of violence or criminal behavior, and focus on arrests such as the sit down at the Comcast Building or the demonstration outside the police station, they have given precious little space to investigating and analyzing the claims that the occupiers have been highlighting, such as the huge tax breaks that major corporations like Comcast have been given by the city. How much money has this corporate giveback cost the residents of the city? Not a word from the media on that.

As city officials have been quick to note the struggles to balance the city budget is part of the struggle of the 99% the occupiers claim to represent. Overall, I think the city officials, especially Police Commissioner Ramsay and Mayor Nutter, did their best to remain open to the concerns and demands of the occupiers. The reason they were removed was so that a multimillion renovation providing hundreds of jobs for local residents could go forward. That fact itself caused a split in the occupiers, between some who wanted to remain, and others who felt that the promise of jobs (a major concern of the Occupy movement) required them to move off the Dilworth Plaza sight.

The Occupy Philly activists have pledged to continue to bring forth their message. I hope they do. However, unless the media chooses to report on the real substance of the movement, we may not get to hear their message