Friday, January 20, 2012


In John F. Kennedy’s 1961 presidential inaugural speech, he said, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.”

Today’s politicians seem more interested in using America—or the American media—to propagate political smear campaigns against their opponents. In the last several elections, I’ve learned very little about what each candidate thinks he/she can do for the country. I haven’t heard a lot about the candidate’s credentials or political views. Instead, each candidate seems more focused on defending themselves against attack or slinging mud at the other candidates. These campaigns have been so effective, many candidates are defeated before we learn much about them.

Herman Cain seemed to be a fine candidate for president. He’s a pro-business family man who had a lot to offer to the Republican campaign—until rumors of infidelity and sexual harassment surfaced, and the media went on the attack. 

Television, radio, and more recently, the internet, have increased the speed at which political rumors fly. If a candidate steps out of a cab at midnight in New York with lipstick on his collar and his fly open, there’ll be a video on You Tube before dawn and a news broadcast at noon. 

The term “living in a fishbowl” has never been more true than in today’s media hungry society.

But political smear campaigns are nothing new. The mid eighteen hundreds was a time of anti-Catholic sentiment in the America. During Abraham Lincoln's political campaign, his opponents spread rumors that he was a Catholic. 

And in 1884, Grover Cleveland’s political opponents insisted the presidential candidate had an illegitimate child. Their rally cry became: "Ma, ma, where's my pa? Off to the White House, ha ha ha!"

Woodrow Wilson was a brilliant student, teacher, and statesman. He led the nation through the First World War. And yet, he wasn’t  immune to nasty political rumors. First Lady, Ellen Axon Wilson died just one year after her husband was elected president. When Wilson remarried a year later, rumor mongers claimed he murdered his first wife so he could marry his true love. 

The rumors didn’t stop him from getting re-elected. 

Rumors that President Obama is a Muslim and not a US citizen didn’t prevent him from getting elected either. 

Now it’s election time again. The old rumors are resurfacing and the President has the added burden of defending his presidency.   But he’s not alone in the political hot seat. 

Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife accused him of asking for an open marriage while he was already engaged in an affair with his current wife. And according to some other political rumors, Mitch Romney is Mexican.

So, what’s fact and what’s fiction? Is there a single candidate running for office who doesn't have a ghost in his/her closet? 

This election, Americans will have to vote for the candidate whose "ghosts" are least likely to affect his/her ability to lead a nation. Either that, or flip a coin.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

New Year’s Day—January 1—is a time to forget the past and make a clean start. For many in the south, the year begins with a traditional meal of black-eyed peas with stewed tomatoes and greens. According to Southern folklore, the first food to be eaten on New Year's Day for luck and prosperity throughout the year is black-eyed peas with stewed tomatoes. According to Southern tradition, eating black-eyed peas and stewed tomatoes on New Year's Day brings good luck for the coming year. And eating cooked greens like cabbage, collards, and spinach represents money. In the south, the more greens consumed on the first day of the year, the greater the increase in wealth.

  And it’s not just a southern tradition in the south either. The Danish eat stewed kale sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and the Germans consume sauerkraut.

When my grandmother was alive, I ate black-eyed peas with stewed tomatoes. I’m not fond of collards, so I never ate those. I guess that’s why I’ve never amassed a great fortune. But now that my grandmother has passed, I no longer eat those traditional foods. In fact, I spent New Year’s at the beach. My husband and I ate supper at Texas Steak House and ate leftovers for lunch.

Sadly, there were no greens. So, I don’t suppose I’ll be winning the lottery. I also failed to follow any of the other typical, New Year’s Day traditions.

Although, I did wear new clothes…

Superstition dictates that people should wear new clothes on New Year's Day. Wearing new clothes will ensure new garments and prosperity for the coming year.

Crying is a bad idea on New Years as it could indicate a continued pattern of sadness for the coming year. Lucky for me, I didn’t cry.

One should also avoid letting money leave the house on the first day of the year. I’m not sure what that means. I didn’t know it was possible to go an entire day without spending money. And since we went to the coast for New Year’s, we had to spend money on gas. Good thing I didn’t buy lunch. We at left overs.

But I didn’t pay any bills today, which is good. It’s bad luck to pay bills or lend things to anyone on the first day of the year. Some folks extend this superstition to not taking out the garbage or dusting their carpets on this day to ensure that nothing goes out of home during the year. If you must take something out of the house, let someone come inside the home first.

Another superstition? Open all the doors and windows at midnight to allow the old year to escape unimpeded. I wonder if a person would want to do this if the old year was awesome? If I had a really awesome, prosperous year, I don’t think I’d want it to escape.

It is also believed that cupboards stockpiled with food and wallets filled with money on the first day of the year will bring prosperity throughout the New Year while empty pockets or empty cupboards on New Years Eve are portent of poverty for the coming year.

My cupboards were semi-stocked and my wallet contained more money than usual. Then again, I rely heavily on my ATM card and don’t normally carry much cash. So, I’m not sure how to interpret that one!

In some cultures, washing dishes and doing laundry on New Year's day will lead to a death in the family during the year. Some people don’t even wash their hair on New Years day.

I didn’t wash clothes but I had to wash my hair and the dishes. My head was itchy and we were at our camper at the beach. I wasn’t about to leave unwashed dishes until the next chance we got to go to the coast.

Doing a small amount of work New Year's Day is said to ensure advancement in career, but beginning serious work project is unlucky—I hope washing dishes counts as work!

Making noise on New Years will scare away evil. That’s why some religions ring the church bells at midnight. I sat by a firebox with my husband at midnight, watching fireworks over the inter-coastal waterway. I didn’t make much noise at all, but maybe the fireworks scared those evil spirits away.

It’s also a good idea to pay off loans and debts before New Years Eve, but I have car loans and a mortgage, not to mention a credit card. Guess I’ll be in debt forever!

It is also believed that a kiss midnight will ensure affections and ties will continue throughout the New Year. I think I’m good here. ;-)

To dance in the open air, especially round a tree, on New Year's Day ensures love, prosperity and health. I didn’t dance this year. But I did ride a bicycle with my husband so my feet were moving.

And lastly, by draining the last dregs from a bottle of drink on New Years Eve, you ensure good fortune. Hubby and I had a couple of beers sitting by the fire pit. I hope that means we’ll have good fortune in 2012.

I hope you all have good luck, great love, and good fortune in the year to come.

Now, if someone could just tell me what it means to see a woodpecker on New Years…

Happy New Year!