Sunday, December 28, 2008

What if Governments Made New Year's Resolutions?

Mack Hall

India and Pakistan: Our two governments resolve to stand down all the border tension and work together in the new year so that we can get back to what we do best, persecuting Christians.

Congress: We’re going to stop bailing out rich people. CEOs who fly about in private jets should not be funded by firefighters and cops and store clerks. Further, the suits who rule the United Auto Workers need to find in their hearts the good will to sell their $33 million lake retreat and their $6 million golf course instead of demanding tax money from Americans who work for minimum wage.

Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg: In the new year I’m going to, like, you know, vote, and stuff. And disapprove of land mines.

President Bush: Clearly Americans should no longer fund any projects for oil-glutted Iraq; the purportedly poor Iraqis are throwing away perfectly good shoes. Instead of paying American engineers and skilled workers good money to rebuild Iraq, let us pay American engineers and skilled workers good money to rebuild America.

Al Gore: May all humans come to understand that global warming is a hoax promoted by bullies for reasons best known to themselves, and I apologize for having deluded myself. In the end, what we’re talking about is weather. Not that it means anything, but I’m going to stop flying around in my private jet and driving around in convoys of SUVs and preaching to people for big bucks.

Governor Perry: I’ve found out that I’m the only man in Texas who cares diddly about spending millions of dollars rebuilding the governor’s mansion. That old building looked too much like a set from Gone With the Wind anyway. I propose we sell the property for development, thus putting it on the tax rolls.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia: I’m going to have a lot fewer of my people’s heads cut off this year.

President Sarkozy of France: You know, my fellow monsieurs, if not for the Americans we’d all be native speakers of German. I think we should host a Thank-a-Yank day.

President Kohler of Germany: You know, mein Herren, if not for the Americans we’d have to rule the French! Ouch! I think we should host a Thank-a-Yank day.

China: Clearly the American government doesn’t care at all about the quality of the food and products we ship to the American people. As a matter of being good neighbors and in the absence of responsible American government we should build quality products and make sure the food we export isn’t poisoned.

Hamas: At some point someone’s going to ask why our Palestinian children are starving while we spend millions of donated dollars to buy rockets to fire into Israel. This year I propose we stop blaming Jews for everything and begin acting like a civilized state.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi: I don’t need an expensive Air Force jet just to fly wherever I want to go; I’m going to be a positive role model in matters of thrift and fly commercial this year.

Governor Blagojevich of Illinois: I shouldn’t burden the people of Illinois with my confusion as to what planet I’m from. I’m also going to stop trying to sell public offices and be a responsible governor from now on – if that’s okay with my fraternity brothers and in accordance with Plan Nine From Outer Space.

President Putin of Russia: This year and forever, I am Plan Nine From Outer Space.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Night of Watching

Mack Hall

Silent night, holy night,

All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

-- Mohr and Gruber, 1818

“Christmas…in all his bluff and hearty honesty” (Dickens, 1836) is near, and most of us will be blessed in celebrating this ancient Feast at home with our families, warm and under cover. We can attend a Christmas Eve liturgy and wrap gifts and sleep in earthly (at least) peace because a great many others will be on duty keeping us safe in the long watches of the night.

In the cold beneath the wild and snowy Hindu Kush and along the banks of rivers that Abraham knew, young Americans will be on patrol on Christmas Eve, keeping Osama Bin Ladin and his merry-less men too busy to shoot at the rest of us.

And in our own country, too, men and women will stand to and stand up on Christmas Eve: police, firefighters, utility crews, and medical staffs will count themselves blessed if they can take a few minutes for a cup of acrid, staff-room coffee on the night of the Savior’s birth.

Somewhere under the cold stars of Christmas Eve a cop will give a crying child a teddy bear and try to comfort him when his little world is made cruel by a drunk adult.

On this sacred night fire crews will roll because of a badly-wired tree or a flaming car wreck.

If the ice falling in the silent night takes down the electricity, our rural electric co-op crews will forsake their warm beds and take the trucks out in the sleet to spend cold hours making the rest of us warm again. If the Star of Christmas were to wink out (it won’t, of course), we can be sure that a Jasper-Newton Electric Co-Op truck would soon be rolling up with a crew to mend it.

EMT crews, driving ambulances pulled by eight huge cylinders rather than by eight tiny reindeer, will carry the gift of life on Christmas Eve. In the hospitals and nursing homes dedicated caregivers will be as the shepherds of long ago who came to the Stable when called, serving Christ in the long, long night by serving His people.

We are all called to lives of duty, not of privilege, and thank God for those who respond to that call better than the rest of us do. The Christmas of those who watch and serve in the night is especially holy. I hope they know that.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

-- Longfellow, 1864

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Football -- More Interesting Than a Nap

Mack Hall

For those of us gnashing our decaff lattas in the non-athletic darkness, football is only slightly more interesting than a nap, and on Sunday afternoon the nap definitely takes the gold. The basic thrust of the game – carrying an oddly-shaped leather ball across a boundary in the face, facemasks, and sometimes fists of the opposition – is clear enough, but the arcana of rules is terribly confusing. As Andy Griffith asked fifty years ago in “What it Was, Was Football,” why do the convicts in the striped shirts throw yellow flags ever so often and make everyone stop what they are doing?

But our little town’s Wildcats are the exception, even for those who consider Keats more cunning than Knute, know Blake better than Bear, and think Tom Eliot tops Tom Landry.

This exception is because the only real football is high school football, the true inheritor of mediaeval English village sports in which, it is alleged, a live pig was employed at the beginning of the game (by the end, said pig was dead). When the sturdy young men of one’s own village thrash out their differences with the young men of the neighboring village, the competition is local and personal, and thus genuinely interesting.

Our town’s reputation for football has often been expressed in that charitable metaphor, “a rebuilding season.” Further, even in the shifting of districts because of demographics, the Wildcats invariably found themselves up against dynasties of state champions. Great big state champions. Great big state champions whose knuckles scraped the ground as they loped across the field bellowing a rather feral basso profundo like primeval swamp critters. But the games were played on the home fields and in the home mud, against the in-laws from up and down the two-lane, and sometimes the Wildcats won, and it was always fun anyway.

Even shy and retiring bookworms jump up and down with excitement when the Wildcats play.

And now, in the best Disney tradition, the Cinderella Wildcats have not only whupped two dynastic teams but are going to State in high hopes of achieving two almost impossible dreams, the championship and, even better, the championship without a single defeat from August to December.

The Wildcats will play the Muleshoe (um…surely Mules?) at Grand Prairie this Saturday at 6:00 P.M. Muleshoe is across the border from Clovis, New Mexico, named for the 6th century founder of the Merovingian dynasty, which has nothing to do with anything except perhaps to remind us that, like royal dynasties, football dynasties too are transitory.

But for now, just imagine the Wildcats with the state championship!

Yes, this game is going to be far more interesting than a nap.