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Santa Claus

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Like I wrote in my previous post, I decided to go to Baltimore on November 25 because I wanted to check out the Christkindlesmarkt at the Zion Lutheran Church. But I got stuck in horrible northbound traffic then I waited a long time for both the light rail and the Metro subway. By the time I arrived at the church I only had 45 minutes left until the event ended for the day. (They would continue it on the next day but that day was Sunday and I wasn’t able to make it at all due to commitments I had with my own church that took up most of the day.) I eventually made it to the church, where I saw this statue outside of the church that’s dedicated to all of the Baltimore City firefighters both past and future.

Outside of the church were these trees that produced wonderful red colored autumn leaves.

Despite finally making it to the event so late in day before closing, there were still plenty of things to see and do.

There were a lot of stuff I would’ve loved to buy but I couldn’t due to tight finances. I purchased two German-imported Santa Claus chocolates that were more patterned after the original bishop, Saint Nicholas, than after the fat jolly man who hangs around with elves and reindeer. I kept one for myself and I plan on giving the other one to my mother for Christmas.

I also purchased a pack of Haribo gummy candies that were all cherry flavored and they were even shaped like cherries.

I was bummed that I arrived at the Christkindlesmarkt event so late in the day. It was still daylight outside so I decided to just take the Charm City Circulator bus to the Inner Harbor where I checked out the Christmas Village in Baltimore and the Inner Harbor itself.

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Santa Claus Baby New Year

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Among my Christmas decorations are a few imported ones that I purchased at a couple of places.

My sister-in-law lives in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania. Each year the town of Bethlehem has a multi-week arts and crafts festival known as Christkindlmarkt, which features handcrafted items from both local artisans and imported handmade items. I remember she took my then-husband and I to Christkindlmarkt a few times and I really enjoyed it very much. (The only reason why I haven’t come back is because of finances.) Among the items I purchased was this German-made nutcracker that’s shaped like a park ranger or a naturalist.

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There’s a pretty funny story behind this one. Throughout my now-kaput marriage, my husband insisted on controlling all of the finances including the checkbook for the main checking account. He didn’t always take his checkbook with him because he didn’t always want to stuff his pockets with the checkbook and he wouldn’t carry a bag or purse or anything like that. That weekend he took the main checkbook with him. When we were going over to the Christkindlmarkt he asked me to hold the checkbook in my purse. When I started perusing some of the vendors, I saw a man who sold German-made nutcrackers and this fellow caught my eye. It turned out that he cost only $50, which is cheap compared to similar nutcrackers I’ve seen on sale in my area. (I’ve seen German nutcrackers the same size start at $125.) I didn’t have enough cash in my wallet and he didn’t take a credit card so I pulled out the main checkbook and wrote a check. At that moment I was writing a check, my husband showed up and caught me in the act. While he was okay with using it to buy the nutcracker, he insisted on taking the checkbook and keeping it with him. Strangely (LOL!) he never asked me to hold the main checkbook again after that incident. (LOL!)

I also purchased this wooden German-imported ornament at Christkindlmarkt. This one is shaped like a cuckoo clock.

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Another place where I purchased imported ornaments was from SERRV, which has a store in New Windsor, Maryland but it also sells its items online. SERRV is run by the Church of the Brethren and it hires artisans from Third World countries to make items for its catalogue. SERRV makes an effort to pay these artisans a living wage and it also makes inspections of the places where these artisans work in order to ensure that they aren’t sweatshops. SERRV sells a variety of lovely products from all over the world. The next picture shows a wooden nativity ornament that was made in the occupied Palestinian territories.

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The next couple of ornaments were made in El Salvador. These artisans work in wood and they paint in bright primary colors. There is such a cheerfulness to their work, such as these ornaments shaped like a llama and Santa Claus.

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Most of the El Salvadoran ornaments are two-sided but are painted the same on both sides. The tree ornament in the next two photos was also made in El Salvador but the design is different on both sides.

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I also bought this pair of clay doves, which were made in Guatemala.

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The doves come packaged with this short paper explaining about the origins of these doves.

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A disastrous earthquake in 1976 forced many Guatemalans to be uprooted. The Chanautla area was severely damaged at this time causing a number of residents to move to the northern edge of Guatemala City, a location now known as Nueva Chanautla. When ceramics are handcrafted by these artisans the “white clay” must be brought from the original Chanautla area.

Each fragile dove begins as a lump of clay dug up in Chanautla, a region of Guatemala. Because of each artisan’s individual fantasy, head and wing positions differ. Primitive firing is accomplished by covering the delicately formed bird with grass and igniting it. This method causes colors that vary from burnt black to orange to grey and white. Doves are packaged in an attractive basket for a safe flight. Due to the use of unrefined clay, small blemishes and chips sometimes occurs in the firing process.

These doves come in a nice woven basket that I also have on display under the Christmas tree because it is so lovely looking.

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Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12

Recently I celebrated the Fourth of July and I enjoyed myself. It’s the occasion where people are encouraged to get all decked out in red, white, and blue clothes and jewelry while playing or listening patriotic music and watching fireworks at night. We display our patriotism while feeling proud of being Americans. Sure it sounds corny but, under the right circumstances, corny can be fun and relaxing. The Fourth of July is supposed to remind people about the best traits of the United States of America including its historical welcoming of immigrants, its historically dynamic innovations, and its long tradition of allowing people to express themselves (such as stating an opinion or being active in a certain religious faith) without fearing persecution by the government.

The rest of the year I find myself feeling less and less enthusiastic about the United States of America. I’m seeing disturbing things about this year’s presidential elections that don’t sit right with me. The more I hear the latest outrageous quote from the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump the more I’m starting to believe those persistent rumors that Trump is waging a false flag campaign in an effort to elect Hillary Clinton as president. I’ve seen the photos of the Clintons and the Trumps socializing with each other along with Hillary posing next to Trump and his two older sons, Bill and Donald playing golf togetherBill Clinton still having a locker at the Trump National Golf Club, and even Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump being seen as friendly in public. There are even the previous positive remarks Donald Trump has made about the Clintons. The evidence is all circumstantial but something tells me that there’s something fishy about all this. Technically Bernie Sanders is still in the race on the Democrat side and he says that he’ll remain in the race until the Democrat Convention in Philadelphia but Hillary Clinton has ignored him while focusing all of her attacks on The Donald and Trump has also said things against Clinton. But those back-and-forth attacks on each other seem to have a “wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more” feel about it that seems fake.

Worse the mainstream media has ignored Bernie Sanders and they have already acted as if the country is in the general election phase when it’s not the case because, as of this writing, neither the Republicans nor Democrats have had their conventions yet. I already wrote a previous rant about how the mainstream media seems to be more interested in controlling and influencing the story instead of just reporting on the news as an objective observer so I’m not going to delve into too much here.

Then there is the long decline in the U.S. economy, which started during the Reagan Administration when jobs were relocated from the U.S. to Third World countries so the workers there could be pay very low without having to deal with such things as unions or occupational safety regulations. If anyone has been repeatedly screwed by successive administrations since 1980—both Republican and Democrat—it’s the workers, especially among the middle class. Job security is now a thing of the past and it’s getting harder to find a job that pays a livable wage.

And then there is this disturbing trend of police officers killing African Americans, especially young men, for trivial reasons like a busted tail light or running a stop sign. I live 30 miles south of Baltimore, where an unarmed African American man named Freddie Gray was murdered by cops last year. This week has gotten really horrendous. Just Google the names Philander Castile and Alton Sterling to see news stories about their deaths at the hands of the police along with videos documenting their deaths.

This morning I woke up to news reports that someone had unleashed a mass shooting of cops in Dallas. I get it that the shooter wanted to exact revenge for the police killings of Castile and Sterling (as well as the previous police killings of people like Freddie Grey, Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland) but the only problem is that the officers who were killed in Dallas had absolutely nothing to do with all those other killings. The police officers in Dallas had been monitoring the peaceful Black Lives Matter protest there just to make sure that the protests remained peaceful. In other words, they were just doing their jobs and they were senselessly murdered for it. Those Dallas killings aren’t going to bring back those African Americans who had already been killed by the police in other cities and, in fact, it brings a bad reputation for the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole.

I feel like the U.S. is just like the old Weimar Republic in Germany. Like the Weimar Republic the U.S. has been struggling with a broken economy where a lot of people are either unemployed or underemployed. Like the Weimar Republic the U.S. is seeing its share of street violence like the all-too-frequent mass shootings (such as the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando). Like the Weimar Republic you see the mainstream media manipulating public opinion so this year’s elections will boil down to a match between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in much the same way that Adolf Hitler charmed the mainstream media in the Weimar Republic so much that they did stories about him and influenced public opinion. Like the Weimar Republic you hear Latinos and Muslims in the U.S. being made into scapegoats of all of the existing problems in the same way that Jews and Gypsies were once made into scapegoats. Like the Weimar Republic there is extreme income inequality between the haves and the have nots complete with food insecurity and homelessness. Something is wrong when you have war veterans begging on the streets throughout many cities in the U.S. that echo this 1923 photo of a disabled World War I vet begging on the streets of Berlin.

The main difference between the U.S. and the Weimar Republic is that there hasn’t been hyperinflation—yet. But if current economic conditions continue in the U.S., who knows what will happen.

It’s no wonder that Donald Trump has gotten followers for invoking a nostalgia for America while bashing those who aren’t white heterosexual Christians men with no disabilities in the exact same way that Adolf Hitler got followers. The main difference is the strong possibility that Trump is running for president as a way of both stroking his huge ego and (probably) throwing the race to getting his friend Hillary Clinton elected. There are rumors that Trump doesn’t even want to do the day-to-day job as president, he just wants to be able to brag that, yes, he once ran for office and won. At least Hitler seriously wanted to rule Germany, which is one of the few positive things I can say about him.

Anyone who thinks that electing Hillary Clinton will usher in a new era of high employment full of well-paying middle class jobs with police no longer killing unarmed African Americans for trivial reasons is delusional. I’m old enough to remember when her husband was in office and he was the one who championed NAFTA, which resulted in hemorrhaging more jobs out of the U.S. along with “ending welfare as we know it” that didn’t provide well paying jobs to welfare recipients so they could support themselves but, instead, made the poverty situation even worse by fraying the social safety net. Both Bill and Hillary Clinton are closely tied to Wall Street and they are sympathetic to the corporations shifting jobs overseas. And that’s not to mention Hillary Clinton’s infamous quote that African Americans needed to be brought to heel, which resulted in this confrontation by a Black Lives Matter activist on the campaign trail a few months ago and Clinton not even attempting to engage her in any way.

And that’s not to mention how much people dislike Hillary Clinton in general. The late political blogger Steve Gilliard mentioned her as being among the most detested politicians back in 2007 and she is still disliked among the right wing, the left wing, and young people of all political persuasions. I still remember those bumper stickers from the 1990’s that said “Impeach Clinton—and Her Husband.” If she gets elected, I wouldn’t be surprised if those bumper stickers make a comeback.

Likewise anyone who thinks about voting for Donald Trump in an effort—to use his campaign’s slogan—“make America great again” is also delusional, especially if you’re a lower income person. I have long known about Trump ever since he published his first book, The Art of the Deal, and he has long bragged about how he’s rich, and therefore, better than most people simply because he is rich. Sure he was instrumental in creating Trump Tower and other Trump-branded properties throughout Manhattan but I don’t recall him ever being concerned about constructing affordable housing. I don’t recall him ever setting up any charitable foundations to help lower income people or did anything to indicate that he actually gives a damn about helping the less fortunate. I don’t see him starting to become concerned about the plight of—let’s say—the homeless if he does get elected. And that’s not to mention his history of multiple bankruptcies or his cringe-inducing comments about how he would’ve dated Ivanka Trump if she wasn’t his daughter.

I think that not only is the U.S. just like the Weimar Republic but it has been that way for the last few years. As for President Barack Obama, I voted for this guy twice but he mostly failed in his promise of bringing hope and change. To be fair, he had to deal with an obstructionist Republican majority in Congress who had it in for President Obama from day one of his administration because he was both a Democrat and an African American. But when you have a president who refused to prosecute those on Wall Street who tanked the economy back in 2008 so they are free to continue their corporate crimes and when you have a president who is currently trying to push adoption of both the TTP and the TTIP (which are both ultra-secret trade deals that are rumored to be “NAFTA on steroids” and the few leaked provisions call for corporations to actually overrule national sovereignty) against the will of the majority of Americans, I have to say that he is not blameless for the mostly unfavorable opinion I have of him. Not even his championing of legalizing same-sex marriage is enough for me to overcome the disappointment I have felt for him and his administration and I think history will eventually judge him harshly.

The U.S. is just like the Weimar Republic and unless we have a government that actually tries to do something about the situation, then our current system of government will be replaced by something far worse. After all, look at what ultimately happened in Germany when the Weimar Republic was replaced.

Black lives matter. Police lives matter. Everyone matters. We are the 99%.

Let’s take a look at these two videos. The first one is a vintage video of members of the German army raising their right arms and taking an oath of personal loyalty to Adolf Hitler in 1934.

Now here’s Donald Trump at a rally this past weekend in Florida, where he had attendees raise their right arms and take an oath that they will vote for Donald Trump.

Isn’t anyone alarmed by the similarities of the two videos?

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