Posts made in December 2017

The Journey That Shaped The Celebration Of Christmas In America




Christmas and New Year are arguably the two most celebrated holidays in the world. America officially joined the celebration when the 18th President—Ulysses S. Grant–of the relatively new country declared it a federal holiday on June 26, 1870.

We’ve come a long way from our Pagan past as this excerpt from The History of Christmas explains…

“In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated early American Christmas – winter holiday in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas. By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday.

The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.

An outlaw Christmas After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.

Washington Irving reinvents Christmas. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas. Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia.”

Let’s go further with this modern day and innovative, media savvy explanation of our Christmas past from a strong voice on Facebook and other social media platforms; ArchDuke member Charity Croff

Since the beginning of recorded time on planet earth, humans have tried to make sense of the phenomenon we call life. Our celebrations and traditions, like Christmas, have shaped us as a people and despite the brutality and injustices that have marked our journey on this beloved planet, humans are remarkable beings still trying to create the perfect society and way of living. And, that says a lot about us as collective beings.

It’s important to embrace our past because it guides us in forming our future. What Christmas means to Americans and other nations across the world is an important part of our growth as human-beings and as individual nations beholden to their own cultural identity. We have a lot to be proud of even in the midst of the current turmoils and chaos across the world. And, regardless of your views on how we celebrate this special holiday, Christmas allows us a moment to be still, take it all in, give thanks and appreciate all we have that makes life sweet and worthy of living. Merry Christmas…don’t forget to appreciate the journey that brought us here.




Op-ed: Embracing A Culture That Cherishes Traditional American Values


Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed are solely of the writer. Warren Smith received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at BYU, a doctorate in technology strategy from the Harvard Business School and currently owns JETS: Japanese-English Technology Services in Durham, New Hampshire. He wrote this piece for the Deserter News. 



While I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. John Armstrong that we must find a kind of patriotism that permits goodwill toward all people, I worry that this op-ed misses the point entirely about what “nationalism” is and is not (“Patriotism vs. nationalism in a Mormon context,” Oct. 10).

While Latter-day Saint teachings caution us against “nationalism” in terms of narrow-minded and ignorant tribalism, which is nothing more than an “us-versus-them” high school rivalry on an international level, it would be equally wrong to ignore the realities of America’s exceptional contribution to the world in terms of systems and technologies that have lifted untold millions (billions?) from literal starvation and abject poverty into relative well-being, and wrong to ignore the fact that the American impact on the world has been a reflection of our historic “American culture” where “culture” is defined as a predominant set of shared values and not superficial cultural markers such as tastes in food and entertainment, etc.

Space does not permit me to define the key aspects of the historical “American culture,” but it is what has enabled America to feed the world, create industry and infrastructure in nations around the globe, and to become by far the world’s largest humanitarian contributor as well.

It must be noted that even the oft-condemned American pseudo-Colonialism has resulted in the creation of infrastructures and systems that set the foundation for the success of many countries in post-Colonial independence, and this has been ultimately a blessing for the very countries that some would argue have been “exploited” by the American system.

Is it toxic “nationalism” to believe that America has (had?) a culture that is superior to most, or perhaps all, other cultures? Before that question can be answered, we must first ask whether it is possible for one culture to be better than another. The easiest way to address this is to ask if there such a thing as a “sick culture.” The answer is a resounding “yes.” The most cursory reading of scripture shows how cultures — not “races” or “nations” — can go through cultural changes that bring misery, where repentance — as a society — brings joy.

Much closer to home, any sociologist who dares can point to subcultures — and I do not mean races or classes — that are statistically characterized by chronic poverty, disregard for education, willing dependency on public assistance, rejection of parental responsibilities, involvement in crime (with concomitant incarceration), embracing of an exploitive drug culture, hatred of law-enforcement, perceived victimhood, vilification of others, and the like. Clearly, such a self-reinforcing set of values is a “sick culture.”

I am not arguing that a traditional Fourth of July celebration is in any way superior to, say, a French Bastille Day celebration, nor that hamburgers are superior to dim sum. On the contrary, these are merely superficial preferences. But there is a set of values that have defined, traditionally, the “American culture,” a set of values that is under extreme attack at present — values such as preferring liberty over security, embracing traditional virtues, belief in the market system, taking responsibility for one’s self and responsibility to care for friends and neighbors personally and not leaving it to the government, commitment to family values, freedom to succeed or fail, etc.

While, of course, in some form or other these values are found in other countries and cultures as well, if a rejection of “nationalism” somehow maps to a rejection of the traditional American culture — and value system — and, perhaps more to the point, of the responsibility that America has borne for the last 70 years in leading the world in lifting people out of hunger and poverty through being a beacon of industry, democracy, and free market competition, then this rejection is a decidedly bad thing.

While I completely agree that any definition of “nationalism” that involves hatred or dehumanizing of individuals of other nations or cultures is fundamentally wrong, I wholeheartedly embrace the view of “nationalism” (which is rightly called “patriotism”) that cherishes the American culture, acknowledges the unique role America has played – and must continue to play – as a force for good in world history. It would be tragic to abandon this “nationalism,” or patriotism, just because there are also some individuals (such as in Charlottesville) who embrace “nationalism” out of hatred or ignorance.

The bottom line is, despite the existence of hateful and ignorant people, for those people who can rise above petty enmity, embracing positive “nationalism” is a decidedly good thing, and I call upon all Americans to defend the values that have made this country great, and invite all people, American or not, to share in our traditional American values.


Op-Ed: The Ugly Truth About The Alabama Senate Race


Editor’s Note: David Farhat, Jr. is an Attorney based in New York. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.




I’m annoyed at the narrative being promoted regarding the Alabama senate election. Yes, I’m always annoyed. This ridiculous idea of a turning tide or America returning to morality or a victory for the Democrats is just a downright lie. The real story coming out of this and the presidential election is the fact that white people overwhelmingly voted for unqualified, morally bankrupt, mentally unhinged candidates because of racism. Make no mistake, the only logical reason to vote for Trump or Moore is racism. Furthermore, the numbers bear this out. You remove the non-white vote and both these people win by a landslide.


Also, the “victory” in Alabama had nothing to do with the Democrats. They were, quite literally, the lesser of two evils. Black people in Alabama went out to the poles in numbers because they realized that their white neighbors were so racist that they would elect a man that allegedly abuses little white girls before they elected a black sympathizer. Make no mistake; that is the difference between Democrat and Republican for those voters.



What drove Black people to the poles was sheer terror; Terror that hasn’t gone away because the reality hasn’t changed because Moore lost. The Democrats benefited from that terror and have done nothing to get rid of it. Why would they? They benefit from it. What other base do they have?! Remember this when you get the argument that there are more issues than race come 2018. The evidence says otherwise.


Lastly, I don’t care who you are regardless of race, politics, etc. if you are celebrating what happened in Alabama, I send you a strong condemnation because what you are celebrating is a desperate act of a terrified population. Ain’t no “we’s” down there. Those people came out to try to save themselves and we do them a great disservice by not taking that seriously.




Segregation; Iconic Newsman Helped Capture A Tragic Period In American History




The year iconic Journalist Simeon Booker was born, America launched its first airmail service between New York and Washington and the world celebrated the armistice that ended WWI.

More notably, Booker was born during segregation and the great migration era; 1910-1949. The year before his birth in 1918, thousands of African Americans marched in silence down New York’s Fifth Avenue to protest lynching and racial oppression. The group was met with counter protests and riots by whites. These riots, attacking innocent black people, swept across the country and lasted until 1921. These are historical facts.

Mr. Booker was born into a hostile world and as a citizen of a country that didn’t value him. And yet, he grew up to become a pioneering journalist, author and chronicler of the Civil Rights Movement. His life is a testament to the strength and resolve we must all hold on to as we continue the work toward creating a more just country and world for all mankind.

From National Association of Black Journalists:

Booker, the Jet reporter who brought the 1955 murder of Emmett Till to the forefront of national news, died Dec. 10 at the age of 99, in an assisted-living community in Solomons, Maryland. His wife, Carol, confirmed his death to the Washington Post.

“Simeon Booker’s remarkable career, spanning more than six decades, reminds us how important chronicling the truth and speaking truth to power via the written word is,” said NABJ President Sarah Glover. “Booker’s reports during the Civil Rights Movement shed light on the country’s ills, bringing much-needed perspective; and he did so all while risking his own life to tell the story. Simeon Booker is a role model for black journalists and his life’s work is an example of media excellence that all journalists should strive for.”

Booker joined the Washington Post in 1952 and was the first full-time black reporter. He left to become the chief columnist at Jet magazine and the Washington bureau chief for the Johnson Publishing Company.

“God knows, I tried to succeed at the Post. I struggled so hard that friends thought I was dying, I looked so fatigued. After a year and a half, I had to give up. Trying to cover news in a city where even animal cemeteries were segregated overwhelmed me,” Booker said of his time at the Post.

Bryan Monroe, editorial director of Ebony and Jet magazines from 2006-2009 and former NABJ President remembered Booker as the quintessential reporter.

“Mr. Booker knew the facts, he knew his audience, and he would not be stopped,” said Monroe. “He was a kind soul who will be missed by all of us.”

Booker began his journalism career in the 1940s working for Black Press publications in Cleveland and Baltimore. As racial tensions rose throughout the nation during the 1950s and ’60s, he told riveting stories, about the struggle between Civil Rights activists and segregationists. Booker, the only journalist to make the trip with the first Freedom Riders as they protested transportation segregation laws in 1961, also covered Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington in 1963, and marched alongside protesters at the 1965 Selma March. Booker brought the front lines of the Civil Rights movement to the millions of Jet and Ebony readers across the nation.

After 65 years of chronicling the broad spectrum of the black experience, Booker retired in 2007. In 2013, Booker completed his memoir, Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter’s Account of the Civil Rights Movement. His work allowed many black people to see themselves, and the things that were important to them, reflected in the media.

Booker was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame in 2013, won a Neiman Fellowship to study at Harvard and received the George Polk Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. Booker was nominated this year by 17 members of Congress for the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, according to The New York Times. He also mentored aspiring student journalists at Howard University.

Marlon A. Walker, NABJ Vice President Print said, “Simeon Booker’s death is felt around the world. His significant contributions to our industry and humanity are monumental and his life’s works should be shared and taught in classrooms, community centers and organizations, as an example of excellence.”


About The National Association of Black Journalists

An advocacy group established in 1975 in Washington, D.C., NABJ is the largest organization for journalists of color in the nation, and provides career development as well as educational and other support to its members worldwide. For additional information, please visit


Postmodernity Sex Education: The Silver Lining In America’s Culture of Sexual Oppression




The three most consistent sources of sex education come from peers, family and media. That’s according to Historian, Author and Professor Jonathan Zimmerman who teaches Education and History at the University of Pennsylvania. “Everybody gets a sex education; all 7 billion people in the world. And, they get it from the day they’re born,” Zimmerman says, adding that survey’s of young people all over the world not only back up these findings, but they also have consistently shown that school based sex education is a very small part of it. “Only some people get sex education in school.”

When it comes to school-based sex education, America can easily claim credit for shaping a modern and global perspective of Man’s sexual behavior. Despite the different beliefs and cultural norms held across the globe, America pioneered mass schooling during the Progressive Era and introduced school-based sex education. Zimmerman says the reason was pretty simple, “In the early 20th century there were more adolescence going to secondary school in the United States than there were in any other country in the world by far. And, because sex education is—here and around the world—mostly taught to adolescence for obvious reasons, it does make a certain kind of stance; that the United States would be the pioneer of that subject.”



Where did progressive America go wrong in teaching healthy sexual behavior?

Majority of Americans wanted their kids to be taught sex education in schools despite objections from the church. Unquestionably a revolutionary move; but have the lessons been effective in light of the numerous accounts of sexual misconduct being reported? Theologians like, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., assert that America’s Christian origin shaped our moral views. In a May 2016 broadcast of Thinking In Public, Mohler says, “As it turns out, many of the controversies in the beginning of the sex education movement are questions that continue to this day. And I would argue, they’re inevitable because if you’re going to talk about sex education and if you’re going to talk about young people in the schools, you’re going to have to talk about what will be taught and how that will be morally presented or if it’s to be presented morally at all, at least in terms of any traditional morality.” In light of the long list of powerful men—many in the clergy—who stand accused of sexual harassment, assault and even rape, it’s clear our morality alone won’t stop the rampant abuse that’s being exposed. It would make sense for schools to face these controversies and move to include modern lessons on preventing sex abuse and harassment.

Zimmerman says two main reasons stand in the way of teaching sexual standards in America; our diversity and the why behind school-based sex education.  “There are 14,000 school districts in the United States and because we’re an incredibly diverse country, obviously there’s going to be enormous variation among the school districts in the messages and the content regarding sex, so it’s dangerous to generalize across them.” He goes on to say that most sex education in America across time has been oriented at preventing negative outcomes. “Specifically, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases,” he says.

Zimmerman says although the primary focus and motivation of sex education was centered on preventing two negative outcomes—pregnancy and STD’s—a new national consensus is coming to light. “I think it’s fair to say that we’re reaching a new consensus in this country about sexual harassment itself as a negative outcome and it will be interesting to see if schools take that on.” He adds that a fast majority of schools do not use sex education to teach about the dangers of sexual harassment. “I would like them to and I regard that we use these events, starting with Harvey Weinstein as kind of the ultimate teachable moment. And, I would urge schools of every kind to take it on but I would also be a little bit wary about that happening because let’s remember that because sex and sexuality touches on our most fundamental conceptions of ourselves as human beings, there’s going to be enormous descent about it by definition. And creating a consensus around sex, the kind you need to have consistent messages in schools, is a very heavy lift.”

It’s hard to comprehend in 2017 that it’s crucial to teach young people about sexual harassment. But when the phrase “Grab them by the pussy” becomes political fodder used against the President of the United States, it’s not hard to see the need. And rightfully so, because Trump owns these words recklessly spewed on a hot Mic. The hypocrisy of our views and habits on sexuality is not just flagrant, it’s telling. Telling of a historical fact; sexual oppression has operated comfortably on the radar of main stream society. The revelation that Weinstein and those of his ilk were well known sexual predators amongst their peers, friends and family validates the allegation that sex abuse is still a protected and secret form of oppression. And it doesn’t just impact women. Similar to racism, sexual harassment is the other pink elephant in the room no one dares to call out for fear of retribution and shame. It’s an uncomfortable truth, even when a parade of women, and some men, join the #MeToo movement to show solidarity and to call attention to the problem.


Sex Education In The Era Of Eugenics

Race had a profound impact on sex education in the country. The modern eugenics movement out of England at the time, spearheaded by Sir Francis Galton, spread across Europe and many other countries, including the U.S. Eugenics—a principle of selective human breeding now seen as a violation of human rights—was widely accepted as the science to producing better human beings, and validated like Anthropology, Sociology and even Economics. “They were all born at the same time, often created by the same people,” Zimmerman says. Adding that the stronger argument for sex education at the time was a response to outbreaks of sexually transmitted diseases in popular cities like Chicago and New York. “Middle class men visiting prostitutes has always been a major conduit of STDs. And, they were going home and infecting their wives. And these were white people. This was a disaster and it created what was called the Race Panic or Race Suicide,” Zimmerman says. Further explaining the rationale he says, “If minorities are infecting each other and reducing their fertility, which is what STDs always threaten, this is not a bad thing…it could even be a good thing. But, if whites are doing it, it’s a form of what Teddy Roosevelt called Race Suicide.” He says the consistent goal of preventing STDs during the birth of sex education was deeply affected by race because the aim was to protect white people from infertility caused by sexually transmitted diseases. “There were already worries that white people were making fewer babies and this could make it worse.”

In Europe the remedy for preventing venereal diseases came through the legal realm like regulating prostitution, while the U.S. created an educational solution. Zimmerman says, “There were international conventions where the Americans were asked to explain the educational remedy because now it was distinct to Americans.” He says the Europeans didn’t get into the game until the mid 20th Century.

Could The U.S. Institute A Singular Form Of Sex Ed?  

“It can’t and it won’t,” Zimmerman says. Even though it’s a legitimate goal he adds, “I think the Unites States is frankly too diverse to make that happen. Within that goal there’s a certain set of assumptions not shared by lots of Americans including recent additions to the United States.”  First, he explains, Americans would have to accept that young people are sexual beings and allow schools to teach sexual development, individual sexuality, sexual pleasure and sexual harassment. “But I think the United States is too diverse for that. The globe is too diverse for that. There are 7 billion people on earth. How many of them believe that an 11 year old is a sexual being? We have sexual desires and sexual identity. I don’t know the answer to that, but my strong guess is a minority.” He says as more and more people and ideas move around the globe, it becomes hard for a school district that has lots of different voices, including newcomers from other countries, to create a consensus around that idea.

Sex and sexuality is a complicated understanding of humanity itself. For example, we don’t even have consensus on female genital mutilation, (FGM) and child marriages. “If we did, FGM and child marriages would not exist.” Zimmerman says it’s only been a quarter of a century since we’ve had dialogue on the subject of sexual harassment, and created a legal frame work to address it thanks to feminist activists and pioneering women like Catharine MacKinnon and Gloria Steinem.

The silver lining of the Weinstein phenomenon can either exhibit how backwards and sexist America is, or it can show us taking a lead in the world again, similar to pioneering mass schooling and sex education in schools. And that depends on how we remedy the problem across racial and cultural lines, and working towards forming a consensus about the evils of sexual harassment. This opportunity to further change our misogynistic culture may very well spur the next sexual revolution. One that takes a page from Sweden, a country with low STDs and teen pregnancy numbers that, according to Zimmerman, was the first to mandate nation-wide sex education in their schools. He says Sweden’s goals were to help each individual develop and discover their own sexuality. “It was much more individuated, it’s much more positive than the American goals which were about social outcomes and indeed preventing negative social outcomes.”



History, Hollywood And The Mad Men Era  

Even with push back from feminists driven movements, Americans still harbor a troubling fascination with sex and sexuality that continues to feed the institution of gender inequality, and exploiting women as inferior members of our society. But it’s not unique to America says Zimmerman, adding, “We see forms of sexual harassment all around the world that replicate the same male dominance, and that makes it difficult to explain what is essentially a global phenomenon by invoking a particular nationalistic history.”

The late historian, playwright and social activist Howard Zinn does invoke this nationalistic history in A People’s History Of The United States 1492 – Present, writing, “It is possible, reading standard histories, to forget half the population of the country. The explorers were men, the landholders and merchants men, the political leaders men, the military figures men. The very invisibility of women, the overlooking of women, is a sign of their submerged status. In this invisibility they were something like black slaves (and thus slave women faced a double oppression).”

American women, albeit mostly black women, have long lived under an oppressive social structure that includes being intimately oppressed. Zinn writes, “The conditions under which white settlers came to America created various situations for women. Where the first settlers consisted almost entirely of men, women were imported as sex slaves, child bearers [and] companions.” Powerful men mistreating women shouldn’t shock our morality. Sexual oppression is part of our history as a people. The roots of it reach all the way back to the Pilgrims and our slave-owning forefathers.

Nevertheless, the most powerful and influential Sex Ed teacher in modernity is the media. During the Progressive Era Zimmerman explains that schools were being tasked to compensate for the negative images spawned by the media and Hollywood. “You had figures like Greta Garbo and Rudy Valentino and they were expressing themselves sexually and all kinds of open ways and basically there was a huge amount of concern and people said this is why we need Sex Ed in schools to create a counter to those kinds of messages. And in some ways it’s always been a fool’s errand because the media message is so much more powerful,” Zimmerman says.

Shows like Mad Men set in the 1960s where misogyny plays an essential part, normalize what we now easily define as sexual oppression and harassment. In a 2010 The Atlantic article; Mad Men’s Very Modern Sexism Problem, Sady Doyle writes, “We see sexist jokes, chronic philandering, and office parties in which executives tackle secretaries in order to see what color their panties are.” Doyle continues, “To be fair, Mad Men doesn’t hesitate to show the ugly side of these attitudes; they’re not glamorized in quite the same way as, say, drinking Scotch five times a day. But the show also affords viewers an illusion of moral superiority. We’re encouraged to shake our heads at these men and their outdated attitudes, but by presenting discrimination as a shocking feature of a past era, Mad Men lets us imagine that it’s just one more of those things that We Don’t Do Any More.”

In the era of smart phones young people have greater access to these sexually explicit images and messages, despite an attempt to portray them as outdated. “Kids are in front of screens more than they are in schools. And you can find reasons to begrudge that, but you can’t deny it. It’s a fact. And, it will continue,” Zimmerman says. He adds that the most promising initiatives in Sex Ed are the ones that try to harness the power of technology to reach young people, especially those vulnerable to sexual risks. From the very beginning schools have had to compensate for what families don’t do. All the same, parents are still the primary sex educators.