Christmas is the 2,000-year-old story of a corrupt king named Herod who tried to murder a newborn child. The scheme was hatched out of fear that the child would grow up to lead a peace movement whose message was that all people are equal. These concepts of equality, love and nonviolence were as much a threat to the Roman Empire as they are today to authoritarian and some democratic regimes.
The heart of the Christmas story is not the evil ruler, but the good people who aided the young child and his parents, and who helped to foil the plot. The heroes included simple shepherds and wealthy foreigners.
This author has written for years about those who do not exemplify the message of Christmas. As 2011 ends and the holy day of Christmas begins, it is important for people around the world to know that there remain many people (ordinary and influential) within the United States who exemplify the best of Christmas. It is they and many like them who help keep our world functioning and keep it at least barely on track. The following are but a few examples of such people.
1. Robert J. McCollum and David B. Foulis are two officials with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Understaffed and almost overwhelmed, they are dedicated to protecting the rivers, streams, marshes and wetlands of Western Massachusetts.
2. Brendan O’Connor was an employee of the U.S. Department of State who resigned this year in protest after his efforts to report and correct waste and mismanagement within the Department were ignored and disregarded by senior managers. His published story: “Everything is Broken: My Two Years at the U.S. Department of State,” is well worth reading. Mr. O’Connor is the kind of employee that President Obama invited to Washington, D.C. three years ago to help change government. Upon arriving, he found no support from the officials whom President Obama appointed.
3. John Dodson, Larry Alt, Pete Forcelli, James Casa and Carlos Canino are a courageous group of special agents within the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) who disclosed to Congress facts regarding the corrupt “Fast and Furious” firearms scandal. As recounted by Frank Miniter of Forbes in his story: “Insider President Obama’s War on the Fast and Furious Whistleblowers,” they have since all suffered damage to their careers from a hostile Justice Department.
4. Jonathan S. Landy and Marisa Taylor of McClatchy newspapers deserve very honorable mention for their efforts (respectively) to uncover the truth regarding a partially false cover story that the Marines published regarding Medal of Honor winner Dakota Meyer, and about the State Department’s refusal to properly manage work awarded to the politically connected contractor Louis Berger Group.
5. Deb Riechmann of the Associated Press deserves mention for her excellent reporting and analysis from Afghanistan, as does Laura King of The Los Angeles Times.
6. James Rosen and Jennifer Griffin of Fox News deserve special mention for some of their exposes on government mismanagement. Chris Wallace deserves mention for his dedication to obtaining straight answers from those he interviews.
7. David Aquino, Publisher of The Pioneer Valley News, deserves mention for the plucky efforts of this small but growing newspaper to speak out on a wide range of important social and environmental issues.
8. Borzou Daragahi (formally with The Los Angeles Times and now with The Financial Times) and Chris Cook. Editor of the Pacific Free Press, have my thanks for all the support they have provided this past year.
9. Finally, this author would like to extend his appreciation to Kamran Mir Hazar, the senior editor and publisher of the Kabul Press in Afghanistan, and to Robert Maier, the Kabul Press’ editor in the United States. Kamran Mir Hazar is a Hazara who publishes his on-line newspaper under increasingly oppressive conditions in Afghanistan. Minority rights and freedom of the press are under constant attack from both the Taliban and the Afghan Government, which share some common goals. His courageous efforts are appreciated by his staff.
Sometimes it seems as if those fighting for a better world are few and far between. In reality there are many of them but the airwaves are dominated by the superficial and the powerful who are masters at cultivating their image and gathering press attention. The established media contains less and less news and more and more sensationalism. Only those making outrageous, tabloid-style statements get any attention. 90% of the coverage is simply reporting “he said this” and “she said that,” with detailed analysis of each new slur or misstatement.
Laughing at all of this nonsense is a still strong and influential al-Qaeda. Terrorist groups have no organic ideology. They grow and prosper by taking advantage of ethical mistakes and immoral policies of established governments. They cynically embrace those who have suffered injustice and they adopt positions opposite from the Establishment, if doing so will bring converts and support. The ethical lapses that terrorists feed off provide a road map for defeating them.
As we enter the Christmas season, perhaps it is time for Western leaders to avoid the presents, the speeches and the parties. Christmas is a time to remember what the whole Christian movement is all about. It is about equality, love and forgiveness. It is a time to embrace human rights and to recognize that there are no exceptions to those rights. It is a time to appoint only to best to government positions, not simply the most loyal. It is a time for U.S. ambassadors to be appointed based on merit and expertise, not on how much they donated to the President’s reelection campaign. It is a time to praise those who work fairly and vigorously to protect our environment. It is a time to watch over every single tax dollar being spent, in order to ensure that these precious funds are not being wasted. It is a time to call to Washington, D.C. a new wave of people to replace all the former Wall Streeters and Clinton Administration holdovers who are simply continuing politics as usual. It is time to remove politics from the appointment of Federal and Supreme Court judges. The new rule should be that no person should be appointed a judge who has any support from any politician.
Finally, it is time that the full weight of the office of the President of the United States is used to protect those within the government who report and disclose corruption, mismanagement, illegality and inefficiency. President Obama owes a special and solemn duty to protect the little people far down in the ranks of government who are willing to risk their careers and the financial security of their families in order to protect this country. For him to abandon them to a vengeful bureaucracy is akin to leaving a brave soldier behind on the battlefield. It is unforgivable misconduct by a President.
In conclusion, we are fortunate that for each person who steps forward to help us and who falls doing so there always seems to be someone willing to step up and take their place. The message of Christmas is that were Christ to return he would represent the same threat today to the Establishment and to groups like al-Qaeda that he represented 2,000 years ago. The good news is that he would once again find an army of people who would do their best to protect him from the authorities and help spread his message. The message of Christmas has not been extinguished.