In and Around Hannibal: December 22, 2012

by Rita Hooper 

I have wrestled mightily with what I want to say in this week’s lead. In just a few days it will be Christmas…but our hearts are heavy with the tragic shooting, murder and suicide of 27 people.

Twenty were under seven years of age. There were safely in school (in Newtown, Conn.) or so we all thought. As I want to write about the nation’s Christmas tree and the joy of the season, I’m compelled to write about this tragedy.

The people who died were all someone’s son or daughter, grandchild, brother, sister, niece, nephew, cousin or friend.  As a nation, we mourn for them, and with those who knew and loved them. I don’t imagine there was a house of worship anywhere in our country that didn’t pray for them this week. Our president called us to action. I’ve been thinking about what I can do because I know that change has to begin within each individual.

I admit I was a babe in arms during World War II and a small child during the Korean War, but I still had what I would call a peaceful childhood. Our war toys were metal or plastic soldiers. We played Cowboys and Indians with cap guns and water pistols for weapons. We knew it was play and not real. If it got a little rough, there was a parent around somewhere that would “settle us down!”

Since my youth, I have watched as our society has slowly turned into one of fear and violence.  I Remember Mama, and Life of Riley, Jackie Gleason and Leave it to Beaver, have all been replaced with shows lacking values for the most part…rudeness is showcased and accepted and human life is often expendable. We could go for days talking about how much our society has changed — reasons don’t really matter and we probably won’t turn the clock back, but what we do in the future does matter.

We control what our children watch on TV, what we give them to play with, who they play with, and the activities they are involved with. We control how we speak at home and treat other people. We set the example for our children. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” – do you want your children to be like you? If they copy your language, dress and relationships with others, will they be better people for it?

Judging from what I heard as children spoke with Santa about their wish lists, many children will be receiving electronic games for Christmas. Before Christmas, check out what you have bought and return it if it involves violence. Imagine what a message the retailers would receive if all their violent videos were returned.

Go to the recreational facilities with your children and keep an eye out for what’s happening. Many schools are offering information and programs on bullying…attend them, speak with your children about what’s happening with them.

We control who we vote for. We should let politicians know how we feel when it comes to budgeting for education, parks and playgrounds, and after-school and daycare programs. We need to let them know how we feel about mental health funding and facilities.

We need a discussion about the difference between guns meant for hunters and sportsmen and those used as weapons of war. Write your elected officials at every level and let them know your feelings. Go to your church, your community organizations, your parent-teacher organization, library, internet, and form a group who feels as you do about violence.

Hold the president accountable — let him know you expect his leadership in this situation — suggest a televised town hall meeting.

I also plan to check on my mutual funds, I usually throw those papers out, but I will go over them in the next week or two and make sure that I am not supporting businesses that I won’t patronize.

Now going where angels fear to tread…brings me to the NRA.  From my understanding, the National Rife Association was formed in 1871, following the Civil War, by two Union veterans who were concerned over the lack of marksmanship of the troops. The primary goal of the association would be to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.”

The NRA made a name for itself in training and safety. Many beginning hunters received gun safety training from the NRA in order to get their first hunting license. Somewhere along the line, the organization became arch defenders of the second amendment.

I haven’t got the time, space or legal mind to go into all that is involved with Second Amendment interpretation – but somehow I don’t think the founding fathers were thinking of our present day military weapons when they wrote it.

While the NRA still encourages and does gun training, they have become a much more politically active group. Many NRA members say they no longer support the NRA’s hardline position. As you return violent videos, and check your investments, perhaps you need to reconsider your NRA membership or at least let them know how you feel.

When I hear politicians like the governor of Texas, say he supports the right of folks to carry guns anywhere in their state — schools and churches included — I cringe. I have a granddaughter in Texas and I’d really hate to see her principal armed. Can you imagine armed movie goers in the dark, or shoppers in a crowded mall or perhaps at a baseball game teeming with children, pulling weapons? Arming more Americans in more places is surely not the answer.

I am not asking people to give up their guns but I know there can be a better world out there for our children to grow and thrive in if we bring some common sense to this debate.

And, that debate begins with me and you! It’s time for that serious discussion and more importantly it’s time we took action instead of sitting by and saying, “Isn’t that a shame?”

*  *  *  *  *

Now to a change of subject.

The second and final part of the National Christmas Tree and the Path of Peace.

During the Jimmy Carter years, the tree was on the Ellipse, a transplanted Blue Spruce donated by Mrs. Myers from York, Pa. It had been a Mother’s Day present to her some years prior.  President Carter lit it in 1977 and 1978. The tree was not, except for the top ornament, in honor of those held hostage in Iran in 1979 and 1980.

Shortly after Ronald Reagan was sworn in Jan. 20 1981, the hostages were released. When they left Iranian airspace, the tree was fully lit.

There having been an assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981, the nation’s tree was lit by remote from the White House as it was for the eight years of his presidency.

In 1989, President and Mrs. Bush once again lit the Christmas tree on the Ellipse, this time from a glass-encased box near the stage. The tree was lit with red, white and blue bulbs.

In 1990, 57 small Scotch pine trees were planted forming the Pathway of Peace. Each tree represented a state, the District of Columbia and the US territories. The trees had been grown on reclaimed surface coal mine land.

During the Clinton years, the Clinton’s took part in many celebrity performances. A garden-size railroad was added to the other exhibits (crèche, reindeer and Yule log) at the Ellipse. The tree was lit until Jan. 1.

From 2001-2008, it was President George W. and Laura Bush who had the privilege of lighting the National Christmas tree and participating in the Pageant of Peace. In 2001, the children of victims of the 9-11 attack on the Pentagon assisted in the tree lighting.

President Barack Obama and the first family participated in the national tree lighting in 2009 and 10. And then in February of 2011, strong winds snapped the tree about four feet above the ground.

The 42-foot Colorado blue spruce had been in its current location for more than 32 years. The National Park Service transplanted a new tree on the Ellipse in the spring of 2011.

This tree died due to transplant shock and was removed in May of 2012. A new one was planted by the National Park Service in October of 2012.

At this year’s tree lighting President Obama quipped,

“Our tree has been having a hard time recently. This is our third one in as many years. It just goes to show, nobody’s job is safe.”

Well folks that’s it on the tree. Hope yours is lit and broadcasting joy and peace to all who see it.

*  *  *  *  *

Cabin 3 and Vintage Truth Christmas Party and message will be held tonight at 7 p.m. All area youth welcome.

The Senior Nutrition Program will not meet Dec. 24. The center will be serving beef stew Wednesday and mac and cheese Friday.  Please call 564-5471 to make your reservation.

This Sunday, churches throughout the world will be celebrating the last Sunday of Advent. That period of expectation for the Prince of Peace to make His entrance into the world as a newborn babe. Christmas Eve, churches will be celebrating His birth. You and your family are invited to join in these celebrations at the church of your choice.

Sunday, Dec. 23 at 10 a.m., Hannibal and Granby Methodist churches will be sharing in a Christmas Pageant at the Martville Methodist Church. The youth of all three churches will be participating.

Christmas Eve services at Hannibal Methodist Church will be celebrated at 7 p.m. The Methodist Churches of Granby and Martville will be sharing in this service. Wayne Kellogg, a professional musician and a native of Hannibal, will be guest organist for the service.

God’s Vision Christian Church will host Christmas worship at 10 a.m. Sunday. Its candlelight Christmas Eve service and children’s pageant will be  5:30 p.m.

Southwest Oswego Methodist  Church’s Christmas Eve will be held at 6:30 p.m. The service will include scripture, carols and special music.

The Jammers will not be meeting this winter. See you in May.

The Elderberries will be meeting at noon at the Community Center on second and fourth Tuesdays.

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