Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

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I believe in Santa Claus

Posted by sanityinjection on December 25, 2015

For a very long time, parents have struggled over what to tell their children about Santa Claus, and particularly the question: At what age should we tell them the “truth about Santa Claus”?

We know certainly that this dilemma dates back well over 100 years, as evidenced by the now-legendary 1897 newspaper editorial popularly known as “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”. In that piece, which subsequently became the most reprinted editorial in the entire English language, New York Sun editor Francis Pharcellus Church answered a little girl’s letter with an emphatic declaration that Santa Claus not only exists, but that his existence is necessary.

We can certainly sympathize today, 118 years later, with Church’s assertion that the children of that day “have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.” Is it wise, we still wonder, to encourage our children to continue to believe in something – or someone – that can’t be seen or heard? (Never mind that most of the religions of the world propose exactly that.)

As is so often the case, the problem lies not in the answer but in the question. In asking what to tell children about Santa Claus, we have created a false dichotomy, in which our children must either believe in Santa as a living being who magically flies around the world, physically enters their homes on Christmas Eve and leaves them presents, or they must reject him as nothing more than a fairy tale for the ignorant. We can hardly be surprised that such a choice is as unappetizing as that rock-hard, decade-old fruitcake that is still being regifted among our friends and relatives every year.

If we want our children to have an adult understanding of Santa, should we not begin by having an adult understanding of him ourselves – one that allows for nuance and incorporates something of philosophy? Church pointed us in the right direction when he wrote that Santa “exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist”. I can recall in my childhood, on Christmas Day there would be presents under the tree with tags that read, “FROM: Santa Claus”, but they didn’t all have my name in the “TO:” line.  Some were addressed to my mother, and some to my father. In this way, I was taught early on that Santa Claus isn’t just a figure who brings toys to children, but represents something much more universal.

Coming as he does at the one time of year when we are encouraged to forget our woes and try to be kind and generous to one another, is it not an honest answer to say that Santa Claus is the personification of the spirit of human kindness, generosity and love – particularly toward children, but really toward everyone? (I welcome you to go back and watch the classic 1947 Christmas movie “Miracle on 34th Street” and ask yourself if the little girl played by Natalie Wood is the only character whose life Kris Kringle affects for the better.) If we choose to imagine that spirit as a jolly fat bearded man in a red suit, is that wrong? What is the correct visualization of a spirit?

We ought to be able to say, without hesitation, that Santa Claus truly exists as long as we can know the joy of giving; as long as we are capable of feeling love for friends and family, and kindness toward strangers; as long as we have not forgotten that man does not live by bread alone, but that we all from time to time need something – or someone – to inspire us to rise above thinking only of ourselves. People who believe in Santa Claus are people who can love. When parents tell their children about Santa Claus, they are not perpetuating a childish fairy story; on the contrary, they are telling their children about the very nuanced and multifaceted concept of love in a simple way that children can accept and understand. If, as we grow older, we come to have an enlarged understanding of that concept, it does not mean that we must discard or reject Santa Claus, any more than we reject 2+2=4 when we have learned to do algebra. Let us not become so one-dimensional in our thinking that, like Shakespeare’s Horatio, we earn Hamlet’s admonition that “There are more things in heaven and earth…than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

So let me state as vigorously as Church did over a century ago: Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. To tell children otherwise is to do them no favor. I am past the age of forty, and I believe in Santa Claus, and I plan to keep on believing in him.

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Posted in Current Events, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Sanity Injection is back!

Posted by sanityinjection on June 17, 2015

After a 5 year hiatus, I have decided to revive Sanity Injection. At first I may be somewhat sporadic in posting, but I hope to get back to making multiple posts per week within the next couple of months. I hope you’ll find the blog to be as relevant as it was in its first incarnation. Thanks for reading!

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Sanity Injection to close down

Posted by sanityinjection on April 21, 2010

I have decided to close down Sanity Injection after nearly two years. Due to some changes in my life I will not be able to continue to put in the time and effort to take the site to the next level.

Thank you to everyone who has read and commented here. I have learned a lot from you and enjoyed sharing my thoughts with you as well.

I’ll leave the site up for a little while so you can catch up on anything you might have missed.

Sincerely yours,

Sanity Injection

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

On hiatus

Posted by sanityinjection on March 26, 2010

Sanity Injection will be on hiatus for the remainder of the month of March. I will be back in April with more thoughts on the latest news.

In the meantime, check out some of my favorite sites over on the right hand side of the page. I especially recommend this recent column by John Stossel on the looming Social Security and Medicare disaster, which has the potential to make our current recession look like a blip on the radar screen.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Two Rant Tuesday

Posted by sanityinjection on March 9, 2010

Following up on last week’s TRT in which I complained about Americans’ increasingly poor driving…Today I got to witness someone trying to back out of their driveway into a busy state highway. At first this appeared to me to be merely annoying rather than idiotic, until I drove past and realized that the driveway in question was big enough to land the space shuttle on. In other words, this driver could easily have turned his or her car around in their own driveway before trying to pull out into the highway, but was too lazy to do that. Instead, they insisted on backing out, creating a hazard to themselves and everyone else and also causing a backup of cars.

Something tells me this jackass was not the only such offender in my area this morning. I would put this in the same category as people who realize at the last second that they’re going to miss their exit. Instead of accepting the consequences of their mistake by going to the next exit and turning around, they swerve across multiple lanes of traffic, heedless of the danger to themselves and others. They would rather risk their lives and the lives of others around them than be even slightly inconvenienced by their own actions. Stop making everyone else cope with the consequences of your own failures! The only person who should be inconvenienced by your laziness on the road is YOU.

…and in a totally unrelated development, the family of American Rachel Corrie is suing the Israeli government for $324,000 in damages for Corrie’s alleged wrongful death in the Gaza Strip in 2003. Ms. Corrie was inside a militant as it was being bulldozed by the Israeli army, and died when a concrete slab fell on her. Corrie’s family claims the Israelis must have seen her. Of course, Corrie was there for the specific purpose of protesting Israel. She apparently ignored the tear gas and stun grenades that the Israelis had fired to clear the area of idiots like her. How are you supposed to spare the life of someone who is doing their best to get killed?

While I can of course sympathize with parents who lose their daughter – no matter how stupid she may have been – this is a ridiculous lawsuit. If your daughter is in the Gaza strip hanging out with terrorists and getting in the way of army operations to take them out, you’re a damn fool to be surprised if she gets killed. Corrie was 23 when she died, so her parents may not have been able to legally prevent her actions, but how much do you want to bet she was doing it all with Mommy and Daddy’s money? (Not too many people who work for a living have time to protest in war zones.) Call me harsh, but if Corrie had lived, she would most likely have fallen in love with some dashing Hamas terrorist, eventually becoming disillusioned, but not before breeding one or more future terrorists. It’s sad that Corrie didn’t have time to realize the error of her ways, but the fault is entirely her own.

Posted in Foreign Affairs, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Two Rant Tuesday

Posted by sanityinjection on March 2, 2010

Getting away from politics…

…I am increasingly appalled at the way driving in suburban America is getting worse and worse. There is no question in my mind that the culprit is cell phones – not even so much people talking on them while driving, but *texting* while driving. How anyone can seriously believe that they can do  so safely boggles my mind. What I also see increasingly is people stopped at a light or in a line of traffic, banging away on their microscopic keyboards, and then when traffic starts moving again, they don’t – and neither does anyone behind them.

That may seem like a minor nuisance, until you realize that if the line of cars is long enough, that texting person (or persons) may be causing traffic to backup into an intersection, causing serious safety issues. Bottom line: Your number one priority whenever you are behind the wheel is to PAY ATTENTION to what is going on around you. The next text message sent in this world that is of critical urgency in anyone’s life will be the first, so put the damn phone down until you are off the road, please. Additionally, please stop screwing around with your car’s GPS, DVD player, or anything else that takes your eyes off the road. It’s not as if our traffic and driving safety problems are so minor that we can afford to make them worse for no good reason.

…Now item #2 is sadly not a new problem…but please, explain to me what is the deal with the significant segment of the population that refuses to flush in public restrooms? Now I am not talking about when the flush mechanism is broken – I’m just talking about those people who don’t seem to consider it their responsibility to leave a clean slate when they’re done. This is even more common with urinals. (I would like to believe that this problem plagues the male gender disproportionately, but I’m probably deluding myself.) Here’s a news flash – Just because you didn’t defecate, doesn’t mean the next person wants to encounter the detritus of your visit to the restroom – even if that simply consists of a piece of tissue. Or as John Cage used to say on the 1990s TV hit Ally McBeal, “I like a fresh bowl.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Merry Christmas…

Posted by sanityinjection on December 24, 2009

…and Happy Holidays from your Sanity Injection. I’ll be back next week with more new stuff.

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On hiatus

Posted by sanityinjection on November 18, 2009

SanityInjection will be on hiatus for the rest of the month and will be back the first week in December.

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On Vacation

Posted by sanityinjection on August 31, 2009

Sanity Injection will be on vacation for the rest of this week and will be back with more new content after Labor Day.

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Consumerism and Diet: A New Case for Temperance

Posted by sanityinjection on May 27, 2009

Something a little different for you all today. For the first time at SanityInjection, I offer you a guest column, written by “tubby”, who regular readers may recognize from his many thoughtful comments here. I am neither endorsing nor opposing the opinions “tubby” presents – in fact, I’ll probably post a comment of my own in response. But I will say that I think his post is an interesting springboard for discussion, and that’s why I wanted to present it here.

Without further ado, here’s “tubby”:

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The current economic climate has brought with it a kind of “green revolution”; an age when the ideas of conservation and environmentalism are no longer confined to hippie communes and San Francisco head shops. We’re concerned – about the banks who guard our hard-earned assets, about politicians who don’t have our interests at heart, and about nature’s seemingly increasing chaotic temper. Every day we see the effects of corporate greed, climate change, urban sprawl, and irreversible ecological damage. To some, these events lead to a moderation in lifestyle choices; to others, they lead to a necessary adjustment of their priorities. This “age of circumspection”, as it were, has led me recently to ponder certain lifestyle choices.

 Since moving to New England I have met many people who have made me question the choices I face every day. For full disclosure: I chose to remain here after college in part because the Southern back-slapping, beer-chugging, good ol’ boy mentality never quite suited me. I’ve always been one who places a certain emphasis on reason, balance, and conservation. (Heck, I was a Philosophy major – I have formal training!) So after a while, life in New England started feeling right. Recycling became a way of life. A friend’s gift of a plastic yard bin got me started composting. I try to reuse as many household items and containers as I can. At the same time, there are ways in which I, as everyone, fall short. During renovations, I could have required environmentally-friendly disposal of old equipment and cabinetry. I could have insisted on buying only new “green” materials. Instead of throwing stuff out, I could “freecycle” or simply have more yard sales. 

But the basic lifestyle choice I’d like to address now – one that we must satisfy every day in order to live – is our diet. Since I moved up east, I’ve come to know a few vegetarians. I must confess that all too often, I’ve not fully understood (or simply failed to ask) why each one chose his or her dietary preference. In most cases, I chalked it up to the animal-rights movement. I find this cause to be a noble one, providing a necessary counterweight to the thoughtless treatment of animals in our age of industry, whose mechanized efficiency has eclipsed sound judgment. Factory farms are a tragic reminder of the contemptible actions taken by big business on its inexorable march to meet consumer demand while reaping a profit. Some take the argument further, saying human beings possess no real moral superiority over other animals, that their lives are just as precious as ours. I’m not prepared to say that animals below us on the food chain are bound by the same moral framework on which we pride modern civilizations. From an evolutionary point of view, our species is blessed with opposable thumbs, advanced brain function, the ability to perceive time, and self-awareness. Is it not natural that we use these faculties to our advantage, in order to preserve our species the best that we can?

 To the environmental point, the impacts of business practices will have effects lasting far beyond the expiration of a single human life. Cattle farms and intensive pig farms produce inordinate amounts of ammonia and methane, the latter of which contributes greatly to the greenhouse effect currently warming our planet. The overfishing of blue fin tuna in the Mediterranean has caused that fish group to become a near-endangered species. Pesticide-ridden crop runoff has created Gulf of Mexico dead zones, where algal bloom has choked off many other types of life. Over and over, we see the ugly effects of a species trying to sustain itself within the bounds of capitalism. Isn’t it reasonable – economically and sentimentally – that we balance good business with a long-term consideration of our surroundings? As a dominant species using our higher faculties to maintain a respectable quality of life, we should aim to so in ways which humanely and responsibly preserve the habitats of our neighboring plants and animals.

 Many vegetarians assert that health is the main reasoning behind their lifestyle. They have understood that a disproportionately heavy diet of red meat and animal fat can lead to heart disease, so they wisely avoid these foods. However, non-“vegan” vegetarians also consume dairy products and often foods high in refined sugar – both of which can lead to heart disease and diabetes when overused. The vegetarian diet offers inherent health benefits, but should be followed judiciously: It implicitly eliminates many foods rich in protein, a fundamental building block for muscle repair and basic cellular function. Vegetarians must exercise additional, often creative, effort to assemble meals which offer not only ample “good fats” and protein, but also a regulated portion of carbohydrates.

 My personal dietary lifestyle choice incorporates all of these concerns, and is one based upon food group balance and portion moderation. The credo “everything in moderation” has become a cliché, but if you pause and think, applying this idea to our daily consumer ritual could address some of our pressing environmental concerns. A blanket “no meat” policy is a respectable, principled view. Yet couldn’t an equally principled position endure in a policy of dietary temperance? By sourcing meat from animals raised on local, sustainable farms, a consumer is supporting the virtues of health, environmental stewardship, and sound ethics – by listening to the Earth, his health, and his conscience. Moreover, when I buy grains and veggies from my local farmer, I am paying respect to my land and community, and (perhaps most importantly) shunning monolithic agribusiness, which in the name of profit begets environmental pollution, large-scale waste, and political influence.

 In closing, I would like to individually address each dietary lifestyle group.

 To the die-hard carnivores: I urge you to consume your substance in greater moderation. The Wendy’s sandwich you had for lunch was about ten percent of a chicken which in all likelihood was raised in a 2′ x 2′ cage and mistreated until its slaughter. A single cow grazing for a year can produce up to 200 cubic meters of greenhouse-gas producing methane, requires over two acres of cleared land, and consumes 14 tons of single-use grain which could have landed on the plate of a starving third-world child. The 16-oz steak you ordered at your Friday night restaurant ritual is a non-trivial portion of that cow, and let’s face it – probably gave you heartburn. What is more, you couldn’t finish it all, so a third of it went to waste!

 For the vegetarians: Consider not only the sentiment, but also the rationale behind your dietary choice. If it is primarily for ethical reasons, consider the irony that the dairy and egg products you crave for your protein intake portends the same cattle and poultry abuse we typically associate with the consumption of meat. If your reasons are politically or environmentally-driven, consider that large farming conglomerates like Archer Daniels Midland, who provide your wheat and corn products, are significant polluters of our waterways and a key reason the persistent Farm Bill drains billions of our tax dollars every election season. Last (but not least), if you cite health reasons, think of all the valuable nutrients of which you are depriving your body. Consider a wild-caught salmon: it poses no major ethical or environmental questions, and provides valuable protein and essential fatty acids – the latter of which offer brain function and immune system benefits found to prevent or mitigate the advancement of several diseases.

 Maybe certain aspects of human nature can’t be changed. There will always been businessmen who think of themselves before their fellow man, as will there be companies that abandon principles of environmental stewardship in the name of profit. Nature will always bestow on us disasters for which we must prepare. Yet lest we forget, there are individual and communal needs we dare not compromise. Love, joy, and physical health are and should remain essential elements of a balanced life. Perhaps the best way we can cherish them is by striving to preserve the natural balance around us. My humble hope is that a tempered consumer lifestyle can accomplish just that.

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