Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Silence Equals Death: 2023 In Review

Silence Equals Death: 2023 In Review

by C.A. Matthews

The very last post of the year for the past couple of years has been a review and summarization of events that happened in that year. And so it will be again. Why mess with success?

If there’s one short, pithy phrase that summarizes everything that has happened in the year 2023—and I believe future historians will agree with me—it’s this: Silence equals death.

Looking at the first half of the year, death was occurring in the usual places where it had been in the year previous: In Ukraine, at the US Southern Border, in US prisons and jails and at the hand of the police in their never-ending crusade to terrorize people of color for the sake of satisfying the bourgeoisie class.

Silence factors into each of these events in the manner that nothing was done to prevent the deaths of countless civilians and innocent bystanders. In the conflict between Russia and Ukraine over the protection of ethnic Russians in the Donbas region, a potential peace negotiation hosted by Turkey was revealed that would have taken place in March of 2022, a mere month after the hostilities began. The US dismissed it summarily, the US military-Congressional-industrial complex being the primary supplier of armaments to Ukraine, of course.

To think a peace deal could have been made within a month of the conflict’s start, saving the lives of thousands of Ukrainians and Russian soldiers and civilians. So many needlessly killed in the twenty months plus afterward because the US egged on the fighting for its own gain. There was no need for so much loss of life and destruction to have been leveled on that part of the planet. The two sides could have worked things out at the negotiation table.

by Mark Taylor https://mark192.substack.com/ 
Only the greed of the US war machine and the ethnic bigotry of Zelensky and his Azov Battalion has kept this war going for so long, and now that they’ve had their war usurped by the genocide going on currently in Gaza, they’ll most likely have to to give in to the Russians of the Donbas region who they hate so much. Twenty months of death and for what? In the end, nothing but chaos in a country that will be enthusiastically “rebuilt” by BlackRock and its subsidiaries at a very nice profit.

The US could have spoken up at any time and ended the weapons dump, encouraged the Ukrainians to avail themselves of the peace negotiations offered in March 2022, but instead it chose to do nothing and say nothing.

Silence equals death.

The horrors of a barbwire floating “wall” in the middle of the Rio Grande exemplifies the US immigration policy in 2023. While many in the immigration advocacy field (myself excluded) thought they could “push Biden left” to improve some of the most heinous aspects of our immigration laws, nothing got better for immigrants in 2023.

In many ways, things stayed the same or got even worse than they were under the previous administration. Human beings fleeing terror and discrimination in their homelands weren’t allowed to step on US soil and claim asylum, as is their right under both US and international law. After the “Title 42” policy expired, a new way to thwart asylum seekers was initiated, the “CBP One app” program. Poor and technologically disadvantaged asylum seekers cannot access CBP One from outside the US, therefore, they cannot apply for asylum in the US.

Insult to injury, wealthier, more connected immigrants can step off a plane and plead for asylum without going through the onerous CBP One app process. Money and political popularity with the present administration means doors to immigration open far more easily for these migrants, such as the blue-eyed, blond Ukrainians, but not so much for Haitians, Hondurans, and other persons of color.

If the drownings of men, women and children in the Rio Grande, along with the heat exhaustion/suffocation of immigrants being smuggled into the US in shipping containers on trains and semi-trucks doesn’t convince you the US government doesn’t care one bit about those fleeing persecution caused by US funded coups d’etat and economic sanctions in the Global South, then what will? What will make you speak out against these injustices?

Silence equals death.

Here are some of the blog articles from the first part of 2023 covering these subjects:

Police Violence

Targets On Our Backs https://continuousrev.blogspot.com/2023/01/targets-on-our-backs.html


The Unwelcoming Society https://continuousrev.blogspot.com/2023/05/the-unwelcoming-society.html

The New Title 42 https://continuousrev.blogspot.com/2023/05/the-unwelcoming-society.html

The Endless and Unnecessary Proxy War 
Pay For Your Own Wars, Big Oil!
Clusterf*cked: The Cruelty is the Point https://continuousrev.blogspot.com/2023/07/clusterfcked-cruelty-is-point.html

Good-bye, BlackRock! So Long, Petrodollar! Hello, Peace!
The second half of 2023 proved no less bloody. More migrant lives were lost in the deserts and in the Rio Grande, the fighting needlessly continued on in Ukraine, and many pundits forecast a war breaking out between the US and China over its runaway province of Taiwan. Nobody else in the world seemed overly enthused about taking on the Chinese outside “the Five Eyes” nations who had momentary lapses about who their largest trading partner really was. (Hint: It’s not the US.) 

Nuclear sub deals made between US and Australia helped the Aussies to forget and to deny imprisoned publisher Julian Assange as being one of their own, leaving him to slowly die in the UK’s infamous Belmarsh Prison while awaiting extradition to the US this coming February. Once in the US, he’ll be locked up in solidarity confinement and never heard from again. All this evil committed against one individual simply because Assange had the audacity to publish the truth about US war crimes during the Iraq War. It's almost as if Westerners don't want to hear the truth and take comfort in state propaganda.

And if that isn't enough, our earth's warming is accelerating at such a rate it soon could be at the point of no return. Facts like this aren't stopping oil drilling operations like the Willow Project any. Big Oil and the US government acts as if we have all the time in the world.

Silence equals death.

Perhaps the single worse incident in 2023 of people remaining silent while thousands are being slaughtered in real time on social media is the ongoing genocide in Gaza. Every country on Earth knows what is going on there apparently except the US and Israel, as it has been openly acknowledged by the United Nations and international human rights organizations. The Israelis continue to pay huge sums of money in order to purchase billboards in Times Square and ads on social media—as well as paying for “false flags” on US college campuses—just to keep their “victim card” current while playing the role of the only ethnic group to suffer a holocaust while perpetrating an ethnic cleansing. US politicians (such as Rep. Marcy Kaptur) play dumb (not stupid per se, but by not talking) while their constituents plead with them to call for a permanent ceasefire.

It must be that by never calling what the UN and every human rights group on the planet call a “genocide” an actual genocide then it never ever happened. It’s not happening, so we can all just forget about the unpleasant photos and videos of dead Palestinian children and their families lying in the bombed out rubble of their homes. We can forget all about those horrible images of tiny babies lying dead in their incubators where Israeli soldiers sentenced them to die all alone by forcing their doctors away from the hospitals they were bombing. What we don’t acknowledge or witness can’t be happening, right?

Oh, well, never fear—Israeli real estate mavericks have already started selling off Gazan beachfront property. It’s not like the land had ever been occupied by 2.2 million indigenous Palestinians. It’s “always” belong to Israel—even before the 1948 Nakba… whatever that was.

Silence equals death.

So, we come to the end of another year of Biden’s “Nothing will fundamentally change” administration and nothing has changed except for the rapidly increasing death count of Palestinians slain by US-backed Israeli forces, more deaths of asylum seekers to the US along our Southern Border, more Ukrainians and Russians dead who all could have been saved back in March 2022 if the US hadn’t forced Zelensky to continue the carnage, more Americans dead because they cannot afford health care, food, fuel and rising housing prices… while the world continues to heats up because of fossil fuel burning.

What’s on tap for 2024? More of the same most likely. US hegemony knows no bounds and has zero empathy for the poor, the indigent, the immigrant, the indigenous peoples of the globe. It just wants more war, more war profits along with more grabs for oil and natural gas.

The only way things could get better in 2024 is by following my practice, what I call “The New Litmus Test,” when it comes to whom to vote for or follow in any matter whatsoever. (I recommend using this litmus test for everyone or else you could wind up with some nasty surprises such as the ones I encountered in “How Do We Live With Ourselves?”) Because if we don’t get brutally honest with ourselves about how horribly we’re treating our fellow human beings and the planet that sustains us all, then we don’t really deserve to be here in the first place, in my humble opinion.

Silence equals death—but speaking out and taking action can sustain our consciences and sustain life. We can stop a genocide. We can stop a useless conflict over natural gas sales to Europe around a peace negotiation table. We can offer sanctuary to those seeking protection and asylum. We can protect journalists who tell the truth—no matter how “harmful” the military-industrial complex thinks revealing their war crimes are.

Support those who speak up even louder when those in authority shut them down. Don’t choose death or silence. Choose life. 

Here are some of the blog articles from the second part of 2023 covering these subjects: 

Big Oil's control of our world

Happy Co-Dependence Day, America (Boiling Frogs) 

The Root of All Evils
The Choice  (Climate scientist Peter Kalmus on global warming)

Weaponizing Free Speech (censorship)

The morality of our elected officials and others

Your Congressmember At Work--For Israel

The New Litmus Test

How Do We Live With Ourselves?


Cancel Genocide. Keep Christmas. https://twitter.com/DrJillStein/status/1739444921717670213

Other Related Articles and Interesting Links

At This Point We Have To Always Assume Israel Is Lying Until Proven Otherwise https://www.caitlinjohnst.one/p/at-this-point-we-have-to-always-assume

On Tuesday Israel killed a Palestinian baby girl who was born during the IDF bombing campaign on Gaza. They’ve been killing children so aggressively for so long now that they’re starting to kill children who were born after the child-killing began.

Seventeen days. Al-Amira Aisha got seventeen days on this planet before being crushed to death by an Israeli airstrike on her home in Rafah, alongside her two year-old brother Ahmed and 25 others who’d been living in the same apartment building. She never knew a day of peace.

A Palestinian baby girl, born 17 days ago during Gaza war, is killed with brother in Israeli strike  https://apnews.com/article/israel-palestinians-gaza-war-children-6e69c73aa6f9c60ffeb07b4b1ff294e9

Christmas Wishes for “Peace on Earth” Are Empty Without Ceasefire in Gaza https://truthout.org/articles/christmas-wishes-for-peace-on-earth-are-empty-without-ceasefire-in-gaza/

As of this writing, over 20,000 Gazans have been slaughtered, the vast majority of them women and children. Over 1.9 million of the 2.2 million population is now homeless, still subjected to relentless bombing, with no protection, no shelters or anywhere to run to, as Israel continues to pummel them like fish in a barrel. This campaign is not only allowed, but actively supported by the United States, which supplies 2,000-pound bombs to be dropped on the hapless Palestinians. More importantly, it supplies a diplomatic umbrella that justifies and legitimizes what has been described as an ongoing genocide of apocalyptic proportions, and provides Israel relative immunity from international law, the International Criminal Court and outraged international public opinion.
The Atrocities In Gaza Are The Perfect Embodiment Of 'Western Values' https://www.caitlinjohnst.one/p/the-atrocities-in-gaza-are-the-perfect

Amid U.N. Security Council Intrigue, U.S. Privately Moves To Block Another Option For International Accountability For Gaza

Israeli Evidence of Hamas Command Center in al-Shifa Hospital Falls Short: Report (from Washington Post)

Israeli forces blow up dozens of residential buildings in Gaza's Shujaiya neighbourhood  https://www.newarab.com/news/israeli-forces-detonate-bomb-destroy-over-50-gaza-buildings

Going Mask-Off About The Two-State Solution Lie
After all the lies and atrocities we’ve seen over the last two and a half months, everyone should be reflexively disbelieving any claims by the Israeli government and begging the forgiveness of Palestinians for not believing everything they’ve been claiming for generations.
Blood Money: The Top Ten Politicians Taking the Most Israel Lobby Cash  https://scheerpost.com/2023/12/20/blood-money-the-top-ten-politicians-taking-the-most-israel-lobby-cash/

UNICEF Warns 'Many More Children Will Die' in Gaza Without Safe Water https://www.commondreams.org/news/israel-gaza-water

GAZA WAR UPDATE: Israeli Trade Destroyed by Yemen Siege, Resistance Targets Officers & More rumble.com/v427he8-gaza-war- update-israeli-trade-destroyed-by-yemen-siege-resistance-targets-o.htm

UN calls for probe as Israeli army accused of killing unarmed Palestinians  https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/12/21/idf-executed-palestinian-men-in-front-of-their-families-un-confirms

Meet the Companies Profiting From Israel's War on Gaza

Use The Right Language: AMERICAN War Crimes & AMERICAN Genocide In Gaza https://mark192.substack.com/p/a-call-to-substackers-use-the-right

80+ Groups Descend on DC Demanding Gaza Cease-Fire, Migrant Rights  https://scheerpost.com/2023/12/20/80-groups-descend-on-dc-demanding-gaza-cease-fire-migrant-rights/

Meta Is Systematically Censoring Pro-Palestine Posts, Human Rights Watch Finds  https://truthout.org/articles/meta-is-systematically-censoring-pro-palestine-posts-human-rights-watch-finds/

Biden Is Paying Growers to Replace Farmworkers With Bracero Contract Labor https://truthout.org/articles/biden-is-paying-growers-to-replace-farmworkers-with-bracero-contract-labor/

‘The Way Things Are Going, Biden Is Going to Lose On His Own’: An Interview With Jill Stein  https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-way-things-are-going-biden-is-going-to-lose-on-his-own-an-interview-with-jill-stein/

Our leaders are the most immoral and cowardly people imaginable

US Abstains From UN Gaza Resolution After Lobbying to Weaken It

Israel: Starvation Used as Weapon of War in Gaza https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/12/18/israel-starvation-used-weapon-war-gaza

In unprecedented slaughter of Gaza civilians, US claims Israel is the “victim” https://www.aaronmate.net/p/in-unprecedented-slaughter-of-gaza

How Israel Buys Support From Celebrities & Influencers w/Lee Camp https://youtu.be/ma1autOZcPc?si=7z5u7RqJOsGEIPEN

Israel's Killing of Journalists in Gaza 'Unparalleled,' Says Watchdog

Ukraine Grenade Attack Heralds Coming Terror Wave

How Big Oil Is Taking Us for a Fossil-Fuelized Ride https://scheerpost.com/2023/12/21/how-big-oil-is-taking-us-for-a-fossil-fuelized-ride/ 

Monday, December 18, 2023

Peace In Palestine/Baby Angel


photo by Amjad Doumani

Peace In Palestine

The “Ceasefire Carols” for peace in Palestine were well received in downtown Toledo at Promenade Park on Saturday night. We even picked up some new singers for next week’s performance. Nice!

Hear us in this clip: https://www.instagram.com/reel/C1Clx7ZgAie/?igshid=NmUwNWViZjkxNw%3D%3D

The welcoming turnout gives me hope that the vast majority of human beings do desire peace, do not desire the deaths of more innocents, and do want to bring an end to the Israeli bombing of Gaza permanently. It gives me a warm feeling that perhaps not all people on Planet Earth are heartless bastards. There are people who care, who have a moral center, and who aren’t easily persuaded to think genocide is a “necessary thing.”

I realize there are still quite a few heartless types out there, but their voices are being drown out by Ceasefire Carolers worldwide and celestial choirs of angels who herald the birth of the Christ child. The baby Jesus, according to the Gospel account in Matthew 2:16-18, almost didn’t make it to his first birthday because of King Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents. There seems to be a parallel between that story and current events, don’t you think?

Sleep in heavenly peace, little ones, who will never experience a holiday here on this plane of existence. May we never forget you.

You know that the world is broken when a country is given the freedom to annihilate another people as the world watches in real time. This should shake each and every one of us to the core. --Michel Moushabeck, If Jesus Was Born Today, Would He Be Under Rubble?

Baby Angel

by C.A. Matthews


Most folks who put up a Christmas tree in their homes have a decorative ornament or two that holds a special meaning for them. It could be a handmade ornament given to them by their child or grandchild. It could be an ornament given to them as a present by a very special person in their life. It could be an ornament that honors a milestone in a family’s life—a “first Christmas for baby” ornament or a “first Christmas together as a couple” ornament are two such that come to mind.

Or it could be simply an ornament that was purchased because it was beautifully crafted and looks absolutely perfect on the Christmas tree. Art and beauty lend a message that this is a season full of love and wonder. Whatever the meaning behind a special ornament, it usually is given a position of honor on the tree so that all can gaze upon it and contemplate the special meaning it symbolizes.

We’ve collected so many special ornaments over the decades that it’s sometimes difficult figuring out where to place them on our medium-sized Christmas tree. As time goes by, I’ve even forgotten why I found a particular ornament special to begin with. Imagine that!

What was I thinking? I ask myself every December as I take some of them out of the storage box. These “lost meaning” decorations usually get put on toward the bottom or on the backside of the tree. Sort of filler ornaments, you could say. But sometimes, an older ornament takes on a new meaning, a new kind of specialness than it had before. It deserves a more prominent place on the tree.

Baby Angel is one example.

Baby Angel was given to me by my late father when I was pregnant with my first daughter. Now, that fact alone makes it a special ornament in and of itself. But in recent years, we’ve acquired many more flashy angel ornaments. Baby Angel was hung toward the back of the tree more often than not. Just one angel among many.

This year when I took Baby Angel out of storage I immediately put her in a place of honor in the front part of the tree. Baby Angel reminded me instantly of all the tiny infants slain by Israeli carpet bombing and by Israeli soldiers who forced their doctors away from their incubators in Gazan hospitals, leaving them to die all alone in the cold and dark.

Not exactly a “warm holiday season” thing to contemplate over a mug of hot cocoa, is it?

But it’s reality. Get use to it. The surviving family members of these murdered infants will have to learn to live with it, even if they’re murdered, in turn, by US-provided bombs. Bombs dropped on their refugee camp in the south of Gaza that crushes them under rubble or dismembers them in an explosion. Or they'll die slowly through starvation and disease because Israel has turned off their water, and food and medicine can’t be delivered under the hail of Israeli bombs and their control of the only exit points in Gaza.

I don’t think Baby Angel will ever not remind me of these massacred innocents from now on.

Over 70% of the civilian deaths in Gaza have been women and children. Not soldiers or terrorists but mothers with their children. Children who will never get to celebrate another birthday or holiday. Children who will never get to go to school again or play football with their buddies. Children who pose no threat to anyone except to those who commit a genocide against an entire group of indigenous people so they can steal their land and resources.

Baby Angel will hang on our Christmas tree in a place of honor to commemorate all the babies who became victims of the genocide in Gaza…. In a season that celebrates a baby who survived Herod’s slaughter of the innocents and whose family became refugees who fled to Egypt. It seems appropriate.

Holy infants so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace. In this world, there is none.
From a "Ceasefire Carol":

Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Safety for fathers, mothers, and child
Holy infants alive with smiles
Ceasefire now! Ceasefire now!

Related Articles and Interesting Links to Contemplate Over Cocoa:

If Jesus Was Born Today, Would He Be Under Rubble? https://truthout.org/articles/if-jesus-was-born-today-would-he-be-under-rubble/

All The Propaganda Is Splattering Against A Solid Wall Of Reality https://www.caitlinjohnst.one/p/all-the-propaganda-is-splattering

The IDF is just shooting at anything that moves https://www.councilestatemedia.uk/p/the-idf-is-just-shooting-at-anything

Biden Staffers Hold Historic Vigil Outside White House Calling for Ceasefire https://truthout.org/articles/biden-staffers-hold-historic-vigil-outside-white-house-calling-for-ceasefire/

The United States Is Losing Allies On Gaza https://popularresistance.org/the-united-states-is-losing-allies-on-gaza/

Senate Passes Massive $886 Billion National Defense Authorization Act https://news.antiwar.com/2023/12/13/senate-passes-massive-886-billion-national-defense-authorization-act/

Increasing Civilian Suffering In Gaza Is Part of the Official Plan of the Netanyahu Government https://stevendonziger.substack.com/p/increasing-civilian-suffering-in

Israel admits to “immense” amount of “friendly fire” on 7 October

Nearly Half of All Israeli Munitions Dropped on Gaza are Imprecise ‘Dumb’ Bombs  https://scheerpost.com/2023/12/15/nearly-half-of-all-israeli-munitions-dropped-on-gaza-are-imprecise-dumb-bombs/

Israel Apologists Are Psychopaths https://www.caitlinjohnst.one/p/israel-apologists-are-psychopaths

If children are being slaughtered by the thousands in a horrific massacre and someone tries to make the conversation about what words and phrases you’re not allowed to use when opposing that massacre, the correct thing to do is to tell that person to shut the fuck up.

Time for a Transnational Uprising Against a Reckless Escalation of the Arms Race? https://scheerpost.com/2023/12/09/time-for-a-transnational-uprising-against-a-reckless-escalation-of-the-arms-race/

20 Things You’re Not Supposed to Know About the War on Gaza

US Palestinians Feel Helpless as Our Tax Dollars Fund Our Families’ Destruction https://truthout.org/articles/us-palestinians-feel-helpless-as-our-tax-dollars-fund-our-families-destruction/

Israel Used US-Supplied White Phosphorous in Attack on Southern Lebanon https://news.antiwar.com/2023/12/11/israel-used-us-made-white-phosphorous-in-attack-on-southern-lebanon/

Israel Is Wiping Out Gaza’s Journalists: A Tribute https://scheerpost.com/2023/12/15/israel-is-wiping-out-gazas-journalists-a-tribute/

Words Are Never Quite Enough https://riwaq.substack.com/p/words-are-never-quite-enough

Jewish Demonstrators Block Bridges in 8 U.S. Cities to Demand Ceasefire in Gaza https://truthout.org/articles/jewish-demonstrators-block-bridges-in-8-u-s-cities-demanding-ceasefire-in-gaza/

The Forcible Transfer of 85% of Palestinians in Gaza Is a Crime Against Humanity https://scheerpost.com/2023/12/12/the-forcible-transfer-of-85-of-palestinians-in-gaza-is-a-crime-against-humanity/

US Veto of Ceasefire Resolution Reflects Its Colonial View on Whose Lives Matter https://truthout.org/articles/us-veto-of-ceasefire-resolution-reflects-its-colonial-view-on-whose-lives-matter/

What US Got Most Crucially Wrong in UN Veto

‘Israel-Hamas War’ Label Obscures Israel’s War on Palestinians

Ukrainian Trial Demonstrates 2014 Maidan Massacre Was a False Flag  https://scheerpost.com/2023/12/13/ukrainian-trial-demonstrates-2014-maidan-massacre-was-a-false-flag/

Unilateral Sanity Could Save the World https://scheerpost.com/2023/12/14/unilateral-sanity-could-save-the-world/

Chris Hedges: The Death of Israel  https://scheerpost.com/2023/12/17/chris-hedges-the-death-of-israel/

Israel has no intention of minimizing civilian casualties. It has already killed 18,800 Palestinians, 0.82 percent of the Gazan population — the equivalent of around 2.7 million Americans. Another 51,000 have been wounded. Half of Gaza’s population is starving, according to the U.N. All Palestinian institutions and services that sustain life — hospitals (only 11 out of 36 hospitals in Gaza are still “partially functioning”), water treatment plantspower gridssewersystemshousingschoolsgovernment buildings, cultural centerstelecommunications systemsmosqueschurches, U.N. food distribution points — have been destroyed. Israel has assassinated at least 80 Palestinian journalists alongside dozens of their family members and over 130 U.N. aid workers along with members of their families. Civilian casualties are the point. This is not a war against Hamas. It is a war against the Palestinians. The objective is to kill or remove 2.3 million Palestinians from Gaza. 
IDF Kills 3 Shirtless Israeli Hostages Waving White Flag; Calling for Help in Hebrew https://www.commondreams.org/news/idf-kills-3-shirtless-israeli-hostages-waving-white-flag-calling-for-help-in-hebrew

The IDF Are So Good At Killing Israelis They Should Consider Joining Hamas https://www.caitlinjohnst.one/p/the-idf-are-so-good-at-killing-israelis

It’s so hard to say who’s in the right in this conflict. On one side you’ve got facts and evidence and a nonstop deluge of raw video footage documenting massacres of civilians day after day after day, but on the other side you’ve got people calling you an anti-semite if you disagree with them. It’s very complicated.

Latin America and the Caribbean Stand With Palestine: Israel Viewed as a US Proxy https://scheerpost.com/2023/12/17/latin-america-and-the-caribbean-stand-with-palestine-israel-viewed-as-a-us-proxy/

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

The Elephant In The Room

While you were shopping, bombs were dropping... on Gaza.

Toledo area peace activists took a tour of a local shopping mall sharing their concerns over the genocide happening in Gaza. You can see their march here:


The holidays aren't supposed to be about death and destruction, but this year that's what's happening to the Palestinian people. It's difficult to remain quiet and talk about children's toys and games when a child is killed in Gaza every ten minutes. An innocent child who will never be able to celebrate a birthday or holiday ever again.

Sometimes, you have to face up to reality and discuss the "elephant" in the room...

The Elephant In The Room
 by C.A. Matthews
On a snowy December evening, a twenty-something couple park their small sedan in a crowded, long driveway of a large suburban home somewhere in the American Midwest. Cheerful holiday lights and decorations adorn the front of the house. As they get out of the car and stroll toward the front door, she explains the situation to her date that he is about to encounter.

Kayla: Remember Kev, if at any time you feel uncomfortable around any of my family members, and you want to bail, just give me that look of yours with the rolling eyes and nod. I'll rescue you from the conversation and get you into a safe place like the laundry room or pantry. Okay?

Kevin: No problem! I'm sure I'm going to love your family if they're anything as special as you. (He gives her a kiss on the cheek as they step up to the front porch and head toward the door.) Ready to introduce the new boyfriend to the clan?

Kayla: Well, ready or not, here we come--or should I say my cousin Emily has already spotted us.

Emily: (Laughing as she opens the door and invites them in.) Welcome! Come in, come in! You must be Kevin. Kayla has told us absolutely nothing about you.

Kayla: Ha ha. Very funny, Em.  Here, take our jackets.

Emily: (Winking at Kevin.) She just doesn't want me to flirt with you right off the bat. I can take a hint. (Emily takes their coats and whisks them away to another room.)

Kayla: Now you see what I mean about my extended family being a bit too...forward. I hear the crowd partying in the den, so let's go on in and face the music. (She leads him through a large foyer and down a long hallway.)

Kevin: So far, so good. I don't know why you're so worried about introducing me to your family. Your parents seemed very nice when I talked to them last month at homecoming.

Kayla: You only chatted with them for a few minutes in the middle of a crowded college football stadium. When my family is in their own "habitat" things can be quite different. For instance, beware of Uncle Bill. Just keep him away from the spiked eggnog and the rum punch.

Kevin: (Nodding.) Oh, I see. I understand what you mean. In spite of his...problems, I'm sure he's a great guy.

Kayla: Only when he's sober. And then there's my two male cousins who got caught peddling drugs at rock concerts--don't bring them up around my mom. She really gets upset about them. They're the current black sheep of the family. Fortunately, they're not able to attend this year since they didn't get early parole.

Kevin: (Flashing a concerned look.) I didn't realize the drinking and drug use sort of runs in your family. I'll be careful not to bring it up.

Kayla: Thanks. It's not uncommon nowadays, but it is a...touchy subject around the holidays. And then there's my crazy Great-Aunt Sally. We've just got to stay as far away from her as we can help it.

Kevin: Understood. Sort of like Uncle Bill?
Kayla: Worse!
They reach the large family room crowded with people drinking, snacking, and loudly chatting over festive holiday music while a roaring fire blazes in the fireplace. Kayla nudges her boyfriend over to the smorgasbord where they fill their plates.

Uncle Bill: Hey, it's my little Kayla all grown up! My favorite niece! (He throws an arm around her and then notices Kevin.) Is this the new man in your life?

Kayla: (Flinching from his breath.) Yes, it is. Seems like you started celebrating early, Uncle Bill. Why don't you go and sit by the fire and enjoy your liquid supper?

Bill frowns but takes the hint and moves away. Kayla guides Kevin to a quiet place in the corner with a couple of chairs behind a huge Christmas tree so they can eat in peace.

Kayla: Whew! We'll be safe here. My parents seem to be busy talking with some distant relations who flew in from the Bahamas, so we'll have a chance to eat and relax a little before the interrogations begin.

Kevin: You really have to stop downing your family, Kayla. They're not all that bad. You need to meet mine sometime.

Kayla: I will. I promise. It's just not been convenient to get into the city... Oh, dear. Here comes Aunt Sally. Don't make eye contact--don't make eye contact! 

A woman in a brightly colored tie-dyed caftan approaches and smiles widely.

Sally: Hello there, Miss Kayla! (They hug.) You're so grown up now. A senior in college, right? And this young man is...?

Kayla: This is Kevin. He's my boyfriend. Now, if you'll excuse us we need to go speak with--

Sally: Say, Kevin, would you like a button? I made them myself, and I'm giving them out as gifts in the spirit of the season. 
Kevin: Sure, thanks.
Sally reaches into a tie-dyed bag and pulls out a printed badge and hands it to him.
Sally: How about I give you this one: "All I want for Christmas is for Israel to stop bombing babies."  And here's one for Kayla. (She reaches in and retrieves another badge.) "Peace on Earth for ALL Humankind Not Just The Rich with Guns." I thought you might like that one, being a business major and all.

Kayla: Oh, yeah, thanks a lot, Aunt Sally. We've gotta go and--

Sally: (Interrupting.) What do you think about your button, Kevin? Do you agree with it?

Kevin: It's...very interesting. I mean, why should Israel be bombing babies? Isn't Christmas about the birth of a baby there long ago who would bring peace to the entire world?

Sally: You are so right! That's why the carpet bombing of Gaza and the slaughter of thousands of innocent Palestinian children is such an abhorrent act. A child is killed in Gaza every ten minutes on average. And they've turned off the water and electricity so illnesses and infections from wounds caused by these bombs are made even worse. Can you imagine a toddler having to have all his limbs amputated because there's no antibiotics, and it's the only way to save his life?

Kevin: A friend showed me some photos and videos from there on his TikTok account. It's horrible. It's downright criminal.

Kayla: (Pulling on his arm.) Come on, Kev, we've got to move along now and--

Sally: So, would you two be interested in attending our "Peace in Palestine Caroling Event" tomorrow night since you both are in town? We'll be singing familiar carols with an emphasis on peace and a permanent ceasefire in that part of the world. What do you think?

Kevin: The caroling sounds really nice. We don't have anything else on our schedule tomorrow, do we, Kayla?

Kayla: (Sighing.) No, we don't, but--

Sally: Great! I'll give you the details. Want a flyer? I put them over there by the cheese balls, let's go check it out...

Kevin follows Sally over to the food table, smiling and chatting animatedly about the caroling. Kayla crosses her arms and frowns. Emily approaches.

Emily: Seems Great-Aunt Sally has stolen your boyfriend away, cousin. That's two for two at these holiday get-togethers, isn't it?

Kayla: Yeah, I don't know how she does it, but she has a talent for hooking people into her crazy causes and getting them to do stupid things with her. At Christmastime, no less! (She shakes her head sadly.) Kevin and I should be out and about drinking and eating and shopping like normal folks, and here Aunt Sally has roped him in to sing carols for peace in some backwards part of the world. Sheesh!

Emily: (Nodding.) Well, at least she didn't get him going with the "People, Planet and Peace" of the Green Party schtick like she did with your last boyfriend. I remember how excited he was to learn that Greens believe in free college tuition and reparations. He dropped you faster than a hot potato after he spotted the Biden/Harris sticker on your car bumper on campus, didn't he?

Kayla: Don't remind me. Damn! Why do I keep picking these overly sensitive types? 
Emily: (Checking out Kevin talking with Sally and others.) Well, if it's any consolation, he is kind of cute. 

: Yeah, but I keep picking guys who believe dumb brown kids in the Middle East are worth saving. Next thing I know, Kevin will want our families' stock portfolios to tank by divesting from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, General Dynamics, and Raytheon. And both our families have been making good money recently on those bombs Aunt Sally gets all in a huff about falling on top of poor people.

Emily: That's Aunt Sally for you. Such a bleeding heart she has.
Kayla: For sure. She has an "Eat the Rich" sticker on her electric car. You can't get anymore loser than that, caring about others more than your own family.
Emily: (Glancing over at the food table.) It seems Kevin and her are getting on like a house on fire.  Still, it's better to find out about what he's really like now before your parents' big mimosa brunch on New Year's Day for the County Democratic Party candidates' fund. He just wouldn't fit in with that crowd. At all.

Kayla: (Sighing.) No, he wouldn't. I suppose I'll have to let him down gently tonight.

Emily: Yeah, or just drop a bomb on him like Israel does to the Palestinians. Shuts those complainers right up after they've been buried under tons of rubble. It's probably the easiest way to solve your problems. A peaceful world only works for those who have the biggest bombs, right?

Kayla: (Smiling wanly as she takes her cousin's arm.) You're right. Let's go get some of that punch before Uncle Bill drains the punch bowl dry.
The Nativity Scene at Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem

 As the US vetoes a United Nations Security Council resolution for a ceasefire...

... The global charity Save the Children warned that at least 7,685 children under age five in Gaza are now so malnourished—a result of Israel's total blockade of the enclave that began in October and the delivery of just a small fraction of the aid that is needed—that they require "urgent medical treatment to avoid death."

"The repeated failure of the international community to act signifies a death knell to children," said Jason Lee, country director for Save the Children. "I've seen children and families roaming the streets of what hasn't been flattened in Gaza, with no food, nowhere to go, and nothing to survive on. Even the internationally-funded humanitarian aid response—Gaza's last lifeline—has been choked by Israeli-imposed restrictions."

"Gaza's children are being condemned to further bombardment, starvation, and disease," said Lee. "We must heed the lessons from the past and must immediately prevent 'atrocity crimes' from unfolding."

The intensifying opposition to Israel's U.S.- and U.K.-backed bombardment of Gaza was made apparent by an estimated 15,000-20,000 people who marched through London on Saturday to demand a cease-fire. --from

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