Let me be the first to wish Bill O'Reilly a very Happy Winter Solstice. The precise moment this year will be December 21, 2006 at 7:22 p.m. EST (00:22 UTC on December 22). For those of you scoring at home, "solstice" means "standing-still-sun" and it occurs when, due to the earth's tilt, your hemisphere is leaning farthest away from the sun.
I don't know about you, but I refuse to shop at any store that doesn't acknowledge the leaning of my hemisphere. Never mind sweatshop labor or fair wages or union bashing, my shopping habits are based entirely on the earth's tilt.
For those tiring of the same old end-of-the-year holidays, December 24 is I.F. Stone's birthday (he would have been 99). His journalistic example is about as good a reason as any to get merry. Born Isidor Feinstein, the incomparable I.F. Stone served as an editor at The Nation and worked for several other papers before founding his own journal in 1953...with $3,000 borrowed from a friend and a 5,300-name subscription list inherited from a handful of defunct lefty publications. I.F. Stone's Weekly reached a circulation of 70,000 by the 1960s and Stone was widely praised-even by his enemies-for his investigative skills and his ability to see through the hype. Victor Navasky of the Nation wrote that "Izzy" was "right about McCarthyism, right about the war in Vietnam (he was one of the first to raise questions about the authenticity of the Gulf of Tonkin incident), right about the Democrats' repeated failure to live up to their own principles, right about what he called, long before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the 'Pax Americana.'"
"I. F. Stone was the modern Tom Paineâ€¹as independent and incorruptible as they come," said Ralph Nader. "Notwithstanding poor eyesight and bad ears, he managed to see more and hear more than other journalists because he was curious and fresh with the capacity for both discovery and outrage every new day."
Without high-placed sources or invitations to the big press conferences, Stone scooped the big name reporters time and time again. He scoured public documents, studied the transcripts of Congressional committee hearings, and searched the large newspapers for inspiration. Stone once told David Halberstam that the Washington Post was an exciting paper to read because "you never know on what page you would find a page-one story."
Speaking of page-one stories, can anyone imagine a Christmas truce in 2006? During the First World War, there was a fine example of what the working class can do to overcome the oppressive influence of the elites. It was Christmas Day, 1914 when soldiers on all sides of the battle initiated an impromptu truce. French, German, and British cannon fodder fraternized among the rotting corpses. It's a wonderful image to ponder these reluctant warriors singing carols, exchanging photos and cigarettes, and playing soccer. In other words, those humans were following instincts instead of orders. Of course, the high command went nuts and before long, the slaughter resumed...and has basically continued unabated ever since.
Whenever we disobey orders, clasp hands across national borders, and become citizens of the world we, like John Lennon sang, have "nothing to kill or die for." So, Merry, Happy Whatever you choose to celebrate. But be sure to celebrate. As Thomas Merton said, "He who celebrates is not powerless."
Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.