". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, December 2, 2011

Lighting the National Christmas Tree!

Again, this being their beat, the WaPo does a good job with this annual holiday tradition with video and photos, so that we who love Christmas Trees and live elsewhere get to feel a little part of it.

My dear Austin amiga, L, gifted me with a Jackie Lawson digital Advent Calendar again this year.  Last year the calendar was 24 days of filling in the details of a small town that looked remarkably like C'town in MD, where we were living.  This year it's London.  I thought yesterday that London wasn't as satisfactory as last year's, but as of this morning, decorating the Christmas Tree, I think it's just as wonderful as last year's.  It's urban, yes, but with the small town neighborhood in the forefront that so much of NYC used to be like, and still is, in pockets, if you are part of that small town -- I can even find it here in SoHo, surely the most overbuilt, overhyped, overtouristed, overtacky, rat haven in the country.

I spent a full hour playing with the Advent calendar's tree and the decorations, getting it just as I like it.  I hadn't even made my tea yet.  I can get lost in these things forever, exactly like as a child, I got lost for hours with my color pencils, crayons and paints, making dream Christmas scenes from after Thanksgiving until the night before Christmas Eve Day.  It went along with decorating the Christmas tree.

Once I was old enough I hogged the whole process.  Dad could put the up in the stand and put on the lights –- this was always fraught because somehow every year, between tree lights that worked when we took the tree down, a certain number of the lights didn’t work when the next year's tree went up. But once those teensie irrelvancies were resolved, man, I took over. By the later years Mom even conceded to me the tinsel – that old fashioned aluminum stuff you put on last of everything else, that hung like Spanish moss does on live oaks down south, then in later years that much less satisfactory celophane static electricity stuff.  The tinsel had always been her part because the rest of us didn’t have the sense to properly distribute. But when I got old enough, I did too, and better than she did, at least I thought so.  I spent hours putting the tinsel on, one strand at a time. I continued to re-arrange the ornaments and tinsel until we took the tree down. The very concept of a tree in the house stunned me delirious with joy.  We were people of the treeless prairies after all.

Now the national Christmas tree.  The faces of the children in the photos are filled with Oh! and Ah!, just as they should be.  The president's face is for once happy and content, as he performs with his family this annual national tradition of lighting the tree and as a spectator enjoys the accompanying entertainments.  When the First Family together lights up the tree, his mother-in-law is part of that, as she's part of the family, and is part of the raising of the Obama daughters.  Then, there is the part played by the First Lady.  I keep repeating this, but I believe it more every time -- whatever criticisms I have of the president, and they are many and they are serious -- the one thing he's done perfectly is his marriage partner.  She is wonderful in every way.

Here's the WaPo site for the National Christmas Tree Lighting photos and video.

Oooooo, and here the WaPo has a photo series of the evolution of the National Christmas Tree, since Calvin Coolidge! lighted the first one in 1923.  Calvin started this tradition?  Dour CC?  Who would have thought?

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