Scott Cawelti

About Scott Cawelti -

Scott Cawelti was born and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He taught writing, film, and literature at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) from 1968-2008, and has written regular opinion columns and reviews for the Waterloo / Cedar Falls Courier since the late 1970s.  He played for years in a folk duo with Robert James Waller and still regularly performs as a singer/guitarist/songwriter. Scott continues to teach as an adjunct instructor at UNI.

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  • The Real True Meaning of Christmas

    • Posted on Dec 25, 2011 by Scott Cawelti
    12-25-11 

    So, what does Christmas mean, really?  Originally a pagan celebration of the winter solstice, very early Christians declared December 25th their savior’s birthday. 
    Since there were no records of Jesus’ birth, they figured why not use an already used celebration?  In terms of marketing their religion, early Christians were the original wise men.  

     So Jesus isn’t the reason for the season after all.  And neither is winter solstice any more, except for a few wiccans and sun worshippers.  Hey, if it weren’t for the 
    sun. . .  

     We know truths about people and cultures by observing not words, but deeds, not speeches, but actions.  And by our actions we discover the current real meaning of Christmas: Retail shopping.   

     Merry sales records.   

     Truth by told, for a full month, Christmas celebrates selling the most stuff to the most people for the least money. 

     Watching people go quite literally insane and trample each other to death as retails stores open after Thanksgiving shows the real meaning of Christmas.  Seeing daily news reports on sales records, from “Black Friday” to “Cyber Monday”--there’s the truest Christmas.  Counting shopping days every year to Christmas—yes, there’s real Christmas.  

     Seeing Santa everywhere, encouraging parents to buy more gifts for their children at every big-box store--true Christmas in action.   Never mind that toys crowd some children’s rooms to the point of creating junk depots.  Never mind that they forget all about them within hours.  It’s still what we’re celebrating:  Spending in the name of giving.   

     Free gift-wrapping, free shipping, deep discounts—all help remind us daily of what Christmas has become. 

     Scouring stores for gifts for people who don’t need (or want) anything gets downright depressing.  To paraphrase Wordsworth, Christmas is too much with us, late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.  

     So, for future reference, let me suggest solutions for the shopping frenzy that Christmas has become: 

     (1) Find a present that everyone likes and give it every year to everyone.   A great magazine subscription.  Rare treat foodstuffs that people can’t find or wouldn’t buy for themselves.  While this gift sometimes outlives its usefulness (please, Scott, we don’t need another box of glazed pecans) it’s usually appreciated for its dependability, if nothing else.

     (2) Micro-shop all year round.  Instead of cramming all gift shopping into the busiest and most crowded time of the year, find that perfect gift for Uncle Phil in July and store it until Christmas.   I’ve done this several times, and found nothing but joy—when I found Uncle Phil’s perfect gift on the back shelf a week after Christmas.  Still a good idea, though.   

     (3) Give cash gifts to a charity in the name of the receiver, and let that be their gift.  Who can complain about receiving a gift to the American Cancer Society, or United Way?  Combined with (1) above, and you have the perfect gift:  A yearly charity donation reveals what Christmas was supposed to be about anyway:  Really giving.

     (4) Finally, there’s always honesty, painful though it may be.  Here’s an honest Christmas greeting I’d like to write in a festive card (in lieu of a present) to all my giftees:  

     “DEAR RELATIVE OR FRIEND OR BOTH:  This year I found no gift at all for you because (a) nothing you actually need came to mind.  Besides, you already have too much.  (b) I was preoccupied with other stuff that seemed more important, (c) I’ve decided that retail shopping for days wastes a good holiday, and  (d) I appreciate the gift of the returning sun, and you should too.  That’s enough for anyone.  
    Thank you in advance for appreciating my holiday honesty.”  

     In the spirit of celebrating the best retail shopping holiday of all, I wish everyone a Cool Yule, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and a Wonderful Winter Solstice.  

     And really, here comes the sun.     
     

     
    Go comment!
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  • Life Under Future Republican Presidents

    • Posted on Nov 27, 2011 by Scott Cawelti

    11-27-11

    What will happen under future Republican administrations now put forward by the final eight candidates?  Here’s a bird’s eye view:

    Under President Huntsman:  Since the Tea Party hates him almost as much as Obama—he actually worked for Obama as ambassador to China—Huntsman has no core right-wing support.

    That got him elected.  So gridlock and railing against anything that might actually solve the country’s problems continues.  By far the most qualified, Huntsman’s becoming president continues to amaze anyone who watched Republicans discourage and dismiss their best candidates.   

    Huntsman will ask Obama to be his Secretary of State, and that will lend his foreign policy ideas some credibility.  Tea Partiers shout him down at every opportunity, and Fox News commentators continue their apoplectic ways. 

    Under President Paul:  To the great joy of libertarians, all effective government has ceased to exist.  No Federal agencies enforce anything. States begin operating more or less like separate Republics, and border wars break out every few days. Munitions manufacturers add jobs by the thousand. 

    It’s a great time to be locked and loaded, with a basement full of gold bullion.  

    The “Mad Max” movies now seem true to life. 

    Under President Bachmann:  No one seems to know anything about anything.   President Bachmann keeps making speeches that make no sense, and Europeans and Asians welcome several million refugees from what was formerly a reasonably sane country.  

    For the first time, Tea Partiers are happy with their government, once they figure out what it is and does.   President Bachman promises to help.  

    Under President Santorum:  President Rick, as he’s called, discovers early on that running for government on an anti-government platform has made being President problematic.  Supporters remain happy with his constant railing against abortion and gay marriage, since that keeps him from making trouble on real issues. 

     Tea Partiers stay uneasy with him, since he seems at times to believe in evolution and global warming, i.e. science.   Their support never grows, though they appreciate his willingness to tell them what they want to hear.  

    Under President Perry:  Voters are ecstatic at how good their President looks in photos with other world leaders.  PP, as he’s known, seldom speaks in public, but when he does, comedians everywhere thank their lucky stars.   Where FDR used a “brain trust” of smart people to advise him, Perry has a brain freeze that keeps him from making too many serious mistakes.   The departments of education, commerce, and that other one have been dismantled in favor of a new Department of Memory.  

    Under President Cain:  Since he had no effective campaign organization and no experience holding elective office, the new President spends all his time on book tours and speeches.  President Cain wisely turns the government over to a highly paid group of lobbyists and well-paid supporters.   Tea Partiers love their President’s speeches and books.  

    Under President Romney: President Romney makes history as the first President to be elected without a soul.  Romney’s administration has a new Department of Policy Changes, whose job is to conduct polls and change the government depending on results. 

    Everybody hears what they want to hear and most voters are happy, though confused.  Tea Partiers keep hoping their President discovers religion. 

    Under President Gingrich:  Republicans helped elect their first college professor president, and the first thinking Republican in decades.   It’s refreshing, at least for those who don’t mind condescension, arrogance, and an expectation of tenure.   Gingrich did hold his own in the Presidential debates, mostly because he could articulate points in complete sentences that occasionally connected with reality.  

     “This all reminds me of faculty meetings,” says Gingrich cheerfully in news conferences and meetings with Congress.  Tea Partiers hate him, since he makes them feel ignorant.

    Finally, under the real President Obama’s second term, our default President knows enough now to govern, and having another Democratic majority helps.  A majority of voters realized that just saying President Paul, et al., out loud was enough to give Obama their vote.  

    Prosperity returns, chaos recedes, slowly, over the strident objections of Republicans and Fox News.   

    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Politics
    • Hot Button Issues
    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
    • Humor
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