Culture Wars And Christmas

Much has been said in the media over the past decades about the “culture wars” in the United States. I believe that this is a bogus issue. The United States is a nation composed of many different cultures from all over the world. It was recently reported that there are more than 300 different languages spoken in the United States. Many are obscure native American languages only spoken by a few tribes, but practically every language in the world may be spoken in the United States.

In many respects our Christmas traditions that most Americans celebrate come from different countries. The putting up of a Christmas tree indoors comes from northern Europe where evergreen trees were revered because they stayed green through the winter. The lights on the tree are supposed to represent the stars in the heavens. Other traditions of the season come from other lands such as luminaries from Spain and Italy. St. Nicholas, who became the archetype for Santa Claus was a man from modern day Turkey. But different cultural traditions of Christmas have found themselves represented in the United States.

However the United States in the 21st century is much different than the United States of 100 or 200 years ago. More immigrants have settled here from non Christian regions where December 25 is another day on the calendar. Just take a look around Parma for example of that change which has occurred in my lifetime.

When I was growing up in Parma, the big divide was whether one was Roman Catholic or not. Ridge Brook elementary school where I attended was all white. The cultural difference was based on ethnic groups; whether one’s family was Polish or Italian or some other mix. But no one made a big deal over that. Several years after I graduated from Valley Forge High School I was living in South Carolina. I was showing a friend of mine the yearbook from my senior year at Valley Forge High School and her comment was “that is awfully big for a private school”. To her any school that was that new, that clean and all white had to be a private school. But that was Parma fifty three years ago.

Looking around Parma, the city if the home of the largest Islamic Center in the state of Ohio. It is a beautiful building that looks like it was dropped from the Middle East. There is also a vibrant Indian community in Parma as well as a large Hindu temple in Parma as well.

Change is never easy. In 1925 a high school biology teacher in Tennessee was arrested for teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. The ensuing “monkey trial’ captivated the nation as science and religion clashed. But that law remained on the books until 1968 in Tennessee.

Change is never easy. This past spring I took a trip to Alabama where I visited the cities of Montgomery and Birmingham. During my lifetime those cities saw radical change as the Jim Crow south changed and integrated. But that change didn’t come easy. Change was met by violence. I visited a black church in Birmingham that was fire bombed three times, the first one being on Christmas Day.

I crossed over the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma where people peacefully marching for the right to vote were savagely beaten by local police on what became known as “Bloody Sunday”. I saw the house where Martin Luther King Jr once lived in Montgomery that was fire bombed several times. I also visited a Baptist church in Birmingham where a bomb exploded on a Sunday morning in September 1963 killing four girls.

But things did change. Integration became the law of the land and eventually people did move on. Alabama has changed and it is a credit to that state that they have not sugar coated its history of violence and racism.

So let us celebrate our diversity instead of desiring for a past that really never existed. Look at the message of the season; Peace on Earth and Good Will to All. Merry Christmas.

Lee Kamps

Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.

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Volume 11, Issue 12, Posted 2:02 PM, 11.30.2019