It was a Christmas Pageant! It was not a holiday show. It wasn’t a December musical. It was a flat out, Jesus loving, 1950’s, Christmas pageant. I was fuming. We, my then wife and I, were in the auditorium of a Westside PUBLIC school to see her young daughters, my step-daughters, perform in the annual program. She was beaming. Me? I was filling scraps of paper with notes. I wondered, silently, how not one student or parent in the entire North Ridgeville school district was Jewish, or Muslim, or an atheist, or even an agnostic. None. Hard to believe. My displeasure did not go unnoticed and she neither understood, nor appreciated, my position.

I wrote last week that we “can spend our time counting and categorizing our differences, or we can learn to appreciate people for who they are, We could easily miss such attributes as honesty and shared values if all of our attention is drawn to our dissimilarities.”

Last week’s post, in general, and those sentences, in particular, elicited at least one person to remind me that I may extol the virtues of being non-judgmental, but I have a history of being quite the opposite.

And I remembered that long ago night of December 1989.

Guilty. I would like to hope that I am both a better writer and a better person than I was twenty years ago. Some posts and some days I am. Some days I fail miserably.

I have been writing for a very long time. I have notebooks and files dating back to high school. I periodically review poems and newspaper columns that I have published. And, as someone who has tripped down the aisle a few times, I have more than enough personal successes and failures to replay in my mind. It is easy, in retrospect, to attribute certain victories to good fortune. It is even easier to point to my own personal shortcomings as the cause of my disappointments.

All of that would, in part, be true.

I would like to hope that I have not repeated the same mistakes again and again. I would like to hope that I am making new mistakes. But, that may be a goal beyond my reach.

I have certain weaknesses. I hate to be taken for granted or to realize that anyone is taking advantage of me. My second biggest hot button is to see some one I love used and abused.

I am opinionated, judgmental, and, at times, a pain in the ass. I once said that I was an acquired taste. My point last week was that we should keep our eyes and minds open. I was noting that we shouldn’t prejudge people who are different than us. I asked my readers to observe and listen. We need to be open to others, but we don’t need to relinquish our core beliefs or values. The acceptance of others doesn’t equal the diminishing of ourselves.

So, I agree with the reader who noted my guilty past. Was she being judgmental? Perhaps, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Pigs For Bacon

Ann Arbor Art Fairs – Greetings from one of the largest art fairs in the country.  Technically, Ann Arbor is four separate art shows that happen to run concurrently.  There are a total of 1400 plus booths.  Paintings, ceramics, sculpture, wood, fiber, glass, and jewelry are just some of the types of art on display for your viewing pleasure.  And of course, everything is available to take home today. 

Darcy, who I was dating in 1993, introduced me to Ann Arbor.  I have attended almost every year since then. 

Entire city streets are closed to vehicle traffic.  Booth after booth.  There doesn’t appear to be any logic or reason for the $6000 sculpture to be right next to the guy selling $5 ceramic trivets.  But that’s Ann Arbor. 

One whole block of East Liberty Street is dedicated to not-for-profit organizations.  Everyone coexists  respectfully and peacefully.  The Right to Lifers with their plastic fetuses are within 100 feet of the National Abortion Rights Action League.  The Republicans are within spitting distance of Congressman Dingell’s staffers.  There are advocates for greyhounds, the homeless, and the legalization of marijuana.  Some of the booths are common, mainstream charities.  Some, like the nudists, two fat guys thankfully wearing shorts, are reminders that we are in a college town.  All of the advocates sit in their booths and talk to anyone interested.  If you aren’t interested, you simply keep on walking.  What the Hell?  If a couple of people want to spend their time campaigning against circumcision (for real), it isn’t hurting anyone. 

There is only one group attending the Art Fairs, stationed primarily in the not-for-profit zone, that doesn’t play by the unwritten rules.  Instead of manning an ignorable booth, they are positioned in the middle of the street at both ends of the zone.  Their volunteers accost the attendees and attempt to force people to acknowledge their presence and take their fliers.  They are a lie and a sham.  They are, of course, Jews for Jesus. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m positive that somewhere, sometime ago, someone born Jewish decided to become Catholic, or Methodist, or whatever.  That was a personal decision of faith.  It was their choice and I honestly don’t care.  I know men and women who have chosen to be Jewish.  That was their choice.  We aren’t keeping score.  Jews for Jesus is different. 

First, I must admit that I find any type of  proselytizing offensive.  I have always thought that the idea of reducing the search for a personal relationship with G-d to the experience of buying an overpriced vacuum cleaner terribly odd.  But Jehovah’s Witnesses are, at times, amusing in their naiveté.  J. W.’s are out collecting warm bodies.  They need to hit critical mass to get to heaven.  Jews for Jesus is an organization of non-Jews targeting Jews.  

I just passed the tall, thin blonde girl.  It is impossible to say what a Jew looks like or who, for sure, is Jewish.  But this farm girl, a veteran of several years of Ann Arbor Art Fairs, is decidedly not Jewish.  I’m willing to bet that the only Jews she has ever met are the ones she’s offended.  Their blue t-shirts give us fair warning.  We try to avoid them.  Our children see their shirts and signs and ask us how you could have a Jew or Jesus.  The answer for our children is to laugh and to tell them that on the next block there will be signs on fake cows advertising hamburgers. 

The crowd isn’t as big in Ann Arbor this year.  Art is a luxury.  Some of the artists have confided that business is down.  The Billmans, wonderful artists whose work graces both my office and my home, only have one booth this year instead of two.  So far I have purchased only a couple of small items including a cool pair of cufflinks.  The one thing I won’t be taking home with me is a new religion.