Sunday, December 30, 2007

We, the Quiet Heroes

"Yesterday is but a dream,
Tomorrow a forgotten thought.
So live today that it may be
A memory without remorse." (Unknown)

At this time of year we tend to be thinking about those things we want to change. There are those few pounds we want to lose or those extras we want to cut out in order to tuck away more money in our savings account for our later years, perhaps. We will eat better and lower our cholesterol. No more cussing. Maybe we ought to read more and watch TV less. After watching a few commercials on TV or leafing through some magazines, we can easily come to the conclusion that by the expectations of our American culture, none of us seems acceptable. We are expected at age ninety to ride our bicycles through the mountains as if we were teenagers. Women are expected to look like ingénues well into their sixties. All our children are indeed gifted or are star potential. And men still are to be mighty heroes who can save the world even if they need a bit of Viagra from time to time. While it is admirable to reach for the stars, for own well- being we have to stay grounded at the same time.

Ever preoccupied with our flaws, I worry that we in this Prozac- based country do not respect enough the little bit of hero in each of us. I see heroism in those who quietly go about their daily demands while caring for the sick or their elderly parents. I see the heroism in teachers, overworked by unrealistic demands of parents and legislators who now believe that all children can perform equally well or at “A” level, expecting a public school teacher of twenty plus students to now function as their child’s very own private tutor. I respect those doctors who must diagnose all manner of symptoms in the matter of the few minutes the insurance companies now allot them. There are the uncomplaining patients who struggle in silence so as not to burden others with their fears or needs and the too few nurses who want to take care of them. There are those silent hero parents, dads and mothers, who work long hours to pay for their children’s college educations. There are those gracious neighbors who also mow the grass of the elderly widow next door or shovel her snow in the winter. There are those valiant volunteers locally like those who work for the Flemington Food Pantry and the Interfaith Hospitality Network, and across our nation who provide food, shelter and clothing for those who need assistance. Hardly noticed but very dedicated and self- sacrificing. Our police, firemen and emergency rescue workers...our troops, need I say more about those heroes?

As much as we want to be embraced for having made the grade, we are perhaps more sustained in daily life by the quiet heroism that we seldom give a second thought. Perhaps when making our New Year’s resolutions, among them may we resolve to find the quiet heroism in others and in ourselves. May we resolve to respect that we are, each in our own way a hero of sorts, a quiet hero. There is dignity and strength of character in our daily, unsung heroism that we should be proud of. Maybe it is a bit of self- improvement too if we respect that bit of glory within us rather than highlighting the flaws we believe we must rectify because some capitalist hawking his wares tells us we are not good enough or, some talking- head fills us with unattainable goals. We quiet heroes are plenty good enough. Amid our seemingly barren flaws, within us there are some lovely roses in bloom. A little more self- respect and a little less self- criticism may mean a lot less Prozac.

Happy New Year and all the best in 2008!

Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


“If you drop a pebble in a pond, it sends out ripples.” So says Jason Scott Lee as he portrays Bruce Lee in the Hollywood version of his life, “Dragon”. I believe some such ripples have been set in motion by today’s assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Benazir Bhutto is a former Pakistani Prime Minister, popular with many of her countrymen and pro West in her views. Her party, the Pakistan People’s Party, was expected to do well in the upcoming legislative elections. Her presence and leadership once again in Pakistan offered her people choice and hope that the seeming dictatorship of President Pervez Musharraf could be kept in better check. She was more pro West in her views and wanted closer ties with the United States. Her presence personally gave me hope that she would grow in stature to exert the kind of influence necessary to clean out these al Qaida nests that seem to dot the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan while also quelling the rising Islamic radicalism in Pakistan. A more cooperative Pakistani leadership would serve the United States well in its war with al Qaida and its sympathizers. I saw her as a constructive possibility in nudging this US war closer to a finish.

This successful assassination of such a prominent, pivotal and potential leader in the war against al Qaida is quite a feather in the cap for the anarchists, whoever they may be, who undertook it. How does the ripple of this assassination reach our shores? Al Qaida hopes to gain power by wreaking anarchy on governments in the hope it will topple existing regimes. I think al Qaida has had more success in its program against the US then we give it credit. Since al Qaida’s attack on the World Trade Center, we have seen unprecedented loss of our human rights, especially in the area of privacy. The Bush administration also attempts to hold American citizens without following due process. The US has come to have an Attorney General who cannot determine if water boarding is torture. We have crossed the bridge into grave potential danger when we began to undermine the US Constitution and international treaties, not only for our immediate protection but because of the inconvenience the Constitution offers in securing certain agendas.

No matter the supposed good served, once we are comfortable with weakening the strength of our Constitution, we have taken a big step that puts all citizens at risk. The long-term effects of our newly acquired ease in sidestepping the protections our Constitution provided can result in great potential damage to our free, human rights oriented nation. A powerful, intrusive and fear based government is the greatest danger any citizen faces. When we permit the Constitution to be circumvented, we teach our children that for short- term gain it is all right to subvert protections that the wisdom of the centuries taught the Founders were necessary for the free, safe life we have here. Some of our constitutional protections, I fear, will never be restored once lost, especially because we are teaching our children, the future gatekeepers of this very special document, that it is all right to side step the Constitution for short term gain. After al Qaida's assault on us on 9/11, will America ever know the freedoms and protections it once enjoyed? With the Bhutto assassination, no matter who is unltimately responsible, al Qaida and its sympathizers got quite a good shot in the arm to invigorate its struggle with the world and with the US just when we hoped the progress in Iraq would hail an end to so much violence. Should this war heat up as a result of this assassination, will we see more threats to our own way of life at the expense of our hard won freedoms and protections? Time will tell.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mission Accomplished

“We Did It”

(“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, Clark Griswold upon completing his good old fashioned, family, fun- filled Christmas)

The Four Stages of Life

You believe in Santa Claus
You don’t believe in Santa Claus
You are Santa Claus
You look like Santa Claus.


Stay tuned and party on.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

CHRISTMAS: To Everything There is a Purpose

"Joyful all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies."
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, a traditional Christmas carol

In these last few days before Christmas, we Flemingtonians are crisscrossing Main Street several times over, bustling about to finish up our last minute shopping and stocking up on food for our parties and dinners. The local churches are posting the times for their midnight masses and candlelight services. Mothers are wrapping and baking like crazy, wondering if it will all be done in time. It will because moms will make sure of it. Dads are putting up outdoor lights and decorations and then assembling those “just a few easy directions” toys that leave them wanting to pull out their hair. Why do we do it?

Christmas… On this day, we, in this cozy niche of Flemington, will join hands with other hands across the nations around the world for a miraculous celebration. For some twenty- four hours Christians and many non- Christians together celebrate a holiday for some and a holyday for others. I know of many who are not Christian but nevertheless join in the festivities that are meant to unite the brethren of the world within the flame that burns in the guiding heart of the Christian Messiah. Some of my students did. A former student, a Muslim Palestinian young man sent me Christmas cards for years. At one special Christmas, while I was teaching at Montclair State around the time of the First Gulf War, Ghassan and I spoke for a long time before parting at the end of the semester. We realized the realization that Judy Collins sings so touchingly. “From a distance you look like my friend, even though we are at war.” No matter anyone’s spirituality everyone understands the universal call to peace and brotherhood that this special season harkens. A heartfelt universal call to love and peace, common to all, is a call worthy of anyone’s reverence.

Movies such as “Joyeux Noel” and “Silent Night” re-count true stories in WWII about enemy soldiers who lay down their arms on Christmas Eve and sang “Silent Night” together. Despite the turbulence, this brotherhood of men finds their hearts united under the heart of their one Father through the teachings of his Son whose birth we stop much of the world for moments to revel in. On that day this brotherhood of hearts is potent enough to inspire enemies to engage in spontaneous ceasefires. Only a flame in our hearts can make this kind of irrational miracle happen, enemy soldiers, side by side, singing about a newborn infant who brings hope to an ailing mankind. We can do it, can’t we? Through the power of the spirit of Christ and the efforts of our actions, treating each other the way we want to be treated, we can have peace on earth and among ourselves as seen in these sporadic episodes.

No matter its origins, the much- berated commercialism of the holiday works for Americans. We celebrate our joy through pretty decorations and gifts and feasting, the production of which provides work for parents so that they can earn money to put food in the mouths of their children. The traditional Christmas carols unite us with thousands who celebrated over hundreds of year. These simple, well-worn verses continue to seduce us into a frame of mind of peace and hope in life. Then we exchange gifts just for the sheer pleasure of the giving. That brings me to Santa Claus, long condemned as a distraction from the true meaning of the day. I feel quite the opposite. For me Santa Claus is the most misunderstood part of Christmas. I see Santa as the Christmas centerfold because Christians hold that they are the children of a loving Father. Through his love, he shares his intelligence and his power to create life with his children for no other reason than the sheer pleasure his children will derive from his generous gifts. He provides a lush and fascinating universe in which we work and play, live and love. His gifts of himself and his universe were neither earned nor deserved. These gifts were given in abundance to us the same way we parents give our children and loved ones all we can afford, or maybe not afford at times, for the sheer pleasure of the smiles on their faces on that long awaited Christmas morning. If the Father Almighty is not the ultimate Santa Claus, I do not know Who He is. Giving freely with no expectation of recompense or gain is perhaps mankind’s most divine- like attribute.

The Christmas spirit nudges us to transcend our own human limitations and stretch our spirits to do what we often find so hard to do daily in our own personal lives. We do better than we think we can. Furthermore, the more frequently people of the world can join hands across nations, the greater is the chance our hope of peace with all peoples will be achieved. We go through the hectic preparations and expense because this holy holiday is most astonishing for the depth and breadth of the beautiful feelings Christmas can inspire. Each year that we celebrate Christmas reinforces what that powerful inspiration can achieve. We need more moments like this each year, not fewer. This is why we never should let go of Christmas.

Peace, blessings and joy to all of you. Merry Christmas! And, of course, God bless us, everyone across all nations through all time and space.

Stay tuned and fala, lala, la...

An Invitation : I write here from my own spiritual background. Likewise I extend the warmest invitation to those of other faiths to share their beliefs and customs with us. Please feel free to contact me if you wish to do so. All the best.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Death Penalty: The Tough Issues Stay with Us

Holidays or not, the tough issues stay with us. “At what should be festive time of year, I consider it abominable that the governor would repeal the death penalty for cold-blooded killers”, lamented NJ Assembly Minority Leader Alex De Croce, R-Morris. Perhaps the families who have someone on death row would consider the timing apropos. Other than these families, I too think that the timing is off which is why I could not just shake it off as I wrapped gifts most of the afternoon. The death penalty is a grim subject to grapple with and there is something to the point made by some state legislators and citizens. Some say this issue should have been debated not wrested from the public and shoved through with the speed of an Amtrak en-route to Florida.

Has New Jersey moved in the right direction here by abolishing the death penalty? There are good arguments on either side. On the one hand in support of the death penalty, by our very human nature we yearn for justice. This is a thirst that must be quenched for those who have suffered, had their hearts ripped asunder by the rape or murder of a loved one. Such victims will never be the same. The price they pay is too high for those of us who have never suffered such a loss to understand. People today seem to murder with such abandon, gang initiations, for instance. The growth of gangs even in our quiet hamlet of Flemington should be real a concern. Folk like us nationwide are becoming their new targets. I am a woman and mother of two, twenty- something daughters. I want those predators who pick off women gone forever so my daughters and I are safer. Punishment is a legitimate function of the state in meeting its primary obligation to ensure law and order and our safety. Keeping prisoners alive for decades costs thousands that we should put toward education and crime prevention. Have you seen these National Geographic prison specials like Pelican Bay. Prisoners are subject to rapes and beatings. Life imprisonment under these conditions is more inhumane than death. And on and on we go, justifying state sanctioned death.

On the other hand, life is getting cheaper here in America. Abolishing the death penalty seems to enhance the value of any and all life. This is something I support, enhancing the value of all life. Were I summoned to jury duty on a capital murder case and asked if I could recommend the death penalty upon conviction during jury selection, I don t believe I could. Can I support the death penalty but not have the courage of my convictions if it comes to enacting it? Is it all right to say--- yes, I support it but it is someone else’s job to carry it out? For me, I don’t think so. It is important to stand by one’s convictions. Finally, like many I have deep faith and take strongly the directives of the Father Almighty…”Thou shalt not kill.” Carrying out the death penalty is not an act of direct self- defense like killing an armed intruder who enters our homes, for example.

The governor argues that mandatory life in prison with no right to appeal is more moral than the death penalty. After all he says, life imprisonment is far better, making sure we are not executing someone who is not guilty. True. But what if you have an innocent person in prison for life, with no chance of appeal or parole. How is this any more moral? For all practical purposes this innocent person’s life is over too. Is life imprisonment really a life or just a prolonged death? For some prisoners both options, execution and life imprisonment, are a version of death. Perhaps the prisoner himself should be given the final choice, life or death. Maybe that is the most moral choice we can hope to attain.

What say you here in Flemington?

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Politics is Perception"

“Politics is Perception” The American President

Of its many definitions, philosophy for me is the art of gentlemanly disputation. In a room full of philosophers, no one agrees with anyone else. If you do you, you are considered a lightweight, LOL. For me debate, done with respect, is helpful in getting to know what people are thinking, to learn from each other. It is a way to address constructively differences that need to be ironed out rather than letting animosity seethe below the surface where it can simmer into pot shots or boil over into all out war. Wars breed casualties. Of the numerous posts that discussed the basics of American politics this week on the “Post Mortem” thread, the one thing that was missing was the awareness of the traditionally accepted role of debate and public scrutiny in politics. For those on the political circuit, debate is either a boon or bane. Among the challenges made to me, my freedom of speech comes to mind as something that ought to be respected.

The political philosopher in me believes that public scrutiny and debate are essential to our national political success. Elected officials are subject to scrutiny and debate. Governing councils and elections are appropriate and traditional subject matter for discussions in public forums. Hence, on this forum, no one has been hit below the belt by a commentary on the political scene in the Boro. Believe me though when I say I am a little surprised at the responses to the commentary. I thought there might be a few comments here and there. Instead, some responses were long and thoughtful. People have put in effort here that I respect. This effort speaks to something I said earlier. In such a tiny Boro we are a little different than the national scene. In such a tiny geographic location over the years, we grow together to be like a loose knit family. We are a little less thick skinned. Not a bad thing at all, I think. Thin skins keep us sensitive. What we do to each other is personal. We need to realize this. It was personal for those who posted on the comment section. Hence the lengthy posts, mostly from Democrats who felt personally wounded by my remarks, defending their rights. I can understand their feelings. It was personal for the Republicans who addressed specific complaints these Democrats made after the 2006 election. To see these Democrat colleagues actively campaign to remove them from council and then be expected to feel nothing about those actions is really a lot to ask. To me it seems that by campaigning actively against their Republican counterparts with some of whom they had no particular ax to grind, these few Democratic council members were telling these Republicans--- we do not want you at the banquet table with us any longer. As we sit together, we are working to have you removed. It was humiliating. To those who are continuously accusing me of sour grapes, I recall weeks of lamenting by Democrats after the 2006 election. I had written one, solitary post on the subject. Will the Democrats be as responsive to complaints made after this election, as their Republican counterparts were to theirs in 2006? The Republican did not dismiss their complaints as sour grapes.

Regarding 2007, kudos to both parties! Democrats and Republicans have a right to be very proud of what they accomplished last year under the spirit of mutual cooperation. The 2007 council saw efforts by both parties to end partisan politics. Such a feat cannot be accomplished unilaterally. As Spock would say--- that is not logical.

“Politics is perception”. My perception of what came down in the last election is that it was a power play against this peaceful council. This perception is based on the way candidates were fielded. I believe some were recruited. The more candidates the Democrats fielded, the more the vote is spread. This wider vote spread increases the likelihood of unseating the opposition. All that was necessary to immobilize the Republicans on Boro council and for uncontested power then to fall into the hands of the Democrats is for the Republicans to lose just one seat. I am talking here about a basic, objective, mathematical analysis. If this is not vintage partisan politics, tell me precisely what it is. These are reasonable conclusions to draw from my perceptions. To those tempted to say my assessment has to do with my husband’s role in the election, I suggest that many would draw the same conclusions given the same perceptions. I hope people will judge the validity of my viewpoints by their merits and not dismiss them outright because of my name.

Councilman Legato used a very apropos word in his post, “disappointment”. He is disappointed in the views I expressed. Others are disappointed in actions he took. There is disappointment enough to go around from both perspectives. Disappointment notwithstanding, everything done here by either side is legitimate according to the ground rules of American elections and politics. Being legitimate does not prevent disappointment or critiquing. A lesson we can all take from the table.

Choice is the keystone of American politics and choice is the key to the success of our political system or its failures. As far as I am concerned, most of us made a poor choice in the last presidential election. We are responsible for re-electing a president who we knew did not honor the Constitution and the Geneva Convention, as he should. We are responsible for the loss of the American moral high road in the eyes of the world as a result of our votes. I do not know what could be more devastating and perhaps threatening to our national security. This downfall was all accomplished by a legitimate American election. Legitimacy does not guarantee wisdom. Did we Americans make wise choices then? Here in little Flemington we too are responsible for how our Boro runs. We are responsible for our choices and what these choices set in motion. Nothing done in the last election was less than legit but other choices were on the table.

On a more personal note: Analyzing a local election is par for the course if you are blogging on the Boro at large. I wrote this follow up to address more fully posts that people evidently took a fair amount of time to compose. Here, I have tried to bring some cohesion to the discussion as well. I am a “peace on earth” sort of person. I do not want to set up a battlefield for reasons I have already discussed. I speak for myself here but there are others who certainly share my views. Not everyone posts comments. Quite candidly, I am surprised that the Democrats were not already aware of just about anything I had said. They have feelings that they freely and publicly expressed after 2006. Republicans have feelings. A great deal of election behavior is transparent. But in the grand scheme of things I can see no overall harm by placing some cards on the table. To me in politics it see always more dangerous when we operate secretly. Democrat Councilman Legato has advised on his post that non partisanship will continue on the new council. I am glad to hear it.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

End of August my knees met the scalpel that had been waiting in the wings for several years now. I lost them both to total knee replacements. Undoubtedly I will blather on about this incredible experience for time to time. One of the many hoops I had to jump through on the way to surgery world was a visit to a Princeton cardiologist in order to get the OK so I could endure this three- hour human chop shop procedure.

I had been referred by my surgeon and hence I did not know “heart” doc. As he happens through my medical resume, he notes that I taught philosophy once upon a time. So says he,” I have a question in ethics” which is my beloved field. He explains his problem, mainly a “ guy” concern. Here goes the recap. He asks what is morally wrong if a sport team member plays to win and the team does win but the player also plays in such a way to establish a deliberate point spread, thereby taking money from bettors, those waging on the outcome of the game based on point spreads. After all, “heart” doc notes, the team won. No harm, no foul. Right?

Well says I to myself---“Geez, Doc, if you put a question like that before a group of bearded, sandaled, pipe chomping philosophers, they will be in seminars for years, painstakingly dissecting it down to every possible bit of minutiae conceivable and I have yet to have lunch this afternoon…and did you know they took a pint of blood from me this morning???.”

Putting on my best patient face, I go with the most obvious moral violation. Says I…”Doc, the team player who intentionally manipulates the game, win or lose, is violating the trust his fellow team members place in him to give his very best to the team at all times. Each team member playing the best game is just a given, understood, a collective understanding and rightful expectation the players and the coaches have of one another. If team members are violating the trust the very game itself will breakdown. Players will think if Johnny drops the ball, deliberately fumbles instead of passing it, he gets his point spread but the forward/receiver he should pass it off to does not get to strut his stuff for the next year’s scouting team, even if they win in the end. Here animosity, self- interest and resentment easily enter the game. Intuitively “heart” doc understood that trust is basic to mutual cooperative activity. I got my pass and bolted out the door for lunch.

Trust cements people together and this solidarity brings achievement. I will frequently argue that manners, courtesy, honesty and trust are not fluff we can take or leave at will or dispense with when inconvenient. These virtues are the protective buffers that keep us from slitting each other’s throats.

To thrive, children must trust their parents. Spouses, one another. Patients must trust their surgeons. Team members must trust each other. The faithful must trust their God. Those who trust are vulnerable. Those who are trusted must behave in a way to protect that trust—parents, spouses. surgeons, teammates, God.

The knees are progressing and I am learning to trust them too. My physical therapist says that trust will come in time when I learn they are dependable should I lose balance. When I begin to falter, they will hop to and prop me up, no doubt. Trust develops the same way with people, over time and learning that they will prop you up if you need assistance and begin to falter.

Broken trust like injustice begs for repair and always leaves scars.

Stay tuned.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Or, Maybe You Have Landed in Flemington

“”Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you will land among the stars.” Les Brown

I am very honored to be given this opportunity to show case Flemington. Let me take a few minutes to introduce you to Flemington and show you around my home turf.

Flemington is a little picturesque niche in Central Jersey, surrounded by the more spacious Raritan Township with whom we share a school district. I believe it is approximately one square mile with about 3500 residents. We have a scenic Main Street, lined with trees and huge planters, always filled to the brim with flowers or plants of the season, making it especially pleasant to stroll around Main Street for the many events there, often overseen by Councilwoman Erica Edwards. I believe we have Mrs. Edna Pedrick and her committee to thank for this planter décor.

Of course many of you may know Flemington for its preponderance of historical buildings, Greek architecture and numerous Victorian homes framed in gingerbread, and its outlets, very notably Liberty Village. There is good shopping here and more to come with the new Shoppes at Flemington that is scheduled in about a year from now.

Flemington is the Hunterdon County seat and home of the famed courthouse in which Bruno Hauptmann was tried for the Lindbergh kidnapping. The courthouse sits directly across from the Union Hotel that housed the media during that momentous event.

There is much that goes on here in this little borough and if you have time or can make the time, browse our website, People in Flemington work hard for their community and this comprehensive website is overseen and kept current by Councilwoman Brooke Liebowitz. I think you will be impressed.

It is my hope that council members, Fire Chief Bob Bogart, Police Chief George Becker, volunteer groups, charitable and religious organizations, the Food Pantry and Women’s Shelter etc and the schools will feel free to contact me with information and events they would like publicized, as well as using this blog as a forum to bringing certain issues and concerns to the attention of the Flemington residents. This is our forum for debate and information sharing. So your ideas and concerns are welcome here for airing. Please post your comments as a way of letting those who need to know, learn about what the Flemington residents are thinking.

I look forward to chatting it up with you and don’t be shy. It is my dream that this not be Greiner’s blog but Flemington’s forum, used to help build, strengthen and make better the home I love, Flemington.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's Christmas Time in the Boro

“ Christmas wreathes, bright red bows. It’s Christmas time in the Boro.” Joan Greiner's rendition of "Silver Bells"

I have the good fortune to live on the west end of the Boro and must travel down Main Street frequently. So as the leaves fell I cannot help but notice how Flemington is now adorned with twinkling lights, snowflakes and red and evergreens that perk us up as we hunker down for our long winter adventures in the snow, ice and cold winds. As I head out I see Agway depicting our rustic side, with its split rails and the lights on the Christmas trees you see through the store windows. Flemington Floral is a scene unto itself, ablaze with white and blue mini lights. Flemington Presbyterian Church will perhaps soon have those understated and elegant wreathes with red velvet bows on each of its massive historic wooden doors that are put up year after year. Then there is the War Memorial with our happy Christmas tree and the solemn menorah, punctuating the Founders dream of religious tolerance and Flemington’s achievement of that dream. Grom’s has its windows dotted with green wreathes and sassy red bows with a garland swag festooned over its stately entrance.

As you head down further you now see the snowflakes that light much brighter than one would think when they are not turned on. Up and down Main Street on both sides are those magnificent stone planters just brimming with evergreens and frosted tree branches jutting upwards. Kreis Jewelers with its bench and grandfather’s clock is entwined in evergreen ropes that are divided into segments by large red velvet bows, making you feel like you have been transported into the Dicken’s Victorian England. Just lovely. Some shops like Higgin’s and our Police Department have their lights draped in their windows and they outline the displays filled with snow and Santa, the Christmas king. All bundled in gold tinsel garland, the Hall of Records sports its own tree right on the sidewalk. And in the windows of the Union Hotel are matching small trees again decked out in lights that glow at night. At the end of the Boro you have the white tree with shiny red balls on the steps of Huarache Azeteca that welcomes you as you climb the few steps to get your lunch or dinner. Again the ever- popular red balls dangle from the tree in front of Orvieto’s. Billowing around in the winds across the street you find none other than the jovial Frosty on the front lawn of The Candy Bar. Main Street Manor is nestled with Christmas spirit with its garlands and wreathes. And the private residences along Main Street join in the celebration too, bedecked in their finest glitter.

Traveling down Main Street Flemington under a sprinkling of snow at Christmas time is like flipping through a box of Hallmark Christmas cards. So many stores are decked out to look as pretty as a picture that you just want to walk and find out more about what is going on inside the same way a beautiful card tempts you to open it up and read it. So, friends, please take the time to check out what is going on behind those inviting sparkling decorations.

Hallmark offers musical greeting cards. So in the same spirit --- how about a little Christmas music on Main Street during the holiday…Heaven knows we could all use a lift during the rough times we face as a nation.

What comes to Flemington comes through working hands and good hearts. So thank you, Merchants, FRBA, Boro council, Rotary Club for all you do to contribute to this little bit of magic we have in Flemington Boro at this time of year.

These past few days have certainly been dreary. Hope this vision of Flemington brightens your day.

Stay tuned.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Post Mortem of an Election

"To thine own self be true...And it must follow, as the night the day, thou can not then be false to any man." Hamlet

For one brief shining moment in Flemington we had a highly productive council, no partisanship. In the absence of party quibbling, this past year was a very productive one. The atmosphere on the council was cordial and trusting. I must say the discussion I witnessed on the stacking ordinance led by Councilman Mark Legato was a work of art, a picture perfect debate about the problem of overcrowding among the council members, the citizens, the police chief and the fire inspector. Very cooperative with no self - interest. I was impressed.

All that, I fear, has ended with the last election when the Democrats fielded candidates to challenge those Republicans up for election, including my husband, Phil Greiner. Even though political parties do what they do, a lack of wisdom notwithstanding, Democrat council members, Mark Legato and Brooke Liebowtiz, as far as I am aware had no ax to grind with Republican candidates Erica Edwards, John Gorman and Phil Greiner. In fact, after working with Ms. Edwards, Mr. Gorman and Mr. Greiner this past year, I would expect Mrs. Liebowitz and Mr. Legato to have gained a sincere respect for them and how hard they worked for the people of Flemington. So it is disturbing that these Democratic council members actively campaigned against their fellow council members for the only reason but to get rid of them because they are Republicans.

After the 2006 election, Mrs. Liebowitz and Mr. Legato made public comments for several weeks about how they felt they had been personally attacked and how unfair they thought the Republican campaign had been. Sitting in the privileged position I had as wife of a candidate, I can say that the recent election was conducted with unusual political sensitivity to Mrs. Liebowitz and Mr. Legato’s complaints. Additionally, dignity and courtesy was extended to them as minority council members. This departing council saw no party line or block voting, no out muscling of the minority, no political gamesmanship. It exuded a cooperative spirit; working out the best solution to some of the very serious problems our Boro faces now, rather than pushing through an agenda as newly elected Democrat Linda Mastellone indicated was the intent of the new Democratic majority. This past year virtually all the votes were unanimous. All the crucial votes were unanimous. So exactly what were the “Dems” not getting that they wanted?

Flemington is a small hamlet whose residents over the years grow to be a loose knit family. Flemington is not center stage for national or even state politics. What we do to each other here is personal. What precisely was the political gain exchanged for the loss of this cordial, productive council --- re-opening those old political wounds the council had worked to heal this past year? How is that good for Flemington? What kind of goal and leadership is that? It bears repeating-- it is hard to understand why these particular Democratic council members worked to unseat their cohorts for any other reason than to get rid of them because they were Republicans. That was the reward for their efforts to turn a corner on the disadvantages of partisan politics and heal the wounds from the last election. There is a price for such shallow perspectives. My husband, Phil Greiner, who was unseated, offered among other things much needed financial expertise that is now lacking on the council. More important, the trust and enthusiasm once permeating the council is damaged. What happened here? Why did Councilwoman Liebowitz and Councilman Legato throw down the gauntlet?

Furthermore, if the new majority acts as the proxy voice of the Democratic leadership instead of keeping true to their own individual consciences, they would be adding insult to the already injured council that was non partisan in action. They would be betraying the voters who have twice declined the party leader’s bids for re-election. Despite Ms. Mastellone’s ambitions, there is no Democratic mandate from the voters for major change in the Boro as a result of this very close race. One either serves the party or the people. One can seldom do both.

Save signing a formal peace treaty on the USS New Jersey, I don’t know what more the Republicans could have done this past year and in this past election to demonstrate that they had laid down the weapons in their arsenal for the sake of the people of Flemington while at the same time addressing the previous complaints of their fellow Democratic council members. That showed respect. Their efforts made no impression evidently. Nothing good comes from breaking truces.

I believe we “Flemingtonians” have lost our little bit of time in Camelot because unlike this past year when there were no Democrats or Republicans, just council members who worked for us, we once again have the Democrats and Republicans.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

On Holiday Concerts, Courtesy and the Free Exercise of Insensitivity

“ Of courtesy it is much less than courage of heart or holiness”… (Author?)

A recent letter to the editor undoubtedly is a sign of the narcissism of 2007 that is settling into our community. A Raritan Township music teacher has entreated parents, despite that their child’s performance was over, not to leave holiday concerts until the very end. She politely reminds the community that the student they are walking out on is someone else’s child. (Flemington and Raritan Township share the same school district.)

For a teacher to address this concern to the community, I can only conclude that since my children left the school district the situation has now shifted from a trickle of parents leaving a concert to a mini exodus. On this issue I will be a bit, let’s say, more frank than Ms. Audrey Imhoff. I attended those concerts and know it is a real feat of endurance to sit there after the end of a long workday in teeny folding chairs, while visions of all the work awaiting you at home are dancing in your head. When I saw parents up and leave mid concert, I hoped though that those folks had bona fide reasons for leaving, such as a baby sitter who also had to get home or maybe emergency open-heart surgery. Maybe the truth is most people want to leave after their little angel performs because they want get out of those work clothes and fix themselves a snack and then plunk down before some mindless TV show to settle their nerves and then get ready for the onslaught of the next day. Granted life in 2007 is a challenge.

But…and you knew this was coming. These little tykes have hearts that are tender. These little hearts sink just as much as yours does when you are center stage in a conversation and your audience leaves the room. It is personal, folks. Americana has grown into a narcissistic culture par excellence. It is almost a new art form. The narcissism is getting harder and harder to bear. It rubs our fellow citizens the wrong way. We get grouchy and frustrated when we are not treated with dignity and given our respectful due. Ethicists argue that good manners and courtesy are not fluffy layers blanketing a society like some kind of pretty decoration. The practice of manners and courtesy often provides the protective buffer that prevents us from slitting each other’s throats. Furthermore, we narcissists are cultivating the rude brood cropping up over the future horizons. By our example, our children are mastering the pitiful “art of no manners”.

At times courtesy takes very little. At times it takes great discipline. Either way, courtesy and politeness entail a graciousness and elegance in style worth cultivating. Courtesy beautifies us. Politeness uplifts any atmosphere it permeates. Courtesy takes on life through you and me. Putting another’s feelings over yours, realizing that everything is not all about you, is a sign of generosity and wisdom. Our teachers bust themselves and the students are rightfully full of anticipation on concert night. It is about them, folks. They want and are entitled to your attention and your applause for their hard efforts. Of all the concerts I weathered, I cannot say they were not given with the most high-minded and heartfelt motives swelling with great pride. These motives and virtues in themselves are worth applause, the community’s applause. These efforts and attributes do not deserve members of the community turning their backs on our maestros and performers. I will not mince words with you on this, folks. Leaving a concert just because your child has finished performing is narcissistic and consummately rude. It is the free exercise of deliberate insensitivity.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Why Don't They Ever Write Back?

One Sunday morning after attending mass for decades, slumped in his easy chair, my father in his Archie Bunker manner went on about the gospel reading…”A reading from St. Paul to the Galatians … a reading from St. Paul to the Corinthians. Who are these Galatians and why don’t they ever write back? ” He mused. Well, they did not write back undoubtedly because they could not go online. The Internet, for all of its vices, is a great equalizer of sorts because every day “Joes” like you and me can be heard by thousands. I invite you to join this worldwide discussion. It’s fun and illuminating. If you are shy, please know that out here in cyberspace you can use an alias and I encourage you to do so rather than keeping your thoughts to yourself.

Blogs are not news items. They are opinion pieces with the added benefit of providing the readers a way to respond and add their own 2 cents by posting their own comments. Words are a powerful means for sculpting out a viewpoint. But the idea in the discussion is not for me to convince you I am correct. I pretty much am convinced of that myself when I take a position LOL (in “blogese” “LOL” means –“laugh out loud”). The idea is for me to tease your brain a bit.

So what are the rules or boundaries? I view Flemington as a wonderful scene woven into the broader tapestries of beautiful Hunterdon County, located within the (politically speaking) Hellmouth State of NJ, that is part of a wonderful country, the United States, that is a part of the fabric of the entire universe. Whatever new threads of ideas weave their way into some parts of this tapestry; these new threads are bound to change the hues of its other scenery. So any topic is virtually fair game to me because in one way or another it effects Flemington. Any point of view respectfully presented is up for discussion. Unlike those Corinthians and Galatians, you can write back to thousands, under an alias if you are so inclined.

Stay tuned.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Collective Silence: When Evil Triumphs

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. Edmund Burke

I thought that it could not just slip through our thoughts without comment, the Courier News letter written by Flemington resident, Ghouse M. Ismail, former president of the Islamic Society of Central Jersey and co- chairman of Islamic Center of Hunterdon County. (See, “”Punishment of Teacher Not in Islamic Spirit of Forgiveness” and comments.) The letter and comments were well thought out and the ideas and feelings were those that need to be expressed.
Muslims are a minority in the United States and hence most of us are in the process of being informed through their deeds about how Muslims practice their faith. The press is not good and much of that is due to overt behavior by some very angry Muslims. The teddy bear incident in Sudan together with the horrible sentence of 200 lashes and prison time for the 19 year- old victim of a gang rape in Saudi Arabia gives most non- Muslims pause. What kind of justice is this? Candidly speaking, I am personally horrified at the brutality and rage that at times seems to be directed at non- Muslims and Muslims for what appear to be benign infractions in my eyes.

This world consists of many countries with many different sets of laws. If these laws are not applied humanely, if they do not take into account human suffering of both victim and accused, there is no morality in these laws. They are nothing more than a set of rules probably tilted in favor of those in power. Therefore, I do not accept that this violent punishment can be understood as morally acceptable as a function of cultural/ethical relativism. Whipping rape victims and threatening to lash or execute someone who unwittingly gives a teddy bear the wrong name is intuitively morally wrong in any universe. Justice requires us to address the nature and gravity of the offense, if there even be an offense. Justice requires us to determine what kind of treatment can be visited on those accused of crimes. Our sense of justice, internal to us all, is part of our moral conscience that signals us when the punishment does not fit the crime. Are we allowed to punish people in certain ways at all such as lashing men and women?

As I see it Mr. Ismail, a Sunni Muslim, in a dignified yet straightforward way followed his conscience by denouncing certain behavior that has given non –Muslims and no doubt many Muslims pause. I salute him for his high moral code and his willingness to act on it. By defending justice, compassion and wisdom, Mr. Ismail was that good man who did something. So can we all do likewise.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Bah, Humbug!!!

Bah, Humbug!

By reading the local press we can see that the annual debate about what to call certain trees that are now being adorned in all manner of ribbons and glitter has been revived and is certainly becoming as much a Christmas tradition as eggnog. In yet another letter (Carl makes me look like a slacker), the legendary Flemington letter writer, Carl Kettler, last week dressed down the Boro council for referring to the parade here last week as the “holiday” parade instead of the Christmas parade. Not the council’s doing as I understand it. But I digress….

For decades Americans said “Merry Christmas” and called these noble evergreens, Christmas trees. No one seemed offended. But as of late there is a vocal minority in America that insists its views should upstage the years of the tradition and wishes of the majority. In political philosophy this is referred to as the tyranny of the minority. Is it? I think it is a new- found tyranny. Somehow a small group of Americans have gotten it into their heads that any public expression of religion, no matter how benign, is offensive to those who do not embrace a religious creed. And furthermore a number of Christians, being Christians and not wanting to offend, are now intimidated out of expressing the joy of the Christmas season and defer to the repression as if they should not express their faith but publicly disavow it. So we hear the newly popular phrase, “Happy Holidays” replacing “Merry Christmas”. We have holiday trees and holiday parades and holiday whatever. Then Christians, adapting to these so-called new sensitivities, believe themselves not being oppressed, but enlightened. I personally do not care if people walk around all day saying “Bah, Humbug!” if that’s what they want to say. The point is that as Americans we are free to say what we want. The First Amendment not only prohibits the establishment of a state religion, IT SAFEGUARDS THE FREE EXPRESSION OF RELIGION. It is not appropriate for those who do not embrace a faith to socially coerce others to disavow theirs. No Founder promised anyone that they would never see or hear about a religion as a part of the separation of church and state. No American has the right to such an expectation. This social coercion to suppress the expression of Christmas is a violation of the First Amendment, which certain persons seem to think only includes the Establishment Clause and at best, in this case, is misapplied. It seems to me that if the First Amendment is gracious enough to permit porn and smut and Americans are willing to live with that, the First Amendment can spare a little latitude for the word ”Christmas” and Americans should be willing to live with that.

Think of how offensive it would be to our Jewish brethren and their heritage if we started to refer to the Menorah now being lit nightly as it stands next the Christmas tree at the War Memorial as the holiday candelabra.

BTW- Happy Hanukkah!

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"Thy Leaves Are So Unchanging..."

“ Thy leaves are so unchanging…”

If there is one tradition in Flemington that invites its neighbors to come together in the spirit of shared joy and universal brotherhood, it is the annual Christmas tree lighting at the War Memorial. On Friday night, November 30, we Flemingtonians watched the tree lights set aglow for the first time this Christmas season. It was a fairly cold evening but still the mothers and fathers brought their children or some grandchildren to gather around the tree. In the midst of singing traditional Christmas carols, we watched the lights go on and then waited for Santa to make his grand entrance. What a cool ride Santa has in the absence of snow, Fire Truck No. 1, all spiffed up and sparkling, no doubt the work of our dedicated volunteer firemen. As usual Santa gave out the oranges and foot long candy canes to the children as he has been doing for, I believe, some 57 years.

That night I happened to find myself positioned next to Flemington Mayor Bob Hauck, one of the heartbeats of Flemington and Flemington action figure. More on that in an upcoming post. As I was inquiring about this tradition, a Veteran of Foreign War vet, whose name I did not get, told me the tree lighting tradition began here in 1926. Our master of ceremonies, Rob Sheneman, Cub pack leader of Pack 61, informed those gathered that this was the 57th tree lighting ceremony and that Cub pack 61 was involved in each one. Doug Niece, a name just about everyone in Flemington recognizes, was pack leader of Pack 61 since it began, several decades ago, was also present too. Additionally, the Rotary Club supplies the candy canes and oranges and among other things. The tree, which this year is particularly full and beautiful, was donated by Mr. Kenneth Saums of Raritan Township, part of our Flemington sprawl, if you will. This is vintage Flemington with the residents pitching in to make the Boro a little more of a very wonderful place to live and raise a family.

Not sure I had gotten all the information I needed, Mayor Hauck went over to Mr. Sheneman and the next thing I knew, the mayor had brought him to me to answer all my questions. You see why I see Mayor Hauck as an action figure. If you need anything, Mayor Hauck makes it his personal mission to get it for you. So true to his style, there was Rob Sheneman at my side answering questions.

Mr. Sheneman and I got onto one of the discussions of the hour in today’s world, Christmas trees and political correctness and the world’s newest religion, atheism. As we Flemingtonians stood there almost hand in hand with neighbors and strangers so enriched that past hour, I could not think of a more empty void than those places where American citizens can no longer as a community sing of brotherhood and peace and hope or display Christmas trees in public squares or in certain school districts, for instance. But this is very wrong on several counts. Here I will address only one reason it is so egregious. We Christians are taught that the evergreen is a symbol of Christ and Christ’s message is unchanging as are the leaves of the evergreen. Christ taught not only as a spiritual person but also as a political advisor. His signature piece of advice was to treat others as you wish to be treated. And would we behave so personally and across the nations, we would achieve the peace Christians sing about each year, especially during this time. It is doable, world peace. It is not a message particular to Christians but good food for thought for all persons of all ideologies, including atheists. If we treated others as we wish to be treated, we would have no 9/11 or Iraq or North Korea, racism or violence. You get my drift. So those who want to marginalize our Christian traditions, shove them out of sight in the name of secular enlightenment or political correctness, consider this idea of a Jewish young man who lived 2000 years ago and realize that if his ideas about how we should treat each other were applied universally, we would enjoy worldwide peace. Treating others as you wish to be treated is an eternal, unchanging moral code that is capable of delivering mankind from much misery. It is a code as unchanging as the leaves of the proud evergreen.

Stay tuned.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Welcome to the Flemington blog

Welcome to the Courier News Flemington blog. Please add your comments, that is what makes blogs great!