Dragon Tatoos

I disagree with a recent movie review that was in the Catholic Herald, a newspaper I receive once a week from the Diocese of Arlington, of which my church is a member. In the review, the movie ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ is classified as morally offensive. Granted, the character Lisbeth Salander makes some poor choices about her sex life, and the parts of the abuse she’s suffered that they show in the movie are morally offensive. However, the main point is that she has been abused and is being oppressed by an immoral government system that has decided that protecting information they want to keep private is more important than her welfare, her life. She fights back in a way that she can, a way that she is good at. She fights back in a way that protects herself and that rescues other victims of violence, oppression, and abuse.

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Our Christian faith is a bulwark against evil in the world. We need people like Lisbeth, the diminutive girl with the dragon tatoo, to fight against injustice in any way they can. In her case, her way was behind the scenes, under the radar, and out of the spotlight – but powerful, effective, and successful.

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Skeleton Santa Claus

On a recent Wednesday a few weeks before Christmas, and three days before I planned to spend the day in downtown Leesburg, VA with my two 4-year-old grandsons and two 2-year-old granddaughters, someone erected a wooden cross on our courthouse lawn, at the intersection of the two main roads at the center of our town. They hung a skeleton on the cross, and they dressed it in a Santa Claus suit. The erector stated that the display represented the over-commercialization of Christmas. I was on my way to work and saw it as I drove by.

Contrary to the erector’s statement, the message portrayed by dressing a skeleton in a Santa Claus suit is that Santa Claus is dead. The message of Santa Claus is that giving of yourself to others is good thing. To say Santa Claus is dead is saying that that concept is flawed. The cross was used as a cruel and painful way to kill people, most notably, the man Jesus Christ, who suffered tremendously when he was left on one until he died. The cross was a public way for authorities to warn people to not do what its victims had done. The symbolic message of the courthouse display was that its erectors depicted that you should suffer a painful and public death if you believe in giving of yourself to others. Successful graphic artists can skillfully and effectively convey messages with symbols and art and would likely be the first people to acknowledge that you cannot simply declare a specific meaning upon a graphic display. There are ways to symbolize the over commercialization of Christmas that would actually convey that message. The skeleton dressed in a Santa Claus suit did not. It was an insulting image to anyone who has ever sacrificed their own wants to care for and give to others.

So, who was Saint Nick before he became who we call “Santa Claus”?

Saint Nick was Bishop Nikolaos of Myra in Lycia in the region anciently referred to as Asia Minor (modern day Demre, Turkey). He was born in 270 A.D. and died on December 6, 373 A.D. He was a real person and was a Christian bishop who became famous for secretly sneaking in the middle of the night to give help to the poor. He used to leave coins to those who left a shoe out for him to signal that they needed help. Saint Nicholas became very popular in both Eastern and Western Europe after the 4th century. The Dutch called him Sinterklaas and from this came the English version of the name we’re most familiar with, Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas was a participating member of the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. where the current Nicene Creed, a statement of Christian beliefs that Catholics pray every Sunday, was formulated. He was a staunch defender of the teaching that Jesus has both divine and human nature. Without him there would not be today’s Santa Claus and lessons so many have lived about giving of themselves to others would not have been learned.

When Saturday came and I walked with my two grandsons around the corner to the street across from the display I was wondering what they would say or ask me if they saw the skeleton inside the Santa Claus suit, hanging from a cross. Instead, and I don’t know how they saw this, they immediately raced 50 feet down the sidewalk to the front window of the biker bar. ‘Look, Grandpa, look!’ they yelled to me. When I caught up with them they pointed through the window to a miniature toy motorcycle with a miniature toy Santa Claus sitting on the motorcycle seat. Then they started laughing so hard they could hardly stand up! Made me feel wonderful for a few moments. Thank you biker bar owner for creating those moments of joy for a couple of 4-year olds and their grandfather!

Power of Attorney and Great-Grandfathers

If you are helping to care for an elderly parent now is the time to go ahead and get your power of attorney. I set up power of attorney for my father about a year and a half ago. He was 86 years old at the time. Now he’s 88 and beginning to get quite forgetful. Somehow he paid his rent in advance about six times and now has a six-month credit. He also has an outstanding penalty and outstanding tax due from his 2009 tax return. Well, now it’s 2012 so that’s three years late. Not only that, he also used his investments incorrectly and took a loan to make some payments rather than selling some stock. He is now in a margin (debit) condition which I found out it is not allowed by the securities rules.

So I had to tell his broker today to sell some stocks to eliminate the debit. Luckily I have the power of attorney paperwork from one and a half years ago and thus the broker was able to rely on my decision and use my permission to do this. At the time we drew up the power of attorney, my Dad did not want me to make any decisions for him considering finances. But now he’s more cooperative about that. He seems kind of relieved that I am stepping in now. So all I had to do was fill out an agent form from Morgan Stanley, his broker, and then attach a copy of my power of attorney paperwork.

At first I thought I was going to have to take all the paperwork to the post office and send it to his broker. But I found out that it was okay to make a PDF copy of all the paperwork and then email it. Wow! That is so much easier. The power of attorney paperwork was about 10 pages long. The agent form was a page long. And I had to add a copy of my drivers license. That was another page. So altogether I had about 12 pages to prepare into PDF.

You might be wondering how I made it into a PDF. Well, for me it was pretty easy. We have an automatic scanner at work. I fed all 12 pages in at once. It fed them through one at a time and created a combined PDF. So I have one PDF with all 12 pages in it. Oh, I almost forgot. The agent form had to be signed by a notary. Luckily we have one at our office. She was kind enough to notarize it for me. She did not ask for any compensation. She was so nice about it. Note to self: Please get Sharon a nice gift card as a thank you for her kindness. Otherwise I would have had to go to a bank. All banks have notaries. I was so glad I didn’t have to go out and find a notary or to the post office. It saved me a lot of time in a busy day and besides, it was pouring down rain.

So, please, if you are caring for an elderly parent, go out right away and get the power of attorney paperwork drawn up by an attorney and put it away in a safe place. You never know when you will need it!

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