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Christmas won't be the same without mom

Permit me to relate some of my personal inflection as Christmas approaches in the aftermath of the recent death of my mother. I have to tell you there’s a pain in my heart.

Mom always wanted her boys to have the best Christmases. She knocked herself out for us, asking us for a wish list and then doing her best to buy at least some of those items we circled in the Sears, Penney’s and Ward’s holiday catalogues.

I was into GAF View Masters in the 1970s. It could take me places I wouldn’t be able to see in person such as Washington, D.C., Niagara Falls, the Taj Mahal. View Masters later came with a “talking” version. Essentially it “spoke” from a small plastic disc, a record if you will, attached to the reel and when you pressed the button, the battery operated gizmo would spin the record as it pressed the needle into it to vibrate a “tinny” recording through the plastic speaker. It was a technological advancement in the days of Nixon. I remember one Christmas where I felt out the package to quickly confirm what it was, and a flood of appreciation for my mother.

There were bicycles and toys every Christmas.

As I got older she realized that buying clothes was best left to my choice – not hers – and the less I wanted. She would always buy a box of See’s Chocolates and slip in a check, telling me not to tell the others.

But 1974 brought a pain to our family and to Christmas. That early December we lost my dear cousin, Sandra, who was 10 years old who had succumbed to leukemia. We were all devastated and even as I write this, tears fill my eyes. Sandra was very much on our minds.

Years before her death Sandra was watching the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer TV special that came out in 1964. We were watching it with her at her Coolidge Avenue home in Modesto. She must have been four or five and she was tearful when Rudolph shed tears down its felt coat as he was abused and made fun of by the others.

Sandra was gone but year after year the Rudolph TV show delivered a freight of emotion as my Mom recounted every Christmas, rather sadly, at how Sandra was saddened by the show.

At work just a while ago, over a smartphone far more technologically advanced than my talking View Master, I heard Burl Ives’ rendition of Rudolph and the sting came out of nowhere, fortified stronger now that mom is gone.

Now at 59, virtually all but a few of the family I celebrated with as a child are gone.

Even Christmas Tree Lane holds a sense of loss for me. I’d stroll it with my wife Karen who died seven years ago, and my four children who have all grown up with families. My youngest child was excited back then to see the lights and sounds. Today he’s decided to let my conservative views severe our relationship, a further wound that I cannot comprehend.

Lots of us are having a hard time shaking off the damper placed on us because of a disease and a government determined to strip us of our freedoms indefinitely, especially in California.

Tiny Tim may have said “God bless us, everyone.” But I say “God help us, everyone.”

* * * * *

One of the greatest things about America is you can say anything. Freedom of speech is one of our most cherished aspects of being an American.

But as time goes on and a growing majority put their trust in politicians who don’t believe in the Constitution, expect those rights to slowly be stripped from us. Remember Benjamin Franklin said we had to fight to keep our liberties; that we could lose them if we are not diligent.

If we’re not careful we may become like Norway where the Parliament just made it illegal to speak against transgender people. If you dare say anything critical in public of the practice of cutting off one’s genitals and pretend you’re the opposite sex, you could be fined or spend up to three years in jail. If you are heard in private, like in your own home, you could go to jail for up to a year.

That should scare the hell out of any citizen who enjoys free speech.

* * * * *

Well, well, well. Apparently those politicians who order us to hunker down at home and cower in the corner for the holidays because of a virus that has a 99.9 percent survivability rate truly don’t believe it’s all that serious.

Gavin Newsom wears his mask under his nose after telling us we all need to wear one. If he goes dining at the ritziest place in California, the French Laundry in Yountville, he doesn’t even bother wearing a mask. That tells me three things. 1). He doesn’t believe his own drivel about “believing the science;” and 2). He doesn’t lead by example; 3). He doesn’t believe COVID-19 is as serious as he makes us believe it is.

Now it’s been revealed that Denver Mayor Michael Hancock boarded a plane to Houston, Texas for Thanksgiving, after telling Denver residents that they shouldn’t travel, that they should stay home.

Minutes before his flight, Democrat Hancock posted on Twitter: “Pass the potatoes, not COVID,” and advised them to “Host virtual gatherings instead of in-person dinners” and “Avoid travel, if you can.”

Phonies to the core.

* * * * *

Someone out there hates me. But you know the saying, “If you don’t want to be criticized, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” I received another anonymous piece of coward mail, an unsigned letter written in the same familiar sloppy hand. The same person has sent a number of letters this year which are generally Condit related which makes me think it’s someone very close (or in) that family.

I’ll go ahead and publish the coward’s letter: “Jeff Bummer, your (sic) no Karl Rove – you love to pat yourself on the back – I guess that’s what happens when we get old – your perdictions (sic) of 2020 election weren’t as good as you brag about. You suspected Chance (sic) Condit would win; he won with 60 percent probably 68 percent in Ceres – and you called Dist 4 a coin toss for Kline/Couper Condit race and that was a blow out. Add you totally missed on the mayor race which we all did. Your political expertise is below average.”

The writer is referencing my column of Oct. 28 in which I took a stab at how the election of Nov. 3 would go. I was right on my prognostication that winners would include Channce Condit and Bret Silveira. While I did say District 4 was a “coin toss” I also said “Don’t underestimate the Condit political machine” and that “Couper Condit is spending the big bucks and sending out negative mailers.” I also noted that Kline did not seem to be trying very hard.

Couper Condit reported receiving $11,609 in campaign cash, or essentially $9.44 per vote he received. The incumbent, Mike Kline, spent $0 for the 757 votes he received.

The truth is nobody thought Lopez was going to win the mayor’s race – admittedly not even our cowardly letter writer. Nobody thought that a candidate with zero experience and zero ideas could defeat a 12-year council veteran but he pulled it off. Word is that Lopez had a phone bank going. If you received one of those calls, I’d love for you to relay to me the callers’s pitch. Call me at 249-3583 and leave a message.

The only explanation for a Lopez win is that Latinos voted for one of their own. That bears out in a young Latina caller to the Nov. 9 Ceres City Council Zoom meeting. She called after Lee Brandt and Gene Yeakley stated they were stunned at the election outcome. The caller named Yaz said this: “I wasn’t going to speak but the two gentlemen that spoke earlier were really surprised about the elections …I wanted to mention that 60 percent of Hispanics live in Ceres and there was a lack of representation here. So going forward I hope that you guys take this into consideration and reach out to our community here and really find out what our needs are because there has been a lack of our voice in city council. Now you guys know that … our vote and our voice really make a difference. So going forward I urge every member to reach out to the Hispanic community here and make city council inclusive, especially because there’s a lack of representation here today as I’m seeing.”

The caller, of course, is wrong and under the spell of politics of division. There is representation on the Ceres City Council – five elected officials who are the representatives of all Ceres residents. What the caller was saying is intrinsically racist – the only leaders who can represent residents who happen to have a Latino ethnicity are Latinos.

As I’ve said before, cities are responsible for specific services for all residents. Those services include police and fire protection, parks and recreation, streets, building division and planning. Why Latinos think they need special treatment and to be “reached out to” is a concept that flies in the face of us all being equal. In other words, does there have to be special accommodations for Latinos when it comes to streets, parks, fire or police versus a resident who is Indian or Caucasian or Asian? What would those be? If speaking Spanish for those who living here who’ve not made it a priority to learning English is your answer, just know that city council meetings will continue to be conducted in English. 

Yaz seems pretty proud that she elected someone based on skin color and dismissed his total lack of experience and knowledge of city goverment. It reminds me of the voters who chose an elderly man with failing cognitive abilities to run the country just to spite a successful president whose Twitter account upset them.

Like I said before, common sense seems to be in rare commodity these days.

* * * * *

Our Attorney General, the tax-and-spend Xavier Becerra, is calling on Congress to cough up more money it doesn’t have. COVID-19 has been a cash cow, an excuse to churn out more money from the printing presses at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Becerra sent out a press release on Monday urging Congress to extend by one year funding for state and local governments in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides financial assistance to communities for expenses incurred due to COVID-19. The CARES Act, passed by Congress in March, reimburses state and local governments for certain expenses incurred through Dec. 31.

California received $15.3 billion in CARES Act funding this year. The lion’s share went to the state ($9.5 billion) which then directed the funds to public health emergency response efforts and to the schools, which, of course, scaled back and gave us a crappy product for our children when in fact schools don’t need to be closed because COVID-19 rarely impacts young people. Imagine closing down our schools for the flu every year and the educational breakdown that would result. The rest of it, approximately $5.8 billion, was provided to California’s most populous cities and counties.

I have a better idea. Open everything back up and if you’re in the greater risk category, aged, bad health, compromised immune systems, stay home. This country cannot afford this wide scaled shutdown. The cure is worse than the disease.

* * * * *

Becerra continues to send out press releases to us. Congressman Josh Harder doesn’t. I guess someone at his office – maybe him – decided to cut the Courier off the list because I routinely criticize his actions and his votes.

* * * * *

Routinely wherever I go I smell the sickening odor of pot, many times in a parking lot where people are smoking the crap and then driving off under who knows what kind of intoxication.

I’ve never understood why so many people want to escape from their lives like this generation.

This column is the opinion of Jeff Benziger, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or 209 Multimedia Corporation. How do you feel about this? Let Jeff know at