Everyone in Austin just got an early Christmas gift from Mother Nature — those gorgeous, colorful trees on every street and in many yards. They shimmer in shades of red, gold and even orange and you can see them when you drive or walk in your neighborhood. And the best part of this gift is that it’s free to everyone.
Merry Christmas, Austin!
MARY LOU GIBSON, AUSTIN
What headlines reflect an “us vs. them” mentality today? The problem is that in telling that story, we are part of the problem simply by telling it, — and we will always be someone else’s “them” as long as there is a “them.”
Instead of saying #itsnotme, let’s try #thisisus. We are all doing the best we can, and we have done the best we could. This is not an excuse for hurtfulness. It is a call to awareness and a different kind of action. Taking ownership empowers us to make a difference in our little part of the human system — and when we make a shift towards healthy behaviors and healthy stories, it can have ripple effects for all, even “them.”
Black-and-white thinking is a sign of anxiety — and it isn’t helping us anymore. It’s time for creative solutions to complex problems. We can do this.
JEANETTE HARGREAVES, AUSTIN
Since this tax bill adds over $1 trillion to the deficit, under the “Pay-as-You-Go” Act, it will trigger automatic spending cuts, including:
•Over $3 billion cut from the Department of Education Rehabilitation Services. This provides funding for people with disabilities, including vocational rehabilitation. This literally takes money away from deaf and blind children. But Steve Mnuchin needs a new yacht!
•Over $21 million cut from payments for the Department of Health and Human Services foster care and permanency programs. These payments often make the difference to a family wanting to take in a foster child. We should be incentivizing finding permanent homes for these kids. But Ivanka needs new shoes!
Medicare will immediately be cut by 4 percent, and further yearly cuts will continue to shrink the program. Too bad, senior citizens. Don Jr. needs extra cash to hunt elephants.
Congrats on the legacy you leave if you voted “yes.”
TOM GIBSON, ROUND ROCK
Even hardened criminals can change, but it takes introspection, honesty and exercising virtues. So why does the GOP always disregard such virtues?
For decades, the GOP has boasted about personal freedom (but not for women), trickle-down economics (a joke) and warped views of Christianity that impel them to cater to the richest and ignore the “lesser of these.”
So rather than wishing Trump, clueless representatives like Lamar Smith, and our selfish Texas senators a Merry Christmas, most Americans wish you folks would look in the mirror and start doing what Jesus preached. Stop being prostitutes for lobbyists, lying, cheating — and concocting unbalanced legislation in secrecy. Start being fair. Even you folks can change, if you choose to. Until you do, your greed and self-righteousness will rule you — and the world is watching.
GARY L. WIMMER, AUSTIN
Writing in the Rhetoric, Aristotle suggested that there are always the available means of persuasion.
Putting aside my own partisan beliefs and engaging as a more detached rhetorical critic, Donald Trump will be able to put forward a potentially persuasive case that he not only salvaged his first year as president but that it was a success: historic tax legislation passed, repeal of the Affordable Care Act individual mandate, a conservative judge placed on the Supreme Court, record numbers of conservative judges approved for the federal judiciary, Islamic State defeats, repeal of many government regulations, a soaring stock market, low unemployment.
Whether this case resonates with most Americans and whether this record offsets the Russia investigation, the crumbling support for and confidence in America by foreign leaders, the deliberate undermining of government institutions, Trump’s persistent lying and his racist behavior is another question. The 2018 elections will tell the story.
RICHARD CHERWITZ, AUSTIN
Rep. Blake Farenthold didn’t invite me to that party where he wore duck-print pajamas. I would have found a suitably whimsical wardrobe and stood to the other side of the scantily clad woman for a nice photo.
Don’t people understand that an arena for antic behavior is an important element of freedom itself? Once we surrender to the serial disapprovers — the people who hammer at joy, who would squelch the human factor with their astringent judgments — we are on the way to being prisoners of a totalitarian state.
Sexual harassment is a terrible thing if it is forceful or used as leverage by strength against weakness. Of course, as a young man, I was so attractive that I did not have to bother anyone to share sensual joy.
Let’s not give dominion to the clawlike grip of joyless tyrants and list-makers to take over and pulverize our humanity and our humor.
PAUL EHRMANN, AUSTIN