I Heard the Bells

Welcome back to the Scuttlebutt. 

Here, have some Eggnog, if that’s not to your liking there’s Hot Buttered Rum in the thermos, Atholl brose in the big jug to the left, Tom and Jerry in the jug to the right, and fresh hot nonalcoholic apple cider in the big jug on the end.  If none of those will satisfy you, well then, “Good Afternoon!”

The celebration of this time of year is nearly universal in the northern hemisphere. It goes by many names, it’s recognized by a multitude of cultures, and religions throughout history. The Roman Centurion, the Norse Raider or Trader (often the same guy), the Jewish Shepard, the French Farmer, the Chinese Fisherman, the Mohawk Hunter, Peasants, Kings, and Potentates all knew this season as a holy one. For as far back as there has been a record, people have recognized this time of year as special.

Lately, in the last thirty years or so, there’s been this really insane attitude of “don’t push your religion off on me!” As if, the wishing of a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a God Jule, a Joyous Bodhi day, a Great Kwanzaa, a Peaceful Zarathosht Diso, a joyous Omisoka, or the Blessings of the New Year in China, somehow hurts someone who doesn’t follow that belief.  One internet cartoon of very long-standing is doing a whole week’s worth of interactions between the mother and the young daughter about how “We don’t celebrate Jesus!”  Making sure to virtue signal that just because I buy Christmas gifts doesn’t mean I’m OK with the Christians!

I don’t understand this. Literally every version of holiday for this time of year, is about the survival of another year, the gathering together of friends and family, and the welcoming of a new year, new prospects, peace, and joy.

How in the wide wide world of sports, is a wish for that to be wonderful for you, A BAD THING? And how is my faith, my belief system, somehow harmful to you?  I’m reminded of the meme: “Show me on this doll where this guy’s religion touched you in a bad way.” 

No matter your faith, there is something to take from this season.  Even if you have no system of faith at all, but a mere understanding of human psychology, this darkest of weeks, as the sun spends less time above the horizon, generates a low point in the human condition.  In response, what I find the most human thing in the world, we gather together and CELEBRATE. As if to thumb our noses at fate, darkness, despair, and depression. To say, in no uncertain terms, UP YOURS! We will take this time that should create a low, and make it one of the high points of our year!  Why would wishing you the joys of that, be offensive just because the sounds they make to identify the season, come from a different faith?

I love this time of year. To me, it’s about the family, the gathering together, and the hopes for a new season. Growing up, it was a time of year when I was out of school, the rabbits were plentiful, some salmon might still be running, and I got to put meat in the freezer. It was a time when the parents were both off work for a couple of days at least, and we would go down to gather with the rest of the extended family, or they would come up to be with us. 

Feasting, giving, and receiving gifts, the traditional Christmas music, the antics of the cats with the tree… I remember one year we got an artificial tree, and at about three AM there was this loud crash.  I got up, to see that dad had gotten there first… At least one (I think I remember two or three) of the cats had climbed up the tree, and it fell over.  I remember dad picking that tree up like a javelin, walking to the front door, and hurling it out into the snow in his skivvies.  The next day, we went out and bought a real tree, and I don’t believe we ever had an artificial one again until after I went off to the Navy.

Some of the carols of Christmas still touch me, the three that reach furthest inside are the Little Drummer Boy (Bing’s version) The Holly, and The Ivy (also Bing’s version, hard to find nowadays, as it’s originally Pagan, so the Christmas music stations don’t like it, and it’s become recognized as Christian, so the Pagan stations don’t play it EITHER!) and Johnny Cash’s version of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”  

That last one is the inspiration for this piece, specifically, there’s one line in that song. Delivered in Mr. Cash’s gravel, whiskey, and cigar voice, “For hate is strong, that mocks the song, of Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.” 

Seriously. What in the actual fuck is wrong with people, that they cannot, for one short week, gratefully accept good wishes, and wish others well in return?

I had culled articles (I keep a file of the stuff that attracts my attention, a file I literally call “grist for the mill” on my computer, and reference it when I write this piece each week.) and had originally thought to do something more like my normal work, calling out the failures, applauding the successes, recognizing the new, and in general, being the gadfly that I am.  

But as I typed this out, I changed my mind.  Most of this stuff can wait or can be let die in the files.  You’ve probably seen most of it in other people’s blogs, or some version of it in the news.  In the spirit of the season, I’m going to give all of that a pass for now.  If it’s still pertinent in the New Year, I’ll write about it then.  If not, then it wasn’t important enough to bring up in this, the last days of a frankly pretty shitty year.

There is one thing, just one, that I do want to bring to your attention. The source for this is one of my usual suspects, CDR Salamander. The original article is here and references back to an article from the Washington Post that I somehow missed, here.

Lieutenant Alkonis, is a US Naval officer, who was stationed in Japan with his family.  In May of last year, the LT was visiting Mt. Fuji, as tens of thousands do each year, with his family.  He drove up to the highest area that you can get with his car, and with his wife, children, and the pet dog, did a couple of hour hike, on mostly flat terrain. But, and this is the crucial but, it was at 8,000 feet up. 

Shortly after returning to the car, and starting to drive down the mountain, the LT passed out mid-sentence, and the car he was operating went out of control, striking several cars, which in turn hit and killed two pedestrians, injuring another.

The report of witnesses at the scene all point to the LT having developed Acute Mountain Sickness/AKA altitude sickness.  The Japanese government threw the book at Lt Alkonis, and in spite of the fact that 95% of Japanese citizens that are charged with negligent driving never serve a day of jail time, they sentenced him to three years in prison.  Now that is bullshit, but that’s not what I’m bringing up here, or why it needs to be brought before you now.

The LT.’s family is still in Japan.  The DOD will not extend him on active duty while he is in prison, based on the decision of the Secretary of Defense.  So, once his leave is run out at the end of December, he will be discharged for being AWOL.  His wife and three young children will be out on the street, kicked out of housing, at Christmas.

Our military is complaining that they can’t recruit and keep quality people.  Let me ask you, could you recommend to ANYONE that they enlist, take a commission, or stay in the service when this sort of decision is being made?

Write your congressmen, your senators, and the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin. I really need to hear the “Peel the bells more loud and sweet,” I need “the wrong shall fail, the right prevail,” on this Christmas day. I pray for “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.” 

I’m taking next week off to be with my family,

I wish you the Joys of the Season, and a Better New Year. 
Until next time I remain,
Yours in service.
William Lehman. 


  1. Japanese justice is not the impartial thing we might wish but if your negligent driving causes death they will throw the book at you no matter who you are.
    Sure 95% of negligent driving gets a fine and so on, but that’s because most negligent driving is some old fart reversing into a shop window or similar and 95% of negligent driving incidents cause at most minor injuries and not deaths. I’m going to say that 99%+ of negligent driving that causes death gets prison time.

    In fact effectively pretty much any death requires that someone do jail time. The unpleasant part of the Japanese justice system is that they sometimes seem to get a confession from the wrong guy and then fail to do any follow up when that is shown to be the case. That also may explain a number of things classed as “suicide” that may be murder but the police don’t want to tarnish their 99% clean up record by having a difficult murder to solve.

    • Fair enough, and while I think the guy got railroaded, (even Japan doesn’t prosecute people whose sudden medical condition caused a death. But the combination of Gaijin and military caused some prosecutor to ignore the reports of eyewitnesses, and refuse to even evaluate medical opinion. Then the Judge seemed to have the same issue. Read the source article, for more details. link is in the blog) My big beef is with the USN for the way THEY are handling this shit show.

      • OK I read more of the background. I agree he got a harsher sentence than most people in Japan would for the same event.

        I have a new theory, with two options. Both look the same from the outside. They are that some bureaucrat in the US Government – most likely in the US Embassy in Tokyo but could be the DoD somewhere or state dept back in DC – made an undiplomatic and derogatory comment about the Japanese justice system and probably added a couple of toothless threats on top as well as some tactless remarks about the US protecting Japan from China or similar. This then caused Judge and/or Prosecutor to decide that they were going to show that they would not be insulted or bullied and so gave Alkonis a sentence with actual jail time beyond “time served” to poke a stick in the Yankee eye. I don’t know this is the case but it fits. The difference between the two optional parts is whether this hypothetical derogatory comment etc. was intentional or accidental. I can completely see some self-important DC bureaucrat doing it by mistake. I can also completely see how a PRC agent in the relevant DC bureaucracy would cause such a statement to be made to deliberately try to cause a rift between the USA and Japan. As they say “sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice” and this could be either

        • Certainly a possibility. Occam’s razor though, suggests that all that is required is a bigoted judge. The Japanese are some of the most prejudiced people on the face of the earth, and well, a Gaijin, and worse yet, an American Navy Officer, who killed a couple of old people… well, let us show those American bastards that they don’t run our nation!

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