Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year of the Monkey

In Japan, New Year’s greetings are never made before January 1, so I am sending this on the morning of New Year’s Eve in the U.S.—but after the New Year has already begun in Japan.
As is common in this country, I am wishing you all a Happy New Year a day before the new year actually begins, and I pray for your health and happiness throughout 2016.
In the countries of East Asia, including Japan, 2016 is the Year of the Monkey. There is a 12 year cycle in the Asian zodiac, and today ends the Year of the Sheep.
(Of course, the Chinese new year, celebrated not only in China but in other Asian countries with strong Chinese influence, doesn’t begin until February 8—and it will be known as the year of the Fire Monkey.)
If you were born in 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, or 1980, the coming year is a special one for you—or would be if you lived in East Asia—for it will be your ataridoshi, or lucky year, the year with the same zodiac animal in which you were born.

Those born in the Year of the Monkey are said to be “clever and skillful in grand-scale operations and are smart when making financial deals. They are inventive, original and are able to solve the most difficult problems with ease.”
Or according to another website, “Charming, charismatic and extremely inventive, Monkey people are most noted for their intelligence and clever genius in working out difficult problems for themselves and others.” (There are some negative characteristics also, but I will let you look those up for yourself.)
In this country, of course, it is often an insult to call someone a monkey. Sometimes it is even a racial slur. Just last week the Washington Post published, and then had to pull, a cartoon of Sen. Ted Cruz dressed like an organ grinder in a Santa suit with two monkeys on leashes.
Cruz charged that the cartoon was making fun of his two daughters. Actually, Pulitzer prize-winner Ann Telnaes was making reference to Cruz using his daughters in a political ad that began airing early last week.
In that new campaign ad he is reading “timeless Christmas classics” to his two daughters—classics such as “How ObamaCare Stole Christmas” and “The Grinch Who Lost Her Emails.”
Cruz’s daughter Caroline, 7, loudly reads the following line from the latter: “I know just what I’ll do, I’ll use my own server, and no one will be the wiser!”
It was Cruz using his children for his personal gain—like an organ grinder using dancing monkeys—that Telnaes was depicting. Cruz and other Republicans took it that she was ridiculing Cruz’s children by making them monkeys.
The outcry worked, and the newspaper removed the cartoon in question. But Cruz will likely continue using the ad with his daughter criticizing Hillary Clinton over something that his daughters don’t understand at all.
In East Asia, though, there is no stigma for being born in the year of the Monkey—or the year of the Rat, as were two of my children. There are good and bad characteristics for all twelve of the animals that are signs for each year of the cycle.
So, if you were born in the year of the Monkey, enjoy your special year. And, regardless of the year in which you were born, I do pray that 2016 will be a good one for you.


  1. Cruz was the one who entered his daughters into the political equation. He should have expected something like this. Unfortunate that his daughters paid a price for his activity. I think WP did the right thing by pulling the cartoon.

  2. Here are some very frank comments from a Thinking Friend in rural northwest Missouri (where she is very much in the minority, I'm afraid).

    "Enjoyed your new year article—glad you mentioned Cruz and his silliness. The Republicans seem to have such thin skin yet can dish out the meanness without even noticing--and can’t even get to, let alone understand, the heart of the matter.

    "I don’t understand how so many can be so taken with their spiel. Is it because it is in the name of Christianity in their minds? They’re all dumbed down. They can't think for themselves any more. Or think THROUGH anything."

  3. Many if not all politicians use their children or other children to promote their agenda or policy (or use them to show they like kids - even if they do not). If you agree with the politician or policy, you are likely to be ok with it. If you do not, you are likely to be cynical.

    I would say it is best to be consistent in your reaction. As noted, "it is often an insult to call someone a monkey. Sometimes it is even a racial slur" If your favorite politician was draw as a monkey with his two daughters, by guess you may find this an insult or racial slur and not think you are being thin skinned and can not take a joke. My advice is to not call someone a monkey (or other animals) in this country.

    1. Historical fact related to calling a politician an animal: "The Donkey— Presidential candidate Andrew Jackson was the first Democrat ever to be associated with the donkey symbol. His opponents during the election of 1828 tried to label him a "jackass" for his populist beliefs and slogan, "Let the people rule." Jackson was entertained by the notion and ended up using it to his advantage on his campaign posters.

      But cartoonist Thomas Nast is credited with making the donkey the recognized symbol of the Democratic Party. It first appeared in a cartoon in Harper's Weekly in 1870, and was supposed to represent an anti-Civil War faction. But the public was immediately taken by it and by 1880 it had already become the unofficial symbol of the party."

    2. Doug, certainly politicians have used pictures of their children in promotional materials. President Obama has often been pictures with his children, for example.

      What I do not remember seeing before is a politician using his children to criticize a political opponent. (Did you watch the ad to see how Sen. Cruz used his daughter to slur Hillary?)

      It is the latter that is a problem, it seems to me, not having family pictures shown publically.

      As to the offensive cartoon, there was no direct indication that the monkeys were Cruz's daughters. The only person recognizable was him dressed in a Santa suit and looking like an organ grinder. The monkeys were the props used for his purposes.

      But as I said above, I agree with Charles K. that the WP did the right thing to pull the ads.

      I didn't know that about the donkey as a Dem. symbol being popularized by Thomas Nast (who also, as I remember it, had a lot to do with the popular view of Santa Claus also). Thanks for sharing this.

  4. I did not watch the video so can not comment on that. I am trying really hard to ignore the campaigning until at least 30 days before it comes time to vote. I wish we had the British system of voting. Our system lasts ways too long, cost way too much and polarizes society way too much. I may be voting for a 3rd party candidate for the first time. Go Zoltan Istvan (just kidding - I do like the platform point: "support of longer lifespans via science and technology." Just make sure that longer life comes with longer youth. Do not want to wind up like Tithonus) video on British Voting

  5. There are similar restrictions on the length of campaigning in Japan as well -- and it certainly seems like a much more rational way to run an election that what we do in this country.

    And it sounds as if you will be one of the people I "target" in a blog article on "lesser-evilism" that I probably will write sometime next year.

  6. Happy New Year!!

    Wish the Monkees were still here to add a round of lyrical joy.

    Monkeys are interesting critters who bring a little joy to life as one watches them - but don't get to close. They are wild and unpredictable in their natural setting, but don't taste bad in a pinch if one is hungry.

    I decided to make a list backing into my choice for President bad listing out those who least fit the bill - ethics, insufficient necessary skills, no charisma for leadership, wrong vision. That does not leave many. May the Lord grant wisdom to the chosen. May it be the one of His choosing.

  7. British elections are limited to 25 days. Here is a video by John Green on the US system

    454 Days: Understanding America's Ridiculous Political Campaigns

    I wrote an essay on:
    Thoughts on MLK, the 19th Amendment and Voting

    I think having a long election process is actually bad for our society. Kind of like having a long surgery. Better to get in and out quickly.