Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Singing in the Rain

Need I say more? It is constantly raining. They say it's supposed to clear up over the weekend, but I'm not buying it. Do I sound grumpy? Nah. Rain keeps the weather cool. Your clothes stick to you so everyone can see your rippling muscles, and you feel like you live inside a humidifier, but besides that, we like the rain.

On Sunday it started raining when we got out of church. We left approximately 10 minutes later, and the roads were flooded. It rains hard! Many of the roads here are not built well and do not have good drainage. So I like driving through swimming pools on the way home, you know? I feel like I'm driving in one of those car commercials where the car splashes through a huge puddle, making a perfect s-p-l-a-s-h through the air just as time stands still. Me and my Echo.

It rained tonight (should I say, "is still raining?") on the first night of the government Christmas singing concerts. Never heard of 'em? Well, here in American Samoa, starting about 20 days or so before Christmas, each department of the government takes an hour a day out of their busy work schedule to practice Christmas carols for these concerts. They get matching outfits, learn the songs AND dance moves, and leave Joe Mama waiting in line at the Tax Office while the workers sing for an hour. I must say, I admire their get-into-the-spirit gung-ho mentality, but is this not a collosal waste of time and dollars? Shouldn't we just leave the Christmas concerts to the churches, schools, civic groups, etc.? Besides, who really wants to hear a bunch of no-names singing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" when it's 80 degrees outside? Hmm...

Well, tonight was the first concert. They have been preparing the stage (which is right across the street from the Courthouse) for a few days now, putting up decorations, PLANTING pine trees that they could put Christmas lights and decorations on for the concerts (they'd never grow here naturally, come on!) and putting up large tents for people to sit under while they listen to the choirs from each department.

Did I mention that participation is MANDATORY?

Not that they're going to fire you for refusing to sing. A friend of mine just told me he missed his concert. Oops. His department is already hurting for lack of workers, it's unlikely their going to do anything more than a serious "we needed your voice" scolding tomorrow at work. But who knows? Poor nonessential worker that accidentally misses the concert!!

Today, Governor Togiola's invitation to the concerts was printed in the newspaper:

"On this happy season of Christmas, I wish to extend the invitation of your government to you - the people of American Samoa - to join in the spirit, hope and love of Christmas through song and dance as the government departments and agencies come together for a three-night celebration of the sounds of Christmas," the governor said in his invitation released yesterday.

"Every year I look forward to the magnificent talent of our government workforce being displayed at the annual Territorial Christmas Program and I am sure this year, again, that all our special choirs will offer a colorful presentation of songs to celebrate the Birth of Our Savior Jesus Christ," he said. "I wish you all the gift of faith and the peace of God's love at Christmas."

. . . .

The program will open with a service, of which hymns will be sung by the Territorial Administration on Aging (TAOA) and an invocation will be provided by Fr. Iosefo Timu of the Leone Catholic Church. Deputy Secretary of Samoan Affairs Nanai Afuola Kalasa will serve as master of ceremony.

I wonder, what the Jewish or Muslim or Atheist government worker would do in a situation like this? (Not that there are any in American Samoa, which I seriously doubt.)

This would never pass muster in the states, and herein lies the contrast--the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution arguably does not apply to American Samoa.

No one get me wrong--I love Christmas. I love singing. I even love singing Christmas carols. And I'm about as religious as you get. I don't even have a problem with the government agencies celebrating Christmas. But this is a little foreign to me, that's all--forcing participation. I'm all about freedom. (Thank goodness the Chief Justice told the Governor that the judicial branch would abstain!)

I say this as I stare back at my Christmas tree, lights and all. Tomorrow we'll continue our family tradition of caroling to neighbors and friends. We've even invited people outside our family to join us. Caroling will never be the same after doing it in shorts and a t-shirt.

Hope it doesn't rain!