This is my second attempt at a post on the subject of the 2011 Holiday Season. The first version, my wife gently but firmly explained to me, was both too dark and too depressing. This is not to say, by the way, that she took exception to my overall view that the current times are hard and — after three long years of economic stagnation and high unemployment — still pose very real, and sometimes even existential challenges to far too many American families. Instead, her central point, and the main reason for her criticism, was that for me to devote the bulk of my Holiday post to these troubling issues was to miss the real meaning and significance of the Christmas Season. She's probably right. Things could certainly be better for many of our fellow citizens, but they could also, I suppose, be much worse. And, although it is an easy thing to lose sight of during the hectic days of December, the true message of Christmas has very little, if anything, to do with decorated trees, Santa Claus, or even gift-giving; it does, however, have everything to do with the promise of spiritual redemption that came with the first "Christ's Mass", more than two millennia ago.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year; but Watch Yourself, it's a Jungle Out There!The days leading up to Christmas, my father once ruefully commented after a particularly gruelling day of holiday gift shopping with my mother, are just a bit like wartime, in that they bring out both the very worst and the very best in people. At the time he said this many years ago, I was still very young, and really had no idea what my father was talking about. Now, I do; and if the Christmas Season appears, on occasion, to bring about an increase in public displays of human frailty; it also — often with more frequency, but with less fanfare — gives expression to the "better angels' of our natures.
And, of course, no Christmas Season would be complete without the sad, but predictable spike in thievery that always seems to go hand-in-hand with the arrival of the holidays. This year is no different; in fact, the current batch of criminals somehow seems even worse than usual. Thus, we see that — from outdoor Christmas decorations to wheel chairs, from Salvation Army collection kettles to copper wire and tubing, from Church "poor boxes" to toys intended for sick children — this conscienceless band of light-fingered ne'er-do-wells has again shown up, like "Bad" Santa's delinquent helpers, to victimize anyone and everyone that they can.
If the long lines, jammed parking lots, pointless rudeness, and the various other bad behaviors that seem to proliferate during the holidays weren't enough, the mainly secular (and anti-religious) northeastern "chattering classes" also do their part to diminish the spiritual significance and joyousness of the Christmas Season. Year after year, starting around Thanksgiving, these pompous media "know-nothings" (and yes, Anderson and Shep, I mean over-paid twits like you and your friends) begin a month-long campaign devoted to recounting each and every incident of criminal activity, mob violence, or consumerism run amok that crosses their desks; their unstated message: it is these unfortunate events, more than anything else, that now define the real spirit of the season for most Americans. Given these carefully-picked examples, and others like them, it is probably no wonder that many in our society have come to see these Holiday "horror" stories as yet more proof of the coarsening of American culture and of the fraying of the country's social compact. And yet, along with this dreary collection of holiday tales showing societal anomie, there are also stories that vindicate the second, positive part of my father's wartime-holidays analogy.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my readers both here and abroad, may you all have a joyous and safe Holiday.