In years past, the “Holidays”, Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, or whatever one chose to celebrate, were marred mostly by commercialism, “door buster sales”, trampling people to get some piece of cheap crap. That was bad enough.
If we look at the big picture,—where we all need to look, the past weeks have been tragic, too tragic ,— humanity at its worst when we are supposed to be at our best, our most giving.
I spent part of my childhood on Chicago’s South Side in the mid 1960’s. I didn’t understand the Civil Rights movement, we were told in church that we were all equal, so, I thought we were.
Naive, by education, racist by being there, that was me. 50 years later, I realize that I was a 12 year old racist, peer pressure, ignorance, I don’t know. I was wrong and can’t plead ignorance because I was 12. I was a product of society, society was wrong and I bought into it.
The United States has a very sad history of racism, from our “settling” of the wilderness by trying to exterminate the native population, to our enslavement of Africans, to our ongoing “American Exceptionalism” and empire building.
Our elected government’s efforts, to extract as much as we could, from wherever we could, through racial oppression, global corporatism, surgical drone strikes and whatever else it might take, make it quite clear that, what for us is the American Dream, is really a nightmare for everyone else, especially if they don’t look like us– white.
We do know that Christ did not have blond hair and blue eyes, he looked much more like the indigenous Americans, the enslaved Africans, the Syrian refugees than us, the descendants of Northern Europe who write the rules for the world.
It is so painful to me, so unbelievably sad that racism and xenophobia are still there, accepted, growing and used for political advantage by those who claim to be such good Christians, all about family values.
Think about Martin Luther King’s timeless statement. “To retaliate with hate and bitterness would do nothing but intensify the hate in the world. Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can be done only by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives.”
“When evil men plot, good men and women must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men and women must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men and women must commit themselves to the glories of love.”
Relate those thoughts to the refugees from Syria, or anywhere. Regardless of their religion, they should not be pawns of political campaigns, they are people in need of help, not hate.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow noted in his poem Christmas Bells, “And in despair, I bowed my head; ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said; ‘For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men.’”
I think this world is too short on joy, too long on hate.
Hal Borland summarized Christmas by saying “What we celebrate is the birth of a child into a time of dissension and oppression and a world of cruelty and suspicion, one who grew up to teach peace and justice and love of fellow man. It was as simple as that”.
Whether one is religious or not, Christian or not, it is as simple as that.