-is only days away and I must confess that for the first time in years I have a vague stirring of emotion; of sentiment, inspired by the season. It has been years, maybe 18 or more, since I last considered Christmas anything other than an empty holiday, dispossessed of its significance by the onset of my adulthood and all of the sober, shrewd skepticism that maturity, independence and knowledge brings.
It was always a time of afterthought, second thoughts, second-guessing and abstract hopes. Christmas was a last catching of my breath before the careening diminuendo of the New Year’s Eve count down. Christmas was a last look over the shoulder at the waning year behind and its happenings, promises and unfulfilled wants. That is what Christmas was to me until about 1992, a year when I started looking forward to getting drunk at parties more than I did being at parties. That was the year that many friends went afar, and remained there. Pining for old get togethers, big dinners and the fraternity of our younger days seemed silly.
Life goes on, and it will drag you along. Working life is a kind of plateau in adulthood. It sets in, and flattens everything, dividing and averaging out all of our emotion, our love and our dread until one day we find ourselves wondering why certain things don’t make us angry anymore or why other things no longer make us happy. It’s important to remember: the things are the same, it is we who change for better or worse.
Maybe the return of Christmas’s personal significance to me has something to do with the coming end of another decade… -my fourth on Earth as a proud, if at times puzzled and angry member of the human race. If you’d talked to me twenty years ago, I’m sure I would have had no idea so much time could pass… and yet 2009 has been a long year. 2009 was “long” in the way the years of my early childhood were long. Time stopped still many times this year, as they used to before summer vacation, before Christmas day and a long awaited gift. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas day in 1976 was the longest period in human history.
I can’t prove it scientifically, but trust me, waiting for my “Jackie Stewart Rev-A-Matic Competition” AFX Ho Scale slot car race set with magna traction chassis cars was longer than the “100 Years War”… which we all know didn’t take 100 years.
It’s been such a long time since I’ve hoped for so much.
I yearn for a proper future, a good life for my friends, for my neighbors, for my mother, for my country, for my generation, for my time and my world. In this way, I feel genuinely connected, for possibly the first time in my life with the writers whose work has informed my own. I feel, after this year of rancor, spite and triumph that I understand Charles Dickens, as I didn’t before. I understand now that when he wrote of Ebenezer Scrooge, he was writing chiefly of himself. Scrooge, is a profound confession by a man of letters terrified at the way he may have misspent his life amongst his fellow human beings. This year, I’ve been thinking of Charles Dickens’ various imagined worlds, his assorted “Englands” as too many in our country try to pretend that intolerance, indifference and greed aren’t aspects of hate.
Cruelty is not a perspective. It is violence, and when it’s done to the least of us: the defenseless, the poor, it is unforgivable.
Dickens introduced two children to me in A Christmas Carol. They are stark, inelegant allegories: “Ignorance and Want.” The Ghost of Christmas Present brings the hideous twins to Scrooge in the story with a warning:
"This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased."
Here's hoping the writing on the boy's head and the damage inside his skull can be undone.
I am hopeful and optimistic for the first time in many years. Although 2009 brought the death of my beloved uncle, and the death of a life long friend, it also brought the end of the Bush administration, it brought the confirmation of a non-Conservative woman to the Supreme Court, it brought a man of formidable intellect to the White House. 2009 brought the end of abuses too numerous to mention in our country’s name.
And yet there is much to hope and wish for:
Real lasting peace in the world: the kind of peace that allows people to listen and see clearly the liars in their midst.
More money for schools: so that our kids grow up to be the smartest work force they can be.
Health Care Reform: even if we can only pry from the lobbyists an inch at a time.
I’d love to see the America that actually manufactures the goods it consumes again. I would love to see an America where electronics and technology and even our fuels and energy are generated stateside. I’d love to see an entire world of nations that create jobs everywhere and don’t eliminate livelihoods just to make the rich, richer.
Feed and clothe every man, woman and child.
I may not live to see it all, but as in years past, I just can’t wait for it all to get here.
Merry Christmas, my friends.
Rest in Peace MacArthur.