Ever since Thanksgiving passed, well since Halloween passed in some places, people have been putting up “seasonal” decorations — mostly Christmas, but a few Chanukah. The radio is filled with Christmas songs, and Adam Sandler’s Chanukah song, and one can’t help but notice that it’s that time of year again when we all wish for “peace on Earth” and “Good will toward people.” (I know it’s men in the original phrase, but women and children deserve good will too.) My students are all exchanging gifts with their friends and talking about the holidays with excitement and smiles. But, being the dark-souled person I am, I wonder just how much people truly believe in the ideas that are spouted during this season.
First of all, I’m going to ignore Chanukah, because it’s not a real holiday (root “holy”). It’s a festival, a celebration of a war victory for the Jews a long time ago that is actually based on Sukkot, which is why there are 8 days. It has nothing to do with all the cheer and merriment and “good will” that people talk about at this time of year. Some American Jews have attempted to blend ideas of Christmas into the celebration, but that’s just an attempt at more assimilation than anything else.
Next, Christmas. Focusing on this holiday now ignores over half of the world, but I’ll get to them in a moment. The holiday, and it is considered very holy by most Christians around the world, celebrates the birth of Jesus, the focal character in the Christian religion, no matter what sect you belong to. Jesus is quoted in the New Testament as having said things such as “love thy neighbor” and “turn the other cheek.” Christians believe that he is the savior of all humankind and sacrificed himself for the sins of the world. Then I watch the news to compare the world to this Christian ideal.
Black men and boys are being killed by white police officers. Republican politicians are working to restrict homosexuals’ and women’s rights around the country. There are school shootings every two weeks, on average, for the past two years since Newtown, CT. This is peace on Earth? This is loving your neighbor?
Okay, let’s remove religion from the equation all together, which is what we should do anyway since this country claims to separate Church and State (“…one nation under God…”). Now we address all Americans, at least. We as Americans believe in freedom, particularly personal freedom, to live as we see fit as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, yet, take all the above examples — racial killings, legal restrictions on women and homosexuals, proliferation of guns — and there is a lot of harm happening to a lot of people in this country and a lot of restrictions on personal freedoms. This is one of the issues that really confuses me about the Republican party in particular. They want more and more capitalistic freedoms, meaning less restriction on companies to earn money, because they claim the government should not restrict the market in a capitalist society; the government should be smaller. Companies should be free to market themselves as they please and consumers should be smarter about how they spend their money. Then, in the next breath, these same politicians talk about restrictions on women and homosexuals. So, LESS restriction on greedy capitalists who take as much money away from the average American as they can, but MORE restriction on more than half of the population of the country in ways that are NO ONE’S business, let alone the governments. How does that make sense?
The American Dream is already corrupt and has been since the 1920’s, just read The Great Gatsby. Now, the American emphasis on individualism has become distorted too. No longer do we, as a culture, try to teach people to think for themselves and question authority. No, we try to standardize everything about the way we teach our children, indoctrinating them into the new “American standard,” where individualism is now selfishness and greed. They need to just do what we tell them to do.
So what does all this come down to? Leave people alone who aren’t doing anything to harm you. That gay couple who moved in down the street, don’t talk to them if you can’t get past the fact that they are two men married to each other, but don’t take away their right to marry. That family that just can’t afford to raise the child of their 16-year-old daughter and they don’t think it’s appropriate to make their daughter go through childbirth, let the girl have an abortion. How does that affect YOUR life?
There are people out there who claim they value the “sanctity” of life and decide that their morality is the only “right” morality, so they must impose it on everyone they can. If that’s the case then they can’t complain when others try to do it to them. Doesn’t the Golden Rule say “Do not do unto others as you would not have done unto you” or something similar? Every single religion/philosophy on Earth has some form of that rule, so why do people keep doing things to others that they would never have done to themselves? Shoot someone? Rob someone? Restrict someone’s right to marry? Force people to have medical procedures that are not medically necessary? Force people to NOT have medical procedures that may save their lives? Just stop and ask yourself, before you do anything that involves anyone else, would I want someone to do that to me? If the answer is no, back off!
So, have a peaceful and joyous holiday season, whatever your take on this early winter-time may be. Enjoy family and friends, gifts and pets, maybe some snow too, if it falls in your area. Just remember the true reason for the season is axial tilt, but the meanings we put on it, as absurd as some people’s meanings might be, are human, and, to be truly human, one should treat ALL humans with dignity and respect.