Wednesday, December 31, 2008
A thought for 2009
I want to write something profound or at least uplifting. I want to render unto the internet some insight into where we have been and where we are going on the cusp of this new year. I want to and yet just right now I cannot. Outside the snowfall is beautiful and my city is quiet. Inside my concerns are petty and my capacity for big thinking about big issues has been taxed to the point of fatigue. So in lieu of philosophical punditry and eloquently phrased beneficence let me simply say to all of you this one thing.
I wish you love.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Say no to a Cheney clemency Christmas
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Enjoy the festival days!
As creatures with the ability to learn from our experiences we are steadily dropping the holiday specific greeting from our shared American culture. Slap the hand offered and see if it is offered again. In an attempt to be more embracing (or frugal – one box of cards to cover a diverse social circle) or less controversial more universal expressions of good cheer have been sought. “Happy Holidays” is a fair generic, or perhaps a safer option might be “Enjoy the season,” but someone will inevitably have a problem with these as well although I decline to give them a head start by suggesting reasons.
So instead of trying to homogenize ourselves into an inescapable corner, let us step back for a moment and examine the idea that people are offended by someone wishing them a pleasant holiday which they happen not to celebrate in common. Why is this a bad thing? Only in this country could we turn the expression of good tidings into something despicable. The assumption is that the “well-wisher” is foisting their religion, culture, dogma, and or retail strategy upon a person who does not share them; let’s turn this around for a moment. What if within the tradition of the “well-wisher” the time of year in question is one festival and celebration, a time glowing with happy memories of childhood, of family and/or community, of spiritual joy or hedonist indulgence in the company of fond fellows? What if all of this good will they experience so seldom during the balance of the year is bubbling over and out of them to the point that they wish to share it with strangers? Why is this not brilliant? It is impossible to know what holidays a stranger may or may not celebrate so why not simply offer them the wish that you would like to receive relative to what you are celebrating. One can have a Happy Chanukah watching Christmas specials, a Merry Christmas going to the movies and eating Chinese food; the longest night of the year could be enjoyed drinking with companions or in quiet solitude, and Kwanzaa might happily be spent vacationing or shopping clearance sales.
The point is that when one is wishing another person well in holiday specific language one is not saying, “Be like me for there lays the only path to happiness.” What one is wishing the other person is good will, good times, joy. The well-wisher may be inspired by their own faith, culture or circumstance but that does not make that context a prerequisite of the hoped for outcome. Perhaps I am part of some naïve minority that has yet to join the ranks of those so suspicious of humanity that they autonomically attach dire imaginary conditions to every action originating outside their own heads… but I cannot believe that the average person is attempting an act of spiritual, cultural or intellectual imperialist expansionism and dogmatic repression when they wish someone any flavor of joyous holiday. It is not often enough that our hearts swell so much as to push us up and out of our ambulatory personal cocoons to see each other as fellow human beings and not merely obstacles and background noise. We are free in this country to celebrate or not whatever we wish (a fact we celebrate with yet another holiday on the opposite side of the calendar) but during this season, if not during all seasons, I ask that you consider celebrating the too few and too fleeting moments when regardless of affiliation or fealty we take a few seconds to be kind to one another in whatever imperfect and clumsily earnest ways we can muster.