I have never been very fond of the Xmas season. It is not a very socially acceptable, and verboten with the kids, to have a negative attitude about the season of giving. I have struggled mightily to reform my attitude, but to little success.
But this holiday season many people are struggling not with bad attitudes about Xmas but with a dark mood. The families in Iraq and Afghanistan who are living under a hail of death from the sky, and those of us here who extend them our vigilant compassion, feel the weight of sadness acutely. The growing ranks of the homeless, many of them families, will have little to lighten their mood. The growing number of folks struggling without, or with inadequate, medical coverage, many (19,000 last year) who face avoidable deaths as a result of lack of access to needed medical care, face a crushing sadness. The hundreds of thousands of workers being fired and laid off on the eve of Xmas have little to celebrate. The victims of Katrina who STILL are without help must struggle with bitterness rather than inviting joy. The vast numbers of young people who watch their futures foreclosed for lack of jobs or affordable education may be tempted to find joy in a bottle or a syringe. And no such list can be a complete inventory of those who's Xmas stocking is filled with sadness due to the tidal wave of injustice that is crashing over the world. The majority of whom will never reach our attention. And such a list is being added to by the moment as the forces of greed consume the earth and its people. But individually we can summon the gumption to seek some happiness of some kind, hopefully from the companionship of family and friends, and if out of nothing more than spite, spit in the face of adversity and suffering and enjoy some good feeling. I certainly hope so.
In the mean time the news, known and less known, relentlessly pounds us down. I feel especially for all those folks who invested their hope for better times in recent presidential politics. Personally, I had little hope that the verbiage about CHANGE was little more than window dressing for the reality of LITTLE OR NO CHANGE. Expect little, disappointed less. But I feel for those who sincerely hoped and worked for a better government in Washington. How can it feel to these people to watch the daily parade of appointments of high level administrative officials who's record is one of support for the same policies that have so stricken the country over the last several decades of corrupt leadership?
But hope is an irrational feeling. It's purpose is to allow us to continue on in spite of it all, and in situations of great stress, such as we are experiencing now, it is the main and last defense against despair and depression. So I say to those who still cling to hope of short term salvation, keep it up, its good for you and its good for me to see you exercising your defenses. I too have hope, but it is the paradoxical sort that expects things to get better only after they get as bad as we can possibly imagine. It is not the kind of hope that most people need or wisely want.
Who knows? Maybe Obama is some kind of wizard who will charm the dragons of destruction that he is inviting into government and surprise us all. Go ahead and have such irrational day dreams, but while you are at it I suggest that you do what you can to protest. For instance I just signed a petition against the appointment of former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack to be the next Secretary of Agriculture at the Organic Consumers Association's web site ( http://www.care2.com/news/go/989157 ). Any such forms of resistance, whether or not they can be seen as effective, can be considered an Xmas gift to everyone. So, ultimately in this season of giving the best gift is to give a damn and keep stubbornly giving.