All I Want for Christmas….

All I Want for Christmas….

Here we are in the “most wonderful time of the year” again with all the pressure to be jolly amid the holly, bells and lights.  But these are serious times, and while some frivolity is important, let’s not forget the Real Meaning of Christmas — the Child was born to redeem the world, not to rack-up credit card bills that will come due long after the needles have fallen off the holiday trees.  Is that too gloomy for a Christmas blog?  Well, I’m thinking of the people of Ukraine — the people whose heroic agony was so sharply drawn in stark terms by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in his speech to the joint session of Congress this week:

“…in two days we will celebrate Christmas. Maybe candlelit. Not because it’s more romantic, no, but because there will not be, there will be no electricity. Millions won’t have neither heating nor running water. All of these will be the result of Russian missile and drone attacks on our energy infrastructure.

“But we do not complain. We do not judge and compare whose life is easier. Your well-being is the product of your national security; the result of your struggle for independence and your many victories. We, Ukrainians, will also go through our war of independence and freedom with dignity and success.

“We’ll celebrate Christmas. Celebrate Christmas and, even if there is no electricity, the light of our faith in ourselves will not be put out. If Russian — if Russian missiles attack us, we’ll do our best to protect ourselves. If they attack us with Iranian drones and our people will have to go to bomb shelters on Christmas Eve, Ukrainians will still sit down at the holiday table and cheer up each other. And we don’t, don’t have to know everyone’s wish, as we know that all of us, millions of Ukrainians, wish the same: Victory. Only victory.”

What I want for Christmas — what all freedom-loving people should want for Christmas — is an end to the terrible assault on Ukraine by a monstrous dictator, Vladimir Putin.  Why should we care about the sorrows of people half a world away when we have plenty of our own woes here at home?  Quite simply, as President Zelensky said so eloquently last night, this is a war that pits tyranny against freedom, democracy against authoritarianism.  This war engages all of us and our futures.  He said,

“This struggle will define in what world our children and grandchildren will live, and then their children and grandchildren.  It will define whether it will be a democracy of Ukrainians and for Americans — for all. This battle cannot be frozen or postponed. It cannot be ignored, hoping that the ocean or something else will provide a protection. From the United States to China, from Europe to Latin America, and from Africa to Australia, the world is too interconnected and interdependent to allow someone to stay aside and at the same time to feel safe when such a battle continues.”

What I want for Christmas is a clear sign that the dangerous authoritarian impulses that have convulsed so much of American politics in the last few years will be defeated.  Too many Americans have accepted the idea that Democracy may need some limitations, that authoritarian rule might be acceptable — the authoritarian state is a place that exalts a small cadre of like-minded people over all others, that restrains diverse expressions of human communities, that denies freedom of speech and press in favor of state-controlled communications.  White supremacy flourishes in the authoritarian dream, along with repression of dissent and oppression of people who may be different from the ruling cadre, e.g., people of color, immigrants, Jews, LGBTQ persons, liberals, feminists, the whole cacophony of human life reduced to a dull hum under the tight lid of authoritarian rule.  To our immense shame, some Americans have even said out loud recently that Hitler had his good points.  Shame on them, but also, shame on us for the conditions that have fostered the demented rantings of some celebrities,

What I want for Christmas is a broader public acceptance of the idea of working for the common good, a restoration of the sense that practicing the “Habits of the Heart” is a worthy and noble calling, lacking in selfish preoccupation about returns on investments save for the return to the entire community in more peace and greater justice for all.  Let’s stop complaining about the price of gas; let’s do more to help people who are having a hard time putting food on the table.  Can we talk more about poverty and less about Elon Musk?  Just sayin’…

While I’m at it, what I also want for Christmas is to be able to go out to my favorite wildlife refuge and not see plastic trash bobbing along the river, or dead forests crowded with the silver stumps of trees that drowned in the rising tides that are inexorably destroying natural habitat as the planet’s climate continues to warm.  And for those who say, “Look at the ‘bomb cyclone’ it’s not warming, it’s freezing!” I want you to learn a lot more about climate change, the difference between climate and weather, and the causes of extreme weather events as the climate changes.  Let’s have less ignorance and more intelligence when it comes to the stewardship of the only world most of us will ever know.  Getting serious about looming environmental catastrophes is part of the necessary agenda for ensuring long-term global peace and security.

What’s that you say, Santa?  This list is too long, too ambitious, not something the reindeer can carry across the sky?  Well, I’m too old for toys and have enough socks, don’t need more stuff.  But I do believe in the Miracle of Christmas… and that if enough people of goodwill will stand up for what is right, we will, in fact, have the capacity to rekindle hope and begin to restore a lasting peace for this world.

Merry Christmas to all!