A Very Blighter Winter's Solstice
In what one can only hope is a sign of the weakening of her dogmatically ideological, probably plutocratically financed opposition to the sensible, sane progressive policies for which the vast majority of Americans continue to clamor, Megan has graciously offered me the opportunity to compose a brief holiday missive to serve as a sort of virtual space in which we can gather to extend to one another the sort of greetings appropriate to the season.
This is the time of year when adherents of all our major extant religions - from Wicca to Scientology, from Zoroastrianism to the worshipers of the Outer God Cthulhu - get swept up in their respective holiday festivities. Each of our many diverse traditions -- whether militant atheists bravely carrying the banner of reason or the small, stubborn majority still clinging to the arcane rituals surrounding the birth of Jesus -- represents a special & valued contribution to our nation. I thought I might share just a couple of notes from my own cultural experience, in hopes that you might find some value to add to your own.
My traditions are probably not too dissimilar from yours: in a few short days I will gather with those who, by dint of various relationships - some having overcome bigotry to enjoy cultural & legal sanction, some, regrettably, not - comprise my 'family' around our environmentally sustainable, renewable bamboo table to savor the bittersweet scent of the vegan nut-log fresh from the oven while we enjoy our mugs of all-natural, fair trade eggnog. After we've each enjoyed a nutritionally-balanced, ecologically-sound portion of the locally-sourced, responsibly-farmed victuals, we'll proceed on to the traditional gift giving, carried out, of course, in accordance with the commonly accepted precepts of ethical consumerism.
In all the fun, though, sometimes it's only too easy to lose sight of the season's fundamentals: the spirit of peace, comity & goodwill among all humanity. For this brief stretch of time, all of us - from the most compassionate liberal committed to improving the world for everyone to the most heartless conservative feverishly working to disenfranchise the poor & traditionally marginalized members of society - can put aside our day-to-day pedestrian concerns and focus on the basic tenets that all of us cherish.
Faith & worship, of various flavors, lie at the heart of many American traditions. At the close of our festive dinner, for example, we take a moment to join hands and give thanks to Obama for bringing us another wonderful year - a year in the new era of providing care for the sick & good jobs for the jobless; a year in which the oceans noticeably began to recede & the planet showed distinct signs of healing. We join our voices together in praising the dawn of the progressive age in which all Americans, but particularly those who have long suffered under our oppressive system, are finally able to realize their true potential as fully self-actualized, semi-autonomous members of our national & global communities.
We also venerate many holiday traditions from years past. It's natural to assume, in our progressive society, that these relics of our benighted history have nothing to offer but that is wrong. With a modicum of adjustment & the right attitude, many of the old, if you'll pardon the expression, 'Christmas' traditions offer valuable lessons for the new age.
Take, for example, the legend of 'Santa Claus'. His colorfully diverse, vaguely-Hispanic name notwithstanding, he seems the quintessence of the vileness at the heart of Western Civilization: he's fat, he smokes, he enslaves animals & runs a sweatshop of little people to whom he callously applies the epithet 'elves'. And, worst of all, he explicitly exists solely to cater to the most abominable consumerist excesses of the greedy, child-like masses. In just about every way, he couldn't be more of a scourge of the progressive age.
But with a slight makeover, he can embody many of the hallmarks of the bold progressive. Sure, we need to clean up his diet, get him some exercise & give him a nicotine patch. Yes, we'll have to ensure the reindeer go free-range & his stature-challenged work-staff gain fair representation by a powerful union. At base, though, Santa is the very epitome of the bold progressive. Think about it.
Like a compassionate bureaucrat lovingly tracking his wards, Santa keeps close watch over all of the children of the world. He carefully records whether they have met his vaguely disclosed standards of 'naughty' or 'nice'. Then he showers munificent largess upon them, in theory distinguishing between those who deserve their spoils or not but in practice giving freely to all irrespective of merit.
True, the gifts he currently gives are too often the worst sort of corporate produced, mass-marketed junk, but they could just as easily be cherished progressive items: sustainable produce, re-purposed cast offs & the like. This improved Santa who brings ecologically-responsible, gender-neutral presents to the young & old alike serves as an example to us all of the importance of fully & faithfully embracing the progressive project.
Now, as I said above, this is a big, diverse country with lots of different equally valid & acceptable traditions to enjoy. Regardless of whether these few I've shared strike you as compatible with your own constructed belief system & support networks, the important thing to remember is that we're all just people doing the best we can. A little understanding can go a long way.
So, to all of you, from the most earnest progressive to the most retrograde reactionary, I wish a very happy & festive celebration of whatever faith or lack of faith you & yours practice or refuse to engage in, as the case may be. And may you also enjoy a prosperous & safe New Year, regardless of whether or not you follow the arbitrary, culturally imperialist Judeo-Christian pegging of its start to January first.
Or, in other words, Happy Holidays, Season's Greetings, Happy Chanukah/Kwanzaa/Festivus or, ah, what the heck, even Merry Christmas & a very Happy New Year to all!