Thursday, December 25, 2003


Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:14

How many Americans will actually be thinking about this verse today? I don't mean simply hearing it or mouthing it for the millionth time: rather, I mean who in America will be truly meditating on peace and goodwill? I, for one, will no doubt be too damned busy to think about anything but dealing with what has become, for me, more of a series of tasks and obligations to be performed before I can go home and relax. Talking about peace, really talking about peace, would probably ruin everybody's festivities, anyway. I used to love Christmas; now it's just a big hassle.

I get together with my family, then later with my wife's family, and all day long I have to watch my mouth, avoid controversy, pretend to be cheerful while I wait to see if the gifts I give are pleasing to their recipients. I don't even really care about the gifts I get, anymore. Okay, I do like the food and music. And football, can't forget that. And I do like seeing loved ones I haven't seen in a while. I'm not a total Grinch. Yet.

It's just that Christmas has been so tense for me these last few years. I don't really feel like I'm truly a part of my family anymore: it's probably just me, but sometimes I feel like I've moved so far away from them ideologically that I might as well be hanging out with strangers. Their religious fundamentalism, their political conservatism, their maddening support of our evil president and his murderous wars...being reunited with my family, on Christmas of all days, makes me feel like I'm visiting some alternate reality.

Here's an example from last Thanksgiving. Some years ago, my older brother instituted a new family tradition: after we eat, while we are still seated at the dining table, each of us proclaims something for which we are thankful--even though my brother is a conservative, it was a great idea; this is a good tradition. This time around, when it was my turn, I said something to the effect that I was thankful that I had a roof over my head, clothing, and some money to spend, that I wasn't out on the street. Everyone laughed their heads off. I told them that I was serious, but no one seemed to get it. This actually took me by surprise; aren't food, clothing, and shelter the most basic of things for which we should be thankful? Aren't we, as Americans, extraordinarily lucky to be so wealthy? Their reaction still perplexes me, but it does illustrate just how far away I am from my family's conventional wisdom: in my reality, the harshness of neo-liberal economic philosophy means that I (or just about anybody for that matter) could be out on the street at any moment, fending for myself; in their reality, this could never happen--America, to them, is the land of opportunity.

Same planet, different universe.

So in a few hours I will go hang out with my family, and then later with my in-laws (not quite as conservative, but still pretty mainstream and white), on a day that is supposedly about peace on Earth and goodwill, and I won't be able to say what's on my mind without being annoying or inadvertantly amusing.

And don't get me started on my family's own unique manifestation of Christmas consumerism and materialism...or how American materialism ultimately drives America's war lust. SHOP FOR VICTORY! VICTORY FOR SHOPPING! HELLO, MR. MUSLIM, MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS!

I think I finally understand Charlie Brown's Christmas angst. What I need this year is a little piece-of-crap tree that justs needs some love, or its emotional and psychic equivalent. Crank up the Vince Guaraldi; it's time for the Festivus feats of strength.

Oh yeah, here are a few fun links:

A reading of Luke, Chapter Two.

BK Christmas (courtesy of my buddy, Chris).

Holiday Snowglobe (with Esquivel music) (courtesy of my younger brother, Steve).

Snowman dance.

Snowball game.

Hockey Santas turn bad (courtesy of Eschaton).