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"The Trouble with Christmas"

     There is trouble with Christmas, some kind of trouble --
otherwise there wouldn't be such a barrage of messages that say
that those of us who don't like it are faulty.  Scrooge and
Grinch are bad and need changing, the messages say, and so do we
less famous nay-sayers.  There are very few of us out in the open
these days -- most often the trouble is internalized as
depression, and the sufferer thinks there's something the matter
with her, or him.
     Several years ago we at Amador Publishers spent a great deal
of effort on this, and came up with a remarkable anthology --
CHRISTMAS BLUES: BEHIND THE HOLIDAY MASK.  Sixty-four authors and three
illustrators bared their souls, some with humor, some with
fury, some with disgust, some with pathos.  The book has not yet
become a best-seller, but many readers report that they have
found help and healing through the candor revealed in the book. 
Also they report that it is comforting to find that they are not
     But "out there" nothing has changed.  There is still
trouble, and not all of it is the internal weakness of individual
sufferers.  There is something the matter with Christmas -- out
there in what could be called "the real world."
     Christmas is called the season of giving.  And Christmas
memorializes the birth of one who is called the Prince of Peace. 
And both of these observations have a loud ring of falsity about
them.  The person who registers this falseness in his psyche does
not have a faulty psyche on that account.
     [1] The "season of giving" is strangely under fire this
year.  Sex is giving, or can be, but it is not so in a strict
patriarchy.  This Christmas the rulers of our country, all of
them, have made very clear that sex is not giving.  Sex is power. 
"The pissing contest in Washington" -- that's what my friend who
lives there is calling it.  Poison has seeped over and into
everything, he tells me.  Hatred, hostility, suspicion -- it's
not about sex in the Oval Office.  It's not about perjury either,
or there would have been more screaming back when "plausible
deniability" ruled the world.  It's about Power.
     Ironies abound.  I recall a time when I suggested that the
President should be impeached about once a month.  Papers should
be drawn up in advance, I declared, and the blanks filled in as
necessity dictated.  But that was when the President was a mass-
murdering crook, not merely a foolish philanderer.
     [2] One of Big Brother's slogans in Orwell's novel, 1984,
was "War is Peace."  But war is not peace.  Satire is satire. 
"Weapons of mass destruction" has become the surreal mantra of
the war-mongers.  It's all about Power -- the power to allow the
unleashing of hundreds of million-dollar missiles from a budget
that can't afford measles vaccine for our own children, let alone
for all the children of the world.  It's about Power -- who has
the power and who has sufficient lack of scruples about dead
bystanders, which are called "collateral damage."
     There is something the matter with Christmas because there
is something the matter with the world.  It needs saving now, to
be sure, more urgently that it did when the Christmas story was
first invented.  Power was fearsome and naked in the first
decades of the evil Roman Empire, but it is more so now, and
there is more hypocrisy mingled with it now than there was then,
which demoralizes sensitive people.
     But perhaps there is a new symbol on the horizon of our
consciousness.  The amphibians all over the world are dying,
deformed and unable to reproduce successfully.  "Dying" is not
quite the right word.  Everything is dying.  The amphibians are
going extinct.  And why are they?
     It is not that Sandinista nurses and literacy experts are
pouring Marxist poison on frogs' eggs.  It is not that Muslims
are teaching the Koran to tadpoles.  The amphibians are our dying
canaries.  [See Charles Hyder's book, HUMAN SURVIVAL ON A
     The amphibians are dying because the next-to-last superpower
doubled the amount of radioactive plutonium, cesium and strontium
loose in the biosphere, through the nuclear power plant explosion
at Chernobyl.  The amphibians have the largest genome size, which
means they offer the largest genetic targets to radioactivity. 
And they are dying because the last remaining superpower insists
on upgrading its nuclear weapons arsenal at great expense, with
no viable solution in sight to the question of what to do with
the waste produced.  It's all about Power.
     "We need a little Christmas," someone announced on the
morning after the vote for impeachment.  But we need more than
whistling in the dark, more than loyalty to exhausted myths, more
than simply more and more hypocrisy piled on top of what we
already have.  We need to change our minds.
     That can be done, at the personal level.  That's what the
Beatles meant thirty years ago, when they said about Viet Nam,
"The war is over, if you want it to be."  You can end it inside
yourself, personally and privately.  That's the most that
Christmas can do -- provide the mood in which individuals can
allow some sort of inner change.
     But the hypocrisy is so rampant, so easy, so entrenched on
the side of Power, that the "public thing" is now in serious
trouble, more trouble than it has been in the lifetimes of any of
us in this country.  Preachers need to be careful before they
invoke "God."  Let me quote a non-famous ex-preacher: "Americans
had better be hoping that there is not a just God."

December 21, 1998
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Copyright © 1998 Harry Willson

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