The world’s cruel realities are raining on Christmas parades | Opinion | Salt Lake City Weekly

The world’s cruel realities are raining on Christmas parades 

Taking a Gander

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I am an eternal optimist. Some people have even accused me of being infected with the “and-they-lived-happily-ever-after syndrome”—a sometimes fatal malady caused by unvaccinated kids reading too many fairy tales during their childhoods.

The truth is, I really am loath to imagine anything but a happy ending. But I also have just a hint of adult reality in me, and there are certainly times when the gravity of a situation overwhelms my inclination to expect the best—times when some abracadabra and a magic wand would come in mighty handy.

That said, I’m not very good at pulling rabbits out of hats, and Christmas isn’t starting out the way it should. Our neighbors set up an air-filled Santa—12 feet tall and proud as he could be—but he fell over, dead as a doornail, after a pulmonary embolism stopped his blower.

The Joneses, three houses down from ours, illuminated their house and yard with thousands of the latest-style, multi-colored lights. Melvin, their cat, chewed through the wires, turning himself into a crispy-critter—complete with a fireworks display—and melted every last bulb into a molten blob.

That’s life. We must always expect a few glitches during holiday preparations and, at least, those are some we can just laugh off as a bit of bad luck. But it gets worse, and this is the real kicker: I can’t turn on the TV or surf the net without facing the ghastly realities of this Christmas season.

It should be focused on love and peace, happiness and abundance. Instead, I see vast wastelands of destruction, shivering children crying in hunger, capsized rubber boats and bobbing bodies, bombs raining from the sky and the irrepressible mournful wailing of widows and orphans. I wonder how such a nasty Grinch could have stolen our Christmas season.

Of course, the Macy’s holiday parade was still there, as usual. The air around us is saturated with the strains of Bing Crosby’s festive renditions of Rudolph. Hordes of shoppers squeeze their way through overloaded intersections, headed for the mall, thinking of the smiles that will light the room when the presents are unwrapped.

But there’s also the endless din of the Salvation Army’s bell-ringers, standing in the cold with their dogged devotion, attempting to do their part in easing the suffering of the forgotten; doctors stand outside the skeletal remains of hospitals, pleading for a place to attempt saving the dying; churches are overflowing with sermons about the true meaning of Christmas—delivered by people who know little about the suffering in our world.

Just like every other Christmastime before, there’s plenty of talk about love, harmony and world peace. But I’m afraid that’s all it is—talk.

As Americans, we’re so well insulated from the tragedies of our world—by the vast expanses of ocean and the daunting divisions created by caste, color and birthright—that we simply cannot appreciate the unfathomable suffering that plagues the planet. Lost in the razzle-dazzle of our Christmas traditions, it’s easy to forget—or ignore—the plight of others. It’s also so much more comfortable to focus on the shallow revelry that dominates the holiday season.

And there’s no excuse for Americans to be ignorant. Where information travels at the speed of light and knowledge is always at our fingertips, the reality is that each one of us is as exposed as we choose to be. We don’t have to look very far to see past the illusion of an all-is-well world. There’s a cloud of hopelessness hanging over millions upon millions of our fellow men, and we must ask what we can do to help. That may mean skipping some of the presents and spending the savings on the charities that are trying so hard to help.

Believe me, one less toy won’t ruin Junior’s Christmas. But a donation to UNICEF, Doctors without Borders or the Red Cross may make a difference to someone desperately clinging to the gifts of life. There are many fine charities, but the important thing is to give generously to those who are trying so hard to stem the tide in multiple world humanitarian crises.

Take a moment, look at this world: Instead of peace and love, it’s full of people fleeing their homes in search of safety. Deprived of their safe sanctuaries and loved ones, subjected to the ravages of hunger and disease. Abandoned by those who could help, they have no choice but to face the bullets, bombs and shelling.

Ukraine and the slaughter of Palestinians keep me from sleeping at night. People are being murdered, like fish in a barrel, schooling back and forth to the boundaries of their homeland, with no help in sight. They can’t be free; they can’t escape; they can’t dream of a kinder world.

For those who are wanting to believe that there is still something called “hope,” the realities are demoralizing. While the richest of nations are planning their next financial coups and greedy industrialists are raking in the profits of record arms sales, much of the world is both hungry and without safe refuge—forced to the uncomfortable understanding that there may be little chance for survival in this dog-eat-dog world.

And talking about dogs, it seems that we’re all a little bit like Pavlov’s Puppies—salivating at the ringing of the Christmas bells, believing that a feast of love and caring will surely follow—but finding, instead, that the sound of the bell was simply more of the meaningless Christmas twaddle or, even worse, a tolling of tragedy and loss.

And though Christmas is not Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu, virtually all religions consider love, goodness and peace to be the essence of their faith. Sadly, this isn’t the first Christmas to be marred by the absence of the most essential ingredient.

While the world’s comfortable are absorbed in the rush to choose, wrap, and buy presents for their loved ones, where the hell is the Peace on earth and goodwill to men?

Let’s all strive to find it in 2024.

The author is a retired businessman, novelist, columnist and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and their adorable and ferocious “Poppy.”

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