Full disclosure right out of the box here I have never played Santa Claus. I did get to read the “Jesus lines’ in a Catholic grade school play around Easter time my 8th grade year. We were “performing” part of one of the New Testament gospels right up to the crucifixion, which was allowed to happen only off stage in people’s imaginations. I imagine there was a sibling or cousin or classmate or two who would have liked to see me actually get nailed to a cross.
Certainly for anyone who has known me over the past 50 plus years my being selected to read the Jesus lines was irony at it’s finest. As mentioned above it was an 8th grade play and that would have made me 13 or 14 and in the throws of my budding and extremely confused feelings of being somehow profoundly different from most around me.
It seems right for a Grateful Dead reference here especially since it’s been at least a few weeks since I have included one in my writing. These are a couple of short verses from a 1972 song written by Robert Hunter and several members of the band titled Playin’ in the Band”:
Some folks look for answers
Others look for fights
Some folks up in treetops
Just look to see the sights
But I can tell your future
Well, just look what’s in your hand
But I can’t stop for nothing
I’m just playing in the band
Believe me when I tell you what was in my hand a disturbing amount of the time at age 14 was not the New Testament, but rather a bodily appendage that rhymes with sock.
Christmas with my family when growing up was really a pretty big deal. There was at least tons of excitement if not always a lot of money to shovel Santa’s way for presents. Being the oldest child, not just in my immediate family but also among the many cousins living within close proximity, I was the first I think to get the news that this was all a ruse and that Santa did not exist. He bit the dust along with the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny. It was a series of crushing childhood blows but amazingly I did survive even after indulging for a few years in that sort of magical thinking which certainly was soothing.
In hindsight I wish the myth debunking had extended to most of the religious indoctrination I had received in my first 14 years. Unfortunately it did not and it would take another decade to get that monkey off my back.
The harsh reality that Santa and a whole host of other magical figures and beliefs do not exist does make me long at times for a safer and sweeter time that existed for me before age 6. Though Santa Claus is certainly a specific culturally bound source of joy and solace, and according to Megyn Kelly he is white, I would hope there are similar myths for kids of other cultures, ah the innocence and bliss of early childhood. It does make me very sad though to think how we (and by that I mean the imperialist, military dominated U.S. of A) are destroying the wonderful early years of myth for so many in the world today.
It is, I imagine, hard to have wonderful fanciful thoughts when you are dying of cholera in Yemen or shaking in abject terror when U.S. made barrel bombs are landing in Syrian cities destroying any semblance of safety and security to say nothing of your life many times. A bit of understanding as to why we as a country participate in such atrocities in the world at large may be provided in how willingly we all to often treat one another here at home.
The examples are legion of course but a recent one came to my attention the other day in a piece in the Huffington Post. It was the story of a 93-year-old woman in Orlando Florida who was forcibly removed from her senior housing apartment and arrested for not paying rent. Partial rent payments had been made but apparently scrooge didn’t feel that was adequate for an old woman undoubtedly on a very fixed income. Perhaps Senator Grassley is right and she was frittering away her income on male escorts, booze and movies. After two days in jail and turning 94 she was released to a motel and a local homeless coalition is helping her find housing.
Of course there are also legions of Americans doing right by one another every day in many ways. I can’t help but think though that Santa would say it is not enough.
In an attempt at least to be a bit upbeat at this time of the returning sun we could all engage for a day or two in the old Thick Nhat Hahn meditation. That would involve noting or keeping track of all the small human courtesies one encounters in going about our daily lives. The smiles, nodding acknowledgements, doors held open, the verbalized ‘excuse me’ and of course the hugs and kisses that come our way. These often inadvertent and spontaneous loving gestures of humanity almost always far outnumber the nasty ones. So there is hope and maybe we can make Santa proud.