Saturday, November 26, 2011

Civility at Christmas?

Good tidings! Blessed peace and all those good things. This is the time of year for us to turn to the better 'Angels' of our nature. To believe in the triumph of Good over Evil. To aspire to live lives of gratitude.  There is a sense that we are looking for something better than the mundane and ordinary, and believing in something bigger than ourselves. We celebrate the concept of giving and sharing. And, of course, there's the story of the ultimate gift to humanity.
Today, as I was walking near the entrance of one of our "mega-stores," a car drove slowly past with a young man yelling out of the vehicle's window. His comments were directed to a bell-ringer and another middle-aged man standing next to him. His less than eloquent parlance consisted of a particular two-word vulgarity that should never be used (especially in polite company, although I know it is spoken often in certain places). A couple of older ladies were walking out of the store at the time, and three or so senior citizens happened to be waiting nearby for the city bus. I was momentarily stunned, and I briefly looked at the man in the car as they drove on, shaking my head at the crude, callous and obnoxious behavior.
As I proceeded to make my way into the store, I thought about recent news stories involving trampled customers on "Black Friday" by inpatient shoppers racing to be the first to get the various "incredible sales." Nothing like literally running over granny and stepping on someone's neck just to get a Blue-Ray for $50.
And then I think about recent headlines in my local newspaper about a mother & father arrested for the 'alleged' neglect and abuse of their 9 month old baby. The child is still hospitalized from the multiple skull fractures sustained from blunt force trauma. It's reported that the child's road to recovery will be long & difficult.
I want to believe these things are not typical but isolated examples of the fringes of our culture. But I am persuaded to believe that sickening behavior is more commonplace than ever.
Christmas-time has a certain magical quality that suggests, at least for a brief, fleeting season, we can be better. We should think and act on the needs of others. We should try to put others first. As well, can't we just try to be civil to each other, for at least this one time of year? Perhaps underlying this incredible naiveté on my part points to a more simple and innocent age known as childhood, and all of the altruistic charm it once held.
As I am tempted to believe in the "Spirit of the Season," the over-commercialization of Christmas quickly pulls me back to reality. It's more about Madison Avenue slickness appealing to our greedy, materialistic, and self-indulgent lifestyles. It's not about "giving" but "getting." We've become a culture that worships at the alter of materialism. Priorities are misplaced, and life is cheapened.
Is it really no wonder that we have a generation that lacks an appreciation of a day's honest work,  the value of a dollar, or basic respect for others? Billions are spent on bank bailouts, wars ($2 billion a week in Afghanistan alone), earmarks for pet pork projects, and foreign aid for countries who may be more foe than friend. Meanwhile, our most vulnerable citizen's basic needs can't be met. Taxpayers are told it's their "patriotic duty" to blindly acquiesce to such waste, and overlook the "least of these" in the name of scarcity of resources. Hmm....come again?
Civility at Christmas? Maybe in a long by-gone era. Meanwhile, grab all that you can at the local mega-mart, for tomorrow the credit lenders may need another bail-out. And anyhow, the young man yelling out of his car window needs a new set of bass speakers to drown out his voice.
Note: This blog post was originally written last year (Dec. 4th, 2010) on my Wordpress blog. Thought it deserved re-posting. 


  1. You make some good points.
    i've found that civility, even from someone you know dislikes you, is preferable to open hostility.
    And, i promise not to be someone who always comments on spelling & grammar, but there's something especially ironic about the misspelling of "alter" for "altar." Sorry to let the geek out!

  2. That is ironic, and funny...I do know the difference, and didn't catch it.


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I work for a Community-Based, Not-for-Profit agency. I have worked in the disability field for over twenty-five years. I am the father of two boys, and have been married to my teenage sweet-heart for 23 years. I live and work in the same town where I was born & raised.
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