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Chatterbox: That time in hope


The end of yet another year is around the bend.
In the next five days we celebrate Thanksgiving and begin Hanukkah. Then, Christmas is four-and-a-half weeks away. A week past that, another calendar year will be gone.
We humans are a funny breed and there are numerous tales about how these celebrations evolved. Nonetheless, here we are, staring down a new trip around the sun. Those of us who are here to do it this year are more grateful than usual. Any year in review has its potholes, but these past 18 months take the cake. The whole world is dealing with COVID, but America, finding a way to make even a deadly plague political, has that as an extra hardship.
We do ourselves a huge disservice in protesting for protesting’s sake. Anyone who has ever seen “pumpkin chucking” knows what happens when a body in motion meets an implacable object. Much of recent life resembles that now, particularly in the past several years. We’ve seen lots of smashing going on among our people in anything even slightly political. It’s nothing peaceful and is often contrived. Mostly, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that there are benefits for those who keep the cauldron bubbling. As responsible citizens, that is what we must remain most aware of.
Americans, by and large, are a very incredible brand of people – the ragout of humanity. Yes, there are nations that humble us in discipline and creativity. Sweden was recycling methane gases from garbage heaps for domestic heat when I was still a kid. Democratic socialism has been keeping people in good health, with their own teeth, around the world, for decades. Still, it’s the American people who put the fun in dysfunction. We know a good party when we see one. We bond fast and hard when we need to be singular and strong, but we also leave markers wherever we bury a hatchet. That last one is our misfortune. It’s how we kick ourselves to the back of the line, repeatedly. We break to remake, instead of blending to work.
Still, thankfully, here we are preparing ourselves for the temporary (wish it wasn’t) spell cast in the wonderment of our most dominant spiritual holidays, during which we celebrate, encourage, and even practice, peace. For a short minute we will feel the power that peace and tolerance, humanity, generosity, acceptance and altruism offer. We’ll glow in what life could be like if we could keep, all year, its wonder, patience, and humanitarianism. These perks lend us permission to be better people and we love it, yet we let it fade. For the most part, people go back to the constraints of objectifying others, minimizing others, promulgating baseless rhetoric, and advocating for themselves and those who are and think like them.
We could accelerate America forward, if we could recognize the necessity and benefits of uniting with all others, treating everyone the way we’d like to be treated, and accepting small compromises. We could actually become the nation we tout ourselves as being. We’d actually be the mirage we peddle. People could work, earn and achieve without encumbrance. There could still be billionaires, but we’d all have enough, and America could prosper from peaceful progress while our balanced and beneficial lifestyle grew.

If that sounds like pie in the sky, well, many other nations must be ducking lots of pie filling, because they’re a lot closer to our image of America than we are … and we thought we invented it.
Every year, at this time, I usually grant myself permission to bury my head in the sand, at least partially, for a few weeks. That’s becoming increasingly difficult – and irresponsible. It’s more American to show gratitude to those who never snuff out the fire in their hearts – the bastions against injustice – by remaining diligent Americans ourselves.
Our progress, even as unnecessarily slow and painful as it is, keeps this nation digging with the forward motion that will, we hope, one day deliver us to true equality, fair politics and a leadership which benefits everyone. It’s this progress we should all be advocating for. We note that advocating for such progress both unites and separates people – around the world and, sometimes, around the dinner table.
As we choose the side of history we want to be factored into, we know that changing laws is one thing and changing the hearts of people is something else, but at this time of year, we’re just more hopeful.