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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas is Missing This Year

It's two days before Christmas 2012, and rather than feeling excited and joyful, my heart is sad.

Despite the relentless commercials touting 'the perfect gift' and the daily newspaper stuffed with last-minute ads, the holiday spirit is burning rather dimly this year. There are several reasons for this.

My father died in April, and although I didn't live near him, I find myself frequently missing him. His death means that my siblings and I now have no parents, as my mother died in 2006. That we have no more parents or grandparents is a hard fact to accept.

My daughter is pregnant with a baby girl, due to be born in early February. She has decided to place the baby for adoption with a wonderful couple, who can give this new life all the things my daughter cannot due to her age and circumstances. Anticipation of the heartache to come for my daughter worries me greatly.

The U.S. economic problems continue to rush the country toward the so-called fiscal cliff, while members of Congress and the president have headed to their respective homes for the holidays, leaving the nation's problems unresolved. Apparently going on vacation is more important to our elected 'leaders' than doing the critical work they are paid to do. Why do they care if Social Security or pension checks are late? Middle- and lower-income people obviously don't matter to them. Only the multi-millionaire leaders of industry are important.

The nation remains under a deep pall resulting from the murder of 20 first-grade students and six teachers at a school in Newtown, CT. The last funeral for the tiny victims was held yesterday, so this is hardly a time for joy and good cheer. And rather than addressing the critical need to prevent future tragedies such as the one in Newtown, politicians point fingers and wring their hands, while the National Rifle Association's solution is to put armed guards in each of the nearly 100,000 public schools in the United States. School districts that don't have money to hire more teachers or provide school supplies are now supposed to fund armed guards in every school?

More people are seeking assistance to feed themselves and their families, while the prospect of $7/gallon milk looms ever closer due to the failure of the inept Congress to act on an agriculture subsidy bill. The small food pantry where I volunteer served 960 meals this Thanksgiving, compared with 520 meals just a year ago.

Our people are hurting. They are hungry, they are unemployed or underemployed, they are frustrated. We are facing big tax increases in 2013, while our Congress goes on vacation and while our country continues to give billions of dollars to foreign countries whose people hate us for being Americans. And why in the world is the U.S. buying bullets and weapons for Israel to replace those used to kill Palestinians? Let the Israelis buy their own weapons! Rather than spending billions of dollars to set up a postal service in Iraq, why not use some of that money to shore up our own, struggling postal service?

We need to start taking care of our own people. Make sure that Americans have food, shelter and medical care. Non-profit organizations and individuals cannot solve the problems of homelessness and hunger. We cannot provide the mental health care needed by many people, nor can we as individuals and non-profits provide the range of health care needed by the uninsured.

The world economy is on the verge of collapse. The war on wolves is growing, with more states allowing hunting and trapping of wolves this year, and others rushing to join the slaughter. Animal abuse is rampant, and often, unpunished. The world seems overtaken by greed, selfishness and evil.

So no, there is little Christmas spirit in my heart and home this year. I put up the tree and decorated it. I have made fudge and baked dozens of cookies, and I have listened to all of my Christmas music CDs (probably close to 50 of them). The Christmas cards have been mailed. But the holiday spirit remains elusive. I pray that 2013 will bring a new spirit of love, compassion and sharing to our once-great nation and its citizens.