Leader Blues

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

EDITORIAL >>All people can celebrate

Christmas is a religious holiday, celebrated in that way only by Christians, who memorialize the birth of the Savior not merely on a day but a whole festival season, which seems to grow longer by the passing years. But Christmas long ago ceased to be only a day or a season for Christian piety, but rather a celebration for people of many faiths or no religious faith at all in western nations and in even what we presumptively call pagan lands.

That is because Christmas came to represent not merely the birthday of the Prince of Peace but a time and a need to renew the values that the birth extended to everyone. You do not have to believe in the sacred birth or its promise of redemption to appreciate those values and to yearn for their fulfillment.

And what are those values? First, that there is redemption for everyone and every failing, and it must be found if not in the protestation of religious faith then in the private conscience. Forgiveness, which we are each bound to offer just as we accept redemption. Finally, peace and understanding, those words and ideas so commonly linked to Jesus from the prophecies of Isaiah through the gospels.

So we like to think that in this season again everyone takes new inspiration from those ideas and reflects a little upon how much we have embraced them in our private lives and in our common purpose as a nation and a humanity.

Not so much, we imagine that most people are concluding. War, irrational hatred, reaction and unnatural greed have brought the nation and indeed the whole world to a low estate this Christmas. We have much to regret and much to forgive. We may be fortunate in these prosperous enclaves to avert the hardship and suffering that beset the country seventy years ago and the calamities that constantly befall poorer lands.

But canít we see redemption already at hand? We are inveterate Pollyannas here, we know, but the national catharsis that we call an election seems to have carried the seeds of renewal. People voted in huge numbers, though not so much in these parts, and for whichever party and candidate they voted there was evidence that they put aside old animosities and prejudices. The country elected not the selfless patriot and hero of an old war but the first African-American president, a man with a strange and even inflammatory name, because they thought he was intelligent, possessed a good vision and might put the country on a better course.

Disillusionment may be at hand, but at Christmas-time his vision of peace, healing and inclusion infects us with the very hope that he invoked so eloquently in a long and otherwise ugly campaign. We have no trouble urging all, including our cherished readers, to be of good cheer for there is reason. Dispatch the gloom and have a merry Christmas. ó Ernie Dumas