My Christmas message

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Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

If November 8th demonstrated anything, it’s that we live in a world in which hate is still far too often transcendent. The election of a President marinated in hatred, bigotry, and all manner of exclusionary philosophies demonstrates just how far we have to go and how much work remains to be done. Love wasn’t defeated on Election Day, but neither did it triumph…which means now is no time to give up. Donald Trump may have succeeded by appealing to our darker angels, but hate can’t win if the plurality who didn’t vote for him remember that love rules.

There’s plenty of reason to despair, but giving in and giving up will only allow those willing to exploit tribalism for their own selfish ends to emerge victorious. I still believe the majority of Americans to be good, decent, compassionate folks who believe in tolerance and acceptance. That somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 million Americans voted for hatred, bigotry, homophobia, Islamophobia, religious intolerance, and [insert evident form of exclusionary thinking here] is distressing. For my own peace of mind, I can’t believe they represent what America stands for. On this Christmas Day, I have to believe America in the main stands for peace, love, and understanding (apologies to Elvis Costello). It doesn’t- and hopefully never will- stand for a willingness to impose one’s religious beliefs and moral framework upon those who live, love, think, and/or believe differently. It doesn’t stand for excluding those who worship a different flavor of God and assuming them to be terrorists first and kind, peaceful, compassionate human beings never.

There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.

– George Sand

America isn’t the playground and property of Conservative White Christians. On this Christmas Day, when Christians celebrate the birth of their Lord and Savior, we should be reminded Jesus preached kindness, love, tolerance, and acceptance. Too many seem to have lost sight of that and have succumbed to prejudice, fear, and hatred. They’ve become more Pharisee than Christian, and in so doing have lost their way, taking this country with them.

If the election of Donald Trump demonstrated anything, it’s that there are many in this country who’ve given in to their darker angels. They’ve defined themselves as victims and thus feel justified in casting about for those to blame for their circumstances. That’s unfortunate, if for no other reason than it brings them no closer to improving their lives. It’s easy to blame, because it removes the need to actually take positive action, to DO something that might make their situation better.

Ever since the Crusades, when Christians from western Europe were fighting holy wars against Muslims in the near east, western people have often perceived Islam as a violent and intolerant faith – even though when this prejudice took root Islam had a better record of tolerance than Christianity.

– Karen Armstrong

All of us have things in life we might like to see improved…but most of those things are within our power to change. Realizing that change means endeavoring to make things better. No one is going to do it for you, and blaming others is merely code for taking the easy way out. Determining others to be responsible for your circumstances means you need not take action. This may seem like generalizing- and it is- but roughly 60 million Americans decided to listen to someone willing to manipulate their passions by enabling and ennobling their lazy willingness to blame others.

If you believe “Make America Great Again” to be a legitimate slogan representing an opportunity to rebuild and restore America, I truly feel sorry for you. America has never stopped being great. It remains the world’s leading economic/military power and has never stopped being who the world looks to as a beacon of freedom and opportunity.

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.

– Dalai Lama

“Peace on Earth and Goodwill Towards Men” is something we hear a lot during the holidays. To some it may merely be the chorus of a Christmas carol, to others the hope Mankind will find a way to coexist despite our differences. At the very least, I believe it represents something aspirational- a desire for peaceful coexistence, respect, acceptance, and tolerance. It represents the recognition that despite our differences we’re all human. We may believe, live, and/or love differently, but our hopes and dreams are substantially the same. When you break everything down, humans want to be safe, secure, and free from want.

I think of the people of Aleppo, Syria- one of my favorite places in the world- and my heart breaks. Yet even as the world around them has been reduced to rubble, countless acts of kindness and selflessness have been recorded and relayed to the outside world. It leaves me in awe of the astonishing capacity for human kindness. If the people of Aleppo can practice kindness in a time defined by terror, death, and deprivation, why can’t we do the same here in America? Why can’t we default to kindness and tolerance?

Goodness is about character – integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.

– Dennis Prager

My Christmas wish for those of you reading these words is that your world will be defined by love, warmth, and kindness. May you be free from want and surrounded by those who add joy to your existence. I hope that 2017 will be kind to you and that you and yours will enjoy the warm embrace of human kindness.

We live in a time in which it seems all too easy to assume the worst of others. My challenge to myself is to find ways to rise above that and to default to kindness whenever possible. As the Dalai Lama once said, it’s always possible to be kind.

May you and yours enjoy a safe, happy, and joyous holiday- however you choose to celebrate it. May the coming year see you free of want and despair…and may you live your days in a way which models love, tolerance, and acceptance of others.

I will try to be kind whenever possible…if for no other reason than it’s always possible to be kind and I need to do everything in my power to be and to become a better, kinder, and more compassionate person.

Merry Christmas from me and mine to you and yours.

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