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Celebrating The Holidays During America's Dark Age
Published on Sunday, December 19, 2004 by

Celebrating The Holidays During America's Dark Age

by Shepherd Bliss

I've been looking forward to holiday fun, festivities, and relaxation. But wait.

I cannot get certain images out of my mind. I see the documented 100,000 Iraqi civilians-mainly women and children-that America has recently killed. I see some of our soldiers torturing and killing wounded people. We destroyed whole towns, like Falluja, allegedly to save them.

Then I remember the Nov. 2 elections and many fearful Americans supporting the leaders of such devastation. What to do? How to celebrate the birthday of the baby Jesus-the "Prince of Peace"-in such a dark time?

Americans who love our country and its basic values of freedom, democracy, liberty and justice for all do have things to be proud of during this Dark Age. Some are sending "I'm sorry" letters to people around the world and setting up websites to apologize for our actions on Nov. 2 and in Iraq.

A long-term perspective can help us endure the current darkness. Such a perspective enables us to own and express various feelings about the state of our beloved country and the world.

We can enjoy our families and friends during this season. Good music, food, poetry, sex, hiking, and dancing can also nourish us. Gardening, playing with children, and going to the beach can be fun. But let's not lose sight of the larger, evolving picture.

"We must be hospice workers for the old story of domination," Sebastopol's Mayor Larry Robinson suggests. We must help that story die. It may already be having death spasms.

"We must be midwives to help birth a new story - one of partnership with each other, with other nations and cultures and with nature itself," Mayor Robinson continues.

Something is dying. Something else is struggling to be born. Birth is usually bloody. Something gets torn. The transition from the 20th into the 21st century will not be easy.

We need something beyond political action. Brazilian educator Paulo Freire describes this as "cultural action," which is based on deep reflection and can stimulate profound transformations. More than merely political, the American crisis is cultural and spiritual.

Many of us feel defeated. Defeat can be a great teacher. Defeat can induce humility and growth to make it out of the darkness. Every no is a yes. Failure can be more instructive than success. Victory can be more problematic than loss. The victorious often get inflated. "Pride goeth before a fall," the Bible notes.

"In a Dark Time" by the late American poet Theodore Roethke starts as follows: "In a dark time, the eye begins to see,/ I meet my shadow in the deepening shade." Many of us have denied things about America for too long, stuffing them into a "shadow." Now they are catching up with us.

We are entering a time of endarkenment, which may eventually evolve into enlightenment. Much can be revealed to us in the darkness about reality and our real selves that can guide us into a better future.

We can look realistically at darkness, cope with it and continue to live joyously and express gratitude for the many gifts that remain during these holidays. We also have hard work ahead of us, which some resting during this season can help prepare us to do.

During our celebrations may we also ask the world's forgiveness for what is being done in our nation's name at a time when we should be welcoming the arrival of the Prince of Peace.

Dr. Shepherd Bliss,, a former Methodist minister, teaches at the University of Hawai'i in Hilo.


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