What does Santa give Osama?
Like every human conflict in recorded history, the war in Iraq is a mess, but it is an unfortunate fact of life for awhile. As I write, a few other species-specific conflicts are taking place here and there, and not anything you or I say or do will make any direct difference. For perspective’s sake, across the globe children comprise nearly half of the estimated 3.6 million dead in wars since 1990, while in Florida we have parents “on strike” because their kids refuse to help with the dishes. The national economy is booming one day, while precariously balanced on the razor’s edge of disaster the next. Rock guitar gods are slaughtered live on stage, while innocent children are murdered in their bed by a mom who claims Jesus told her to do so. Red states claim self-righteous superiority, while blue states claim the intellectual advantage. President Reagan, Pat Tillman and Captain Kangaroo die, while Scott Peterson lives. MLB players are more juiced than Minute Maid, NBA players more aggressive than Mike Tyson, and Kobe is still a free man.On the local front, we have maniacal fruitcakes whining about the aesthetics of affordable housing who obviously never heard of attending planning and zoning sessions; teachers going ballistic over accountability issues; parents going ballistic over their little angel being referred to as “average”; complaints about bike paths being covered in snow in the middle of winter; and doomsday scenarios concerning flu bugs.But if we hold our heads deep enough under the recent fallen snow, it will all just be a fuzzy blip on the radar screen for these next few weeks, as the holiday season is here!And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what Christmastime means to me – the complete cessation of reality that causes most everyone to smile even at strangers, tips to be larger, food to taste better, hugs to last longer, snow to be deeper, and making most of us more excited than Kaye Ferry at a Town Council meeting about giving gifts rather than receiving them.And no one can prove this better than a child.My 5-year-old’s kindergarten class goes skiing every Friday, and he let me know last week, in a matter-of-fact fashion, “Santa knows when every little boy and girl has been bad and when they’ve been good.””How do you think he knows that?” I asked.”I don’t know,” he replied with a quick shoulder shrug, while pointing his ever-decreasing wedge downhill, “He just does.”I sighed in pleasant reminiscence at my own childhood, while following him to the crest of the next slope.”What does Santa give to the bad boys and girls?”I told him I did not know.”Well, he should at least give them something,” he said. “Everybody needs to get something at Christmas.” And he was off again, seemingly (no, make that definitely) without a care in the world.Proving that reality has no right to exist at this time of year, children show us the true meaning of Christmas by their mere existence. While a world gone crazy grows at a progressively hectic pace, this is the only time of year when the planet seems to slow its tempo, gradually decelerating to the sounds of Nat King Cole and his roasting chestnuts.Many still cling to the whole Jesus’ birthday bit as the sole reason for celebrating, but the truth is no one really has a clue as to when the birth occurred. In fact, Jan. 6 was the celebrated day for the first 1,400 years or so, when it took a switch to the Gregorian calendar in 1743 and a pope wanting to ride on the coattails of the pagan Saturnalia festival to make Dec. 25 the magic day.It wasn’t until 1870 that the Americans declared Christmas a national holiday, and we alone built the tradition of decorating trees, sending cards, presenting gifts and getting hammered at the office Christmas party. In other words, we pretty much created the whole family holiday tradition ourselves not too long ago.The Jews have Hanukkah, Christians have Christmas, Muslims have Ramadan, African-Americans have Kwanzaa, Scientologists have the Hubbard Overlord Day (or some nonsense like that), blue states have secret prayer sessions and red states have secret AA meetings – each attempting to celebrate the existence of one deity or another, yet all showing the goodness that mankind truly has to offer itself.Whatever the reasons for celebrating in your own heart, it doesn’t matter to me as long as you can lower your cynical defenses for a few weeks and pretend to like people perhaps more than you really do. It provides us all a chance to breathe, an opportunity to prove to ourselves and each other that the world in general is not really as bad as the headlines might seem to dictate.So no matter what you wish to call it or what it means to you as an individual, the big picture known as the holiday season comes into focus with a single statement to all of us as the planet’s only inhabitants capable of plotting their own extinction: Listen to a child, for at times their innocence is our only goodness remaining.Enjoy the perspective while it’s available.Richard Carnes of Edwards writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgVail, Colorado