It’s not easy to explain why I feel most disconnected from society during this time of year, but I’m going to try.
There’s a scene in Woody Allen’s movie, Annie Hall, where he’s shown as a child telling his mother there’s no point to doing homework because “the universe is expanding.” Later on in the movie, as an adult, his response to why he seems mostly unhappy is that as long as someone is starving somewhere in the world, “it puts a crimp in [his] evening.” These lines have always stayed with me and feel most meaningful during each holiday season.
The older I get the more I dislike the custom of buying things to recognize and supposedly celebrate the birth of Jesus. Each year stores put out more holiday-related crap earlier and earlier, and try to outdo each other with ideas like “Black Friday.” This year, there were tons of commercials and radio ads telling consumers to “get a jump on black Friday” and shop Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, as one holiday now overlaps into the next; while we should be celebrating Thanksgiving we are urged to go out shopping for Christmas.
It’s become sickening. How can we ignore the horrible tension in New York between the police, mayor and anyone choosing to speak out for or against police policies? Two innocent officers were killed sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn last Saturday, a totally unprovoked and unjust, cold-blooded act. Protesting and disagreements on both sides are growing more passionate, even violent. There are criminals and bad people, I’m sure, on both sides of the argument. There seems no happy medium between expressing your right to freedom of speech and being seen as an upstart, potential rioter, and the Police have resorted to a more military-style response to defend themselves.
There was a time when any threat to our ideals of equality, freedom and the right to seek happiness came from other countries. But no matter whom we disagree with, war has always seemed a very crude and primitive way to resolve differences between cultures of the world who struggle to share the planet. America in many ways has always been a beacon of hope and opportunity in which most anyone could make a life for themselves in as free a way as anywhere in the world. With all the fighting within our own borders America seems to be far less stable
The victims of recent struggles with police may or may not have died for the wrong reasons. These cases are complex and leave us all still wondering: who’s wrong, who’s right. Police are there to serve and protect us and themselves and keep the peace for us all. They have to be able to do their job without the threat of being killed over political, social or any other difference of opinion. But America is still a democracy, and we should be able to speak for or against issues without appearing to cross a line of criminal behavior. Police are in an extremely tough spot, their lives on the line daily while dealing with dangerous criminals. Having to decide when to one-up a killer or be killed has to be a horribly challenging job to do. But we have to continue to believe that most police aren’t going to resort to excessive force and handle each crime and threat accordingly.
Do protests have to become violent to voice a difference of opinion? Are we beyond working out our differences civilly and on the brink of a new revolution where all rules are thrown out and its necessary to kill or be killed in order to survive? Progress and continuing to further technology and improve our way of life is part of living in a free society. But once guns and other deadly weapons entered the culture it became possible for anyone to get killed: either innocent civilians or the police themselves who work to protect them and the way of life we all share.
It’s a sad world when adults continue to act out the behavior of children in a schoolyard: “good” kids behaving quietly in one corner, loud, passionate, possibly eccentric-types causing an innocent ruckus in another. Then there are those who seem to have some innate desire to do others harm. We all face this “survival of the fittest” scenario as kids ourselves and worry later in life how our children will handle the same burden.
It must be human nature to disagree; that’s what makes us individuals and future citizens who will contribute to society in our own unique ways. In the schoolyard, if two kids have a disagreement and one pulls a knife: is it wrong or smart for the other to choose a gun? If they both have guns: who then pulls the trigger first, and once someone is dead: who is at fault? This is the reality of living in a world with deadly weapons, and police have to constantly make such choices in order to protect us and themselves.
With so much uncertainty in our great city alone, it’s so hard for me to go along with the so-called holiday spirit. More than ever it seems careless and irresponsible to go on buying more stuff and keep feeding into the consumer side of these holidays that has practically replaced their true meanings. I believe many holidays are rooted in religious beliefs; and while I don’t follow any particular organized religion, I choose to believe some religions were originally intended to help people join together, to spreading peace and the celebration of life. Life is what it all comes down to. It will not last forever, on this planet anyway, and we all need to start truly valuing life in its simplest, most meaningful way, learn to live with ourselves and each other before it’s too late.