Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Christmas Column in a Year Full of Hate

Merry Christmas!

Or Happy Holidays!

There are so many gifts I wish I could give . . .

To our country: a renewed sense of purpose; a government closer to all of our ideals and needs than the one that will soon commence; and a renewed ability to listen to each others' views without simultaneously forming in our minds a caustic response.

To our state:
- putting top priority on using our sunlight as an energy source, for the good of our pocketbooks and our planet;
- better funding for the judiciary, for everything from courthouse security and better salaries for judges and jurors, to programs that deal with drug addiction and mental-health problems; and for public defenders;
- legalization of marijuana, which would not only be the right thing to do but also help ease our financial problems, by eliminating the vast expenses of incarcerating marijuana users and retailers and by providing additional state revenues;
- and, last but far from least, a helluva lot of rain! And a good outcome to the water litigation and a much-enhanced appreciation of the need to conserve water in our desert southwest.

To our community:
- a repaired and improved mental health system, considerably better than what we had before Governor Susana Martinez wrongfully destroyed it in 2013 over phantom fraud allegations;
- more funding for programs like Community of Hope, Casa de Peregrinos, Casa de Niños, El Caldito, and Beloved Community;
- more people like Gerry Vest, Ann Palermo, and Carole Bernal, all of whom we lost this year (along with many other fine folks); Gerry did great work helping troubled veterans, and I never saw him without a huge smile and his two small dogs; Ann's commitment to our community was obviously deep and broad; Carole was a gutsy cancer survivor a fiercely proud grandmother, and a loyal friend;
- more support for the arts community and such members as The Big Picture, The Unsettled Gallery, Mesquite Art Gallery, Art Obscura, and Más Art, and the Rio Grande Theater, as well as NMSU and city museums, and the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum;
- and a 2017 in which no law-enforcement officer is shot, knifed, punched, beaten, or spat on – and in which no officer has to shoot anyone. Or mistakenly thinks s/he has to.

But with my sleigh at Mascitelli's, I'll have to settle for giving what I can: I'll keep writing these columns so long as people keep reading 'em, though my preferred genre is fiction. (My present to Sound-off is the fun folks have saying that the columns are fiction.) 

I'll keep telling the stories of citizens, peace officers, public employees, and others who get the short end of the stick (or get whacked with the business end) and aren't in a position to speak up.
And I hope to bring an occasional smile to your lips with photographs of sunsets, or profiles of some of our best, like Josh and Arrow.

I'll also keep working to get our new community radio station, KTAL, on the air within the next three months. Another gift the community can give itself. “¿Que tal?” you might ask. We're over some hurdles, and hope to start podcasting in January and broadcasting in March.

And I'll keep talking – and listening – to everyone, with my mind as open as I can pry it. Even if we disagree about some issues, in the desert we're all neighbors, no matter how far apart we may seem. 

So Happy New Year, neighbor!

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 25 December 2016, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG-TV's website.]

[Reflecting on this column and on Walt Rubel's, the phrase "practice random acts of kindness" kept coming back to my mind.  (The whole saying is "Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.")  It's still a good thought -- and a good practice -- all year round, and worth a column in itself.  Occasionally in San Francisco, when I felt particularly good (and flush, I guess, and when tolls were a lot less than they are now) I used to go through a toll booth and not only pay my $2 but give the toll-taker an extra $20 with instructions to let the next ten people through without paying.  It was great.  The toll-taker's day was brightened, as were the days of ten people I never even saw -- or more, if others decided to pay for folks behind them.)
Recently I'd been thinking of trying to urge folks here to follow the practice, at least around Christmas.  Saturday at the market a friend told us about her daughter.  Her parents hadn't told her much about Christmas.  Then in a long NPR skit the daughter heard that there was an old man who went around giving gifts.  When she announced that news to her parents, they listened and remarked on how near that was -- which indeed it is.  They did not express either skepticism or belief, but just listened, letting her absorb what she might.  I liked that.  In the same spirit, urging folks to give not only to their families and friends but to random strangers or slight acquaintances -- all year but particularly around Christmas -- seems a good idea.  For all of us.  Atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, and others ought not to be put off by the association of Christmas with Christianity, because that association is slight.  Historically, there were mid-winter festivals before Christ; and more recently, Christmas is much too much of a marketing trick - "Celebrate the baby Jesus by buying more plastic trinkets," as another friend said Saturday morning.  Christmas just happens to be a time when, in our culture, folks are more receptive to the spirit of giving.  Loathing the way businesses pervert that doesn't mean we can't share in the spiritBeing generous at Christmas doesn't endorse what anyone else may be doing.  Further, even if some say or do hateful things in the name of Jesus, his story as told in the gospels is certainly a lovely one from which we can all learn.]

[I also resolve for next year that at least once a month I'd like to use the column for just a profile of a person, place, or situation that illustrates the good in our community.]

[Gerry and Carole.  Ann Palermo was pretty well-known and the Sun-News wrote about her.  Gerry and Carole weren't.  I knew Gerry casually.  A gentle, smiling guy I talked with often at the Farmers' Market.  I knew he worked with troubled veterans, and was much appreciated by them.  But to most of the community, he was probably unknown.  So was Carole.  Earlier this year I wrote a draft column about her.  What I wanted to express, aside from personal respect and affection, was respect for the folks no one knows who have good hearts and do what they can to make ours a better world.  She had a lot of tough stuff thrown at her.  She survived breast cancer, and rather than hiding that fact she turned it into a crusade to urge younger women to take care of themselves.  She and Reymundo had a long, caring marriage.  Behind many anonymous doors in our community live others who live good lives and show tremendous courage in dealing with pain and unfairness.  I'd rather write about them than Senators and Congressfolk.]

1 comment:

  1. "I'll keep writing these columns so long as people keep reading 'em, though my preferred genre is fiction. "

    You can do both while joining a great literary collective (after all, I'm there hahaha!) Check it out, Peter.