December 24th, 2007 08:47 EST
Stress, Anger, Aggression and Resentment is Not What Christmas Means
I’ve been wondering what an extraterrestrial spy would make of our Christmas shopping season, which one writer has described as a national commercial emergency, so I’ve been drifting in the human torrents of Manhattan—SoHo, Nolita, LoHo, Greenwich Village, Madison Avenue, 57th Street, all the places sucking in oodles of money and complaining it’s not enough.
I try to cancel out decades of consumerist pursuit. I try to imagine what an astral traveler would make of this annual high-wire act, this lemming run, this emptying of pockets in the name of what, who? Can we really say it’s in the name of Jesus Christ who drove the money lenders out of the temple? How much of our compulsive sentimentality is commercially driven? And what does it do to our psyches to know this and yet feel helpless to change it?
Some writers have argued that Western capitalism is dependent on Christianity and therefore the commercialization of Christmas should reassure us of the Christian message. I find that charmingly Jesuitical. I’d like to hear its advocates talk more about the poor and turning the other cheek, you know, the hard part of Christianity, the sacrificial part. I find this argument in favor of Christmas’s monetization suspiciously like Ayn Rand’s distinctly anti-Christian message.
Maybe I’m projecting, but I detect anguish, a sense that a commercial orgy, not unlike the Roman Saturnalia, which coincides with the season, isn’t consonant with the meaning of Christmas. But when it’s your patriotic duty to spend money, what are you to do? It’s rather like opposing the war and supporting the troops at the same time. The world is full of people telling you you have to support the war to support the men and women sent to fight it, and the world is full of people telling you you have to spend more than you can afford to celebrate the birth of Christ.
I sense that people like the festivity, the music, the hoopla, and yet I see evidence of stress, anger, aggression and resentment. This isn’t what Christmas means. Running up credit debt to celebrate the birth of a messiah? Digging ourselves into deeper holes while Wall Street CEOs, who have betrayed their shareholders with a Ponzi-like mortgage scam, pay themselves unprecedented year-end bonuses? What are we doing? More important, how could we be doing this differently without letting down our families, our community, our economy, ourselves?
Perhaps this season our religious leaders could find it in their hearts to talk a little less about gay marriage, family values and patriotism and a little more about greed, which happens, unlike the other topics, to be one of the seven deadly sins.
Djelloul (Del) Marbrook was the editor of six daily newspapers and held editorial posts on several major metropolitan dailies. He is the winner of the 2007 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize of Kent State University
whose press will publish his book, Far From Algiers, next fall. For more information www.djelloulmarbrook.com or www.myspace.com/delmarbrook.