“Though the world with devils filled/ should threaten to undo us.” After a tough year, it’s Christmas (posted 12/23/20)

It’s hard to describe the schizophrenic nature of this holiday season for me.  Many have noted how our  country seems to be dividing into two camps, with less and less in common between them, and they’ve predicted something akin to a civil war coming.

I’ve resisted those predictions, finding in them the kind of exaggeration and doom-mongering that routinely shows up, especially among older people: the kids these days… everything’s going to hell… in my day, no one would have put up with that.  And so on.

But after this year, it’s not so easy to dismiss the grim signs that our civic bonds have actually been getting objectively, demonstrably more frayed.  The leftists are getting more and more extreme, and more rigidly totalitarian. 

I am obviously biased, but I don’t believe that conservatives are becoming more extreme, or even  moving much to the right, let alone the far right.  We still want the same things we’ve wanted since the Founders fought for a revolution: lower taxes, and more individual freedom, and a less over-bearing and oppressive government.  We value individual freedom, and the constitution, and a colorblind society.    We don’t want to force our will on the leftists who hate us; we just want them to leave us alone. 

Yes, we mourn the damage they’ve done to the places they control.  They’ve turned once-proud cities – beautiful San Francisco, the Motor City, the City of the Big Shoulders, Baltimore and Philadelphia and dozens of others – into filthy, dangerous combinations of the economic vibrancy of Venezuela, the urban beautification of Mogadishu, and the political bullying and corruption of old East Germany.

That’s unutterably sad.  But they seem to be happy with it, as they continue to vote for more of the same.  So what are we to do?  As anyone who has loved an alcoholic or addict knows, we can’t want healing for them more than they want it for themselves.  They will need to hit rock bottom, and we hope to be able to help them when they reach that point.

But in the meantime, we can’t enable them, and we can’t support their habit.  Their extremists seem to be driving their party, and they’re a toxic combination of spoiled rotten, and spoiling for a fight.  And I don’t think they’re going to be happy with the results when they get one.   

Having said all of that, I think Dickens had it right: it’s the best of times, and the worst of times.   Every time I watch a little media or social media that reflects the left’s worldview, and then return to my own life, I feel like I’m getting the bends. 

In their world, Joe Biden is sentient, America is evil, and rioting is good for you, but going to church will kill you.  Also, there’s no reason that spending months banging Fang Fang in a hot-pillow joint running by the Chinese Communist Party should keep you off the Intelligence Committee.

In my world, Christmas carols are playing, and we’re trying to love our neighbors and our enemies, and America is a great nation, who just came up with a vaccine that will save many millions of lives around the world.  (Quick sanity check, from my world: communists came up with a virus that killed millions; we came up with a vaccine that will save millions.  You’re welcome, world!)  My daughter – the newly minted nurse – got her first covid vaccine shot last week, after which she went right back to saving lives, and being the apple of my eye.  (If I weren’t such a classy gentleman, I’d say something like, “Suck it, medical geniuses and talking heads of the MSM, who spent the last 6 months mocking Trump and assuring us that that was not possible!”)

I went down to the Sarasota area over the weekend to visit with extended family, and had a great time.  I sat on the beach for a while, and had some good conversation, and whipped my cousin at cribbage.  I ate some great Greek food for the first time since college; I had chicken souvlaki, and that flaming cheese with brandy on it that I can’t remember the name of.  (I want to say “boom-chakalaka,” but that’s what Bill Murray’s platoon yelled in Stripes.  So that can’t be right.)

I also tried ouzo for the first time.  And the last time.  Because hard liquor that smells and tastes like liquorice is just not right.  C’mon, Greeks – first Dukakis, and now this?!

On the drive down and back, I indulged in one of my favorite Christmas traditions: listening to the late Frank Muller reading Dickens’ The Christmas Carol.  Muller’s voice is perfect, and Dickens is amazing, of course: funny and wise, and continually rewarding the reader with apt images and deft turns of phrase.   

Most of his work benefits from the length and depth of the novels , though reading them requires a commensurate time commitment.  But the Carol is concise, and note-perfect, and I find myself saying favorite lines along with the narrator in a way that I often do when re-watching favorite movies, or some bits of Shakespeare or CS Lewis, or other core favorites.

And nothing gets me into the Christmas spirit more.  I’ll watch several versions of the Carol on tv in the next several days, and I still won’t be tired of them.

I’ll end with one more musical note – and I beg the indulgence of the non-Christians among the CO Nation, for all of the happy Christ/Handel/Dickens talk of late.  (But I have done my best to throw in some “Wang Dang Sweet Fang Fang” jokes lately too, just to earn a few points for range.)

Though it’s not a Christmas song per se, I’ve always assigned “A Mighty Fortress is our God” into the stodgy, old, organ-heavy school of church music that I don’t love.  But when running through a lot of Christmas hymns on Youtube, I came across a contemporary version by a 7-piece group playing in a beautiful church at Cedarville University. 

If you like that sort of thing, the video is worth a watch.  Keeping in mind the caveat that with music, lyrics tend to feel dead on the page compared to when they are when sung, one particular verse really spoke to me, partly because of the dissonance of Luther’s old-fashioned language delivered in a contemporary context:

“And though this world with devils filled

Should threaten to undo us

We will not fear for God has willed

His truth to triumph through us.”

After this year of malevolent riots, frightening pandemic, dishonest politicians, and a bitter election marred by transparent sleaze and bad faith, lines about a devil-filled world threatening to undo us feel like they’re ripped from today’s headlines! 

But I’m holding on to the hope of those last two lines.

Though I’ve said it before, I want to thank you all, COers.  In a tough year like this one, the opportunity to share my thoughts and hear yours has been a consolation and a joy, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that.

If you should find yourself watching any political coverage in the next few days, and feel agitation and rising blood pressure, please take my advice.  Grab your remote, search the listings for one of the many versions of A Christmas Carol, and change the channel.

Then settle back and let the words of a great writer banish the ghosts of Biden and Pelosi, and replace them with the ones you remember so well from Christmases past.

“Marley was dead, to begin with…”     

Merry Christmas, CO Nation!

2 thoughts on ““Though the world with devils filled/ should threaten to undo us.” After a tough year, it’s Christmas (posted 12/23/20)”

  1. I’ve followed your writing for close to two years and found it to be (in no particular order) funny, thoughtful and very well-written. This piece today falls into the category of thoughtful and frighteningly true. I grew up in Portland and worked in my family’s business there for 45 years. At first shocking, then heartbreaking and angry and looking for retribution.

    Keep up your most excellent work.


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