If you grew up in the New York City media market during the 1960s or ‘70s, the picture at right is probably very familiar to you. I did not grow up in NYC, but in Los Angeles, we had something very much the same (perhaps identical). I don’t remember watching it every year, but I do remember one Christmas where I thought, “Who would be so stupid as to stare at a TV fireplace for hours on end?”. . . as I stupidly stared at a TV fireplace for hours on end.
I was looking to see if there was a break, a cut, some obvious demarcation, because even then, with no real understanding of video tape, I knew that they couldn’t just be turning a camera on a fire and walking away. Besides, why does the fire never seem to burn out?
Well, I never found it. That break. I don’t remember how long I looked, but it felt like an eternity.
You know where I am going with this, right?
That’s right, I am going straight into a metaphor!
As we wind down a year filled, at first, with some eyes-half-shut hope, and, at its last, perhaps, with some eyes-half-open disappointment, I think about that ever-burning and oft-returning Yule log. All that passion trying desperately to turn that powerful, hardened stump into a heap of ash, yet, never quite doing so.
Perhaps some—many even—thought that all the work was done last year. After eight years of misery and misrule, we had finally ramped up and rallied enough passion and power to get Democrats into all the leadership positions of our federal government—surely that was sufficient to relegate the GOP and their ideals to the ash-heap of history.
But, as we have learned, be it through the health care fight, or the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, the continued coddling of the banksters, the failure to rollback the unitary executive powers usurped by Bush, or any of a dozen other important matters, the tree of tyranny does not burn quickly.
Nor should it, I suppose. It didn’t get there by accident, and it doesn’t go away without incident. It isn’t enough, and never was, to just cast a vote and say: Now it’s someone else’s problem—I did my bit. That sucks, I know, but there are no saviors in a collective struggle (I hope that isn’t too sacrilegious a thought for Christmas). Change requires so much more than one charismatic leader, one or two votes, and a $25 donation. Especially when you want to replace the ideas of those that can donate a million times more.
If you didn’t think this going into the Obama years, then it is easy to see how you could turn cynical, disheartened, or think that you already had your road to Damascus moment, so being blind to the reality of this year is really just as good as faith that things will work out—haters be damned.
However, if you had spent your youth watching an endless loop of a burning log on a little TV—or saw just how long and hard the struggle for civil rights, equality, an end to poverty, and a more transparent government have been—then you might believe something different. The struggle is never really over, no more than it is ever really anyone else’s struggle more than it is yours. For everything you did last year was great and amazing, but every year following, you, we, need to be just as amazing. The fight is never won, the enemy is never vanquished, the log is never turned completely to dust.
And I am not sure that is the end you want, exactly, either. I would rather the battle is won and the other side won-over—rather than just see them bruised, bloodied, or buried—so that next time, you have that many more on your side for the fight.
It is exhausting, I know, and not everyone has the same time and energy to give, but if we ever want to see the Obama administration and our whole government become more than just a burning bush, that is what we, together, must do.
Merry Christmas to all, and, to all, a good, bright, shiny hope-filled day.