Hope of 2021, One Person at a Time

Hope springs eternal—so goes the cliché—but truer than ever as we finally reach the finish line of 2020.

We have a lot to look forward to in 2021.  The Covid-19 vaccines will be widely available.   It seems that by the time June arrives, we should have a better idea of how much of the pandemic is behind us.  It may seem like a long stretch, but we have already survived 9 and a half months of dealing with this contagious virus; another 5 and a half months is doable.

Let’s hope that many of those who lost jobs will return to full employment.

Let’s hope that restaurants will soon reopen, at least outside, as well as gyms and other businesses.  Could people return to sports and concert venues by the end of the year?

Think about how special next holiday season will be to celebrate with families in person.

One thing the pandemic shutdown has done is given each one of us the time to look inside ourselves and see what type of people we are.   Some can see more gracious and generous spirits, while others may have doubts on their ability to show selfless concern for their neighbors.  Unfortunately, it is during trying times when both the best and worst qualities in humans are on display.

I highly recommend the new Pixar film “Soul.”  Inadvertently, it speaks to the times in which we are living.  Its theme revolves around the meaning and purpose of life, quite ambitious for a cartoon.  Kids won’t get it, but adults will.  Maybe some will even learn from its moral.

A new year always offers people the possibilities of improving themselves.  Losing weight and exercising more are typical resolutions made.   More importantly would be for each of us to wake up each day and think how we can make not just us but others around us better in our families and our communities.  

There was a time back in the 1960’s when songs like “Let There Be Peace on Earth” were sung on TV variety shows often by a children’s choir composed of all ethnicities.  When I was younger and heard that song, I dismissed it as pollyannish and contrived.  Now that I am much older, the song resonates as a simple yet doable anecdote to the divisiveness in our country which is a worse contagion than the coronavirus.

If there were more people doing as the song says that for there to be peace “let it begin with me,” then as a nation we would be pointed in a brighter direction.  Instead of waiting for others to be nicer and kinder, how about each of us polishing those human traits?  Corny?  Perhaps.  But what a wonderful world if those things became contagious.

America the . . . what?

Every holiday season, I look forward to re-watching some of my favorite Christmas shows.  While the enjoyment comes from feeling nostalgic about my childhood, today I find myself trying to relive the feelings I had about the United States and my fellow Americans.  I feel sadness that the place I call home is not recognizable anymore.  This country seems foreign to me now.

I watch 1962’s “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” and wonder about my favorite song in the show, “The Lord’s Bright Blessing,” and think to myself how in today’s times such a song would never be written today.  Too religious.

How about the climax in 1965’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” when Linus tells the story of Jesus so Charlie Brown knows the true meaning of the holiday?  Even back then “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz had to fight the producers to keep that scene intact.

“Home Alone” (1990) has a tender scene in a church where the boy character Kevin meets his neighbor Old Man Marley in a church to have a heart-to-heart about family.  Would this make the final cut 30 years later?

One shutters to think that one day the most famous line uttered by Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “God bless us, everyone” may not be saved.  Will the g-word become the new n-word?

No, this isn’t another one of those War on Christmas columns.  It’s more about how Christmas time is one battle in the War on America.

Though I am not Christian, my parents brought us three kids up to believe in the dream of America.  As first-generation Americans from their families which immigrated to this country, it wasn’t enough for my grandparents to get to the shores of New York City.   They wanted to be a part of America, not apart from it. 

As one of the few Jewish kids in school I didn’t feel insulted or disrespected whenever we had to learn carols like “The First Noel” for the holiday program.  It wasn’t about religion for us; it was about America which is why we grew up loving Christmas.

That’s called assimilation.  And without it, each of us recedes onto an island with our own kind.  It is one of several reasons why our country is so split these days.

Too many citizens identify themselves first by their ethnicity, not by their country.  Saying “I’m American” used to be a special declaration.  It meant that we live in the only nation on earth where all kinds of people are welcome and have a chance to be treated equally; a noble experiment going on 250 years that still hasn’t reached its goal, but has made strides towards it.

No one seems interested anymore in reaching out to fellow citizens unlike themselves and finding common interests. Instead we stand our ground that only our rights matter.  The wearing of masks controversy symbolizes such selfishness.  “No one tells me what to do” is a mentality that is un-American.  Goodness, decency and values have been buried as relics from the past.

I find it sad that generations of people alive today never experienced the America I knew.  I don’t pretend to look at my past with rose-colored glasses.   There were lots of problems in the 1960’s as well.   Much has improved during my lifetime.  But the stuff that is disappearing is eroding this country’s definition.

As a father I have done my best to raise respectful young men.  As a teacher I taught students to be respectful to those unlike themselves.

But as I look around, I see less evidence that other parents and teachers are doing their work in raising young people to believe in morals which is instilling a belief in democracy and this country.

It is like I am living in a real “Planet of the Apes” twist ending where I’m walking along Santa Monica beach and come across the crowned head of Miss Liberty submerged in the sand.  This is America?