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I used to love Christmas when I was young and when my kids were growing up. In recent years I have found myself less fond of it. I still like the lights and the sense of Christmas but I cannot help but feeling that the quality of Christmas has changed so radically in recent years that I no longer recognize it as the holiday I loved.
Black Friday has something to do with my lost love. I find the whole idea of it kind of repulsive. Hordes of desperate and greedy people willing to push and bully their way to get what they want is a thing so foreign to me and my understanding of the spirit of Christmas that I find it unfathomable. I can honestly say that there is nothing I want and nothing anyone I care about wants that could justify submitting myself to that kind of situation. My family would be appalled and dismayed if they thought that I deliberately went out on black Friday to get them anything. The fact that it is called 'black' kind of says it all.
My oldest son has completely abandoned gift giving or receiving on Christmas. He has no children, which makes it vastly easier, of course. He is so repulsed by the greed that has attached itself to Christmas that he simply refuses to participate. This is fine with me and I honor his decision by buying a gift and giving it to Toys for Tots in his name. He is good with that. He has some very firm ideas about the inappropriate aspects of holidays. He does not celebrate Thanksgiving either, not because he is not thankful for the good in his life, but because he finds it hypocritical. My grandmother was a daughter of the Mayflower because she could trace ancestors back to the original Pilgrims and my grandfather could trace half of his ancestry back to the Native Americans who were living in the region long before the Pilgrims ever landed. My son feels that half his ancestry helped the other half of his ancestry survive in the new world only to have the one half show their gratitude by stealing the other half's ancestral lands and slaughtering them indiscriminately, thereby rendering the whole giving thanks thing kind of null and void. It may seem extreme to many people, but I get it. Not everyone had something to be thankful for.
My oldest is a very quiet, reserved individual who is intensely private. He has never been the kind of person who finds it necessary to express his opinion to anyone who will listen and he has never cared particularly if anyone ever knew what he thought about anything. Nevertheless, he tended to think deeply about things even as a child, and when he came to a decision on what he thought about things he was very certain and very immovable. Since he never got in trouble, caused trouble, or said so much as boo to anyone in school, it came as something of a surprise to me when he was in 4th grade and I received a call from his school with a request to visit the principal regarding something he had done. I was horrified. My children simply never got in trouble. When I got to the principal's office he handed me a handwritten letter that my son had composed requesting that a copy of a painting be removed from his classroom because he found it offensive. The painting in question was the famous one of Columbus arriving on the island that he claimed for Spain and named San Salvador. In the painting he is respectfully meeting with a native chief of the island with his hand held out in friendship – all warm and fuzzy and an outright lie. I taught my children history and part of that was the truth about Columbus and his gang of bloodthirsty assassins and what they did in the new world when they were fed the standard hooha in school. Now everyone pretty much knows that there was no handshaking and patting on the back by Columbus and his men. They systematically and completely, without a moment's compunction, landed on the island, claimed it for Spain, and then went about forcing the natives to convert at sword-point and either slaughtering them indiscriminately or selling them into slavery. Let's hear it for Columbus Day. Evidently, the scope of the atrocities committed by Columbus and his gang was something my son found so evil that being forced to look at that painting everyday in class was more than he was willing to tolerate. My quiet, shy, retiring son was angry and felt compelled to make a point, albeit quite respectfully and articulately. I was very surprised. I was also very proud.
The principal, who didn't even know him because he never made waves or caused any trouble, had no idea what to do. I suggested that since my son was absolutely right about Columbus, it seemed reasonable to suggest that he remove the painting forthwith. The principal didn't like this idea, mostly, I suspect, because he didn't want it getting out that he would let a 4th grader tell him what he should do. His solution was to remove my son from the classroom and transfer him to another where the painting did not hang on the wall. Personally, I thought him a coward and that he had obviously missed the entire point, which he had. My son wasn't happy being transferred and he felt that he had failed, but no one seemed to care about that. I was proud of him and I told him that he should be proud of himself. I told him that the truth isn't always popular or well received, but if you make the choice to speak it anyway it is an act of courage and no act of courage is ever a failure.
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