It may be hard to believe, but for many people Christmas Eve day and Christmas day may as well be February 6th. It's a day like every other. Amidst the frenzy of holiday travel, hours of preparation, shopping and gathering, a very large contingency of the planet is minding its own business and going on about life without any more important plans or agenda than to just make it through another day.
Of course I'm speaking about the homeless and disenfranchised; people living in cesspools of poverty, those who are fighting for their lives in hospitals or in war-torn regions of the world. Let's not forget people who live in squalor 365, without limbs, parents, enough food, a a pair of shoes, a bed to sleep in or running water. America has a tendency to take a myopic view of the world and think that because Christmas is such an important holiday here, it must be like that everywhere else. Reality check. Not so.
Since 9/11, many people of the Muslim faith have had to deal with the modernized western world (who have visions of terrorists dancing in their heads) feeling a little more than uncomfortable and more than suspicious every time they hear the word "Allah". Practicing Muslims make up a large portion of the world's population and those numbers continue to grow. If you think about the history of religion and the havoc that has been caused in the name of it, it's amazing that Christmas is celebrated (or tolerated) at all. That few religious zealots of any faith somehow manage to ruin it for the rest of the people who would choose to practice any religion purely for the sake of belief instead of more nefarious goals, seems to have cast a particularly disturbing pall on the Muslim population.
Having spent a fair amount of time in Egypt (including the holy month Ramadan) and then a considerable amount of time in Greece, I was exposed to both the Muslim and Greek Orthodox religions. Nearly 20 years overseas gave me a very different perspective about life, customs, traditions, culture, food and and faith. Christmas in Europe is a far less commercial (and almost somber) affair that centers on food and family. There is little focus on gift buying. Christmas in America at times represents the best and the worst of what our "culture" has to offer. It has often left me feeling speechless, if not downright embarrassed by our behavior. It's like a circus freak show on crack.
We live in a country where opinions and ideas are driven, formed and manipulated by media influence. If we read it on the Internet, hear it by word of some crazy political wonk's (loud) mouth or see it on TV, it must be so. Unfortunately, there is very little real exposure to what goes on in the rest of the world and unless you take it upon yourself to venture beyond your real or imagined borders, you can't possibly know that for hundreds of millions of people out there, today and tomorrow is just going to be another day filled with struggle, joy, pain, anguish, promise, heartache, fear, love, longing, fortitude, hope or hopelessness. If everyone would take a few moments to think about the state of the world from nothing more than a human perspective and consider what we could do to try and improve upon it, what a better day tomorrow might be.If we could start practicing that exercise today, we would have a head start. I'm sure this is a pill that Rush Limbaugh is unwilling to swallow or prescribe.I wonder if the rest of the world is laughing at us. After all, it really is just another day.