::::::::Friday 12-14-2012: It's the Jewish Sabbath or "Shabbat," and the next to last night of Chanukah. My wife and I lit candles in observance of the Jewish tradition. I'm a secular Jew who picked up a Buddhist viewpoint somewhere along the line, my wife was raised Catholic and converted to reform-Judaism entirely on her own, and my stepdaughter, while not very religious at all, wants to celebrate Christmas, and she will. It's not about all that religious crap; it's just about lighting lights in the middle of winter. At least that's the way I see it.
Never mind that Chanukah is a minor Jewish holiday, a celebration of an obscure military victory and supposed miracle, and that there is considerable debate within the progressive Jewish community about whether we should even be celebrating what in essence was the victory of fundamentalists over more tolerant and cosmopolitan Jews of the their time. It's not a debate I wish to even scratch the surface of, especially at this time when all but the most ideologically blinded can see that the state of Israel is really messing up, badly, not even playing by the rule-book that the religious right waves about and points at, to justify the carnage. It's about the lights, just like the ones on the Christmas tree we gave to our stepdaughter.
Except for the lights, I would flush all this holiday stuff in an instant. Aside from all the usual criticisms; the celebration of greed and consumption etc"ad nauseum; it's just annoying, very hard to get anything done, traffic becomes nightmarish, people stop paying attention to their work, and the seasonal soundtracks play behind the Salivation Army bells for a Pavlovian symphony, to get people in the "holiday spirit."
Yet another "school shooting" doesn't seem to affect much on a direct behavioral level, those holding candle-light vigils, or holding forth with various religious, political, anti-gun, pro-gun with "more guns in the right hands" rhetoric catch the eye and trigger dinnertime discussions, however they are a minority. Most people just go on about their business. "School shooting; mall shooting; church shooting; what the hell is wrong with this country, we need to make all the guns go away, or make teachers carry them, or just bring back school prayer with an armed guard at every door and we'll go back to the good old days when only undesirable minorities and ungrateful college students with communist sympathies got shot"." and then it's back to the car to burn more gas, to buy more "stuff."
My stepdaughter got the news yesterday; she's been accepted to a fairly respectable college of the arts near where we are living now, on a "merit based scholarship," the sum that that school was willing to put towards her tuition was substantial. That's cause enough for celebration in and of itself. However the scholarship award still isn't enough; add the "kid in college and no job" riff to the list. My wife has an MSW and passed difficult licensing exams; however as is the case with millions of professionals nationwide, she is still "between jobs." A barrage of resume's and applications fired of at every conceivable state, local, and NGO social service agency yielded a single invitation to an interview. That's better right there than a lot of people are doing now too.
My stepdaughter just might "have a future" as they say; another personal reason for me to continue to give a crap about what happens. Again, the syndrome"the need to have some personal stake in the outcome of events to make them worth caring about: "Other people's children, not my problem," not here, or in Gaza or Afghanistan, or a on a crack ridden block not too far from here living on donated food because all the money goes in the pipe".and so on. I'm sick of fighting the current, just as much so as the multitude of people in my neighborhood who are just going with the flow and circling the drain.
The cops at the neighborhood watch meeting describe how they call in all the gangsters for a meeting with "community leaders," such as clergy and social workers and also hard-core law enforcement types to say all this shooting has got to stop, think about a cease-fire and selling your drugs quietly or else we will start to seriously enforce the terms of your probation or parole, or otherwise bust your ass.
I can understand how it's a hard sell; a mere twenty years ago I fully expected my life would end in a hail of bullets and that was just fine with me. Unarmed and unaffiliated now, I'd more likely be collateral damage and I'm perversely unconcerned about that too. I'm already history; it's my stepdaughter that needs to get out of this neighborhood, not me.
Jaded, apathetic and desensitized, able to do but so much and no more, I can see it; an individual perspective on a position within a collective historical phenomenon; these interesting times at the edge of the abyss.