What a turbulent year it's been.
For those of us who have managed to survive 2015 with our lives intact and our freedoms hanging by a thread, it has been a year of crackdowns, clampdowns, shutdowns, showdowns, shootdowns, standdowns, knockdowns, putdowns, breakdowns, lockdowns, takedowns, slowdowns, meltdowns, and never-ending letdowns.
As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we've been held up, stripped down, faked out, photographed, frisked, fracked, hacked, tracked, cracked, intercepted, accessed, spied on, zapped, mapped, searched, shot at, tasered, tortured, tackled, trussed up, tricked, lied to, labeled, libeled, leered at, shoved aside, saddled with debt not of our own making, sold a bill of goods about national security, tuned out by those representing us, tossed aside, and taken to the cleaners.
After endless months of being mired in gloom and doom, we now find ourselves just a few weeks away from Christmas, struggling to latch onto that spirit of joy, excitement, innocence, magic and hope we had as children. Even so, it takes a monumental effort to get past the Grinches and Scrooges who can you make you feel like yours is anything but a wonderful life.
And then there's Christmas itself, which has become embattled in recent years, co-opted by rampant commercialism, straight-jacketed by political correctness, and denuded of so much of its loveliness, holiness and mystery.
Despite all of this humbuggery, however, there are still a few steps you can take to enjoy the season and hopefully make this world a better place. While it's not possible to solve the nation's problems overnight, here are some practical steps each of us can take to recapture the true spirit of Christmas within our communities
Move beyond the "us" vs. "them" mentality. Tune into what's happening in your family, in your community and your world, and get active. Show compassion to those in need, be kind to those around you, forgive those who have wronged you, and teach your children to do the same. Stop acting entitled and start being empowered. Learn tolerance in the true sense of the word. Value your family. Feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and comfort the lonely and broken-hearted. Give peace a chance.
And finally, turn off the news, settle down with your loved ones, and turn on a Christmas movie that reinforces your faith in humanity. The following are ten of my favorites to help get you through the season with maximum joy.
It's A Wonderful Life (1946). An American classic about a despondent man, George Bailey (James Stewart), who is saved from suicide by an angel working to get his wings. This film is a testament to director Frank Capra's faith in people.
The Bishop's Wife (1947). An angel (Cary Grant) comes to earth in answer to a bishop's (David Niven) prayer for help. The two male leads and Loretta Young help energize this tale of lost visions and longings of the heart.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947). By happenchance, Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) is hired as Santa Claus by Macy's Department Store in New York City for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Before long, Kringle, who believes himself to be the one and only Santa Claus, has impacted virtually everyone around him. Funny, witty and heartwarming, this film is stocked with some particularly fine performances.
A Christmas Carol (1951). Starring Alastair Sim, this is the best film version of the penny-pinching Scrooge's journey to spiritual enlightenment by way of visits from supernatural visitors. Bill Murray's Scrooged (1988) is a good modern film adaptation of this Charles Dickens tale.
A Christmas Story (1983). Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) is a young boy obsessed with one thing and only one thing: how to get a Red Ryder BB-gun for Christmas. Ralphie's parents are wary, and his mother continually warns him that "you'll shoot your eye out." This comedy has some classic scenes, however, Bob Clark's adept direction never loses the focus of the story: the yearnings of a child for the magic of Christmas morning.
One Magic Christmas (1985). If you grew up in a family where times were tough, this film is for you. A guardian angel (Harry Dean Stanton) comes to earth to help a disillusioned woman (Mary Steenburgen), who hates Christmas. This, of course, poses serious problems for her husband and two children who groove on the yuletide. This tale of redemption and second chances is a delight to watch.