My parents on their 50th anniversary
During this silly, crazy season, I always look at how far we've come and recently, some of it isn't good. I know we all have thoughts about growing up, most of us have memories of when we were kids, how Christmas stands out in our memories, some good, some not so good. I'm not unique in my memory transporting me back to Christmases gone by.
One big memory stands out at the time I turned 15. The Vietnam War was raging in a place most of us never heard of before America became embroiled in a war in a far away land. My mom was always an avid church goer, so we were expected to go to church each year on Christmas Eve. I'm the youngest in my family, so at 15, I was the last kid left at home. I was raised as a Presbyterian until the only Presbyterian church in our small town closed its doors because they could find no minister to take it over when ours retired. So we became Methodists. To this day I never got the connection, except the only other churches were Baptist (my mom felt they were too strict) and Catholic (my mother couldn't understand the sermons, given in Latin back then) so in her mind, the only logical alternative was to be a Methodist. Don't ask me, I have no idea why either. But my mom, rest her soul, wanted us to be God fearing kids is the only answer I can come up with.
Back to my fifteenth year. We got dressed and attended a Christmas Eve sermon at the little Methodist church. The minister started speaking about us being grateful for 'the season' count our blessings, blah, blah, blah. Then he started saying we needed to bless our troops in Vietnam. I thought: Why aren't we blessing the Vietnamese? He said we should pray for an American victory to the war. I raised my head as others prayed, looked around me and thought: I cannot do this anymore. I didn't pray, I continued to watch the rest of the congregation and felt a surge of sadness and disgust envelop me.
When we got home and entered the living room where the Christmas tree sat, with presents under it, in our modest little house, I began to think of kids being bombed, their homes gone, about the poor in America, some not knowing where their next meal was coming from and I felt incredibly selfish looking at the presents.
I changed my clothes and politely told my mom I was not going to church anymore. I told her I had no idea why a 'God of love' would be on America's side. Didn't God love the Vietnamese people too? She had no good explanation and neither did our minister, whom she had me talk to after the holiday. Did I become atheist? No, but I just could not believe in a god 'taking sides' like in a football game.
As I studied history I didn't think a 'god of love' would side with Europeans against American Indians, against slaves forced to come here nor against the Vietnamese just because we were Americans. I had a major problem, always, with the people who spelled their last names right, in our small town, having prominent positions in each church we ever attended too. So I became somewhat of a disbeliever.
I look around us today, I see people in stores hurting each other for a handful of cheap goods just because their kid wants the biggest, the latest or the nicest item to show off at school. Seriously? One time a year we need to give gifts to show we love our families? How about the other 364 days? You don't resent giving a gift to a boss you cannot stand? Getting a gift for a coworker you may not like? Think about it. Oh, I had nice holidays as a small child, but I had loving parents. What about those kids who did not?
So I read on social network sites, crap like: "I didn't own slaves, I didn't kill American Indians, so how does history pertain to me?" I got sick of that crap being spouted in college too. How does it pertain to you? Because we are repeating Vietnam right Now, in Iraq, in Afghanistan and probably soon, in Iran. THAT's how it pertains to YOU. You learned nothing because you don't read history.