Smile Politely

The Christmas letter

Dear family, friends, Facebook friends, undocumented alien friends, alienated relatives, and anonymous comment trolls,

This year the truth came out that there are 27,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the universe, three times more than previously believed. This means that, as infinitely small specks of stardust, human beings actually take up only about one-third as much space as we thought. All of those hysterical letters to the editor about things that seemed so terribly important all year long were really much more insignificant than when we believed there were only 9.000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the universe. Obviously, our worries were exaggerated.

This is the time of year when people tend to summarize in a letter the things that happened to them while Planet Earth made one complete hop-skip-and-a-jump around our own particular star, the Sun. This is the time of the dreaded Christmas letter.

I can only make claim to one real accomplishment this year, which is a pair of sloppily nurtured, gray, starter mutton chops. See enclosed digital photograph (right), shot with an old non-iPhone cell phone.

As you well know, I have struggled with Christmas for years. It’s not so much the shopping; it’s the planning. So much coordination is involved with travel, food, work, and touchy political sensibilities, it exhausts me before it begins. One year, I spent hours making duct tape wallets for everyone and, I admit, that was sweet. I felt the spirit. But, as it turned out, you all seemed to prefer receiving things with price tags. I’m not giving anything at all this year, at least nothing tangible (or sticky).

What I did want to give you was forgiveness. I spent about a week contemplating what it would feel like to forgive everyone for our differences and the anger, and that felt almost as good as weaving together pieces of duct tape. Then, I was going to give myself a gift of any leftover forgiveness at the bottom of the bucket.

But I have shelved the forgiveness thing temporarily. We are a country at war and we are a country that does not generally remember we are a country at war and we are a country that definitely does not want to pay for the war we are in and some people apparently are willing to tear down the country and go to war just to avoid paying for the war we are already in, and some of you are those people, and I just don’t think I can scrounge up enough unrequited forgiveness to go around.

My second idea to celebrate the Christmas season was to abandon the horrible reality of the Christmas season permanently. I figure there are three ways to go about this. One, I could move away to another country. Two, I could stick my head into the sand, ignore the news, and give myself the gift of bliss via ignorance. Three, I could become spiritually enlightened and transcend our so-called reality. Actually, I am hoping for both #1 and #3 in exactly nine years. I already have my place picked out, so adios in advance.

Jesus is the reason for the season, as they say, but there doesn’t seem to be any consensus on what that means. A lot of people use the name of Jesus to turn him into a tap-dancing idol, a way to avoid paying attention to the endless array of horrors done in his name. They chose option #2 above a long time ago.

The infinitely splintering churches and Christian religious sects have never come to any agreement. In fact, most of the wars in the world have been fought because somebody’s Jesus idol didn’t look the same as somebody else’s Jesus idol.

J.D. Salinger wrote in Franny and Zooey that Jesus was the fat lady you tended to ignore. Sarah Silverman said that Christians think Jesus is magic. Patti Smith sang that “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine,” until she changed the lyrics at the 30th anniversary of the release of “Horses” and sang, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, WHY not mine?”

In 1970, Old Testament lecturer John Allegro of the Dead Sea Scrolls editing team wrote a definitive historical study showing that Jesus Christ was a Jewish rabbi figure who was the “personification of a fertility cult based on the use of the psychedelic mushroom amanita muscaria.” His book and his scholarship are quite convincing, much more so than the Great News Radio talk show hosts who spout syrupy sweet brain-dead nonsense and praise Sarah Palin at the same time.

Personally, I’m a follower of Jesus. He’s the man. It’s all right there in the Sermon on the Mount. He opposed the greedy so much he kicked them out of the temples. He wouldn’t lift a sword against anybody because he knew there was another way. Fox News would have crucified him. But frankly, the way some of you — my friends and relatives — abuse his name at Christmas and all throughout the year turns his perfect formula upside-down. You got it backwards! You lift the sword and love the rich! Backwards!

I have one holiday request, one New Year’s resolution that I hope you will join with me in making. Stop blaming everything on Barack Obama. Within the last few months I have heard Obama blamed for the following:

1) The cost of car repair at Car-X

2) WikiLeaks

3) The 30-day suspension of Officer Dan Norbits for having killed Kiwane Carrington

4) The proliferation of Asian carp in Lake Michigan (“Obama’s persistent failure to stop Asian carp is a slap in the face to Great Lakes citizens genuinely concerned about preserving their livelihood,” said Mike Cox, Michigan’s attorney general.)

Man, that guy really is carrying the weight of the world. I believe Obama’s #1 priority is to bring the country together — talk about mission impossible — and that is why he seems to be compromising too much. He must have the true spirit of Christmas, because he holds on to hope in an insane world.

So, Merry Christmas everybody. Nos vemos en las estrellas.

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