I’ll be just fine and dandy,
Lord it’s like a hard candy Christmas.
I’m barely getting through tomorrow,
but still I won’t let sorrow bring me way down.
—— Carol Hall lyrics from the musical
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Gosh, the hard candy Christmas has gone viral. I thought we could keep it local with just a few hits along the holiday trail stories but nope, Newtown, Connecticut changed the name of that tune. We Americans have a tragedy of unspeakable grief that will quickly reverberate in cyberspace around the world to a populace who will ask themselves, What is wrong with those people in America?
I think it’s a fair question and one that we must ask ourselves. What is wrong with us? How do we enable and encourage this rage and senseless violence against our own? Why do we have a Columbine in our not-too-distant history and how will these same historians record the massacres in Aurora, Colorado and at Virginia Tech? What can possibly be written about the Sandy Hook Elementary School horror of losing twelve little girls and eight little boys and six adults who were their educators in a few minutes on a regular Friday morning at their public school. Much will be written through the coming years, but what we do in response to these shocking events will define our culture and our country.
To the politicians in Washington I say, You need to become statesmen and stateswomen. You need to set aside your vitriolic verbal attacks on each other. You are the adults in our family, and we have placed our trust in you by electing you to represent us and when what we see on our Ipads and Iphones and other high-tech gadgets as well as on our regular old television programs is bitterness and bickering and bashing each other verbally, you’re setting a bad example for your children. You make them believe that rage is not only acceptable but necessary. Take a deep breath. Step back for a moment. Look at yourselves and see what images you project for your people. Could you please just play nice.
To the parents who have brought children into our world and have great expectations for their futures and who now are bipolar between anger and anguish, I say I’m so sorry. No one deserves this. No one is being punished for removing God from Sandy Hook Elementary School. God isn’t in this equation or else we would have to blame Him for allowing the assailant to have weapons, wouldn’t we? Not so fast, my friend, or as my daddy and Ann Richards used to say, That old dog won’t hunt. But what can we do? Should we as parents insist on police protection for our children in all public schools regardless of age? Would police protectors be able to thwart the enraged and armed assailants? These are the questions we ask ourselves.
Which brings me to the central dilemma of the complex challenge of early identification and intervention for our Angry Ones and that is, of course, beyond Thunder Dome to me. Our children are now raised in a culture of violence. They play games with it, they sing songs about it, their heroes are violent athletes, their movie stars make action movies with so much “action” their hearing is impaired when they leave a theater, their country sends soldiers to places they have to learn to pronounce and spell like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria…Viet Nam…Korea..and these soldiers kill other people in the name of peacekeeping. Our children are surrounded by violence. They may go to sleep with the sound of gunfire in their neighborhood and on their street corners. They may wake the next morning to find a friend, cousin, uncle, father or brother has died during a battle over what? Drugs? Gangs? Money? Territory? Aha. There we have it. There is no escaping the violence so why on earth would we be surprised that these children who are accustomed to violence, who have access to weapons, would shoot us when we make them mad or when we are, well, just being ourselves and they don’t like us that way?
This is the season of hope, joy and celebration for some; the Prince of Peace and Santa Claus are the bearers of Good News and Great Gifts for many of us. But it is also a season of sadness for those who have lost family during 2012 and who will be reminded that their holiday season is different this year. The season won’t be the same – ever. Some people will struggle to find the money to give their children what they want under the tree. Friction and tension will make family gatherings more problematic than peaceful. In our sense of hurry and anxiety over putting food on the table we might miss the opportunity to say: I love you today, I love you every day and you will always be special to me.
I remember a hard candy Christmas with the disappointment of not getting what I wanted from Santa Claus but rather getting a sack of penny candy of bright different colors that tasted alternately sweet and sour but couldn’t be chewed at first because it was so hard. Gradually though, if you waited long enough, you could bite the smaller piece in two and swallow them both. Success. Astonishingly delicious.
I expected a hard candy Christmas personally this year for a number of reasons, but I wasn’t prepared for a national one. Regardless, here it is and my hope is that America will never be the same – ever. That our national consciousness is raised to include in our vocabulary the words kindness and reconciliation and forgiveness and a genuine passion for a better world. We’ve waited long enough. We have tasted both the sweet and the sour and, as Dolly Parton sings through the lyrics of Carol Hall, we won’t let our sorrows bring us down.