Christmas: The Shot Heard ‘Round the World

Here we are at Christmas, and the hustle bustle has given me some thoughts. Most aren’t very festive ones, so heads up— this will start as a sort of long and nostalgic Festivus post, a nod to the Seinfeld holiday for the “rest of us,” and conclude with battle commentary, although I’m no Victor Davis Hanson.

As I see it, the face of Christmas hasn’t exactly been a holly, jolly scene so far. First, I live in Atlanta, a city that has experienced increasing crime under those who believe in decreasing consequences. I’ve navigated stores full of stony, masked faces, with my own unmasked face stoically turning to stone as well. Our traffic is epic, although that’s not unique to this season.

My senses are under assault, daily. Yesterday, a female cashier, rounded and with a feminine voice, sported purple hair and bare arms covered in tatoos, but also a stomach-churning, solid mustache. In every store, I’m given the requisite, cursory “Happy Holidays” despite the dominant red and green displays marking the last week of December.

I’ve stared at grocery shelves with missing products and outlandish prices—we did it, Joe! I was, of course, relieved to find that my mass-produced $7.00 loaf of bread was “produced by wind energy” before being shipped across the country by wicked fossil fuels.

There are some bright spots in retail, though: Nearly every clothing store features a selection of merchandise emblazoned with rainbows or sequined, moralizing reminders to “be kind.” This is usually located near the “wine o’clock” shirts. This must be part of the magic of Christmas.

On my way home, I passed able-bodied drug addicts who ride “community” scooters (or Uber) on their way to panhandle and pile trash by my neighborhood. Not exactly the pitiful street urchins from Oliver Twist, nor the truly disabled poor. More than once, I’ve observed them working with others who arrive to pick up the cardboard cash call, the tricks of the trade; but even the homeless have free market urges.

In the political realm, there’s always a new virtue signal to mock. This year, leftists are wild about the the flag—the Ukrainian flag, that is. Eager to paint one of the most corrupt nations in the world with the respectability of democracy, they stick the blue and yellow in yards and on social media profiles. A neighbor accented her fancy privacy gate with a distinctive Ukraine flag—with the added panache of the Marxist fist, underscoring stupidity.

Buried in the trappings of Christmas clutter and to-do lists, it’s easy for me to get discouraged and dream of “easier times.” When I’m frustrated at the idiocy around me, I find myself ever so nostalgic for the past. We all know nostalgia is dangerous; the past wasn’t sinless, painless, or glorious. But there is such a thing as better, and better it was.

Call it Grinchiness, or call it wistfulness—the shine is off this year, and I miss life among the sensible people. For me, that time was in my childhood—a time when Atari and Pac-Man were the technology wonders in my friends’ homes. My old 1980’s heroes weren’t all deep thinkers, but they did at least think.

For them, it was a good idea to incentivize work, build families, protect children from perverts, and salute the (American) flag. In my formative years, those weren’t radical or “white privilege” ideas. They were givens, accepted by most, and thought to be the impermeable fences around American life.

The eighties held charms in pedestrian ways. Dogs didn’t ride in strollers, men didn’t wear jeggings, and parents didn’t helicopter so much. Schools didn’t use 42 apps to complicate things like reporting grades or making basic announcements. Kids weren’t whisked away curbside from school after a parent sat idling in a carpool line for 30 minutes.

By today’s standards, we lived a harsh life. Dogs were beloved but consigned to being animals, not “fur babies”; some of us even had dog houses in the back yard. Grades were sent home on yellow carbon copies, either mailed or tucked into folders to be “signed and returned” to confirm we had parents. After school, we left, either meeting at the bike rack to see who might kiss or fight, or waiting for mom out front after the bus riders departed. More than once, I watched my principal leave campus for the day while I waited for mom to show up with no cell phone to contact her.

Clothing was memorably ugly, but nobody wanted to look androgynous (except Boy George). Aside from the punk rock crowd, kids weren’t really forming identities around green hair. With the exception of a few P.E. teachers, you didn’t have to guess someone’s gender.

Our free time was accounted for, but not by soccer schedules or apps sending notifications all day. Instead, we had a prime-time TV schedule to track. Magnum P.I. came on Thursday nights; Dukes of Hazard was on Friday nights; kids with permissive parents allowed theme to stay up and watch Knot’s Landing, a no-no in my house. Fantasy Island’s adulterous story lines, with Mr. Roarke’s shady presence, never seemed right at church the next morning.

Those details played out in a moral universe that my children can only dream of. We had real freedoms and real fences. Our freedoms are today marks of ignorance or outright offenses. I rode my bike to school, across the train tracks, and to other neighborhoods. We never were locked down, not even when Chicken Pox raged (my kids are amazed I survived it). It wasn’t “cool” to be a practicing Christian, but it also wasn’t “white Christian privilege” or “hate”.

Schoolwork was found in textbooks and on “dittos” that smelled of fresh ink. Teachers weren’t trained as social justice warriors. Discipline was real; I received a solid paddling from my middle school dean for sneaking baked treats from my Home Economics classroom. Stocky football coaches were also available to remind campus miscreants that stupidity earns special rewards.

Life in the surrounding town was different, too. Shiftless urban men weren’t encouraged to get around to their non-employment by sharing a scooter. The police were respected, yet feared among the lawless. You could go to a mall without fear of a shooting—not because of “gun laws”, but because kids weren’t following the idiotic pied pipers of social media.

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