So far, the 2020s have been no cakewalk. Or, as one of my favorite podcasters (who’s usually a bouncing ball of optimism) said: “The world’s a freakin’ dumpster fire floating down the river.”
She was discussing the Israel-Hamas war, which has claimed thousands of lives on both sides — fresh atrocities on top of ongoing ones in the Ukraine and other parts of the world. I saw a professor of history tweet that she was finding it increasingly difficult to “just carry on as if it’s another day.”
Yet time marches on, and here we are, approaching another holiday season. How do we celebrate when dread invades the place where anticipation used to reside?
By late October, I had nary a plan set for the holidays and harbored a sneaky suspicion that it might stay that way. Months earlier, my youngest sister, who recently built a beautiful farmhouse in the middle of a bunch of acres in the middle of nowhere in rural Maryland, begged the family to come visit for Thanksgiving. But another sibling and I, who disagree profoundly on some
political and ideological issues, had a spat, and that drained my enthusiasm over getting together.
We love to wax with perplexity over war. “I just don’t understand it,” we say. But conflict starts in each individual person. Inside that word — individual — hides another: divide. And within the coldness of division, we can fall prey to cutting “the other” off, shutting them out. I have done it. You have done it.
Consider that family member you don’t like. Or neighbor. Or at colleague. What was the conflict that broke the camel’s back? In my case, I can tell when I feel thoroughly justified in my stance. A wall goes up. A door closes. A line in the sand is drawn.
For this issue, I asked poet Lisbeth Coiman to write a different kind of holiday story than what we usually explore. I asked her to write about how tough this holiday season can be for some, whether dealing with a nasty divorce, difficult in-laws (and there’s always multiple sides to a story), financial struggles or unmet expectations. I assigned the story before this most recent war, yet it inspires self-reflection that can be applied to a variety of conflicts.
When war is raging in another part of the world, it’s easy to stay absorbed in our “safe” corners and assume such unthinkable horror will never touch us. That history will never repeat itself. The history professor knows better.
Believing we can save the world is the stuff of childhood dreams. But perhaps this is a holiday season where we can take at least a step in opening a closed door — even if that door is inside our minds and hearts. And I do hope it’s a season where weapons are laid down and peace talks step up — across dinner tables and borders.
You know who doesn’t care about our feuds? Our children, the unborn and those who are already gone.
Cassandra Lane is Editor-in-Chief of L.A. Parent.