Merry Christmas

Today’s December 25; for most of us a day off, a day with family, or a day to reflect on the world we live in.

A world it’s easy to take for granted.

So much so that I think it’s just as easy to forget that for some people, this Christmas is no fun at all. Whether they’re the families of a pair of firefighters from New York State, an aide serving in Afghanistan, or twenty schoolchildren from Connecticut.

Four days ago the National Rifle Association called for schools to be protected by armed guards. Reaction has ranged from scathing to considered. Personally, I felt it seemed out of touch with reality on the one hand, but then completely reasonable on the other. After all, let’s not forget: They’re a gun lobby group. Lobbying the pro-gun position in any situation is their job.

If part of any decision making process is due consideration of various offered solutions, then hey, there’s one to consider. But it’s not the only one, and I fear that we’ve gotten so used to avoiding complexity in our mass-consumption politics that we may never have the will to fully address the issues behind these tragedies.

A simple label, an emotive motto and a position of absolutes seems to sell in the world of politics. (Consider the polarity of the pro-life vs pro-choice sides of the abortion discussion – complex situations where it’s necessary in some situations but opposed in others? too hard, doesn’t fit the absolutes, doesn’t get airtime)

In my opinion this all-or-nothing is part of the problem, and part of the cause of these tragedies. No, not our inability to find a solution – it’s our solutions and the way we market them that are part of the problem.

In David Burns’ book Feeling Good, which addresses mental health issues through cognitive therapy, he describes ten typical cognitive distortions related to depression – all of which can be found in political marketing. And the first? All or Nothing Thinking: Set ourselves up with absolute ideals, fail to meet them, feel guilty about it, rate ourselves poorly against our ideals.

If we as human beings have our society and politics as our loudest, most prominent role model, then how are we learning to solve our own problems and evaluate ourselves? Is our attempt to create a quick sell for social solutions creating the very problems we’re trying to solve through an amplifying feedback loop?

The problems facing western societies today are significant and numerous. They raise questions of gun regulation; the role of Federal power when provinces and states differ so dramatically in their needs; the definition of our valued freedoms; the value of an individual’s health; the definitions of success and wealth; the pervasive use of violence to solve problems (all the way from international relations down to consumer entertainment – a discussion in its own right).

Maybe we can’t achieve peace on earth in any absolute, idealistic, philosophical or biblical sense. But if we find ourselves wishing for it these holidays, perhaps, just maybe, we can take a moment to reflect on its complex reality. And if we feel like giving, maybe the biggest gift is if we could give a little on issues.

Here’s wishing you all the very best for the holiday season and an happy and meaningful 2013.


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