|"Jonesie" decked out for the holidays|
Consider that the Nativity story - apocryphal or not - with its manger and Magi, ends darkly. Fade to The Flight into Egypt and The Massacre of the Innocents. From the Gospel of Matthew's perspective, Baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were refugees from unimaginable violence, the same as those families fleeing atrocities in Syria and Honduras. What distinguishes the modern era's genocides from the paranoid tyrant King Herrod's mass murder of Bethelem's infants?
"The past is never dead. It's not even past," said William Faulkner. As the Orange One prepares to light the National Christmas Tree on December 9, we bear witness to his regime's calculated cruelty in separating thousands of refugee children from their parents and incarcerating them at the U.S. southern border - one more crime against humanity, this one shamefully endorsed by an entire political party and likely to haunt America for generations to come.
|I give Jonesie some Santa pointers|
Five years ago when I wrote "Milagro," however, I had no idea how awfully prescient its immigrant child separation theme would become. I intended it to be a readable narrative from the department store Santa's point of view, while socially conscious and compelling, taking in the ironies as well as the often-overlooked message of charity and compassion within Father Christmas mythology. Moreover, the novella's author proceeds again go to the American Civil Liberties Union for their untiring work on behalf of these refugee families.
Dickens achieved a perfect balance of conscience and cheer in A Chrismas Carol. It is darker than is often considered - playing on themes of conscience, mortality, and redemption. But of all the literary Christmas tales that abound, however, like many of us, James Joyce's "The Dead" from The Dubliners, moves me most, starting with the exquisite grace and beauty of its Joyce's lyrical inner voicings.
Joyce's haunting tale conveys a sacred core of the Christmas season for me, not of Santas and lights and tinsel, but of mystery, transition, and transcendence. Each time I read it I am moved close to tears by the end, as Joyce's Gabriel awakens to the transcendence of existence.
"Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself which these dead had one time reared and lived in was dissolving and dwindling.
"A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."
|Donal McCann & Anjelica Huston in The Dead, 1987|
There is always hope. With that, I join Tiny Tim in saying "God bless us, everyone!" I wish you all the merriest of holidays and a happy new year better than the last in every way.
Sometimes Ridiculous, Ophelia Rising, Milagro on 34th Street and Our Own Kind. His short stories have been published in Catamaran Literary Reader and Chicago Quarterly Review where he is a contributing editor. He was contributing writer to Forbes, covering the Silicon Valley 1995-2004. Prior to that, he was an editor and staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and its Sunday magazine, West. He was also the editor of San Francisco Magazine. He has written more than 300 articles for newspapers and magazines, online and in print. He joined Authors Electric in May 2015 and has contributed to several of its anthologies, including Another Flash in the Pen and One More Flash in the Pen. He has four adult children - Alicia Sammons, Kara Towe, Cristina Sheppard and Zoë Tosi - nine grandchildren, three great-grandchildren. He resides in Chicago. (He can be contacted at Umberto3000@gmail.com