I've been staring at a blank page for about thirty minutes. It's supposed to contain a happy holiday column but somehow the happiness eludes me. For starts, I realize that simply using the term "Happy Holidays" is fraught with danger. Despite the fact that for many of us it represents a cheerful greeting to friends of all persuasions, to others it apparently represents some sort of war on their religion.
Given that the radio station my birds listen to all day has been playing nothing but Christmas music since the day after Thanksgiving, I'd suggest that those folks not waste their energy on a war they won a long, long time ago. I suggest that they use a little of that Christian charity so often spoken about during this season to acknowledge the legitimacy of other celebrations happening at the same time. Perhaps they can view the phrase "Happy Holidays" as a way of offering people observing those other celebrations cheerful wishes.
Of course, that massacre of innocents in Newtown last week also casts a long and heavy shadow. It could be viewed as a chance for those children to enter heaven while still young, pure and free of sin. But that's hardly a comfort to families looking at already wrapped presents under a tree that will never be unwrapped by eager little hands. Although spirituality can help through times like this, nothing really fills the holes left by an assault rifle in the hands of someone lacking all reason, compassion, compunction and humanity.
That, of course, leads to the next most heated debate after the one over Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays. I'm referring to the debate over gun control or, as some might term it, sensible firearm legislation. There are the people who will argue that if the teachers had been armed, they could have protected the children better. Of course, anyone even slightly familiar with guns and body armor know how ludicrous it is to think that a teacher with a handgun could take down a shooter with assault weapons dressed in body armor. Unless, of course, you are talking about arming our teachers like we arm our Special Forces.
On the other hand, the shooter's mother, an apparently respected middle-aged woman, owned the guns that the shooter used. Under almost any law in which assault rifles could be bought, she would have qualified to buy them. So gun control would not have kept him from those weapons. On the third hand, if all assault weapons were banned, would only criminals own assault weapons? It's about here that my brain goes into a painful freeze that can only be undone by holding my two dogs tightly and rubbing my forehead on their soft fur.
The last little bit of holiday cheer I possessed ran screaming from my body when I read that the pope thought this was a good time to mention that same sex marriage is an abomination and threatens all of civilization. Ho! Ho! Ho! There is nothing that keeps the milk of human kindness flowing more during this season than the pope pointing out that as far as he's concerned, gay people are the cause of the downfall of humanity. I'm sure it's exactly what Jesus would have said had he ever said anything on the topic.
So yeah, trying to come up with something positive to write this holiday season has been all but impossible, except for one thing. On Christmas Eve I'll have dinner with a pretty amazing family. Not my family but amazing nonetheless. And I'll speak to my sister who will be spending the holiday with a friend who has been her BFF since kindergarten. And I'll call my brother who will be with the whole crazy group who are actually my blood relatives back East. And then on Christmas Day, I'll eat dinner at a family table with two members of the greatest generation, the generation that simply did not know how to give up no matter what the odds.
With all the sadness and pain that this holiday season brings, those of us lucky enough to still be surrounded by love and family should be very grateful for what we have. God knows the recent past has shown us that it can all be lost in an instant.
Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," a memoir of her 28 years in Barrow. Web site, www.elisepatkotak.com.