And So This Is Christmas


Santa 2

This is not the post I planned for today.  I originally wanted to write something funny about one of my favorite holiday films, Christmas In Connecticut, or poke fun at myself for crying over Christmas carols, like Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home).”

Today, though, I have a need to write a long post (my apologies) about a very different Christmas in Connecticut, a very different Christmas in America — and the idea that I, and I think most of us, cannot stop crying — with or without Christmas carols.   For me, the overwhelming sadness is just below the skin.  It doesn’t take much — the news, a moment of silence, an overheard conversation — to unleash a flood of tears.

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I also find my sadness has woven itself between anger and confusion.  To reference another classic film, Network, I want to do as Howard Beale instructed: “I want all of you to get up out of your chairs.  I want you to get up right now and go to the window.  Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’”

And there is the crux of the issue.   Since the incident in Connecticut, so many of us have asked the same question, “What’s happening in this country?”  The truth is, we all know what’s happening.  In fact, it’s been happening for so long and without any results that all we have left is our anger and fallow fields.  Personally, I’ve been angry since George W. Bush’s first presidency.

Since starting this blog, I have tried very hard to keep politics out of the posts — and I will do my best now.  My first draft, though, was complete vitriol.  I walked away from the keyboard, and upon my return have decided to contain myself — at least a little.

What I want more than anything right now, right this very minute, is some time in the garden — to think, to dig, to process, to move, to understand.  It’s December, which is not an optimal time to be in the garden — but lessons learned in the garden are timeless, regardless of the season or the circumstance.

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Let’s begin with the soil.  It’s the foundation of all good and healthy growth — and there is a problem with America’s soil.  We all know it.  We all sense it.  It feels and smells depleted of nutrients and organic matter — and yet, we all feel helpless or powerless or reluctant to amend it.

Ignore it long enough and see what develops.  Weeds.  Pests.  Fungus.  Blight.

That’s why the head gardeners in the land must create policies that balance basic gardening principles with overall garden wellness.  The time has come for a sensible gun control policy.  We, as a society, can no longer afford to fall back into the usual political posturing and caving into the wants of special interest groups.  Surely, we can come up with something that protects Americans’ right to bear arms with the common sense that a weapon suited for a combat zone should not be one of those arms.

Before I actively began to garden, I did a lot of reading and research.  I think we all did and continue to do so. It’s important to know the characteristics of plants — do they prefer sun or shade or a bit of dappled sunlight?  Do they bloom in May or July?  Are they suitable for my climate zone?

better homes and gardens

That’s what we do for plants — and so it boggles my mind that individuals in some states can purchase guns and unlimited ammunition without a background check.    I can’t even purchase an over-the-counter cold remedy without showing my drivers license.

There’s also the issue of invasive plant species — anyone who has tried bamboo should have an idea of how quickly a clump can easily become an out-of-bounds forest.

It’s the same idea with weapons.   It’s possible for an individual to leave his home state (which has strict gun control legislation) for a neighboring state (which has not-so-strict gun control legislation), make a purchase, and then transport that weapon back to his home state.  Sounds like an invasive issue to me.

I only wish my same sex marriage license could so easily cross state lines.  So much for love conquering all, I guess.

Let’s say that a garden is neglected, leaving open the possibility of greater problems.  Take one aphid, for example — just don’t turn your back on that aphid or you’ll have an infestation.  When it comes to pest control, gardeners can take one of two routes: a completely organic approach or one that requires some chemicals.  Either way, gardeners have to follow the directions and monitor how, where, and when any products are used.  This helps to maximize treatment.

So when we begin the talk on sensible gun control, there also needs to be the talk about mental health and psychiatric care in this country.  There are so many, many people in need of high-quality, long-term, and even residential treatment, as well as medication, the usage of which needs to be supervised in conjunction with counseling — but how far will insurance and affordability and access go?

What Child Is This

Our land is actually a community garden.  At least that’s what I understand these words to mean: “This land is your land, this land is my land. . .”   That’s why it’s so disheartening when some member gardeners do the garden a disservice.

The news media has done a wonderful job of bringing the news story to us — non-stop.  I’m not saying they shouldn’t report it, but I have a feeling the people in Newtown would like some privacy to mourn.  But each news show has given the story its own theme music, stylish graphics, and non-stop chatter from reporters.

The nightmare is now entertainment and a ratings grabber.  Each time a newsperson uses the phrase, “One of the worst school shootings ever,” I cringe.  First, because the statement indicates that there is more than one school shooting to use as a comparison.  Second, because I fear they have just drawn a line in the sand for the next shooter.

And let’s not forget video games, movies, the Internet, and television.  Thanks to them, we — children included — are given a steady diet of violence and disrespect.  Many reality shows, such as “Amish Mafia” and “Jersey Shore,” have turned rude and crass behavior into the new normal.  In order to be shocking and “entertaining,” violence and outlandish behavior need to become more graphic.  Just look at the violence in an old James Cagney film and compare it to what is seen today in our living rooms — or even in the bedrooms of many children.

Angels We Have Heard On High

As a result of this gardening neglect, opportunistic pests have been allowed to thrive, allowed to spin webs of ignorance, rudeness, and lack of civility.  I am referring to a shopper I heard in a local box store, crowded with holiday shoppers and children.

I was a few aisles away when I heard his gravelly voice yelling into a cell phone, presumably to his wife: “Where’s the f!@#$n layaway.  I’ve been all over this f!@#$n store and I can’t find the f!@#$n layaway.”  No one, including myself, did anything to stop him or correct him.  Instead, we allowed him to speak that way out of fear.  I’m not proud of my reaction — but this is the state of our garden, overgrown and jungle-like.

What’s a home gardener to do?  After all, we can’t have a community garden without a community.  I want to know that I’m safe in my garden, my workplace, my mall, my school, my bank, my movie theater . . .

Let’s be honest: the garden can be a scary, untamed place — more so because there are so many variables working against you, and chances are the head gardeners won’t provide too much assistance to make your tasks easier.  To establish your garden, it’s probably best to take charge of your plot of land, no matter how large or small.

The first step is to make sure to create a fertile, nutrient-rich environment, where tender young shoots can flower and flourish.  In doing so, you’ll have to remain vigilant to keep pests and diseases at bay — even if it means making difficult decisions, such as refusing to purchase products that do nothing but poison your plants.

I also find it’s important to talk to your plants.  It keeps them healthy, and I believe they tend to reach higher.  When you do talk them, be sure to celebrate their beauty and strength, as well as warn them of the dangers lurking in the garden.  You know the dangers — the things that seek to nibble at the stems and leaves, ultimately devouring them of their essence.

Christmas Ornament

You should probably also be mindful of the intruders.  Speak up and let them know that you do not appreciate the toxic goods which they make readily available.  These products are often packaged to appeal to a young, impressionable market, but be wary of the skull and crossbones.  That logo is never good.

Lastly, be sure to tell the head gardeners what you want and need for your garden.  That’s the responsibility they accepted when we elected them to that position.  There is no greater lobbying group than the American people — I mean, gardeners.

It seems that there is no Christmas carol that holds more meaning this year than the lyrics written by another human being who was prematurely taken from us because of violence, John Lennon.

Have a very Merry Christmas,

And a Happy New Year,

Let’s hope it’s a good one,

Without any fear.

34 thoughts on “And So This Is Christmas

  1. Hmmmmmm…what to say? Sadly there has & will probably always be evil amongst us, whether armed or not. We don’t have guns as readily available here in the UK but there’s still evil everywhere, in every imaginable and sometimes the most unimaginable of forms, individuals hell bent on distruction. Of late,day in and day out we’re hearing stories of the most dreaful crimes against children dating back decades but it’s been going on & will always go on. We can rant, get angry, cry, protest & shout from our windows but unfortunately that’s all that most of us can do which is so sad. All most of us can do is plant as much happiness as you can in the garden, squeeze so much love into the garden that the fences bow with the pressure and be prepared to gather up the leaves should they fall.
    ‘All You need is Love’ xxx

    • Jane, thanks for taking the time to read such a long post. I know there is evil, and that there will always be evil, but — I’m not sure if there’s more evil or more media outlets reporting on evil so it appears to be more. I do, though, like your idea of planting love. Be well, my friend.

  2. Touching post. I liked how you made our country a symbolic garden. We do need to nourish the soil in this country…and help the rising generation connect with humanity better. I’m not against video games or movies or guns for that matter, but there must be moderation and common sense involved with all these things that can plant seeds of violence in people. You brought out some great points. I think we will see changes happen in legislation because of this…but that doesn’t solve the problem of the soil still. Families, neighbors and communities need to nourish the soil so these kids growing up in a world that is less social (face to face because of the ease and fun of technology) can learn to care for themselves and others. (Sorry my comment is so long)

    • Hi Char. No apologies necessary for your long comment. I agree with what you said — especially when it comes to technology. It may be convenient, but we do seem to be losing a lot. I’m hoping that something positive will grow from this tragedy.

  3. So many ‘gardeners’ seem to be so angry and at odds with each other. I agree, things would be so much better if more of the ‘head gardeners’ really worked to make the land better for the next generation, as opposed to just caring about their own little plot and status.

    There will always be evil in the world. To counter it, we all need to go out of our way to do good and make the world a better place. Our sproutlings are counting on it.

  4. Had similar conversation with a friend today and both of us raised most of the same agonies you mentioned so there’s a thread of common concern running through many Americans’ minds vis a vis assault weapons vs. gun control/second amendment rights. It was reaffirming to read that our thoughs marched pretty much in lock-step. Thanks very much for posting, Kevin. Nurturing the soil may not reap the results for which many of us pray, however when confronted with the $$,$$$ to be found in violent media & gun lobby resources. We have perseverance in our arsenal and it doesn’t yet speak at the same volume as those dollars.

    • Hi Eileen. I’ve had the same conversation with my colleagues, and I’ve heard similar conversations while standing on line in the supermarket or in the bank. The voices are out there — we just need to come together, right now . . . Yup, another Beatles quote.

  5. Thank you, Kevin. For finding the words that I, and I’m guessing many others could not.

    The soil is widely depleted, even corrupted. In some places, the climate is so violent that every attempt at beauty is threatened by drought, hail, superstorm, or firestorm. The neglect practiced by the head gardeners of nearly every enterprise and empire is so habitual and sanctioned by so many exhausted or polluted others, that we, the gardening people, labor under a constant barage of everything from weed seeds to poisons to trampling feet. Yet, garden we must.

    • Hi Cheryl. Always nice to hear from you — and thanks for reading the long post. Yes, getting out there and gardening is so necessary — it may be the only way to replenish the land that is ours. Hang in there — maybe the winds are changing.

  6. Kevin, I feel I have anything to say or add, often silence is my answer to brutal questions. I just wanted to let you know I didn’t leave this post of yours unread. Merry Christmas.

    • ALberto, I appreciate you visiting and reading this post. I know it was quite lengthy, but I hope the questions also have a universal appeal. Have a wonderful Christmas and a bountiful and beautiful New Year.

    • Hi Laura. I’m so glad you could stop by and that you enjoyed the post. In all honesty, I think John Lennon’s dream can be a reality — it just takes a little effort and some common sense. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  7. Kevin
    I wanted to write some thing simular. You’ve written it so well I have nothing further to say except that I do hope though that everyone out there will send their prayers to the familys who have suffered so greatly. YET somehow we need to hold on to our love for this season and rejoice in it in each and everyway that we always have. To find the love that seems to wash over people at this time of year. CRY at the silly songs… Feel love and be moved by the movies that tug our heart strings…….other wise these sick people out there will have stolen more then what they have already taken… They will steal away our compassion and our ingrained need to feel love. There is something about Christmas that stops people in their tracks and makes them embrace traditions and family even if the rest of the year they are able to turn away.
    Thank you for your post… your thoughts.
    May you find yourself surrounded by family, friends and love this season and throughout the year.

  8. Hi Kevin, thanks for a thoughtful and well written post. Sitting here in Britain with our strict laws on gun ownership, it seems pretty crazy that anyone can go out and buy a semi automatic assault rifle, but I suppose, just as with a standard kitchen knife – it’s not the knife in itself that is dangerous, it is how you use it. However, something that has been focused a bit on in the news over here, and perhaps needs to go on long after the debate about gun laws have been dealt with and have died down, is how we all deal with people who struggle with all sorts of mental issues.

    I don’t know how the situation is in America, but over here mental health care is the black sheep of the health care system and comes lowest down on the priority list. We all have a responsibility to look out for our family and friends but in many cases people who are really ill need professional help more than anything else. Over here it is often like banging your head against a brick wall trying to get help for people you care about, whilst hoping they don’t do anything really bad to themselves or other in the mean time. I don’t know anything about the case in Connecticut, apart from what I have heard on the news, so I am not talking about that case specifically, but in general I wish mental care patients could get dragged up from the low status they have at the moment to a place equalled for example by cardiac disease patients or tropical medicine patients. That would be something to wish for, for 2013! In the mean time I wish you a Merry Christmas 🙂

    • Hello Helene. Sadly, it’s pretty much the same. My personal hope is that something positive can come out of this tragedy — in terms of gun control and care for mental illness. It will most likely be an uphill battle.

      Have a wonderful Christmas and a New Year full of happiness and health.

  9. I have been untypically quiet this past week. I haven’t had the ability to stay lifted out of the profound sadness I’ve felt. I’m thinking about how best to put energy into advocacy for mental health reform and to pressure my representatives to work towards changes in at minimum acceptance of assault weapons. I have five friends–FIVE–who have lost children to gun violence. It’s unbelievable to me that we can live with this. And your comment about being unable to take a same sex marriage license “across state lines” just continues to highlight how sadly the balances have tipped towards ludicrous. But you did make me smile with your comment about being angry since GWB’s first administration. Wish I’d known you then, Kevin. I wish you a happy Christmas…despite it all. “We need a little Christmas”–and I will undoubtedly think of you when I see Les Mis on the 26th! 🙂

    • Debra, what a sad, sad testament. I think you and I agree that these discussions should have happened long ago — and I worry what else will happen before the conversation even begins. It’s also very comforting to know that the angry me is in very good company. 🙂 Happy Christmas and Happy New Year and Happy Movie Viewing.

  10. Kevin, as always you express yourself with such clarity and truth.

    Hope you are able to enjoy some sunshine and rest and relaxation in the coming week. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Spain, to both you and Joe. All our love, Jeannie and James

  11. Oh, Kevin. I wish this post could be read – really read- by everyone, everywhere. My husband and I are guardians of a 14-year-old boy who suffers the effects of being born into nutrient depleted and poisoned soil. He spent his early years there, and efforts now to help him heal yield frighteningly slow progress. Even with years and years of continuous mental health services and a stable home, his prognosis is grim. There are so many emotionally fragile children who will grow into emotionally fragile adults. We need strong gardeners to make commitments to helping one at-risk child in some way over a long period of time. It’s going to take a long time to turn this around, so the sooner we all get started, the better. Thank you for this post!

    • You are very welcome — and I’d like to tip my hat to you and other gardeners like you, those who step up to such a task. May you have the best of everything in the New Year — and may the head gardeners soon get the message.

  12. Kevin, I’m a little late getting to this, but I wanted to thank you for these thoughtful and thought-provoking comments. It seems to me that community is based on trust and that the “everyone should have a gun to protect themselves” culture assumes that no one out there can be trusted. I’m lucky to live in an place that, while it has a strong hunting culture, also has a culture of trust. I need to think about what I can do to strengthen that culture of trust. Thanks again.

    • Hi Jean. I know the feeling. Between work and the holidays, it’s very easy to fall behind. The idea of trust is an interesting one. I’ve noticed among the students with whom I work that they really do not trust each other — not even among friends. They share so much “surface” stuff, but the deep stuff, they keep close to their hearts.

  13. Hi Kevin
    As always, I am way behind on my email. But, you have said all this better than anyone could. Years of experience have led me to believe that it all starts with proper rooting and then consistent and continuous nourishment.
    Strict gun control laws seem to be working in other countries–why not here?
    Praying for peace in 2013. —Maria

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