Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, UnInkables! It’s Christmas day, and I’ve been home with family, doing what I do–eating, joking, and pensively staring out windows while I ponder the fate of humankind. This season, while surrounded by loved ones and warmed by hot beverages, I find myself thinking a lot about the supposed “War on Christmas” that hits conservative media every year.
For those of you like me who are fortunate enough to have a warm and loving family to return to for the holidays, you may feel excitement (or dread) at the thought of conversing with your more political relatives. In my case, it’s usually the former—my family tends to be pretty interested in such things, and I drew a lot of my initial love for writing, history, and politics from my parents.
One topic of conversation that kept coming up: the state of our world, and, as a family that has a lot of historians and writers, where we see things going in the next few years.
Naturally, given the general tone of the news lately, you would be right to assume the conversation took a few bleak turns. However, there were a few things that we discussed which gave me hope, and which I’ll share with you here.
Oh, and I’m gonna get into some sci-fi shit by the end of this, so to put you in the mood, here’s some special Christmas music:
The War on Christmas is a Joke
First, though, let’s talk about something that makes my hope-meter plummet—the nonsensical “War on Christmas” and the people who get upset about it.
America is not a singular nation. Oh, sure, we are e pluribus unum, and I think that’s beautiful. But we are also e pluribus, and there is no temperature setting high enough on the melting pot to completely homogenize our cultural DNA—which, I think, is a good thing. We are one country, made of many, and at our best, maybe we can be a positive reflection of the greatest, kindest, most valuable traits humanity has to offer.
On the flip side, the world is a lot bigger than America, and that’s a lesson Americans sometimes forget—there are close to a hundred major holidays celebrated around the world during the same period of time as Christmas, and if you’re going to pride your nation on its diversity, you need to be accepting of the cultural accoutrements that come with that diversity.
Getting upset over a lack of Nativity scenes, or about a coffee cup, is not a helpful disposition. Sappy as it may sound, I believe the Crazy Christmas Crusaders may have forgotten what Christmas is all about.
Christmas isn’t about festive greetings, decorations, gifts, or mistletoe—it’s not even really about religion, when you really think about it. You’re free to disagree with that last point, but consider that Christmas started as a Pagan holiday, and that it’s celebrated all over the world today in countries like Japan, where there is no Christian majority and the holiday is seen more as a fun foreign import.
Christmas is about the things we always say it’s about in movies and TV specials—family, friends, togetherness, and goodwill.
That’s why, in my mind, it’s particularly silly to be upset when I consider that A, we made up the entire concept of Christmas, a concept which has changed many times since its inception; B, the things which divide us as homo sapiens sapiens—countries, nationalities, religions, languages, etc.—are also made up, and C, every year we move forward, the boundaries between us are fewer and fewer, while the ones which remain become weaker and weaker.
And even though the last couple years have been rough ones, there are always things to celebrate, things which prove we have made progress, we have pushed for togetherness and peace despite our worst shortcomings, and there is hope.
Christmas is About Humanity (and Robots)
Hope can take a lot of forms, and in my twisted mind, hope looks a lot less like a bunch of people holding hands and singing carols in a circle, and a lot more like Data from Star Trek.
See, I follow a lot of science topics that trend in the news, and since high school, I’ve seen a lot of really neat advancements which, frankly, I never thought would happen in my lifetime—we’ve added two new base pairs to DNA, created self-replicating artificial cells, and made some pretty serious dents in telomere research and reversing human aging, just to name a few. Oh, and then there’s also the burgeoning field of quantum computing, Elon Musk plans to send Teslas to Mars, and scientist can record and play back a person’s dreams.
I fully admit that I may be getting ahead of myself, but these are just a handful of the stories I keep track of. Humanity, while currently dealing with some pretty serious coming-of-age problems like global warming, overpopulation, and a rise in fascism and terror across the world, is poised to make some pretty damn impressive strides if we can just keep our shit together.
Honestly, I expect to be interacting with humanoid robots, cyborgs, and man-made animals before I’m 50.
Christmas, above all, is about hope, and hope, to me, is still alive if there are people who keep moving forward. I don’t want to be a pessimist, or to feel sad all the time because of things beyond my control. But I do want to be human, and to love and celebrate my fellow human beings and their achievements, whatever holiday they celebrate in December.
So, from the bottom of my heart – Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and here’s to a bright 2018, filled with promise and benevolent robot overlords!