Current political climate leaves little room for 'glad tidings'

"To the American People: Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind," wrote President Calvin Coolidge on Dec. 25, 1927, in his annual presidential Christmas message to the country.


"To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas," Coolidge continued. "If we think on these things, there will be born in us a Savior and over us will shine a star sending its gleam of hope to the world."


Why is it that when I write those words during this divisive time in our nation's political history, I sound like Simon and Garfunkel singing "Silent Night," with their "Seven O'Clock News" being recited in the background?


"With Democrats and Republicans calling each other anti-American, and the House of Representatives voting for impeachment of President Trump, Americans can look forward to several more weeks of vitriolic political warfare during a Senate trial."


Sort of makes scribbling "peace on Earth and good will toward men" in your Christmas cards seem like wishful thinking.


Sentiments of Many


A lot of people do routinely wish glad tidings to others during the holidays.


"Christmas is joy, religious joy, an inner joy of light and peace," Pope Francis once said.


Of course, popes don't have to get re-elected.


It was Washington Irving who once wrote that, "Christmas is a season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart."


Good luck with that. Adapt popular holiday sentiments to the present political climate, however, and the words become less hospitable. Santa becomes a "Do-Nothing Elf," if we don't get the gift we desire.


Still, many holiday observers remain optimistic about the magic of Christmas.


"Christmas will always be as long as we stand heart to heart and hand in hand," Dr. Seuss once said.


Sure, that sounds good. But, Democrats and Republicans are only going to walk down the government aisle hand-in-hand if it gives them a better chance to punch each other with their free fist — not in the heart but in the solar plexus. If one political party can't knock the wind out of the other party's argument, at the least its members are going to try to get in a good gut punch.


Which somehow makes me recall these festive words.


"It snowed last year too: I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea," Dylan Thomas once wrote in "A Child's Christmas in Wales."


I've never really understood that holiday prose until after I watched the knock-down and drag-them-out debate in the House of Representatives before the impeachment vote.


Celebrating the Season


"Christmas is a day of meaning and traditions," former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher once observed about, "a special day spent in the warm circle of family and friends."


Notice she didn't make any mention of political colleagues.


And, so, as we move forth through the holiday season we seem to be destined to celebrate it like angry siblings or cousins sitting down with scowls to mumble an insincere prayer before fighting over who gets the drumstick at Christmas dinner.


Even those of us — the vast majority — who are not directly involved in politics still dwell on and take sides in the current political goings on and harbor anything but glad tidings for those who espouse different views than ours.


"And that, of course, is the message of Christmas," novelist Taylor Caldwell once wrote. "We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent ..."


You know, like now ...


"Christmas is a necessity," a news commentator, the late Eric Sevareid, once said. "There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we're here for something else besides ourselves."