This has been a difficult Christmas season. The ongoing Writers Guild strike meant moving a lot of the usual yuletide ya-ya to the back burner.
This has been a difficult Christmas season. The ongoing Writers Guild strike meant moving a lot of the usual yuletide ya-ya to the back burner. Parties and shopping yielded to picket lines, meetings and conference calls.
But I hit the wall late Friday afternoon. I was lacking in anything much resembling Christmas spirit and felt in danger of having the holiday entirely pass me by. Two strike-related phone calls too many -- one on the house phone, the other, simultaneously, on the cell -- sent me over the edge.
And so, in the interest of mental health, all else was forsaken and, unilaterally and pre-emptively, Christmas was declared. In the last 72 hours before the day itself, I managed to jam buying, wrapping and mailing gifts; sending out cards; picking up a wreath; quaffing cider and eggnog; playing the “Christmas with the Rat Pack” CD multiple times; and screening “It's a Wonderful Life,” “White Christmas” and “The Bishop's Wife,” the latter twice.
As Christmas Eve softly segued into Christmas Day, a last-minute decision to hit midnight Mass had my girlfriend, Pat, and me heading up to the Church of the Holy Family, the parish church of the United Nations. It was a lovely service featuring thunderhead-like clouds of incense, a string quartet playing selections from Schubert's Mass in G, and sermonizing by a pleasantly progressive priest who managed in the same homily to condemn both the House and Garden channel on cable TV and the war in Iraq.
Part of his message was about communication. He spoke of how Jesus' life and death were intended as a way of communicating to us the necessity of living as God intended. But he also spoke of the need for better communication among ourselves, other nations and other faiths.
Not a moment too soon. As the Los Angeles Times editorialized Christmas morning, "Religious intolerance is flourishing around the globe, and in 2007, the world witnessed fierce outbreaks of repression and violence, hatred and bigotry."
Why? The LA Times opined, "It has long been observed that religious revivalism and ethno-religious political conflicts flourish during epochs of rapid change, social dislocation and uncertainty about the future. Today, the challenges of globalization, overpopulation, migration and competition for scarce resources are blowing through many lives with hurricane force."
Even here at home. On Dec. 11, the House of Representatives passed, by a vote of 372 to 9, a resolution that not only supports Christmas as "a holiday of great significance to Americans" but "expresses continued support for Christians in the United States ... acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States ... rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide; and expresses its deepest respect to American Christians."
All well and good but, er, what about the 37 million other Americans who don't identify themselves as Christians? Chopped liver? This is supposed to be a society built on religious freedom.
The word you're looking for is "ignorance," a condition made worse by the inability to communicate and by the increasing, minute-to-minute failure of the print and broadcast media to convey to the populace the information it needs to keep a viable democracy up and running.
A week ago, the FCC voted along party lines, 3-2, to allow the big media giants to consolidate even further, wiping out more local stations, decreasing diversity and eliminating the competition necessary to keep quality journalism alive and well.
Last time the FCC attempted this, in the face of massive public opposition, numbering in the millions, it was rejected by Congress and the courts. Now another public campaign is necessary to beat consolidation back yet again.
As the deans of eight major American journalism schools wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece Dec. 22, "Honest, aggressive, well-trained reporters and editors will be a powerful force for good in society. ... The FCC ought to treat a broadcast licensee's commitment of resources to original local reporting on public affairs as a key factor in its decisions about regulatory issues."
Write your members of Congress and urge them to oppose this newest FCC attempt to deregulate the media. By law, the public still owns the airwaves. They haven't been given away as a Christmas present. Yet.
Michael Winship, a native of Canandaigua, is a freelance television writer in Manhattan and president of the Writers Guild of America East.