I used to have it, you know; the Christmas spirit. 

No matter what my situation in life, I always felt it. The less I had, the more appreciative I was to have it, and that to me was the point of it all. 

Mark LaFlamme

I used to put a little tree up in my office at home and I’d decorate it with all the usual trimmings. Lights, tinsel, those ceramic balls that will invariably break and you’ll spend the rest of the year pulling shards out of your feet … 

Just staring at a twinkling Christmas tree — my own or just a random one seen in a neighbor’s window — used to enthrall me utterly. For me, it was a spiritual sensation, even if that spirituality was vague and undefined. 

All those twinkling Christmas trees, placed by so many men and women who at some level must have believed in the old notions of peace on Earth and goodwill toward men. 

I used to buy packs of Christmas cards and send them to everyone I know, including virtual strangers. The spirit of the holiday always inspired in me a feeling of wholesome camaraderie; of warmth toward all of my fellows and general optimism about the world and the future we all face. 

Christmas music once stirred in me an almost out-of-body sense of nostalgia, even if outwardly I had to claim to hate it. The right version of “Silent Night” would near paralyze me with a kind of joy that was unique to the season and which, once again, could only be described as spiritual. 

I used to have Christmas spirit because, without putting in any particular effort, I FELT the holiday as I assume it is meant to be felt. Even if I couldn’t fully explain the joy I felt, I DID feel it right down into my bones. 

Around Christmas, all seemed right in the world, and in the hearts of those who celebrate it. 

It was kind of wonderful, now that I look back on the simplicity of those years: peace on Earth, goodwill toward men and trees twinkling in every window to declare these ancient ideas. We might be greedy and disagreeable the rest of the season, but around Christmas we all came together, by gum, unified by the spirit. 

But I don’t put up Christmas trees anymore and I don’t feel the warm buzz of enthrallment when I behold the trees of others, no matter how exquisitely decorated. These days, Christmas music is just music. The right song might stir SOMETHING in me, but it isn’t Christmas spirit and it isn’t anything at all spiritual. 

For me, the holiday season has lost its sublime joy. In place of that joy comes the grinding unhappiness of living in a demoralized and divided world — a world that no longer makes sense; a world where up is down and two plus two equals five. 

By and large, the holiday makes me bitter because something I had once is no longer there and I don’t completely understand what happened to it.  

Did I change? Did the world change?  I feel as though I went to sleep in Bedford Falls and woke up in Potters Field.

Perhaps true Christmas spirit requires a bit of naivete and THAT’S what I lost. Maybe to feel the spirit utterly, you have to believe that people are essentially good and that our combined humanity will invariably overpower the corrupting influences that are with us always. 

But I no longer believe that. Not even a little bit. To me, all is not calm, all is not bright, and nobody, but nobody is sleeping in heavenly peace. 

I’ve become cynical and pessimistic, I admit it freely. But is it so surprising? One glance at the day’s headlines is enough to pummel my spirit into dust and a scroll through social media will scatter that dust to the wind. We’re a very sick culture and the path we’re on leads to nothing but ruin. 

As I see it, the world is full of more ferocious hate than I’ve seen in my lifetime, and very few seem capable, or even willing to resist it. People in high places want us to be divided and we fall for the bait. Every. Single. Time.  

Progressives vs. conservatives. The elephant vs. the donkey. The vaccinated vs. the unvaccinated. Pro-cop vs. anti-cop. Pro-gun vs. anti-gun. Pro-choice vs. pro-life.  

And those are just the big ones, the issues that will leave entire city blocks in flames when the disagreements go hot. 

They’ve got us divided on much smaller lines, too. Masks in schools? Just questioning the logic of that one can get a concerned parent labeled a terrorist by a high government official 

Families that have struggled together through tough times might now find themselves ripped apart by any of a thousand manufactured narratives tearing at the fabric of our beleaguered society. The matter of vaccines alone has taken a mighty toll and just raising questions about the latest storyline at the dinner table can get a person shunned. 

Staying out of the fray altogether is no longer an option. You’re either on Team A or Team B and in this brave new world, no one is allowed to stand on the sidelines. Like World Wrestling Entertainment fans, we’re presented with characters and storylines, ordered to make our choices and told to hate those on the other side. 

You can’t believe half of what you hear anymore, either — we live in an age where career journalists claim, out loud and with no shame, that reporters should go ahead and ditch objectivity in favor of activism. Most of the celebrity journalists we are cursed with have taken that advice to heart, and they will go on air to unabashedly campaign for Candidate A without so much as a nod to the objectivity that you, the viewer, needs and deserves. 

And it’s not enough to present slanted news. People with opposing views have to be shut up, shut down and prevented from speaking anywhere. The First Amendment? Another relic from the past. Censorship is not only allowed, it’s encouraged and applauded, all in the name of safety or whatever spin is being put on it this week.  

The dean of Columbia University, one of the nation’s top journalism schools, has bemoaned the “weaponization” of free speech, which is just another way of crying for the elimination of people with opinions you don’t like.  

Intellectual honesty is considered a fault and the art of critical thinking is mostly dead — in fact, the New York Times published an editorial declaring it outright dangerous. You can’t have people doing their own research and coming to their own conclusions, according to the article. Why do all that when so many celebrity talking heads are paid big money to do your thinking for you? 

Verifiably false information is put out every day and people gobble it up like starving mongrels. As the unspoken war between us rages on, little lies are used to foster bigger ones. The truth, by and large, has been sacrificed in favor of blind obedience.  

Try getting enthused about a holiday when you no longer have faith in the profession you gave your life to. Try waiting for other journalists to call out this nonsense and hearing crickets, instead. 

The world has become a place where lies are encouraged, if they serve the right cause, and censoring people with opposing views is considered heroic. It’s my version of hell, and instead of the nostalgic scents of pine and cinnamon for the holidays, I smell mainly brimstone and sulfur — who can maintain the spirit when all indications are that the other guy, the fellow from down below, has taken control of the world?  

Better men than me, I guess is the short answer. I know people and I know families who keep their Christmas traditions alive even as the world burns around them and I admire them for it. They refuse to let themselves be dragged down into the muck, their happiness contaminated by a lot of orchestrated nonsense. 

They still feel Christmas the way it’s meant to be felt, and lord, how I envy them.

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