Bombers Over Bethlehem

Check In: I’m at my sweetheart’s again, and we’ve been swapping beds from one room to another to favor the frame that squeaks less. And there’s been kids and it’s nicely Christmasy and familial, but not conducive to writing. Certainly not heavy writing. So I’m kinda torn between getting this out in a timely manner and just mellowing. I really just need to write holiday pieces in advance.

There really is a war on Christmas, or at least a war in which Christmas is a target.

This is a different thing than the war on Christmas we’ve seen in the US by some activist groups who insisted their reason for the season is somehow more valid than any others (contrast to commercial, secular or pagan.) People do like to think their… thing, whatever that is, is more valid than everyone else’s. Everyone’s a truer Scotsman.

But it’s Christmas. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, I’ll say it’s a human thing: we all think we have an insight that others don’t. I certainly like to pretend I do.

But now, there are people who actually want to blow Christmas up. Like boom. With bombs.

It turns out that Al-Qaeda or Islamic State make a magazine Dabiq which instructs do-it-yourself mujahideen* on tips about how to attack the enemies of Islamic State. (That’s everyone.) Dabiq advises that such militants consider attacking Christmas parties. Because they’re Christian. Because people gather together and are festive and make easy targets. Because it’s the biggest party of the year.

Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik were the attackers in the San Bernardino Shooting. They shot up the Christmas party at the County Department of Health, Farook’s workplace. The FBI now think Farook may have targeted the Christmas party based on the Dabiq suggestion. The President even declared San Bernardino as a terrorist attack.

We certainly got a lot of terror out of it. Some people are newly scared of Muslims. Some are scared of refugees. Some are scared of guns, or guys with guns. I’m in California, so all my representatives and senators want to push for more gun control. Specifically, they want to take guns away from crazies (that includes me) and the folks on the terror watch lists and no-fly lists (which really isn’t fair to them) Not that their proposed gun control would have stopped the San Bernardino rampage. Farook wasn’t a diagnosed whacko nor a terror watchlister.

Terrorist almost gives Farook too much credit. He’s more like the guys in Four Lions. It was clear he was gearing up for something bigger, but…lost it at the Christmas party, I’m guessing. There was a disagreement and then he left the party and came back shooting.

Essentially we have a guy who wanted the hero’s journey. Farook wanted to be Luke Skywalker, the guy stuck in a quotidian life yearning to be something more. And then some wizards show and tell him he’s the chosen one, that he’s got super powers and is destined for greatness, specifically to kill the big bad and save the world.

Farook just wanted to be Harry Potter. He wanted to be Jesus.

Farook, it turns out was the Grinch.

Sadly, he’s not a storybook grinch who merely does a one-night wave of burglaries, and certainly not one who gets to stick around to have his heart expanded by the spirit of Christmas. Rather, Farook killed and he killed a lot. For those who me murdered, he took all the Christmases they’ll ever have. For friends and relatives, he wrecked their years, maybe longer. He gave them a reason to be sad at Christmas parties. For even those of us who saw San Bernardino from afar, we’re hurt, and we’re angry, and we’re tired.

But now, I sing with conviction, and who cares if the carols are kooky. If some sad Christmases can be bettered for my participation, so be it. Falalalala.

Now I welcome Christmas cheer even from those reason for the season twerps who don’t like my reasons for the season. Some grinches put other grinches in perspective. Merry Christmas to you too.

Now, I want to do more than just be inoffensive to my neighbors. I want to do right by everyone I encounter, whenever I can muster a modicum of compassion, even when they cannot return the favor, because we’re all in this together. When I can’t afford compassion, at least civility and when not civility, at least tolerance. I’m not going to let my fear or my hatred or my outrage get the better of me.

Yes, our nation still feels like it’s gone to crap. Yes, I’m still sore about torture and mass surveillance and cable monopolies and drone strikes and Michael Brown and the continuous run of civilian murders by police and the to-big-to-fail economy-breaking scandals. Most of the terrors that beset us don’t all come in sad, grinchy health inspectors who just wanted to beat his own Voldemort and mean something more than the rest of us.

Each of these woes besiege us all.

So what ever kindness I can give I will offer freely. And maybe the grinch hearts we mend will grow to size before any further Christmases have to be stolen.

* Big Disclaimer of Insecurity: I am not a Muslim or an authority on the notion of jihād, except to say that the concept includes the many efforts a Muslim can engage in to preserve Islam, firstly within himself or herself, and secondly in the world. The latter of these too categories (lesser jihād) is the superset of violent efforts to pursue and destroy wrongdoers. Of course, Islam, like Christianity or any other major ideological sect has several schizms and therefore there are many differing opinions — possibly as many as there are Muslims — on the importance of jihād and on the position of violent or self-sacrificial jihād relative to non-violent jihād. It’s a bigger subject that I can address, and I think I feel the need to clarify that it’s different from crusade, and it’s not a concept that excludes Muslims from existing non-violently or even peacefully in pluralist societies.

Edits: Style, typos.

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