"How many observe Christ's birthday! How few, his precepts! O! 'tis easier to keep holidays than commandments." – Ben Franklin
Ever since I was a little kid, Christmas has been my favorite holiday. The presents were nice, but that's not what really attracted me.
It was the Christmas story itself. I loved the irony of those innkeepers turning away Joseph and Mary, not realizing that the baby she was carrying would turn out to be the most important person in history.
How I enjoyed looking down at those innkeepers! What fools they were, I sneered. We would never do that, would we?
Yes, we would. We do it with regularity, especially this year, when thousands of refugees desperately fled the Syrian civil war, only to knock on our door and find there's no room at the inn.
Remember that photo of the dead body of a little boy lying face down in the sand? That little boy was Jesus. And we crucified him all over again.
Ben Carson calls the refugees "rabid dogs." Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush say we should only admit Christians. And Chris Christie says even three-year-olds are too dangerous to take in.
But our bigotry isn't confined to Muslims. Last year, when children from Central America crossed the border to escape drug lords who were killing and raping them, they were met by mobs of American "patriots" screaming and spitting hatred and vituperation. Donald Trump went so far as to say that they are the rapists.
For the first time in my life, I am ashamed of my country. One doctor dies from Ebola, and we panic and blame the victims. After terrorists attack Paris and San Bernardino, we try to bar all Muslims from entering the country.
By contrast, France, the country that was attacked, is set to take in tens of thousands of refugees. Canada, with one-tenth the population of the U.S., is going to take in more than double what even President Obama is calling for. Prime minister Trudeau welcomed the first refugees at the Toronto airport, handing out teddy bears to the children, who have been traumatized beyond what we can possibly imagine, and saying, "Welcome to your new country." But we freak out and chicken out.
Whatever happened to the home of the brave?
And for Muslims who already live here, this year has been a nightmare. According to the FBI, hate crimes against Muslims have tripled. Mosques have been firebombed. A sixth-grade girl in the Bronx was attacked by three boys who punched her, stripped her of the hijab she was wearing, and called her "ISIS." In Pittsburgh, a passenger in a cab shot the driver, who was Muslim. In Anaheim. a bullet-riddled copy of the Quran was left outside an Islamic clothing store. In San Bernardino, a man pulled a knife on a Muslim woman at a carwash and threatened her. And politicians are calling for a national surveillance system to spy on Muslims or even round them all up and imprison them, as we did to Japanese Americans in World War II.
Whatever happened to the land of the free?
God is watching us, folks. And as Thomas Jefferson said, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."
Merry Christmas anyway.