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James Ferragut, Published December 22 2012

Ferragut: The evil, the good, the gift

I’d been noodling on a column about Christmas for a couple of weeks but everything on the page was Grinch-like. That was not my intention because everything is good in Ferragut Land. So I decided to write a philosophical, moral, cultural and religious assessment.

I made peace with the consumerism that has integrated into society’s core. I took emotions out of the equation and realized that our need to buy stuff is the result of the post-World War II rebuilding of the nation’s economy, and its soul.

The baby boom generation was incubating as GIs returned from the war, married, worked at real jobs to pay for their Levittown-type suburban homes. Materialism was the fuel of a booster-rocket economy for the next 25 years. It set in motion the “consumerism-on-steroids” culture we’re living today. It’s a Santa Claus world where Christmas decorations appear in April.

Big-box stores are open 24/7. They start Black Friday super sales on Thanksgiving Day, before the turkey has cooled. This is the natural progression for a culture whose engine runs on the exchange of goods and services. I’m cool with it. It’s who we are.

But then I was reminded of the purest gift. My oldest son, Justin, flew home last week because his schedule prevented him from coming home for the “real” holidays. We had a “faux-Christmas” for him with his grandparents, brother and sisters, niece and nephew. The food was sensational (Italian of course), gifts were opened and all was well in our Tinsel Town.

When we settled down at the end of the day I found myself in a tight circle with Justin and my youngest son, Gabe. We sat cross-legged, knees touching knees, talking about music, movies, politics, travel, culture and religion. It hit me.

This was the gift of Christmas. It’s the love of family, bonds that never die, quiet fires that keep connections warm; family memories born of shared experience, recalled stories, new arguments, drama, trauma and laughter.

“That’s my column,” I thought.

Then something happened the morning of Dec. 14, an event so horrific that it brought our country to its knees: a mass murder of unfathomable evil, a massacre too barbaric to comprehend. Twenty precious children and six loving adults were killed by a cold hand. The implications of how and why and what it means is, for now, beyond our ken. But the struggle between good and evil couldn’t be more obvious.

All we can do is pray for the souls who were taken and for the families and friends who are left behind, their hearts broken, their souls scarred. It’s incumbent on us to help bear the burden, to share the grief of this horror. We have to look inside ourselves and decide what has to be done to do to stop the insane cycle.

And we have to treasure the gifts of Christmas: family, friends, co-workers, the stranger on the street and the checkout person at the store. We have to stop, look, think and then just love the hell out of them. All of them.

Ferragut is a strategic marketing consultant and regular contributor

to The Forum’s commentary page.