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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I'll Ride With You

You know, it is Day #17 of A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR, and I have quite a lot on my mind as I type this out.

For whatever reason, I have had a bit of a hard time trying to find my inner Christmas spirit. 

On the outside, I definitely show that I have it.  I have the tree up, I have the presents bought and wrapped already, I've mailed out a few cards, and I have the advent calendar going on strong. 

But something seems to be missing.  And no, it isn't the snow - although I won't lie to you.  I do wish we had more snow for the holidays.  Of course, by January, I want the white stuff gone, but in December it is always nice.

I think it has probably taken the last few weeks for me to finally come up with an answer.  And I write about it in today's WHO AM I WEDNESDAY section.

December 17, 2014

I think that I might be burning myself out on a lot of things.  And that burnout might explain why I am not quite as gung-ho about the holiday season as I used to be when I was younger.

Let's face it.  In our youth, our perception of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other religious holiday celebrated this month is a lot different than our take as adults.  I cannot speak for other children, but for myself, I know that when I was younger, the holidays were all about good things.  Holidays were about dipping gingerbread cookies in hot chocolate, or trying to guess what kind of presents we were going to get, or watching "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" over and over again.

The holidays were really the only time in the world in which everyone and everything took a break from all that was bad in the world, and came together in peace.

Not so much now.

Over the last couple of months, there has been so much bad news being broadcast on the news, in social media, and on global news websites.  Whether it was the hostage situation in Sydney, Australia, or the recent shootings in Pennsylvania, the news certainly put a damper on what should be one of the calmest and peaceful times of the calendar year.

I certainly am saddened to hear of so much going on in the world at once, and my heart definitely goes out to anyone who was affected by any of these world events.  Nobody deserves to lose a loved one so close to the holidays - especially in such a violent and senseless manner.

Certainly, the world has reacted to both of these incidents with rapid speed.  I suppose one of the beautiful things about the Internet is that we can find out what is going on in the world with just a click of a mouse.  But blessings can also contain hidden curses as well.

Details about the tragedy in Australia are still being released, but what we do know is that in the morning hours of December 15 (Australian time), a man well known to Australian authorities with a chequered past and reported ties to ISIS took several people inside of a cafe in Sydney's downtown core hostage.  The situation lasted for seventeen hours before police stormed the cafe.  In the end, two hostages were killed, as was the hostage taker.  Several others were injured in the melee. 

Again, a terrible situation to have to endure.  Lives forever changed, and a city in mourning.

But I will say that this situation really caused the world to take notice - not so much for the actual event itself, but for how people reacted to it.

Certainly the terrorist group ISIS is a group that shows absolutely no mercy, claiming responsibility for killing people in some of the most brutal ways possible.  And I absolutely agree that the terrorist organization should be infiltrated, dismantled, and destroyed.  Anyone who uses terrorism to gain power should be stopped.

But I think it is also important to point out that ISIS is just a fraction of the millions of people in the world who consider themselves Muslim.  And it is also important to note that as far as I am concerned - and I want to make this perfectly clear - JUST BECAUSE A PERSON IS MUSLIM DOES NOT MAKE THEM ISIS SUPPORTERS!

I would probably even hazard a guess that many people who are Muslim are quite disgusted by ISIS, and they will be the first to point out that ISIS does NOT speak for them.

I suppose that is why I get a little bit ticked off at people who seemingly judge all people by the same brush when it comes to events such as what happened in Australia.  When I see people get bent out of shape because they feel that their right to say "Merry Christmas" has been taken away from them - openly blaming other cultures that may not celebrate Christmas without actually having any fact or reason behind their argument, I'll be blunt.  I want to slap some sense into them. 

If someone wants to wish me a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy National Pickle Day, or simply Happy Holidays, I would actually acknowledge the greeting.  In a world that is filled with instant gratification and self-centered tendencies, it is really nice to know that someone would take the time to wish me anything.  I might not celebrate Hanukkah, but I certainly won't run down the street screaming "I CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS, YOU TOOL!" at someone if they did wish me a Happy Hanukkah.

So, why would you post messages like this on your own Facebook page or Twitter feed?  Isn't that kind of the same thing as screaming like a banshee down the street at someone else for their own beliefs?  Just think about it for a second.  Just because a person celebrates holidays a little differently than you doesn't diminish the importance of the holiday.  If anything, I think we should be more open to traditions, and try to include everyone in them.

Because the more we learn about people, the more we can understand them.  And the more that we understand people, I would like to think that we could become better people as a result of it. 

I suppose one could look at Australian resident Rachael Jacobs as being a shining beacon of all good in humanity.  As the hostage crisis in Sydney was still unfolding, she noted in a Twitter post that she was on a train seated next to a Muslim woman who had removed her hijab while they were in motion.  After the train stopped, and both women got off, Rachael ran after the woman and told her that she could put her hijab back on and that she would walk with her until she felt safe. 

Well, wouldn't you know it?  That simple gesture spawned the #illridewithyou hashtag that has taken social media by storm.  It has been retweeted at least a million times by people all over the world, and it basically sends out a message of love and hope to the world.  It tells all people that they don't have to be afraid of backlash.  The Sydney siege was operated by one man who had admittedly turned his back on society years ago.  He was not a representative of an entire group of people.  Why should a whole group of people be attacked because of the callous actions of a few? 

Rachael Jacobs, I commend you for showing all of us what humanity is.  Maybe there is hope after all.

My name is Matthew - and although I am in Canada - I'll Ride With You.

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