Peace on Earth, by whatever name
It's popular in some politicised evangelical Christian circles (that is, among the American "religious right") to spend every December moaning about a "war on Christmas". Unless they get to fill the commons with their religious displays — and theirs only — and unless the cup from their preferred coffee vendor refers to their religious holiday — and theirs only — and so on and so forth, they consider themselves beset by the forces of evil.
I’m content to be a practising Christian. I was brought up with fairly traditional middle American Protestant Christmas celebrations and still enjoy them very much (in recent years I’ve also enjoyed Roman Catholic Christmas midnight mass a time or two).
But I don’t see any kind of "war on Christmas" in the preferences of others to celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Festivus or Yule or just "holiday break. The festival goes back to well before the time of Jesus; his birth story is just the container some of us have chosen to put it in.
This time of year marks the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, and the turn toward coming spring. The days begin to get longer instead of shorter.
Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men. These are laudable aspirations for the time of hope and renewal represented by the December holidays of so many faiths and cultures over the millennia. And as 2016 becomes 2017, they make great New Year’s resolutions.
Try as we might, humankind as never conquered poverty, sickness, suffering or war. But we should never stop trying.
After nearly 400 years of opportunities to get those things right, the Westphalian nation-State has proven a failure on all counts. In the 20th century, governments murdered somewhere north of 170 million people and kept billions more in varying degrees of servitude, squalor and penury. So far the 21st century has likewise been one of unremitting war, creeping tyranny and ubiquitous kleptocracy.
It’s far too much to hope that the emerging voluntary, decentralised forms of governance powered by technological progress will finally and forever displace the State in 2017. But the writing is on the wall. Government as we know it is going away.
As we close out one year and look to the next, let’s re-dedicate ourselves to replacing the modern nation-State with something better. Something (or, more likely, things) more peaceful, more empowering, less oppressive and less deadly.
Merry Christmas — or whatever you prefer to call it.
Thomas L Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida. Send comments to the Observer or @thomaslknapp.