Politics is a strange “business”. For large parts of the year, what the politicians and interest groups say is ignored. Most of us don’t really care what the talking heads say because it doesn’t affect our everyday lives. But there are times when we pause and take a breath. The Christmas and New Year holiday period is one of those times. Whether you are a Christian, there’s a century and more tradition involved. We are more receptive to messages about health and family. Because both can be affected by the number of accidents on our roads, it’s also the time when respected people in the community speak out and ask for. . . Well, that’s the question, isn’t it. What political message do these people send?
As an example, let’s go to New York where the Department of Transport has just launched a campaign to reduce reckless driving. The DoT tried to catch the headlines with the news that, in 2012, 40% of New Yorkers killed in car crashes were victims of:
• speeding (59 people killed);
• distracted driving (48 people killed); and
• failing to yield to pedestrians (34 people killed with an increase in crashes with drivers mounting the sidewalk).
The campaign will feature on billboards and appropriately vivid posters on bus shelters. Bloggers and opinion leaders on the social media are ready to start work. Local radio and television stations are in on the act. In other moves, individual New Yorkers will feature talking about their spouses, children and other family members killed during the years. Obviously, New York politicians think this is the right time of year to reinforce the message of good cheer currently encouraged by the unmarked police SUVs touring the highways and streets looking for citizens to ticket for speeding and distracted driving offenses.
But this is not really a radical message directly associated with the events we celebrate at Christmas. We should probably see Christmas as requiring immigration reform. Mary and Joseph were asylum seekers. They were escaping persecution in their native land — big government was infringing privacy in a major census — which is why they crossed the border. They had no adequate health insurance which is why they ended up giving birth in a stable instead of the nearby expensive private hospital. They would have been better off with Obamacare.
In other words, it’s too easy to see only the sentimentalized side of Christmas which has been sold to us over the last one-hundred-fifty years. Although family is important and we should be thinking about charity and generosity to our neighbors, the real messages for today should be political.
More realistically, when we think of Mary and Joseph, we should turn our attention to the problems of the homeless in our cities. Although the New York politicians are right to send messages about the number of avoidable deaths on our roads, there should be space made available for messages to lift our social awareness to the other problems around us which could be relieved if we applied proper Christian charity and generosity.