William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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CHRISTMAS 2012 – AT 10:27 A.M. ET:  Christmas should always be a happy, reflective and reverent time of year.  I don't know about you, but I sense that the spirit of the holiday simply isn't as strong in America as it was when we were younger.

Now, I caution:  Nostalgia is easy, history is hard.  It is easy to remember the "good old days," while filtering out all the angst and moments of sadness.  But, still, I do think some of the spirit is gone.  First, we are a less religious country.  Second, we have become somewhat soft and too easily frustrated, forgetting the overwhelming challenges faced by our ancestors of only 60 years ago.  I suspect they felt the spirit of Christmas more because it meant more to them, in their often painful circumstances. 

Let us remember that, on this date in 1944, American men were under an overwhelming assault in the Ardennes, in Europe.  In six weeks during that "Battle of the Bulge," the United States would lose almost 20,000 men.  That in a country of about 135 million. 

Today we are a nation of about 310 million.  We hear commentators glibly talking about war weariness, when in fact most Americans don't even know a soldier.

We also think today that we are better connected.  We can point to the internet, to instant e-mail across nations, to long-distance calls that are often included in remarkably inexpensive monthly phone packages.  (I recall when a long-distance call was ten dollars or more, and lasted three minutes.)  But these connections are mechanical, or exist through airwaves.  They are not personal.  Trends in our society that began with the automobile, and continued with easy flying, are separating families physically as never before.  There's a difference between having mama on a long-distance line, and having her across the table.  And there's a difference between an e-mail and a handwritten letter.

Can we restore the spirit of the holiday?  I have no idea.  But I do know that we can try by attempting to emphasize traditional American values, rather than trendiness, and by rejecting much of what our intellectual elites have taught us during the last half century.

We might also ask members of the news media to learn more about the country they claim to serve.

December 25,  2012