The sobering truth

Ed Smith
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If you’re expecting a sweet, sugary Christmas column, forget it.

Out of respect for you, the reader, I am resisting the temptation to launch out on yet another Christmas saga of miracles and little match girls, and couples stranded on country roads in a blizzard with her expecting to deliver any moment.

Wonder of wonders, her name is Marianne and his Josephus. Through the swirling snow cattle can be seen leaning over a wire fence. A snowplow shows up to rescue them. The driver has just moved here from the East and his last name is Wiseman, etc.

Does that sound cynical? Yes, it does. Am I a cynical person? Not really.

I’m much like the clerk in the department store who has to listen to the “Drummer Boy” over and over again until she’d like to break the drum over his head. I once asked a sales lady in one of those stores how she managed to survive that stuff hour after hour, day after day. She grinned.

“I was insane when I got here for substitute work two weeks ago. Nobody noticed.”

“You mean ...?”

“That’s right,” she replied. “Every person here is certifiably crazy. We get medical discharges after Christmas.”

I have a deep understanding of those people who find Christmas a difficult time of year.

A butterball turkey and a Christmas hamper, delivered with the best of intentions, does little to make it better. I think Christmas carols in their time and place can be a positive thing. Played 24-7 would drive you over the deep end, would it not?

It’s probably unnecessary to be reminded of the sadness and war going on in the world as we sing “Silent Night.” But we don’t have to go to war-torn countries or regional conflicts or natural disasters to find depression and hurt.

A great many of us just can’t get the image of Kate Middleton’s nurse out of our minds. She was roundly condemned by every reporter, journalist and commentator in the free world for taking that call from “the Queen,” and attempting to pass on information about how Kate was doing. She was the one to blame in this whole mess — it was said over and over again.

The pressure on her was so enormous, and the embarrassment so great, that she took her own life.

But no sooner did that happen than the media, ever looking for a scapegoat on which to hang the tragedy of the day, turned their attention to the Australian duo who instigated the incident. They are the thoughtless and irresponsible two responsible for that woman’s death, they are all shouting. At the time of writing, we don’t know what’s happened to them.

The truth? No one’s to blame. The two comedians thought it would be a great prank and they were right. Just a little more far-reaching in possibilities than the portrayal of the Queen done by our Kathy Jones, who did a much better job of the accent.

But hey, what a great idea. No one could have foreseen the tragic consequences.

It certainly wasn’t intended to be mean or nasty. I’m sure they thought the world would be laughing at their practical joke for years.

As for the nurse, who among us would have had the presence of mind to think she shouldn’t put the call through.

This was the Queen, for heaven’s sake. No one says “no” to the Queen.

Perhaps she should have picked up on the terrible accent, but chances are she had more than one thing on her mind at the time. This was the Queen.

Unfortunately, we didn’t allow her the time to figure this out for herself, and perhaps forgive her for what was, at worst, a bit of a faux pas. The world wasn’t laughing with her; it was, even if somewhat gently, condemning her.

Christmas is for children, the conventional wisdom goes. But it won’t be for the three little children who died in Québec a few days ago at the hands of their mother. Neither will it be for the tens of thousands who died in that same time from starvation, war and disease.

It’s human nature to take these tragedies deeper into your heart the closer they are in time and space. No one of these children is any less or more tragic than the others.

There is a Christmas morning more deeply etched in my consciousness than any other in my memory. I visited with my father, the minister for that community, the parents of three children who had died on Christmas Eve. We were told that the parents had briefly gone next door to a neighbor’s party. While they were out, the house caught fire and the children died in it.

We saw the essence of mental anguish that morning, and we were both affected by it ever after. The father was lying on a couch in a fetal position and giving moans that came from somewhere deep down inside him.

The mother was walking back and forth in the kitchen in obvious shock, uttering strange cat-like sounds.

Neither was aware we were there.

Practically every Christmas Day since, I’ve thought about the number of times that degree of anguish and grief has been felt around the world by countless thousands.

I heard the bells on Christmas day.

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet the words repeat.

Of peace on Earth, goodwill to men.

Then in despair I bowed my head.

There is no peace on Earth, I said,

For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.

Am I disturbing your Christmas? Good. In my view, if ever there is a time to be disturbed by the continuing despair of the world, that time is now.

If ever there is a time to try passing a little peace to that world, the time is now.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale.

His email address is

Geographic location: Québec, Springdale.His

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