This is my favorite season for TV.  I confess, I am a sucker for sappy Christmas movies and always have been.  I don’t watch much TV the rest of the year.  But starting with “A Charlie Brown Christmas” special and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” I am in until my boys take over the TV for the bowl games on Christmas.  Hallmark movies are especially warm.  I think I know why, too.  It’s because they always, and I mean always, end happy. No blood and guts.  No shysters.  Just regular people (or cartoons now and then) dealing with life and finding joy in the Christmas spirit.

Of late, my social media feeds have been wracked with offended people hating on each other.  I’ve given up the nightly news because it is depressing.  What is going on?  It doesn’t seem that long ago when people agreed to disagree in the name of democracy.  You can have your opinion.  I can have mine.  If our opinions are not in harmony, so be it.  I still like you.  We can still be friends.  When did that sentiment become silly and outdated?

I have a secret.  My husband and I don’t agree on everything.  There.  It’s out.  But guess what?  We choose to love each other in spite of the areas where we disagree, some of which are irresolvable.  Isn’t this just life?

Differing opinions are not the issue here.  It’s the mean-spirited, spiteful un-friending that’s the problem.  Many months ago, I wrote a column about the concept of tolerance.  The definition of tolerance according to is “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions, beliefs, and practices that differ from one's own.”  I believe in the concept of tolerance.  I do not know, however, that I believe it actually exists.

Tolerance says you don’t laugh at or belittle me for my ideals and beliefs, nor do I lash out at you for yours.  Rather, we share our ideals, agree to disagree and let it lie.  I do not see this happening.  Instead, people are raging at each other, labeling and even libeling one another.  Everyone is offended by something, retaliating by dishing out offense elsewhere.  As a result, we seem all to be walking around with giant chips on our shoulders that the slightest whisper seems capable of toppling.

Carolers at the 2015 Denton Holiday Lighting Festival. (Photo by Junebug Clark) Carolers at the 2015 Denton Holiday Lighting Festival. (Photo by Junebug Clark)

I am a child of the sixties.  Cultural revolution was our stigma.  But this is different, so personal, and thanks to social media, often very public. We attack each other for thinking differently from one another.  When did different become a sin?  And when did we stoop to such malevolent, vicious displays of intolerance?

Last week, we celebrated the season’s onset at the Holiday Lighting and Wassail Festivals. It was spectacular!  We gathered around the giant Christmas tree on the square.  We sang carols.  We tasted wassail and shouted, “Merry Christmas!” and, “Happy holidays!” while waving greetings across the crowd.  We hugged friends and neighbors along the sidewalks.  Happy.  Joyful.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we carried these good tidings all the year through?

120415_Ed_Steele_Wassail_Fest_Denton_Holiday_Lighting_Festival_2015_Denton_TX_28 Image Courtesy of Ed Steele Photography

I recently came across a quote that is now in my journal.  “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  Robin Jones Gunn said this.  I don’t know a thing about Jones, but I love this statement.  The power of our collective differences, including ideals and opinions, make us great and move us forward if we let it.

We are lucky in Denton.  Exponential growth is all around us, unstoppable.  Our leadership is focused on managing these changes rather than allowing Denton to be swallowed whole by the demands of a rapidly swelling population. Additionally, we are community. We truly live life together in a way most of us have not experienced any other place.  But forward motion is usually uncomfortable.  It forces change.  Some fear change will rob us of our cool factor and this Denton lifestyle we love.  I do not believe that has to happen.  It won’t unless we choose internal turmoil and allow divisiveness to win the day.

Together we go far.  As islands unto ourselves, we go fast…but toward destruction.  I love this town.  I love the differences that make us who we are.  Original.  Independent.  If ever there was a time when realizing this about ourselves was paramount, it is now.

“That’s what Christmas is about, Charlie Brown.”  This is my favorite Linus line from the Peanuts holiday special.  If you don’t recall for yourself what it’s all about it, then it’s been too long since you watched the “Charlie Brown Christmas.”  Turn it on, and remember.  We need the Peanuts kind of Christmas all year long.

Featured Image Courtesy of Junebug Clark