I’ve had mixed feelings about the holidays ever since the first Christmas after 9/11. I was 12 years old, and I didn’t feel much like celebrating. As a teenager and young adult, my darker emotional side always surfaced around this time of year. During the year I spent abroad, I missed the lights and decorations in the Macy’s windows and at Rockefeller Center, but the frenzy to make extra money to buy gifts still seemed like a sharp curve in the rat race in which we are all complicit. (Yes, I just wrapped up a seasonal stint at Target. Don’t judge me — I’m going somewhere with this.)
But this year, I feel compelled to drive discussion in a different direction. A direction far away from whether or not pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks are worth the extra calories or are just another indicator of the capitalist behemoth our society becomes every year from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. This year, I want to talk about something else.
While I worked at Target (told you I’d weave this in), I saw no fewer than three women who had been scratched, lacerated, and bruised. One was a coworker, who admitted to getting into an altercation with her boyfriend, and he retaliated by leaving half-moon scars on her face from his fingernails. The other two were women who asked me for help locating a product. /one can’t, and shouldn’t, jump to conclusions, but one woman had used cover-up to conceal her black eyes (yes, both eyes). The buried terror on her face while she asked me where the girls’ socks were, told me everything I needed to know.
On Friday, 26 innocent children and educators, all of whom were women, were killed.
Now is the perfect time of year to hide behind the pumpkin spice lattes and Christmas lists. Now is the perfect time of year to dump some unwrapped toys in a collection bin and walk away. The holidays have lost meaning, in my opinion, because we use the festivities as a shield from the “unpleasant” facts of life that rage around us. Violence against women and children continues, and it is not “over there” on television, in a town you have never heard of. One out of four women experiences domestic violence. She is your sister, your mother, your teacher, your friend, your co-worker. I only saw three women who were bruised. Goodness knows how many other women went into that Target with physical bruises I couldn’t see, and emotional scars that will take years to heal. In addition to that, gun-related deaths continue to abound at unacceptable rates. Of the nearly 13,000 homicides in 2010, two-thirds were caused by firearms. The families of the children who were killed on Friday will have to celebrate Christmas without their little ones. Those children will never open the presents under the tree meant for them.
There are times when I temporarily lose faith in humanity; namely when I witness the callous cruelty of those who perpetrate violence. But I choose not to lose hope for good. I have hope that we, as a society, regardless of color, class, ethnicity, religion, and socioeconomic background will stand up and say that violence against women is unacceptable, and that there have been enough senseless deaths due to poor gun control laws. Violence against the most vulnerable among us must stop.
Let’s take the time this year to focus on how we can end the violence we see in our own lives. Donate to a shelter that helps battered women. If you suspect someone you know is being abused, let them know they’re not alone. Write to your congressman or start your own campaign to tighten gun control laws. We live in a society inoculated against violence. Stop accepting violence as the status quo this holiday season. We can’t afford to lose more lives or have more spirits broken.
Happy Holidays, everyone.