Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth
By DARRYL MANZER.
Published in The Signal, 12-25-2005.
[RETURN TO DARRYL MANZER INDEX]
This is just what you want to read after unwrapping gifts and listening to the noise of children, isn't it? I hope so.
My eldest son came home two days ago from his third deployment to Iraq. It looks like he'll be Stateside for a few months until he heads out once again.
At least he gets some time home. His grandfather's generation shipped out overseas for World War II and didn't get to return home until the war was won. For some of that generation, there were nearly four years of hearing the song, "I'll be Home for Christmas," until they got to come home.
All the time our son was in Iraq, we were able to get his phone calls, e-mails, letters, web-cams and instant messages. All of us Stateside must have talked to him at least once a week in some form or another while he was gone.
It sure is different from what I experienced in the late 1960s and early '70s. Way back when, I thought it was great that even underwater, I could get four 20-word "family grams" when we were on a Polaris Deterrent Patrol. At the end of a patrol there would be a stack of letters to read.
I got to call home from our forward site in Spain about four times in all the patrols I made. It was very expensive, and getting a call through was a piece of real guesswork. You went to the telephone exchange and gave an operator the number you wanted to call. She would direct you to a phone booth, and when the call got through, you could start talking. It might take 15 or 20 minutes if the call went through at all.
Today I can be sitting at the computer and a flashing icon at the bottom of the screen tells me I have an instant message or an e-mail. I click on it and there is my son.
Somehow the special effects of "Star Trek" don't seem so futuristic anymore. Even my cell phone flips open and shut like the communicators on "Star Trek" only it is much smaller and it really works. Now, if only we had the "phaser" capability for those really bad traffic jams.
Technology has come a long way. Remember the local SCV cable television company? I think it had maybe 20 channels. And the community events channel was great. A camera panned back and forth showing (often) hand-written advertisements for what was going on in the valley.
If you didn't have cable, you had channels 2, 4, 5, 9 and 11 on broadcast television. Poor picture quality was free! On cable you could even get a channel that broadcast a continuous video of a "Yule log" in a fireplace. Christmas carols were the soundtrack to that. At least it didn't have any commercials.
(Editor's note: Tune to SCVTV Channel 20 to see the fireplace and hear the music, commercial-free.)
I think the cable company in the SCV started in a garage of a home in Saugus. I can't remember the name of the company right now. (Can someone tell me?)
(Editor's note: Well, there was King Videocable; today it's Comcast and Time Warner Cable.)
I guess you have one of two cable TV companies today, depending on what part of the SCV you live in.
Of course, you could have a dish sitting on your roof, getting signals from space. Your phone and computer could go through that dish, too. Way back when, the dish used to fill the back yard. Now you can hardly see it on the roof.
(Editor's note: But you can't get "Newsmaker of the Week" or any other SCV community programming on dish...)
So, with all this global communication causing global conversations, why do we still have to fight each other? Why are our sons and daughters still going "over there" to fight? I think I've heard the answer many times but never really listened to it.
One-way communication won't work. The answer I've heard thousands of times is simple: "God gave us one mouth and two ears. That means we should listen twice as much as we speak." So we just don't listen to each other. (Our mothers, wives and girlfriends have been telling us that for years.)
On this Christmas Day, let us listen to the message sent to all of us so very many years ago and, in the coming year, try to apply it. The message is: "Peace on Earth to men and women of good will."
May your Christmas Day be merry. May you, in the coming year, listen to and apply the message of Christmas, and come to know each day the joys of living in peace.
Darryl Manzer lived in the Santa Clarita Valley oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s as a teenager. He now lives in Virginia.