Your mail: School shooting and Christmas sharing (Hr. 3)

(Don Emmert / AFP / Getty)

(Don Emmert / AFP / Getty)

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Michael reads listener mail about his essay last week on the elementary school shootings, and his discussion about alternatives to rampant consumerism at Christmastime. 

The community of Newtown, Connecticut, and indeed, much of the world, is still in a state of shock and grief over the killing of 28 people - 20 of them children - last week. Advocates of gun control hope that this will finally spur legislative action to curb the nearly unfettered access to firearms in the United States ... that the slaughter of so many young children will lead the nation to collectively say, "Enough." Sensing a growing national appetite to reform firearm laws, President Barack Obama is pressing ahead with plans to reduce gun violence, making Vice-President Joe Biden his point man on gun control.

On last week's program, Michael lamented the fact that so much of American culture is also in a state of denial about its gun culture ... a culture of violence and killing. After all, lawmakers in several states are responding to the Newtown massacre by putting together legislation ... not to ban assault rifles, but to arm teachers in the classroom. Many of you had strong feelings about last week's essay.

Michael Villeneuve of Mountain, Ontario writes:

"Thank you for saying so succinctly and bluntly exactly what needed to be said. Despite what will be many days of maudlin news coverage ... the fact is that we will soon be watching another news story just like this one. One could weep for that once-great nation."

Caroline Knowles of Vegreville, Alberta writes:

"I wonder how the NRA is going to react to the report that the Newtown shooter shot his mother with her own gun. Perhaps they will say that she should have had two guns - that would have made her safer and then she could have shot her son!?"

On the other side of the ledger, Candice Laing of Toronto writes:

"While I don't always agree with your stance on issues, I do generally appreciate you expressing them, until today. Your commentary wrongly made the link between the tragic and violent death of innocent children by a severely troubled person and American gun culture. That's like blaming chocolate for obesity, or blaming oil for pollution. Grow up."

xmasC300.jpgOn a more life-affirming note, we also aired a segment last week on alternatives to shopping and rampant consumerism, to make Christmas a joyful season.

Aiden Enns, the co-founder of BuyNothingChristmas.org, and Benita Matofska, the Chief Sharer of the UK group, The People Who Share, made their case for an economy based on sharing and less materialistic ways of expressing our love and caring for one another at Christmas.

Helen Hanratty of Halifax had this to say:

"When I was seven or eight years old, I desperately wanted a kitten. My father came home from work on Christmas Eve, opened up his lunch box (which was ventilated) and there was a little grey kitten with a pink ribbon around its neck.

"Many years later, when one of my daughters was a teenager, she was working in a used bookstore.  When they had books that didn't sell, they would set them aside for disposal. On Christmas morning she gave me a brown packing box (unwrapped) full of books that she had taken from the disposal pile (with her manager's ok) and set aside for me.  It cost her nothing in currency. What she did do was think about every single book there and whether it was something I would enjoy reading.

"This gift provided me with one year of reading pleasure and many years of pleasure realizing the effort that went into it. I have received many other gifts that were lovely and appreciated, but none that stand out in my memory like these two."

Daphne Harwood of Vancouver chimed in with this.

"I came to no-present policy late in my three girls' lives - in their mid 20's. When our family got out of the present rat-race the Christmas season felt free, festive, I was sitting pretty outside the brain-racking for present ideas, the crushes of traffic and parking, and the diminished bank account at the end.

"In November, when people ask if I have started my Christmas shopping, I can happily reply that I have finished it. More and more I find that other people have stopped buying presents too. When I find these folks, there is a discussion of family and friends gathering, great food, terrific music and reaching out to old friends.

"I find myself increasingly annoyed at the expectation and assumption that the Buying Presents Game is one that everyone plays. The radio and TV hype is awful! I really feel for the many other cultures in Canada that don't do Christmas. Their Outsidership is re-enforced by all this talk and activity."

And Geri Coe of Trail, British Columbia adds this:

"This is the first year that we have stuck to our commitment to NOT give our adult children gifts. Each of our kids has a child, and we do give them gifts, but do not go crazy because they too have more than enough stuff. My husband and myself have also finally stopped giving each other gifts on Christmas.

"We also do not give gifts to any of our own siblings or their children. The stopping of the tradition has been slow and not one that was easy to do but this year we have stood our ground. For a long time I was worried about being seen as cheap, but that does not worry me anymore. 

"If another adult is selfish enough to complain that they did not get a gift, that is something I am not responsible for."
 
And lest you think that doing your shopping in second-hand shops will absolve you of complicity in the commercializing of Christmas, Laurie Bissett of Edmonton sent this rejoinder:

"One of your guests suggested shopping at second-hand stores. I thought one of the reasons for these stores was to provide access to items people couldn't afford. Now upper-middle, or upper-class people come in to ridicule things, buy the good stuff and drive up the prices.

"Stop! Go buy nice new stuff and when you run out of room, give it away and buy more. Stock the second hand stores for the poor."

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