It’s that time of year when kids of all ages make out Christmas lists — things they want, things they want to get for others. I remember with fondness the Christmases of my youth, eager in anticipation of what Santa would bring. I remember some of my famous Christmas toys: a GI Joe astronaut set with a full size GI Joe in a Mercury astronaut suit complete with a scale model Mercury capsule the GI Joe would fit in, the really cool fire truck with lights that would also squirt small amounts of actual water, the Major Matt Mason moon station set, HO train sets, bicycles, a lot of cool stuff for a kid growing up in the 1960s. My parents really enjoyed making Christmas a big deal for us kids.
As I got older, Christmas changed. Not that I ever got out of the Christmas spirit, but the gifts became a bit more personal and consequential — like my first guitar back in 1976. My perception of Christmas also changed as awareness of people in other situations increased. Not everyone was as fortunate as I was; the Christmas experience was a lot different for other kids.
And the true meaning of Christmas revealed itself with the understanding that giving is far better than receiving. That being said, here are some things I’d like to receive:
1. Civility in our political discourse. Identity politics has become a game of extremes, with the vast majority of us who reside somewhere in the middle increasingly left out of the discussion. I’ve written thousands of words about this over the years, and seen those words come to life via reams of paper and gallons of ink as well as digital characters portrayed on a CRT/LCD screen. Moderation and compromise have become dirty words to “true believers,” and politics is a dirty word by itself. True statesmen and stateswomen may help us find our way back into the light, provided they can rise above the uber-partisanship that exists today.
2. Good will toward our fellow humans. Headlines about the tragedies that befall us every day put calluses around our hearts, diminishing our capacity for empathy and feeling. If anything, we may briefly admit that we were glad it wasn’t us, and then forget about it as we go about our lives. Not many put in the time and effort to act upon their feelings and work to make our world a better place. The old Christmas quote promises peace on Earth to men of good will. It would be wonderful if we got a little closer to that goal every year.
3. Actual windstorm and flood insurance reform. The Florida legislature is having another special session designed to deal with the question of how to reform hazard insurance — specifically, windstorm insurance as provided by state-run Citizens Insurance. For far too many years, the Keys have been a huge donor community to Citizens, providing them an average of $50 million a year clear profit from Keys policyholders’ premiums, even considering administrative costs and damage payouts. That adds up to more than $1 billion in profits since the year 2000. FIRM and Mel Montagne have made the same common-sense points to the legislature about how we are being penalized unfairly, especially considering our stricter building codes. Those arguments keep falling on deaf ears as windstorm losses in other parts of the state build. Not only that, Citizens insurance rates are cheaper in areas that don’t have our building codes. I’m not holding my breath that there will be an actual equitable solution, but a boy can dream.
4. Not losing any more of my musical inspirations and heroes. Over the past three years, we have lost far too many musicians and artists who made significant contributions to the musical art form. People like Tom Petty, Prince, David Bowie, Aretha Franklin, Glenn Frey, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Gregg Allman, Maurice White, Merle Haggard, Walter Becker, George Martin, Neal Peart, Taylor Hawkins and many more. Many of these were still in their prime, with a lot left to say. Let’s take a few years off from the In Memoriam lists.
5. Happiness. Life can be a struggle, for some more than others. Try to find joy in the small day-to-day things (the big things as well), and hope the remnant joy carries us through the tough times.
That’s it for this year, Santa. I’m not asking for too much, am I?
– Catch John each Monday at Boondocks, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the Key Colony Inn, and Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing. Find his music anywhere you download or stream your music. www.johnbartus.com
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