In this season of rejoicing and “peace on earth,” I applaud Senor Joaquin Aguilar for his response in A.M. Costa Rica to charges that Ticos are cowards and spineless for not responding to Nicaragua’s border pushing with guns. As Joaquin said, Ticos are not cowards, they are smart and educated. They reasoned some time ago that war is not a sensible solution to differences between countries or among religious ideologies. The collateral suffering, damage and deaths caused by carelessness and cruelty that war, by its very nature engenders (as we hear often enough, soldiers are trained to kill) negates anything positive one can find in wars.
Costa Rica is not without its violence and crime. A good amount of it due to another type of war: the one on drugs. Nor are its streets empty of homeless people, some handicapped or with brains addled by alcohol or drugs, some just poor. But you will not see young men (and women) with bodies or minds permanently maimed by a war waged by its government.
However, it is a tossup as to which causes more suffering, and death to a people, war or oppressive governments that institutionalize cruelty. Anyone who has seen the movie, “The Killing Fields,” cannot see anything positive in either war or totalitarian governments. Of course, the latter seems to invite the former.
This is also a season with traditions of good will towards others and gift giving. I have for a long time, grumbled that Christmas has lost its religious meaning, that Christ has been taken out of Christmas. But in fact, people have continued with the more original traditions of celebrating the births of various pagan gods, including the son of Isis, the Egyptian Goddess of Nature, and Mithras, the personification of Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun), thought to be of Persian origin, both born on Dec. 25 long before Christ. There is still mystery associated with the rites of Mithras because, like the Eleusinian Mysteries of the Greek Goddess Demeter, their followers kept the secrets. And then there was Saturn and the Saturnalia. The pagan celebrations joyfully marked the passing of the winter solstice and the rebirth of the Sun which meant the earth would be fertile again, and they celebrated with feasting and drinking and merriment.
It was only in the early Fourth century that the then-pope designated Dec. 25 as the birth day of Jesus. He figured it was useless to fight tradition and easier to adapt and adopt. So Christmas seems to be all things to all people. And so, attend the church of your choice, celebrate the birth of Christ or Mithras, or the son of Isis or whomever. Light up your Yule log (but only if you have a fireplace), hang up the fertility mistletoe, decorate the Christmas tree to remind you that the world will be green again (or that the rainy season will return), deliver your presents, go caroling with friends and get ready to feast, drink and be merry because the Sun is alive and will begin its return — it is doing so as I write — crops will grow and the cycle of life will continue
I am going to quit sulking and enjoy this festive season in a country that has a pretty good record for trying not to undo the rights of its people and does believe in peace but will not force it with guns, only by example.
And to paraphrase a wish by little Tim Cratchit, who was, although disabled and poor, unconquered, “May all of the Gods bless us, everyone.”