This is my column from today’s Hinsdalean newspaper.
The great poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the beautiful poem “Christmas Bells,” which was turned into a hymn titled “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The poem begins:
I heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
For more than a month, we have been preparing for the great holiday of Christmas: shopping, baking, adorning our homes with thousands of twinkling lights to herald the advent of the “Light of the World.”
Yet in many ways, our world seems in darkness. Our fears are getting the better of us and causing us to distrust our neighbors. Political leaders are calling for the exclusion of foreign Muslims from our borders. Even at home, anti-Muslim sentiment is fomenting violence. Our own contributing columnist, Hesham Hassaballa, who wrote a moving plea for understanding and tolerance, also sadly posted the story of a young Muslim girl wearing a hijab who was taunted and assaulted by her classmates.
Certainly this fear and hate-mongering are not new. Longfellow writes:
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on Earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
The terrorists of ISIS and al-Qaeda are without a doubt scary people. And it is true that they are persecuting Christians in the Middle East. But they also kill Muslims. Their ideology is one of hate, not faith. I don’t pretend to know what the United States should do in the face of such atrocities. But I know what we should not do, and that is succumb to our fears and use them as a pretext to discriminate against or harm our neighbors.
Every year in our little town, I see so many good works. There are food drives and fundraisers, Adopt-a-Family Christmas programs, and festive parties to raise money for the poor, the sick, and the disabled. As I run my errands, I witness a bit of extra friendliness and cheer. (Maybe it’s the egg nog!) And I can’t help but feel that I live amongst good, kind, caring human beings. Such a feeling gives me hope.
Tonight as many Hinsdaleans make their way to religious services, let us be reassured by the final stanza of Longfellow’s poem:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”