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And so, Christmas

Be that as it may, we try to be optimistic and are not alone in hoping that 2010 is the opening year of a decade in which genuine progress can be made on so many fronts that are currently, to say the least, challenged and challenging.

At the time of writing it would appear that the United States Senate will deliver a Christmas gift to the American people in the form of a health care reform bill. It will be, unfortunately in this case, a turkey.

It will neither satisfy those who want real change, nor those or want no significant change at all.

But someone will call passage of anything progress, and perhaps it will be that, albeit in a time of sharply diminished expectations.

So an early wish for 2010 and beyond is a ratcheting up of standards at the top levels of American governance, perhaps even the emergence of a meaningful independent bloc or third party that would give the current rather stale Capitol Hill duopoly a kick where it deserves one.

Christmas, of course, is a time when we think of the needy and this year there are more people, at home and around the world, who fall into this unwelcome category. We can only hope that the spirit of Christmas is yet at work on their behalf.

We think, of course, of the men and women in uniform, particularly those overseas and especially those in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. We hope for an end to these conflicts and a world that pays more heed to words of peace than those uttered by the advocates of violence and terror.

This is no less the case in Ireland where the political process in the North has had a rocky twelve months, especially over an issue, policing and justice, that would seem to be the normal occupation of any government, or political party in government, especially one faced with a resurgence of violence directed at the forces of law and order.

But Northern Ireland, as we well know, is not yet a place with a natural government burdened by mere normal concerns.

In the Republic, where the economic fallout has been more than a match for the now vanished economic high of the Celtic Tiger years, people are embracing Christmas, at least the non-spiritual aspect, with a somewhat tempered enthusiasm.

And even that spiritual aspect has suffered a blow as a result of the latest litany of grim revelations of child abuse at the hands of those charged with protecting and nurturing society's spiritual side.

It does us well to consider that the Christ of the lowly manger was a child who was in better care 2,000 years ago than some Irish children of a mere 20 years ago.

But of that child we think again this week and, if we are so inclined, take from the manger scene the hope for a better future that, in its purity and simplicity, the nativity so clearly represents.

So with that thought as a guiding star, we wish all of our readers a merry, peaceful, and spiritual Christmas.

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