I think this year’s Chanukah poem came out a little more bellicose than I was intending, so may need some explanation. I don’t actually mind may of the ways that Chanukah has grown due to being close to Christmas, because I *like* giving gifts, and I think people of any religion need a solstice-type holiday celebrating light when at the darkest time of year. (And this year here in Oregon has been exceptionally dark. I’m not making metaphors about the news – I mean literally: it’s rained almost incessantly for weeks now and aside from a few sunny hours here and there it has been dark when I go to work, dark when I get home, and not very bright during the time between. Seattle, only three hours away, just had its darkest day in decades the other day by actual measurement.)
What’s been weirding me out a little this year are all the greetings I’ve been noticing like “may the spirit of Chanukah bring you joy and peace” or “may the light and love of Chanukah fill your heart all year.” I even heard a Chanukah song that (was otherwise terrible and) contained the lyrics “It doesn’t matter what your faith / For eight days we’re all one.” Hello, ANTI-assimilation holiday!! Light, yes. But love? If you look at the story behind the holiday, the “spirit of Chanukah” would be something like “kick the butt of all those people who want to impose a state religion on you!” – which is definitely relevant, but probably not what they’re intending. (I would post this to FaceBook, but I’m afraid it would come out sounding like the fundies claiming that the Evil Government is oppressing them by not letting everything be Christian, as opposed to the fight for everyone being able to worship in their own way without being saddled with a state religion.)
So that’s what I’m getting at here – to have the kind of peace that is a real peace rather than one imposed from outside that works by stifling everyone equally, may actually require some fighting.
(I also think this year’s poem came out more like the ones I wrote back in 9th grade than I’d like, but that’s what happens when you go from writing lots of poetry down to roughly one per year. Unfortunately I have no explanation for that part.)
And now that I have completely ruined my poem by overexplaining it:
Peace is the Thing You Fight For
So many legends told this time of year
Show peace descending, gifted from on high-
A battlefield is turned to softer games
And foes befriended, though just for the night.
Our stories show a peace that’s harder-won
No gift but struggle set out its conditions –
No glorying in all reduced to one,
But earned respect, without assimilation.
And so we pull the light out of the darkness
Remembering we fought for who we are
We love to see the lights of all our neighbors
While knowing it is we who guard our spark
It may be, after all, the peace worth having
Is one you care enough to fight for saving.