The death and rebirth of the sun at Christmas is a solemn occasion

Christmas is a time of wonder; a time for festivity and lights; a time for gathering together with friends and family in celebration. In the shelter of our warm houses, the dwindling days of winter are a curiosity –if noticed at all.

image: The Goddess & and the Greenman

But for many ancient cultures, the death and rebirth of the sun was not cause for celebration. The sun represented life itself. Without the sun, crops did not grow and you could starve. Livestock were slaughtered, not for celebration but because there wasn’t enough silage to feed them through the winter. The emergence of the sun from the winter solstice gave hope that food supplies would last until new crops could be planted.

In contrast, for the ancient Romans the winter solstice had a carnival-like atmosphere with banquets, gift-giving and partying. It was a time to honour the god of plenty, Saturn.

I used dread Christmas because of that carnival atmosphere: the unlikely birthday of Jesus, the crass commercialization. Now I anticipate Christmas because of its connection with the natural cycles of the Earth.

As a youth, I belonged to a religion that did not celebrate Christmas because of its pagan origins. It was really awkward for me when all my school friends were looking forward to the gifts they would receive and the celebrations. Meanwhile, no lights at our house, no Christmas tree, no gifts.

Christmas celebrations, like birthdays, were disapproved by our religion; we were made to feel guilty if we attended them. It put a wedge between our family and our extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. Because these get-togethers were one of the rare times we could get together, my mom and dad and I would attend conflicted, under a dark cloud of guilt. The tension so palpable that mom would throw up.

Now I find comfort in the shortening days. It’s like Mother Nature is pulling a blanket over the land and whispering: “Hush, hush, it’s alright. Go to sleep now.”

The waning and waxing sun also reminds me a partial solar eclipse in slow motion. It has a disturbing effect on those viewing it. Total eclipses have a profound effect on people, some breaking down in tears at the spectacle.

Not everyone finds comfort in the shortening days. Many are affected by Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression in the winter months. For them, the seasonal funk of the “winter blues” is no cause for celebration.

If COVID was a religion, it would certainly disapprove of Christmas. As a puritanical religion, COVID would frown on gatherings. COVID promotes -without any support- solemn, solitary contemplation; a time to give thanks you are still alive. COVID tells us not to celebrate at a time when we most need it. Large family gatherings are taboo. To gather together generates guilt at the risk we put to ourselves and our loved ones.

While we may not be overtly conscious of the winter solstice, it has a deep visceral effect on our psyche. At a gut level, it generates awe and alarm, sobriety and giddiness, hope and fear.

Russian COVID misinformation part of pre-election strategy

Just as in the last U.S. presidential election, the Russians are stirring up the electorate in advance of November’s presidential election.

image: Dictionary.com

It’s all part Prime Minister Putin’s plan to unhinge the U.S.; to sow as much unrest, division, discontent, misinformation, mayhem, and civil disorder as possible in hopes that the U.S. will fall apart under the weight of the chaos.

The Russians couldn’t hope for a better ally than the Disrupter-in-Chief President Trump.

Before Trump was elected, the notion of a U.S. president cooperating with the Russians seemed so improbable that it would have only occurred in the movies.

Such a movie was The Manchurian Candidate. In the movie, an American sergeant is captured during the Korean War of 1952 and taken to Manchuria where he is brainwashed and unconsciously controlled by the Russians on his return to the U.S.  The sergeant’s mother, a Russian agent, tries to have him installed as president so that that Russians can control the American government.

It would take the wildest conspiracy to suggest that the Russians have brainwashed Trump but his actions are very much aligned with the Russians. Both Trump and the Russians take to social media like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to spread division.

I have no doubt that the Russians stir up far-right groups like the Boogaloo Bois, characterized by their Hawaiian shirts and a philosophy that predicts an impending race war called the “boogaloo.” They would be comical if they didn’t carry assault weapons and spew hate.

Then there is the ideologically-twisted antifa movement which is lauded and reviled; lauded because they are anti-fascist but reviled because they are blindly driven by the same violence they abhor in fascists.

The antifa movement has a zombie-like control of otherwise rational people. In New York in late May, two young lawyers were charged in connection with a Molotov cocktail attack on a vandalized police car. They had recently participated in a Zoom solidarity meeting with antifa extremists.

The current pandemic provides an opportunity for the Russians to fuel the spread of conspiracies, hoaxes, myths and fake cures that undermine public-health efforts to control COVID-19.

The apparent Manchurian Candidate Donald Trump recently re-tweeted a video about an anti-malaria drug being a cure. Russian intelligence is behind the spread of disinformation about the drug.

Another one that has Russian fingerprints all over it is the hoax that claims new 5G towers are spreading the virus through microwaves. Yet another is that Microsoft founder Bill Gates plans to use COVID-19 vaccines to implant microchips in all seven billion humans on the planet.

Social media amplify these false claims and helps believers find each other. The flood of misinformation has posed a challenge for Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, which find themselves in a game of whack-a-mole. As soon as one fake site is wacked down, another pops up.

It’s no coincidence that the three worst months for hate crime are around election time. Those months also see a rise in violent extremist plots and fatal attacks.

Look for more hate and misinformation to spew forth as the election draws near. We may be able to contain the spread of Cov2 by closing our border with the U.S. but we can’t stop the spread of lies, many originating from Russia.