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HETRICK: After 50 years of silence, a wish list for St. Nicholas

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Bruce Hetrick

Dear Santa:

You might not remember me. Last time I wrote, I probably requested a Johnny Seven O.M.A., a “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” gun set or a Monkees album.

But having fallen on the positive side of the naughty/nice divide this year (I hope), and having seen many others compiling wish lists, I thought I’d send you my first in 50 years.

1. I wish people would think of others around them and not just themselves. I started commuting again this year. On a good, low-traffic day, the trip takes 45 minutes each way, each day.

But it takes longer than necessary because of left-lane laggards—people who ignore the drivers’ education lesson called “stay right except to pass.” These same people block the grocery aisle, stall legislation in Congress, delay school reform, etc. If you had to deal with these people on Christmas night, you’d never get past Anchorage.

2. I wish alleged lovers of liberty and democracy would actually read the documents. Many Americans like to brandish the Constitution. But many haven’t read it. Fewer still understand it. For example, they’ll say, “majority rules” to justify just about anything, seemingly unaware that the majority are prohibited from denying certain individual liberties.

Remember how Rudolph couldn’t join in any reindeer games simply because he had a red nose? That shouldn’t have been subject to reindeer referendum. Majority opinion from Dasher, Dancer, et al., didn’t matter. Rudolph had as much right to join the reindeer games as anyone else.

3. I wish we had more collective experiences—and more positive ones.

Once upon a time, back when I asked you for my first skateboard, Americans had shared experiences. As many of us watched “I Love Lucy” each week as watch the Super Bowl today.

But now, we each do our own thing and rely on our own niche media. We have few collective experiences. Those we do have are disasters: President Kennedy assassinated, the Challenger exploding, the World Trade Center collapsing.

I know Sarah Palin is worrying about people of other faiths and no faith killing Christmas, but I find the opposite: It’s the one time of year when all kinds of people—even the Grinch and Ebenezer Scrooge—are kinder, gentler and in better moods.

4. I wish people would practice what they preach instead of imposing their preaching on others. Where I was raised, the Christianity in Christmas meant you did unto others as you would have them do unto you. It meant that only those without sin could cast the first stone. It meant that we cared for the least among us.

But nowadays, there’s a whole lot of un-Christian behavior being waged in the name of Christianity: stone-casting, starving the poor, denying care to the sick, and doing unto others the exact opposite of we would want others doing unto us.

5. I wish we’d let the children lead us. The late singer John Denver once suggested in a song that we “seek the wisdom of the children.” In the Biblical Christmas story, wise men came to Bethlehem to celebrate a child.

Children, among many blessings, don’t know discrimination. Even the students in my college classrooms are more tolerant and appreciative of differences in others than are many people of my generation.

Santa, you listen to kids all the time. Perhaps you could help us learn from them.

6. I wish we’d work to maximize long-term “people ability” and not just short-term profitability. For some—those with big bonuses, healthy retirement plans and well-funded investment portfolios—the economy is humming. For far more others, things are hurting. Part of the problem: In the name of productivity, we’ve traded people for technology. Goodbye, teller. Hello, ATM machine.

I’m all for modernization and profitability, but just as you employed elves in the toy-making process, we must emphasize employment in the economic mix. Otherwise, you’ll eventually get repeated requests for downloads of the Beatles’ “Revolution.”

7. I wish we’d have a more worldly view and not just a “my-world” view. The other day, I sat in on a discussion about education standards. One woman wanted to drop our state’s participation in national standards because they were too difficult for her child and this was demoralizing.

I’m sorry, Santa, but if my little reindeer—red nose or not—doesn’t join in the same games as all the other reindeer in the world, you’ll never know if she’s best fit to fly. And I certainly don’t want her to get a lower-level, ego-boosting participation trophy if she can’t pull the sleigh on Christmas night.

Anyway, in addition to the usual “peace on earth, good will to others,” message, that’s what I’d like for Christmas. I suppose the Johnny Seven O.M.A. was simpler, but I’ve given up on automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

And, hey, if I didn’t pass the “nice” test, please skip the lump of coal. The stuff might send a behavior-modification message, but it’s bad for the environment.•

__________

Hetrick is a writer, public relations consultant and visiting professor of public relations for the IU School of Journalism at IUPUI. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.

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