The Christmas season carries different meanings for many celebrating it. For the religious, it means giving gratitude to God for sending Christ into the world. It also is a time for being grateful for our families and friends who enrich our lives with love and support. How we express our gratitude is what becomes tradition, and often, influenced by our cultural roots.
For Filipinos, Christmas (Pasko) is a blend of catholic and western traditions. The Catholic part is the deeply devotional practice of prayer during this time. There is the Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi in which Filipino Catholics would go to church or pray at home for nine days (usually very early morning) leading up to Christmas eve, then celebrate on midnight mass.
During these days of prayer, the devout would reflect on their relationship with God and ask that their loved ones be blessed with whatever needs they might have. It could be healing, physical or spiritual; it could be needs-based.
The western part of Pasko is gift-giving. For many Filipinos living outside of the Philippines, there is an extension of this gift-giving by sending money (called money remittances) to their families still in the mother country. It’s an expression of love; but also an expression of what is known as utang na loob, a kind of debt of gratitude for all the help and sacrifice family members have given to the immigrant family member while in the Philippines.
Now that the immigrant lives abroad, he reciprocates with a monetary gift, usually at Christmas time. Often, after generations of watching their parents do this, children of immigrants continue this practice as tradition beyond the initial utang na loob.
A Marker in Time
Besides the religious and cultural practices of Christmas, this holiday is almost universally recognized as a celebration of life. Christmas is a kind of marker in time, and not just a season signaling the end of the year when we slow down and contemplate all that happened in recent months, but really, the years, many past Christmases, and one’s lifetime.
Christmas in this vein, is a reminder of how brief life. So we go to each family get-together or meet-up with friends during the season, with heightened mindfulness of the present knowing how quickly Christmas passes, as does life. There is finality. There is change. There are cycles of birth, aging, graduation, marriage, even illness and death.
We recognize all these as a part of life; but for now, at this very moment, time stands still for a moment as we share with whomever we love around us during Christmas, our hearts full with love. We suspend all the mundane matters, for what really matters, expressing our love. The essence of Christmas is love.
In the midst of our joy and celebration, perhaps we can also reach out and make some time for those who might be going through some transition of isolation that might not make them feel as loved. Maybe a dear one has passed on and the widow or widower is feeling alone. Maybe a student is away for college, away from family. Maybe someone escaped from an abusive relationship. Maybe someone feels afraid because he is dying. There are countless life situations for many people that can make this particular Christmas not as joyful as past Christmases. Consider that maybe, that one day, this could also be you in a similar situation.
Let us not forget them, too. And remember to share our love with them.
St. Francis of Assisi once said, “For it is in giving that we receive.”
May the good Lord bless you with peace and happiness. Have a Merry, Merry Christmas to all! May your Christmas be a joyful, memorable one!
The Green New Deal: Good for the Environment, Jobs, and
A recent United Nations report said what most credible scientists already have been saying for years now – that the world must start reducing its carbon pollution immediately, and cut it in half by 2030. Or else, as most people in the planet and governments have already been warned, catastrophic consequences await with more severe weather from wildfires from droughts to flooding from rising sea levels to top category hurricanes becoming more frequent and more powerful. Global emissions levels hit a record high and it hasn’t helped that the U.S. exited the Paris Accord Agreement.
Now that Democrats regained the House, they plan to take the country back on track with regard to the environment before the Trump administration took over. But this time, Democrats are far more ambitious and will introduce a package of laws called the Green New Deal.
It plans to address environmental concerns while at the same time boost a green economy. What’s catching lawmakers and Americans’ attention is the new emphasis on jobs, jobs, jobs, and health care, health care, health care in this new “Green” economy.
Green New Deal
The “New Deal,” part of its name, refers to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (FDR) series of economic and social programs that lifted the U.S. out of the Great Depression. FDR’s New Deal brought civil service work, massive employment, Social Security, and was collectively the largest investment the U.S. government has made in its people.
This is how impactful the Green New Deal hopes to become.
First, the environmental part aims to satisfy a range of demands. It will require the U.S. to get 100 percent of its electricity from renewable resources. That means decarbonizing the agricultural, manufacturing and transportation industries responsible for large amounts of greenhouse gas emission. It plans to upgrade all industrial and residential buildings to maximize energy efficiency and create a national smart grid.
The second part, which is both arguably the most appealing and controversial, is the Green New Deal proposes job guarantees that every American can have a job with the government if they want one. Transforming the country to become more environmentally-friendly will generate an estimated 10 million new jobs from installing solar panels, manufacturing electric vehicles, to hundreds of new technological occupations.
A committee will be tasked to explore living wages, a universal basic income and single-payer healthcare to be incorporated into the Green New Deal.
Dealing with the urgency of climate change has always been a major concern for many Americans. But, politically, climate reform legislation has had only moderate success.
The guaranteed jobs feature of the Green New Deal elevates caring-for-the-environment initiatives because suddenly to many Americans wanting jobs, saving the planet becomes much more personal with a vested interest.
Large-scale investment by the government to help citizens and to stimulate the economy is always political mint (that is why there is bipartisan support for infrastructure projects). Accomplishing this while saving the planet looks to be a win-win scenario, at least in theory.
The recent midterm election saw the rise of millennials coming to the table of political power. They came out in record numbers and the fight to stop environmental degradation is among their top priorities, much greater than other Americans of older generations.
This is another reason why the Green New Deal could be politically viable in the near future.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is now a national figure and the youngest to ever be elected to U.S. Congress at the age of 29, is leading the charge of millennials in support of the Green New Deal.
She said “This (Green New Deal) is going to be the Great Society, the moonshot, the civil rights movement of our generation. That is the scale of the ambition that this movement is going to require.”
Stephen O’Hanlon, a spokesman for the Sunrise Movement (a youth-led activism group that has pushed for environmental-friendly policies), said, “Any senators or any other politician who wants the votes of young people in 2020 needs to back a Green New Deal that would transform our economy and create millions of new jobs stopping climate change.”
Already a few heavy-weight politicians like Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif) who has her eyes on running for president in 2020 had expressed support of sweeping climate change reforms.
Imagination and Courage
Detractors of the Green New Deal say it is too idealistic and even politically risky. Remember how coal miners in the Midwest impacted the last presidential election. The average American might have concerns of rising fuel costs. Property owners of older buildings and manufacturers who rely on non-renewal energy to power up might find upgrades to meet new environmental regulations too costly. How will private sectors already involved in renewable energy work with or see the government’s role in the new “Green” economy, as much-needed support or competitors? There are many unanswered questions and reasonable concerns.
The reality is all great, bold legislations are politically risky and must go through a process of uncertainty. The more people legislation potentially effects, the greater is its innate vulnerability.
But this is where courage and the will to imagine greatness come into play in politics.
The Green New Deal is not a new concept. But the urgency, scope, and vision (incorporating guaranteed massive job hires and social safety nets such as healthcare) that is now incorporated into the Green New Deal is what’s making it, yes, “new” come 2019.
Well-respected author and journalist Thomas L. Friedman wrote in the New York Times in 2007: “If you have put a windmill in your yard or some solar panels on your roof, bless your heart. But we will only green the world when we change the very nature of the electricity grid -- moving it away from dirty coal or oil to clean coal and renewables. And that is a huge industrial project -- much bigger than anyone has told you. Finally, like the New Deal, if we undertake the green version, it has the potential to create a whole new clean power industry to spur our economy into the 21st century.”
The upcoming 116th U.S. Congress begins in January. The Green New Deal, even with all its uncertainties, deserves serious attention and action.
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