The Ghosts of Christmas Past

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

In Charles Dickens great tale A Christmas Carol, three ghosts visit the miserly Ebeneezer Scrooge, who has been so busy piling up and counting his fortune, that he has forgotten the terrible toll it has taken on his character.

Although he is visited by three ghosts, it is the Ghost of Christmas Past that haunts him most. The present is fleeting (We might say that we are never truly operating in the present.) and the future we might alter. But the past is something with which we have to live.

And we have to acknowledge its consequences.

Now as our Orthodox neighbours in Ukraine celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January I think back on Christmas three years ago when the Maidan uprising was fresh and full of promise. The dictator would fall. You could feel that as you stood in that very special place three Christmases ago. The eyes of the world were on those events. Though the Ukrainian leader did not retreat to Russia until late January, you knew he would eventually leave. I was there for a week leading up to our December Christmas. Each day I walked among the improvised lodgings and visited the various improvised organs of the revolution.

It seems much longer than three years ago now. In that time Crimea fell and the East was invaded. All the while Russia’s Czar of the 21st century has grown stronger and stronger. Syria and Iraq have battled ISIS or ISIL or Daesh or whatever they are to be termed besides homicidal maniacs.

Which brings me to two years ago when I spent the days leading up to Christmas in Baghdad attempting to wrap up an IT contract at the airport there and in Basra for which I was project manager.

Planes like this one came and went hourly supplying troops at the front as the Iraqis fought north toward the ultimate objective, Mosul, at city, as we all know, still at war.

Heady times indeed. And a far cry they are from the quiet home front of the USA in Williamsburg, Virginia where I spent last Christmas. Home: a place where the past is lovingly recreated and reenacted as a kind of modern sacrament.

Europe tries to escape its past: Americans embrace it and the identity it might lend to a rootless people coming from many nations. E Pluribus Unum indeed. 

And then there is this Christmas, spent in Warsaw owing to a broken leg, a personal past I’d just as soon forget as I lay watching American Football, remotely, like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, a bored reporter wishing he were in Erbil before Mosul where the action is these days.

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