The Tree of Vigilance is being lit tonight. It is 79 feet
tall, weighs two tons and will be adorned with 30,000 lights.
Children around the world will see the lighting. In Iraq,
44 percent of the nation's population of 23 million is under 15, a
ripe age to believe in a life free of oppression and tyranny.
In some nations of the world, children represent 50 percent of the
population. How can a Christmas tree lighting in
Rockefeller Center spark freedom and liberty in the heart of a child
in a far off land? Find out.
Wednesday--December 3, 2003—Ground Zero
The Lights Of Vigilance
Shine On The World's Children
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--Dec. 3, 2003--
Tonight, more than 30,000 Christmas Tree lights will blaze to life at
Rockefeller Center in the center of Manhattan. Each one will
symbolize a Sentinel of Vigilance, a glowing reminder that Peace and
Prosperity are the ultimate goals of all Parents of Vigilance.
Few can deny
the presence of a Christmas Tree
Despite one's religious beliefs--Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist,
even atheist or agnostic--few can deny the presence of a glistening
Christmas Tree shining in the night with packages nestled under its
boughs doesn't warm any child's heart.
The idea of a "Tree of Happiness and Joy" is more
valuable than limiting it to a religious custom, for from a child's
point of view the tree is about the magic of the season, a cornucopia
of wistful imaginations about what is treasured inside the wrappings
tucked and piled under the branches of the tree.
has been going on since the dawn of time
In many cultures
outside Christianity, the idea of giving the children gifts on a
certain day of celebration has been going on since the dawn of time.
From the deepest darkest tribes in the most primitive jungles, to the
highest, coldest peaks of the frozen north, certain days are set aside
on the calendar of life to remind children that the magic of happiness
and joy especially for them survives the often brutal landscape of
trudging through daily life.
Some children count the days throughout the year
for the event to unfold, for to many the "Christmas" they enjoy may be
the only time they are free to be children. In some
less advanced societies, children start their days of labor as soon as
they can walk and talk unlike modern civilization that shelters
children from being "their own" until they are well into their
teens and even beyond.
I remember the children in the
villages of Vietnam. Each had a job, a duty to the rest of the
community whether it was watching a smaller child or carrying wood or
helping in the planting of rice--no one was without the yoke of work.
There were no television sets, no schools, just the community working
hand-in-hand with one another so they all could eat and survive.
Yet, on special holidays, the children received
gifts. Some were as simple as a toy whittled by an elder, or
something shiny that when viewed in the bright light gave a radiant
design to the child's eye, sparking his or her imagination to wonder
about the great fantasy of what lay beyond the jungle, out past the
rice paddies and groves of bamboo from whence we came with our chewing
gum and hot cocoa and chocolate bars.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will be lit
perhaps one of the most advanced of all civilized tree lightings will
be viewed around the world as Mayor Bloomberg hits the switch that
will race electricity to spark life into the tens of thousands of
bulbs stitched into the limbs of the 79-foot Norway spruce that adorns
the center of Rockefeller Plaza. Atop the tree will be a
ten-foot star, a beacon to many symbolizing the idea that there is
Hope in this world that one day all nations and all people can sit
with their children around a great Tree of Vigilance and share their
common goals for the safety and security of future generations.
But this goal may come the hard way.
Back in 1931 when construction was being started at Rockefeller Plaza,
workmen stabbed a small, naked Christmas tree into the muddy soil.
There was no fanfare, no tree lighting. It just existed
there amidst the groan of machinery and the muck of a construction
official Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center was lit in 1933
of years later in 1933 the first official tree lighting occurred.
It was simplistic in comparison to the global event of tonight's tree
lighting. Back then, it was a couple of bulbs and some
tinsel--nothing glorious. That spartan ceremony began a
tradition that is now seven decades old and broadcast by television
around this globe of 6 billion--one-third of which are children.
The annual tree lighting is like a Super Bowl kickoff--a defacto stamp
that the Christmas Season--whether you like it or not--is officially
here to stay for another year.
Children look at Christmas or similar
holidays in their cultures as a time of Peace and Joy.
It is their moment of glory, for children are the victims and
witnesses of adult Terrorism. They watch their parents
fight and battle with one another and others in the great struggle to
survive a world of both physical and emotional Beasts of Terror.
In the most advanced of civilizations
where wealth and opportunity abound, children still cower at the
footsteps of their parents, afraid they will be scolded for something
they might not have done well enough, or, abused by their parents in a
range of ways from sexual to simple neglect where the parent is "too
busy" to hug and love them.
The advancement of civilization does not
necessarily mean that human behavior has changed, or that someone
living in a mansion treats his or her children better than someone in
a claptrap, or existing in a hut in a village in the middle of a
of the "holiday" that celebrates children becomes a life line
If all parents seek
one thing for their children it is that their offspring have a better
life than they have...that their children maximize the joys and riches
of life both inside and out.
Not all parents subscribe to this lofty goal.
Some consider children chattel, others look upon them as burdens and
others may simply neglect their children, acting as though they didn't
Whether the child is loved or unloved,
wanted or unwanted, happy or sad, the presence of the "holiday" that
celebrates children becomes a life line. Even the abused
and victimized child wishes during the holiday that his or her
greatest present will be that his or her mother or father express
love. Maybe, the gift would be to just hold them in their arms for a
brief moment between the Terror moments.
I waited to hear from my father
child, I remember each Christmas waiting for my father to send me a
Christmas card, or, maybe even a present. My mother
and father separated when I was nine months old and I never saw him,
met him or felt his arms around me. My mother
remarried when I was five, but I never accepted my step-father, and
clung to a frail and fragile belief that one day my "real" father
would come and rescue me. My real father drove a
Greyhound bus up the Columbia Gorge from Portland to the Dallas,
Oregon. His bus passed by my grandmother's house in
Cascade Locks, sixty miles east of Portland. I would
wait by the roadside for his bus and look at him from afar but he
never looked at me, and, perhaps, never knew who I was.
Each time the bus drove away my heart sank deeper into the quagmire of
Child Terrorism, the worst kind--that feeling of being unloved,
Each Christmas, I would secretly ask
Santa to bring me back my father. I held fast to that hope
even though I knew it was virtually impossible, virtually improbable.
But a child has more faith than most adults. A
child believes with an intensity that shames most adults.
wish I begged for as a child has come true for my children
father never came. I was 21 years old when I approached
him. I was scarred and hardened by then, as many children are as
a result of their upbringing. And, I made a vow as a
result. That was to be the father to my children that my father
wasn't to me. In a way, perhaps, the brutality of my own
childhood was a gift for my children. If I have done
little in this world in other areas of my life, I have succeeded in
being a good father to my children...I have been there for my children
all their lives, whether they liked it or not.
In comparison to my father's absence, I have achieved much in
retribution for his defects.
And, my children are my best of
friends. The Christmas wish I begged for as a child has
come true, not for me, but for my children. In a
bizarre way, the greatest gift I have today is not the friendship of
my father I yearned for with such passion as a child, but the great
friendship of my children, and, their children.
I note with great pride that my
children have wonderful relations with their children.
They treat their children with a respect that borders on anarchy at
times--allowing their children to express feelings and attitudes I
might have quashed as a parent. But, today, children's feelings
are treated with a respect that requires incredible patience and
I come from the old school where the
parent rules. Today, the trend is to "rule by committee,"
with children having greater rights and larger Voices in where they
go, what they do, and how they do it.
from my children about the Christmas Gift I wanted as a child
I've learned from my children about
the Christmas Gift I longed for as a child. I've learned
they have "their way" as I had "my way" and my wife had
"her way" to
express love. It means that the roots of love remain
solid, but the branches spread in slightly different directions.
The Rockefeller Christmas Tree
lighting ceremony is only a reminder to me that the great Sentinel of
Seasonal Vigilance is alive and well.
While we all may hold our
different viewpoints about Christmas, we cannot deny the joy and
belief it or a different seasonal custom brings to a child. I wonder if I hadn't kept
believing that one day my father would come at Christmas, whether I
might have passed on to my children my belief in them.
Great good can come out of bad
events. When we learn from the errors of others we grow.
I have grown stronger as a human being because of my relationship with
my children--and, that relationship is strong today because of the
lack of one with my father, and his failure to bring me a Christmas
gift. So, I have given what he didn't give me
to my children.
of the tree in Rockefeller Plaza is about children's dreams and
the Christmas tree is lighted in Rockefeller Plaza, each of you will
have a chance to scoff or embrace the idea of Christmas.
It isn't about us. It is about children's beliefs,
We forget how important that is.
In America, 22 percent of the population is under 15.
There is still room for belief among them. But, in the
Congo, 46 percent are under 15, in Rwanda, 50 percent are under 15.
Afghanistan has 40 percent of its population under 15. Vietnam has 37
percent of its people under 15 and Japan's percentage is 17, El
Salvador, 41, and Costa Rica, 35.
(See children population chart)
The world is ripe with
children. We forget that in Iraq 44 percent of the
24 million people in that land are under the age of 15.
That's a startling number because it means that children in that land
have great dreams, many unfulfilled, that can be shaped and directed.
The great shaping of any
child's dreams is to remind the child that life is about "giving" and
not about "taking." Christmas, and other holidays of a
similar nature, give to the children. Often, the greatest
gift a child can receive is a hug or love from a parent, a
grandparent, a loved one.
America is trying
to give the children of Iraq a special present this year--freedom.
Lots of people in this nation and others berate America's attempt to
free the children of the land to enjoy what other children in more-developed nations enjoy.
That is to be free
of the Beast of Terror.
the Beast teaches children they can turn on lights and keep them
Children who live
under the shadow of tyranny and oppression have their Christmas tree
lights snuffed out before they can light them. When
someone else holds the switch to the electricity of freedom, and
forces others to do what they say or they won't give them light, the
child learns to cower and serve the Beast.
Freedom from the
Beast teaches the child that he or she can make his or her own
electricity, has a right to flip on the switch, and, a greater right
to keep it lighted once it is on.
The great gift of
freedom is not an easy one to open.
It took me nearly a
lifetime to realize that the pain and anguish of my childhood was a
gift I gave to my children in love and appreciation of them.
I turned the bad into good.
oppression can be turned into freedom and liberty, but not without
symbols of such freedom and liberty standing tall, forming beacons for
all to see.
Sure, many may think the
two-ton tree lighting in Rockefeller Center is just about the
"commercialism" of Christmas, and rail and attack it as a "Christian"
event ruled by White Angle Saxon Males. That's the
Beast of Terror view. It seeks to find the bad in the
good, to shower beauty with ugliness, as is the nefarious way of the
But, there is another
view. That is the one the Sentinels of Vigilance offer.
They suggest the 30,000 lights that shine are lights of hope and
belief targeted at a child's lonely heart, a child's sad heart.
Perhaps this giant tree and its
gleaming lights mean more about faith than disbelief, more about
safety and security than crass commercialism and religious bigotry.
I can only speak for
transposed to become what my father wasn't
For years I wished upon
every Christmas Tree I saw for the gift of my father. He
But, I was transposed to
become what he wasn't--at least with my children.
Adults who denounce the
"Spirit of Christmas" such as a tree lighting might well take another
look at the hearts of children. If there is a place for
them to wish upon, to seek something better in their lives, do we have
the right to crush those dreams and abuse those beliefs with our
A Parent of Vigilance
will see the 30,000 lights igniting tonight reaching the children of
the world--those in Belize, Japan, Iraq, the Congo--as well as here at
home. They will put aside their own prejudices for a
moment and sit with their children and ask them what their "wish list"
is....not the "wish list" just for "things" but the "wish list" deep
in their heart.
Had my father asked me
that question, I would have simply said: "A hug."
Light your Vigilance
Christmas Tree. Believe in belief, no matter what shape or
form it takes, as long as it benefits the Children's Children's
You can start that
process by taking the Pledge of Vigilance and believing it with the
heart of a child.