(Not So) Silent Night

Bethlehem Wall

Last night I was, um, treated to a special broadcast from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the 2011 First Presidency Christmas Devotional, which included a reenactment of the story of baby Jesus in the deserts of Utah and some sermons from top leaders, including President Thomas S. Monson, in between a few carols from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They ended with “Silent Night.” It sounded a little like this…

Listen on SoundCloud

…or not. (Who needs an actual electric guitar when you have fancy audio software?)

The photo, incidentally, is a scene from the modern-day Bethlehem, some of the colorful Christmas decorations put up by the natives to make their prison walls a bit more festive and homey. It was uploaded to Flickr by someone named Tracy Hunter, part of her 2009 Palestine set.

It occurred to me to wonder last night how many, out of the millions of people world-wide who must sing “Silent Night” every year, have ever experienced a truly silent night. Or a dark one, for that matter. As is suggested rather forcefully by the graffiti art above, I think we have become adept at walling out all the violence and squalor that might otherwise threaten our cherished domestic tranquility, especially this time of year when we so fetishize hearth and home. It would perhaps be in poor taste to mention the 3000+ inhabitants of the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, which is adjacent to a new 4-star hotel. For homeless Palestinians, it seems, there’s still no room at the inn.

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