If I could have one wish for Christmas, it would be for an end to ideology in 2003.

One of the worst areas for this is religion. I am so darn tired of people telling me their religious beliefs, either in e-mails, by collaring me in person and, or by making some subtle remark that’s supposed to let me know I’m heading straight for hell. This happened a few Christmases ago, when a very religious relative asked me if I was a “secular humanist.” I’d never heard the term before, so I said, “You mean someone who’s not religious but tries to do the right thing anyway? Sounds pretty good to me.” Only later did I learn she was implying I was so close to hell, the tips of my toes were burning already.

But it seems to me that if we could all get together, despite having different religions (or perhaps none at all), and try to make the right moral decisions, instead of endlessly arguing about the interpretation of various Bible verses, we’d live in a much better world.

This person believes one thing, that person believes another: Why in the world should I care about other people’s beliefs? I care about what people DO, especially when they do it to me, and I hate to say this, but the nastiest, meanest things that have ever been done to me have been done by so- called “religious” people. Hey, didn’t a fellow named Jesus say we should judge people by their works?

Another area filled with crippling ideology is politics. On Capitol Hill, nobody listens to anyone else’s ideas because they’re too busy proclaiming their own. Nobody is open to other opinions or experiences and nobody is going to compromise (that would be selling out!) So of course, nothing gets done.

Elderly people can’t pay for their prescription drugs, middle class people can’t afford to go to the doctor, and doctors can’t afford to take Medicare patients. Two salaries buy the life one used to, families don’t have enough time to spend with their kids, and kids are going to school longer hours but not learning as much. But if these problems don’t fit into some pre-determined political mold, nothing gets done about them.

Wouldn’t it be great if politicians on the right and left would sit down with each other and try to work out the best way to solve these problems? Maybe they could even research what’s worked before, in other places or at other times. Instead, they like to get in front of the cameras or the rest of Congress and proclaim their beliefs, then attack anyone who doesn’t agree with them. The latest thing is to call anyone who disagrees “unpatriotic.” For instance, it’s unpatriotic to question whether we should be going to war with Iraq. Hey, didn’t those guys who wrote the Constitution believe in free speech?

An end to ideology and partisanship, that’s what I want for Christmas, but I don’t think the ideologues will give up anytime soon. They still seem to think their endless yammering will convince us they’re right. I played it safe though: I also asked for new carpet for the stairs. I expect Santa will grant me this wish since I already picked out the pattern and gave the store a down payment.

And most of all, I wish you all a wonderful holiday season!

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