Saturday, December 24, 2011WILLIAMSBURG – I don’t know why, exactly, but in England Santa Claus is Father Christmas, and Merry Christmas is always, “Happy Christmas.” Nearer home, liberals use the politically correct, “Happy Holidays,” which drives Fox News crazy every year.
Faux News, as some call it, takes a semantic leap by declaring that the terminological difference amounts to War on Christmas. Would that they could get equally exercised about real wars like George W. Bush’s nine-year, $800 billion Iraq error or Wall Street’s 1 percent bonus babies shafting the rest of us: this year’s angry 99 percent.
We, a vast majority, must be nuts to believe that they’re job creators!
Which reminds me of a movie scene from “A Night at the Opera.” Groucho Marx was explaining the sanity clause in a singer’s contract to his brother Chico, who retorted, “Ha, ha, ha, ha. You can’t fool me … there ain’t no sanity clause.”
That’s the same argument we’ve been hearing at every Republican debate, and unless you belong to the 1 percent, what motivates every Occupy Wall Street protester. None of us in the 99 percent have figured out how to beat a system that seems designed to keep us down and in debt to banks and credit card companies.
The 2008 economic collapse is entering its fourth year with no end in sight. Mitt Romney’s “Corporations are people, my friend,” Newt Gingrich’s advice to 9-year-olds to take a janitor’s job and for seniors to give up their benefits before millionaires or the Pentagon take a hit rings hollow when we read that Newt’s lobbying firm has blithely taken millions from Freddie Mac and Capitol Hill supplicants. Our former House Speaker draws guffaws from real historians who bill their hours at a far lower rate.
Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield comes to mind and to life in GOP world. Dickens’ boyhood was marked by his days in a boot-blacking factory, a dirty job forced on him because his father was imprisoned for debt. That experience led him to create the character of Wilkins Micawber, who also went to prison for debt.
Micawber’s motto was his oft-stated firm belief that “something would turn up.” He too was of the 99 percent, and the odds were all against him. In time, he became a clerk for the creepy Uriah Heep, whose crimes he exposed to his financial benefit.
Imagine Occupy truth-tellers as Micawber, and Wall Street zillionaires in place of the crooked accountant Heep, and you too might write a scary story with a happy ending. The second shoe has yet to drop, and a heroic Elizabeth Warren may yet be there in time as Betty on the spot. That worries moneyed Super PACs, who are attacking her in TV ads a full year before the election. Good luck to her campaign.
Dickens answered his own Christmas question about the distribution of wealth in “A Christmas Carol.” Ebenezer Scrooge lost his youthful optimism in a quest for success – defined as accumulated wealth. Soured by a lost love, he chose not to share his worldly goods through charity, or pay his workers a living wage. He begrudged every shilling from his war chest, much like those who would argue that taxing a few percent on annual income above one million dollars to be excessive, unfair and a job killer.
What a joke!
Abraham Lincoln’s “Government of the people, by the people and for the people” promises a sharing of our national abundance. When the evening news celebrates young citizens who from the goodness of their hearts want to help the sick and share their excess toys, it makes you think about adults, a very small percentage of whom have the deck stacked in their favor, but Scrooge-like see no benefit in sharing their abundance.
“Are there no workhouses?” Ebenezer asked when confronted with the needs of the poor. Newt knows the answer to that one: Put those kids on the end of a wet mop and don’t ask me again.
Which brings me back to Santa Claus and his legendary practice of keeping a list of who’s been good or bad. Better or worst flies in the face of today’s “everyone gets a medal” permissive society. Keeping score matters because it causes people to live life in the moment by doing for others.
Giving, surveys say, often benefit the giver as much or more than the receiver.
However, visions of sugarplums are never out of place whether you’re a child or former child – this is the week when everyone is not only allowed but also encouraged to wish upon a star.
Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday season to everyone of good will.
Jim Cahillane, a Williamsburg writer and poet, is thankful for the past year and looking forward to Sunday’s family gathering.