Monday, December 15, 2008

All is calm, all is bright....

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Ah, Christmas — er, the Holiday Season — er, the Winter Break — a time when laid-off parents have to write "letters from Santa" to their kids explaining why the toy supply will be tiny this year, and non-celebrating parents unwittingly help their kids feel like pariahs, and sociologists warn that the whole tradition needs a makeover. A time when the annual "inclusion, or exclusivity?" controversy erupts as cities grapple with hard issues like whether Santa should be standing to the left or right in the stable with the Wise Men under the Star & Crescent and next to the Menorah, and whether the reindeer should be posed among the camels or the sheep. A time to think fondly of Charles Dickens, "The Man Who Invented Christmas," and remember that he was a self-published artist (A Christmas Carol was rejected by all major publishers) facing issues of copyright infringement and illegal piracy of his work, so it would be nice if we could stop downloading on the 24th and 25th in his memory.

And it's a time to congratulate Dionte Christmas of Temple University's roundball team for contributing 35 points to an 88-72 upset over Tennessee.

It's a complex time, especially this year when the children of Wall Street bankers and investment brokers will define "fewer toys" as one Land Rover instead of two Bentleys, and children of autoworkers preparing for disaster will still get that Cadillac Escalade, but the $1 Hot Wheels version instead of the $300 Power Wheels they wanted.

Sociologists say not to do that because it confuses and hurts the children, and economists say not to do that because it confuses and hurts the retailers, and Republican lawmakers say Cadillac workers make too much money and it's their fault no one can buy cars after Wall Street and K Street crashed the credit market. The season of giving, for those lawmakers, means the season of giving the finger to middle class laborers while giving golden parachutes to wealthy executives. And even though those working-class parents would rather die than have to get tied up in complicated lies to their kids about why Santa will be turning into Scrooge, the rousing Republican retort is a passage from Dickens' best-known work: "If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

Stephen, sing us out.
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