I was going to write something about A Christmas Carol and discovered I already had last year. So, slightly touched up to correct some errors, is this post from December 24, 2006. Feliz Navidad.
I know I said I was going to take a break, but I felt a need, as it were, to put up something here from Dickens' A Christmas Carol (I have the Yale University Press fascimile edition of the original manuscript; try reading Dickens' handwriting, and you'll not have a merry Christmas). The high point of the story, for me, is not the disclosure at the grave that Scrooge will die that night. Personally I have always felt that irrelevant; we all die, and none of us know the manner of our death or the status of those who might or might not mourn. For me, the climax is the lecture Scrooge receives from the Spirit of Christmas Present at Cratchit's house. Scrooge has just been told that Tiny Tim will die (and there is no condition placed upon that fate; Tim is as dead as Marley's doornail whether Scrooge changes or not, all the TV specials notwithstanding) and he begins to weep. The Spirit quotes back Scrooge's words concerning the adventitious nature of death, decreasing the surplus population, and then he continues:
"Man!" said the Ghost, "if man you be in heart not adamants; forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you and such as you decide what men shall live, what men shall die! It my be, that in the sight of heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child. . . ."
I wonder what the oh-so-superior, oh-so-perfectly knowledgeable idiots on the right make of such a statement. O'Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh, Coulter, Malkin - the whole blathering herd of non-thinking flapping lips stand as Scrogge stands, under the judgment of their own words, their own sense of superiority, hoist by their own petard, as it were.
Dickens' novella is a part and parcel of Christmas celebration because it echoes the true meaning of the day - the new birth offered even to the most "squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner" - against the backdrop of a society dedicated to forgetting the truth that God's love is not measured by the wealth of the nation, or the effectiveness of its business culture. Those who claim a War on Christmas would do to remember Dickens' words in the mouth of that sublime and joyous Spirit - the real War is the one waged day after day to render inhuman all those who do not agree with them; to create a society as unfeeling, as uncaring, indeed as hostile as the one in which Scrooge stomped about with his eyes downcast. We should all remember this day that any of us, myself most definitely included, are in no position to pass judgment upon the lives, and most especially the untimely deaths, of others apart from pronouncing them upon ourselves. While I would offer, with Dickens, that this tale not leave you out of the spirit of th day, perhaps there is a lesson here we can recall in the heat of July, or the rain of April, or the falling leaves of October - we are fellow-travelers upon this globe, and all we should do is help one another as fellow-travelers.
God Bless us, everyone.