Every year at Christmas, I take time out to watch Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."
Although there are many movie adaptations, my personal favorite is the 1984 version starring George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge. I can practically quote the dialogue word for word.
Watching this movie always gives me great "comfort and joy." Seeing Scrooge transform from a greedy, spiteful man into a loving, generous human being is a tale of redemption that always sets the right mood for the holiday for me.
But this year, the ongoing political circus has caused me to view this beloved story a bit differently. I see so much of Scrooge's negative characteristics reflected in current events.
His meanness, selfishness and cruelty is certainly not some quirk of the 19th century--it is alive and well today. His traits are seen throughout the world in the form of control-grabbing government leaders, greedy corporations, power-hungry globalists, corrupt organizations, and disdainful elitists. Mankind isn't getting any kinder.
Let me take you through the cynical thoughts that crossed my mind as I watched the movie this year...
The story opens in Scrooge's counting house with his clerk, Bob Cratchit, posting ledgers by candlelight. Cratchit is bundled up and barely able to do his work because he is freezing.
Scrooge won't let him add any coal to the fire and he proceeds to reprimand Cratchit by saying, "Coal burns. Coal is momentary and coal is costly, There will be no more coal burnt in this office today."
My cynical thought: Just like Bob Cratchit, Americans will be cold, too, as Biden vows to shut down coal plants ‘all across America.'
I shook my head to clear that thought and tried again to focus on the movie.
The next scene shows Scrooge's nephew, Fred, enter the counting house to invite Uncle Ebenezer to Christmas dinner, as he does every year. Scrooge is dismissive of Fred and insults him by saying, "Humbug! If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart."
My cynical thought: Gee, if you substitute "Merry Christmas" with the words, "Make America Great Again," that line of dialogue would sound like this: " If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with "Make America Great Again" on his lips is a danger to democracy, should be labeled a domestic terrorist, and be buried with the Gadsden flag through his heart."
(Wow. Those not-so-Christmas-y thoughts just keep rolling in...)
The next scene that struck a nerve with me was when Scrooge is finishing up business at the Exchange and two men approach him asking for a donation for the poor. Scrooge tells the men that his taxes already support the prisons, workhouses and treadmills and the poor and needy should just go there.
The men reply, "Many can't go there; and many would rather die."
"If they would rather die," says Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."
My cynical thoughts: Canada passed an "assisted suicide law" in 2016 and is now expanding the law to allow euthanasia for the mentally ill and the poor. They are also considering expanding it even further to include children and infants.
Canadians are discovering that, if they are too poor to improve their conditions to a degree which is "acceptable," Canada won't spend money to help them live--but it will spend money to help them die. Mentally ill and depressed Canadians are being offered this "help" as well. And now, the medical establishment is pushing to allow a baby to be euthanized if it is deemed to be "unfit to live." That isn't assisted suicide--it's a form of murder. But, in progressive Canada, it's one way of decreasing the "surplus population."
I find myself even more disturbed as I ponder that last thought.
Okay. Back to A Christmas Carol...
It's time for the Ghost of Christmas Past to transport Scrooge back to his childhood. We see him alone at school and learn that he had a difficult father who held a grudge against him because his mother died in childbirth. We find out that, even though Scrooge was a brilliant business man, he didn't believe he was making enough money to marry Belle, the love of his life.
Scrooge becomes angry at the Ghost for showing him how his own choices led him to become the greedy, cruel, miser that he is. He demands to be shown no more and he attempts to extinguish the Ghost's light with its own cap--but the light that shines from the Ghost cannot be put out.
My cynical thoughts: Why does it seem that when someone is exposed to the truth of their own actions, they refuse to take responsibility? One recent example of this is Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the now-imploded FTX cryptocurrency platform (which some say is far worse than the Enron collapse). In addition to the firm losing BILLIONS for its investors in a Ponzi scheme, it is also accused of colluding with the World Economic Forum and the Ukrainian government to launder money for Democrats. Sam Bankman-Fried is hiding out in the Bahamas while talking to liberal media outlets; and he's playing the victim card in order to salvage his legacy.
(Shaking my head...)
The next spirit to appear is the Ghost of Christmas Present, who whisks Scrooge off to the home of his clerk, Bob Cratchit. Upon witnessing the impoverished family enjoying Christmas together and seeing the crippled Tiny Tim, Scrooge asks the Ghost if the boy will live.
The Ghost responds, "If these shadows remain unaltered by the future, none other of my species will find him here. But if he is to die, then let him die and decrease the surplus population!"
Scrooge says, "You use my own words against me?"
"Yes," replies the Ghost. "So perhaps, in the future, you will hold your tongue until you have discovered what the surplus population is and where it is. It may well be that, in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child."
My cynical thoughts: As Scrooge was one of the wealthiest people in old London, he had no idea how those of lesser stature actually lived. It reminds me of the world leaders and global elites who all flew their private jets to Egypt for the COP27 climate summit in early November 2022. They dined on wagyu beef, pricey fish, and bottomless cocktails while they discussed how to save the planet by eliminating meat consumption and forcing us to eat bugs. WE are the "surplus population."
(I will NEVER eat bugs...)
When the final spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Future, appears to Scrooge, the Ghost transports Scrooge to a slum section of old London full of thieves and drug users. Scrooge says, "This is the most foul part of town. We must have taken a wrong turn." But the Ghost makes Scrooge witness a group of thieves examining the loot they've stolen from some person who just died. Scrooge realizes that the thieves are giddy over the items they stole from his very own bedroom.
My cynical thoughts: Wow...we used to go into the city at night to look at the department store window displays and see Santa Claus. My family wasn't afraid to walk down the street or have to worry that we'd walk through a homeless encampment or step over human feces and needles. Now, many of the major cities are crime-ridden, dangerous, and violent.
(I'm getting really sad remembering my childhood...)
The Ghost shows Scrooge that, even with all his wealth and riches, he ultimately dies alone and his riches are meaningless except to the thieves who sell them for pennies. "He frightened every one away from him when he was alive, to profit us when he was dead!" the thieves scoff.
Then, the Ghost takes Scrooge to a desolate, overgrown graveyard where he sees his name carved on the gravestone. In his despair, Scrooge has his epiphany. His heart opens and he finally grasps the error of his ways. He realizes that he and his money have the power to change lives--especially that of Tiny Tim. He realizes that a life can be made right.
Scrooge wakes up, realizes he has survived the hauntings, and goes on to become a changed man. He is a benefactor to the Cratchit family, donates to charity, and ends up being "as good a friend, as good a master, as good a man as the old city knew. And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well."
As you can tell from my cynicism, watching A Christmas Carol certainly felt much darker this year. I didn't feel the "comfort and joy" I've experienced in other years. I find myself grieving for the past, and struggling to be hopeful for the future.
But, then I remember that the light ALWAYS wins over the darkness.
Good things ARE happening. Truth IS lighting up the shadows.
Elon Musk has broken the damn on corruption at Twitter in a victory for freedom of speech. He has exposed that the government was in cahoots with big tech and DID, in fact, interfere with elections--not only in this country but around the world.
So, in closing, let's go back to the scene where Scrooge meets the jovial Ghost of Christmas Present...
The Ghost says to Scrooge, “You have never seen the like of me before!”
“Never,” said Scrooge.
“Have never walked forth with the younger members of my family; meaning (for I am very young) my elder brothers born in these later years?” pursued the Ghost.
"I don’t think I have," said Scrooge. "I am afraid I have not. Have you had many brothers, Spirit?’
"More than eighteen hundred!" laughs the Ghost.
I had never really thought much about the Ghost of Christmas Present having 1800 other Christmas brothers. (In fact, my wife, who watches this movie with me every year, just told me she didn't realize that the Ghost's "more than 1800 brothers" was referring to each of the Christmas Days going back from Scrooge's time in 1843 to that first Christmas Day in Bethlehem.)
As we all prepare to welcome our new Christmas brother in a couple of weeks, let's greet him with the same joy and excitement that we felt in happier times.
And may we all say what Scrooge said as he woke up Christmas morning:
"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future! The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me."
God bless us everyone!
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