It Turns Out All of Your Favorite Christmas Specials Are Actually Really Liberal
There’s a scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas, where our forlorn protagonist is writing out a letter to Santa for little sister (and proto Material Girl) Sally. Much to his horror, she shamelessly suggests to Saint Nick that he make it easy on himself, by just sending money: “How about tens and twenties?”
Charlie, naturally, recoils with the obligatory “Aaugh!…Even my baby sister!”
Lucy, the future feminist corporate raider, would later put it bluntly to him: “We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It’s run by a big Eastern syndicate.” And what does her coldly pragmatic self want to see in her stocking? “Real estate.”
Charlie protests, and in the end, as we all know, his liberal/left philosophical position on Christmas spirit wins out over the avaricious forces of commercialization; his sad little tree, surely a metaphor for every struggling underdog everywhere, blossoms into magnificence with just “a little love,” prompting the Peanuts gang into a joyful chorus of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Peace on Earth…and mercy.
Turn on the television at this time of year, and you’ll see endless programming pointedly forwarding this very same sort of heartwarming, egalitarian ideology. To be sure, not one of our beloved and enduring Christmas specials suggests a path to holiday happiness involving running up huge credit card bills – or, for that matter, voting down a minimum wage increase for the poor and working classes.
Four years ago, however, America elected our own version of The Grinch to the position of the Presidency. He won by emptily promising all the “Whos” down in Whereverville that he would slither down their chimneys and place all of their lost hopes and dreams (read: jobs) under the tree quicker than they could say “MAGA!” But unlike the Seuss’ Grinch, his heart did not grow ten sizes on Christmas or any other day – and he did not bring back anyone’s pantookas, their dafflers, their wuzzles…or their jobs.
And whilst Republicans continue to denounce President Elect Joe Biden as a “radical socialist,” it seems appropriate to make a point about one Charles Dickens. His great and endlessly inspiring tale of redemption, A Christmas Carol, is all over television during the season – perhaps in forty or fifty different versions (one even starring Bill Murray, ironically, as a heartless network president) – and if you stripped all the holiday trimmings away, it would surely be labeled as “liberal propaganda.”
But tragically for all the real Tiny Tims, those whose parents often cannot even afford proper healthcare, that humbug of a Senate leader Mitch McConnell has no Jacob Marley to deliver the chilling ultimatum: “Oh, would you know the weight and the length of the strong coil you bear yourself?,” he threatens ex-business partner Ebenezer, in words that could readily be directed at the mean-spirited members of Congress holding up the stimulus bill. “It is a ponderous chain. Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one’s life opportunity misused.”
But those are not just outdated cultural relics. The Hallmark Channel seems to roll out a good dozen or so new holiday movies every season…and it’s always the same: Big City Girl has good life with semi-narcissistic hedge-fund boyfriend; BC Girl meets sensitive but underfunded craftsman / artist / dreamer / guy without health insurance; BC Girl falls hard for his earnest, uncorrupted charms; BC Girl dumps soulless Wall Street guy; BC Girl learns what true love is all about, just in time for Christmas joy. One such small town dreamer even has the guts to say to BC Girl: “Romance to me is just doing the dishes together.” Now imagine that conversation taking place on the shopping floor at Bergdorf’s: “Yeah, that’s great honey, but I’m leaving you for a guy with a house in Amagansett, and a maid who does the dishes.”
No matter your belief system, Christmas, at its essence, celebrates the birth of a man who spent his life ministering to the poor. “Whatever you did to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,” he reminded us, “you did for me.” Certainly a poignant, not at all ambiguous message – and surely not one that encourages the accumulation of wealth as a path to enlightenment and salvation. If you are unkind to the poor, be warned, you are unkind to Our Lord Jesus Christ himself. Remember it, especially at this time of year, when so many are especially aware they have so little.
So how do we reconcile these oppositional realities? The endless extolling of messages of peace and goodwill towards all men (and women), while Congress callously denies relief to all those who are financially struggling through this terrible pandemic?
If ever there was, then, an imperative for collective American soul searching, it is now, during this COVID plagued holiday season. Perhaps one might begin by heeding the regret-laden words of Dickens’ rueful Marley: “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
May your holidays be merry and bright.