Since they usually jump-start around Thanksgiving, we are well into the time of Frosty and Rudolph and Tiny Tim fronting animated specials, annual favorites and tinsel-soaked movies of the week that end with the battling protagonists making up under the mistletoe.
Do we believe in Santa? I have to get back to you on that one. But I do have my favorites, all with the theme of redemption: Charlie Brown’s taunting gang recognizing the beauty of his scrawny tree; old Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim in the best version) waking up on Christmas morning, amazed that he indeed has time to be a good man, and, of course, the Grinch with his Grinchy small heart growing three sizes.
Most know these shows by heart, yet eyes moisten each time the Grinch, courtesy of Dr. Seuss, realizes “something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” These moments teach love and forgiveness and the meaning of the holiday, lessons that hit home because of their simplicity.
In any year, with retail and toy stores — both at the mall and online — becoming battlegrounds, a little reflection would be welcome. In 2016, with the results of Election Day still raging, and competing political operatives raising the stakes and their voices everywhere, including the halls of Harvard, only the Grinch, at his worst, could make sense of it.
High-minded messages ring hollow when, for starters, wishing your neighbor good cheer could start a brawl.
Was there ever a sillier argument than the one over a supposed “war on Christmas”? According to former Donald Trump campaign manager and forever supporter Corey Lewandowski and his fellow soldiers, there was indeed a fantasy world where devout Americans were prevented from saying “Merry Christmas,” and it has now been replaced with one where we will all be forced to say it or there will be hell to pay.
Isn’t the wild bidding over the hot toy a mite more offensive than choice of greeting? A happy hello of any sort is welcome during any time of year, so watching Lewandowski shout about this “victory” in a nonexistent war sucked all the holiday, excuse me, Christmas spirit out of me.
And Trump’s other helpers? An Energy secretary, former Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, who wanted to scrap that department, though at a 2011 debate, it took him a while to recall its name; a secretary of State, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, with ties to Russia that he will be asked about at confirmation hearings; at Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, who equated the Obama administration’s anti-discrimination attempts in public housing to “failed socialist experiments”; Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt leading the EPA, which he has sued, and many more.
There are signs that these choices were made because of the appointees’ very intransigence on core issues, interpreting election results as a desire for a drastic change in the country’s direction. Yet Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote while losing the presidency, and President Barack Obama is riding pretty high approval ratings out of office.
It’s a contradiction, just as those who hate government in general like their own representatives. And it’s repeated when harsh feelings on the national stage soften and sometimes disappear altogether when reduced to neighbors and neighborhoods, when those who may disagree on politics come together to fill baskets at churches, synagogues or mosques and fulfill every wish on an angel tree.
When the two starving children huddled under the robe of the Ghost of Christmas Present — Ignorance and Want — are revealed, a shocked Scrooge has his words thrown back at him: “Are there no prisons? Are there no work houses?” Seasonal specials often go quite dark before the main characters see the light, before the Grinch sees Christmas arrive without “Who Hoovers, Gar Ginkers and Trum Tupers.” Poor Charlie Brown is close to a breakdown before his buddies come through, and George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” is literally about to jump off a bridge.
In a country where hate crimes are on the rise, how low must we go before redemption?
So while Scrooge-style transformation looks slim, perhaps a pause and a little humility are all that’s needed — a moment to entertain from every vantage point the possibility that those on the opposite side may have a point, may be intelligent and worthy of respect.
After a rancorous election, and in an age of age of certainty and righteousness, that would indeed be a holiday miracle.
Roll Call columnist Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun and The Charlotte Observer. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.