“God bless us every one!”
In Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol, the character Tiny Tim serves as a reminder that generosity is the true spirit of Christmas. It is only after learning this lesson that Ebenezer Scrooge, the old miser, is willing to save Tiny Tim’s life by paying for his healthcare.
I feel for the Tiny Tim’s of our time. Unlike in Dickens’ tale, they lack the help of the supernatural, and must go begging to Scrooge themselves. And our Scrooges do not appear to have the heart to help.
Today is Christmas Eve. A pandemic grips the globe and the United States is ground zero for the wreckage. The US has seen over 18 million cases of the disease, and more than 326 thousand people have died from it.
And that comes on top of rising unemployment and an already existing healthcare crisis — which only got worse under the Trump administration. This is a public health crisis the like of which we’ve never seen.
How did this happen? How is it that on Christmas Eve, in the middle of the largest domestic disaster of my lifetime, Congress voted to deny people help in the form of stimulus checks?
How is it that millions refuse to wear masks, and even go out of their way to stage protests against basic safety guidelines?
The Christmas season is supposed to be a time of generosity, brotherhood, and goodwill towards men. But in the age of lockdown protestors, proud boys, and YouTube megastars, Christmas feels more like a casino than a religious holiday.
“The commercialization of Christmas has become a cornerstone of the American economy.”
And that’s because Christmas has undergone a value reversal. It no longer stands for solidarity and faith.
Today, Christmas is about selfishness.
Marketed as a time of giving, the real goal of the Christmas season has become all too obvious: shopping. It’s the time of year many retailers and small businesses make the bulk of their sales.
Between the expenses of traveling, eating, and gift buying, the holidays are a fountain of wealth generation.
This holiday season Americans are expected to spend on average $998 on gifts and other expenses. The commercialization of Christmas has become a cornerstone of the American economy.
While the pandemic has forced people to stay indoors and social distance, many Americans are still choosing to travel to see family and friends, putting themselves and those around them at greater risk.
What can explain this behavior. Perhaps we should listen to another famous fictional character: Gordon Gekko. The high-strung financial dealer from the film Wall Street has a rather famous speech about American greed:
The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be survival of the unfittest. Well, in my book you either do it right or you get eliminated. In the last seven deals that I’ve been involved with, there were 2.5 million stockholders who have made a pretax profit of 12 billion dollars. Thank you. I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them! The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much.
America has never been a peaceful country. In fact, it has participated in some of the most violent events in human history: the genocide of the native Americans, two world wars, the dropping of the atom bomb, etc.
Unfortunately, America has never lived up to its promise. Its dreams have come true only for the sleepers.
While Christmas may have once stood for salvation and faith in goodness, it is hard to find those qualities in United States today.
This Christmas, let us reflect on the fact that the sitting President has refused to concede his office. Let us remember that corporations made record profits this year while the morgues overflowed with the bodies of the dead.
This Christmas, while the government gave you COVID-19, Donald Trump gave pardons to murderers and criminals.
This Christmas, while you were wearing a mask to work and trying not to die, wealthy celebrities like Kirk Cameron and Eric Clapton were staging ridiculous protests against decency, brotherhood, and respect.
The frail figure of Tiny Tim, supported by his one, insufficient crutch, is swallowed by the smug satisfaction of another literary character: John Galt from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.
Extremely popular in the United States, this book tells the story of a man who believes in no one but himself. Here’s a quote from his famous speech near the end of the novel:
“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
― Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
If there was ever an anti-Santa Claus, it is John Galt, and his shadow stretches the length of the American continent, from sea to shining sea.
Donald Trump, in his book The Art of the Deal, mentioned his love for another of Rand’s novels: The Fountainhead.
Of the book Trump said: “It relates to business, beauty, life, and inner emotions. That book relates to…everything.”
Business Insider lists Atlas Shrugged as one their 25 books everyone should read. Ronald Reagan was a fan of Ayn Rand.
Justice Clarence Thomas hosts screenings of the the 1949 film of Rand’s novel The Fountainhead for his law clerks.
In The Fountainhead, protagonist Howard Roark blows up an apartment complex in order to make a point about intellectual property rights.
Gary Johnson, the former Libertarian candidate for president, gave his wife a copy of “Atlas Shrugged” and told her to read it to better understand him.
In short, America is saturated in Ayn Rand and her virtuous selfishness. On this alter of the selfish many sacrifices have been laid, but perhaps none as symbolic as Christmas.
People will say that it was the pandemic that ruined Christmas this year, and while COVID-19 is clearly the cause, the coup de grace will come from our selfishness. The selfishness that drove us to cast the weak aside in the pursuit of profit.
It was selfishness that told us it was okay to let our loved ones risk disease and death so that we could keep the economy afloat, so that the dollars would keep moving into the hands of the Grinch-like Gordon Gekko’s waiting with their open and diverse portfolios.
Christmas is remembered as a time of sharing. Now, it is a time for sharing COVID-19.