'Taint the Season

I should start off with an apology to my girls, presently 6 and 9, because I realize that the truth can hurt. But lies, especially lies that have no point or meaning, can do far more damage even th

Dec 19, 2007 at 2:06 pm

I should start off with an apology to my girls, presently 6 and 9, because I realize that the truth can hurt. But lies, especially lies that have no point or meaning, can do far more damage even though our initial intentions might be good.

That road has been repaved so many times it rises over the surrounding land like a bridge.

I'm talking about what we call the holidays. At first glance, this is nothing new, I know, but I'm just tired of watching grown folks make fools of themselves.

Armies of salvation stand by ringing the bells in their Sunday best red and white while seasonal workers offer heavily padded laps and lend their ears as kids start on the road to ruin, asking for more than they'll ever be able to afford. It doesn't matter who they beg or pray to — white Santa; black, red or yellow; Christian, Jewish or Muslim — because we all do whatever it takes to make this belief real.

Yet no one asks why. Why this lie?

It's a lie.

(Slap) It's the holiday. (Slap) It's a lie. (Slap) It's the holiday.

I know this is heresy. The sad fact, though, is it's not a fundamental one.

I'm not offending a moral authority or imperative. This is purely economic.

'Tis the season, 'tis the culture, the fabric of society. It's not about giving or receiving. The only thing that matters is the spending — how early, how much, how often.

We race to create the biggest deficit; it´s truly the amazing race. And each year the greatest story ever told gets a whole lot greater because the story speeds along faster than the speed of reality. It's the American way.

Santa is a spook alright, but he doesn't care if anyone's been bad or good. He's the Keyser Soze of the credit age.

If you haven't started buying gifts before Black Friday (the official holiday kickoff is now Halloween, with Labor Day on the horizon), Santa will come and get you. There is malevolence in what we call the holidays, beyond mere good and evil, that threatens to transcend common morality.

We're so quick to rationalize it, to excuse it, to justify its existence by any means necessary. My wife subscribes to the notion that this lie can inspire creativity. I doubt that belief in Santa or the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny had any impact of the creation of the Sistine Chapel, The Great Gatsby or the various White, Black or Grey albums, so forgive me if I can't buy into that whopper, baby.

Some would seek to poke holes in my argument by taking the stance that, if Santa is a lie, what about religion?

We adhere to these articles of faith — whether Judeo-Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. — that have led us down the road to war and ruin as we've tried to force others to submit to one belief system over another. Still, religion attempts to explain greater unknown truths and provide a moral framework for human exchanges. It's imperfect yet better than the alternative, which is nothing.

Santa and our host of holiday myths talk down to us. They keep us ignorant, immature. They prevent us from achieving our fullest humanity.

And if you take away the Santa Claus mythology, are we any worse off? Christmas without Santa, as it stands currently, means kids might receive gifts but they'd see that the mad rush to spend, spend, spend comes from something in their parents, something that maybe they'll realize isn't worth going into debt over when they come of age.

Maybe they won't want to be like their parents or feel that they have to keep up the appearance of achieving more than the previous generation.

I'm not going through the motions of pretending to be a holiday Scrooge. I know it's too late for us to put the lid back on Pandora's gift box. That train left the station early, like everything in this new world of ours.

The holidays are moving in slow motion. Think I'm wrong? How about the current presidential political season?

Making like the holiday's kissing cousin, politics has come knocking, seeking to wear out its welcome with its own brand of lies and its own religious power plays. Mitt Romney pretends to be Jack Kennedy, substituting Mormonism for Catholicism, but it means nothing.

I'm waiting for the real lie, the one where we all say it wouldn't matter if Romney were an atheist or Muslim or black (let's get real: America isn't ready for a black president).

Polls show that Americans say they'll vote for a black man or a white woman or a Mormon, and we've proven, to a far lesser extent in the past, that we'll do these things in a party caucus or a primary election. It remains to be seen that Americans will do it when the chips are down, when it becomes something on the order of an article of faith.

I can't believe the lies we're willing to tell ourselves. Of course, I bet someone also believes that Ohio will still have the chance to help decide who gets the party nominations when our primaries roll around in March. God bless them.

'Tis the season, right?

CONTACT TT STERN-ENZI: [email protected]. His column appears here in the third issue of each month.