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Christmas, Christmas burning bright

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This is a very rare moment in America, this Christmas. It may well be the last Christmas that we share as a nation, while America is still the nation that we have "always" known it to be. A shadow is looming over this country like a rogue wave about to crest and crash on the shore.

If you ever saw a video of the tsunami in South Asia, which I would think most people have at one time or another, you see the tide recede to a dramatically low level just before the tsunami runs in and the flooding begins. That is where we are now: the tide is bottoming out and the flood isn't far away.

This Christmas I am looking for joy and wonder, but instead I am filled with sorrow, frustration and anger. Our do-nothing-Congress-of-all-time has gone home, leaving millions of Americans facing hunger and cold. Money for the food and shelter that we think of as typical life in this country is gone and it may or may not be restored. We must wait on the whims of heartless congressmen who say that if you do not work, your spouse and children should not eat.

Over the weekend I was watching the various iterations of A Christmas Carol, a story that I have loved for years. The version that ran most starred Patrick Stewart in an excellent performance. The opening scene portrays Ebenezer Scrooge refusing to give to charity on Christmas Eve as he asks irritably, "Are there no workhouses?" It is not his job to worry about the poor; if they are in dire straits them might as well go ahead and die, and decrease the surplus population.

But we all know that the Three Visitors (Christmas Past, Present and Future) change Scrooge's mind and heart. While he denigrates the Holiday, his nephew Fred makes a speech to his cold-hearted uncle confirming his love of the Holiday even after Scrooge has insulted him to his face:

"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,' returned the nephew. 'Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round--apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that--as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!'"

God bless Christmas--except on the floor of the Congress, where racial hatred has eaten up our elected representatives to the point where they have accomplished less than any congress in American history. Any issue that our President supports is rejected out of hand, not even to be brought up for a vote. One might think that we have a crazy President who has wildly inappropriate priorities, but actually it is the other way around: the priority of the Congress is to do nothing, and to do harm to the President if at all possible.

Meanwhile, the Tea Party wishes all of us a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year by telling us that we are not going to eat next year if they have anything to say about it. If you don't work it is your fault--you are a lazy leech who wants nothing more out of life than to collect unemployment benefits, despite the fact that food assistance programs and unemployment are given out under many rules and regulations. The descendants of Scrooge who now hold elected office ought to confront the Spirit of Christmas Present:

"'Man,' said the Ghost, 'if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered what the surplus is, and where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child."

I have made charitable donations this season, but I cannot forestall this calamity. Everyone in Tucson, giving as much as they can, will not stop children from dying because of the Teabaggers. We are consigning millions of Americans to poverty and the Teabaggers also want to take away public education. We are setting ourselves up for something that Charles Dickens warned all of us about: Ignorance and Want. These two appear as children before Scrooge. They are horrifying, and as he asks about them he receives this reply:

"'They are Man's,' said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ’And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!' cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. 'Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.'"

We will see the fallout of this suicidal behavior in Congress in our lifetimes. Ignorance and Want will strike out at the society that makes them what they are: hungry and ill-informed. Who is more vulnerable to propaganda than the person who does not have critical-thinking skills? Who is more inclined to steal than the person who is faint with hunger?

This year I am consumed with the shame that our elected officials have heaped upon our nation in the eyes of the world. The whole world is looking at America and asking what happened to our great nation. Answer: conservative Republicans.

These issues swirl around in my head as I contemplate the writing on the wall--that writing that it seems no one pays attention to until it is too late for them. The royal families of France and Russia didn't worry about the peasants until they came for them and gunned down the Romanov family. The guillotine loomed in the streets of Paris until the peasants had satisfied their appetites for the blood of aristocrats. Now, when it matters--before the catastrophe kicks in--we had the chance to use our common sense, and the chance has passed us by. This is not a merry Christmas for me. I wish I could say otherwise.

When Scrooge awoke the morning after his visions, it was still Christmas morning, and not too late.

For more info: a donation to Family Promise Arizona will result in a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your Arizona state income taxes if you itemize. Please give to this organization that takes in not only homeless families but also their pets.

Shop at Sprouts and donate some purchases to their collection which will benefit the Tucson Community Food Bank.

Ask about other collection/donation programs at your neighborhood supermarkets. Most of them have something going on.

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