A few last thoughts from A Christmas Carol (posted 12/24/20)

I hadn’t intended to write another column before Christmas, but I just finished listening to A Christmas Carol again (as I mentioned yesterday), and after a day spent with Dickens and his beautiful prose, I can think of no greater Christmas eve gift than sharing a few choice quotes from him.  I’ve chosen four in particular.

Like all great writers and thinkers, Dickens’ work contains thoughts that have political implications, but he also transcends partisan politics.  As an example, two passages stood out to me as required reading for political partisans on both sides of the aisle.

As free-market conservatives, our side can sometimes become so enamored with the many financial – and yes, IMHO, ethical – blessings of a properly functioning market that we overlook (or even deny) the temptation of greed, in all of its corrosive immorality.  Scrooge is an obvious stand-in for an obsessive capitalism untethered from Christian ethics.

The quote that we should all meditate on is a pretty familiar one.  It occurs after Marley’s ghost first confronts Scrooge, who notes that Marley was always a good man of business.  ″‘Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!‘”

As a landlord who frequently hires and works beside tradesmen, and who serves tenants, I am going to remember that line: the cost overruns on work done, and the late rent payments by stressed-out tenants are merely “drops of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.”

As our “fellow passengers to the grave” (thanks, Mr. Dickens!) our leftist friends, in their pursuit of (what I hope for their sake they perceive to be) beneficial ends, are prone to over-estimate their own wisdom and competence, and blithely take it upon themselves to run the lives of those they govern.  As a logical consequence of that view, they exempt themselves from the rules that they force upon others.

Sometimes this tendency just means becoming condescending micro-managers of all areas of public life, for which they should be thrown out of office with great force.  But sometimes it means making life-and-death decisions for those under their thumb, as when Chinese leftists use a one-child policy to force abortions by the millions, or when leftist judges release violent criminals who go on to murder innocent citizens. 

Or when, just last week, leftists in the CDC try to sneak their racialist agenda into decisions on how to distribute the Trump vaccine (the MAGA-cine, I suggest we call it), steering it first to less at-risk minority members, because the resulting deaths among more vulnerable white citizens would be morally acceptable.  Because racial justice.

For those leftists who have lost their moral compass, Dickens has a rebuke.

This quote comes when the Ghost of Christmas Present is lambasting Scrooge for his earlier sneering that the poor who would rather die than go to a workhouse should do so, and “decrease the surplus population.”  

“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.”

Take that, Paul Ehrlich and George Soros and Margaret Sanger!

But of course Dickens is beyond parochial politics.   He can evoke the depth of regret and the heights of happiness in a few, pitch-perfect words.

He does the former when Marley’s ghost explains the chains that hobble and torment him in the afterlife: “I wear the chain I forged in life.   I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

He does the latter in this quote about Scrooge after his transformation:  “He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of houses, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk— that anything— could give him so much happiness.”

Finally, two more musical notes:

First, I recently came across the Petersons’ version of “O Come, O Come Emanuel” and “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” in one mash-up.  The two songs work great together, with the elegiac somberness of the first giving way to the joyous animal spirits of the second.

If you asked me what I expect to be the soundtrack in the corner of heaven containing my dad’s raucous Kentuckian side of the family, these two songs would be in there somewhere.  Because as much as I love Handel, and Tom Petty, and Tom Waits, and a hundred others, the Platonic ideal of essential music is this:  three beautiful young female singers, two guitars, a mandolin, a banjo and a violin.

On this, I will brook no disagreement.  😊

Second, on the subject of the modern version of the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God:” as I mentioned yesterday, Luther’s archaic language aside (“and though this world with devils filled/ should threaten to undo us”), his lyrics feel absolutely current to me. 

As I listened to that song again, this point was driven home afresh, when I heard these lines: “for still our ancient foe, doth seek to work us woe.”

Did anyone else read the words “our ancient foe” and NOT think of Imhotep Pelosi? 

I didn’t think so.

Okay, I can’t plummet from the heights of Dicken’s large-heartedness to my own juvenile need to make a cheap joke about Baroness Botox, and end a Christmas eve column there.

So, one last Christmas thought from me to you, courtesy of Charles D.

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”

Now get out there and wassail, CO Nation!

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