By Marshall Ward
For years now, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and Trumplicans have been displaying a “Bah! Humbug!” type of life.
That expression was used by Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol, because he hates Christmas — it disrupts his business and profits.
In A Christmas Carol, introduced to me by my seventh-grade English teacher, Dickens instructs us on social responsibility to apply in our own lives.
Why Dickens Wrote A Christmas Carol
Michael Slater, Dickens’ biographer, says that A Christmas Carol was “intended to open its readers’ hearts towards those struggling to survive on the lower rungs of the economic ladder and to encourage practical benevolence, but also to warn of the terrible danger to society created by the toleration of widespread ignorance and actual want among the poor.” That theme is so poignant today during a pandemic, the poisoning of Mother Earth by selfish oligarchs, and the wealth gap exploding like the circumstances in Victorian England with its blackened skies from soot, overcrowded tenements, the malnutrition of the underclass, and disease.
Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol about British attitudes towards poverty, particularly child poverty. He introduces us to the allegorical figures of Want, Ignorance, and Tiny Tim, symbolic of Victorian childhood diseases of rickets and tuberculosis.
McConnell as Scrooge — Which Version Will He Be?
Today, Republican Mitch McConnell, who even physically resembles the grumpy image of the story’s main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, could personify the stages that Scrooge goes through as he is painfully presented his life by dreamlike visitations of the spirit of Jacob Marley, his miserly partner, and the Spirits of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come.
- Like in life imitating art, will McConnell be rehabilitated by the story of his Past days as a more caring senator advocating for social justice?
- Or his Present position as obstructionist of all things for the middle and working classes while giving a blank check to his wealthy friends, donors, and Trumplicans?
- Or the Yet to Come renewed relationship with President-elect Joe Biden to find a way forward to put our country above partisan bickering?
And Can We Ourselves Apply the Lessons of the Tale to Our Own Lives?
Dickens’ A Christmas Carol provides an excellent template for guiding us. The two main themes in the story are social responsibility and redemption.
Various quotes illustrate applications for today:
- Ebenezer Scrooge, a money exchanger, uttered the words “decrease the surplus population,” referring to the disdain that the upper classes had for the poor. Today about 140,000,000 Americans — or about 42% — experience food insecurity, housing insecurity, and/or low wages that have them trapped, yet receive insufficient assistance from the Republicans.
- “I wear the chains I forged in life” was proclaimed by the spirit of Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s selfish business partner. The chains represent greed, and he warns Scrooge that he is making his own chain with his “evil, covetous ways.” Today Marley’s words apply to all who worship money.
- “Your reclamation, then. Take heed!” warned the Spirit of Christmas Past to tell Scrooge that he has lost his spark for goodness. Have we ourselves lost our passion for goodness?
- “What idol has displaced you?” Scrooge’s former fiancee asks him. “A golden one,” Scrooge replies. Scrooge replaces love with money and becomes obsessed — since he grew up poor, he fears losing it. This recalls McConnell’s comment to a friend that he would marry for money the next time around. But putting money and worldly goods above others is not just a problem for Scrooge. Are we also guilty of this?
- “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want.” The children are symbolic of the suffering of the poor. Ignorance = the attitude of the upper classes toward the poor. Want = the desire for material possessions. Today we need to neutralize ignorance by helping our fellow citizens see the poverty around them and its impacts.
Lastly, this quote by Ebenezer Scrooge shows redemption — saved from error and evil: “I will honor Christmas in my heart.” Scrooge regains that spark with his generosity to the Bob Cratchit family and Tiny Tim on Christmas Day. Scrooge promises to provide an improved diet, sunshine, and cod liver oil for Tiny Tim Cratchit — and a raise for Bob Cratchit, his assistant!
So in a year of tremendous suffering, especially for people of color, the poor, and those who have lost family and friends to COVID-19, let us eliminate Scrooge’s “Bah! Humbug!” attitude and rekindle our spark of goodness and apply that to the common good!
Image courtesy of The Clayton Center.
Originally posted on Forward Kentucky. Reposted with minor edits.
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