With all the hemming and hawing by political pundits about people spouting "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," you'd think the United States had finally separated church and state. But nothing could be further from the truth. Seems a recent Pew Research Poll -- as reported in the Washington Times -- finds that 90 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas and a whopping 73 percent think that Jesus' mom was a virgin when he was born.
While some folks might find these beliefs to be nothing more than superstitious mumbo-jumbo, America's passion for the Christian holiday cannot be denied. And while a handful of non-believers might wish for religious celebrations that manifest themselves in a more subdued manner, not a single retailer in this Christian capitalist country would go along. Believe in the Christian god or no, retailers are expected to clean up this year.
Actually, few dare publicly criticize Christmas celebrations, and those that do are resented at best and shunned when possible. Hell, listen to certain rants and you'd think wishing someone a happy holiday instead of a Merry Christmas was the same as gagging Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, angels and wise men and denying them access to those who love and care about them. Might as well throw them in Gitmo!
Charles Dickens' famed protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge had little room in his heart for Christ-centric merry makers. Scrooge famously demanded that, "Every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart." Of course most everyone who reads Dickens' A Christmas Carol cowers when they read these words. After all, when Scrooge demands that some poor soul be tortured in such a manner, all the good people reading the book know for sure that he is a vile man, unworthy of grace or mercy.
Scrooge should be reviled! He calls for torture and in small ways -- freezing out his clerk Bob Cratchit or denying Tiny Tim access to health care -- he meters out his own less graphic but similarly unjustified abuses. Interestingly, none of the Christmas-loving Americans seem to see the similarities between greedy old Ebenezer keeping every extra farthing for himself at the peril of his industrious employee and the Walton family underpaying their workers so that they might increase their own largess.
But that's not the same as malevolently torturing someone: Dickens' readers rightfully recoil in horror when Scrooge calls for boiling someone with pudding and plunging a stake of holly through their heart. Imagine if old Ebenezer Scrooge had used more modern methods. He could have demanded solitary confinement in coffin-sized boxes and rectal feeding. Now threats like that would certainly have put a person off celebrating Christmas for quite some time.
Or so one would think. Remember, Scrooge was so black-hearted he didn't "make merry himself at Christmas," so it made perfect sense that he wouldn't make others merry either.
But brutality hasn't put Americans off merrymaking. Nope, today's torturers -- the American taxpayer who over the years paid untold amounts, including $81 million to two psychologist to devise the CIA's torture plan -- are expected to purchase more than 17 million Christmas trees this year. Retail sales are up, gas prices are down, and the self proclaimed Christian nation intends to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace despite the recent U.S. Senate report confirming CIA enhanced interrogation techniques that include unspeakable barbarism and have garnered the U.S. worldwide scorn.
Nobody thought Scrooge was a good guy and he certainly wasn't a Christian. In fact a series of ghosts visited him to explain just how damned his mortal soul was even though there's no proof that he ever actually boiled someone with their pudding. The American people now know -- undeniably -- that the covert arm of their government sadistically tortured people, violated their bodies, caused injury, and used tax dollars to fund this violence as well as rendition flights around the globe and secret prisons abroad.
Just as Scrooge had to set things right in order to "keep Christmas," so too must the American people. But America's farther gone. She's not just allowed the greedy to hurt their employees. She's allowed the sadists to torture in a way even Dickens couldn't imagine. The Senate report must awaken Americans. The architects of America's villainy won't meter out Justice on themselves the way Scrooge did. No spirits will visit Dick Cheney or George Bush. And a pledge by President Obama to leave prosecution of torturers in the past will only guarantee that his self-proclaimed Christian nation is damned this Christmas and every Christmas yet to come.