Once again, I have been taken in. Christmas TV programming can do that to the emotionally vulnerable. Whatever version it is, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol leaves me feeling something like glee as Scrooge awakens from his night of nostalgia and terror to an inexplicable joy at being alive on Christmas morning. It happens every time, every year. It is reminiscent of another Christmas special, this one featuring the beloved cartoon character, Charlie Brown. No, I do not mean the annual TV special featuring Linus reciting the passage from The Gospel of Luke about the shepherds and the stable, I am thinking of that perennial scene where Charlie Brown asks Lucy to hold the football so he can run and kick it only to find Lucy whisking it away while Charlie Brown falls back on his head. Each episode finds him expecting Lucy to change and not move the ball. Charles Dickens does that to us with his tale of the quintessential capitalist and free market entrepreneur, Ebenezer Scrooge. A dash of sentiment, a dose of fear and a dab of reality and we find ourselves, like Scrooge, convinced everything will be different this time. But holly and tinsel are deceptive. We soon learn, like Charlie Brown, that selfishness and Lucy are not likely to change. However, we keep hoping.
Todayʼs liberals and progressives, comprising the Democratic Party, still believe the American conservative who espouses a free market-I got mine-you get yours philosophy can be changed if only shown the damage such a viewpoint engenders. They believe the Dickensian myth that care for others and love of social justice lies just below the surface of callous disregard for the common good. This Charlie Brown naivete pervades the political establishment on the left. Along with their profits, the conservative money-making machine takes this passive hopefulness to the bank, an asset in the painting of the left as creating an underclass of the lazy and dependent. The establishment left is manifestly afraid of conflict and believes that reason, carefully pressed in the service of political argument, can sway their opponents. When Harry Reid finally invoked "the nuclear option," the reaction from the right was one of disbelief. The left was acting against its own myth of influencing change by reason and sentiment.
Despite Dickens, change did not come to mid-19th century English society through the conversion of the moneyed classes to altruism. It came about through struggle and vision of how economic and technological forces could be used to temper the power and greed of those who would hold onto wealth at the cost of a depressed and growing underclass. What did change Scrooge was his own loneliness in regard to his inability to convince others of the rightness of dismissing a concern for others in the pursuit of wealth. Without Marley to share his philosophy of greed, he became a victim of his own self-doubt. Perhaps Dickens, in fooling us into believing people change of their own accord, did point out a truth that the soft "Charlie Brown" like left could learn in dealing with money obsessed right. Do not be afraid to use power in isolating them in their own obsession. If you want change, then you must become the agent of change. Charlie Brown never did get this central fact of life. He goes on living with disappointment engendered by the hope Lucy will change. Lucy, in her craftiness, realizes she can go on enjoying her one-upping of Charlie Brown by enticing him to hope she will change and become cooperatively nice. She knows it is not going to happen. Change is the responsibility of the one wanting change.
The promise of hope and change proclaimed in the 2008 elections has been blocked by an unchanging minority in the legislative branch of government with the collusion of moneyed interests and gerrymandered voting blocs. Hoping for change will change little or nothing. It is the hopers who must change finding the courage to risk upsetting the recalcitrant opponents of a fairer and more just society. Take the ball away from the Lucy's and use a tee or find someone else who can be trusted to hold the ball in place.
I shall go on watching old movies and remakes of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The glee and tears will continue as I viscerally participate in the fantasy of overnight personality change. The never-ending saga of Charlie Brown believing Lucy will let him kick the football will continue to be a source of laughter at my own folly of believing change is something outside of me. That is the delight of the season. We can hope for change and enjoy the fables of the miraculous. However, with the coming of the New Year come our own resolutions to change ourselves, and thus our lives, and, hopefully, a part of our world.