“Christmas is a holiday that persecutes the lonely, the frayed, and the rejected” -Jimmy Cannon
Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch who stole Christmas have since reformed their ways and now attend a former Christmas villain support group. They both arrive a little early. This is their conversation:
Grinch: So, ‘Nezer, how’s the credit union management goin’ for ya?
Scrooge: Great. I’m glad I left before Marley and Farley was acquired by Goldman Sachs. Now there’s a name right out of a Dickens novel if I ever heard one. How does it feel to be the first Green Santa?
G: Inspirational. I really felt like I’ve opened up a lot of doors for minorities. Or should I say, opened a lotta chimneys.
S:You know, I used to be a cold, tight-fisted old misanthrope. They used to joke I was tight as a drum. I’m still an old man, but I’ve never felt more cheerful. Still, the Holidays do get me down sometimes. I do live alone, and if it weren’t for my nephew taking me in every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’d be dead from lack of heart. Now I’m just gonna die from cholesterol poisoning.
G: Is that the story of you? It’s that way with me too! I was such a misanthrope I shut myself up in my cave until that magical night. Everyone used to think I was a monster, and I don’t blame them. I’m just thankful for their forgiving hearts. If I didn’t have my Coonhound Max in those days, I would’ve been all alone. It’s interesting to look back at how far we’ve come. Now I’m too worried my heart is three sizes too fat! Blasted who-pudding!
S: I was a proponent of the Thomas Malthus philosophy back in the day, but the truth is that was just a framework. It was a decision I made in my heart to embrace such a school. I believe I actually said once: “If the poor would rather die they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” That wasn’t my brain talking, that was my soul. I wasn’t a miser because I subscribed to the idea that the poor were at fault for failing to produce beyond their means. Humbug! I was a miser because my experiences had taught me that misery is part of the human condition, so you might as well turn to wealth to drown it out, even at the expense of others.
G: You know that Sartre saying, “Hell is other people“?
S: Yes! I hated everyone because I hated myself. My banking creeds were just a crutch.
G: I hear you. I think my crutch was my difference. I knew I wasn’t like other Whos from the beginning. People have tried to document my childhood in recent years, and I can’t say that all the facts are accurate. Still, I can’t complain, because it’s not far from the truth. I wasn’t just born to hate the Whos. I would not love them in the snow, I would not love them with a bow. They had always rejected me and I had always rejected them for the longest time, and neither could really remember who started what. I think that’s the point. It’s not so much about how I began as how I re-began.
S: Well, your life exemplifies more the previous difference between you and them. Mine exemplifies my similarities with the poor, because I was emotionally bankrupt.
G: Yes, and whereas your story focuses on on time, mine focuses on place.
S: Indeed, my past was critical. Well, now it’s my past pluperfect. In the past that was once my present I was a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! But I hadn’t always been that way.
G: Your father abandoned you to a private school, didn’t he? I think that explains your deep-seated desire for poor children to suffer the same fate of abandonment. And your poor attachment.
S: I partly blame my father. And for years I was jealous of fathers like Bob Cratchit. I think I was also angry at God. I later heard that my pop died in prison because he owed a tremendous debt. I don’t know if it’s true, but if is it explains why this cycle keeps repeating itself. Either way, I find myself willing to forgive him. Maybe one day I’ll see him again.
G: At least you knew your father. I spent years trying to find mine: Jolly Green Giant, Yoda, Shrek— no DNA matches anywhere, no proof that I had been anyone’s heir.
S: I’m sorry for that. But you also had no one to lose. I lost my sister, and my fiancee left me because I loved my work more than her (and probably because I slaved so hard over the holidays like many businessmen). And you know, what people often forget is that these things mostly happened to me around Christmas. People always wonder why so many suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, why so many people drink alone this time of year. We’re not monsters. We have feelings. They’re just so painful. We drown them out with whatever we can. My vice was greed.
G: Mine was wrath. And perhaps onset kleptomania.
S: We forget what ignoble beasts ignorance and want are. I was made out of this, and people often forget. Readers were ignorant of me from the start. They needed to learn about my past as much as I did. They needed the lesson as much as me. I was ignorant, and I had wants. We all do.
G: I was ignorant of the joys of Who-bilation. Why didn’t anyone show it to me before? And I wanted to have someone, to celebrate. I always felt left out, but I never saw it that way. If I couldn’t be happy, nobody could be happy.
S: Same here. Why should the Cratchits have the happiness I never had? Truth is they had happiness, and they wanted it for me. They were the wealthy ones, and I refused to accept their gift. But now the future is a present, and not a curse. I’m so happy to have others.
G: But it wasn’t always that way, was it? In fact, a look in your future saw people happy you were dead. I don’t think that says so much about you as it does about them.
S: That one really hurt.
G: Really? It wasn’t the cheap tombstone you had?
S: Oh, stop. No, it was how others reacted. And that’s the one that still hurts today. Because I think people still feel that way about me, about the rich and the poor, about one another, about their own family. I know this because, even though I’ve gone through such a radical change, people still use my name to describe not someone who’s had a change of heart, but someone who doesn’t seem to have a heart. People laugh at me now, because they couldn’t believe it. Why couldn’t they believe it possible before?
G: I get what you’re saying. You’ve learned your lesson, but has society? What does it say about a society that would have rejoiced rather than weeped if the old you had died?
S: Precisely. I take full responsibility for my actions, but where were all those others who didn’t help the Cratchits? Who was willing to step in and help all those I had committed usury against? Was I alone responsible for the conditions of the work houses? I’m glad my testimony is here to help cure misanthropy in wealthy individuals, but can society learn their lesson too?
G: Can we learn that people like you were are hurting everywhere? That you’re full of pain, especially on Christmas? What does it say that it took a direct intervention from Heaven to turn your heart?
S: It says we’re all scrooges without the Grace of God. We’re all lonely and afraid. We’re all angry and miserly. We shouldn’t leave one another out, least of all the bitter. Ebenenzer means “stone of help.” I’m glad that blood was spilled upon that stone and I was redeemed to do what I was cut and made for.
G: I thought I was made for myself. Who was there to tell me who I was? I think I knew I hated myself as much as I hated you. You were a rich white man. I was a lonely, green, hairy outcast. I think that’s one thing that differentiates our witness. You wanted wealth, I wanted to destroy everyone else’s.
S: I was a Capitalist; you were a Nihilist.
G: That’s putting it mildly. I was just as selfish as you. I thought I was better than them, and I wanted to make everyone equally unhappy. I thought they were just as miserable as me and I wanted to prove it by taking everything away. Don’t look on my mischief lightly. I was one step away from slaughter. It’s good I just settled with theft.
S: Why did you hate it so much?
G: Now, please don’t ask why; no one quite knows the reason. I don’t even know why I hated the season.
S: Modern scholars have speculated your origins, but—
G: Don’t go there. Can you really trust the same guy who made us think John Nash actually had auditory AND visual hallucinations?
G: My shoes weren’t too tight, and my head was screwed on just right, thank you very much. But people actually bought those reasons. And since no medical records exist prior to my redemption, it can’t really be said whether my attitude had shrunken my heart too small, or whether I was just born with a pre-existing condition that explains it all.
S: And in fifty-three years how many of them came to visit you up on that lonely hill? Do you think maybe you repressed a dark memory of rejection by society? I certainly did. That’s why I needed a creepy doll ghost to remind me.
G: I had no excuse for my behavior, and though the Whos are a wonderful people, they had no excuse for ignoring me all those years. You think I chose that cave in the first place? Whether I was born into it or was cast out into it—or just driven to it out of shame—their society rejected all of me. They had time to hang a Holly Who wreath, but not come visit me.
S: You think some people are too wrapped up in their own self-absorbed gay happy meetings that they assume it’s as easy for everyone?
G: Indeed I do, and it’s quite true. But I was just as self-absorbed, mind you. No hard feelings any more. I puzzled and puzzled until I was sore. And now that the puzzle is solved, I love them so much more.
S: It’s ironic that you never saw their joy until you took away everything you thought they had reason to celebrate about. Your heart grew three sizes that day.
G: Or so they say. I thought if I got rid of all the superficial hangings and decor that the pain would go away. But what I needed was raw pain. I needed the exposure to the raw, authentic joy even in the midst of loss. It pricked me. I knew they were hurt by what I did, but to see them sing and hold hands despite it all—I think it brought back a happy memory to me. Maybe gave me hope, instead of dangling by a rope. Christmas is ours to grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp.
S: Who doesn’t get tired of all the noise on the radio? Bah!
G: True joy comes without ribbons!… it comes without tags!… it comes without packages, boxes, or bags! I love the Whos now, but I still wish every year we could do without so much jingle and jangle and buzz and noise. I think it just makes some people sore. And I think even some of the Whos were faking it. I think they needed their stuff taken away for a while.
S: They were able to remain happy all that time because they distracted themselves from your misery. They never visited you, and instead they partied and feasted to themselves. They needed their place to transform, to be displaced to where you were, and only then could you find common ground. Maybe God sent you to punish them, and redeem yourself, at the same time. I come from a time before all that commercialism. And you—wherever you’re from—come from a place that just reflects all that monstrosity.
G: Exactly. The Whos weren’t sad their stuff was taken away. Would we be today?
S: Before you call someone a Scrooge, think about how they’ve been hurt. They may need you to do a little extra work, maybe give them more than just a jolly song. And ask yourself if you’re really doing your part to help the poor, or if you’re just buying stuff for friends and relatives who don’t need it all, and working your butt off to do it, only to lose those relationships.
G: And before you call someone a Grinch, think about what society has done to them. Maybe you should drop all that festive noise for a while and listen to their pain. Ask yourself if you would be so joyful if you woke up and your comfortable place was transformed and stripped of all that made you jolly. Would you find a hand to hold yours? Would that other person?
S: Christmas persecutes outsiders like us.
G: We’re lonely, we’re rejected.
S: We’ve been portrayed as robbers (the wet bandits), cripples (Mr. Potter) authoritarians (Burgermeister) and Jews.
G: Gremlins (Gremlins) and Germans (Hans Gruber), and haters of Whos.
S: If we don’t like your jingle bells, it may be because they remind us of those who died or left us or fought with us.
G: If we don’t like your feasts and celebrations, it’s probably because you never invite us, and when you do, we can see right through your own fake smiles.
S: So give us a second chance.
G: And give us a break.
S: And be good to us.
G: For goodness sake.
Santa: [entering] Excuse me? Is this the obesity support group?
S: No, that’s down the hall.