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Scrooged: Losing Christmas and the Best of Ourselves

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
Calvin Coolidge

I’ve been somewhat remiss in posting on a regular basis lately. The Maggmeister and I have been a tad busy getting ready for Christmas.

Like most people, we had a tree to set up, a house to decorate and gifts to buy and wrap. Because my back has been giving me some trouble lately, Maggie did most of the heavy lifting with that.  We also had some very nice folks over on Saturday which meant a lot of extra housework and food to prepare. Neither Maggie nor I are very good at estimating how much food and drink will be required which means that we now have enough left over hors d’oevres, baked ham and sundry Christmas treats to last until early spring.

Being busy hasn’t kept me from watching what’s going on though; it has only managed to delay me from commenting on it.

It’s only a week until Christmas but based on the relentless barrage of acrimony I see in some mainstream and all over social media, you’d never know it. It’s like a majority of us are collectively spitting out “Bah, humbug”.

There’s the continual argument about the war on Christmas and to be honest, I don’t know who are worse; the politically correct who think that Christmas (which most of them celebrate in one form or another) is somehow offensive to non-Christians or the extreme defenders of Christmas who believe that the best way to demonstrate the spirit of Christmas is criticize, attack and demean everyone with whom they disagree.

Christmas has nothing to do with anger or retaliation and everything to do with giving, compassion and sharing our common humanity.

It’s sometimes difficult to remember that Christmas is a time of peace and goodwill to all.

The fact is that regardless of what both sides want to think, Christmas is doing just fine thank you very much. More than 2 billion Christians and another 1 billion non-Christians will celebrate Christmas around the world and that is more people than celebrate all other religious festivals combined.

Christmas has survived repeated attempts to eradicate it and the religion from which it springs. It has survived persecution, ridicule and war. It has survived secular consumerism and gaudy marketing and it will quite easily survive the politically correct who aren’t so much opposed to Christmas as they are desperate to find things about which to be offended.

Personally, I find the war about the war on Christmas to be tiresome and adolescent and I particularly blame the self-righteous who profess to be defending Christmas in a manner and spirit that has no relationship to the meaning of Christmas whatsoever.

Last Friday, Industry Minister James Moore made a remarkably insensitive and stupid comment about the poor and the school breakfast program. It was stunning for its lack of just basic decency and compassion.

That caused a significant backlash in the media and online which caused Mr. Moore to hurriedly apologize for his comments.

Since then there has been new criticism from the hard-right accusing the minister of ‘caving’. It makes my head feel like it’s going to explode. Those self-righteous critics have decided that the only reason children go to school hungry is because of bad parenting. Poverty has nothing to do with it.

Isn’t that a convenient rationalization!

Many of these folks are the same who criticize progressive governments, like the Ontario Liberal Government, for killing jobs and driving middle class families into poverty. Apparently once that has happened, you are no longer entitled to sympathy or support, you are responsible for the poverty you now face.

It is established that 1 in 4 children do not get enough food to eat. Whether it is at breakfast, lunch or dinner is a moot point. Food banks have become a permanent fixture in our cities and they can’t keep up with demand. Many of the working poor hold down more than one job which forces them to leave their children to get themselves ready for school. Those sanctimonious hard-core conservatives who have never experienced poverty find it all too easy to criticize a circumstance they have never lived and the people trapped in it.

This is Canada. We are a country that used to care about our neighbours regardless of their political ideology or their economic circumstance. We instituted programs through our governments to guarantee a consistent delivery of things like school breakfasts rather than have an inconsistent funding strictly based on donations from the public.

We see what happens to our food banks when donations drop off.

So what’s wrong with that? Why is providing a meal to children such a terrible thing? Is the Conservative’s $500 non-refundable tax credit for middle class kids to play hockey really so much better than the school breakfast program? Have we really become so mean-spirited and petty that we consider feeding poor children to be just one more rape of taxpayer dollars?

I think an even more important question is, “Is this really the Canada that conservatives are building?” Christ in Heaven I hope not but increasingly it appears to be.

In 1989, all federal political parties voted unanimously in the House of Commons to devote their best efforts in a unified effort to eliminate poverty by the year 2000. It is now the year 2014 and poverty is alive and well in this country and a federal cabinet minister who apologized for dismissing poverty as merely a provincial matter is being criticized for his apology and the poor are being blamed for their own circumstance.

Some of the commentary I’ve seen on this issue and Christmas in general from hard-right conservatives makes Scrooge look positively philanthropic even before the ghosts arrived to straighten him out.

There is a war on Christmas but it isn’t from the politically correct. They’re merely annoying. The real war is the war being perpetrated every day by the hypocrites who profess certain values they don’t live; a hard-core right wing that has reduced our common humanity down to nothing more than being taxpayers and every issue measured by tax dollars.

Nelson Mandela was a great man and people around the world  honoured him for his insight and his humanity as he was laid to rest this past week. He said this about poverty.

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

I have no idea whether or not Nelson Mandela celebrated Christmas but he kept it in his heart. He practiced the true values that Christmas embodies: compassion, forgiveness and respect. They are the same values that conservatives have always practiced until now. I doubt very much that were he alive today that he would be trying to rationalize child poverty as merely bad parenting.

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” –Nelson Mandela

It appears some of us still have much to learn about things like compassion and good will to all. This conservative government and its hard-core supporters have been given the political opportunity to be great but have failed to answer the call. I believe they have exchanged the true meaning and spirit of Christmas for a mean, petty grey holiday as devoid of its humanity, values and colour as the country they are creating.

Scoorge: “It was only that you were a good man of business, Jacob.”

Marley: “Business? Mankind was my business. Their common welfare was my business!”

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© 2013 Maggie’s Bear

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  • oldwhiteguy

    I once described my feelings and opinion on the milk of human kindness and charity in general and for many years now it can be summed up by “humbug”. I believe we should always help those in need. How we do that is always a question few can answer with any accuracy. we had a free Christmas dinner at our church on the weekend. we served over 400 meals and gave presents to 95 kids. how many actually needed it is questionable, never the less we still did it and do it. MERRY CHRISTMAS.

    • MaggiesBear

      I think that’s a great thing to do. I’ve participated in similar events at Thanksgiving and Christmas myself and I always come away feeling like I was given more than I gave. I don’t worry too much about some people gaming charity. I worry about people using that as an excuse not to help others.

      Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  • Randy

    Here are my questions, and I’m a conservative, though not hard right. I am a
    small business owner and a tax payer.
    When is enough enough? And who pays for it all?
    Conservatives are to blame for child hunger and poverty in Canada, and in
    the developing world by making foreign aid more accountable.
    The conservatives are to blame for health care wait times and doctor shortages.
    Conservatives were blamed yesterday for senior poverty and not increasing
    CPP contributions, which I as a tax payer and an employer get to pay twice.
    The conservatives are blamed for global warming ( climate change ) because
    they won’t shut down one of the largest economic engines in the country in
    the oilsands.
    The conservatives are blamed for daycare shortages and not caring about
    families because they will not give every child in every family a subsidised
    spot in a day care five days a week.
    The conservatives are blamed for native poverty, even though there are a
    couple of chiefs who make more than the prime minister and over 8 billion
    dollars went to Indian Affairs or whatever it is called now.
    Conservatives were blamed for the train derailment disaster in Quebec
    because they did not know what was in every railcar on every train.
    Conservatives were blamed for suicides in the military, when soldiers
    say the help is there but the stigma attached to using it stops them.
    ( And before anyone becomes all righteous on me, my grandfather was in
    Europe 5 years in WW 2, my dad was in the navy for 10 years and I had 3
    uncles retire from the military after 25 years, with all of them on peace-keeping
    missions multiple times).
    I am not a fan of some things the current government does and how it
    goes about them, with the same being said for governments before them.
    What I am a fan of is it stating that it cannot do all things for all people
    all of the time. There is a cost to all of the above and the people who
    pay it have bills to pay themselves. Almost everyone I know does their
    best to help others who need it but few of us can afford to or want to feed
    another family, or pay for their daycare or give them a house to live in. I hate
    that kids and their families do not have enough to eat and Christmas does
    not make it any different than July 07 when you are hungry. As a taxpayer
    I cannot afford to be everything, and the government is no different.

    • MaggiesBear

      What a complete and utter load of irresponsible crap. Nobody is blaming the conservatives for most of what you wrote. We’re blaming conservatives for not living up to their promises and for promoting exactly the kind of polarized mythology you posted here. The Conservative government promised to fix what was broken. It hasn’t. It didn’t break everything but at the end of the day, it hasn’t operated any different than the governments that preceded. Secrecy instead of transparency, deflection instead of accountability, squandering money to buy votes, undermining support for our vets, the poor and the disadvantaged while it hands over tax credits to the middle class for children’s sporting activities. Tax credits, by the way, for activities the poor cannot afford and for which they are ineligible.

      So give me a break. I’m tired of this conservatives as victims mentality.

      • Randy

        As far as I know, I did not blame the poor for my tax amount.
        And I really don’t agree with the blame the conservatives
        dogma, I’m just quoting special interest groups.
        I just get very, very tired of people wanting the government to
        be all things to everyone. No one wants anyone to be in a
        position where they cannot feed their children, not conservatives,
        not progressives, no one. But to say the government is supposed
        to fix everything is “to quote” utter claptrap. People forget that
        I am the government, you are the government and the hungry
        child is the government. We all want something and though we
        don’t get what we want all of the time, we do some of the time.
        Do we take money from the previous generation to help the
        current generation? Do we continue to have the next generation
        pay for the current and previous generations? We all would
        hope that everyone had the same quality of life but the sad fact
        is they don’t. As we see with the natives, no amount of money can fix some things. In a perfect world, no child would go to bed hungry
        nor would they go to school hungry. When every person in this
        country is prepared to see this happen and will accept lowering
        their standards of life to make this happen, then you and I
        can stand in the line and talk about how good it is. Until then,
        we can agree that it is not right, and disagree about how to remedy it.

        • MaggiesBear

          I don’t disagree with you that government cannot be all things to all people and quite honestly I would like a lot less government in my life. But there is a role for government to function on our behalf and part of that function is to provide social justice which includes ensuring that the weakest and the most vulnerable are supported. I would rather see tax money going to support the school breakfast program than tax credits for sports or self-serving ad campaigns or that ridiculous announcement by the Ontario Liberals to subsidize Cisco in Ottawa. That company is worth more than $100 billion and I really resent seeing tax money going to bolster their profits.

          • Randy

            Again, I doubt you would find many people that won’t
            support the weakest in our society, including James Moore.
            The question becomes the level of support, how it is
            administered and who pays for it? When is it started, when
            is it stopped? Who qualifies for it, how do they apply for it?
            If as you say the government should pay for it, does it come
            out of general revenues or is there a special surtax on
            everyone’s income above say $50,000 that goes directly
            to regional food banks? Should NPO’s be required to keep
            admin costs below 15% and the remainder going directly
            to people who need it? Should it be set up so that well to
            do families can discreetly “adopt” families in need if they
            so wish? And my favorite question that everyone tells me
            makes me sound heartless, is where are the rest of the
            families of the people who are in need? Can they help
            and should they?
            School breakfast and lunches are good, my wife has
            contributed and volunteered to them for years, but it
            does not fix the problem for that child as a whole, it
            does at the time. Fixing the situation for the family
            will make a difference but again who is responsible for
            doing that? Solve that and you solve the problem.

            • MaggiesBear

              Fixing the problem for the family and ensuring that all children get enough to eat are not mutually exclusive. The reason that government should fund programs like this is because it provides a consistent guaranteed level of funding. Left to public donations as with the food bank for example, the level of funding is inconsistent and unreliable.

              As to you question about where are the families of those in need, two considerations First you presume that in all cases there are families related to those in need and that they are in better shape. Second what others fail to do should not excuse us from doing what we should do.,

              • Randy

                So, to you, the government should fund it and that is fine.
                I did not presume anything about families. If you read my
                question, it was “can they and should they”. That does not
                presume anything if the words “can and should” mean what
                I was taught in school when used as a question.
                And as far as us as a society doing what we should, if that
                was the case there would be no need for this rant as there
                would be no kids going hungry. We are not so therefore a solution is needed.
                I had a boss one time who was a gem to work for. He
                always said that if you had a problem with something,
                you better have a solution. Until then, don’t complain
                about the problem. We have lots of smart and righteous
                people in this country, we should be able to find a
                solution. As we have discussed in previous columns,
                talking does nothing, actions do.

                • MaggiesBear

                  I don’t see government as an independent third party entity. I see government as an instrument of the people. It is us and we use government for our common good, our common defense and to organize and deliver programs we feel are important or necessary. The idea that there is a difference between government and the people is only the logical extension of how corrupt our politics have become.

                  As for not talking unless you have a solution. I would suggest that sometimes talking is how you find the solution. I would also suggest that when values and principles which are important to you are being eroded and attacked, remaining silent makes you complicit.

                  “Without free speech no search for truth is possible… no discovery of truth is useful”. -Charles Bradlaugh

                  The issue for me is not criticism, the issue for me is uniformed, hypocrisy and the lack of civility. I not only support freedom of speech, I encourage it. What I criticize is the compromising of values and political corruption and cynicism.

                  • Randy

                    Well, going by your last paragraph, you will be busy and
                    have much to talk and write about in the future. I look forward to reading about it.

                    • MaggiesBear

                      I’m afraid you’re right, there will be lots to talk about unfortunately but I am making a New Year’s resolution to try and say it with a lot fewer words. :-)

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  • matthew brandley

    Well said bear and very insightful as usaul. You outlook on everything is indeed thought provoking and does make one thinkl

    • MaggiesBear

      I appreciate the sentiment although I don’t know how insightful I am. I just try to see beyond the shallow rhetoric that passes for discourse these days and try to remember and live the values with which I was raised. I don’t mind admitting that there are days when I barely recognize this country anymore. We aren’t the Canada that the world used to respect.