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"This consumptive shroud is even more malignant this year -- with the new 'spend proudly, you patriot you' sentiments circulating like bad wind at a Chicago Bears tailgater. It seems redundant to have to delve into the real meaning of Christmas in any sort of mature conversation, but Christmas does seem to bring out the beast in people in these parts...."

mr. grant's rant
you're a mean one, mr. grinch


I suppose it would be in character to rip off a nasty Mr. Grant monologue about Christmas in America for this month's rant -- I mean lord knows that there's never a shortage of ammo laying about to let one fly in the direction of Old St. Nick. Last year's big movie blockbuster the Grinch who stole Christmas also ruined it for many moviegoers, and this year the same Grinch seems intent on destroying Dr. Suess' intricate morality play for the rest of us via our VCR's and DVD's.

What with their truck loads of Grinch dolls, Grinch mugs, Grinch pajamas and Grinch action figures who's to blame if you think the executives responsible for inflicting us with this holiday abomination sort of missed the point. Kind of...missed the fucking point all together. This dilemma probably won't bother the young ones much as they're devouring their little green Grinch cookies and slurping their Grinch juice boxes while their cozy Grinch slippers rest in front of the flickering Trinitron, but it should give us grown-up types pause for reflection.

Now it may seem like old news to some, and perhaps it is, but reliving the Grinch's terrible transformation from a noble fable of compassion to a lucrative marketing device seems like adding insult to injury. This country has changed a lot in the last three months. If ever there was a time to give a good look-see at what Christmas has become in the country, now would be that time.

In light of the national climate, hitting the mall and loading up on giant bags of expensive, and largely disposable items has never seemed more vapid or superficial. A zombie-like single-mindedness marks this year's shopping binge. There is an underlying sense that life's stakes are higher these days as we disregard our weekly "imminent terrorist attack warnings" to fight crotchety lines and obtain that culturally significant new X-Box. Eyeballing the mountains of seasonal junk mail has moved beyond irritating; has never seemed more menacing:

-- That catalogue's from New Jersey! Don't touch it! Ohmigod, what the hell is that white stuff?

-- Calm down honey, it's just some crushed pretzel crumbs. But you'd better wash your hands with hot soapy water!

The search for a life with more meaning and more...well...life in it continues while endlessly circling the parking lots and pacing the gleaming floors of our soulless, hermetically sealed malls. Buy, Buy, Buy. Maybe I can spend my way through the fog of this sense that there must be something more to life than...this.

This consumptive shroud is even more malignant this year -- with the new "spend proudly, you patriot you" sentiments circulating like bad wind at a Chicago Bears tailgater. It seems redundant to have to delve into the real meaning of Christmas in any sort of mature conversation, but Christmas does seem to bring out the beast in people in these parts. It's hard to turn off the Christmas machine. There is so much money and energy devoted to keeping it running at full throttle from Halloween until New Years. You've got to really want to throw the switch.

This is also the time of year when folks invariably ask you what you'd like for Christmas:

-- You know, your mom was wondering what you'd like for Christmas this year.

What would I like for Christmas? Seriously?

While my young son, never one to look a gift horse in the eye would produce a meticulous, numbered list of items in order of wishful significance, bless his red-blooded, capitalist soul, I am hard pressed to think of even one physical, tangible thing anymore. It’s not that I dislike gifts or gift giving, or that I have everything I could possibly want, but rather the sense that Christmas needs to be so much more.

What I'd like:

A thick blanket of snow to cover the ground, laying a hush through the land powerful enough to drown out the blaring white noise of our french-fried McChristmas. There is a quiet and perfect symmetry that descends with a fresh snowfall. Take a deep breath: feel more alive. We all need to feel more alive.

I'd like for people to listen to each other more and talk less. For the word narcissism to be struck from both the English language and America's collective psyche. For the mirrors of self-absorption to be smashed and ground to dust once and for all.

I'd like for business leaders and CEO's to care as much about their workers, and their families as they care about their profit and loss statements and investment options. I'd be thrilled with an honest talk with a policy maker who told the truth. That would be a real gift indeed.

A sunset in a red desert sky.

I'd like lawyers and judges to grab a dictionary and look up the word "justice." And then the word "honor." And then the word "dignity."

I'd love for my own cynical shroud to be lifted -- in one final, glorious detraction of all that eats away at my philosophical core. To return to the sense of carefree optimism that characterized a youth left long behind.

A hug from my wife and child. A cigar and a laugh with a friends. A talking river, and some stars and the chanting of Indians reaching towards the heavens.

Wishful thinking to be sure. And no, I'm not just buttering up the big guy upstairs -- I mean this stuff, goddammit! The question was what "I" wanted for Christmas, right?

<sigh> I guess I'm just a dreamer at heart.

But that's not really much of a Christmas list, and I can see the furrowed brows, concerned glances and hear the cynic's caustic murmurs. That same sort of openness and idyllic naiveté that made Dr. Suess’ original Christmas classic resonate so strongly in our own not so long past history makes us acutely uncomfortable these days.

It's worth thinking about in this holiday season exactly why that is.

--mr. grant

(cartoon by marc covert)

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