Throughout the year, I have enjoyed all of your contributions and our engaging discussions, heated or otherwise. The post below from JTO starts with a narrow focus (guns) and leads us to a much broader question (democracy). It seems to me that we should be doing the same thing with the holidays. While we may be narrowly focused on our preparations – gift buying, tree decorating, house lighting, cooking, baking, picking up loved ones, etc., the larger part of Christmas may be lost in the hustle. Well, I wanted to say something profound about the true meaning of Christmas, but it seems the older I get, the right words evade me. So I came across something that Robert Reich posted on facebook today that I wanted to share with you. He is an American politician, academic, writer, and political commentator. He served as the 22nd United States Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, from 1993 to 1997. His comments bring us to the same questions and challenges that JTO posed below.
But first some background. George Bailey (Its A Wonderful Life):
“Just a minute… just a minute. Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You’re right when you say my father was no businessman. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I’ll never know. But neither you nor anyone else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was… why, in the 25 years since he and his brother, Uncle Billy, started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn’t that right, Uncle Billy? He didn’t save enough money to send Harry away to college, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what’s wrong with that? Why… here, you’re all businessmen here. Doesn’t it make them better citizens? Doesn’t it make them better customers? You… you said… what’d you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they’re so old and broken down that they… Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!”
Robert Reich (Facebook post,today):
“Every year about now I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” again to remind myself what Frank Capra understood about America — its essential decency and common sense. In many ways the nation is better than it was in 1946 when the movie first appeared. Women have gained economic power and reproductive rights; we enacted Civil Rights and Voting Rights and, through Medicare and Medicaid, dramatically reduced poverty among the elderly; we began to tackle environmental devastation; we stopped treating gays as criminals and have even started to recognize equal marriage rights. We elected and then re-elected the first black president of the United States. But we are still in danger of the “Pottersville” Capra envisioned as the alternative to what happens when Americans fail to join together and forget the meaning of the public good. The craven and cynical bullies symbolized by Lionel Barrymore’s “Mr. Potter” are threatening our democracy and our common morality. We must continue to fight them.”
Merry Christmas everybody. I hope the true spirit of Christmas remains with you throughout the New Year. That we are a little more like George Bailey and a little less like Mr. Potter.