Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ebenezer Scrooge, Republican

Last year, as you will probably not recall, I outed Mr. Potter, the villainous banker from It's A Wonderful Life, as just the kind of guy who would subscribe to most, if not all, of the Republican social agenda.

This year another, even more famous, bad guy - who redeems himself in the end, unlike Mr. Potter - strikes me as Republican: Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge. Not the one at the end of the story, who overflows with generosity and finally starts giving his employee a raise, vacation time and some healthcare coverage. No, of course I mean the former Scrooge, a person so mean-spirited and miserly that his name came to be a regular noun, meaning "a mean-spirited, miserly person".

Here, for example, is his exchange with a gentleman seeking charitable contributions before Christmas:

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.
“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”
“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”
“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.
“Both very busy, sir.”
“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”
“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”
“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.
“You wish to be anonymous?”
“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”
“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

That excerpt is from the Project Gutenberg copy of A Christmas Carol. (It's worth reading the whole thing; there have been so many remakes and retellings of the story, that it's easy to overlook the original. It's really quite a well-written story, with a suprising amount of humor.)

It's easy to guess which party's platform Scrooge would endorse, if he lived in twenty-first century America instead of nineteenth century England. Easing the tax burden on the rich, cutting social services, holding commercial interests above all others, etc. If only there were enough Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future to go around, to make transformations like they did for Scrooge.
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.


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