The Santa Claus Democrats vs. St. Nicholas’s Aristotelian Generosity
Reminder: Kris Kringle has a twice-checked list of the naughty and nice.
December 1, 2012 - 7:00 am
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and a group of Northern factory workers rushed the victim Nicholas (last name removed to keep his actual identity confidential) to the emergency room. Doctors treated the patient for broken bones after a horrible beating by a gang of schoolchildren. He had been robbed and his sleigh hijacked. The police arrested six suspects. Prosecutors are considering charging these juveniles with grand larceny and aggravated assault.
This sounds more like a horror story fit for Halloween night than a tale meant for a blessed Christmas morning. Then again, it’s eerily something that could have been pulled right out of today’s newspaper.
It makes me think of an old Indian proverb: “Give a stick and in turn get beaten.” In other words, those who try to help in the wrong way can end up causing a problem for themselves. Democrats talk a lot about “helping people.” They expand the federal government because they claim they have a benevolent motive to help others, but they don’t realize how to really help. An overweight Uncle Sam giving away more than he can afford means there are two poor people now, not just one. Don’t walk softly by being naively generous only to get beaten by your own stick.
Democrats like to play up the lie that they are the only compassionate ones in politics. I encountered this misconception firsthand. As a freshman in college, I didn’t really talk about politics much, but one day a friend on my floor interrogated me, “Are you a Republican or a Democrat?” When I told her that I leaned right, she commented, “You can’t be! You are so nice!”
Unfortunately, this friend of mine assumed that Republicans are the mean girls and Democrats the nice ones.
The myth about compassion is something that the Left likes to perpetuate, and this time of the year it may be appropriate to challenge one of their common communication strategies. The Democratic National Committee acts as if it is the Santa Claus Party. Overcome by their bleeding hearts, Democrats tell all the less fortunate people that the government will give everyone (and not just minorities) gifts. The party sells the idea that big government should be our almighty gift-giver and everyone can be the recipients of these gifts. Yes, it’s nice to receive something nicely wrapped up with a bow. It may be signed, sealed, and delivered by the president. The question is: who paid for this gift?
Hardworking American taxpayers (who increasingly have less input in where tax funds go) foot the bill. The taxpayer is told he is Santa Claus, but something seems wrong with the fact that you have to pay a fine or go to jail if you don’t give the federal government what it asks for in taxes. It’s not the Santa Claus that you should believe in.
We don’t sing about Santa Claus being beaten because he had a bleeding heart (although grandma did not fare too well when she got in Rudolph’s way). It’s not that Santa Claus was too generous, but that we have forgotten what generosity truly means.
Aristotle said that generosity is a virtue; gifts are given to the right people, in the right amounts and at the right time. Santa Claus was very virtuous in the classical sense. Take a closer look at the Christmas carols passed along through the ages. Kris Kringle had a twice-checked list of those who were naughty and nice. Santa Claus does not blindly give to anyone who begs him for money; he makes an intelligent decision about where his gift goes. St. Nick gave gifts as a reward to those who did their chores, treated their parents with respect, completed their homework, and saved their allowance. The naughty children receive a lump of a certain natural resource (but Democrats don’t discuss coal, as they seem to be more obsessed with everything green). Perhaps Uncle Sam shouldn’t hand out all the Christmas money in his wallet without really teaching his nieces and nephews that rewards go to them only if they save, use what they are given, and don’t waste.
It is impossible for the government to be (and a bad idea for it to pretend to be) a charity. It’s no longer a charity if you are required to do give money (i.e., pay taxes). Truly serving another person is life-long personal work. That’s why there are social workers who devote their lives to it. Each less fortunate American needs to have continuous moral assistance in addition to financial support. It’s the difference between a one-time gift of a fish and a fishing lesson.
This misconception of the proper role of government and the misguided approach of Democrats are products of our modern culture. Santa Claus has become vastly commercialized, and we’ve lost the reason for the holiday season. We should remember who gives us the gift.
When my sister put a figure of St. Nicholas next to the Magi in our nativity scene, I questioned her decision. I cried, “Santa Claus wasn’t there!” In all the times I heard the story about the birth of baby Jesus, no one had mentioned a jolly old red-suited guest chuckling, “Ho, Ho, Ho!” next to the manger. (Besides, the inn may have had a chimney, but Jesus was born in the stable.) My sister wisely told me, “Saint Nicholas has earned his place there.”
She was right.
I don’t doubt her vision of the nativity. Yes, Virginia, there was a Saint Nicholas, and he deserves to be remembered for his good deeds at this time of year. St. Nicholas was an actual person who lived in the southern coast of Turkey (which was Greece in the third century). He devoted his life to compassionate service for those less fortunate: the poor, the sick, and the suffering. St. Nick used his entire inheritance to help others in need. He lived out the virtue of generosity, which stems from a word for “noble birth.” From a nobleman to whom much was given, much was expected. And St. Nicholas exceeded expectations and became a saint that even those who don’t believe in saints believe in. Father Christmas became a bishop and was canonized a saint, and his relics are believed to have miraculous qualities.
Although Santa Claus is very popular today, St. Nicholas wasn’t liked by everyone in his day. Roman Emperor Diocletian exiled and imprisoned him. Ironically, we praise the man today who was persecuted yesterday. St. Nicholas sounds a lot like the Son of Man who lived over two thousand years ago and is (hopefully) remembered on December 25.
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