Tuesday, December 25, 2012

It's a Wretched Life

The war on Christmas is over, and time has once again emerged victorious. Eventually Christmas will amass enough support that it will be celebrated year-round. Hordes of elf-hat-topped red-and-green storm-troopers will goose-step straight through the fourth of July, and successfully out-flank thanksgiving.

The nuclear family at whose table I sit as patriarch went to go see the new Hollywood film version of Les Miserables today. What a wonderful holiday movie; it should have a seat with "Its a Wonderful life" or "Miracle on 34th Street".

The original French title of Victor Hugo's 1900-page tale of compounded woe can also be translated as “The Wretched”.

The version we saw was a screen adaptation of a English language adaptation of a French musical adaptation of Hugo's tale. Hugo's tale was about events taking place from 1815 to 1832, and it was first published in 1862. The musical came out in French in 1980, and English in 1985.

It is interesting to note that the 1985 opening of the English language Les Miserables musical in London closely coincided with the 100th anniversary of the installation of the Statue of Liberty in New York.

Lady Liberty also came from France, and inscribed in its pedestal is the poem entitled “The New Colossus”, which was penned by the little-known poet Emma Lazarus. Interesting as the name Emma Lazarus may appear her father's name was actually Moses Lazarus, and I would think it would be quite interesting growing up in New York with a name like that.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
                       --- The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus 1883

To think that we so ironically paraphrased this entire poem by simply voicing our desire to go see Les Miserables in the movie theater. Of course ours is an adaptation of the poem perverted by our consumered perspective.

On the way home from the matinée we drove slowly past the final battlefields of the war on Christmas. The WalMart parking lot was eerily empty. The day's slush was turning to ice in the mercury-vapor light. Since 2012 was a leap year 365 days have passed since the WalMart parking lot stood empty, and it was open 24 hours of each of those 365 days.

We are all enlisted in the war on Christmas. I personally have been running a fifth-column campaign. I have been purposely wishing folks a “Merry Christmas”; enthusiastically to those who know I am an atheist.

“Shouldn't you be wishing people a Happy Nothing or Wonderful Winter or something?” I have been asked.

“Since you mention it I do wish you a Wonderful Winter” I would retort “But I want to wish you a merry Christ-Mas as well. I don't have to believe any of that stuff to wish you a Merry Christ-Mas do I? It is really about you and the traditional ritual celebrations you use to mark this time of year. We can all enjoy the great sales and deep-deep discounts that this holiday season graces us with.”

Unfortunately nobody this year hit me with a “You know that Jesus is the reason for the season”. I guess they gave up after last-year's Christmas skirmishes.

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