A St. Cloud Times reader noticed something amiss with a passage in former "Doctor No" state representative and Taxpayers League of Minnesota president Phil Krinkie's commentary Your turn: Government must curb spending:
Chuck Vick of St. Cloud responds in a letter published today, 'Christmas Carol' comparison lacking:
With the Christmas of 2012 behind us and the “fiscal cliff” of 2013 narrowly avoided, it’s time to pause and consider what lies ahead for our country and our state.
In “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, the stodgy accountant Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts. ... The last ghost to a visit is the “Ghost of Christmas yet to Come.” This spirit appears only in a black hooded robe. It never speaks but only gestures with one hand. He presents Scrooge with an ominous picture of the future to persuade him to change his ways. . . .
In “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge’s former partner, Jacob Marley, who died seven years before, appears bound in heavy chains.
Every day that Congress fails to enact true spending reform adds another link in a chain of debt for future generations. . . .
As in the picture portrayed by the “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come,” there is a bleak and gloomy future ahead unless our elected officials at every level of government tighten their belts and reduce the level of government spending. . . .
I just finished reading the Jan. 12 Your Turn “Government must curb spending,” by Phil Krinkie, president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota.
Now I’m not a literary scholar, mind you, but it seems to me the gentleman sort of missed the point of Charles Dickens’ “Christmas Carol.”
Wasn’t the whole reason that Marley was in chains was because he was a greedy, selfish businessman who never wanted to help anybody, certainly not because he spent too much?
Of course, I guess maybe the opinion was referring to the government charity businesses receive in various forms. My guess that’s not what was meant. Well, maybe the writer needs to see “Christmas Carol” a few more times to get its real message.
It's available on DVD.
So why was Marley in chains? And what did the Ghost of Christmas bring to Scrooge?
Vick may be no scholar, but his memory of Marley is close to Dickens' text:
But perhaps Krinkie exercises the most literary license in chaining the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come to the spirit of austerity. Dicken's Final Ghost may not speak, but he reveals only a tomb for Scrooge should the merchant cleave to his tight-fisted ways. Scrooge vows to abandon his tight-fisted ways and honor the spirit of Christmas:
"I have none to give," the Ghost replied. "It comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men. Nor can I tell you what I would. A very little more, is all permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere. My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house -- mark me! -- in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me!" . . .
"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!" . . .
"At this time of the rolling year," the spectre said "I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!" . . .
"That is no light part of my penance," pursued the Ghost. "I am here to-night to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer."
"Spirit!" he cried, tight clutching at its robe, "hear me. I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?"
For the first time the hand appeared to shake.
"Good Spirit," he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: "Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life."
The kind hand trembled.
"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!"
The stone was that on his own grave. Dickens writes of the transformation Scrooge experienced upon his waking:
"Now, I'll tell you what, my friend," said Scrooge, "I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore," he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again; "and therefore I am about to raise your salary."
Bob trembled, and got a little nearer to the ruler. He had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down with it, holding him, and calling to the people in the court for help and a strait-waistcoat.
"A merry Christmas, Bob," said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. "A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year. I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob. Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!"
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. . . .
Poor Doctor No! The lessons in Christmas Carol is not belt-tightening nor are the chains that Marley rattles the chains of debt. And as a corrective allusion, it's a major fail--for who would root for the death of Tiny Tim in further belt-tightening? Other than Doctor No?
George Bernard Shaw remarked that Dickens' vision in Great Expectations was more seditious than Marx's Das Kapital; while Dickens created compelling storylines and memorable characters, his works addressed social inequity and class oppression.
One suspects that were he living today, Dickens would have skewered the likes of Krinkie and the West Metro One-Percent Club that funds the TP League, as well as their gospel of Grover Norquist. Krinkie can certainly have his opinions, but perhaps he'd best stick to Ayn Rand for literary allusions.
Images: Ghost of Christmas Present revealing Ignorance and Want (top); Marley's Ghost (middle); the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come and Scrooge at his grave (bottom).
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