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Santa in the Hoosegow

Christmas 2019

One of my all-time favorite tele-visual feasts at Christmastime is Episode #10 of Season 1 of Early Edition. This vintage program is entitled “Christmas”. It presents a Noël unlike anything that most of us have experienced.

We meet a Santa of unique qualities. He very much reminds me of my dearly departed old neighbor, Patt, because he was so curmudgeonly and cheerful, so sweet and sour, so young and old, all at the same time. The wincing of emotional pain on his face to express dolor due to the lack of belief in Santa, the lack of belief in belief — it’s an unforgettable classic!

This Santa has to lure a ticking time bomb away from a Christmas bomber in a sports bar. Now what people are doing in a sports bar on Christmas Eve, where the music is noisy and the beer is flat, is a factor perhaps due to the fact that this tv-show hails from the mid-late 1990s. Still, there are marvelous vestiges of American life from that era of wimpy moral relativism that must be treasured to this day:

— Santa tossed into a Chicago jail, accused of breaking-and-entering through a rooftop chimney. Would that Chicago had that much hope upon this day!

— Chuck Fishman, the side-kick character, gets tossed into the jail cell, alongside Santa, for violating the local scofflaw law, namely, not paying over 100 parking tickets.

— The luxury communication item of the time, the Cell Phone, is confiscated from Chuck in his cell, after he has called several relatives who hang up on him when he asks to be bailed out of jail. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

— Detective Crumb, the flat-footed cop, while checking out a potential bomb threat in a department store, instructs one of his subordinates to go buy some Christmas tree lights: the fat ones, not the little dinky ones. Crumb has his priorities in order!

— Gary Hobson, the main character and lonely heart-throb of optimistic turn of mind, becomes a witness to, instead of the catalyst for, the deeper meaning of life. This night, it is Christmas Eve; and Chuck, the cynic, begins to believe, after all, that there really is a Santa Claus.

Santa in the hoosegow, explaining how he has devised a labyrinthine code for his List; and how he works those time zones; and guides those reindeer, who fly like bats out of hell: that Santa somehow worked a miracle for Chuck. This Doubting Thomas had never forgotten that one Christmas when, as a boy, he hadn’t believed . . .

Doubt is a very natural and human response to the dashing of dreams and the bolloxing of the beauty known as ideals. Instead of dashing through the pure white snow of hope and love and kindness, someone filled with ire decides to plough through slush and mud and muck it all up for someone else — for everyone else!

There are entire industries today devoted to muddying the snow! They spew seeds of doubt, and then water them routinely with rancor, enmity and revenge to ensure weeds of despair among the population.

Millions of decent people in that population are locked today in their own prisons of doubt. How they got there does not matter as much as how they exit their own hoosegows of a humanity that has proved to them to be savage. The Light of amazing grace awaits the kind word, the firm hand of friendship, the daring to deny doubt, and the good will of quiet courage that define benevolence. Such an aubaine is Christmas.

It may be a bit of a stretch to say that putting Santa in prison on Christmas Eve was an act of perfidy against Christmas; but faithlessness miraculously got turned around that Yuletide season when Santa saved the day, or night — and the bells jingled amidst that Light in the darkness. There occurred that night, like a godsend, a White Christmas in a Chicago that has since lost hope of many things.

Twenty years ago, a show like Early Edition was ahead of its time. To watch it today is to discover timeless truths and time-honored concepts: faith combatting doubt, laughter intermixed with sorrow, justice arising from lawlessness, honor outweighing disgrace. We can’t turn back the clock to retrieve these intangibles in America, and it’s good that we can’t. Those precious intangibles are to be re-discovered, like small miracles, each and every day in this land of the free and home of the brave.

Fight to keep those virtues sacred and pure, sacrosanct and strong. Vow to protect them, and every day can be Christmas.

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