Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Time For Santa to Retire

I'm over it.
I know we're supposed to think our mythical Santa Claus is the very symbol of all that is decent and benevolent and kind and wonderful, but I just can't. The Santa myth teaches some disturbing lessons - some of them lasting a lifetime for far too many of us.

The jolly gift-giver voyeuristically watches over unsuspecting children, rewarding the "good" and ignoring those he judges to be "bad" (and by what criteria and by whose authority???). And then, after 5, 6, 7 years of believing in this fantasy, each child comes to learn that it was all a lie, or at least its truth was representational and not literal. Trust issues reasonably follow.

The Santa myth teaches us that:
- Materialism is good ("good kids get more stuff")
- Voyeurism is OK (he "knows" if you've been bad or good - sainted toy maker or nosy needs to get a life neighbor???)
- Rich kids deserve more (surely all kids notice that the richer kids get more stuff, and if the poor families manage to keep up with the Jones' its by depriving the family of other necessities, damaging pride and self-esteem by accessing charities, or working multiple jobs rather than spending quality time at home...in any case, the rich kids get good stuff without inconveniencing the parents...Shouldn't Santa be more generous with the needier kids?)
- Lying is OK as long as its an adult doing it to a child
- The kindest soul on the planet will only love you if you behave in ways that he finds acceptable (love must be earned and can be snatched away in a moment)

Of course the moment comes when we outgrow Santa, but sadly the unfortunate lessons our Santa experience drilled into our souls are then transferred to our theologies:
- Far too many people spend their entire lives believing that its OK to say the world was created in a literal week (lying is OK).
- People spend their lives believing God will love them only if they follow some arbitrary rules, and even if God loves them now God might stop loving them later.
- People even spend their lives believing that both rich somehow deserve their good fortune while the poor, well, screw'em.
- Even voyeurism continues to be promoted - what else is the conservative obsession with sex other than a desire to be tittilated by scandal and the desperate fear that someone somewhere is having a good time. And so laws are created that peer into bedrooms and witch hunts are sanctioned to drive people who live as if they are healthy mammals with sex drives out of churches. We still want someone to watch and judge whose been naughty and nice.

The Santa myth doesn't just confuse children and later disappoint them once they figure it out. The Santa myth contributes to how we practice human relationships, politics, and religion. And it doesn't take a Sociologist to see how those have suffered. Enough with peeping tom, dishonest, elitist, dysfunctional Santa. He's done enough damage. He should retire. And even though he's been mischievous, let's still give him his gold watch. Hey, the vicious cycle has to stop somewhere.

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