CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - An ACLU Greeting: Merry ≠≠≠≠___________(fill in the blank)


By Jack Cawthon

Along about this time of year I get the Christmas twitches. This may be a rare condition that affects people who are somewhat neurotic to begin with, although I havenít researched the medical literature on the subject.

Maybe it is Traumatic Stress Syndrome, the popular diagnosis for a painful event stashed away in the memory that will pop out unexpectedly. If that is my condition, it stems from my experiences of years ago when I was locked in debasement of higher education, that gulag of the soul. And, much like Scrooge, I can sometimes hear the rattling of chains in the night as I wake up in a cold sweat, fearing that the Spirit of Christmas Past (or Pass-Fail) may be paying me a visit.

My condition can be brought about by reminders that play continuously this time of year, such as Gene Autry, who several years ago went to that Big Roundup in the Sky, singing about a freaky reindeer. Why PETA, the guardian of animal humanity, hasnít put a stop to this painful ridicule of a nose-challenged reindeer is beyond my understanding.

As the song may date back to an unregulated era when it was legal to poke fun at cripples, retards and kids like me who didnít play sports, it may be grandfathered into the system. And if sagging morals werenít enough, we are bombarded by the picture of Mommy committing lust with Santa Claus. And people wonder why kids lose faith!

Tragedies are felt most profoundly this time of year. What could hurt more than Grandma being run over by a reindeer? Oh, the humanities!

I have resolved to hearing some of my favorite Christmas carols sung by rodents, and like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day, I have become accustomed to the December deja vu. Just when I think I have gained control, realizing that if December comes can ramp season be far behind, IT happens. The one rerun of the season opens up all the old wounds, and I am back with Jack Nicholson in the cuckooís nest. Unlike Nicholson, however, I escaped with only verbal ice pick surgery, leaving me with the ability to recount my experiences in the lucid writing you see before you.

I am, of course, referring to the movie Itís a Wonderful Life, that sugary, diabetic-inducing coma saga starring a young Jimmy Stewart, who may have joined Gene Autry in the Big Roundup, but because of his misguided role may be carrying a shovel in Geneís troupe.

Right off, the movie is a fantasy, as the leading character, played by Jimmy, is a kind-hearted banker. When the movie was produced in 1946 there may have been a few bankers with hearts of gold, but since the days of mega-mergers, floating interest rates and computer banking, where clients are known by number, not by name, Scrooge has become the patron saint, or sinner, according to rates established by the Feds. And, if by chance there are a few holdouts, the Patriot Act has taken care of them with it new restrictions. (Yes, I know you, Jack, from many years, but can you prove who you are?)

Back in 1946 life might have been wonderful. I may have still believed in Santa Claus, as it was only a college course in English literature that shattered my belief. A terrible war was over and the survivors looked ahead to a much better time, especially after the Republicans gained control. But I am convinced, from my viewpoint, that if the angel hadnít persuaded Jimmy from jumping from the bridge, I would be one of the devoted fans of the movie, watching through numerous reruns.

But normally, Iím a one-run man. I see a movie, and thatís it. Why watch Titanic, when I know the ship is going to sink again and no amount of wishing will get a rescue ship on time? Take Gone with the Wind, which I wish it was. Folks, we know Atlanta is going to burn in the terrible War of Northern Aggression. I canít stand to see a woman cry, which includes Scarlett and all of the women in the audience.

The Little Woman (5 ft., 2 ins.) has an answer to my dilemma, and some that donít affect it. Donít watch it! Easy for her to say! Thatís like asking a mountain climber why he or she climbs a mountain. Because itís there, duh!

The only time I can feel relief from my agony is by going to the mall where I can be, well, malled, trampled, hit by a shopping cart, and have a check-out at Wal-Mart tell me through clenched teeth to have a nice day, or Merry whatever the greeting approved by top management in Arkansas.

Sometimes, good old physical pain can displace mental agony. As I write this, I am banging my head against the wall, trying my best to get into the spirit of the season enough to wish all you folks a Merry Christmas, hoping that the ACLU misses the religious connotation and doesnít file a protest.

If you see a reindeer with a red nose, please be kind to it. Somehow, I identify with Rudolph.

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