IRECENTLY received a copy of Solomon Jones'
"There is a Santa Claus,"
indignantly forwarded by my brother with his dire appeal that I respond with one of my notorious vitriolic tirades against a perceived oppressor, in this case, Mr. Jones and his assault against good Old St. Nick.
My brother has a four-year-old, and the idea that Mr. Jones would eviscerate the cultural ideal of Santa in the eyes of Mr. Jones' own three-year-old son is, in the eyes of my brother the father, tantamount to emotional child abuse.
I, however, believe in the right of parents to raise their children with the ideals they themselves espouse, within cultural levels of acceptable behavior.
Mr. Jones has the right to say that he is Santa incarnate, that he is the provider of all in his son's life, and that his son ought to be beholden to him not just for his own life and basic needs, but for the joys at Christmas as well. I also believe people should be free to speak their minds about any ideas (barring the obvious public-safety concerns, like "fire in a crowded theater"), including self-serving comments, fallacies, hate speech and the like, however repugnant - this is all part of being an American.
Americans hold in high regard as a major American cultural ideal that we are imbued with freedom of speech. In protecting this freedom, we give voice to many sides. In my America, Mr. Jones is well within his rights to say these things to his son, and even further able to publish these assuming if he finds a willing audience.
However, the right of freedom of speech also brings with it another liberty - the ability to engage in free discourse of ideas. And it is in taking this liberty that I hope my brother will find some solace and validity and in both his outrage and my response.
Mr. Jones is very clear that the basis of telling his son that Mr. Jones is Santa is, quite simply, that he "need [s his] props."
Of course, Mr. Jones tries to make this egomaniacal argument more palatable by starting off with a reference to "identity theft," as apparently a fictional figure has not only the ability but the intent to commit a crime.
Then Mr. Jones makes vague reference to the impossibility of Santa's being able to complete his assigned task, and employs various allegedly scientific points to support this argument of impossibility. But again we find ourselves with Mr. Jones comment "I need my props." And here is what I say, not to Mr. Jones, but to my outraged brother:
Who cares what someone like that thinks? I would hope that somewhere along the way, "Little Solomon" will learn that it is more blessed to give than to receive. I hope that "Little Solomon" will learn that the idea of Santa is about giving people hope, especially poor children who aren't as lucky as to have Mr. Jones as benefactor, and that we can learn much from fantasy and fiction, especially when the ideas are about charity and love.
Wendy Martin Golding