<%@ Language=VBScript %> Keepgoing.org - Winter 2001 - Frank Capra Was Right!
The Farm

Frank Capra Was Right!

By Joe Martinez

It's a Wonderful Life Christmas is a science like anything else. It’s beyond psychology and sociology, or any other-ology involving human or animal interaction. We have a pantheon of Christmas demons and deities from Rudolph to the Heatmiser. These things are prescribed, and alterations tend to make people feel like someone moved their furniture around while they weren’t looking.

Lights are strung up in the hedges. Soon a faerie lanscape is created, because we can. Why not? It’s the only high holiday that Americans allow themselves. It would be somehow criminal in the eyes of most Americans to have another high holiday, unless they’re Jewish, or Muslim, or what have you. And even then they’ve got big holidays too, getting disproportionate air time for stations trying to appear diverse during the lurid Christian, consumer holiday. Sorry to all the religious minorities out there, but take all the coverage of Chanukah, Ramadan, and Kwaanza (who made this crap up anyway?) for what it is: a token of appeasement and a façade of multiculturalism. You won’t be seeing “Morty the Red-Nosed Rabbi” or “Kookie the Kwaanza Lion Kills Whitey” on TV, ever. This nation is still mainly held in the grip of Christianity, for better or worse. At least the Christians have retained some fun from all the pagan ritual it supplanted, and thank the supreme being for that. The whole Jesus story’s no more compelling than a Hallmark Theatre melodrama about some homeless person. I think someone realized early on that it had to be jazzed up a lot to hold the interest of an ever-fickle public.

Each man's life... All the crap that Christianity had to assimilate comes out in full force. Literally hundreds of freaky traditions spring from the sublimated religions of the past to complicate celebrations around the world. As a case in point, the most venerated symbol of Christmas in America is the tree, and I don’t want to hear any of this crap about a manger. Lets get real here: the tree sells more units than mangers any day. Hands down, the tree takes all comers and wastes ‘em. I’ve always found it rather ironic that the tree has nothing to do with Jesus or any of that crap. As far as traditions go, stringing a pine tree with shoddily made electrical lights, tinsel, and all manner of other flammable objects seems, when considered from a safe distance, to be pure stupidity. It's pretty blatantly pagan, but you still see everyone blindly following tradition, breaking one of the main admonitions God gave to Mo on Mount Sinai: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Well sorry Yahweh, your boy Jesus is taking a back seat this year and next year too, done got his ass kicked out by some freaky druidic tree ritual. The tree is a fantastic phallic symbol if nothing else, and there should definitely be a “Dick Day.” We all owe our lives to one, even if we were conceived in a dish. One can’t conceivably beat the tree, but you can come close with Santa Claus. I definitely think Santa is far less important than the tree, because he’s just there to serve the pagan tree by leaving gifts beneath it. Santa is in essence a fellow worshipper of the tree endowed with a massive bankroll, a slave labor force of skilled, diminutive artisans, and some magic herd animals that fly. Sure he’s got a nice pad, but he’s nothing compared to the tree.

America has created a whole segment of culture to celebrate this holiday, however little it may have to do with Jesus’s birth and message to the world. Sure, all the sappy, stop-motion animation specials are all well and good. Rudolph preaches the embrace of diversity, and the various others all hit on some vaguely Christian themes, 'tis true. There is one bit of Americana that actually hits enough points to satisfy Jesus H. Christ himself with the message, and appropriately enough it harkens back to a mythical time and place in America.

I always took “It’s a Wonderful Life” for granted. That was until NBC purchased the exclusive rights to it. The ads came on TV during the usual televised sporting event, proclaiming that they were playing the movie and yadda blah blah. The offending network was making such a huge production out of it that I commented on the fact that it was ubiquitous, colorized and non.

That’s when they told me about the exclusive contract and all, so, like the good consumer I try not to be, I watched. George Bailey is as truly Christian as a being can become. He’s the kind of American I want to be. I want to be a better man, but I’m a slave to the man, attached to my paycheck. I’m too much of a wuss to help people out like George Bailey, and haven’t anything approaching that kind of courage. Lets face it folks, Frank Capra was a big old socialist, and this film tugs the heartstrings of every closet commie out there. He took a stand with this film, and it embodies all that is right and good with the idea of America. It's hokey and heavy-handed at times, but George Bailey is a man’s man, the kind of man men want to be. He defends his family name and noble purpose with a tenacity that sacrifices all personal gain.

It encourages us to step back and assess the good that we do. I never used to assess the good that I do, but I realized that I kinda know what it's like to be George Bailey. I wouldn’t dream to say that I’d made such amazing sacrifices as George, but I intimately understand his unrequited wanderlust and his sense of having squandered his life. All these feelings melt away when the good I’ve done looks me in the eye and calls me “Daddy” in an angelic voice. Never you mind the fact that it might be the lead-in for an attempt to weasel money off of a sucker in order to finance a serious candy habit; that’s immaterial ‘cause she’s so damn cute.

George’s up there, planning to take the plunge, but then old Clarence swoops in and saves the day by showing our hero what a hero he really is. I espouse no religion, but George could be judged a good man by any of the major world religions, barring judgement on any dietary or sexual practices. And, looking at myself I feel pretty good. I’ve improved immensely over time and hope to continue the climb up Maslow’s pyramid. But I’ve been standing in the same spot, gun in hand, thinking about doing exactly what George was going to do.

The angel on my shoulder spoke to me of my family and all the people who’d be crushed by my death. I really couldn’t stand to shame and hurt my mother, daughter, family like that. The angel made me cry thinking about the value I had to these people. I thought about myself as a precious, yet relinquished possession of my mother’s ... of my grandmother’s … of my daughter’s. It's not about me just as it's not about you. It's about us, a collective group of flawed beings striving to survive in a world that’s trying desperately to kill us. In and of myself I have no value. One human alone is nothing but doomed. Each of us is beholden to others for our existence, and we must honor that, just as we must honor those who owe their existence to us. To stray from this is to abdicate humanity, and I fear that too many people have given that up.

I’m a hero to my little brother. I’m “Daddy” to my daughter. I’m somebody special to certain people. People out there value me higher than their lives, and vice versa. It is in this that I found and find meaning, for no god has ever made any sort of sense to me. My god must be found in my connections to other human beings and my world. Sure there are people that think I’m a turd in the punchbowl of life, but they can cram it up their collective wazoo.

If you should ever find yourself on the bridge, I suggest you too take such an inventory even if you lack an angel named Clarence to help you out. You too may find ZuZu’s petals in your pocket.

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Copyright©2001 by Joe Martinez.

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