The future is up to us

The Ghost of Christmas Past soars over the city with Ebenezer Scrooge in tow.
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Few things in politics are really new. I am reminded of this by my seasonal revisit to Charles Dickens’s 1843 novella, “A Christmas Carol.” More on that in a moment.

Addicted as I am to my smartphone, I am in the habit of using a voice-to-text app to dictate messages. I must be careful to proofread before hitting the send key, because the app often gets my words horribly wrong. With the surge in business applications of artificial intelligence, I can imagine wars being set off by mischievous bots deliberately altering messages.

Like a cat attacking a Christmas tree, we get ourselves into lots of trouble chasing the latest shiny object.

A friend and I recently attended the dress rehearsal of the Washington Concert Opera production of Rossini’s “Ermione.” It was the usual absurd opera plot of hysterical people making bad decisions, but the music and performances were glorious.

If you think such madness only happens in operas, take a look at current events in the Middle East. Is it really that hard to oppose the murder of Israeli children while also opposing the murder of Palestinian children?

This Christmas season features the unedifying spectacle of some people seizing upon one group’s atrocities while others seize upon another’s. The likeliest result of such intellectual redlining is to perpetuate atrocities. Aren’t we a miserable bunch?

Nor is this restricted to events overseas. When we view everything through the filter of our political bias, we end up with a situation where gay people and Democrats are assumed by QAnon cultists to be Satan-worshiping, cannibalistic pedophiles, while frequent arrests of Evangelical youth pastors for child sexual abuse are somehow overlooked.

The old maxim that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones is illustrated by the story of Florida Republican Party chair Christian Ziegler being sued by the woman with whom he and his wife, Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler, were having sexual threesomes. She accuses him of raping her when he showed up without his wife and she said no.

The governance of a country that aspires to goodness, much less greatness, should not depend on finding or fabricating scandals that reduce entire populations to monsters.

This is a good season to remind ourselves of what we stand for and what we stand against.

Let us not be like Ebenezer Scrooge telling visitors who seek a donation for the poor, “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” That is what the party of Trump has become, only worse.

Why would House Speaker Mike Johnson write the foreword for a book that pushes wild conspiracy theories, including the notorious Pizzagate (in which a child sex trafficking ring was alleged to be operating in the nonexistent basement of a Washington restaurant)? Why is he so eager to rescind my marriage rights by overturning Obergefell? Who is harmed by my marrying the man I love?

Why would the Speaker — a ChristoFascist who compares himself to Moses and claims that God talks to him — want any faith at all if such hatefulness is truly required of him? But it is not so required.

Blessedly, like Scrooge, we are capable of changing our minds — of saying, “Oh my God, what have I done?” and reforming. That has happened with many parents who discovered they had gay or transgender children.

We sail on a sea of abstractions, unable to see the wondrous creatures swimming around us until they land flapping in our boat.

If Johnson wishes to see what threatens America, he can look in the mirror. Alas, in his Bible he only finds what he wants. Never mind that nothing in Scripture condemns abortion. The Christianity he seeks to impose on the rest of us bears little resemblance to the teachings of Christ.

Johnson, however, is not the only one with a Bible. Maybe he should ban all but a privileged elite from owning a copy, so we cannot so readily challenge his distortions. A ban would never work, but when has that stopped our would-be overlords?

To borrow from an exchange between Scrooge and the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come, the cruel horrors Republicans seek to impose nationally are only what may be. Whether they will be or not is up to us — as well as the Electoral College, whose undemocratic structure gives us extra work.

We can dispel the Dickensian darkness with our brighter selves. It requires a child’s grace, as in Dickens’s tale: “God bless us every one!”

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