and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
December #3

'Christmas Present' now includes
presidential candidates a'leaping
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, December 20, 2007

"A Christmas Carol" notwithstanding, it's getting harder to distinguish Christmas Past from Christmas Present from Christmas Future.

Even in the Dickens story, I got confused. Christmas Past, when everyone was young and having a merry time, was clear; but the other two seemed more like Christmas as it is unfurling right now and the potential Christmas if Scrooge doesn't change his attitude. When he does, Christmas Present transforms into a happy Christmas Future.

If Scrooge had been merry from the beginning, Christmas Present would have been fine all along. Maybe Dickens could have had the Spirit of Christmas Future show Scrooge in 2007 finding Christmas decorations at the mall the day after Halloween - and asking, "Are we rushing into Christmas Present, which really should be Christmas Future, happening no sooner than a month from now?, followed by a hearty "Bah, humbug!"

Never mind. Each of us, if we want, can refuse to jump the holiday, no matter what the commercial sector is doing. But now, this week, we are properly there.

At a family party last weekend, someone asked when "The 12 Days of Christmas," which end with the Feast of the Epiphany, begin. I figured Dec. 25, but that would mean the 12th day would be Jan. 5, though the Three Wise Men don't show up until Jan. 6.

The answer is that the 12th Day is really Twelfth Night, just as Shakespeare wrote, since everything, including Christmas, happens at night or there wouldn't be a star for shepherds and wise men to follow to the manger. And, if the wise men had been wise women, they would have asked directions and arrived before midnight. Hah!

Probably "The 13 Days of Christmas" would have been OK if the medieval songwriter didn't need a one-syllable number to flow easily as in "Twelve Drummers Drumming". The three syllables of "eleven" was bad enough for the pipers piping. And according to Catholic Church scholars, that number in the song refers to the eleven faithful disciples, which is really moving far into the future of the baby Jesus, less than two weeks after he is born!

Why is everyone always in such a hurry to get from past to present to future? Especially when some scientists now argue that time isn't real anyhow.

I was taught in Catholic school that God knows everything, past and present, which always seemed to lead to a discussion of free will; i.e., how can we have free will to make decisions when God already knows what we decided? I eventually decided that our lives are like a book that we write ourselves, making our choices along the way, and God, living outside of space and time, can just jump to any point in the book and read what we wrote of our own free will. I always liked to think about these things.

Now we are thinking about time as it relates to the 2008 presidential campaign, which shouldn't be happening yet, it being still 2007. But there it was with the early Christmas decorations at the end of October! Wait, what's the hurry? The Iowa caucuses are Jan. 3? Hey, the wise men haven't shown up yet! And what's a caucus anyhow?

Wise men will be there for the New Hampshire primary, which will help a lot, wisdom being in short supply on the political scene. And Massachusetts voters will be making their decision just before the ground-hog has decided whether winter will last six more weeks. If Hillary and Barack Obama see each other's shadows on Feb. 6, that's a good thing, right?, at least as long as John Edwards stays in the hole where he belongs.

Yes, it's all tangled up in the space-time continuum: Christmas, winter, presidential elections. Just ask Mike Huckabee, whose new ad has him sitting in front of a white cross that some supporters say is a window, even though it's standing there between the Christmas tree and the wall. At least he's not lying in a manger, insisting that God sent him. Again, a time question: How did we get from the 21st century to Huckabee-world?

Of course, Ron Paul also takes us back to our libertarian roots. This works for me, and apparently for the many young people who have joined his campaign.

Obama reminds us of a recent hopeful campaign past that gave Massachusetts Deval Patrick - who then sold voters a bill of goods on property tax relief.

John McCain reminds us of his local endorser, Jane Swift -- another reason to vote for Mitt Romney. Dear Santa: Can we have a strong leader to protect us from what is coming out of the Middle East in this century?

While I don't think organized religion, which includes Islam, is consistently a voice for freedom; religion defined as goodness should work even for those of us who consider freedom our highest value.

May the Spirit of Christmas improve the spirit of campaigning present, making us all wise men and women before we vote.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and Eagle Tribune, and often in the Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.