Conservative Guilt and the War on Christmas

My nine year old daughter Franki has resumed her annual mission relentlessly watching TV with a pad and paper or an IPAD in front of her so she can make notes during the commercials delineating which Christmas presents she wants or needs this year. She has been doing this every year since she learned how to print but last year when Jane got her that Elf that just sits on a goddamn shelf, Franki has been on a mission to follow every elven rule and so improve her yield come Christmas morning.

This isn’t unusual. Children like Franki have worshipped Santa in America since the days of general wealth first began. My life has been marked by Santa Claus myth, the one true rainmaker.

Like Franki, when I was young, Jewish kid way back in the 50s, I watched toy commercials on a black and white TV and though I didn’t believe in Santa (well of course, at first I did, but the confusion over who ranked higher, Jesus or Santa ultimately caused me to drop Santa because Jesus was just too much baggage for a Jewish kid and on top of that, he never delivered.

I’m a business professional so I understand the purpose of commercials. Toys R Us and so many, many others owe it to their stockholders to entice children in the most extraordinary ways so as to cause their parents to hand over their credit cared and buy, buy, buy so businesses can make their annual sales quotas and increase earnings per share for their stockholders and profits for themselves.

It’s good business and that’s what America is mostly about, good business. All effective professional advertisers are required to entice little children into believing their dream and nag it into reality.

Advertisers do it by selling the love of things, and if you don’t believe it, denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.

Effective advertising convinces little children what they will love and what they can’t do without and because they are children and tears come easily for them, separating their parent’s from their money is no obstacle at all because advertisers know how to deliver in ways that make doing without, unthinkable for children like my Franki. I get that and in the business sense, I admire what they do, but as a parent, not so much.

Retail stores provide elaborate, no make that fantastical, Santa Villages so that Franki can open her heart to this Santa or that, informing the kindly old sales icon precisely what she expects as a reward for being good even though the concept of good and bad or good and evil is mostly years away for her. The Santa Village experience only teaches Franki to give in to temptation, a necessary activity for young Americans to develop early as early as possible so she can become the young capitalist the world will need to replace Jane and I when our earning and spending days decline or become unpredictable.

Does demand create its own supply or does supply create demand. Christmas solves that argument once and for all.

Wealth must be fed and so I get that stockholders require satisfaction. Commercials and Santa Villages get recognized for delivering the goods and they always will. I get that, too. But what I don’t get is that outside of Christmas, when Franki wants something, say for her birthday, she asks or pleads with Jane or me and mostly, we give in and there is usually a smile and a hug and so there is an economic transaction with quid pro quo. We may not do it to buy her love but since Parents don’t issue stock in the family and so we can’t tell if the value of ours is appreciating. Because of that, in order to determine success, sad as it seems, though normal, we use gifts and favors as the best way to increase the value in our young family’s portfolio.

And that brings me to my issue. All year, it’s good enough for Franki, her mother and I to interact in order to determine what Franki needs to increase her happiness quotient as well as her inventory of stuff.

Why then, precisely when Thanksgiving ends and the Christmas buying season begins, why then are Jane and I cut out of the deal? We work hard and figure out how to adjust our budget to include Christmas demands by adjusting food, shelter, transportation expenses, and an occasional movie. Jane and I are the ones who wrestle with our spending priorities so that Franki’s demands can be satisfied.

But on Christmas morning, Jane and I forego any appreciation at all. We are forced to substitute a hug or kiss to live vicariously through Franki as she frantically rips open one once hoped for gift after another which simply reinforces, in her view, the validity of commercials and toy manufacturers, stores and Santas while leaving Jane and my purpose to clean up the trash, help put parts together, and supply batteries which we do while considering how fleeting the joy was and how long the debt will remain unpaid so Franki can bathe in the warmth of some old Santa’s love.

Not Mom and Dad. We have been cut out of the equation. Even the Fed Ex delivery guy receives more ooohs and ahhs than we parents do.

Who designed this damned system because Christmas may be good for Corporations and the truly faithful, but it sucks to be a parent who is unrecognized even though critical to the Xmas supply chain.

I hate Christmas, even when I get what I want.

Christmas might have been good once, but money and stuff has broken it and there is no additional profit to be made in trying to remake it as the better holiday that it should have been.




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What is the Joad Cycle

The Joad Cycle is a series of dystopian speculative fiction novels set in our America from 2032-2084 after a Constitutional Coup has brought to power an extreme Right Wing, Christian, Libertarian Entrepreneur who is the leader of the new Entrepreneur Party. In this America, business interests rule, government has been marginalized. and the poor and the middle class no longer exist, the result of a massive economic genocide. To survive, every citizen lives to create wealth and should living cost more than they can generate in value to the economy, they are executed. Mostly, this is an Anti-capitalist Love Story.

$$$ How to Read this Site $$$

This site is mostly fictional and it supports the novels, providing backstory and additional related short stories that take place within the world of the Joad Cycle.

The site offers a Blog and Journal from the perspective of one main character, the hero of the first book, The Golden Rule . This character, Bernie Rosenthal who is very liberal politically, works as Chief Financial Officer for U.S. Angs, a multinational multibillion dollar private corporation owned by Tom Gorman and Tom Morgan, the Toms, who represent ultra Conservative Koch brother types. Bernie is humbled by the tyrannical Toms during the day and finds a release journaling his job frustration. Meanwhile, Bernie's future self, Berne Thau, adds to the blog entries with his perspective, more than 30 years in the future, after money, greed, and the Right Wing revolution end the American Republic .

We are living in trying times. According to Berne Thau, they will get much more difficult.

Why this curmudgeon wrote this story

Every generation, parents tell their children that life was better back when they were young… and the children always scoff.

But now that I have qualified to pass judgment on that age-old warning, now that I’ve been both young and old, I have come to realize that the old have it right and children scoff at their peril though in the ways that American society has been taught to measures success, every generation since maybe the turn of the twentieth century anyway, has had it better.

But with age, and career experience, I have learned that those ways are deceptive and worse, they are wrong. Success is measured based on wealth, conveniences, and life expectancy issues when it should be evaluated on what we hope to be as individuals and what we become as people—the expectancy of life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been successful enough. For most of my baby boomer life I was comfortable middle class interspersed with a few years of unfortunate decline towards impoverishment, never quite getting there before bootstrapping back to comfort.

For a time, I was a certified member of the 1%—in income though not in wealth. The 1% is a class of people who rule their part of the world and have a lot of confidence that somebody they know rules the rest of it. I wasn’t a one-percenter for many years, but it was a good life until my associations made me believe that I just didn’t want it anymore. I apologize to my family for what I had become and these novels are my penance.

People congratulated me for the success I’d earned as if those less and least successful earned that lack as well. And with the memory of a manufacturing facility in a small, rural, one-employer town in out-of-the-way Northern Maine near the Canadian border closed to improve a bottom line somewhere else, with an American town murdered for earnings per share, I signed off and began to write the The Joad Cycle.

In my research, I came to fear for my family that grew from the narrowest and shallowest possible family tree to three generations deep and two wide. My family is important and so I wrote these novels for them, for their future, for what I dread we have taken from them and will continue to take, long after we are dead.

I live in the Midwest and my friends are good people and I value them. They are conservative and most are Christians and somehow, we argue over unions as if union members aren’t patriotic Americans, too, and besides, what is to be gained by condemning workers in a country of workers. And we disagree on the poor? Social Safety Nets may not be working as well as they could (But how would we know if these Safety Nets are working? It is not as if some brave politician will stand up and precisely define what a win looks like in the freest, richest country in the history of history—and seriously, doesn’t free-form Capitalism deserve the bulk of the blame with its all-encompassing goal of creating winning humans and losing humans).

And discussions on life and death with my conservative friends, life at the very beginning and the very end, and guns and gods…forget about it. But unlike politicians and the media, we are friends so we work around the discomfort and the dislike for the greater good.

My friends are the current version of the salt of the earth and all of us abide by family values above all, even if we can’t agree on them. Good people like us accept a society where too many of our children are handled by strangers during the critical formative years. And in the twilight years too many parents and grandparents are handled by strangers until their money runs out, like sand in an hourglass, their lives extended only so far as Government security or private insurance will grant.

And when Americans finally expire after insufferable pain and embarrassment and to the sighs of sad but relieved loved ones, it reveals the immaturity of the vast majority of the American people who won’t resolve; once and for all, when God’s reason ends life and so they leave that to for-profit resolution. Can’t it just be in the fading twinkle of an ancient woman’s eyes?

But all of this pales to the legacy of GREED! Greed, that race for wealth that is ingrained in us all from television at a too early age that drives us to become economically viable so that with something extra in our paychecks at the end of the week, we can indulge ourselves with gifts, with palliatives, to relieve the pain and discomfort that we feel for doing what we must do to earn what wealth we cab. Greed is the satisfying of artificial and constant cravings.

And those who are considered the best of us, majority stockholders, officers of corporations, politicians, and celebrities all at the top of their respective food chains, they earn their way into the 1% and possessing this true wealth, they gift themselves truly extraordinary palliatives in order to compensate for something deeply unsatisfying within that was once more human, what they lost in the dog-eat-dog world that we all live in.

This is the world that we pass on to our children and our grandchildren. This world is what will own them someday like it owns us today. They are truly greed’s legacy. That too is the basis for my cautionary tale of America’s future, The Joad Cycle.

But I still idealize my youth. I remember what it felt like when I was a boy and so I wrote a grand love story, too.


Gary Levey