The New and Improved Ebeneezer Scrooge

Burt Prelutsky
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Posted: Dec 26, 2008 12:01 AM
The New and Improved Ebeneezer Scrooge

Once upon a time, Santa Claus was a very popular figure around this time of year. Edmund Gwenn even won an Oscar for portraying him in a movie. But along the way, it was Scrooge who kept gaining in favor. His role has been played by a galaxy of stars, including Reginald Owen, Albert Finney, Kelsey Grammer, Tim Curry, Walter Matthau, Fredric March, John Carradine, Ralph Richardson, Cyril Ritchard, George C. Scott, Alastair Sim, Jack Palance and Basil Rathbone. I guess the allure of the role is that Ebenezer Scrooge goes to bed a mean and nasty creature, and by morning has undergone a dramatic epiphany and found spiritual redemption.

But time has taken its toll on his story, which first saw the light of day in 1843. These days, Scrooge strikes us as nothing more than a slightly eccentric old codger. His constant refrain of “Bah! Humbug!” suggests he’s just a little bit cranky, sort of like the loveable old grouch who lives down the block and grouses every year about fire crackers on the 4th of July and trick-or-treaters on Halloween.

I’m sorry to say that Scrooge’s day has come and gone. Which means we’ll probably never get to see Brad Pitt, George Clooney or Leonardo DiCaprio in the role.

But, really, how can Scrooge hope to compete with the ACLU and like-minded idiots who have a hissy fit at the mere sight of a Christmas wreath, who insist that the holiday doesn’t really celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, but is merely a recognition of the winter solstice? I’m not even a Christian, but wishing someone a merry winter solstice not only sounds lame, but to my ears sounds pretty darn sarcastic.

I’m not sure just when a handful of self-righteous biddies decided to make an annual tradition of attacking Christian symbols and traditions, but this year the flash point has been the state of Washington. That’s where Governor Chris Gregoire has permitted a group of atheists to post a sign that reads in part “religion is a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds” in the capitol rotunda next to a Christmas tree and a Nativity scene. The governor claims she couldn’t object because of the First Amendment, but that merely confirms she wins the prize as 2008’s biggest Christmas fruitcake. It is, after all, the atheists whose belief system constitutes an extremely rigid religion of its own, and one that surely hardens hearts. Speaking as a Jew, I doubt that if there was a Chanukah menorah in the capitol rotunda, the goofy governor would have given the American Nazi party a thumbs-up if they had wanted to display an autographed copy of “Mein Kampf.”

But even Ms. Gregoire isn’t this year’s meanest grinch. That title belongs to Bernard Madoff, the man who managed to fine tune the Ponzi scheme to such an extent that he was able to steal 50 billion dollars from banks, charities and individuals.

Theoretically, such financial shenanigans are not supposed to be possible in this day and age. After all, there are all sorts of federal safeguards regulating the stock market. I mean, these are some of the same eagle-eyed bureaucrats who have seen to it that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac toed the line for all these years, thus serving as shining examples of financial integrity to the entire world.

None of this is intended to take the onus off Mr. Madoff, a man who should be roasted over an open fire and served up with an apple in his mouth.

Years ago, when my son was still at an impressionable age, I told him that even though movies often depicted thieves as charming, witty and glamorous, in real life they were scum. But I also told him that at least bank robbers risked being shot down in the process of trying to take things that didn’t belong to them, whereas there was no lower or more cowardly form of animal life than a con man. I pointed out that he was the most contemptible of thieves because he stole by pretending to be someone’s friend, simultaneously taking their money and betraying their trust.

I admit I know next to nothing about making, let alone investing money. For me to even be in the running for the Nobel Prize in Economics, roughly seven billion people would have to die. So how is it that even I know that when a financial investment sounds too good to be true, Prelutsky’s one and only rule is to grab your wallet and run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit?