By Emilio DeGrazia, columnist
It’s that time of year again, when I try to smile and be of good cheer about my nose. Rudolph the reindeer gets a lot of attention these days. My nose is awkward and dull and sometimes gets in the way of my eyes. Rudolph’s nose glows.
I remind myself that Rudolph’s nose-glow is not just decorative, like a fat Christmas tree bulb. It’s useful. I’ve found myself behind the steering wheel during snowstorms, so I appreciate my two headlights leading me dimly on my way. In an Arctic blizzard anyone trying to drive a sleigh weighed down by tons of toys would appreciate Rudolph’s nose-glow. It’s a guiding light.
As someone awed by the strange powers of plants and animals, I should not be surprised by the depth and quality of Rudolph’s mind. If tulips know just when to pop their little bud-heads out of the cold ground in spring, and if kangaroo mothers know enough to carry their babes in pouches until the little hoppers are ready to leap out on their own, Rudolph knows how to fly through winter storms and land on roofs. So why wouldn’t Rudolph, like Santa, know when we’ve been bad or good. Like some gods worshipped everywhere in the world, Rudolph seems to have an omniscience about right and wrong. He’s an animal, so it’s probably instinctual.
I’m unconvinced by those who claim Rudolph is an agent for a Santa who is obviously a socialist. Santa, they say, owns the means of production — that toy factory full of happy elf workers up north — and then he just gives his products away. Santa has no profit motive, and he spreads the wealth. Red Santa suit. Red Rudolph nose. Both of them are commies. Reds.
I pooh-pooh people who try to make that claim. Not every old, happy guy with a beard who wears a red jumpsuit is a socialist. We have watermelons and red light districts, don’t we, and red states. Nothing commie about them.
But I do wonder what belief system inspires Rudolph to drive Santa’s sleigh. Even when I was a kid I knew the difference between being naughty and nice. I worked hard at being nice because what I wanted more than anything was a double-holstered pair of six-shooters on a leather belt I could wear around my waist, and I believed if I worked hard enough to be nice enough that’s naturally what I’d get for Christmas. I loved the Lone Ranger and Tom Mix. I practiced shooting in my head, and did a lot of shooting with my fingers — beating my sisters and mom to the draw and gunning them down right in the living room.
How does Santa get even with me? Christmas morning the only thing I find under the tree is one lousy gun. No holster.
I looked at that gun sitting there lonely right next to Jesus and the manger scene, and I felt that something was all wrong. I went to my room and cried.
Now when I look back I’m sure Santa was trying to be fair not bringing me two guns, because other kids wanted them too and maybe there weren't enough to go around. And I also know not all chimneys look alike. Mom said our place had a chimney but the chimney wasn’t really ours. Some houses don’t even have fireplaces Santa can show up in, and most have chimney pipes so filthy and narrow Santa would have to plan way ahead to somehow squeeze down into them. How is he supposed to make a fair distribution of his wealth of toy products that way? It must make Rudolph sad when he’s on some rooftop waiting for Santa to decide if some chimneys are rather impossible.
It must be hard too because Rudolph also knows when we’ve been bad or good, and he would insist we be good for Goodness’ sake.
For Goodness’ sake! Imagine that!
Because he’s a such a good deer that kind of thinking no doubt comes naturally to Rudolph. It also puts him in the company of some big names who hold the same belief — Socrates, Plato, the Virgin Mary, Hester Prynne, Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Addams, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Mohammed, Moses, Jesus, and Lao Tzu usually — and Monica, my wife, for example. And some people here in town I’m lucky enough to know personally.
People like that.