Book In Common, A Christmas Carol: Sometimes it’s hard to feel sorry for the “downtrodden,” and it’s probably not good for them anyway

Bob Cratchit is a very nice man, but not my favorite character from “A Christmas Carol”. He’s just too much of a woos.

The story needs Cratchit of course, to balance out Scrooge, to give Scrooge some path to enlightenment. But, would I want to have Bob Cratchit for a friend? No. 

I can’t relate to the Victorian gentleman. The Victorian era was a time when things needed to be said, straight out. Things like, “child labor is WRONG!” Or, “loan sharking is WRONG!” But those things went on right into the 20th century because “decent” people didn’t speak up. Bob Cratchit was what I’d call an “enabler” – he went right along with the tide, never wanting to rock his personal boat, all the while loading it full of a helpless wife and children.  I can’t help feel Scrooge’s scorn for Cratchit when he begs for a raise. I think he would cross a picket line, and tell himself, he had to do it to feed his family.  

I like the comparison between Cratchit and Scrooge’s more lovable nephew. While Cratchit huddles over a candle to stay warm, Scrooge’s young nephew is full of good humor over the true meaning of the season, and “had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost…that he was all aglow.” The nephew’s situation is not much better than Cratchit’s, but he’s cheerful and good-spirited, and most of all, honest with Scrooge. He stands up to Scrooge, challenges the old man to be a better person. You can see that the nephew has more of an effect on Scrooge, knocks the bluster out of the old man for a minute. While the nephew’s scolding motivates Scrooge to question himself momentarily, Cratchit’s whining weakness turns Scrooge right back to his stubborn meanness.

I don’t approve of people living beyond their means, but Scrooge is a good example of those people who are so stingy they don’t see the imbalance in our society. They ignore the role our education system plays in perpetuating poverty and class division. They ignore the greed and corruption among our law makers. They ignore the clear advantages that some people are given at birth, simply because of station and wealth.  Any talk of leveling the playing field is “communist”.  When we tried to have a simple conversation about the health care system and “single payer” at a Chico Taxpayers meeting, a couple of people got upset, told us that would be the end of America as we knew it, and just shut down the conversation. They wouldn’t let anybody else get a word in edgewise, they just freaked out. I finally just closed the meeting and left. Another person is so pissed about my haranging the city clerk into posting the minutes, she hasn’t been to another meeting. I’m frankly not out there to make friends, but it really concerns me that people just won’t have a conversation unless everybody is in agreement with them. This is a real problem with the Republicans, and it’s going to cost them another presidential election.

I find myself timid like Bob Cratchit sometimes, afraid to open my mouth and offend somebody. I know a lot of people walk away when you confront them with something they don’t want to talk about, it’s hard to get a conversation going sometimes. But, we have to get used to speaking our minds without shutting other people down, or, for that matter, letting them shut us down. We need to learn to have productive dialog. That’s something I’m looking forward to in 2014.

In the meantime, I’ll continue reading “A Christmas Carol,” I hope somebody else is out there reading it too. 

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