Morris: Regardless, Merry Christmas

December 19, 2022

by Leo Morris

You realize that it’s not a proper Christmas season unless the realist killjoys among us start whining about “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

This year, we have two contenders for top curmudgeon.

The saga of small-town hero George Bailey saving Bedford Falls from the despicable Henry Potter “grievously misrepresents the truth,” writes George Michelsen Foy in Psychology Today. “In the real world, I would argue, Potter is winning . . . In the richest country that has ever existed . . . the wealthiest 1 percent of the population owns 32 percent of all the wealth, while the bottom 90 percent own 30 percent.”

And Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown used the movie as some sort of white supremacy allegory in a case about whether it violates the First Amendment to compel a Web designer to create a same-sex wedding site. “I want to do video depictions of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and knowing the movie very well I want to be authentic, so only White children and families can be customers for that particular product.”

In the spirit of yuletide grouchiness, I could complain that nearly all Christmas movies are similarly flawed.

“Miracle on 34th Street” attempts to prove Santa exists by bringing to court sacks of mail addressed to him from the U.S. Postal Service – how believable is it that the Post Office is a beloved institution and the federal government a trusted source?

“A Christmas Carol” strains credibility by asking us to accept that a nasty old man with a lifetime of meanness can be transformed into a saint by one sleepless night of bad dreams.

And in “A Christmas Story,” of course, Ralphie’s hunger for a Red Ryder BB gun illustrates the gross commercialization that has turned the holiday into a consumer-driven materialistic frenzy.

After that, I could go one of two ways in my holiday rant.

I could get personal.

Instead of wishing my brother in Texas and my sister in Indianapolis a happy holiday, I could berate them for abandoning me in Fort Wayne, creating a fractured family no one would ever make a Christmas movie about. I would rag my brother over the phone about his status as the neglected middle child and remind my sister over our Christmas feast that she is nowhere near the cook our mother was.

Or I could get spiritual, sort of.

I could hunt down all those people who go on and on about “the reason for the season” and celebrating the birth of the baby Jesus and blah, blah, blah, and point out Christ may have been born in the spring and that Dec. 25 may have been an attempt to absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. Goodness, that’s an even bigger lie than the one about Thanksgiving being a celebratory reminder of Pilgrim-Native American friendship.

But I think I’ll go a different way.

I’ll remind myself that certainly Christmas movies are unrealistic. They depict life not as it is but as we would like it to be if we behaved better toward each other. That’s even sort of the point.

And I will remember that without our families, whatever their faults and circumstances, we would be alone in facing a world that can be indifferent or even hostile.

And I will vow not to let my celebrations – of any holiday, anniversary, birthday or any special day of any kind – be sidetracked by anybody who insists that nothing in the world today measures up to the standards of human perfection all the best people accept.

In short, I will embrace the joy, wherever I find it, even if I only stumble across it by accident.

Quietly and modestly, of course, without calling undue attention to my unorthodox behavior, the way I sit in the back room with the lights off during trick-or-treat.

On, you know, Halloween, when we send our children out to demand candy from strangers in celebration of the pagan festival of Samhain, in which people lit bonfire and wore costumes to ward off ghosts.

Merry Christmas.

Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at


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