Help us, Santa Claus
Brimming with joy, the tax man told his guest, the God-man, that he would return to his victims four times the amount he had stolen from them. The visitor then proclaimed that salvation had come to the collector’s house.
Fast forward about two thousand years, to these isles thousands of miles southeast of Jerusalem, the children of a disgraced patriarch marched in step with soldiers carrying his remains and with a priest in purple, a representative of the God-man during a hushed-up state funeral.
The difference is that here, the defrauded still await the return of their keep, which the dead one and his kin had taken and squandered, and will continue in the next decade to pay a debt that the dead one incurred.
* * *
This is a land of believers, he told his brother. People here will believe anything. One does not need rocket science to hypothesize that the first Christian missionaries did not have a hard time converting natives when they came with Ferdinand Magellan back in the sixteenth century.
Go down south. There you can find someone who to his followers is lord of all. From there, take a bus and a boat to an island not too far away and you will find someone who, once and for all, proclaimed himself the scion of a deity.
With two-thirds of some trinity commanding a strong following here, it comes as no surprise that one of history’s worst pillagers is survived by a band of worshippers or that the man who had him lauded by the state also goes by the moniker “best president in the solar system.”
* * *
His friend, an evangelical Protestant, spoke at the table of another man who was once a drug addict. This reformed man said addicts must be killed. The friend noted the irony. That man would scarcely be alive had his darkest days unfolded under the present dispensation.
To think that sober man still feels tempted now and then to visit his favorite dealer near the fishing village.
The people have become numb, another friend of his, the newlywed, said. Almost six thousand have been killed during and outside police drug war operations.
Where is this place that is not floating on blood, he thought. In many places abroad, prosperity is built on the martyrdom of the unborn. At home, security is grounded on the murder of the untried.
When supper was ended, they took out sheets of paper and wrote slogans decrying the rehabilitation of an old tyranny, the stealthy comeback of a mind-set where order and prosperity are traded for disappearing acts featuring disappearing people and disappearing cash.
Its minions have been emboldened. They came one morning during a protest rally, motorbikes rumbling, portable speakers drowning the words of the elderly judge as he recounted how he suffered under the dictator’s regime.
* * *
The chief cop donned a Saint Nicholas suit as he prepared to hand Christmas gifts to kids of parents who were killed in the war on drugs.
I do not know if a present can fill the emptiness that rages in a child’s heart in the wake of his father or mother’s sudden, violent death.
Amy Grant’s “Grownup Christmas List” comes to mind. “Well, heaven surely knows that packages and bows can never heal a hurting human soul.”
I do not know if Saint Nicholas of Myra is honored in a gift-giving that would not have been necessary if the drug problem were approached primarily as a public health issue.
Saint Nicholas, whose feast is coming up on the sixth of December, was preventive rather than punitive or reactive. When three girls were at risk of being prostituted because their father had no dowry to see them off into matrimony, Saint Nicholas secretly left three bags of gold in that man’s house to spare the family from the flesh trade.
When a trio of innocent men were about to be beheaded, Saint Nicholas ran to the place of execution, grabbed the executioner’s sword and threw it to the ground.
The carnage was stayed and the man behind it, Eustathius, ruler of Myra, confessed to his sin and carried out the penance that Saint Nicholas prescribed.
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