To Santa or not to Santa and other serious topics of great importance on Christmas Eve

I stood in line to pay at a now-defunct comic shop years ago around Christmastime.

A young couple in the shop debated whether they would tell their children about Santa Claus.

The mother worried about lying to their kids and what kind of message that sent.

I suppose one worries about everything when you are a young parent. I am not a parent and, to modify a line from Mark Twain, shall always try to do right and be good so God will not make me one.

I said nothing, which is the wisest policy in things that are not your business.

Still, I couldn’t remember any mass shooters or serial killers whose stories began, “When I found out about Santa Claus not being real, that’s when everything went to hell.”

Then again, I don’t have much use for the people who so zealously guard the myth of Santa Claus that any mention of the reality that Santa isn’t real sends them into a fury.

I once mentioned Santa wasn’t real in a column at the local newspaper. The editor cut the line. I asked why. The editor said a child might read that and we would get a lot of angry calls.

I argued we should do it anyway. If we got a lot of calls from people who said their children saw this, we could stop worrying about attracting young readers.

I was overruled.

I don’t think much about Santa Claus as an adult. It’s a fine myth. I’m surprised the character hasn’t gotten caught in the culture wars.

Santa is an obese, cisgender heterosexual white man. His very existence makes patrons of the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Victimhood itchy.

Maybe that’s Santa’s real magic. People aren’t immediately ticked off at the sight of Santa the way they are everything else that turns up in the news.

I try to avoid the news these days, especially since the news industry kicked me out for good.

But I’ll peruse the headlines a couple times of day so that I’m not surprised when we go to war.

That happened once to Parents 2.0, the kindly east Des Moines couple who raised me after my parents died.

This was before I came into their lives and wrecked their schedule. They were off camping somewhere on vacation.

They went into the nearest town to get some groceries and supplies. Everyone was huddled around the TV.

Dad 2.0 asked what was going on.

“Don’t ya know? We’re at war!” I imagine the clerk said.

The first Persian Gulf War had started. I don’t know if my folks bought a newspaper to catch up, but I wouldn’t bet on it. They had plenty of newspaper for kindling.

In modern times, I scroll the headlines, and everybody is telling me what’s wrong with everything.

The president isn’t popular. Has he ever been?

The economy stinks. It usually does, especially if you’re poor.

Everybody has COVID, is going to get COVID, or has already died of COVID.

Your favorite TV show stinks and here’s a list of five reasons why you’re wrong to like it.

Newsweek published a real winner the other day about the new “Spider-Man” movie: “Andrew Garfield and Charlie Cox Didn’t Tell Us the Truth — And We’re Not Okay.”

The headline references actors in the movie who mislead the media about being in the movie about their roles in the movie to avoid ruining a surprise for viewers before the movie was released.

But just look at the emotion in that headline: “And We’re Not Okay.”

Can’t you just feel the existential angst? There must not be an adult within six blocks of Newsweek.

The pain these poor Newsweek staffers must have endured by what amounts to a Hollywood game of three-card monte.

I wonder if whoever the “they” is in that “we are not okay group” grew up believing in Santa Claus and, upon learning he wasn’t real, swore an oath in their grief to seek truth and publish, not necessarily in that order.

They fought to become journalists in the age when if journalism isn’t dead, it’s at the hospice without the morphine drip.

And, finally, they unearthed another lie, one that rivaled the untruths of Old St. Nick: Some actors said they weren’t in a superhero movie when they were.

They reported the truth like 14-year-old kids texting about the girl they like from Algebra class flirting with the captain of the boys’ basketball team.

God bless these American heroes at Newsweek. Democracy dies by dimwits.

Santa Claus is probably triggering or a micro aggression. He might be the worldwide distributor of intersectionality.

(To readers who don’t know what that last word means in today’s political climate, the only thing I can tell you is that if someone brings it up, find a graceful way to exit the conversation before a protest breaks out.)

I know if I were to become a parent, I would not introduce the myth of Santa Claus.

This has nothing to do with the welfare of my non-existent child.

I’m just selfish.

I want my never-will-be kid to know that I worked some job I hated 40 hours a week or more for the money to buy this stuff that will be broken, lost, or forgotten about three days after Christmas.

You want to thank somebody with milk and cookies, kid? Thank your dear, old dad — and make it a sipper of Tennessee Fire while you’re at it.

The other reason I wouldn’t do Santa Claus is because the one good thing you get out of it is a disciplinary tool that relies on the phony surveillance of an all-seeing distributor of toys.

“You’d better stop acting like that because Santa will see you being naughty and leave you a lump of coal,” Mom 1.0 sometimes dropped on me if I was acting foolish.

I would straighten up and beg forgiveness of the Great Pumpkin, er, I mean Santa.

But as a disciplinary tool, this only works from Black Friday to Dec. 24. Try trotting out the “Santa’s watching” when your son is blasting your daughter’s Barbies with his new rapid-fire Nerf gun on Dec. 25th.

Santa? That fat fool won’t be back for another year. On my signal, unleash hell on Barbie’s Dream House.

I favor year-round discipline by surveillance.

Modern Americans are so terrified of each other that they line their homes with cameras from their kid’s teddy bear to the doorbell.

They can review six months of recordings to find out who left the toilet seat up or who put the milk back in the fridge when it was basically empty.

Do Santa. Don’t do Santa. Either way will probably be fine.

But let’s not forget to say a big thank you to the people who really make Christmas happen: Amazon delivery drivers.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.

5-sentence review of ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’

1.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is just OK, about the same level of “OK” that “Black Widow” was earlier this year — good enough to watch, not spectacular enough to inspire me to buy the associated Funko Pops.

2.

I recognize the cultural significance of having an Asian hero and lead cast in a Marvel movie if for no other reason than every professional reviewer, news story, and the mighty Disney’s publicity machine pushed that narrative hard for months leading up to the release of the film..

3.

To what degree this is a successful realization of the aspirations of Asian-Americans or Asians worldwide who always wanted to see someone who looked like them in a superhero movie, I cannot say because I am white and most of the superhero movies have had white guys in them.

4.

I think — and I’m being wishy-washy on purpose here, because I really don’t know — Marvel did a good job because there’s loads of Far East folklore characters in several scenes that I’ve scarcely scene, but I get the sense that people from that cultural tradition would recognize the way Blacks and Africans saw pieces of African traditions throughout “Black Panther.”

5.

As to the movie itself, it’s a martial arts picture with Marvel trimmings — lots of mostly bloodless violence, a big CGI blob monster at the end, a new hero who just begins to realize his worth, and two post-credit scenes with cameos from the other Marvel films — so if you like kung-fu flicks and Marvel movies, this is a fine night’s entertainment, but if you’re worried about the Delta variant, I’m not sure this is the pic to break your quarantine for because it’ll be on Disney+ soon.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Where I’m from

Graduate school at Drake University starts Monday. These days the professors issue assignments before a first class is held. I’ve got to read some executive summaries about climate volatility for a contemporary American literature class focused on post-apocolyptic novels. One of my education professors assigned a poem for our education methods class. The poem is supposed to be autobiographical in the style of Georgia Ella Lyon’sWhere I’m From.”

I thought I’d take a break from knee surgery and recovery updates and share with you my homework.

Where I’m From

By Daniel P. Finney

I come from

Secrets and mistakes

Heavy burdens chosen to carry,

Then given away to the

Crackling hellfire of good intentions.

I come from adoption by

A woman addicted to babies

With no use for children

And a man who just wanted sanity

For the bride whose joy faded decades before.

I come from madness

Innocence stolen by orange and white pills

Spilled from translucent bottles that

Wiped Mother’s memories of

Her constant cruel words and actions.

I come from escape from harsh reality with

Trips to Korea to serve with the 4077th,

On Rescue 51 with Roy and Johnny, and in

The TARDIS, with the Doctor, who

Saved the universe with a pretty girl and robot dog.

I come from a wire worm-infested red-brick ranch in

Madison County that smelled of what

Farmers call “money,” but is really

Hog shit or chicken shit depending

On which way the wind blew.

I come from weekdays

Construction paper cuts with

Betty Lou at the “House with the Magic Window;”

Learned why the man put the car in the oven

From a balsa wood puppet named Floppy.

I knew how to get, how to get t0

“Sesame Street” and walked

“Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood”

With peanut butter and grape jelly

On both breath and fingertips.

I come from Saturday mornings,

I ran with Road Runner,

Punched with Popeye and

Foiled the Legion of Doom

With the Super Friends.

I’m from Friday dinners at Knox Café

Fried chicken and and rainbow sherbet

Nervously devoured while desperately

Hoping to get home to in time to

See somebody make David Banner angry.

I come from comic books and movies where

Adventure awaits in every four-color panel

Onomatopoeia is defined in colorful splashes

Things blow up and Han shoots first, but

The good guys always win in the end.

I come from battles against the forces of evil

Fought with plastic heroes and villains

On the blue shag carpet of my bedroom.

Toys served as talismans meant to say

“I love you” when the adults could not.

I come from checkers games with

My Dad as his dying heart turned his

Skin gray and he warmed his hands on a

Cup of coffee while we talked about

Hawkeyes, history, and the promise of heaven.

I come from Little League baseball diamond

Dirt rubbed into bare hands, step into the box

And pray for a walk because I was

Afraid of the ball and only in it for

The free cap, comradery, and concessions.

I come from funerals

Parents gone before I was 15;

Dad from a sick heart and Mother from a fall downstairs.

Sometimes the good guys don’t win and

Nobody gets out alive.

I come from romances that fail

When the chemistry of lust and love fades and

The negotiations and compromises begin.

Still, I remember a gentle kiss at the door after the dance,

And misty eyes whenever “Lady in Red” plays on the radio.

I come from second chances made

Corporal by an east-side hairdresser and

Her husband, the printer, who

Couldn’t have their own children,

But chose to love a second-hand son.

I come from mental health care;

Two salmon colored pills in the morning with

Three whites at night and a

cocktail of behavioral therapy to

help me be me despite brain chemistry malfunctions.

I come from feelings projected onto food and

Devoured in great gulps, wearing trauma in

Pounds of flesh hanging from my body for all to

See, judge, point, whisper, and mock while

I manage with my doctors, therapist, and cane.

I come from newspapers.

Box scores, agate type, Sunday color comics,

Picas, pixels, paragraphs, and inverted pyramids.

To seek and publish truth and

Defend democracy.

I come from timid knocks on the

Doors of strangers who

Suffered terrible loss and stumbled into the news

And I stood on their stoop begging them

To tell me their stories.

I come from short sentences with

Specific nouns and action verbs,

Creativity and accuracy with the

Clock running, racing toward deadline

before those mighty presses rolled.

I come from the end days of journalism like

Living in a hospice without a morphine drip.

A middle-aged veteran reporter runs like an

Endangered species actively hunted, finally skewered

By layoffs served by greedy corporate hustlers.

I come resilience and hope that

I can rebuild my life and purpose to

Trade the pilcrow blues for the head of the class.

Help the young find their voices, sling their sentences

Stack their paragraphs, keep moving forward.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.