CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - "It's A Wonderful Life? Bah, Humbug!"


By Jack Cawthon

Ah, yes, the season of peace and goodwill to men (or to be politically correct: persons of all sexual choices). The same season for the list of casualties of stupid wars, random shootings, tanking of the economy with a multitude of home foreclosures…and for the umpteenth time the showing of that diabetic coma producing film, "It's a Wonderful Life."

Is there a contradiction here somewhere? Granted, the film was produced in 1946, starring a young Jimmy Stewart. Jimmy plays a banker, a rather unbelievable role, as he is a banker with a heart. With the economy roiled now with shaky loans made by greedy lenders, you be the judge.

I suppose there is a need this time of year to escape from reality. Many people find that escape in movies from yesteryear, when times were simpler, or so we would like to believe, as we look backward with edited memories.

The Little Woman (5 ft., 2 ins.) and I differ on our movie viewings. She gets wrapped up with Hallmark and Lifetime features where characters go through the agonies of life, but in around two hours overcome diversity to live rewarding lives. Nothing wrong with that, except I've had trouble in real life with the two- hour time limit. We differed long ago on "It's a Wonderful Life, when Jimmy, feeling of little use to the world decides to end it all by jumping over the side of the bridge into the frigid waters.

As he stands there, pondering what to do, I yell "Jump! Jump! Jump!", which upsets my viewing partner considerably. He's a banker, right? And, then to muddle the plot more, an angel—of all things!—arrives to persuade him not to jump, that life is worthwhile and that he will be missed by many. Where is the Devil to defend his own?

Of course it all ends with everyone living happily ever after, including Jimmy, who, in real life (but who is counting) might have acquired a caboodle of stock options and been cut into some really great real estate deals.

If I am going to watch fantasy, give me the Chipmunks or reruns of Charlie Brown. Or, better yet, Scrooge. Now, Scrooge is a living, breathing, believable character!

He says "bah, humbug" with style and means it. Again, it's angels who shape him up. (How do so many angels get involved with these people who better serve the Devil?) Anyway, we view Scrooge through his stages of life, beginning with those happy days of youth when he could have made better choices.

We all have had our Christmases past. I look back, in maudlin age, and see where I might have steered a better course. So far, I haven't been visited by an angel (dreams don't count!) with the rerun videos. For Christmas present, I keep those "bah, humbugs" to myself and share them only with you select readers. I don't complain, as Scrooge would, when government workers get two days off for Christmas, as I once was on The Payroll myself, which brings up an interesting point: maybe I'm a candidate for an angelic visit soon, if they are scheduling visits to fallen characters. Or maybe their schedules are full with visits to all those bankers who are more deserving than I am.

Yeah, I look back without heavenly help to those Christmases past and view them pretty much in the same manner as those who are into "It's a Wonderful Life." I may be living fantasy as much as those in the movie audience.

To be a kid, as I was, living in a dead end holler, the nearest town 12 miles away in good weather, and an infinity away in the wintertime when locked in with mud and snow doesn't sound like much fun. Why would those Christmases spent in isolation be viewed as the best? I guess it comes down to mindset. There are kids who had the same experiences as I did who don't view life in the holler in the same respect, I'm certain.

I was in effect an only kid. My brother was several years older and was in college and then into military service without me knowing much about him. I, no doubt, was a spoiled kid also; I always had loads of Christmas presents from Santa. I learned in later years that we were considered rich folk, as my dad received $600 a year in gas royalties. We had a Model A Ford and a battery radio, and I guess by Depression standards that might have established us in the rich and famous style.

That was the first nine years of my life. After we left the holler, life was never quite the same, although we "moved on up" to town and all its conveniences. Maybe that was the year that my belief in Santa Claus was shattered. Can you believe that a nine-year-old today would still believe? Then, again, I may have been a little slow, which, over the years has gained some followers in that notion.

Or maybe those hills and hollers have molded us who were hemmed in by them. The late Jack Weller called people like me "yesterday's people," and I have never taken it as an insult, as some have. Revisionists today like to belittle Weller, but I find that yesterdays look pretty good when they parallel Scrooge on his journey. It's the present and the future that can look bleak in comparison. Maybe we all need that angel to give us a preview to shape up.

I didn't intend to become weeping on you, which can happen this time of year—or is it age, gulp? If I receive that visit from an angel, you'll be the first to know. The Herald will have the scoop!

I'll also try to weather "It's a Wonderful Life"-- again. But allow me to continue hoping that at some point the plot will alter, and instead of an angel, the Devil will appear on the bridge with Jimmy, cut a deal, and with all those mortgages in default the government will come around and bail him out. Now that is realism!

Read more of Cawthon's Catharsis at Columns

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