Friday, December 21, 2012

From the Liar: No, Virginia

        From the Annals of “The National Liar”:
        Discreditorial for October 31, 1995
       No, Virginia

          Dear Discreditor:
          All my friends keep telling me about Santa Claus; how he'll come and give me toys and candy and lots of other wonderful gifts. They say I'll get this loot if I act as if I'm a good little girl; then Santa will be fooled and he'll reward me.
          But I've been thinking lately, so now I wonder. Can Santa Claus really see all the children? All over the world? And even if he can, how does he figure out who's naughty and who's nice? And how does he make all those presents? And how can he get them to us on time? And isn't it just a bit wicked to bribe little children to pretend they're good?
          I've thought so much that now I'm not even sure if there is a Santa Claus! My friends all say I've got to be sure. They say that doubting Santa will make him mad at me, and then I'll get nothing but coal in my stockings. But I'm not a naughty girl - at least I don't think so. Is it wrong to wonder about somebody you've never even met? I just want to know.
          So tell me, Mr. Discreditor; is there a Santa Claus, or not?
          Signed, Virginia

          Dear Virginia:
          No, Virginia; there is no Santa Claus.
          How proud I am of you, dear Virginia, for asking such a grown-up question. How brave of you to be so wise. How I love you, dear Virginia, for your bright, inquisitive mind. How sad I am to bring unwelcome news; yet how glad, how joyous, I am to see you seek the true facts. You have restored my faith in the future; and for this you deserve to know the truth. For the truth will set you free - but first it will drive you frantic.
          For no, Virginia; there is no Santa Claus. You may watch the fireplace all night, but he will not come. You may wire a reindeer alarm on the roof, but it will not ring. You may seek him at the shopping mall, or the Post Office, or even the North Pole, but you will not find him. There is no flying sled, no magic reindeer, no polar sweatshop, no elf slaves. None of those things exist; nor does Santa.
          No, Virginia; Santa Claus does not exist! But what about the presents, you wonder? What about the cookies and the toys? Who made those? Your parents did, Virginia; they made them or they paid for them. For your sake they pretended to be Santa.
          And worse; they cannot play Santa Claus forever. One day you must pick up where they leave off. One day you must pretend to be Santa. In the end you must do it all yourself; not just the gift-giving, but everything else. If the horse won't pull, you've got to carry the load; Santa will not do it for you.
          For there is no Santa Claus! No lunch is free, no machines save labor, no tyrant is benevolent, no motives are pure, and no results are guaranteed. There is no Invisible Hand of the Market, for that hand would be Santa's. There is no Philosopher-King, for he would be Santa. There is no Perfect Lover, apart from Santa. And Santa Claus does not exist.
          Dear Virginia, you must forgive Santa for not existing. He would if he could, you know; but that was not to be. Santa died - no, worse than that; he never even was -  and for what? For you to doubt. For you to question. For you to be unsure. For you to think, "If it's too good to be true, then maybe it isn't true."
          Dear Virginia, that very doubt is Santa's final, greatest, and most generous gift of all. We adults call it "skepticism"; it's what Santa leaves behind, when at last he vanishes from our lives. Santa Claus is the saint of a skeptical culture.
          Do you know how vaccines work? The doctor injects dead germs into you; your body rejects those germs, and from then on you can fight off such an infection. Well, Santa Claus works the same way! Your parents tell you cute stories; your mind rejects those stories, and from then on you can laugh off such nonsense.
          Dear Virginia, have you ever wondered about grown-ups? Has it ever seemed as if we know something that children do not? As if we've survived some painful ordeal, and learned some dark secret? Well, now you know what it is! So now you are no longer an ignorant child, but have begun to become an adult.
          I said "ignorant", not "innocent"; for the two are not the same. Your clever friends are ignorant, but far from innocent; you are wiser, but blameless. You have done no wrong; and now you know how not to be wronged. From now on, whenever some schemer offers you something too good to be true, may you remember Santa, and what he turned out to be, and may you not be fooled. In the hour of need, may you doubt, may you question, and may you save yourself.
          For once I was a child; I thought as a child and I spoke as a child; but now I am an adult, and I have put away childish things. So no, Virginia; there is no Santa Claus.

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