Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus – and so much more
Lockard writes regularly for The Courier and has published several short stories and poetry.
In history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Sun in 1897, asking for a definitive answer as to whether there is a Santa Claus. While Virginia’s letter questioned the existence of a mythical figure, it showed more political acumen than a thousand politicians and analysts could spew out. It has to do with the spirit of humanity and, when applied to our country, the spirit of our nation.
So let me offer a modified response: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And yes, Virginia – and our other 49 states –there is a United States of America.”
Of course, there are ample issues for disagreement and dissension in the United States, often intensified by a political system embracing extremes. Human rights issues, racial equality, gun legislation or the lack thereof, abortion, how our children are taught, even how we define an individual – all fodder for argument. Families not speaking, friends on the outs, right’s violations and accusations, injustice. Not to mention controversial or bungled alarms raising more questions about our country’s leadership role in the world. The left going further to the left, the right veering further right. And every person absolutely believing he or she, or they, are right! We have all been affected by the “skepticism of a skeptical age.” (To quote from the Sun’s response to Virginia.)
Santa Claus and the United States have much more in common than at first glance. That “jolly old elf” and our nation both started as a dream, the embodiment of an idea. And both are sustained by that dream. They may have morphed into skinny mall Santa or been corrupted by contentious claims of “this land is my land and only mine,” but both exist through belief. As Virginia wondered about Santa over a century ago, this holiday season many are wondering about our country. But the core of the United States is much more intangible than its Constitution and laws. Its strength is the underlying belief in it, and that requires defending.
We all love stories. It is the real “story behind the story” when we immerse ourselves in the power of belief. So, who brings the gifts?
Is it not more important to recognize them? And not just our own gifts, but the whole array our families and communities possess through our citizenship? How much better to abide by that most old-fashioned of sentiments and believe we are “blessed” to live in this country.
Santa Claus and our nation have also this in common:. No matter how many letters we send to the North Pole or how many expletives we spew about what is wrong with the country, neither will act as “Amazon’s Wish Fulfillment Center” on steroids. Getting everything we want under the tree is impossible, as impossible as pleasing all of the people all of the time in our vast and diverse country.
Francis Pharcellus Church, the veteran newsman at the “Sun” who answered Virginia’s letter, wrote: “[T]here is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man ... could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance ... push aside that curtain ... to the beauty and glory beyond.”
Don’t we all love patriotic anthems and holiday carols for their hopeful message of belief in something bigger, whether it is our country or Santa Claus or God? The strength of our nation is not embodied in its headlines and “breaking news.” It is in the hearts of its people. Which is exactly what Church wrote, assuring Virginia of the truth of her belief: “In all this world there is nothing else so real and abiding.”
What’s wrong with the United States? Plenty.
But what’s right with it? Plenty more.
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