The fog of old London covers the Misty Mirror today. As we peer in the mirror, we see a vague image of an older gentleman from days long past. The mist begins to clear, we hear a hearty “Humbug!” and, lo! It’s Ebenezer Scrooge!
If you don’t mind, we’ll start with a pop quiz about the venerable Mr. S. Come on, it’ll be fun!
Choose the correct answer to this hypothetical accusation leveled at you: “Geez, you’re a real Scrooge.”
A. How insulting! I am nothing like that miserable man.
B. (Falling to your knees, tears welling) Thank you, thank you! That is the NICEST and KINDEST thing anyone has ever said about me!
The appropriate response, of course, is B. The fact that a minority of respondents go that route reflects the sad condition of poor Ebenezer’s legacy. In fact, I will be uncharacteristically bold and say that St. Ebby (as I like to call him) has a reputation that is, to use the technical term from psychology, catawampus with reality.
In fact, if old Scrooge were not such a merry and pleasant fellow, I wager he would be haunting his modern detractors in much the same way he was haunted by his three personal specters (well, four, I guess, if you count Marley, which I suppose we should, as he was actually Ebby’s first apparitional guest, and as my entire point could succinctly if perhaps too jauntily be summed up as “don’t tick off the dead,” well, we don’t want to start out by ignoring one who has demonstrated that he is inclined to visit the living when the occasion warrants).
Most of us become irritated or even perturbed if we feel that our reputations do not mirror our true selves (unless one is in the happy position of the reputation being better than the actuality). But in that arena, surely Ebenezer Scrooge is the most wronged man of all time. For while it is true he was once a miserable, miserly wretch (sorry, Eb, it was true at one time), he is in fact arguably the greatest example of redemption, reclamation, and getting your act together in the history of mankind, pending the final result of Lindsay Lohan’s travails.
We must remember that St. Ebby became a second father to Tiny Tim. At the conclusion of A Christmas Carol, Dickens (who ought to know, after all) describes Scrooge thusly: “as good a man as the good old City knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough in the good old world.” And yet we drag his name through the libelous mud and muck. We debase his reputation and ignore his reclamation. He became the epitome of generosity, the zenith of pleasantry and good will. That is what we should remember about him. That is who he truly was. And yet we use his name as a harpoon to wound. Who wants to be remembered as a harpoon? Maybe Captain Ahab, but that’s about it.
This legacy assassination is the equivalent of remembering George Washington solely as the bad kid who chopped down his father’s cherry tree. Or Albert Einstein as a funny-looking guy with chronically bad hair. Stop and think – how many other reputations are we ruining by encapsulating lives into a two second erroneous sound clip?
I implore you, set right this wrong. This generation has within its power the ability to overturn one of the most horrific injustices in history. Remember how Dickens summed up Scrooge: “It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” Take that to heart! Memorize it! Analyze it! Categorize it! Proselytize it!
So what have we learned today: to use exclamation points whenever you can! No, actually, it’s that Scrooge must be redeemed. It’s our duty as Ebephiles, as Scroogeaholics, as disciples of the miser-turned-magnanimous.
Consider starting a local Scrooge fan club. Whenever you hear someone degrade the name of Scrooge, gently but firmly educate them. Paint a mural on the side of your house with a huge, smiling Scrooge-face. Place illuminated blow-up dolls of Scrooge on your roof. Replace Santa figurines with St. Ebby action figures. Then we can have a clear conscience and take to heart the simple wisdom of Tiny Tim: God bless us every one!
And, please, the next time you see me – call me Scrooge.