A large, green cartoon character is certainly not the norm outside the Department of Labor, so I couldn’t help but pull in for a chat.
But how to start? “Hi, I’m a stranger” doesn’t work, but then neither does the blatantly obvious and potentially embarrassing “So, what are you doing here?”
I did my best. “What am I supposed to do?” the Grinch asked.
OK, I thought his role was clearly defined, so as tactfully as possible, I pressed for details.
“I’m supposed to steal Christmas!” he exclaimed. That was my understanding too. “But how am I to do that when it’s already been stolen!” I glanced at my laptop, casually clicking the New York Times link for any breaking news. None. Again, I pressed for details.
“I just got there too late.” complained the Grinch. This is why I hate ambiguous pronouns.
“Got where?” I asked.
“To Christmas, to steal it! It was already gone!”
I stared blankly.
“How am I going to pay the rent with no job?!”
I still stared blankly.
“You’d think stealing Christmas would be a niche market,” he added, calming down a bit.
“You have competition?” I offered (blithely, I realize in retrospect).
“Competition?” He snorted loudly. “It was gone before I got there! I’m out of business!”
I waited until the clerk finished all his paperwork, then invited him for coffee. We went across the street, and after a warm blueberry muffin and some hazelnut coffee (assuring him I was buying), he related the whole story.
“It’s the Christians!” He looked glumly into the dregs of his coffee.
“They’re fighting you?” I prompted.
“NO!” He looked angry. “They’re beating me to it!”
I signaled the waitress to replenish our coffee, sat back and just let him talk.
“Talk about ‘Bah Humbug!’” he complained. “Scrooge was a prophet compared to these guys!”
I sipped a little coffee, and waited.
“Happy Holidays!” he exclaimed. “What the hell is wrong with that?”
“Um…nothing?” I ventured.
He had entered a rant. “A bunch of people decide that they’ll respect all beliefs and traditions. Sounds Christian, right? Nope! It’s ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Get Lost, Godless Pagan!’ That’s what Jesus was about anyway, right? Criticizing others? Shooting tax collectors out of trees? Advising Peter to draw his sword? Do these morons even OWN Bibles?”
I was back to staring blankly.
“And now movies? MOVIES! Do these ‘brain trusts’ understand fiction? FICTION! A movie portrays people’s psyches as visible animals, and this is someone anti-Christian? What happened to Psychology 101?”
I remembered reading something about that film, “The Golden Compass.”
“Maybe they were confused about the term ‘daimon.’” I offered. “After all, they DO believe in Guardian Angels—six of one, half a dozen of the other…”
He looked sad. “No,” he answered finally, looking sad. “They believe in self-righteousness, judgment, exclusion, hatred. They’re confused about the terms ‘love,’ ‘tolerance,’ ‘faith,’ ‘brotherhood.’” And after a long pause, he added, “After all—isn’t that way they killed the Prince of Peace?”