And when I think about these things, a smile comes to my face. Christmas was a happy time. It was a time when Saint Nick always came through. Like most (even Jewish) parents, mine warned my sister and me that if we were not good, there would be no toys on the floor or goodies in our stockings.
Yet there always were. Mind you, the stocking stuffers were never awe-inspiring. They were usually oranges, walnuts, and tiny toy cars. Still, they were not the lumps of coal we were assured was the fate of the naughty.
Nowadays our president, Barack Obama, likes to portray himself as a sort of universal Santa Claus. He is forever bragging about the gifts he has bestowed on everyone — with the possible exception of the rich.
As he sees it, he is bringing social justice to the poor, prosperity to the middle classes, and peace to all humankind. And the most wondrous gift of all — why it is Obamacare. It is touted as a magical elixir that will cure all of our health woes forever and ever.
Only, as luck would have it, this has been the year of coal in our collective stockings. Thus, we have been provided with an international agreement that allows Iran to continue moving toward nuclear armament. In return for lots of money, it is not even required to stop enriching uranium.
Then here at home we have been blessed with a budget deal that does not reduce spending, but instead increases the deficit. Meanwhile millions of Americans have had their medical insurance canceled, at the same time that an incompetently designed website prevents them from purchasing ridiculously expensive substitutes.
Nor, of course, has the economy taken a decisive turn upward. It remains stuck in neutral with little to show for years of Keynesian-style pump-priming.
So why is this so? Have we been bad little boys and girls? If we listen carefully to our president, the answer seems to be yes. For instance, in his view, we deserve to have our international pretentions clipped because we have been insufferably arrogant. As a consequence, we must now stand aside to allow nations like Iran to have their day in the sun.
Likewise on the home front, we have been equally egotistical. We have denied the poor social justice and trampled on the dignity of minorities, women, and the sexually dispossessed. We have even forced undocumented immigrants to suffer the humiliation of sitting in line to wait for health care at hospital emergency rooms.
According to Obama, however, our fundamental sin seems to be overweening pride in our successes. Many of us apparently think we built this nation. Others are falsely convinced we used our superior power to protect the world from tyranny. But no — this is our selfishness speaking.
I, on the other hand, believe our transgressions lie elsewhere. I would describe our greatest sin as political negligence. We, at least a lot of us, believed our president when he told us we could keep our insurance plans and our doctors. He got away with these lies because so many Americans refused to verify his words.
Think also of the young women who naively believed there was a conservative war against them that would be remedied by free birth control. Or what about those Jews who trusted Obama when he declared himself a faithful friend of Israel? Or how about those insurance companies that assumed Obamacare would make them rich?
A year ago, we might collectively have stopped the Obama sleigh from delivering today’s lumps of coal, but too many voters childishly chose to believe what they heard without doing due political diligence.
Sadly, we got what even they did not want.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D. is a professor of Sociology at Kennesaw State University.