By John Silveira

December 21, 1999

Even as a little kid I didn’t like Santa Claus. I liked the loot he brought; I wanted toys. With some trepidation, I even sat in his lap at the Jordan Marsh department store in downtown Boston. But I hated him. I feared him. There was something sinister about how he was “making a list and checking it twice” and how “he knows when you’ve been sleeping, he knows when you’re awake.” He was spying on me. It was bad enough I had my older sisters reporting on me without some fat stranger following me around–watching. I’d already been told by my mother and teachers that strangers were dangerous. They said they sometimes offered candy for unspeakable things.

Perhaps you think I was a rotten little kid with lots to hide. I wasn’t. I was considered pretty good by the parents in the neighborhood, though a little mischievous. Yet, a lot of the things I did, that put me on Santa’s bad list, I knew weren’t “bad” at all. They were just annoying to adults: Tracking mud in the house, standing up for myself and getting into squabbles with neighbor kids and my sisters, even poor grades in school. Nonetheless, they all went on his list along with murder, mayhem, and stealing. Everything was a crime.

One of the stories told in my family was that when one of my aunts was a kid, she did something bad and got a stocking full of coal one year. I tried to figure out what kind of sick sadist did this to a little girl.

And he was always watching. That bugged me. It didn’t seem to bother the other kids, but it did me. They seemed to think it was a good trade-off for the loot we got. But he was watching us all the time. That meant even when we were changing our clothes and when we were in the tub. I didn’t know the word pervert then, but that didn’t stop me from thinking there was something wrong with this stranger who looked at naked kids, toys or no toys.

Here were his rules: Be good, do as you’re told, and you’ll get a whole bunch of free goodies; cross Santa and you’ll get screwed. I had four older sisters; I didn’t need more stess in my life.

To make matters worse, he broke into our houses. I knew that was against the law. That may not have bothered you when you were a kid, but I could never figure out why he didn’t just knock on the door or leave the loot on the front porch. He forced entry and snuck in and who knew what he did while everyone was sleeping? I didn’t want to wake up and find some fat guy with a beard and a uniform looming over me in my bed. Even now it gives me the shudders.

Eventually I figured out there is no Santa Claus. Nothing was free. Christmas was possible only because my parents worked hard. But Santa got the credit. He never produced a thing.

But my fears persist. Today there’s this bunch of guys in Washington, D.C. and more and more, each year, they compile lists of who’s been good and who’s been bad. They penalize anyone and everyone who doesn’t conform to their wishes: the states have to comply with federal rules or get funding cut off; you and I have to conform or get fined, or have our property seized by asset forfeiture laws, or we can go to jail. They spy on us and keep records on us and have most of us convinced this is okay because it’s for our own good–same racket Santa ran. Besides, if you’re not doing anything wrong, what’s the problem? Why should it matter to you if the bureaucrats and politicians snoop through your bank accounts, eavesdrop on your phone calls, or set cameras up to watch you? Why should you care as long as you’re not doing anything wrong? (Of course guys like Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Mason wouldn’t have liked it, but look what they did–they started a revolution and wound up on King George III’s list.)

And look what they’re giving us. Why, a whole goody bag of subsidies, revenues to the states, welfare, tax returns, federal grants, etc. But how do they provide them? Well, just like Santa, they don’t produce a damned thing. They just take away from those who do produce, dispense it as they see fit–whether you want them or not, then pat themselves on the back, take the credit, and expect you to say, “Thank you.”

The government is just a Santa Claus who can throw you in jail.

When I was a kid, the only thing better than having a bunch of toys on Christmas morning was getting Christmas over with and having the sleezy old bastard, his lists, his sneaking around, and his spying gone for another year. The Santa we have in Washington is there day after day after day, and he gets bigger and fatter year after year, and he’s never, never, never going to go away. Ho, ho, ho.


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