Santa Sighting: Mr. Kringle was last seen boarding this chopper for Gitmo. Who will save Christmas?
No Virginia, there is no Santa Claus
By Dean Opperman
In 1898 the New York Sun received a letter from a young reader asking if there was a Santa Claus. Their answer has since become a holiday perennial. Recently, the Bohemian received a similar letter, and we've asked Dean Opperman to reply.
The benevolent grandfather figure we call Santa Claus was doing fine until a few years ago. That's when Enron subsidiary North Pole Energy tripled his electric rates. He was also slammed with a massive increase in his workers' comp rates, and suddenly Santa's overhead jumped a whopping 55 percent! Then the SPCA got on his case. Alarmed that Santa was making his reindeer fly to every house in the world in one night, they charged him with cruelty to animals. Hoping to avoid litigation, Santa agreed to spread his deliveries over several weeks, but this meant an increased flight schedule and increased exposure to holes in the ozone layer. As a result, Rudolf got melanoma and had to have his nose removed, which led to Santa being cited by the FAA for flying without warning lights.
Santa was finding it harder to deliver his gifts, too. Most people didn't have chimneys anymore, so Santa had to figure out ways to get into central heating ducts. Sometimes he couldn't even get that far. The minute he landed on a roof, motion detectors set off sirens, and in one instance, Santa was zapped by a taser gun, which sent him into cardiac arrest. You might have seen that episode of Cops. But that's what happens when you walk around in a bright red suit these days--people either think you're a televangelist or one of the homeless. No wonder the police beat him to within an inch of his life.
When Santa regained consciousness, he was facing unsavory questions about an alleged stocking fetish and his long history of asking children to sit on his lap. Suddenly Santa was the villain du jour on all the talk shows. They blamed him for everything: the Me Generation, expectations of something for nothing . . . They even said he was "Old Europe," and one pundit implied Santa's incessant gift-giving sounded suspiciously like welfare.
But hang on to your Ann Coulter doll, Virginia, because it gets worse. It was no secret that the White House had long sought to restructure Santa along "compassionate conservative" lines. The president began talking about "regime change" and secretly advocated a plan to install a new, less personal Santa Claus, one who'd be willing to steal toys from the middle class and give them all to the rich.
The president went before the United Nations to make the case that Santa's village was really a terrorist camp. He produced documents showing Santa was importing box cutters. He held up rolls of gift wrap he claimed were being used for concealment purposes, and he displayed satellite photos showing white powder all over the village grounds. Then the president claimed it was anthrax and launched a preemptive strike. Poor Santa! He didn't know his village sat atop the North Sea oil slope.
But the fates were on Santa's side that night. A massive snowstorm blinded the invaders, providing just enough time for Santa and his helpers to escape. Over 1,000 elves, carefully disguised as members of the bin Laden family, crossed three international borders and made it into Mexico without difficulty. But for Mr. and Mrs. Claus and their eight tiny reindeer, it was a difficult trip. Mustering all his flying skills, Santa evaded Predator missiles by darting through the aurora borealis and down into the ice canyons of Russia, where they hid in a freighter full of suitcase nukes bound for the Americas.
Meanwhile, deep in the jungles of Mexico, Santa was eight days overdue. The leaderless elves had all but given up hope when someone spotted Santa's battered sleigh on the distant horizon. A great cheer arose when Santa cleared the tops of the coca trees and skidded to a stop on an abandoned CIA airstrip. The elves were so happy, they popped for a trip to Club Med Cancun so Santa could get some rest. In return Santa promised to do what he could to land them 18-cent-per-hour gigs at Wal-Mart's polo shirt factory in nearby Chiapas.
Back at the White House, political operatives began to see certain advantages to a rehabilitated Santa. They cooked up a scheme to send in a team of paramilitary troopers to rescue him. Along with an embedded press, they stormed Club Med's aromatherapy center where Santa was undergoing a eucalyptus wrap. Fighting off a cadre of vicious spa workers, the troopers grabbed the old man and brought him back to the states, where he underwent months of brainwashing before being trotted before the cameras on the Fox News channel.
For weeks, the story circulated that Santa had been held against his will by the Cali cartel until rescued by our boys. And now, the whole world watched as Santa was finally allowed to speak. But when he did, he raised a mighty fist and proclaimed the whole thing to be a lie! Yes, Virginia, Santa refused to stick to his script, and in today's world, that's bad juju.
The White House had too much invested in the rescue to let the truth emerge. Besides, Santa's rescue was already the basis of a TV movie depicting the president hacking through jungle underbrush to single-handedly rescue the old man. So the president reached for the hotline to Rupert Murdoch. Immediately, he cut the power to his studios, and Santa was off the air. When the lights came back on a few minutes later, Santa was missing, and now the order went out: Bring back Santa Claus, dead or alive!
Before it was all over, the wily old trickster led federal investigators on a 13-state chase. In the blue states, Santa was an antihero, helped along by grass-roots organizations. In the red states, Santa was vilified by the public, a pariah often forced to choose between food and shelter. Longtime physical maladies like toy-bag elbow and lower GI Joe disturbance returned to plague him. Santa was weak with chest pains from years of free eggnog, and at one point, was almost nabbed in an FBI sting while trying to trade his sleigh for some Lipitor.
The end finally came outside Waco, Texas, when Mrs. Claus gave Santa up for a seven-figure book deal. As federal troops closed in, Santa snapped and drove his sleigh through a mall filled with Christmas shoppers. It was the last time anyone ever saw him alive.
So, Virginia, essentially, there is no Santa Claus, not this year. He's being held incommunicado in Guantanamo where he's beyond the help of international law.
And I wouldn't count too much on Daddy for gifts this year either. He's strapped with credit-card debt and a second mortgage, so he's got no money for presents. Your best bet is to start kissing up to your neighborhood right-wing extremist. If you're nice, he might give you one of those nifty Deck of Fugitives card sets. It has full color pictures of all the evildoers: Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Tinkerbell, the Great Pumpkin and many others. You're going to want a set so you can follow all the action as the president mortgages your future to chase down these phantoms wherever they arise.
He hasn't gotten them all, Virginia, but he's smoking 'em out of their holes.
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From the December 15-21, 2004 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.