Still Believe

September 25th, 2020

John Payne And Edmund Gwenn

(published in The Daily Memphian)

(photo: John Payne (l.) as defense attorney, Fred Gailey, and Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle)

When you and I were little, we believed in Santa Claus. Come on, of course we did.

Somebody ate the cookies and drank the milk left in the living room after we went to bed. Somebody put things under the tree that weren’t there before, things we wanted but weren’t sure we were going to get. We’d been good, but we’d been bad, too, and Christmas morning was the accounting. The whole list wasn’t there, but something was, and there was something about the morning, something in the anticipation of it that made its arrival a present in and of itself.

There was magic in the night air Christmas Eve. Even the quiet had a sound to it, the still a feel to it. There was faith moving through it. There was hope in it.

Maybe you remember the 1947 movie Miracle On 34th Street. Come on, of course you do. 

Kris Kringle, a Santa Claus at Macy’s, claimed to be the real Santa and was put on trial by the state of New York as insane, facing being committed to an institution. On Christmas Eve, the final day of the trial, Kringle’s lawyer presents his proof to the court that he is, indeed, who he says he is – three letters addressed only to “Santa Claus” and delivered by the Post Office to Mr. Kringle at the courthouse.

In his argument, the lawyer points out that the Post Office Department was established by the Second Continental Congress, and that the postmaster general was Benjamin Franklin. He further adds, “that United States postal laws and regulations make it a criminal offense to willfully misdirect mail or intentionally deliver it to the wrong party. Consequently, the Department uses every possible precaution.”

The prosecutor objects that, “three letters are hardly positive proof. I understand the Post Office receives thousands of these letters every year.”

The defense lawyer then has thousands upon thousands of letters to Santa Claus that were delivered to the courthouse brought forward and poured on the judge’s desk. He digs himself out of the pile and declares:

“Since the United States government declares this man to be Santa Claus, this court will not dispute it. Case dismissed.”

The faith of a little girl played by Natalie Wood was restored, the world-weary cynicism of her mother played by Maureen O’Hara was defeated, and if you think Kris Kringle wasn’t believable, the role won Edmund Gwenn the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1947. The movie was nominated for Best Picture.

I still believe in the spirit of Santa Claus and in the reality of the United States Post Office.

For a couple of centuries plus, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night ... nor the political machinations of both parties and most presidents ... nor the political placement of completely unqualified if not nefarious appointees ... stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

The Post Office still survives despite the best efforts of every Congress since our birth to underfund it, mismanage it, blame it, and use it for their own purposes to make a point.

If you want proof, just look at those ridiculous clown cars they make them wheeze around in, or the ugliest buildings in America they make them work in, or the ridiculously low price of the postage they’re forced to charge, or the current deceitful attempt by the sitting president to set them up as a fall guy if he loses the election.

Yet the mail is still delivered and still will be. Including your vote. Including Christmas cards. Including letters to Santa.

It’s almost like a miracle on every street. Believe in it. 

Thank your postal carrier, or somebody at your post office, or both, for what they do. And don’t let anybody ... anybody ... stop you from voting.

Those are good things. Do them and you might just get what you want this year.

I’m a Memphian, and I still believe.

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