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No, Virgina, There is no Santa Claus

Send him mail.

“The Self Owner” is an original column appearing every Wednesday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Spencer W. Morgan. Spencer is a husband and father, and has studied History and Philosophy at the University of Utah. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here.

Every‭ ‬Holiday‭ ‬season,‭ ‬Francis‭ ‬Church‭’‬s‭ ‬famous‭ ‬editorial‭ ‬reply‭ ‬to‭ ‬a‭ ‬question‭ ‬asked‭ ‬by‭ ‬8-year‭ ‬old‭ ‬Virginia‭ ‬Hanlon‭ ‬in‭ ‬1897‭ ‬makes‭ ‬it‭’‬s‭ ‬way‭ ‬through‭ ‬the‭ ‬popular‭ ‬culture.‭ ‬Although‭ ‬generally‭ ‬upheld‭ ‬as‭ an ‬icon‭ ‬of‭ ‬holiday‭ ‬sentiment,‭ ‬and‭ ‬the‭ “‬giving‭ ‬spirit‭,”‬ ‬I‭ ‬find‭ ‬the‭ ‬editorial‭ ‬to‭ ‬be‭ ‬deeply‭ ‬disturbing.‭ ‬I‭ ‬can‭’‬t‭ ‬recall‭ ‬a‭ ‬time‭ ‬in‭ ‬my‭ ‬childhood‭ ‬when‭ ‬I‭ ‬did‭ ‬not‭ ‬at‭ ‬least‭ ‬suspect‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬Claus‭ ‬to‭ ‬be‭ ‬a‭ ‬falsehood.‭ ‬Ever‭ ‬since‭ ‬the‭ ‬reality‭ ‬was‭ ‬confirmed‭ ‬for‭ ‬me‭ ‬as‭ ‬a‭ ‬child,‭ ‬I‭ ‬have‭ ‬been‭ ‬disturbed‭ ‬by‭ ‬this‭ ‬famous‭ ‬editorial‭ ‬both‭ ‬because‭ ‬of‭ ‬its‭ ‬efforts‭ ‬to‭ ‬substitute‭ ‬the‭ ‬believed‭ ‬for‭ ‬the‭ ‬real,‭ ‬and‭ ‬for‭ ‬it‭’‬s‭ ‬callous‭ ‬failure‭ ‬to‭ ‬simply‭ ‬give‭ ‬a‭ ‬child‭ ‬the‭ ‬truth‭ ‬about‭ ‬reality‭ ‬they‭ ‬are‭ ‬seeking.‭

Children‭ ‬are‭ ‬trusting‭ ‬by‭ ‬nature,‭ ‬and‭ ‬highly‭ ‬dependent‭ ‬on‭ ‬those‭ ‬around‭ ‬them‭ ‬as‭ ‬a‭ ‬barometer‭ ‬about‭ ‬reality.‭ ‬Conflicting‭ ‬messages‭ ‬can‭ ‬lead‭ ‬to‭ ‬a‭ ‬deep‭ ‬mistrust,‭ ‬especially‭ ‬when‭ ‬asserted‭ ‬as‭ ‬a‭ ‬matter‭ ‬of‭ ‬authority‭ ‬or‭ ‬on‭ ‬the‭ ‬basis‭ ‬of‭ ‬fear‭ ‬of‭ ‬punishment‭ ‬as‭ ‬psychologist‭ ‬James‭ ‬Kimmell‭ ‬has‭ ‬explained.‭

Rather‭ ‬than‭ ‬dissect‭ ‬the‭ ‬problems‭ ‬with‭ ‬this‭ ‬editorial‭ ‬line-by-line,‭ ‬or‭ ‬take‭ ‬a‭ ‬systematic‭ ‬look‭ ‬at‭ ‬the‭ ‬metaphysically‭ ‬and‭ ‬epistemologically‭ ‬monstrous‭ ‬assertions‭ ‬it‭ ‬makes,‭ ‬I‭ ‬have‭ ‬chosen‭ ‬to‭ ‬write‭ ‬the‭ ‬reply‭ ‬Virginia‭ ‬should‭ ‬have‭ ‬received.‭ ‬A‭ ‬careful‭ ‬contrast‭ ‬between‭ ‬my‭ ‬reply‭ ‬and‭ ‬the‭ ‬original‭ ‬should‭ ‬reveal‭ ‬my‭ ‬specific‭ ‬concerns.

‭”‬DEAR‭ ‬EDITOR:‭ ‬I‭ ‬am‭ ‬8‭ ‬years‭ ‬old.‭ ‬Some‭ ‬of‭ ‬my‭ ‬little‭ ‬friends‭ ‬say‭ ‬there‭ ‬is‭ ‬no‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬Claus.‭ Papa‭ ‬says,‭ ‘‬If‭ ‬you‭ ‬see‭ ‬it‭ ‬in‭ ‬THE‭ ‬SUN‭ [‬newspaper‭] ‬it‭’‬s‭ ‬so.‭’ ‬Please‭ ‬tell‭ ‬me‭ ‬the‭ ‬truth‭; ‬is‭ ‬there‭ ‬a‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬Claus‭?”

Virginia,‭ ‬your‭ ‬friends‭ ‬are‭ ‬correct.‭ ‬They‭ ‬probably‭ ‬have‭ ‬done‭ ‬a‭ ‬lot‭ ‬of‭ ‬thinking‭ ‬about‭ ‬the‭ ‬parts‭ ‬of‭ ‬the‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬Claus‭ ‬story‭ ‬that‭ ‬seem,‭ ‬and‭ ‬are‭ ‬indeed,‭ ‬impossible.‭ ‬They‭ ‬may‭ ‬have‭ ‬even‭ ‬seen‭ ‬their‭ ‬parents‭ ‬hiding‭ ‬presents‭ ‬or‭ ‬laying‭ ‬them‭ ‬out‭ ‬on‭ ‬Christmas‭ ‬Eve‭ ‬instead‭ ‬of‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬Claus.‭ ‬You‭ ‬are‭ ‬old‭ ‬enough‭ ‬now,‭ ‬being‭ ‬8‭ ‬years‭ ‬old,‭ ‬that‭ ‬you‭ ‬have‭ ‬probably‭ ‬thought‭ ‬of‭ ‬some‭ ‬of‭ ‬these‭ ‬things‭ ‬yourself‭ ‬and‭ ‬would‭ ‬have‭ ‬figured‭ ‬this‭ ‬out‭ ‬on‭ ‬your‭ ‬own‭ ‬soon.‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬Claus‭ ‬is‭ ‬not‭ ‬real.‭ ‬Your‭ ‬mind‭ ‬is‭ ‬strong,‭ ‬and‭ ‬it‭ ‬is‭ ‬the‭ ‬only‭ ‬tool‭ ‬you‭ ‬have‭ ‬for‭ ‬deciding‭ ‬things‭ ‬about‭ ‬the‭ ‬world.‭ ‬Don‭’‬t‭ ‬ever‭ ‬let‭ ‬anyone‭ ‬tell‭ ‬you‭ ‬that‭ ‬your‭ ‬mind‭ ‬is‭ ‬something‭ ‬that‭ ‬is‭ ‬broken,‭ ‬or‭ ‬that‭ ‬you‭ ‬should‭ ‬set‭ ‬it‭ ‬aside‭ ‬in‭ ‬favor‭ ‬of‭ ‬what‭ ‬others‭ ‬have‭ ‬decided‭ ‬for‭ ‬you.‭

I‭’‬m‭ ‬not‭ ‬going‭ ‬to‭ ‬tell‭ ‬you‭ ‬that‭ ‬your‭ ‬parents‭ ‬didn‭’‬t‭ ‬lie‭ ‬to‭ ‬you‭ ‬when‭ ‬they‭ ‬told‭ ‬you‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬was‭ ‬real,‭ ‬because‭ ‬they‭ ‬did.‭ ‬But‭ ‬I‭ ‬want‭ ‬to‭ ‬help‭ ‬you‭ ‬understand‭ ‬some‭ ‬of‭ ‬the‭ ‬reasons‭ ‬why‭ ‬most‭ ‬parents‭ ‬tell‭ ‬this‭ ‬lie‭ ‬to‭ ‬their‭ ‬children.‭ ‬You‭ ‬should‭ ‬also‭ ‬ask‭ ‬them‭ ‬about‭ ‬it.‭ ‬I‭ ‬am‭ ‬sure‭ ‬your‭ ‬parents‭ ‬want‭ ‬you‭ ‬to‭ ‬trust‭ ‬them,‭ ‬and‭ ‬once‭ ‬they‭ ‬realize‭ ‬that‭ ‬you‭ ‬know‭ ‬the‭ ‬truth‭ ‬about‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬Claus,‭ ‬will‭ ‬help‭ ‬you‭ ‬to‭ ‬understand‭ ‬why‭ ‬they‭ ‬did‭ ‬it.‭

‬There‭ ‬are‭ ‬a‭ ‬lot‭ ‬of‭ ‬traditions‭ ‬in‭ ‬this‭ ‬world‭ ‬people‭ ‬enjoy.‭ ‬A‭ ‬tradition‭ ‬is‭ ‬something‭ ‬that‭ ‬gets‭ ‬passed‭ ‬down‭ ‬from‭ ‬parents‭ ‬to‭ ‬children,‭ ‬and‭ ‬people‭ ‬just‭ ‬sort‭ ‬of‭ ‬go‭ ‬along‭ ‬with‭ it because‭ ‬it’s always‭ ‬how‭ ‬things‭ ‬have‭ ‬been‭ ‬done.‭ ‬My‭ ‬parents‭ ‬taught‭ ‬me‭ ‬about‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬Claus,‭ ‬as‭ ‬did‭ ‬theirs‭ ‬and‭ ‬theirs‭ ‬before‭ ‬them.‭

Our‭ ‬parents‭ ‬love‭ ‬us,‭ ‬and‭ ‬every‭ ‬year‭ ‬they‭ ‬enjoy‭ ‬seeing‭ ‬the‭ ‬happiness‭ ‬that‭ ‬they‭ ‬can‭ ‬bring‭ ‬us‭ ‬through‭ ‬giving‭ ‬gifts.‭ ‬For‭ ‬many‭ ‬people,‭ ‬it‭ ‬is‭ ‬embarrassing‭ ‬to‭ ‬take‭ ‬credit‭ ‬for‭ ‬a‭ ‬gift‭ ‬and‭ ‬it‭ ‬is‭ ‬easier‭ ‬and‭ ‬more‭ ‬fun‭ ‬to‭ ‬give‭ ‬a‭ ‬gift‭ ‬when‭ ‬someone‭ ‬doesn‭’‬t‭ ‬know‭ ‬it‭ ‬came‭ ‬from‭ ‬you.‭ ‬Have‭ ‬you‭ ‬ever‭ ‬given‭ ‬someone‭ ‬a‭ ‬present‭ ‬secretly‭? ‬Wasn‭’‬t‭ ‬it‭ ‬really‭ ‬fun‭ ‬seeing‭ ‬how surprised‭ ‬and‭ ‬happy‭ ‬they‭ ‬were‭ ‬without‭ ‬them‭ ‬knowing‭ ‬it‭ ‬was‭ ‬you‭ ‬who‭ ‬gave‭ ‬them‭ ‬the‭ ‬present‭? ‬Pretending‭ ‬to‭ ‬be‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬Claus‭ ‬every‭ ‬year‭ ‬is‭ ‬just‭ ‬a‭ ‬fun‭ ‬way‭ ‬for‭ ‬your‭ ‬parents‭ ‬to‭ ‬give‭ ‬you‭ ‬gifts‭ ‬without‭ ‬you‭ ‬knowing‭ ‬they‭ ‬came‭ ‬from‭ ‬them.‭

You‭ ‬are‭ ‬a‭ ‬very‭ ‬smart‭ ‬girl,‭ ‬Virginia.‭ ‬I‭’‬m‭ ‬sure‭ ‬you‭ ‬would‭ ‬have‭ ‬figured‭ ‬this‭ ‬out‭ ‬soon‭ ‬even‭ ‬if‭ ‬I‭ ‬did‭ ‬not‭ ‬tell‭ ‬you.‭ ‬Now‭ ‬that‭ ‬you‭ ‬know‭ ‬the‭ ‬secret‭ ‬about‭ ‬the‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬Claus‭ ‬game,‭ ‬I‭ ‬hope‭ ‬you‭ ‬have‭ ‬a‭ ‬lot‭ ‬of‭ ‬fun‭ ‬with‭ ‬your‭ ‬friends,‭ ‬family‭ ‬and‭ ‬your‭ ‬future‭ ‬children‭ ‬giving‭ ‬them‭ ‬secret‭ ‬presents‭ ‬at‭ ‬Christmas‭ ‬time.‭ ‬But‭ ‬please‭ ‬don‭’‬t‭ ‬feel‭ ‬like‭ ‬you‭ ‬ever‭ ‬need‭ ‬to‭ ‬lie‭ ‬to‭ ‬them‭ ‬about‭ ‬something‭ ‬you‭ ‬know‭ ‬isn‭’‬t‭ ‬real.‭

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Spencer W. Morgan

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