Although the crucifixion and resurrection are central to Christianity, I am most moved by The Babe in the manger, by his dimpled arms and helpless, weakly grasping hands, by Joseph’s worried face, by Mary’s tired, half-closed eyes, by the scratchy straw on his tender skin and the close dung smell of the animals.
So helpless and so small, the way we all are in the beginning when there is no hint of what will happen to us in our bleeding, painful deaths.
And as I toddle through the years between my birth and my death, I hold The Babe’s hand because it is cold at night and the path forward is not easy to see.
This is my baby, a long-held image from the little Catechism books they gave us in a red brick Catholic grade school on a side street in a working-class neighborhood.
There were no politics then, or I was too young to know. My father was the tallest man in the world. And he smelled of smoke, not because he smoked but because he tended bar and worked in tumbling clouds exhaled by the workingmen on the stools.
“Ah, Christ, Gene,” the men would say to him when they began the story of a layoff or a bad boss.
As a curse and a babe, Christ was much with my father and me, me at my wooden desk, learning the Catechism, and him behind the bar, a cup of coffee in his hand, hearing another story of trouble from a bent-necked man with stubble on his chin and a beer bottle in his hand.
Hank. Chick. French. Whitey. Chip. I knew the names of my father’s regulars from the stories he told about work. I knew the names of the three wise men, too: Sparkle. Melchior. Balthazar.
Pop’s been dead for 32 years. His earthly business with The Babe has been concluded. I remember them both, though, and I can tell the stories of wise men and half-drunk factory workers.
So, as the birth of The Babe comes closer, I bristle for myself and for Pop when fools equate the “suffering” of President Donald Trump with the bloody, pierced, sweat and dirt-caked death of The Babe who walks with me.
Do they not remember the man on the cross as a baby? Didn’t they have those same Catechism books I had as a boy? Perhaps they can equate the death of a man nailed to a cross with the fat, blustering criminal in the White House, but how can they see a line from him to the child American author Jack Kerouac called “little lamb Jesus”?
Those men and women all believe in the death of Christ, who died on no special day, just the day when criminals were executed, the way Georgia might choose Tuesday as the day to execute a murderer.
There is a piece of paper somewhere, stamped and signed, and it says this man will die on this day, and so it must be done because once something is on a piece of paper, the government is shamed if it does not happen. The death order is no different than the signed and stamped piece of paper saying that new desk chairs will be bought for the Bureau of Weights and Measures in your city hall.
These men and women who talk of Trump crucified kneel before the cross and forget The Babe, my babe. They salute the flag and forget the homeless drug-addicted veteran who once held out a chubby hand to his father. They cannot see the line between manger and housing project.
Damn them all.
I will not be lost. I will not worship death. I will not be incinerated by the breath of fools. I hold tight to the hand of The Babe.
— Marc Dion is a retired columnist at the Fall River (Mass.) Herald News and author of The Land of Trumpin’, a collection of his columns about the man who heads what was once the mightiest nation on earth. Contact hin at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter: @MARCMDION. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.