Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Charlie goes to trial

Continued from last week’s column:

The judge peered above his spectacles, fixating on the mustard stain on my sweatshirt. He wanted an explanation.

“Your honor, extra mustard on a Berge’s sandwich,” I said.

Would justice prevail over my disheveled appearance? Adolph Huxley predicted a “Brave New World” in which freedoms would atrophy in lieu of the sensibilities of the Politically Correct. Had it arrived?

“Charlie Kamar,” the judge began, “you are accused of wishing your customers a Merry Christmas. Someone was offended. How do you plead?”

Then, the judge added, “Dr. Joe,” before you state your case, take note: Mr. Kamar’s offense has been compounded; a second individual has complained.”

I looked at Charlie and said, “Shut the front door!”

“Dr. Joe, you’re an iota away from contempt of court,” the judge growled. I gave him one of my patented Bronx stares.

I was ready to proceed, but I’d left my notes at Berge’s. Nevertheless, with a copy of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” in my hand, I told Charlie, “I’m going in on a wing and a prayer.”

In conflict, I understand one modality — offense. In the posturing our respective ideologies, I saw the Achilles' heel of the Politically Correct. It was logic. An illogical mind is often an impenetrable bastion. Reason hides behind emotion and insecurity, subsequently stifling rationality.

“Judge, Dickens didn’t write ‘A Christmas Carol’ simply to tell a story. It was a social commentary written to elicit a response.”

I explained that Dickens viewed Victorian England as an emotional desert, a remnant of industrialism. It was a world void of emotion, goodwill or kindness. And it was consumed by greed. His ambition was to create an alchemy of peace, sharing, feasting, kindness, family, friends and generosity. In 1843 he created the Christmas that we embrace.

“On Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future,” I told the judge. “These ghosts guide him from his loving past, to his loveless present, and then to his dismal future. The vision of his headstone and the realization that no one will mourn his death is an epiphany from a ‘Bah, Humbug’ attitude toward a moral rebirth.

“Judge, the ghost of Christmas past is not a metaphor. It takes us back to our childhood where we recall good times, forgiveness, generosity, kindness and charity, a time when innocence was not yet diluted by the inertia of the heart.”

I told him that the ghost of Christmas present portrays a dismal reality void of Christmas spirit. And the ghost of Christmas future is a finite picture of an existence without love.

The judge scowled and said, “Dr. Joe, are you making this up?”

I replied, “If you understood that Christmas is the joining of this world with the next, you would not ask such a question.”

I continued, “Dickens wrote ‘A Christmas Carol’ to save us from the wasteland, to bring joy and good tidings, if only for short period of time.”

I thought he was on the ropes, so I wanted to exploit the breech that I had created.

“Your honor, ‘Merry Christmas’ has no religious bias. People of all races and religious backgrounds use it. It’s reflective of love and joy. It connects strangers, dissolves anger, evaporates misunderstanding and promotes peace and hope.”

“When Charlie wishes someone ‘Merry Christmas,’ he’s resurrecting an Old English word, ‘Cristemaesse” (Christ’s Mass). Consequently, he wishes that you find the peace and joy associated therewith.”

We waited for the verdict.

“Charlie,” the judge pronounced, “you are guilty of being insensitive and sentenced to sensitivity training in Madison, Wisconsin.”

Charlie was whisked away.

“I’ll come for you,” I shouted.

Immediately I called the Bunters, the bicycle gang from La Cañada.

“Captain, this is Dr. Joe. I lost the case. Charlie is in Wisconsin and we’re going to break him out!”

To be continued.

JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a professor of education at Glendale Community College and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at

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