A Christmas Play In One Act

This post originally ran two years ago. Then current events inspired the post; events haven’t changed much since then.

Scene: Night Court, Manhattan; a date in the near future.
Players: Prosecutor, Judge, and Gandler, the defendant.

Judge: Mr Prosecutor.

Prosecutor: Your honor, case 12A. The defendant, Mr Helmut Gandler, was caught giving possible offense earlier this evening, a clear violation of the Totenberg Act.

Judge: Details? And since it’s almost that time, perhaps we can cut these short. Unless we’re expecting difficulties?

Prosecutor: None that I foresee, your honor. Mr Gandler was coming out of Macy’s with an armload of parcels, and a gentleman—do we have his name? No?—at any rate, this unnamed gentleman opened the door for Mr Gandler. After exiting the store, at this point Mr Gandler very clearly used—in public—a phrase forbidden by the Totenberg Act. I can produce one Officer Lanscomb Sculpio who was witness to the events and who will tell the court that Ransom directed this phrase at the unknown gentleman.

Judge: Very well. I see, Mr Gandler, that you have chosen to represent yourself. This is never a wise course. I am perfectly willing to suspend this case until tomorrow if you choose to accept a public defender. One will be provided to you at no expense.

Gandler: What happens to me in the meantime?

Judge: You will be held in the cells until court re-convenes tomorrow.

Gandler: In that case, I choose to defend myself. I did nothing wrong.

Judge: That is not for you to decide, Mr Gandler. You have heard the charges against you. What have you to say in your defense?

Gandler: I don’t know why I’m here!

Judge: No need to raise your voice. The charge is that you, in public, used a phrase that was illegal. Do you deny this?

Gandler: All I remember is saying “Merry Christmas” to the gentleman who helped—

Judge (pounding his gavel): Order! I will have order! Mr Gandler, I must caution you strongly that by your actions, you may be confounding your original offense. This is your last warning and your last chance to enter a proper defense.

Gandler (exasperated): But what did I do!?

Prosecutor: If I may, you honor?

Judge: Please.

Prosecutor: Although I am anxious that the law be upheld, in fairness I believe this case might have extenuating circumstances. According the records, Mr Gandler is a recent immigrant to the country. From Austria, I believe.

Judge: Thank you, Mr Prosecutor. That is just the sort of disinterestedness I have come to expect from you. Now then, Mr Gandler. You see you are very lucky to have such a generous opponent. But let me impart to you that ignorance of a law is no excuse for breaking it. How long have you been in this country?

Gandler: I arrived almost a year ago this very day. On Christmas day, in fact.

Judge (pounding his gavel): Order! This is my last warning! If I do not have silence, I will clear the public gallery. I expect no more outbursts. Mr Gandler! Please—we must put an end to this immediately! Do you not know that what you are saying is illegal?

Gandler: But all I said was M

Judge: Hold it! You must have known that that phrase is illegal?

Gandler: But I didn’t! I thought this was the land of free speech!

Judge: Of course it is. Anybody is free to use that kind of language in the privacy of his or her own home— providing, naturally, that he or she is in no danger of being overheard by any neighbor, and if there are no children under sixteen residing in that household. You have complete freedom to say anything you like! But in private.

Gandler: I don’t understand.

Judge: Mr Gander, this is a nation of immigrants. Like yourself. If you are to remain in this country, you will come to understand that we all must have respect for each others’ opinions. That is why we cannot use that phrase. Why, just think! The gentleman who opened the door for you could have been an atheist!

Gandler: This doesn’t sound right…

Judge: And, if so, he could have been offended! We must not offend, Mr Gandler, particularly certain groups. Or what if that gentleman had been a government official! Then you would have been guilty of two crimes, one especially serious.

Gandler: Two?

Judge: Separation of Church and State. Uttering forbidden phrases could be construed as you seeking to influence the government in matters of religion. That cannot be stood for. Now, Mr Gandler. I can appreciate that your knowledge of these matters is sketchy. That is no excuse, as I have said. But I cannot see that punishing you—this time—will be productive. So I will let you off with a warning. Please be more considerate in the future. Then we can avoid these little difficulties, eh?

Gandler (bewildered): Thank you, sir.

Judge: Mr Prosecutor, I am looking at the clock.

Prosecutor: I see that your honor.

Judge: Almost time for today’s broadcast…so unless we have pressing business, we had best recess until tomorrow night.

Prosecutor: Very good, your honor.

Gandler (while exiting): And I thought yodeling was bad


  1. Largo

    STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT RIGHT NOW! STOP IT! All right, no one is to stone _anyone_ until I blow this whistle. Even… and I want to make this absolutely clear… even if they do say, “Jehovah.

  2. Doug M

    The worlds most opulant Christmas tree is in Dubai. The Moslems tollerate chistmas. The Jews never seemed to care either way.

    It seems only the radical secularists hate christmas.

  3. Noblesse Oblige

    In Kurt Vonnegut’s “2081,” equality is achieved by inhibiting the effectiveness of those with special skills, reducing everyoone literally to the least common denominator. Alas, even he did not envision the idiocy of reducing speech to the least common denomintaor in which no one can be offended.

  4. AusieDan

    It seems that there is just time for me to wish you all a merry xmas.
    i’ll duck out now very quickly before you can put in the boot.

    O’h and a happy NY to you all (there i think i’m on safer grounds now).

  5. AusieDan

    I’ve forgotten again.
    Yanks can never understand Ausie humour or humor.

    But Matt, I really appreciate your expertise in statistics.
    Please do keep that up.

  6. Sera

    Fahrenheit 451 all over again.

  7. AusieDan, happy NY and don’t forget your Blue Lizard as you suffer your climate.

  8. Luis Dias

    I’m a radical secularist and I really don’t understand one yota of your ridiculous “war on christmas”… guess it must be an american thingy. Which is hilarious per se, since america is way more christian than we here in europe… and way more stressed out about a non-issue lol

  9. Briggs


    This “play” has nothing to do with Christmas.

  10. Luis Dias

    No? You should be aware that because I am not an american, your jokes may pass way above my head… I may be taking you seriously when I shouldn’t… anyways, the point stands, I still don’t understand that crazy scene about the war on christmas…

  11. Gary

    For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
    And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
    Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
    He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
    establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
    The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

    Merry Christmas, Mr. Briggs.

  12. Sera

    May God cast a gentle eye upon you and your family, Mr. Briggs. Merry Christmas.

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