How Santa Decides | Opinion | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

How Santa Decides 

Taking a Gander: After 2021, Old Nick struggles to find his 'ho-ho-ho.'

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Dear Santa, I just wanted to get your take on what's happening in our world. Assuming that you have either cable or satellite, I'm sure you're upset about the ongoing tragedies of 2021.

With all the senseless killing—the tragic legacy of Browning and Colt—challenges to women's rights, a pandemic that refuses to go away and America's democracy under siege, you must be pretty upset with the "kiddies" this year. I'll bet you're even having a hard time mustering up a "ho-ho-ho" these days.

I'm curious, how do you actually decide who's naughty or who's nice? It seems to me, it's a pretty complex question, since there's almost no way for someone to be 100% nice or totally naughty. It's always a mix, so what's the bad-to-good ratio that results in a lump-of-coal Christmas?

I'm also wondering how you can know people's thoughts—so important in assigning culpability for bad deeds. Motive and frame of mind certainly deserve consideration. You must be related to God; he's supposed to be the only one who actually knows what's going on inside people's heads.

Of course, you know why I'm asking these questions—I want to know where I stand. If I'm on your "naughty" list, I'll need to really hustle to buy myself some presents to place beneath the tree. Or, better still, if my chances are looking bad, please tell me if there's some way I can get back on your "nice" list.

Just in case you need some evidence, I'd like to put a good word in for myself. In 2021, I helped an elderly woman across a busy downtown street—just like the Boy Scout cliché. I do the dishes every evening, make the bed every morning, shower at least twice a month, helped bulldoze a homeless camp, got my vaccine, wore my mask and tossed my bump-stock into the garbage. I must admit, I am glowing with pride, recounting my many good deeds. Surely, you're happy with me.

Anyway, I know how busy you are this time of the year, but I'm hoping you'll have time to answer this letter. You can make it brief—or even write it in shorthand. I just want to breathe that sigh of relief, knowing that I'm among the good boys and girls and that you'll be looking for my chimney on Christmas Eve.

Most importantly, I want you to know how much I love you and believe in you. You're the best, Santa! Love, Mikey.

Dear Mikey, thanks for taking the time to send me a letter. All the texts are driving me mad. It was a rare treat to actually find something in my postal box. Your thoughtfulness—in taking the time to grab your pen and ink—pretty much ensures you'll make Santa's "nice" list. It's a great start.

But I'm not so sure. When you walked the senior woman across the busy street, you actually helped a bank robber, in a Mrs. Doubtfire-esque disguise, to escape. Well, at least your heart was in the right place.

I'm impressed that you're doing some of the repetitive household chores. But, think about it: You've been doing the dishes with nitrate-laden dish soap. That messes-up the environment and contaminates the groundwater. So irresponsible. And sorry, Mikey, razing a homeless camp pretty much cancels-out your good-boy acts.

That said, you do get a kudo for being vaccinated. Protecting those around you is so important. I really like people who look out for their fellow humans. Good job, Mikey!

As for throwing away your bump-stock, I'm not so sure that was a good thing. After all, you kiddies will need your automatic assault rifles during the zombie invasion—and it's coming, right after the great post-COVID reset.

Overall Mikey, I think you're in pretty good shape for Christmas. Lucky for you, I've run out of space on the "naughty" list. All of the available slots are being taken by your legislators, conspiracy theorists, Supreme Court justices and Fox News personalities.

Even some of the good guys—like Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski—are on my "naughty" list this year. They spoke out against naughtiness but could have (and should have) done more. There are sins of commission and ones of omission—they, simply, didn't yell loud enough.

I'm definitely not so jolly these days. As for my use of "ho-ho-ho," I try to lighten my chronic depression with an occasional "ha, ha, ha" for the ongoing antics of Trump and his clown posse. Also, I've decided to hybridize my lists this year. Because bad judgment and stupidity are such big problems today, there is now a combined "naughty and just-plain-stupid" list.

I'm glad you mentioned the matter of what's in someone's heart and mind as possible mitigating circumstances. I know people's hearts—it's an extra sense, refined through practice—and I'm sickened by what I see. Even though they sport their yuletide-red neckties—my favorite color—most Republicans won't make the "nice" list this year.

Incidentally, there are a few people who are being put on the permanent "just-plain-bad" list, with no possibility of redemption. Politicians like Lauren Boebert, Josh Hawley, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz and Kevin McCarthy—to name a few—have made it clear they possess no redeeming value. Their pernicious B.S. is staining the snow and gunking up my sled runners. They've been so terrible, I've actually decided to retire their jerseys.

I hate liars. They might as well forget about both me and Christmas—I'm certainly trying to forget about them. Happy holidays, anyway. Yours truly, Santa.

Michael S. Robinson is a retired businessman, novelist and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. His weekly "Taking a Gander" column can be found at

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