This is the one season of the year when Americans from all walks of life pause and give thought to the problems of the rich. These unfortunate few are condemned to suffer the bleakest Christmases of anybody, because they already have all possible presents that genius and Neiman-Marcus can devise. It is, indeed, a tragedy of our times.

One sign of it is that Cartier, the jeweler who made "must" a noun describing something you cannot live without once someone has explained to you what the hell it is, is again pushing its love bracelet.

You remember the love bracelet. It had a great vogue a while back, not only in its $500 18-karat gold version, but in its electroplated version at $6 with any purchase over $6.50. The thing is a narrow bracelet with screws in it, into which the wearer is locked by the donor by means of a matching screwdriver, which the donor then pockets. This is what is known as a commitment. Unlike a wedding ring, it cannot be slipped into a pocket or thrown into a river when things go wrong.

But it is frightening to think of the people who may be committing themselves to giving or receiving such a present without adequate warning. Since the bracelet has been on the market some time, the sellers should have undertaken the responsibility of studying it use and warning and counseling prospective users.

What has happened to those who were locked together during previous Christmases? Did those who have stayed together find happiness, or just lose the screwdrivers? Were there casualties among those who tried to tear themselves away? In custody disputes, who got the bracelet? Does a bracelet unlocked by an unrelated screwdriver, even one of baser metal, represent true freedom? Is it legal to wear more than one? Are the chances of happiness greater with real gold?

Perphas we could best honor the Christmas spirit by using the occasion to grant amnesty and freedom to all the old prisoners of love, before any new captives are taken.