Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The War on the War on Christmas

It's that time of year again for holiday traditions - the War on Christmas!

In our local newspaper, an angry resident writes that it is high time we stopped saying "Happy Holidays" and instead say "Merry Christmas!" as our country was founded on Christian Principles and what's more, it celebrates the birth of our lord-and-savior Jesus Christ.  It is not a "holi-day" but a "holy-day" she says.

She seemed like a nice lady, so I sent her a Hanukah card.

Seriously though, it seems like this shit never ends, and I am sure she now considers herself a "hero" for "Saving Christmas" - at least among the LOL's (Little Old Ladies) at weekly Bible Study (or as we call it around here, "Studying for the Final Exam").

But seriously, is saying "Happy Holidays" really an assault on Christmas?   Is Bing Crosby subverting Christmas by singing "Happy Holidays" or indeed even "White Christmas" - which fails to mention Jesus by name?   If you are going after old Bing, I have an issue with you.   Well, his duet with David Bowie, on the other hand, is an unforgivable sin.

Is Bing Crosby a Communist for singing "Happy Holidays"? I think not.

While I am being facetious here, I am trying to make a point.  And the point is, the "War on Christmas" like so much else in our society is just plain bullshit - and a form of baiting behavior.

Yes, we are being baited once again - by the media (in particular, Fox News) and by the Christian Right and by the GOP - and it ain't hard to spot!

The narrative is simple - secularists are out to attack Christmas and by extension, Christianity, which is rapidly becoming a minority religion in the United States!   Well, not exactly, although it is a minority religion worldwide.

The alarmists seize upon some ridiculous lawsuit by the ALCU or some atheist nut and point to this as "evidence" that Christianity is under attack.   They tell us that if a government official says "Merry Christmas!" they are endorsing one particular brand of religion!   Never mind the fact that Christmas day is a Federal Holiday and that challenges to this holiday have been shot down in court.   Christmas is firmly embedded in our culture, both as a religious and secular holiday.  It is in no danger of being extinguished, trust me!

And it is OK as a Christian to celebrate it both ways.   Decorating a Christmas Tree doesn't make you a Druid, and no, it has nothing to do with Jesus.   In fact, it is kind of hilarious as to how the Religious Right has backed away from criticizing secular symbols in recent years.   To many devout Christians, the secularization of Christmas is scandalous.   Some argue (with merit) that things like Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman and other secular trappings of Christmas take away from the religious nature of the holiday.

Unfortunately, this strategy made them about as popular as a 12-step program in a frat house.  So they backed away from this, arguing that the secular features of Christmas were still a celebration of Christmas - even Sarah Palin signed on to this argument.   No one wants to be the Grinch when it comes to Christmas!  (Do the Who's of Whoville have a Who-Jesus?  We may never know!).

The point is, the alarmist talk about Christmas is intentionally amplified in order to make people paranoid about Christmas.   And it works.  Some low-level county government official in Oklahoma sends out a memo saying, "We can't have a Christmas tree at the annual Christmas Party, which by the way is now called a 'Holiday Party' because of the ACLU!" and people predictably go berserk.

The fellow sending out that memo is not part of some planned conspiracy - he is just responding to the "War on Christmas" rhetoric and doing the bidding of the people on the far-right by acting afraid of Christmas, when he has no need to be.

The reality is, although the government cannot anoint one religion as preferred, it is not required to avoid all mention of religion either.   In most of these silly lawsuits about manger scenes, local towns or villages back down from one crazy atheist crackpot because it is cheaper to do so that to pay legal bills to battle it in court.  There is no real "War on Christmas" - it is an invention of the far right designed to bait us into getting upset.

Similarly, this entire nonsense about "Safe Spaces" and "Trigger Words" on campus is more than a little overstated.   Yes, some people on the Left actually believe this bullshit, but this is only after the media has amplified it in an attempt to bait us.   Bait us to do what?  Well, to think that all college kids (elitists!) are a bunch of left-wing spoiled brats (and some indeed are, but not the majority).   Moreover, they want us to think that colleges are "out of control" and dominated by communist professors.

Maybe so, in some certain limited instances at certain courses of study at certain schools.   But I doubt they are preaching from Das Kapital in the Electrical Engineering department.  As I noted in an earlier posting, many folks back in the 1960's were not protesting on college campuses - in fact a majority were just going to class when these protests took place.

But the image they want you to think of when you think of the 1960's is hippies and college protests.   Yes, these are important images, but they do not represent the majority view of America at the time - an America that elected Richard Nixon - twice.

The question remains - why are we being baited?  The answer is simple.  They want us to think the "other side has gone too far!" and that we need to "pull back" on various social and political issues.   They want us to be alarmed as we will not take action unless we think there is a crises.

Of course, both sides of the political spectrum use this sort of language and tactics.   Nothing in politics today is just a problem or an "issue" - everything is a "crises" from homelessness to the environment, to foreign affairs, to the budget and deficit.

Fox News, of course, is king of this.  Every damn thing on their show is a "News Alert!" as if the sun rising in the East was some new crises we have to solve today.

After a while, you get crises fatigue, though, when you realize that yesterday's "Crises" becomes today's ho-hum.   Remember the Debt Clock?   That was a crises a few years back, when the national debt was far less than it was today.  I'm sure glad we solved that problem, right?   What actually happened is that people got tired of it, and the media moved on to "Black Lives Matter" or Transgender restroom issues.

Speaking of which, the North Carolina legislature is in special session today to supposedly repeal their "bathroom law" which of course has less to do with bathrooms and more to do with allowing people to discriminate in their businesses based on sexual orientation.   The far right has posited this law has to do with transvestites using the ladies room, which indeed is one small part of the law.   Sadly, even liberal media outlets like National People's Radio characterize the law in the same way (once again, I lose another clock radio this morning, as I throw it against the wall).

The issue is not some man-in-a-dress using the ladies' room, it was the fact the law allowed business people - even those offering public accommodations, such as restaurants, gas stations, and hotels - to refuse service to someone based on their perceived sexual orientation.   That is the part of the law that spawned boycotts, not some issue with bathrooms.

But in any debate, if you can control the language of the debate you win the debate.   So in Russia, you call yourself Bolsheviks which means "majority party" and if your opponents are dumb enough to go along with this, they will call themselves "minority party" and you end up winning.   If you can make the other side's arguments look ludicrous, you win by default.

And that is how we ended up with a "War on Christmas" - we are told that people are being silly in their fear of Christmas and it's time to put the Christ back in Christmas.  You get people alarmed over an issue that is really a non-issue.   This is how you win elections.

But maybe two can play this game.  In recent years, there has emerged a War on the War on Christmas.   The Christmas Warriors are increasingly being made to look stupid and ridiculous in their "demands" to make Christmas more Christmas-y.   The annual War on Starbuck's Christmas Cups is part of this trend.   It seems nothing short of having a manger scene on every cup will appease the Christmas faithful, as each year, the new Starbuck's Christmas Cup is derided as not having enough Jesus in it.

It's a fucking paper cup, people!

But again, that's the point - to get us to think of the "War on Christmas" as being as ludicrous as "Safe Spaces" and "Trigger Words".   It is manipulation on a very fine scale.

And of course, we all fall for it.