'Tis the Season To Compile Dossiers of Politically Incorrect Statements
If one is inclined to complain, there are many, many things to complain about in our society. For instance, I could write nine or ten paragraphs about ABC's "Find My Family" as a sign of the apocalypse, and how I had to go lie down to stop myself from putting a fist through the wall after three minutes of it. And wives — too many wives forbid husbands to deep-fry the Thanksgiving turkey, even though husbands have achieved a reasonably high level of certainty that the deep-frying can be done without life-threatening injuries. And Mr. Salty Pretzels, which had the precisely, exquisitely perfect balance of pretzel and salt, and just the right texture. Why did those bastards at Nabisco stop making them? Was it because it is so very dangerous to Google image search "Mr. Salty?" I just don't know.
So what I'm saying is that there are a kajillion things you could get upset about. So explain it to me, in short words so that I can understand it — why in the name of that is tender and mild are you so upset that the local K-Mart hasn't festooned every single fucking thing in the store with big neon "CHRISTMAS!!!" labels before anyone's even had a chance to haul the turkey carcas to the curb?
I ask because somebody's created a web site to gather intel to support Christmas. Christmas, you may have heard, is under siege by the dark armies of the Left who are devoted to arresting you if you breathe "Merry Christmas" in public. Or something. Anyway, one grim signifier of the War on Christmas is that some stores — now, you better sit down, this may upset you — didn't have explicitly pro-Christmas decorations up on Black Friday. It's exactly people like that what killed Jesus. Thank goodness that the good folks at StandForChristmas.com are here to meticulously document the Commercial Grinches, those Nabobs of Noel, those Quislings of the Season.
StandforChristmas.com gathers your input about your shopping and advertisement-consuming experiences and compiles your ratings of various retailers. Retailers are rated as Christmas-friendly, Christmas-negligent, or Christmas-offensive. There's no category for Christmas-reckless or Christmas-grossly-negligent or Christmas-strict-liability, though perhaps there should be. What kind of things gets a store on the naughty list? Well, surf over and have a gander:
First thing I notice is that they are only playing non-Christian Christmas songs (Jingle Bells, etc.). Unacceptable. I ask a clerk, "What is the reason for the season?" and I get back "What?". I buy a shirt and when they ask me what kind of wrapping paper, I reply that I want nativity paper or something showing the baby Jesus. They say they only have snowflakes and snowmen and green/red paper. What does green and red have to do with JESUS?
When I paid for my Christmas shopping, I said, "Thank you and have a Merry Christmas!" To which the cashier simply said you too.
I absolutely hate the tv ad that lumps the wiccan holiday of solstice and an agnostic holiday Kwanzaa into the mix of Christmas and Hanukkah. They have lost my business forever. There are too many choices of where to purchase and I will only support business that support our country's founding ideals of Judea Christian values and holidays.
. . . and so on. Pause for a moment to thank God that you are not a retail clerk, faced with people who think that retail clerks are responsible for a store's marketing policies.
You know, I normally associate the religious/social/political Right with people who oppose, and criticize, political correctness. But what is this campaign to defend Christmas, if not an campaign against politically incorrect expression? Is the customer who gets shirty when wished "Merry Christmas" any different — or worse — that the customer who gets shirty because the clerk says "you too" when wished "Merry Christmas?" Is the guy who meticulously counts the number of uses of "Christmas" on a store's web site any different than the guy who meticulously counts the numbers of Asians or women in the store's advertisements to determine adequate diversity?
I love Christmas. I love listening to Handel's Messiah and a CD of Pavarotti singing traditional (religious) Christmas music. I love Christmas Eve service at my church, and paid a ridiculous amount at a fund-raiser for a reserved pew for that service.
But I can't fathom the knuckle-rapping spirit that seeks to enforce Christmas orthodoxy upon civil society at large. I find it annoying enough that there are any Christmas decorations up a month in advance at the stores, never mind whether they are secular or religious. How does it diminish my enjoyment of Christmas if someone says "Happy Holidays" to me — unless I am the sort of person who is offended that some people think differently than I do? So long as I keep Christmas well, why should I care about whether the guy who sells me socks keeps it well?
I'm also suspicious of the notion that retailers are suppressing Christmas and promoting secularism for some evil social purpose. I suspect that retailers, in interacting with the public, are doing things that they believe will make the most money. Can Christians vote with their feet, just like any other consumers? Of course. That's part of free speech. But I think there is a level of unbecoming paranoia in the "War on Christmas" hand-wringing about exactly what words stores use in their advertisements. Accusing stores of being deliberately anti-Christian strikes me as more inquisitorial than rational.
Moreover, I think that the vocal defenders of Christmas and critics of "Happy Holidays" are actually undermining their ostensible point — that Christmas is about Christ, not about presents. To some of us, Christmas is about Christ. But Christmas shopping simply is not. Christmas shopping is a cultural gloss that we have imposed upon the Christmas season, and that has voraciously consumed more and more of our thoughts during the season. As a parent, I know how hard it is to focus kids on the advent of Jesus rather than the toys they will be getting. Why, if people are sincerely interested in the religious message of Christmas, are they insisting that Christ and shopping be as intertwined as possible? Why isn't it a good thing for faith that retailers, through secular Santa symbols and "happy holidays" wishes, promote a chasm between the secular orgy of things and the religious celebration of faith? The current arrangement allows offensive inanities like Bill O'Reilly proclaiming that we must win the War on Christmas because Jesus wants people to spend money.
I'll answer my own question. I think that people want to police retailers for apostasy because the War on Christmas is about promotion of cultural and social dominance by a select group, not about promoting genuine faith. Having Target or K-Mart stick labels saying "Christmas!!" on every damn thing does not signify that Christ holds sway there — it signifies that the social/cultural/religious right holds sway. Hence the proclamation, featured so often in complaints on StandforChristmas.com, that "this is a Christian nation." The message is not of peace on Earth and goodwill towards men — the message is "WE belong — you don't."
Despite the fact that I frequently violate it, I've always been fond of the Third Commandment. And I know that it means more than not incorporating God's name into creative swearing. I've always understood it to mean that we ought not invoke the name of God for our own crass purposes. When Christ's name — and the holiday that celebrates His birth — is treated like a rallying cry to promote cultural orthodoxy, I think that the spirit of the Third Commandment is violated. I just can't fathom that Jesus wants anyone cursing our neighbors for failing to put Him on wrapping paper.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Follow-Up: U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks Gets Free Speech Right This Time - September 12th, 2014
- The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strained, But It May Have A Litmus Test - September 11th, 2014
- [Rerun from 2011] Ten Things I Want My Kids To Learn From 9/11 - September 11th, 2014
- Yale Might Want To Look Into Some Sort of Basic Civic Literacy Course - September 10th, 2014
- U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks Gets Free Speech Very Wrong - September 6th, 2014