Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Dead Meme

The good thing about Christmas Eve is no one has anything of import to write about. The bad thing about Christmas Eve is no one has anything important to write about:
the war on Christmas is a godless plot cooked up by a cabal of latte-sipping liberals, greedy retail tycoons, bearded ACLU communists and Ban Ki-moon acolytes who secretly gather in Bay Area synagogues to smoke pot, deface Bibles and perform abortions.

Or — maybe — the whole thing is just a canard, the backlash against a wave of political correctness that swept the U.S. in the late '90s, resulting in some strange new concessions to cultural sensitivity: cities insisting on calling the telltale conifers "holiday trees," efforts to ban the pleasantry "Merry Christmas" and crackdowns on the use of holiday nativity scenes and other religious iconography. But to many, the War on Christmas is a hyperbolic construct that blows the problem out of proportion. "There is no war on Santa," Michelle Goldberg wrote on in 2005. "What there is, rather, is the burgeoning myth of a war on Christmas, assembled out of old reactionary tropes, urban legends, exaggerated anecdotes and increasingly organized hostility to the American Civil Liberties Union." According to Max Blumenthal, who published a recent article on the topic, the trope's persistent popularity is fed by financial opportunism: "The Christmas kulturkampf is a growth industry in a shrinking economy, providing an effective boost for conservative fundraising and a ratings bonanza for right-wing media." O'Reilly himself has lent credence to this theory. "Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born," he said on Nov. 29, 2005. "Without Christmas, most American businesses would be far less profitable."

Yup. A history of the war on Christmas!
(Long time readers of my blog may recall I bothered to write a little ditty a few years back on the topic. Feel free to read it again.)
It's this last quote from Bill O'Reilly (the model for my novela) that got my attention.
Bill-O, really...have you forgotten Matthew 21?
12And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

 13And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

(emphases added)
Bill-O, you old Ferengi! "A good lie is easier to believe than the truth," indeed! That was Westbury, NY, right? ;-)
Christmas, in my eyes, has become nothing more than an excuse to exploit and manipulate the feelings of people, to watch those feelings manifest themselves in a spending spree.
Now, on the face of it, there's nothing wrong with that: people ought to acknowledge the folks around them who have supported and otherwise stuck by them throughout the year and the end of the years is as good a time as any to do so. By codifying the recognition of this relationship, we don't find ourselves in the embarassing circumstance of "forgetting" to get a present. It's hard to forget Christmas.
Or Hannukah. Or Kwanzaa. Or Festivus. Or the Solstice.
See where I'm going with this, Bill-O? Does it really fucking matter to Wal-Mart or Target which holiday gets celebrated?
Does it even matter to you? My suspicion based on your wholly Unchristian attitude towards people is the next time you set foot in a church, it will be feet first in a pine box.
I, for one, was glad this year that we had better things to focus on than the rantings of the O'Reillys and The John Gibsons of the world regarding the lack of piety in our secular world surrounding the birth of Our Lord (no offense, atheists, Ceiling Catists, or FSM believers, much less Jews or Muslims or Hindus and Buddhists). If this article is any indication, this is a meme that has outlasted its fifteen minutes.
It is Christmas Eve. We're told it is a time to gather round your family and celebrate another year older (and deeper in debt). I like to think differently.
To me, Christmas is a time to look back on your year, your life, and ask if you could have done it better. Jews have a week-long celebration of their religious new year: the time from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Indeed, the entire last month, Elul, is a time of reflection, to ask and to wish to be inscribed in the Book of Life.
What a marvelous concept! If only certain faux-Christian commentators would have that much humility!
Christmas is my Father's reminder of His great gift to the world: His Son, a gift I accepted a long time ago. We may disagree about this idea, but it comforts me, and gives me strength when the world around me seems darkest. He is my candle in the night. He reminds me there is a larger world out there, one that is filled with people who have earned just as much respect for their beliefs and knowledge as I do.
After all, we're all still here. That alone is enough.
My problems, my concerns, are important to me, but in the larger picture, mean nothing. And if I had a soapbox as big as Bill-O's, I'd find something more important to talk about than a petty insignificant created crisis like The War On Christmas.
It is to mock the waste of resource that is Bill O'Reilly. Long may he stumble over his own two feet, telling me about the speck in my eye, while ignoring the log in his own.