by Tom White by Tom White
There has been a lot of flurrying around on the Internet this onrushing Christmas season about the strange suppression of the word "Christmas" in connection with the upcoming "Holidays." A good many Christian groups are up in arms about it, and even CNN has noticed there is something spooky going on. Their Paula Zahn did a prime-time segment around the first of this month that pitted The Rev. J. Falwell against Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League to talk about the diminishing-to-zero mentions of Christmas and the increasing substitution for it of the generic "Holidays" in the public discourse – editorial, commercial, and musical – in the media.
The Rev. F. was outraged by what he saw as selective bigotry in the suppression of Christian symbols – displays, carols, and the like – and Brother Abe, defending the status quo, raised once again the specter of a takeover of America by crazed fundamentalist Christians, who would of course, in his view, be flaming anti-Semites of the most rabid kind.
The most interesting thing about the Zahn segment was that it happened at all. A lot of media notice is apt to lessen the smoothness of the elimination of "Christmas" from ads, print and television, from store signage, from greeting cards, and not least from the greetings store clerks are trained to give. The thing is now so universal as to make it almost startling if someone breaks stride and says a "Merry Christmas." And it was even a bit surprising to see CNN taking it up as a newsworthy happening worth dragging in some "experts" to discuss. The experts were duly consulted, and the show ended with everything about as it was: Christmas still on the way out, Holidays very much on the way in. I'll be monitoring this in a thoroughly casual and non-encyclopedic way as the day approaches.
The Rev. Donald Wildmon's American Family Association has been collecting statistics on the "suppression of Christmas," and calling for boycotts. I noticed one directed at Target, which was partially rescinded when a Target spokesperson said they would work some Christmas language into promotions later in the shopping season.
An outfit called the Catholic League has been doing something along the same lines. Their campaign against a rather dull-witted statement by one Lands End spokesperson has just ended with a retraction of said statement and an apology from another one.
I expect there is a lot of similar action around the country. The opposition is spotty; the get-rid-of-Christmas program seems to be rolling along almost automatically. The bottom-line sentiment that seems to have got itself installed in most of us by what I have to suppose is some pretty clever brainwashing is the feeling that "Merry Christmas," however wonderful and traditional, has built into it a potential to offend, whereas "Happy Holidays" simply does not. Except, now that I think of it, it does a little offend me. But I don't think I'm ever counted in the polls.
I have had the idea of going around a few days before the Big Day issuing Merry Christmases to all and sundry in a loud stage voice, but I fear that would be to call attention to oneself as a rebel, a trouble-maker, perhaps someone the Patriot Act should be invoked against, a troublesome sort of non-conformist, the sort of person one really must disapprove of.
I was musing on such thoughts as these, and realizing that I am simply unwilling to mount the barricades on this one as somehow too silly by half, but also noting that I am aware that a very serious insult is being delivered to the majority Christian population of the land. It is an insult that cannot be much addressed without seeming to be a shrill sort of carper, that is, someone along the lines of the Rev. Falwell, who, forgive me, is not my idea of proper priestly parson person.
I happened to just reread something that came in recently as a Mises Daily [email] Article, "The Socialist Calumny Against the Jews." It was written in 1944. In it Mises writes about the Nazis, the Soviets and their relation to religion in general. Mises makes the interesting point that Hitler did not go after Christianity as a religion (although I think some lesser Nazis did). What Hitler and his theory of government ("totalitarian" through and through) could not abide was "the Christian churches as autonomous establishments and independent agencies . . . totalitarianism cannot tolerate the existence of any institution not completely subject to the . . . [the government's] sovereignty. . . . The separation of church and state is contrary to the principles of totalitarianism [emphasis mine).
There is a tremendous clue here. We slide ever more into the totalitarian condition ourselves, which means we cannot continue to have very much longer what everybody claims to be fighting for: separation of church and state. We are going to need to get more "total." The totalitarian state insists on essential unanimity. The U.S.S.R. had its Marxism; the Nazis had their swastika flags, Nuremburg rallies, Heil Hitlers, and dedication to Der Vaterland. We have autos, shopping, "entertainment," easy sex, shopping again, and I suppose football or at least televised sports. Anyway, however you describe the American thing, the odd-thing-out in the mix is any sort of religion or religious group that seriously claims independence or is too insistent on its signal icon. What you sense in all this "Holidays" hoopla is that much mention of Christ is in dreadfully bad taste, really a party-pooper.
I think few will deny that is what is going on. As the government comes to rule and regulate in all things, our rulers simply cannot continue to permit giant public fiestas, however profitable to the merchants, that point to a figure so notoriously independent of government and even rather scornful of it. And government needs to bring the "independent" churches into a condition as near to total subservience as can be managed, and as quickly as it can be managed. In this connection consider how many churchpeople of all varieties either support the present war or say nothing about it. They are, as it were, already pre-cowed.
I see two things slowing up our anti-Christian government's achieving a smooth transition of Christmas into a secular, year-end Solstice Saturnalia, aka "Holidays." One is the continued hollering by some Christians that they are being discriminated against, as, after some fashion, they indeed are. And the other is the gloom that will settle in among the merchants when they see that a secular holiday doesn't deliver the customers the way good old jolly Christmas used to.
Look at it. Secular, state-sanctioned holidays are nothings: does Hallmark do cards for Labor Day, Fourth of July, Armistice Day, Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day, etc.? But consider the real retail-sales barnburners – all religious in origin if a bit tacky in execution these days: Christmas, New Year's, St. Valentine' Day, St, Patrick's Day, Halloween. Have I overlooked any? Yes, Columbus Day, but that has triggered a terrible quarrel over the European conquest of the Americas, so Cristoforo (there's that bad word again) will have to wait a bit for rehabilitation, and anyway maybe it wasn't really a religious fiesta after all, since Columbo, unlike Patrick, was not a saint.
I may be back soon with more news on this front; then again I may decide the whole thing isn't worth the trouble. So far no one is denying us the right to greet the Lord on his nativity in our homes and churches. It's interesting that Wal-Mart translates "Holidays" into Spanish as "La Navidad." Evidently it's harder to be P.C. in Spanish.
Tom White [send him mail] writes from Odessa, Texas. He is the author of Bill W., A Different Kind of Hero: The Story of Alcoholics Anonymous (2003), and the newly-published Lost in the Texas Desert.