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Old 12-22-2005, 10:25 AM   #1
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bah, humbug

[q]Bah, Humbug
The horrors of December in a one-party state.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2005, at 12:35 PM ET

I used to harbor the quiet but fierce ambition to write just one definitive, annihilating anti-Christmas column and then find an editor sufficiently indulgent to run it every December. My model was the Thanksgiving pastiche knocked off by Art Buchwald several decades ago and recycled annually in a serious ongoing test of reader tolerance. But I have slowly come to appreciate that this hope was in vain. The thing must be done annually and afresh. Partly this is because the whole business becomes more vile and insufferable—and in new and worse ways—every 12 months. It also starts to kick in earlier each year: It was at Thanksgiving this year that, making my way through an airport, I was confronted by the leering and antlered visage of what to my disordered senses appeared to be a bloody great moose. Only as reason regained her throne did I realize that the reindeer—that plague species—were back.

Not long after I'd swallowed this bitter pill, I was invited onto Scarborough Country on MSNBC to debate the proposition that reindeer were an ancient symbol of Christianity and thus deserving of First Amendment protection, if not indeed of mandatory display at every mall in the land. I am told that nobody watches that show anymore—certainly I heard from almost nobody who had seen it—so I must tell you that the view taken by the host was that coniferous trees were also a symbol of Christianity, and that the Founding Fathers had endorsed this proposition. From his cue cards, he even quoted a few vaguely deistic sentences from Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, neither of them remotely Christian in tone. When I pointed out the latter, and added that Christmas trees, yule logs, and all the rest were symbols of the winter solstice "holidays" before any birth had been registered in the greater Bethlehem area, I was greeted by a storm of abuse, as if I had broken into the studio instead of having been entreated to come by Scarborough's increasingly desperate staff. And when I added that it wasn't very Tiny Tim-like to invite a seasonal guest and then tell him to shut up, I was told that I was henceforth stricken from the Scarborough Rolodex. The ultimate threat: no room at the Bigmouth Inn.

This was a useful demonstration of what I have always hated about the month of December: the atmosphere of a one-party state. On all media and in all newspapers, endless invocations of the same repetitive theme. In all public places, from train stations to department stores, an insistent din of identical propaganda and identical music. The collectivization of gaiety and the compulsory infliction of joy. Time wasted on foolishness at one's children's schools. Vapid ecumenical messages from the president, who has more pressing things to do and who is constitutionally required to avoid any religious endorsements.

And yet none of this party-line unanimity is enough for the party's true hard-liners. The slogans must be exactly right. No "Happy Holidays" or even "Cool Yule" or a cheery Dickensian "Compliments of the season." No, all banners and chants must be specifically designated in honor of the birth of the Dear Leader and the authority of the Great Leader. By chance, the New York Times on Dec. 19 ran a story about the difficulties encountered by Christian missionaries working among North Korean defectors, including a certain Mr. Park. One missionary was quoted as saying ruefully that "he knew he had not won over Mr. Park. He knew that Christianity reminded Mr. Park, as well as other defectors, of 'North Korean ideology.' " An interesting admission, if a bit of a stretch. Let's just say that the birth of the Dear Leader is indeed celebrated as a miraculous one—accompanied, among other things, by heavenly portents and by birds singing in Korean—and that compulsory worship and compulsory adoration can indeed become a touch wearying to the spirit.

Our Christian enthusiasts are evidently too stupid, as well as too insecure, to appreciate this. A revealing mark of their insecurity is their rage when public places are not annually given over to religious symbolism, and now, their fresh rage when palaces of private consumption do not follow suit. The Fox News campaign against Wal-Mart and other outlets—whose observance of the official feast-day is otherwise fanatical and punctilious to a degree, but a degree that falls short of unswerving orthodoxy—is one of the most sinister as well as one of the most laughable campaigns on record. If these dolts knew anything about the real Protestant tradition, they would know that it was exactly this paganism and corruption that led Oliver Cromwell—my own favorite Protestant fundamentalist—to ban the celebration of Christmas altogether.

No believer in the First Amendment could go that far. But there are millions of well-appointed buildings all across the United States, most of them tax-exempt and some of them receiving state subventions, where anyone can go at any time and celebrate miraculous births and pregnant virgins all day and all night if they so desire. These places are known as "churches," and they can also force passersby to look at the displays and billboards they erect and to give ear to the bells that they ring. In addition, they can count on numberless radio and TV stations to beam their stuff all through the ether. If this is not sufficient, then god damn them. God damn them everyone.


thank God for atheists.

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Old 12-22-2005, 11:16 AM   #2
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This reminds me alot of all the crap O'Reilly is saying about "Happy Holidays!" and how it is so wrong for companies to have holiday sales instead of Christmas sales. Frankly, I like the holiday part of it -- it makes those of us who are Christian seem less materialistic. See? The Jews and agnostics buy lots of crap too that has nothing to do with religion! Yeah, let's all worship stuff that we got for cheap at the great holiday sales!

Seriously, this whole "Christmas is under attack" thing is true -- the attack, though, is coming from those who are so zealous about Christmas that they make people like me want to disown them. Do they not realize that Jesus was a Jew and never celebrated Christmas with trees and wreaths and a nativity scene to reenact his birth? And how did giving a kid myrrh turn into giving a kid a shiny new bike? I mean really, does anyone realize myrrh was used at funerals to hide the smell of the dead body -- how would you like to get that under your tree?

Ugh. Happy Festivus.

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Old 12-22-2005, 05:01 PM   #3
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A festivus for the rest of us.

That article was funny. War on Christmas is even funnier. You don't know how silly American TV (and what they call "news") is until you've been away from it for two years. How do you guys watch this stuff?
"I can't change the world, but I can change the world in me." - Bono

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Old 12-22-2005, 05:12 PM   #4
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I just love how the argument is framed here. An intolerance for the word "Christ" (and let's face it, it boils down to this - trees, wreaths, Santa, etc. are all okay), when questioned in a country where 90% claim to celebrate Christmas is painted as a fanatical attempt to be "non-inclusive". I guess there is (self)righteous hatred in the secular world as well....
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Old 12-22-2005, 05:33 PM   #5
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Yeah sula, the "War on christmas" in the media is getting past comedic to downright sickening. I watched O'Reilly last night and rather than getting some good laughs out of it, by the time it went to commercial I was near tears yelling at the TV about how the man is divisive and hurting our country, and doesn't have a conscience. I don't remember the specifics but it was pretty disgusting.

There's no need to be overly PC and I wish my Christian friends Merry Christmas, but watching what they say on Fox makes me sick to my stomach lately.
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Old 12-22-2005, 06:28 PM   #6
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Originally posted by nbcrusader
I just love how the argument is framed here. An intolerance for the word "Christ"

could you explicate?

how is he framing the argument? and how quickly you claim victimhood status when, as you say, 90% of people celebrate.

not everyone thinks of good things when they hear the word "Christ" -- some think of wars, inquisitions, bashings, excuses for hatred, intolerance, imperialism, colonization, the slaughter of innocents, and many, many other things. and it doesn't matter, really, if all these things are not of Christ -- for if you don't believe in Christ, then his messengers and representatives on earth are really all you have to go by.

this hasn't been my experience. but i can understand where Hitchens is coming from, and i think i am seeing the fundamental misunderstanding that divides the devout from the devout atheists.
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Old 12-23-2005, 04:33 PM   #7
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Does anyone else find this makes them not say anything? O'Reilly has made it into such an issue that I no longer say Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. Hey, I like to be inclusive and if someone finds one or the other exclusive then I don't want to offend. So "Happy Shopping" may be what I am left with.
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Old 12-23-2005, 07:29 PM   #8
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Originally posted by nbcrusader
I just love how the argument is framed here. An intolerance for the word "Christ" (and let's face it, it boils down to this - trees, wreaths, Santa, etc. are all okay), when questioned in a country where 90% claim to celebrate Christmas is painted as a fanatical attempt to be "non-inclusive". I guess there is (self)righteous hatred in the secular world as well....
I don't get why so many Christians think they are being persecuted. If 90% of the people in the nation claim to celebrate christmas -- how is a few complaining about the overwhelming crush of "Christmas" persecution? And it's not even as if all 10% of the "others" are "against" them.

In virtually any other situation 90% on one side is considered a huge majority. What is it about certain "Christians" (and I use that term very loosely, since I wonder just how Christ-like those Christians are) that their skin is so thin and their persecution complex so huge.

Is it just because here they've always been able to ride roughshod over everyone else with out any consequences?
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Old 12-24-2005, 10:01 AM   #9
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How the Grinch Stole Christmas "The Holidays"
(with apologies to Dr. Suess)
by Suzanne Smith and Susan Goering

Every holiday shopper Liked Lowe’s stores A lot.
But the Grinch (aka Jerry Falwell) did NOT!
The Grinch hated Lowe’s during holiday season.
You might wonder why. It’s an odd sort of reason.

For you see, Lowe’s had hardware and plumbing and paint
And enough yard equipment to make the Grinch faint.
But the reason the Grinch hated Lowe’s was that they
Had for sale “Christmas” trees they renamed “holiday.”

And he also announced, with a sour, Grinchy frown
There were even more culprits, like Target and towns
That were trying to bring season’s greetings to all,
And not just to Christians who shop at the mall.

"It’s an ACLU plot!" he snarled with a sneer.
"They’re against Christmas, Christians, and all we hold dear!"

Just thinking about diverse faith populations
And the way the Supreme Court had urged toleration
And warned against making the public square stand
For one faith in the face of the many at hand,

Made the Grinch see a bright shade of seasonal red.
(He viewed civil liberties lawyers with dread.)
“You just wait ‘til Alito ascends to the Court,” said the Grinch as he shook his fist backwards and forth.

Then he growled and he grinched. (He was over the top.)
"I MUST find a way to keep Christmas on top!"

Then he got an idea!
An awful idea!

"I know JUST what to do!" The Grinch laughed to himself
(which made him look more like an oversized elf).
And he chuckled, and clucked, "What a great Grinchy trick!” "We’ll threaten to boycott! They’ll all give in quick!"

"All I need is exposure..." The Grinch looked around.
But with wars and disasters,‘twas none to be found.
Did that stop the old Grinch? No! The Grinch simply said,
"If I can't get exposure, I'll make some instead!"

So he called Bill O’Reilly, his personal flack,
And together they plotted their Christmas attack.
With conservative show hosts and old Fox News anchors
They’d mobilize Christians (and fundraise like bankers).

So they said, “Friend or Foe – Us or ACLU!”
They urged all to boycott, they’d help people sue.
“We’ll make Christmas safe, for all Santas and elves.
We’ve got to commercialize Christmas or else!”

They ignored, in the process, good folk of the cloth
Who warned them they’d mixed up the Bible with froth
And had focused on Roman Saturnalia and sloth.

“With Jesus born humbly midst Wise Men on knees,
Christmas day was not ever about tinsel and trees,”
Said the ministers. “Open the secular fest
To Christians and Muslims and Jews and the rest.”

But that did not stop the old Grinch and his friends
Who were clearly less worried about means than the ends.
His Grinchiness jeered, “We've gone on the offensive.
We're kicking their butts and they’ve gotten defensive.”

And indeed, all the Lowe’s stores and others as well
Called their holidays “Christmas” to stave off the swell.
And the Senators spent precious time on the floor
Talking “Christmas” or “holiday,” rather than war

And the Grinch and Bill laughed with a mad sort of glee
At the letters and money they’d managed to free
And the outrage they’d sparked with their “holiday” spree
Making stores safe for Christians (the hypocrisy!)

For as much as the Grinch made things sound like fair play
All the nonsense he spouted was aimed the wrong way.

See, Christmas is all about peace and good will,
Which the Grinch DOESN’T want in abundance UNTIL
Only Christians control every valley and hill
And the Jews and the Hindus and all who lack Yules
Must defer to the mass and majority rules.

But Grinch Falwell can’t stop us from festing this year.
Of course not! No, they’re not his fests to declare.
For Hanukkah, Christmas, and Ramadan too
Live safely in hearts of all people like you.

And no government officer, petty or high,
No celebrity, preacher or corporate guy
Can decree how you worship or deign to decide
If you worship at all. That’s for you to decide.

And none of these holidays comes from a store.
And all of them really mean so much, much more.

So celebrate all of you, believer or no.
May the spirit of all that is welcoming flow.

"I can't change the world, but I can change the world in me." - Bono

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