See more articles, reviews, fiction and poetry, including more of my writings, at group blog PLUTO'S REALM.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Now We Know Who the Grinch Is

If convincing gullible Americans to send their sons and daughters to their deaths in a piss-ant foreign country for no reason other than the political equivalent of viagra isn't enough, the nut jobs who gave you George W. Bush have a new treat for you -- the "War on Christmas."

If you're dumb enough to think that the Faux News Network has anything to do with news, you may have heard the rantings of Bill O'Reilly and crew this year on the purported War. Of course I've never heard anyone come out against Christmas. What we have here is an attack against the First Amendment rights of large corporations and governmental entities who have chosen to include everyone, not just right-wing Christians, in their celebration of the holidays which have been with us much longer than Christianity. The First Amendment prohibits a state endorsement of religion. To quote Stan Lee, "'Nuff said."

From Media Matters for America: From Monday, November 28, to Friday, December 2, Faux News carried 58 different reports, interviews, and debates on the alleged "war" on Christmas. Coverage ranged from reports of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's (R-IL) recommendation to rename the Capitol Holiday Tree the "Capitol Christmas Tree," to segments titled "Christmas Under Attack" on Faux News Live. In fact, Faux News Live alone devoted 14 reports to various Christmas "war" debates.

Though CNN and MSNBC have lagged behind Faux, they have joined in giving the Faux-fueled controversy attention. MSNBC had 11 mentions of the debate -- though three were mocking references to the controversy on Countdown with Keith Olbermann (whose host singled out Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson's roles in the Christmas crusade for ridicule).

Of the many guests that appeared on Faux News programs to discuss the debate, 18 (many appearing multiple times) endorsed the concept that there is a "war" on Christmas that should be exposed and defeated, whereas only seven either defended more inclusive "holiday" terminology or argued that the "war" on Christmas was overstated.

If credibility is the issue, remember, this: Jerry Falwell appeared five different times on two of the three major cable news channels. Falwell is allied with the conservative legal organization Liberty Counsel, which has been involved in many of the various local Christmas disputes and operates a "Friend of Foe Christmas Campaign" which includes "free legal assistance by Liberty Counsel to individuals facing persecution for celebrating Christmas" and "a pledge to be the 'Friend' to those entities which do not discriminate against Christmas and a 'Foe' to those that do."

While Faux has taken the lead in highlighting this bulshit, media figures on MSNBC and CNN have willingly joined in. For example, on the November 30 edition of MSNBC's The Situation with Tucker Carlson, host Tucker Carlson stated: "[I]f the P.C. Police get their way -- we pray they won't -- you might be singing a different tune to the classic carol, "Oh, Christmas Tree." During a segment on the November 29 broadcast of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN anchor Jack Cafferty asserted: "Put a tree in your house, or put it on your lawn, or put it wherever, and call it whatever you want. But stay the hell out of my Christmas."

Thanks, Jack. But whoah, I like Christmas. There is a warm fuzzy feeling to it that gives us psychological refuge before we are dumped out into the bleak wasteland of January. But for those of you who don't know any better, let me tell you where your holiday came from.

From The biggest holiday of the Ancient Roman World, called Saturnalia, and the birth of the Persian Sun God Mithras, was named the birth festival of Jesus by Pope Leo the Great in 885 A.D. See, the Church was tired of seeing the pagans have all the good parties. December 25th was also the Feast of Sol Invictus, the Invincible Sun, a cult popular to Romans like Constantine, the Roman Emperor who inflicted the mental illness which is Christianity upon us for all time. Modern estimates based on the census records of Augustus calculate Jesus' actual birth in July although Christians had started to use the Saturnalia as the birthday feast as early as the 300's A.D.

Your Christmas tree? Besides the Celtic tree worship, the 24th of December was the feast day of Saints Adam and Eve when Medieval Churches act out the Genesis story and set up a tree representing the "tree of life" with glass balls representing the fruit. This custom was later associated with Christmas and was taken from Germany to England by PrinceAlbert and to America by Hessian soldiers and later German immigrants. In an 1883 editorial about the newfangled custom the New York Times called the Christmas Tree -- "A rootless, lifeless corpse -- unworthy of the Day..."

Santa Claus? This hybrid of Dutch customs appeared in its modern form in New York in the late 1850s. TheEnglish form was St. Nicholas, a big jolly Bishop in a red suit and theDutch had Kris Kringle, the elf who dropped down your chimney and was alsoknown as "Klaus-in-the-Cinders" or "Cinder-Klaus.'" The first image of himwas drawn in 1859 in the New York Sun by cartoonist Thomas Nast for the Clement Moore poem (Nast also created the Democratic Donkey and Republican Elephant). The modern image was created for a 1930s ad campaign for Coca-Cola by illustrator Haddon Sundblom.) According to NPR, Saint Nicholas was a Turkish ruler in the fourth century A.D. who legendarily tossed a bag of gold through a window to save a man from selling his three daughters into prostitution. Just what he got for the gold is not part of the Christmas story.

The bottom line is, all this stuff is manufactured. That's the way myth is. What we really have here is a cultural and individual psychological need for a break at this time of year. This is the celebration of the winter solstice, which we feel in our bones. Its true soundtrack is Jethro Tull's Songs from the Wood.

So why have the nut jobs decided now is the time to find a "War on Christmas?" Perhaps it is a last-minute sop to the Bush administration, in whom they have lost trust. Maybe they are realizing they were used. George Bush is willing to be Christian if he gets their political capital, but his agenda (or the agenda of Rove or Cheney, depending in which direction you look for his puppetmaster) is about war and money, not religiion, and they have been disappointed.

But I am personally very hurt and insulted that the nut jobs have taken it upon themselves to tell me I am not celebrating my holiday properly. I am perfectly capable of enjoying the winter solstice without pledging loyalty to a death cult.


awmyhr said...

I work in a 'Command Center' environment, kind of like the NASA control room, we've got several big screens monitoring various things, one is supposed to always be tuned to a 24-hour news channel. For some unknown reason, Faux News Network is the station of choice (don't know why, it makes me physically ill). I've seen, nearly everyday, a report on this "War on Christmas" you discuss, though with no audio I really didn't know what they were talking about, as I've seen NO reference beyond the Faux channel.

So Christian groups are really attacking non-Christians celebrating a secular version of Christmas? How quaint. I say we all band together and take back Saturnalia for Mithras! Too long has the birth of this nobel deity been tarnished by upstart religions, it's long past time to bring back the honor and true reason for celebrating Dec. 25. Hey, it's something to do...

p.k. said...

RE:the first half of the original posting's first sentence--Bertrand Russell said something similar, different wording of course.

A while back, i lived in the Netherlands for a year. Sinterklaas would fall on Dec 5 eve/Dec 6, kinda like xmas eve and xmas. From my conversations with dutch students, i learned that Saint Nick had a helper named Zwaarte Piet, "Black Pete." Imagine how the american PC police would respond to that! Calling him "African-American Pete" would be geographical-ethnically incorrect. If I remember correctly, Zwaarte Piet was the one who gave stuff to the bad little boys and girls, so black has a negative connotation.