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January 2, 2005 - Last Month's Culture Wars

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There was some amazing stuff on the cultural front in the past weeks.  The question?  Is wishing someone Happy Holidays, rather than Merry Christmas, a stealth attack on long-suffering Christians, a sort of hate crime by secular folks trying to oppress and demean the more and more isolated Christians?


Over at This Modern World that fellow who calls himself Tom Tomorrow took notes


Bill O'Reilly, last night [December 18], with minister and motivational author Joel Osteen ...


O'Reilly: I want you to counsel me, pastor...I'm sitting here, I'm fighting this ferocious battle against people at this juncture who want to change America, all right? They want to change it to de-emphasize religion, they want a country like Sweden where less than ten percent of the population goes to church. Now I believe the Founding Fathers wanted religion in the public marketplace as a behavior deterrent because they knew they couldn't control the population, and they felt that a faith-based population would be more likely to behave. Very practical.


So I'm fighting against these secularists and they're sliming me, they're smearing me. Okay? So I can't go around like you with a happy face all the time, I gotta hit these people right between the eyes. I gotta have negative thoughts because they're bad people and I'm fighting. It's like a war. So I'm not really doing what you advise, am I?


Osteen: Well I don't know if that's true, Bill. You're doing what God's called you to do, and I'm doing what God's called me to do, but I mean, there's going to be negative things in life. The Bible says to do good to your enemies, but then there's other times when you gotta stand strong and fight the good fight and I think that's what you're doing out there every week. My calling is to encourage people and give them hope, but I think we all have different callings.


O'Reilly: Okay, so I'm not doing anything wrong in your estimation? Because I have to dwell on the negative an awful lot here, pastor. You know, I'm not skipping in to the Factor every day. I'm reading this stuff, and I know it's harmful, and I know it's bad, and I'm going, oh, I'm gonna get this S.O.B. I don't know if that stacks up.


Osteen: Well I don't know, I wouldn't say you're doing anything wrong, you know what you're doing, if it's what God's calling—


O'Reilly: I don't know if God's calling me. I'm taking a lot of punishment here. Sometimes I'd like to say, Michael the archangel, get down here and kick a little butt with me, you know? It'd be helpful, because I'm taking a lot of punishment, so is my family. I mean we are taking a lot--of--guff. And it's garbage.


So what I'm trying to get across to you is, you are putting out a message of hope, and I respect that. And you are putting out a message, think positive, and I respect that. But those messages, hope and positive thinking, don't win wars. They don't.



Osteen: ...you can't change it, I mean, can you change people, not saying stuff bad about you? I don't know.


O'Reilly (smiling): No, I can't, unless I execute them, which would be against everything we both stand for. Pastor, I want to wish you Merry Christmas...


Execute them?  Yeah, Merry Christmas.


And note this over at The Talent Show -


Okay, this whole "Happy Holidays" jihad is confusing me.  As far as I can remember, people have been saying "HH" for many, many years now.  Every time I've heard it, regardless of who's speaking it, I've always interpreted it as an act of kindness that's meant to imply "I know we may have different beliefs, but I hope your celebration is a happy one."  Of course, with New Years in the mix, it's more than a pleasant inter-faith greeting.  "Happy Holidays" is a nice, sincere expression of the whole season.


For a few humbugs out there, however, "Happy Holidays" has been stripped of its goodness and turned into a hideous attack on Christmas.  Did you think you were being kind and inclusionary in your seasons greeting?  Well, you were wrong!  Little did you know that you were actually saying "Up yours, baby Jesus".  Okay, I'm exaggerating here, but not by much.


This is madness.  The tyranny of the minority oppressing the I’m-such-a-victim majority?  Huh?  Google the news on the topic.  There were boycotts against stores that post or say the wrong words – Happy Holidays.  See this Associated Press item -


In Raleigh, N.C., a church recently paid $7,600 for a full-page newspaper ad urging Christians to spend their money only with merchants who include the greeting "Merry Christmas" in ads and displays.


"There is a revival taking place in our nation that is causing Christian and right-minded people to say, ‘Wait a minute. We've gone too far,'" says the Rev. Patrick Wooden Sr., pastor of the Raleigh church that bought the ad.  "We're not going to allow the country to continue this downward spiral to the left."


… In California, a group called the Committee to Save Merry Christmas is boycotting Macy's and its corporate parent, Federated Department Stores, accusing them of replacing "Merry Christmas" signs with ones wishing shoppers "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays."  The organization cites "the recent presidential election showing political correctness is offending millions of Americans."


The whole item is amazing.


Well, the Bush landslide does mean things will change.  Yellow stars for Jews next?  The Christians won big and they are not going to take any shit from anyone.  Real Christians don’t take shit from anyone.  They hit back.  Says so in the New Testament, of course.  But I don’t remember where.


Quotes from Bush? 


Our government makes no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith.


Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first, the most basic expression of Americanism.  Without God, there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life.


We can stand up and hold up our heads and say: America is the greatest force that God has ever allowed to exist on his footstool.  As such, it is up to us to lead this world to a peaceful and secure existence.


Just the kind of thing that makes you want to slit the throats of Jewish and Muslim children.   Jesus would.


Dick in Rochester throws this in the mix.


I was never particularly Christian and more so after discovering Bertrand Russell forty years ago, but if I were CHRISTIAN, I think I would rather have the HH attached to this Louis XVI display of beyond conspicuous consumption than drag the whole Jesus thing thru the slime.  Seems like their God ought to be a little embarrassed about now.  But - God works in devious ways.


Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta adds this –


I myself gave up being a Christian fifty years ago (who'da thought I'd ever live long enough to say something like that?), but in all the time since, I must admit I've discovered that almost anything the grownup Jesus said and did - at least according to those Bible stories that survived him - seem to be just about the only nice things I can find in either of the testaments, old and new.  I mean, Jesus seemed to give us none of that stuff about God ordering you to slaughter Canaanites, who never did anything to you, nor stoning to death folks who are gay or dated sheep and things like that.


Which is to say, all things considered, I think we should leave Jesus out of this.  I swear to God - assuming there is one - that Jesus would be on our side, not that of all these blockheads who insist, for their own political purposes, that Jesus is the "reason for the season".  As far as I can tell, Jesus was simply a good man who argued in favor of goodness and didn't particularly like it when folks complicated everything by twisting God's message to suit their own private ends.  Lots of people seem to be doing this now, although I imagine they may not all actually realize it.


In fact, maybe especially with all that stuff in the Bible that seems to distain the whole concept of "nakedness," I keep imagining that, after the rapture (or whatever they call it), Jesus himself would be left beck here, wearing his own clothes, along with (I presume) you and me.


So, in the spirit of the Christmas season, and if I may be so bold to say this, what the Hell!  God bless us, every one ... assuming he actually exists, of course.


Well if Rick is going to quote Clement Moore I will refer to Dickens' Christmas story.


Scrooge's nephew, Fred, called the season "the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."


Not so this Christmas. 


Marley forged his own chains - and we can watch O'Reilly and Dobson and Falwell and all the rest forge theirs.


See Charles Pierce -


... how dare the smug bastards attempt to wedge the season into that cramped and miserable place in which they keep their jackal-eyed ambitions?  Just when you thought there was no bottom to the barrel, the usual suspects decide to use Christmas as another means by which to set Americans against each other.  Conflict serves political goals, and it makes great cable television, and those are the only reasons why this whole "Christmas Under Siege" campaign erupted.


The political goal is to distract us from the fact that C-Plus Augustus and his party are embarking on a legislative agenda that would make Jacob Marley look like Dorothy Day, and the latter purposes serve only the likes of Bill O'Reilly, who's coming increasingly detached from his internal loofah, and Pat Buchanan, who has not lived a day in public life where he didn't appeal to the country's basest instincts.


So we get a blizzard of dishonest anecdote and absurd posturing in the service of a lunatic masquerade that encourages one group of Americans not to trust another group of Americans, and assures them that they are simultaneously superior in their morality and utterly in peril.


And why?  For power and for ratings, nothing more.  The people pushing this notion know it's crazy.  All they have to do is look around them, for pity's sake.  Yet they will coin this season for their own cheap advantage.


Bah, humbug!


And my friend Ric in Paris might remember from a few years ago the difficulty I had explaining those two words for my French friend out here, who really wanted to "get" English in all its nuance.  He first language is French, her second Vietnamese, her third Thai - and she's pretty good at Spanish and Russian.  How could I explain the nuance of "bah, humbug" to her  What is the French equivalent?


But all these beleaguered Christians whining about oppression?  Bah, humbug!


But there is more to this.  Echoes Dreyfus-era European anti-Semitism?  Yep.  Loud echoes.  When Bill O'Reilly (Fox) and Pat Buchanan (MSNBC) openly talk about a conspiracy of secular Jews and immoral (or amoral) liberals polluting America (liberals who secretly control all the media in spite of the heroic efforts of Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch), well, it’s more like the thirties.  Yep.  Time to round them up.  The outraged victims will rise up and take back the fatherland and make it pure.  We just need the right leader.  Luckily Bush is an incompetent speaker.  Arnold Shwarzenegger is little better – but at least his German is good.


See below – and the key quote - “Poor conservatives. They can't get into the faculty lounges. They can't get their ideas taken seriously by major media. Green-tea-drinking Volvo drivers are in secretly in charge. That ideal vision of a heterosexual, male-dominated nuclear family is under attack by people who kind of want to live under different arrangements.”


Reading this below one senses something is afoot.  Maybe it is time to leave.


On Conservative Crybabies  


I have been pondering the familiarity of the rhetorical move to create this imaginary "attack on Christmas."  Many liberal bloggers do a great job dismissing it as ridiculous.  Charles Pierce even goes so far as to present evidence of Christmas practice remaining alive and well in the deepest blue corners of this great nation.


Something troubles me, though.  We should not need anyone to demonstrate the absurdity of the claim.  All you have to do is look out your window in America.  Go ahead.  Take a minute to look out the window.  See!  There is Christmas.  Now turn on your television.  See!  More Christmas.  Some of it is profoundly religious.  Ain't nothing wrong with that.  It's downright beautiful.  Peace, goodwill to mankind, charity, single mothers raising long-haired babies.  Real Christmas is a liberal's dream.  And it's everywhere.


But see, evidence and argumentation don't seem to matter because someone is crying.  Conservatives have been come the biggest crybabies in history.  And the "attack on Christmas" whining is just the latest version of this.


While I am worried that they waste all of our time and energy with these absurd assertions and responses, I am more worried about what is underneath these conservative complaints.


Look around.  White male Christian conservatives run everything: big industry, big government; big farms; big media; big lies.  Yet we hear nothing but whining out of their mouthpieces.  Poor conservatives.  They can't get into the faculty lounges.  They can't get their ideas taken seriously by major media.  Green-tea-drinking Volvo drivers are in secretly in charge.  That ideal vision of a heterosexual, male-dominated nuclear family is under attack by people who kind of want to live under different arrangements.


We know these cries are lies.  We have written many books, articles, and blog entries debunking the crybaby claims of conservatives.  But still they see themselves as voiceless victims.


Remember when conservatives used to attack liberals for pleading victimization on behalf of their constituents?  Seems so long ago.  Of course, there is ample historical (and present) documentation of widespread oppression of women, gays, African Americans, immigrants, Jews, union organizers, and just about every other group in the liberal pantheon.  So at least our side was being true to our values and the truth.


How do we impeach this victimization rhetoric?  We have to do better than swat at f(lies) with heavy facts.  Why can't these conservative guys just slap high-fives and move on to cutting down old-growth forests with glee?  Why must they always complain?


What troubles me most is how such victimization rhetoric echoes Dreyfus-era European anti-Semitism.  Getting nowhere by demonizing Jews per se, they have just pasted the attributions of the imaginary echoes Dreyfus-era European anti-Semitism on all other non-Christian, book readin', tea sippin', public-school supportin' cosmopolitan liberals.


What's fascinating about hearing overt anti-Semites like O'Reilly and Buchanan play this crybaby victim game is that they are either incapable or unwilling to use the code.  They won't follow the script dictated by Richard Viguerie or Grover Norquist.  They just go ahead and attack Jews by name rather than by working at the level of the general "rootless cosmopolitan conspiracy."  Compare and contrast how Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh attack the "liberal" to how O'Reilly and Buchanan do.  They are all doing the same work, generating indignation that distracts Americans from real threats (Wal-Mart, Archer Daniels Midland, Osama Bin Laden) and lets them scream about the imaginary threats (Madonna, Kofi Annan).  But O'Reilly and Buchanan come right out and say it.  Coulter and Limbaugh are following the party line.


We need a better strategy than the reality-based one we employ so well.  The new strategy should not replace the facts of the matter.  But it should frame our defenses in such a way that it reveals the true nature of these cries of victimization.


There is more at work here than Bill O'Reilly pushing for holiday rantings and ratings.  There is more at stake here than Christmas carolers and secular public schools.  We are facing true hatred and evil at work in this country.  It's time we started calling it by name and challenging its perpetrators to defend themselves.






Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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