Thursday, December 18, 2008

The War On The War On Christmas II: The Children's Crusade

“There are some upon this earth of yours,” returned the Spirit, “who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.” -- A Christmas Carol, and my first post on this sad and sorry topic
This space has always been about pointing out ridiculous things, the nonsense that make us collectively dumber just by the act of taking them seriously. As it happens, I take Christmas very seriously, and there's a pretty solid reason for that. Even on the secular "shopping holiday" level, Christmas is (or should be) about what it would be like if people stopped being jerks for a day and concentrated on really enjoying each others' company, about loving friends and family and being loved in return. And of course, getting to the root of things, it's about whose birthday it is, and thinking about what kind of example he set for the rest of us.

So hopefully, you can understand why I reserve some old-fashioned scorn for the foaming-mouth media frenzy surrounding the so-called War on Christmas. Persecuting a door greeter who said "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is a massive exercise in missing the point.

If you were with me last year, you'll remember Bill O'Reilly (the only news channel noise machine I pay even the slightest bit of attention to these days...which is to say I usually can't be bothered) declared a preemptive victory in the so-called "War on Christmas," and I celebrated the relative quiet with my favorite Christmas record. Of course, it couldn't last. The moment that atheist placard won a spot next to the Nativity in Olympia, Washington, the lid was off the honeypot, and America's "favorite" professional provocateur couldn't keep his paw out. And frankly, if we're depending on Bill O'Reilly to save Christmas, we'll all be celebrating Festivus ten years from now.

This year's tactic in my ultimately futile drive to return my country to sanity is based on what the Internet was designed to do: routing around the damaged section of the network (in this case, the national discourse) and getting back to things of real meaning. And with Christmas, that means the kids.

Take a moment to watch this Sesame Street clip (they turned off embedding, but the Street shouldn't be directly attached something as tawdry as "Christmas wars" anyway). It's another one of those "Kermit and Grover talking to kids" bits, but notice how they answer the Santa questions without having to think about it too hard, even for a second.

Kid: "Then he gets his keys."
Grover: "What keys?"
Kid: "Santa Claus keys."

There you are. On one side of the fight to stop the fighting, the only fight that really matters, there's a lot of fist shaking, noise making, and red-faced fury. On the other side, there's the Santa Claus keys, the ones that open any door as long as you use them sincerely with goodwill. It's not a fight against politicized factions, although that's how the phony war is being framed. It's a fight against our sadder, darker impulses, the ones that either make us too cool or too jaded to care about anything, or make us care about them in ultimately destructive ways.

Enough with making the crazy. Dream big. Let there be peace on Earth.

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