Thursday, December 16, 2004

Lileks Takes On a Canadian Scrooge

Today's post is an easy one - I am just going to paste some Lileks and be done with it. The Lileks piece was the first that I ever read of his, and it remains the best - he takes on a Canadian scrooge. The 2004 Christmas card will be posted tomorrow.


There's a new staple in modern newspapers: the tale of the Holiday Crank. In the past these people would be ignored, but nowadays no coverage of the season is complete without a dissenting voice. You don't lose any points in a modern Western newsroom suggesting that the paper run profiles on people who hate Christmas. Float the notion of profiling lapsed Muslims who hold Ramadan in bemused contempt, and I suspect people would react as though you had pushed a ball of tinfoil into one of their dental fillings.

Our story hails from Canada. Excerpts are in italics. It begins:

Today, the National Post continues its series exploring the lengths to which some Canadians are going to take the Christ out of Christmas.

So soon in the series, and already I hear a song:

O Canada, O Canada
How bitter are your peoples
How shocked they’ll be when soon they see
Mosques rise in place of steeples

VANCOUVER - After years of sending friends anti-Christmas cards, one of which featured a homeless Santa and another battered child angels, Valerie and Trevor Williams decided to "go big" this year.

Battered child angels. Yes, that’s what the spirit of the season is all about: Shaken Cherubim Syndrome. Good thing the Williams brought this matter up, since there’s nothing in the Christmas story that might bring to mind poor infants in peril.

The result can be seen on a billboard looming over the Pat Bay Highway near Victoria, where commuters, rushing no doubt to buy gifts, are faced with this stark message: "Gluttony. Envy. Insincerity. Greed. Enjoy Your Christmas."Pretension, Hatred, Conspictuous Arseholery, Snobfoolishness. Enjoy your life!

In truth, my Christmas will be nothing like the event the billboard pillories. Gluttony? We have a small turkey the size of a big dog's head, a cud of stuffing, a cup of gravy, a tin of peppermint chocolate. We live in an old house, you see; we don't have a vomitorium like most folks in the suburbs. I’m sure there are many who stuff their maws until their pants buttons pop off and ping against the walls like rivets on a sub that hits the ocean floor; I'm sure that all over this wretched land, gouty zeppelin-bellied men will stagger to their feet, raise a glass and shout ONE MORE WHALE LIVER SMOOTHIE FOR JESUS! I've never seen it happen, but I take the word of an insular, disapproving Canadian scold that it must happen, somewhere. Remember: the people who have no first-hand experience with the people they hate are always the keenest critics. (See also, Kulaks, Soviet Ukraine, disemboweling of)

Envy? Methinks thou doth project too much.

Insincerity? There might be a little of that, if I find myself at a Christmas party talking to some bitter, self-satisfied Christmas-hating jackass who doesn’t consider the season complete until he’s pissed in everyone’s wassail and told us we’re all greedy want-bots programmed to pour into malls and fill up our carts when we hear “Jingle Bells.” I might react with insincerity, nodding and smiling instead of grinding my heel hard on his forehead like I'd want to do. Greed? I don’t care if my wife gives me nothing more than a kiss and a refill. We want for nothing. Even on a day when we’re all sick, sniffing and hacking and puking and moaning, we’re still all doing it together, and that’s all we need. For gravy, there’s Jasperwood, and for biscuits, there’s Jasper. Who wants only a biscuit. And some gravy, dammit.

Mrs. Williams, a 33-year-old Women's Studies student at the University of Victoria,

You know, if every “Woman’s Studies” department was closed, and the student loans were used to create businesses that hired women instead of studied them like tragic butterflies impaled on the patriarchal pin, we might be better off. Granted, we’d be without PhDs theses like “Rape Symbolism and Beatrix Potter: A Rake’s Progress,” but the culture would survive; the only noticeable effect at all would be a 17% decrease in Frieda Kahlo poster sales, and a 50% decrease in 33-year old college students.

. . . and her husband, a 37-year-old aeronautical engineer,

I have the feeling this is a charitible description of his lifelong ambition to prove that pigs can fly.

. . . are on a campaign against what they see as the rampant consumerism and religious exclusivity of Christmas.

Imagine that: a religious holiday that’s religiously exclusive. Why not reach out? Why not Baby Shiva in the cradle, worshipped by three Japanese Emperors, with a floral arrangement in the shape of a dollar sign for the Ayn Rand atheists? This is like protesting the menorah because it excludes the innumerate. Besides, isn’t the standard complaint that Christmas has become too secular? After all, it’s one of the few religious holidays - maybe the only one - that has found a meaning outside a narrow religious interpretation.

At the same time, it’s not just Saturnalia with a crèche. As secular as one may be, you can’t avoid the spiritual dimension of the day. For those of us who grew up in a Christian tradition but don’t necessarily subscribe to the precepts and tenets of an organized theological community, the day still has a powerful message; you can’t help but feel the old tides pushing you back to the shore. You feel small and vain to resist them, too. The message as I interpret it isn't YOU GO BE LUTHERAN NOW! but step outside of yourself, look up, give thanks.

You believe in God or you don’t. If you do, how you believe in Him is a personal matter. Maybe you think He’s in the home office a dozen multiverses away working on a really big project while a little window we call REALITY is running in the corner of His screen, and He checks it every once in a while the way you’d check your Sims. Maybe you think He’s by your side in the grocery store, the restroom, the marital bed, the golf course, the gutter. Whatever you believe matters less than if you believe, and if you do, Christmas matters. If you believe very little, it may be the one day where you get all your believing done. Better than nothing.

It's seculiar, it's religious. It's neither, it's both. I can't see the harm in any of it.

While others are humming carols, trimming trees and picking out gifts for the people they love, Mr. and Mrs. Williams have taken all their Christmas gift money this year -- $1,200 -- and spent it on the attack ad."I think the billboard is stark, it's angry, it's red. Black letters on red, the Christmas colours," she said when asked to describe the sign.

Red and green are Christmas colors. Black and red are the colors of a goth who had an accident slicing a bagel.

Mrs. Williams said she and her husband have been grumbling to themselves about "Christmas hell" for several years. A few seasons ago they started to boycott the whole gift-giving, carol-singing, egg-nogging thing and began to send out the anti-Christmas cards, along with a note informing family that instead of giving them gifts they were making donations to charity.

It says a great deal about these people that they think informing people that they’re giving donations to charity in lieu of gifts is an anti-Christmas act.(snip)

She says she doesn't know where the Christmas rebellion will go from here, but she's determined to keep fighting against Santa and all he represents.

"Who is Santa?" she asks heatedly. "He is the mall's puppet.... Children are taught to worship this white, heterosexual man who overeats. I mean, it's wrong."

And thus did millions of British Columbians realize, with a flash of light and a clap of thunder, how wrong! they! were! Santa is white? Santa is heterosexual? Santa overeats? And we’ve been leading our children to the lap of this monster! What else does he do? Quick! To the Internet!

(typing into Google image search:) santa smoking(parent watches in horror as Google disgorges picture after picture of Santa smoking a pipe)

Nothing does the cause of equal rights for gays more damage than some dessicated harridan complaining that Santa is always presented as a Straight Male. You can feel the chill wind of the future, a clammy foretaste of the day when Santa’s marital status will become a sign of the Heterosexist Imperium. Here we see the difference between people who want to expand the definition of Normal, and those who want to redefine it. The difference between those believe Vegetarians are ordinary folks, and those who believe Carnivores have been programmed by a socially-constructed notion foisted on us by the Meatriarchy.

Sorry.Of course Santa's straight. You think he'd wear that outfit if he wasn't?

But that's not the issue. We have to marvel: What sort of person complains that Santa is straight? A thirty-three-year old college student, that's who. Someone who's sat in the canteen and nodded excitedly as a fellow student describes how the whole Santa-with-his-big-red-bag-thrusting-down-the-chimney thing is a metaphor for Western anxieties over homosexual rape. Of course! It's so clear! They have to make Santa straight to make the rape-myth palatable. They all feel used by Christmas. They feel shame that they need Santa, yet are repulsed by him. Mall Puppet? More like Mall Prostitute. Ho, Ho, Ho, indeed.

As for Santa being white - this is a crime? As for Santa being fat - this is a crime? Get a cell ready for Ed Asner.


Mrs. Williams admits it can be tough to explain her socio-political point of view to the children of friends.

It’s tougher to be one of her friends, discover her explaining her socio-political point of view to your children, and fight the impulse to strike her in the head with a six-pound trout.Oh, it goes on, and on, and on. Every year we hear from these people. They’re Scrooges and Grinches in a play with no third act. If they’d written “A Christmas Carol” the story would have ended with the appearance of Marley, because we’d have to spend the rest of the play opening up that sad shade’s spectral cashboxes, unpacking the miseries he accumulated as a misspent capitalist. Meanwhile, Scrooge dozes unmolested; the Ghosts attend to other sinners, and Marley takes the spotlight to urge everyone to sing the new anthem for a more enlightened age. Shall we all join in?

Lenin the bald-head Marxist
Had a very nasty foe
He was opposed by royalty
So of course they had to go (bang bang bang)

All of the evil bourgeois
Used to sneer and call him mad
They never let poor Lenin
Put in place his strategy for implementing a nationwide struggle
to wrench the means of production from the parasites’ grasp and thrust it into the proud, eager hands of the proletariat to build a future in which all were equal and rhymes were the forgotten legacy of a debauched capitalist system! (Sung very quickly, with great anger)

Then one snowy October
Hist’ry came to say
Lenin with your theories great
Won’t you seal our cent’ry’s fate?

Then all the masses loved him
As they shouted out with glee
Lenin the bald-head Marxist
You’ll save us from Christ - mas - Treeeees!

Pshaw. May your orgy of envious insincere gluttony be as wonderful as I know mine will be. Merry Christmas!


Blogger the giant said...

Shshhhhh.The things Canadians will do when there's no hockey...

Also heard an interesting tidbit on the radio today. For all those people who think Xmas was a slur for Christmas (as in "what kind of athiest would take the Christ out of Christmas and replace it with an X), you may be mistaken. Seems as if the term Christmas, as it was originally written by Greek christians, began with the Greek letter "Chi" which looks very much like the Anglo letter "X". Somehow this managed to stay in some translations, hence the term "Xmas" instead of Christmas.

Then again, if you ask Cliff on Cheers, you might get another explanation that has about equal weight......

12:24 PM  

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