Mike the Mad Biologist

The other title of this post could have been “The War on Christmas and the Politics of Failed Withdrawl.” Regardless, Tuesday, the Catholic League launched the first salvo in its ongoing War Against the Jews On Christmas with a large ad on the op-ed page of the NY Times. Here’s what the Catholic League had to say:

Small_Celebrate_ad
(larger version here)

I think the charge of “cultural facists” is more than a little overblown. I live in Boston, a bastion of liberalism, not to mention the dreaded ‘Homofascist Hordes‘, and nobody is ripping down the Christmas lights on Newbury Street or Comm Ave. The Boston Public Library is decked out in garlands. And Copley Square will soon have a huge Christmas tree. Not a ‘Holiday Tree’ but a Christmas tree. And I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the seven churches within a half-mile of my apartment aren’t going to be bombed on Christmas Day (or even picketed). (I do wonder what the Catholic League would make of an Italian mayor in an Irish city presiding over a Jewish holiday–Hanukah).

No, what really upsets these guys is that someone might be wished a “Happy Holidays” instead of a “Merry Christmas.” That would be a true daggerstrike to the heart of Christendom the Republic. “Happy Holidays” is a reminder to the William Donohues and Bill O’Reillys of the world that the cultural default setting for America is no longer White Christian Male, that the White Christian Male is not primus inter pares. This is perceived as a loss of status, when, it really is just good manners.

Now, regarding the post title, many of the younguns might not know what the history of the phrase “massive resistance” is. In the pre-desegregation South, massive resistance was the concerted effort (and battle cry) by private citizens and state officials to oppose desegregation. The reason I bring this up is that the failure of massive resistance led to the de facto withdrawl–and resegregation–of whites into suburban enclaves. It also led to the adoption of ‘anti-government’ politics by the white middle class: perceived government misspending wasn’t originally for ‘welfare queens’ but for black swimming pools, schools, parks, public golf courses, and libraries (and just about every other public service too, including transportation). The urge to secede withdraw was so strong that Georgia and Virginia attempted to privatize their entire public school systems (these efforts stalled when the voucher system underlying this scheme was declared unconstitutional).*

The point is not to compare the Catholic League to rabid segregationists, although William Donohue’s tirades against “Hollywood [which] is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular” make it very tempting. The reason Donohue and his fellow religious warriors are so worked up is that there is no enclave to which they can withdraw. Unlike the massive resistance strategy, which ultimately found expression by southern whites (and to a considerable extent by northern whites too) in flight to the newly created suburbs, if Walmart adopts a ‘happy holidays’ strategy (shudder the thought!), there is no suburb to which they can flee.

I think this is a major reason why the culture wars, including the War on Christmas, have been fought with such intensity by the Right the last several decades. As America has changed–and I think, for the better–groups and views that used to either be discriminated against or ‘only’ marginalized have become integrated into American culture. If this is viewed in the framework of a ‘zero-sum game’, and if there is no place to set up your own ‘ideal’ social arrangement due to the nationalization of culture via mass media (and federal law), then the only alternative remaining is to fight these battles vociferously.

As Robert Schaller put it in Whistling Past Dixie (italics original):

The civil rights reforms that began in the middle of the twentieth century ended the Democratic South’s one-party hegemony and regional autonomy. The Republican potentates who took over the postreform South realized that if America would no longer permit southerners to divorce themselves from Washington, their only recourse was to dominate national politics.

I think an analogous dynamic is at work in the ‘culture wars.’ Too bad they’re on the wrong side of history. Again.

*It would require a whole series of posts to describe the extent to which desegregation ultimately led to white backlash and the ensuing withdrawl from much of the public sphere, including the idea of shared public resources, and consequently gave rise to the modern conservative anti-government rhetoric. Fortunately, Kevin Kruse wrote an entire book about the subject, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism. You should read it.

Comments

  1. #1 Joshua
    November 29, 2006

    The United States is 85 percent Christian…

    I don’t know whether de Tocqueville would feel disappointed or vindicated. Maybe both at once.

  2. #2 Goldstein
    November 30, 2006

    But secular Jews DO hate Christianity.

    Tell, what does “goy” REALLY mean?

  3. #3 Dan S.
    November 30, 2006

    “Tell, what does “goy” REALLY mean?”

    Nation/people, basically, although in modern use it refers to non-Jews/Gentiles.

    “But secular Jews DO hate Christianity”

    Well, speaking as a secular Jew, Christianity (like any religion) does strike me as a little odd at times, and centuries of persecution and pogrom do leave a bit of an unpleasant aftertaste, but I certainly don’t hate it! What I do hate are attempts to cast any group – especially smaller and less powerful ones – as second-class citizens – tolerated-Americans, Americans by permission* – within a Christian nation.

    It’s technically conceivable that one day what we’ll need to oppose are attempts to make religious people feel like second-class citizens within an atheist nation, but honestly, we are so not there yet. Mike puts it well: “”Happy Holidays” is a reminder . . . that the White Christian Male is not primus inter pares. This is perceived as a loss of status, when, it really is just good manners.”

    You’d think the Catholic League folks might remember back to the days when Catholic public-schoolchildren were being beaten by school officials for refusing to participate in Protestant prayers and Bible readings, and all protests against such practices were met with the same attitude of insulted but entirely unquestioned privilege (and here in Philly, bloody anti-Catholic/nativist rioting) . . . but no doubt they do, and see Winter Concerts etc. as merely a less violent secular version . .

    “If this is viewed in the framework of a ‘zero-sum game’, and if there is no place to set up your own ‘ideal’ social arrangement due to the nationalization of culture via mass media (and federal law),** then the only alternative remaining is to fight these battles vociferously.”
    The otherwise inexplicable belief that gay marriage is an attack on straight marriage, and the fervor of the campaign against it, would seem to fit under here too.

    * Among the letters sent to Frieda Wolper in response to her 1949 petition against carol-singing and religious plays in the Chelsea, MA public schools is one by another Jew who argues something along the lines of: ‘what are you doing?! they took us in, they’ve treated us well, we better not make them mad.’
    Nobody should ever have to think like that.

    ** I think we’ll see even more attempts to do so, though, building on the Christian homeschooling movement and even self-sufficiency/back to the land sort of stuff.

  4. #4 Dan S.
    November 30, 2006

    btw, resistance to desegregation – not just a thing of the past.

  5. #5 Goldstein
    November 30, 2006

    Dan, I knew someone should respond with that BS about “goy”.

    You know good and well that it does not just mean “non jew”, although thats what we like to tell everyone.

    Who ya kiddin?

    Beside the goys? Hahahahahahahaha/

  6. #6 Goldstein
    November 30, 2006

    By the way, Dan, in an atheist nation the problem for the religious would NOT be to avoid feeling like second class citizens, it would be to avoid the Gulags, brainwashing camps, and “re-education” centers.

    So come on, quite pulling my leg.

  7. #7 skunqesh
    November 30, 2006

    ah yes – no war on Xmas is replete without a visit from special (in a short bus kinda way) Agent Goldy!
    hooray!

    Goldy, we’ll quit pullin yer leg when you quit tuggin yer shrimpy lil bean sprout of a dick everytime someone mentions the word ‘religion’ or ‘Jeeeesus-Ah!’

    & For that special ‘persecuted’ person in your life, shop for the best gift this year at:

    http://www.extremerestraints.com/bondage-gear_10/?gclid=CLXE68qE74gCFR1hYQodhW7VkQ

    Merry F’n XXXmas!

  8. #8 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    November 30, 2006

    The United States is 85 percent Christian…

    This might depend on whom you ask. Apparently they are counting the Mormons. I’ve met Southern Baptists who do not even consider Catholics to be Christians.

  9. #9 stogoe
    November 30, 2006

    Oh, Legion, you always brighten my day.* Do you remember the good times we used to have at RSR? If you had anything to actually say rather than screaming spittle, we could relive those magical days. You’ve become verklempt, kid.

    *With a sudden urge to vomit.

  10. #10 Goldtein
    November 30, 2006

    Don’t worry, Stoge, they are putting in a new computer system in over the holidays.

    And, we are going to adopt a whole new approach, new IDs and whats best we will have new IPs and blockers.

    And whole new set up.

    So we look forward to reliving those good times many, many times in the new year!

  11. #11 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 1, 2006

    Oh. Yay.

  12. #12 stogoe
    December 1, 2006

    Sorry, everyone. I didn’t mean what I said. Please, just stay away from RSR until you have something other than screaming spittle, Goldy. That was my real point.

  13. #13 Lizzie
    December 2, 2006

    To me the clear solution is to embrace the secularization of Christmas. I wish that immigrants to the country, be they Jew, Hindu, Muslim, whatever, could help their children join American culture by enjoying, say, lights, Christmas trees and gift giving. Wasn’t the Christmas tree a pagan symbol, anyway? To me this is such a simple, obvious solution, but I think it doesn’t grab non-Christians because, well, they they’re just not feelin’ it. It’s not a rational arguement, they just don’t feel a connection to these symbols. But I think that’s just from their own families’ non- celebrations when they were children.

    If I moved to, say, a Muslim majority nation, and the Muslims were crazy in love with for their big annual holiday, I would completely want my children to participate in whatever secular, fun aspects of it we could find. I might just have to get over myself a little bit. If we had some other culural faith tradition, (which we wouldn’t ) we could add that in as well- perhaps at that time of the year, perhaps at others. Then they’d have their heritage, without all the forlorn alienation.

    Even the supposed “values” of Christmas- such as peace, love, good cheer, sharing – they may originally have something vaguely to do with Christianity, but they certainly have their very strongly secularized aspects as well. I think secular Christmas carols (mainly written by Jews) spread these concepts much more than any tale of baby Jesus born in a manger did. And these are values that anyone of any religion or non-religion can embrace.

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