Why I'm disappointed with Garrison Keillor

I don't know if Garrison Keillor is anti-semitic and I don't really care, but the question was raised by his Christmas editorial at Salon.com. After reading it last month I decided I had nothing to say about it. Who really cares what Garrison Keillor says, right?

This morning I was on my way to work and yesterday's Prairie Home Companion came on. I found my hand reaching for the dial to change the channel. Then I realized why I haven't been able to get this out of my head.

I've been listening to PHC for about 20 years. I always enjoyed the quirky humor and most of all the music. When I was younger and searching for my identity, I felt a real connection to the music, as an American and as a Midwesterner. We have a real streak of Appalachia in my part of the country despite being pretty far from the mountains and I love bluegrass and mountain music, even though much of it has a gospel theme. What Garrison reminded my last month is that the music isn't really mine. My connection to it is in my imagination. I may want it, but it doesn't want me.

I love the winter holidays, the light they bring to a dark time of year. My favorite is Channukah, given it's the one I celebrate, but I love my neighbors' Christmas lights, my wife and daughter love to listen to Christmas music on the radio. What I didn't realize, perhaps because of my own willful blindness, is that as much as I feel I am a part of all of this, I am not. Keillor took away my Christmas, took away my identity as an American, a Midwesterner, and a lover of bluegrass music.

Of course I'm not about to change, really. I still love music, I'm still a Midwesterner and an American. But now when I turn on the radio on Saturday evening, I'm not going to be tuning in to Keillor---he shattered my illusion of belonging, and I wish to guard that illusion a little bit longer.

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I keep wanting to believe that Keillor is being funny in an edgy way that those who have criticized this just are not getting. That he's not being anti-Semitic or over the top main-stream Christian apologist.

I keep wanting to believe that he is playing a role that is a parody. He does in fact do that all the time. His minnesotanisms are parodies. His roles as the cowboy or the hard boiled detective or the guy in the muffin mix or the katsup commercial are all parodies. Why assume that anything he does is NOT a parody.

That's what I really really want to believe, and I keep trying, because I don't want to write him off.

Secretly, I want a job writing for the PHC. Because I have a lot of inner parody for and about Minnesota.

Less secretly I'd rather that one off the primary cultural icons of Minnesota not be a jackass anti-Semite.

So I read that Salon piece just now and for the first half I was able to keep up my desire to believe that Kiellor is not an ass.

But by the end ....

... holy crap, man.

There is still hope. Maybe he just has a brain tumor or something.

You're welcome to join my friends and I and our holiday tradition of Gift Card Day. Every Dec 26th, we get together, swap out unwanted gift cards amongst ourselves and go forth and buy the shit we really wanted for Christmas.

As new guy, you'll be responsible for driving and restaurant gift cards have to be used for the benefit of the group.

This is very true and very sad. I am such a sentimental, secular holiday lover, that people like Keiller, and the rest of the "keep Christ in Christmas" group are stealing something innocent and beautiful from me. It is putting the holiday into the same part of my rational mind that is so angry with religious society. I do live in France at the moment, and must admit that the Christmas trees and lights are much more benign here.

Oh, and I'm sincerely pissed off at him for ruining your christmas spirit, as it were. I've been living without my christmas spirit for a long time. It's quite doable.

Keillor has appeared to sink into miserable, mean-spirited bigotry within the last few years; whether that's truly his mindset, or rather some grand, painfully clever parody, I really can't say. I stopped listening to PHC, though.

Please don't let Keillor ruin bluegrass and roots music for you, Pal. My parents used to take us kids to camp out at the Kerrville Folk Festival every year, and the audience was (and continues to be) always diverse and mellow. Listen to Mountain Stage or Folk Alley, and forget Keillor's exclusionary narrow-minded nonsense.

Oh man, I found his piece through the Baltimore Sun and was shocked and disgusted. Turns out he'd written another screed, this one homophobic, a few years back and said he was just joshing around. I guess this one is joking, as well@@ Either that or Keillor is a big, fat, folksie bigot.

By WonderingWilla (not verified) on 03 Jan 2010 #permalink

Might I suggest that you let your local public radio station know precisely why you won't be tuning in to PHC? I'm sure they'd appreciate the feedback.

I feel the same way about the local oldies station. I love listening to it, but around Christmas time there is nothing but Christmas music (and lots of overly religious Christmas music). I can't listen to the station the rest of the year, because of how it make me feel excluded during Christmas.

We have a real streak of Appalachia in my part of the country despite being pretty far from the mountains and I love bluegrass and mountain music, even though much of it has a gospel theme. What Garrison reminded my last month is that the music isn't really mine. My connection to it is in my imagination. I may want it, but it doesn't want me.

You know what? That isn't really true - we totally own the shit out of bluegrass and mountain music. It may not be in our specific ancestral heritage, but it is certainly a big part of Michigan heritage. Our state imported a lot of autoworkers from Appalachia, The Smokies and the Ozarks - bringing some awesome music with them. There are several dulcimer makers trained by parents or grandparents, who were trained by the same, with skills to rival any mountain dulcimer makers. There are a whole hella lot of excellent bluegrass players - professional and amateur and many in between here in MI, I've had the pleasure of playing with several of them.

We have several generations of homegrown bluegrass, folks who mixed it up with the natives to the point that we have a very reasonable claim to that music. I have sat around a scant few bonfires that didn't have someone or more often several someone's busting out instruments and as often as not it was bluegrass or hybrid folk being played - make up the words as you go if you don't know them or they don't exist.

Bluegrass, folk and pure mountain music doesn't give a flying fuck who or what your labels are. Whether you are picking away, singing away or just enjoying the shit out of it, players are happy to welcome you - no matter what color your skin, faith or lack thereof you might follow or even if you are particularly capable of the picking or the singing. The whole point of that music is to foster community and provide as much enjoyment as possible, to the players as much as the audience - it doesn't even require a fucking audience - nothing says rocking big fun like fifteen to twenty folk sitting around making music together.

As for Garrison Keillor - fuck him and his tiny petty bullshit. I have personally never been a big fan, but have plenty of friends who have been - that pathetic little tirade has lost him a lot of listeners.

Once upon a time in a far away land, I tried to explain Rush Limbaugh to an Iraqi interpreter. He worked every day in an office where one of the military guys blared Rush over his PC speakers. I fumbled through an explanation of the Conservative movement and fear politics and I realized I wasn't getting through. Finally I said "Limbaugh's an asshole." The interpreter's face lit up. What he really needed to hear was that not all Americans buy Rush's line of BS.

I think this is also the proper response to Keillor. Publicly disagreeing with the bigoted nutball goes a long way. I believe that's more than just the American way, it's an obligation we share as Americans.

I am all about taking symbols back. I love my country very much but was pretty quiet about it the last few years to as to not look like a right winger. Screw that. I love my country AND I'm a liberal AND I vote.

The central problem is that Garrison Keillor has never been funny. And I know Funny. And Matt Groening has my back:

Man: [quietly] Well, sir, it has been an uneventful week in Badger Falls...where the women are robust, the men are pink-cheeked, and the children are pink-cheeked and robust.
[Audience laughs loudly]

Homer: What the hell's so funny?

Man: At the Apple Biscuit cafe, where the smiles are free, don't you know, Sven Inqvist studied the menu, and finally he ordered the same thing he has every day.
[Audience laughs and applauds]

Bart: Maybe it's the TV.

Homer: Stupid TV. [Hits it] Be more funny!

By Something Polish (not verified) on 03 Jan 2010 #permalink


G.K. doesn't own Christmas, neither do Christians. Enjoy any holiday/celebration you want in your own way. Don't let him get you down, he doesn't speak for all Midwesterners. He also doesn't have the authority to take away your identity, don't let him do that to you.

I was really happy when my dh told me tonight a recent pol in Maine had 41% of people/Mainers saying they don't believe in God. There is hope.

Well, unfortunately, the Internet has let me down in terms of someone having compiled a comprehensive list, but a quick glance at Wikipedia's List of bluegrass musicians turns up:

Judith Edelman
Bela Fleck
David Grisman
Andy Statman
Eric Weissberg

And that's just the names I recognize and know to be Jewish. I'm sure someone with more time and expertise could compile a more comprehensive list. I know that Weissberg ("Dueling Banjos") was part of a thriving Jewish Bluegrass scene in NY in the '60s. Throw in Dylan and the folk crowd, jug band revivalists, trad jazz and swing, etc., and I think American Jews have as good a claim on Southern/Midwestern rural and traditional music as anybody.

Let me know if you're ever in Cincinnati, and we'll head across the river to Rabbit Hash and hear some real music.

I just try to tell myself that it's the stroke, and all the undiagnosed little strokes that he's had prior to this. Because frankly someone would have to be suffering brain damage to not like Unitarians such as myself.

By Albatross (not verified) on 03 Jan 2010 #permalink

Wait, you mean all Midwestern American bluegrass music lovers aren't Jews?
Something is very wrong with my worldview. And I like it that way.
That said, I will grant Keillor one point. Do reindeer have cloven hooves? Cause I would totally roast up a Rudolph. Not that I eat meat. But I'd make an exception.

Just remember that a college-educated city boy who made his money on Lake Wobegon, live radio and Guy Noir has no call to say one damned thing about cultural appropriation. And enjoy your excellent taste in music. Despite PHC recording across the river, we don't actually have much of a local bluegrass scene.

Blah, blah, don't let him take your symbols and music, Nobody owns bluegrass, blither, we're not all dbag-ists, bleat, bleat, blah.

Sorry peeps but fuck that.

Pal is right on target.

This is what happens when semifamous people turn out to hate you for what you are and haven't the foggiest notion of who you might be.

By BikeMonkey (not verified) on 03 Jan 2010 #permalink

Nope BikeMonkey - that's too much of a two-sided coin, ya know?

You gonna let Garrison Keillor or some other stupid ass define who you are for you?

Nothing happened except he's an asshole spouting stupid bigoted opinions. No one has to take them personally or be offended by them. It's much better to laugh at his utter stupidity.

And... like #11, realize that he never was funny and never had anything really worthwhile to say.

What DuWayne said.

I'm an atheist from the Ozarks and I can like whatever music or holidays that I want to. I love bluegrass and I usually celebrate christmas with a tree and lights and all that shit.

I know that GK's screed was not a joke because he responded to comments on the piece with even more hateful and nasty insults. What a fuckhead.

By CanadaGoose (not verified) on 03 Jan 2010 #permalink

DB, the notion that you are uninfluenced by surrounding culture is either a quaint vanity or a mark of sociopathy.

By BikeMonkey (not verified) on 03 Jan 2010 #permalink

Donna's comment is insane and only makes sense in the context of some all white christian majoritarian bubble.

"Bigotry, hatred, violence? Figgeddabadit! There's nothing good or bad buy wishing makes it so!"

By MonkeyPox (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

GK going on about and on about mistletoe and "O Tannenbaum"-- pagan winter symbols! This long-time PHC fan, who braved a frigid January day 25 years ago to see PHC live in St. Paul, will swear off it.

On edit: Just re-read the Salon piece. Guess GK doesn't read German; the version of "Silent Night" most people know is a pretty good English translation of it.

What about the nearly annual, brilliant interpretation of Cher's "O Holy Night" by Canadian Jew Paul Shaffer? Anyone who tries to take that away from me is asking for it!

By Something Polish (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

So what BikeMonkey, I am supposed to accept that as an atheist I have no right to include myself in Christmas, because a bunch of fucking bigoted asshats say I don't? I am supposed to accept that because it isn't directly a part of the cultural heritage of my ancestors (half of whom are German, my mother a first gen immigrant) that I don't have a right to be included in music I enjoy listening to and playing?

Fuck that bullshit. I really don't give a flying fuck what some bigoted fucking assholes have to say about it and refuse to let them define what I am accepted in and what I am not. I don't let Billo, Beck or any other right wing asshat "put me in my place," I am not about to accept it from Keillor or people who used to be my friends, but stopped letting their children play with mine after I came out as an atheist. Sorry BM, but fuck that.

I think he was probably trying to be funny, but failed miserably. He's not the first humorist that I've loved and then been seriously offended by. I don't know how accurately this piece reflects his real views; again, he is a humorist, and that makes it a little more difficult to tell what his real views are and what's parody. (That whole class of writer is kind of on a 24-hour Poe at times.) Regardless, I think he screwed up badly with this piece, and it disappointed me greatly as well.

And I'm not only a Christian and a Minnesotan, but a Lutheran as well. Being a Minnesotan Lutheran does not have to equal asshat. (Note for pedants: Keillor isn't a Lutheran, but used to be one. He shifted to the Episcopalians. He was raised by fundamentalists, though.) Despite the gentleness of his demeanor and delivery, he does have a cantankerous side. Perhaps it is a stereotypical Minnesotan thing -- we do breed more passive-aggressives up here, and he does often strive to be a stereotype for the purpose of humor. In general, he does seem to have become more cantankerous with age. (The lawsuit against his neighbors for wanting to build an addition to their house near his much larger house, for instance.) Perhaps he's just letting more of it out, and it's been there all this time. Hard to say. But this is not the only thing he's done lately that has disappointed me.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

It does not have to be like this. This is related to why I expressed surprise at your insistence in an earlier posting that Christmas is not and could never be a secular holiday (I agreed with your general point about "Merry Christmas" as a normative greeting intensifying Otherness, FWIW). Let me say it clearly:

Screw these "Christ in Christmas" buffoons. Culture does not belong to anybody -- it is public domain. Bluegrass, Christmas lights, all of this is as much yours and as much mine as it is Keillor's. If you want to adopt it, it's yours. If you want to borrow from it and make your own tradition, that's awesome; there is nothing inauthentic about that. Concerns about authenticity seem to be a doorway to either pretentious or bigotry, depending on the political leanings of those concerned.

Small-minded bigots are trying to take back December like they own it. The best way to fight them is not to retreat into our own cultural ghettos because we feel disowned by the mainstream; rather, we should assert our right to be the mainstream. Don't let fundamentalists "take back" Christmas; they never had it in the first place, if you actually examine the history. Instead, secularists should take back Christmas. And bluegrass. And everything else.

You choose your identity, not some crusty old man who used to be funny but is turning into a dick in his old age.

Blah, blah, don't let him take your symbols and music, Nobody owns bluegrass, blither, we're not all dbag-ists, bleat, bleat, blah.

Sorry peeps but fuck that.

Pal is right on target.

This is what happens when semifamous people turn out to hate you for what you are and haven't the foggiest notion of who you might be.

What t he fuck does this mean? When a famous person disses you, you should roll over and take it in the ass?

Sorry, BikeMonkey, but that entire comment was grade-A stoopid.

Keillor has always been an ass; he just happens to be an ass that has a way with words. He is a magician -creating the illusion of a down-home, folksy, welcoming enclave week after week.

"....as much as I feel I am a part of all of this, I am not."

As an Official Representative of WASP Christianity (Lapsed) (Northeastern Region), I officially decree that you are. You can have GK's place.

FWIW, I'm only in it for the lights and prezzies, too.

By OleanderTea (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

JS, I think you misread bikemonkey

Duwayne, James Sweet et al.

A: No. What you are supposed to do is to recognize what Pal is talking about and understand that all your brave talk is far from a universal solution for people hit with these little disquietudes. Try to understand how being Jewish gives you a reaction that has greater depth and context than does that of those who are all excited about being a New Atheist or wtfever.

By BikeMonkey (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

He probably didn't realize he was being offensive. Maybe he thought that no one other than white Christians listen to his program. Before reading this post, it wouldn't have even crossed my mind that his article was not politically correct. In fact, I might have even thought he was being sarcastic.

But you are right in pointing out his bigotry. It's only by calling him on it that things can change. And keeping with the spirit of NPR who often represents all cultures equally, the article's content was out of place.

So thank you once again for enlightening the rest of us and let's hope that your feedback gets back to Garrison so that next time, he can come up with some more appropriate material.

Another note, just the fact that people from different cultures and religions participate in Christmas festivities is a testament to the wonderfulness of this holiday. It is my impression that Christ was accepting of all people, so everyone is welcome to celebrate Christmas in whatever way they choose.

-humans! always so worried about their feelings - but in the penultimate post we had the blog owner frying a pound of bacon, and who's worried about the pig's feelings?
I am.

Is that a fucking joke??? Who cares about the fucking pig?? If god didn't want us to eat pigs, he wouldn't have made them out of yummy pork.

By MonkeyPox (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

Having read the salon article:

Keillor, a "Christian" man, opines (whines) about how Xmas is for Christians, (who also believe that they have an automatic ticket into Heaven).

I see it as a(n overly done perhaps?) parody of White Fat Rich Americans being scared of the "illegal immigrants" because they're a bit poorer (or browner), the WFRA's have it all but they still want to be able to bitch and moan.

Laughing at the WFRA's is one way to deal with them: this screed of Keillor's is nothing more than mocking of someone who has it all, (plus that free ticket to Heaven), who wants, nay, NEEDS MOAR!

That Keillor allows himself to be the vehicle that delivers this message I saw a bit of Andy Kaufman's "Tony Clifton" here.

We can and are encouraged to hate Clifton, who is unlikable and contemptuous; Keillor as Clifton doesn't work so well because there is no front man, no alter ego to take the heat.

I only listen to the first hour of PHC and then only if I'm out and about doing errands Saturday evenings.

They can't all be gems.

I'm bigoted for saying no one has to let an asshole get them down? And where did I say was uninfluenced by surrounding culture?

All I said was that I don't see a reason to let the asshole make you feel bad. HE should be the one feeling bad!

That's right BikeMonkey. Bigotry only affects you if you let it affect you, man. Don't let it make you feel bad. Feeling bad is the only consequence.

By Funky Fresh (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

Keillor should feel bad that he made up one shitty joke a fucktillion years ago and he's been telling that same motherfucking joke over and over and over since then and IT'S STILL NOT FUCKING FUNNY!

The only people that think that glurge is funny are pompous douchebags from Minnefuckingsota. Fuck Minnesota. I say let's give it back to motherfucking Canada.

CPP, I assume you meant "give it back to Mexico". Learn some damned history.

Thank you for the Keillor editorial link. As an atheist, i found myself agreeing with what he wrote there, a very human and thoughtful piece. Most on this page do not share this opinion (obviously!), so what? It is weirder to witness the agressiveness and intolerance when it comes from "your side", as found in some unhinged comments here. Oh well, and so it goesâ¦

By jean-paul (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

STFU, you cheese-eating surrender monkey.

By MonkeyPox (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

I grew up listening to Garrison Keilor before he went national. I haven't liked lots of what I've seen in the last few years. It's been like learning your favorite uncle is actually a bigot but somehow you never knew.

Keillor seems to have forgotten that a key theme of Christmas is hospitality. So come on over and enjoy the lights, help decorate the tree, and the cookies if you want.

By katydid13 (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

Of course BM, there is no depth whatsoever at explaining to a seven year old why he is no longer welcome to play with his best friend. No depth to being a pariah to many of your friends and having many other friends feel sorry for you, praying that you will see the error - trying to convince you you just need to read this, or listen to that until you really would rather not be around them either. No depth to being removed from the card lists of people you care a great deal for - or being told by elderly people you have helped keep their home together, that they would rather have someone who doesn't know what they are really doing fix the hot water heater, than have an atheist in their home.

No depth whatsoever, in being told not only by rightwing nutjobs, but by friends and other people who should fuckingwell know better, that because you are no longer in their little club, you should bloody well leave their fucking holidays alone.

I understand that my anger and refusal to let these motherfuckers "put me in my place" isn't a universal answer. I also understand that their are others who are coming at this from a very different context. But don't you fucking dare imply this is some superficial fucking game, when you don't have the foggiest bloody clue what you are talking about. There are very good reasons that I am angry about this shit and choose to deal with it the way that I do. They may or may not be equal in depth to the alienation that Pal is talking about, but they are no less fucking valid.

Sometimes, DuWayne, you don't have the luxury of "refusing the bigotry". I admire your ability to fight back, but in many circumstances that desire is irrelevant.

By MonkeyPox (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

CPP, I assume you meant "give it back to Mexico". Learn some damned history.

Like I give a fucking shit about motherfucking history?? Give it to fucking Greenland for all the fuck I care.

Hey, as far as I'm concerned, the asshole Christians can have Christmas. I loathe it, myself, and would love not to be able to celebrate it, but I'm from a culturally Christian background and my family are all Christmas fanatics.

Me, I'm an atheist with very little need in general for ritual at all (I don't see the point of weddings, get pissed off at funerals, and generally don't like holidays except for the paid time off), and as far as I'm concerned, there's something wrong with people who want to party when it's cold and dark and the weather is miserable -- don't people know that the time to party is during the summer when the weather is nice and the days are long, and that dark days and long winter nights are optimised for catching up on one's sleep?!

(Also, dear squid, the incessant shitty music for three months. It can't be over fast enough.)

Bah, humbug.

By Interrobang (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

Your post led me to read the Salon piece, and then contact the local NPR program manager. She is clinging to the idea that it was satire. I'm wholly unconvinced - where's the wink? I hear a great surge of resentment in that piece, and in his most recent post, although he tries to frame the newer one in a joking aspect.

The radio station is not about to drop PHC - talk about knowing which side your bread is buttered on - but this does give them a heads up to keep an eye on GK's off air utterances. Thanks for pointing this article out.

Out of curiosity, DuWayne, what does an atheist look like? How likely are their relatives to also be atheists?

By BikeMonkey (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

WTF would you know about all this, dude?

By MonkeyPox (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

But don't you fucking dare imply this is some superficial fucking game, when you don't have the foggiest bloody clue what you are talking about. There are very good reasons that I am angry about this shit and choose to deal with it the way that I do.

That's right, Monkey. Don't you dare imply that this is a game. It's only a game to those who have never been the recipient of bigotry. You clearly never have been.

By Funky Fresh (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

Out of curiosity, BM, what the fuck is your point? No - never mind, I get it - to you it is absolutely nothing to basically be shunned by a rather massive swath of your friends, while dealing with the fallout of finally cutting loose a lifetime of desperately clinging to a faith you finally failed to justify. My apologies if I am not capable of that sort of cavalier dismissal and tend to be rather bitter about bigoted fucking morons taking it out on my child. And rather bitter about fucking vile asshats like Keillor - obviously there is no excuse for my feeling this way and the impact that sort of bigotry has had on not only me, but my children as well is simply not valid.

FF - Why don't you take that comment in context? That was not my implication at all. I was referring to his casual dismissal of my being a rather angry atheist - his implication being that it is just some sort of superficial game.

And for the record, it was never my intention to hijack this thread. I just rather took exception for getting slammed for having a rather angry reaction to this kind of fucking bullshit and a little different attitude about how to deal with it. Moreso, I took some exception to the notion that my experience - what happens to be behind my anger is somehow invalid or superficial.

I apologize for going this far with it and will gracefully bow out now.

to you it is absolutely nothing to basically be shunned by a rather massive swath of your friends,

Not exactly 'nothing', no.

while dealing with the fallout of finally cutting loose a lifetime of desperately clinging to a faith you finally failed to justify.

And here we arrive.

By BikeMonkey (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

I said I was done arguing and I am - but I would really like to know what the fuck exactly we arrived at. I am rather curious what exactly is wrong with my having been and no longer being a theist.

i don't think anyone was concerned about your failure to believe in imaginary creatures. I think they were calling you out on your statement that bigotry only affects you if you let it---at least that's how it sounded.

If that is what someone thought I was saying, then they could have saved a lot of fucking ridiculous arguing and actually said so. That is not at all what I was saying.

But that is not what BM seems to be having issues with at all.

Oh I think snippy bits up there got it about right DuWayne. I'm not fond of equivalency of oppression, generally, and think there is no way that atheists (converted or otherwise) have it as rough as the ~2% of USians who are Jewish. Despite what the blowhards around these parts who have every obvious privilege, save Christianity (and chosen operating system), would like us to think.

By BikeMonkey (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

(and chosen operating system)

Oh no, now you've done it! Cue the Windows/Mac/Linux flamefest!

(BTW, emacs is way better than vi. There. I said it.)

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 05 Jan 2010 #permalink

I think many people confuse radical, fundamentalist Christians with the majority of people who could be considered to be Christian, just like we confuse radical, fundamentalist Muslims with the majority of Muslims. Religious fundamentalism can, in my opinion, border on mental illness, and does not represent most of the population.

You can believe me when I say that I am not praying for any of you non-believers to cross over to the other side. I am not sure if either of us go to heaven, or even if there is a heaven. I was raised Catholic (if you can call that Christian), but don't practice. Sure, I do the Christmas thing, but only because I've done it all my life, it's fun, and don't know any different. So, please don't lump all of us into one stereotype.

As for the guy who feels sorry for the pig...There are room for all of God's creatures - right next to the mashed potatoes and the green beans.

Keillor took away my Christmas, took away my identity as an American, a Midwesterner, and a lover of bluegrass music.

I don't know if this helps or not, but I think you're ten times the American, Midwesterner, lover of bluegrass music and, for that matter, appreciator of the finer points of Christmas that that Hollywood wannabe is. He doesn't speak for all Midwesterners or Americans. Nor do any other of the bigots who try to make you uncomfortable with your identity.

Try to understand how being Jewish gives you a reaction that has greater depth and context than does that of those who are all excited about being a New Atheist or wtfever

This betrays a lot of assumptions about the identity of the people you are disagreeing with.

I would prefer not to say what religious minority I was raised in, but it is one that is regularly ridiculed in mainstream society -- and even though much of that ridicule is justified, I still always feel an instinctual knee-jerk desire to defend this same religion I now despise. For whatever that is worth...

Oh noes, BikeMonkey has taken away my identity! Oh wait, you didn't. And that's the point I am making.

I found this nice:


Which version did they sing? I see two 19th century versions that leave out the "Jesus", "Christ", and "God"

I've never been a GK fan, so this didn't mean something to me. But, I too have wondered about diversity and inclusiveness. I used to be a big fan of christmas. I liked the secular traditions, of lights, and gifts, and singing, and joy and celebration. More recently, though, I've turned away from the holiday season, because of people like GK, and the sentiments they express. I guess it's OK with me if the want to turn it back into their own holiday, but then, I think I have to wonder why it's a national holiday.

By neurolover (not verified) on 05 Jan 2010 #permalink

Does anybody else find any irony in a guy who presents folk music having a problem with people who change the words to songs?

That's how real folk music works, and always has been. Tunes are public domain, and people put words to them that they like.

I guess Keillor's all upset that My Country 'Tis of Thee has the same tune as God Save the Queen. And Twinkle Twinkle Little Star sounds a little too much like the alphabet song, doncha think?

I think we should give the Christians back their Christmas tunes just as soon as they give the Jews back their God.

Until then, no deal.

Which Oppression Olympics are we talking about here, the summer or the winter games?
"America's most distrusted minority": curling :: "holocaust victims":marathon.


If you think Oppression Olympics are fun, wait till i write another circumcision piece.

You'd think snipping the gribines was the same as defenestrating babies.

Hey, I live in Cambridge and my boyfriend's Norwegian. Based strictly on this column, I think Garrison Keillor may hate me even more than he hates Unitarians or Jews.

I would say enjoy your silver in the Oppression Olympics, except that you didn't even make the podium.

You need your head examined if you think distrust of atheists has more detrimental impact on a person in the US than does their being Jewish, black, Latina or gay. You New Atheists are fevered. Linux users have it worse than you people do ffs.

By BikeMonkey (not verified) on 07 Jan 2010 #permalink

Now now, isn't it somewhat context dependent?
I mean, I'd wager Linux users *in Redmond Washington* have it worse than atheists in Boston. On the other hand, atheists in a small rural Alabama town probably have it worse than Linux users in Boston.

@PalMD- I for one, welcome our flying baby overlords that can only be discovered through defenestration.

Where to begin???

After reading this blog entry and the comments here, I thought I'd better go read the GK essay to see exactly what he said that upset everyone so much. I read it and some other articles, essays, columns and comments on this whole big deal.

And I have to laugh. Come on, people, lighten up and stop taking yourselves so seriuosly!! He was doing what he always does -- exposing our foibles. How could anyone take his comments seriously? How could anyone with the slightest sense of humor not see the comedy in his little sarcastic barbs that remind us that we're all take ourselves a bit too seriously?

One of the biggest problems in this whole world is how people are so sure of themselves and their point of view, so entrenched in an us-vs-them black-and-white mentality, so willing to believe that they have been dissed. I mean, these things are the bases for road rage and lethal fanaticism.

Another thing I find funny -- well, not funny, but extremely ironic -- is how much more vitreolic so many of the comments here are than any of the comments that GK made in his tongue-in-cheek little essay.

The last thing about all this that I find so funny is that I'm even bothering to comment here. I mean, really now. . . who actually cares what any of us thinks about this whole thing? There are REAL problems that should be taking up our energy.

Take care, fellow humans -- smile a little more at one another and yourselves.

By YumaMamaLama (not verified) on 07 Jan 2010 #permalink


I certainly know some atheists who've had a tougher time of it in the U.S. than some Jews. Atheists are the most distrusted minority in America, and I know a number of people who've been fired from jobs or disowned by their own families for being atheists. I don't know any Jews who've been disowned for being Jewish, or for being atheists. (Jews here are mostly more tolerant of atheists than Christians are.)

Certainly, that's nothing like the holocaust. Nobody's claiming that.

On the other hand, I have a couple of atheist Jewish friends whose fathers survived the holocaust, but whose other relatives mostly didn't, and they're way more likely to mention that they're Jewish to random people than that they're atheists, partly because random people these days are more accepting of Jews than atheists. In their family's lives, a generation back, being Jewish was of course an enormous deal, but in their own lives, especially now, not so much. (A lot depends on where you live, of course.)

These days, tolerance of Jews is much greater among the Christian majority than it was, say, 30 or 40 years ago.

Atheists are still out in the cold.

Think about when the first President Bush said that he didn't think atheists should be considered patriots or citizens, because "this is one nation under God."

Imagine if he'd said that about Jews. Wow, what a shitstorm that would have been.

And when Obama said this is a Christian nation, and a Jewish Nation... and a Muslim nation, and a nation of unbelievers, which of those points was innovative and noteworthy? Not the first two. Judaism gets deference---these days even right-wing conservatives mostly talk about the "Judeo-Christian tradition," going out of their way to be inclusive of Jews but exclusive of Muslims and atheists.

I'm not equating being an atheist and being a Muslim, or being brown or black. (Or gay.) Most atheists have it easy most times, in most ways. If we shut the hell up about our views, most people won't notice. I've certainly had it easy, myself, spending most of my life in academia where being an atheist (or Jewish) isn't especially remarkable. From my looks, people have sometimes guessed that I'm Jewish, but never that I'm an atheist.

But I do know atheists who've gotten fired from regular old jobs because their overly Christian bosses were nosy about their beliefs, trying to make sure they were "saved," and then didn't trust them not to steal from the till when they admitted to being atheists.

I even know one atheist whose own (Christian) parents thought he should be killed for being an atheist, though they didn't go ahead and do it themselves.

As an atheist and a Linux hacker, I've got to say you're just fucking nuts when you equate the two, and minimize DuWayne's experiences.

I would say enjoy your silver in the Oppression Olympics, except that you didn't even make the podium.

Oh for fucks sake - this is exactly what I didn't want to see and certainly didn't want to imply. This isn't a fucking competition and to be very clear - there is absolutely no comparison to the plight of atheists in general to the plight of Jews in general - none.

Jews have a thousands of years history of persecution. They are still despised in many parts of the U.S., merely tolerated in others and outright accepted in few.

There are certainly individual Jews who aren't particularly a persecuted minority, but the same in true of atheists. For my own part, a great deal of the impact of the bigotry I have experienced as an atheist is directly related to having been a Christian - my own specific experience. There are a lot of atheists who have it a lot better and many who have a lot worse time of it.

But to say that Jews are somehow less persecuted than atheists is fucking absurd.

Different people have different specific experiences that impact them in different ways. My rage about this whole notion of ownership and my attitude about how to deal with it stem from my own experience. The only relation my experience in this context has with Pal's is that we are both targets for alienation from institutions that, in my opinion, no one has a fucking right to take away from either of us. The reasons are different and our respective reactions are different. I am sure that the depth and content of our feelings on it are also very different. My only point was that they are both valid...Beyond that, there is no fucking comparison whatever.