Monday, December 24, 2012

What Really Matters [The Fake War on Christmas and Silent Night]

¡Happy Holidays mi Gente!
@6 innocent young lives were snuffed out earlier this month -- victims of violence created in large measure by a gun culture and a segment of the population that feels entitled to the point that their "right" to bear arms is more important than those lives. Blood is on our hands people, and I hope we do something because I can assure you: it will happen again... and again.

 Leave it to the Christian right and conservatives in general to fuck up a good thing… There are two parts to today’s post. One illustrates how conservatives use religion to foster fear, the other illustrates how spirituality can be a powerful force, even in the midst of unbelievable violence and insanity.

* * *

The Manufactured War on Christmas
What we preserve in the larger human story determines what we believe is possible in the world.

I’m so sick of it. Every. Fuckin’. Year.

The outrage over a supposed liberal plot to destroy Christmas. As if pro-free market deregulators needed any help in destroying whatever vestige of meaning Christmas still has. Fox News, led by blowhard bully, Bill O’Reilly, are really great at manipulating low-information viewers with faked or exaggerated “news accounts of the War on Christmas. They’re almost all of them either outright lies or spin. I won’t recount them -- Media Matters collects and debunks the propaganda every year (here and here).

The [fake] War on Christmas is definitely real and perpetuated by Fox News and other conservative outlets in order to increase ratings, foment fear, and viewer rage. Last year, as I was scrolling through my Facebook page I came across the following (several times):

I'm inviting all my Facebook family and friends to join me in returning to the traditional greeting of "MERRY CHRISTMAS" instead of the politically correct "Happy Holidays"!! If you agree with me, please re-post this message.....
MERRY CHRISTMAS! We need Christ back into our lives
° 。 ° ˛˚˛ * Π_。˚
˚ ˛ •˛•˚ *____~\。˚ ˚ ˛
˚ ˛ •˛• ˚ | 田田 |門| •
If God is also welcome in your House, repost this!

            I fail to understand the animosity for “Happy Holidays.” I'm sure God or a Higher Power of some sort is in the home of my Jewish, Buddhist, Pagan, and Wiccan friends. I wouldn’t say “Merry Christmas” to them not because I want to be “politically correct” but because it would be rude. I value and respect other people’s beliefs. It’s tragic that the “us-vs-them” mentality has spread to the point that common decency is dismissed as “political correctness.”

            But let’s get this straight, the fake war on Christmas is not really about Christmas, but rather it’s conservative code for religious intolerance, anti-Semitism, and bigotry. It’s the dog whistle to rile up the rabble.

            The whole “political correctness” smear is bullshit anyway. People who bitch about political correctness remind me of a bunch of jerks whining because they can’t belittle and demean other people with impunity. Conservatives have been very successful at demonizing perfectly good words and concepts; in fact, it’s one of their most basic tactics. They have demonized the whole concept of politeness, of tolerance, of respect for other people. You’re either “us” or “them”; you’re either “with us” or “against us.”

            I am a practicing Buddhist, but I celebrate the spirit of Christmas. I was raised as a Christian and I join with family and friends to celebrate it, though I don’t believe in a God in the Christian/ Judeo sense. So what? I’m very much a spiritual slut and try to learn from wisdom traditions of all types. At the core of The Nazarene’s message is a powerful and sublime philosophy: that we love one another, and that we should treat one another with respect and tolerance. Of course, Christmas really isn’t about that at all. Shit, if there is a war on Christmas, it was won long ago by a consumer culture grounded in the mindset of mindlessly acquiring material possessions rather than self-actualization.

            And that’s the tragedy here because the message is lost. And if you doubt it’s power, then check out the following story…

On Christmas Eve in 1914, two lines of homesick soldiers, one British, one German, were dug into the trenches on the Western Front in the middle of World War I. Now, you have to understand that WWI was considered the “war to end all wars.” It was one of the vicious wars because in those days, you had to look your enemy in the eye as you stabbed or shot him. You were as likely to die from starvation, exposure, and disease as you were at the hands of the enemy. So, there are these two front lines and between them was a fire zone called no-man’s land. On this moonlit, snowy night in a God-forsaken landscape, the Germans lifted army issued Christmas trees sparkling with tiny candles over the edge of their trenches and set them in plain sight.

            The British shouted and cheered with delight. The Germans began to sing “Stille Nacht… ”and the British began to sing along with “Silent Night.” This encouraged the Germans and they set down their guns in the moonlight and heaved themselves from their trenches carrying candles, cake, and cigars toward their enemies. The British responded in kind, carrying steamed pudding and cigarettes.

            These men met in the middle of the forbidden zone, exchanged gifts, sang carols, and played soccer. This seemingly spontaneous truce eventually extended for hundreds of miles among thousands of soldiers. The really funny thing was, having seen each other’s humanity, they could no longer shoot each other…

            The war essentially stopped.

            Horrified, commanders on both sides had to transfer thousands of men to new positions until the enemy became faceless again, something killable, not a human being -- not a brother.
            Almost a hundred years later, scholars are still studying this event, reading soldier’s journals and letters that refer to it, seeking to understand “the breakdown of the military mindset,” or seeking to understand how a spontaneous peace movement could spread even in the cold heart of war.

            Today you will hear countless other stories. Stories of death and unspeakable cruelty. You will no doubt hear stories justifying, in the name of global economics or religion, the starvation and killing of innocent men, women, and children. You will see or read approximately 80,000 messages today bombarding you with the agenda to get you to buy something -- most of it will fly under the radar of your awareness. But if you remember anything, remember this story because it is true and it speaks to who we really are and the essence of what it means to be a human being.

            But most of all, remember the contrasts between the two part of this post today. The first part emphasizes difference and domination, the second part reinforces what is good in all of us, regardless of what or who we believe in.

            My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…


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