Sunday, December 10, 2017

Captain Crunch, Defender of Christmas

     Captain Crunch loves Christmas. 
     The criminal conspiracy of Snap, Crackle and Pop, not so much. 
     Judging from this special Xmas-themed box of the Captain's tooth-murdering sugary cereal, noticed on the shelves of Target the other day, conveniently juxtaposed with the season-denying Kellogg's Krispy product ... well, let's just say the outraged Fox News diatribe writes itself: "'Who is Kellogg's trying to fool? 'Holiday colors?' Those are green and red, the traditional colors of Christmas as outlined in the Holy Bible..."
     The president of the United States lit a match under the traditional War on Christmas bonfire last week. "You don't see 'Merry Christmas' anymore," he whined. "You see 'Happy New Year.' You see red. And you see snow."
     Crunch good! Krispies bad! Need I point out that Crunch is based on corn, an American product, while Krispies contains rice, harvested in Southeast Asia? 
     My first instinct was to ignore this seasonal disorder as trivial compared to the true outrages and quasi-treasons Trump commits daily. Just another example of the why-are-you-hitting-yourself bully tactic so often used by the Right, of conjuring up some idiotic stance and then pretending someone you don't like embraces it. Nobody is offended by "Merry Christmas." There is no effort to dampen the holiday that pervades every corner of American society from the moment the Halloween candy is put away until the New Year's decorations are taken down. Barack Obama said "Merry Christmas" all the time—MSNBC put together a pointed highlights reel of him saying exactly that, again and again and again. What Obama didn't do is make a big deal of it, weaponizing Christmas, tainting it, as Trump does everything he touches. By the time he's done, "Merry Christmas" will carry an emotional wallop somewhere between "sieg heil" and "fuck you."
    Why pay attention at all? That's easy. Because there is a larger point here.
    The entire GOP worldview is based on false victimization. Their own victimization, conjured up to mask an ugly truth. In a world of true victims, Republicans sympathize with only themselves. Why? Because they can no longer traffic in the open language of hate, of supremacy—they can't simply despise specific groups as inferiors. It isn't done anymore, at least not openly. The next best thing is to imagine offenses that they are the victims of at the hands of those they hunger to condemn. Thus gay people are not simply people, trying to get married, raise families. No, they have an agenda, to destroy straight marriage, to corrupt children (I wonder if Republicans will be able to repeat that one with a straight face after Roy Moore wins on Tuesday. Sadly, they will. We live in the Golden Age of Hypocrisy). 
    That's why Mexicans have to be murderers and rapists, Muslims have to be terrorists. Otherwise Republicans would just be hating people for no reason, and even Donald Trump has enough dim self-awareness to realize that won't fly, thanks to a century of glacial progress.
     Remember where "Happy Holidays" came from. Fifty years ago it was merely assumed everyone was a white Christian. Trust me, it's true. I was there. Inclusion meant tucking in a grating Hanukkah carol into the Christmas Concert, sung condescendingly for the class Jew, who was expected to be grateful. 
    At some point, educators—and TV stations, and cereal makers, and anyone involved in interacting with the public—began to realize that their classroom, their audience, their customers, were actually quite diverse. They weren't all white. They weren't all straight. They weren't all Christian. It was odd to have a Christmas concert in a school where half the students didn't celebrate Christmas. So they began to nudge the net open a bit wider. A "holiday" concert. "Happy Holidays" includes Christmas.
     Fox News grabbed it like a hungry dog and began shaking. This, like gay marriage, like a functioning immigration system, like anything that acknowledges the existence of people who make our nation's terrified third uncomfortable, is simply unacceptable. They lack the honesty to say, "I don't want them here. Their existence detracts from my fragile self-image. I wish they would go away." 
    Accommodating them is an insult. It is oppression, and implies these non-Merry-Christmas-saying creatures also belong. That it is their country too. Trump's Christmas posturing might seem trivial, and at one level it is. But at another it reflects an elemental part of his basic appeal: the illusion that American can be undone, the projector of time run backward, and the shrinking white Christian majority return to its lost Eden where their inferiors bowed their heads and stepped off the sidewalk, mumbling apologies, as the country's true owners strode by, masters of all they surveyed.


  1. This is a superb column. Nothing more needs to be said, and with that in mind, I'll stick my two cents in anyway.
    Trump and 32% of America who still approve of him, don't believe in democracy. Not really. They don't believe in inclusion or acceptance. Hell, they don't even have room in their cold hearts for tolerance. What they do believe in is tribalism. Good old fashioned you-ain't-like-me-so-get-out-of-my-face tribalism. Trump stirring the Christmas pot is just Trump feeding red meat to his alarmingly ignorant tribe. It's easy to look the other way and just label Trump's actions as another self aggrandizing stunt, but the wise among us see it for what it is: another attempt to devalue democracy. Thanks for keeping us on our toes, Neil.

  2. Not to dispute your point in the least, I had something of the opposite experience. My first 1/2 year of 1st grade was at a public school, Myra Bradwell Elementary, which happened to boast of a large contingent of Jewish kids, of whom I was quite envious, as they seemed to get off at least once a week for a Jewish holiday. It no doubt was nothing like that, but that’s the way I remember it almost 70 years later. Another memory from that period: Rice Krispies that have sat in an Aunt’s cupboard for 6 months or so are not very tasty.


    1. I've never been a fan of Rice Krispies. Now Cocoa Krispies are a different matter. Mmm. And while I do not care for Cap'n Crunch, I have a distinct memory of saving box tops and getting a Cap'n Crunch treasure chest in the mail.

    2. I was never a fan of any of those. But I thought it particularly disappointing that a large part of the original ad campaign for the Cap'n seemed to push the idea that the Crunch held up to the milk bath. In my limited experience, I thought it got soggy even quicker than whatever else I was used to...

  3. "Nobody is offended by 'Merry Christmas.'" Well, nobody *was* offended. Ole Rumpy and the Republicans are doing their best to make it as offensive as they can...

    Seems to me that folks would do well to differentiate between Christmas as a religious holy day and the commercial carnival that has long since completely superseded the holy day as a practical matter in the modern world. "...from the moment the Halloween candy is put away until the New Year's decorations are taken down." The big majority of that period is secular carnival season, not the Christmas season. Its hallmarks are Santa and the flying reindeer, sweet songs written by Jewish composers, lots of cheery decorations, and an orgy of eating, drinking and conspicuous consumption.

    As for the religious aspect, it's not the Christmas season right now, and won't be for another couple weeks. It's Advent, a period akin to Lent in which to anticipate the holiday. The colors in Christian churches during the Advent season are purple or blue, not red and green. The religious Christmas season begins just when the carnival season is about to wrap up. But nobody seems to care about that. Some clerk at Macy's, or Snap, Crackle and Pop saying "Happy Holidays," as noted, is only meant to inclusively move more merchandise. Moving merchandise has absolutely nothing to do with any message found in the Gospels, except when the concept is essentially denounced as the money-changers are thrown out of the temple.

    At any rate, our libertine, gotta make sure rich people like me keep as much money as possible, Earth-despoiling, pussy-grabber-in-Chief spouting religious phrases of any kind to demonstrate that he's concerned about Christians represents the sort of through-the-looking-glass irony that has made America so great again.

    1. Nicely said, Jakash. In my cab driving days, I early noted that Xmas was a greater drinking day by far than New Year’s. Atavistic Saturnalia mayhap.


  4. This column makes a great point. What offends bigots about the objects of their hate is not that they get married or they listen to hip-hop or pray to Mecca or whatever. It's that they exist. They are mortally offended by the fact that those people have bodies that take up space and breathe air and give off heat and reflect light.

    There is nothing to be done with people like that except 1) hope they change their minds and 2) failing that, ensure that they have as little power and influence as possible.

  5. Great column! You're right on point, as usual.

  6. Get an expresso machine and make your own at home, then carry it with in a thermos cup.

  7. @Private — I like your idea, even though it was posted it on today’s blog rather than yesterday’s :)


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