Monday, December 20, 2004

Christmas crisis?

The central theme of Thomas Frank's book, "What's the Matter With Kansas?" is the use of stories of conservatives being persecuted to stir up the Republican base. Keep 'em angry about PC trivialities, the theory goes, and they'll never notice how their leaders are working against the economic interests of the little guy. It appears to be working this season.
Instead of focusing on the president's plan to radically alter Social Security, what are the culture warriors fretting about this month? Why Christ being taken out of Christmas, of course.
Anniston Star columnist Jack Brymer did a fine job writing about the topic this Sunday.
The New York Times' Frank Rich joinedthe fun as well on Sunday.
What is this about? How can those in this country's overwhelming religious majority maintain that they are victims in a fiery battle with forces of darkness? It is certainly not about actual victimization. Christmas is as pervasive as it has ever been in America, where it wasn't even declared a federal holiday until after the Civil War. What's really going on here is yet another example of a post-Election-Day winner-takes-all power grab by the "moral values" brigade. As Mr. Gibson shrewdly contrived his own crucifixion all the way to the bank, trumping up nonexistent threats to his movie to hype it, so the creation of imagined enemies and exaggerated threats to Christianity by "moral values" mongers of the right has its own secular purpose. The idea is to intimidate and marginalize anyone who objects to their efforts to impose the most conservative of Christian dogma on public policy. If you're against their views, you don't have a differing opinion — you're anti-Christian (even if you are a Christian).

Two points:
1. All this religious fervor would be more authentic if there were a corresponding outrage against the rampant commercialism of Christmas.
2. We'd be better off if some of this partisan energy were expended to dig deeply into President Bush's risky schemes for Social Security.