“Best wishes to everyone celebrating Christmas.”
—- Law Professor and blogger Jonathan Turley, wishing at least some of his readers a merry Christmas.
Prof. Turley is a lawyer, of course, and trained to express himself with precision. Thus I have to ask: what the heck is he trying to say here?
Is he wishing good tidings only those who, like his family, are celebrating Christmas, and rotten times to the rest? Is he editing the humanist message of Christmas to “Peace on Earth, and good will to those who are putting up Christmas trees and giving gifts, other wise you’re on your own”?
Or, as I fear greatly, given the fact that he is part of the U.S. education establishment and thus prone to have a spine of cream cheese, just observing the trendy political correctness that infects our times, and bowing to those who contrive to take offense when anyone smiles at them and offers a greeting that only says, at minimum, “We’re all in this together, so let’s try to be as good to each other as we can, OK?”
I suppose Professor Turley believes deference is due to current day Scrooges like a Christmas Eve passenger on American Airlines Flight 1140 to Dallas from New York’s La Guardia Airport. A member of the crew dared to wish passengers a Merry Christmas, it being Christmas Eve and most of the fliers probably on their way to celebrate with loved ones, and one of them objected, saying, “You shouldn’t say that because not everyone celebrates Christmas!”
Well, you aren’t supposed to argue with customers, but the old fart was dead wrong. One individual doesn’t have the right or authority to stop other people from being nice to each other, or nice to him. There is nothing aggressive, nasty, or harmful in someone saying “Merry Christmas,” which is not proselytizing or forced religious observance, and anyone who takes such a cheerful expression from a stranger as an assault needs to seek psychiatric care. We shouldn’t cater to power-plays from such social bullies.The inevitable result of caving to people like this will to eliminate the social balm of Christmas completely, as the same sorts f people who will argue that campus sexual encounters must be accompanied by tangible and legally valid proof of mutual consent, or one is risking a rape accusation in “Rolling Stone.” Reflect on the Miracle of the Christmas Gas Can, related here. My rescuers were strangers, and acting in the spirit of the season. Should they have first received confirmation from me that I wouldn’t be offended at playing a part in the Christmas observance? If that becomes the new rule, I think they might have decided to avoid a lecture and drive on.
Back to the drama on Flight 1140: sure enough, another flight attendant, perhaps hearing the crank unload on a colleague, also wished the traveler “Merry Christmas!” Now, if calculated, this probably violated the Second Niggardly Principle, as stupid as the man’s first reaction was. If it was innocent of intent to provoke, however, the sole miscreant here remains the passenger, who went completely bananas and commenced an anti-Christmas rant that was so excessive that he was kicked off the flight—to applause, reputedly.
Does Turley really feel that the right thing is to engage in muffled holiday cheer and self-censored love for mankind to satisfy people like this?
Such people are the modern day embodiment of Ebenezer Scrooge. They have a right to be miserable, to stand apart for the culture, to be cynical about the species and perpetually angry at kind and generous sentiments that they can’t muster, but if a seasonal ritual prompts people to treat friends, family, associates, casual acquaintances and strangers like they should treat them all year round, there is nothing ethical about endorsing or ratifying their petulant view, even as it applies to themselves. The maxim is “Love your neighbor,” not “Love those neighbors who are comfortable being loved and not worried that some obligation is attached.”
Charles Dickens had this issue well in hand, and I assumed it was settled in “A Christmas Carol.” When Scrooge’s Christmas-loving nephew visits to extend his best wishes of the season, Scrooge objects. Fred will hear none of it:
“Nephew!” returned the uncle, sternly, “keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.”
“Keep it!” repeated Scrooge’s nephew. “But you don’t keep it.”
“Let me leave it alone, then,” said Scrooge. “Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!”
“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew: “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that — as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!…I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute. We have never had any quarrel, to which I have been a party. But I have made the trial in homage to Christmas, and I’ll keep my Christmas humour to the last. So A Merry Christmas, uncle!”
Then Scrooge goes nuts and they kick him off the airplane.
Fred was right.
Prof. Turley is being a weenie. We should have the courage to stand up for a cultural tradition of good will, kindness and generosity at Christmas that extends to everyone, whether they like it or not. Once the Christmas spirit needs a consent form, the best part of Christmas is doomed.