American Savage: ‘Tisn’t the Season


“I don’t think life is absurd. I think we are all here for a huge purpose. I think we shrink from the immensity of the purpose we are here for.”

—Norman Mailer. 


Americans are very good at Christmas. Christmas in America has transcended a mere holiday of vague religious background. It is no longer some two-bit commercialized version of a mythical Christian origin. Christmas is a season, right? It’s a whole time frame, a state of mind.

If taking part in Christmas were a sport, America would have gone pro straight out of high school. We are disturbingly good at Christmas.Menacingly good. People of means tend to assault Christmas with a ferocious vigor. They jam like crazy into malls and trinket stores for a month, poking and prodding and pulling every little earthly good until they find that unique something they must have. Soon, it’s like an addiction, a gift for every member of the family — regimented love, there is nothing like it.

There is desperation in the way we shop — as if the millions of plastic thingamajigs we are buying will vanish at any moment — like hoarders planning for nuclear winter.

But it boosts the economy and it makes us happy. Buying is a part of giving and that is what Christmas is supposed to be about. We give things to honor one another. We do it for the satisfaction of their joy and their inevitable reciprocation in present form.

You’ll hear plenty of nonsense about peace on Earth and goodwill towards men. You’ll hear about babies in mangers, gifts and something called “myrrh.” And while we all jabber away about the good tidings of great joy like hopeless parrots, it will all feel a little hollow.

Because we don’t really feel that way, right? Lately, it doesn’t seem like anybody is working toward peace on earth. And, as far as I know, we used all of our goodwill sometime around 1959, in an effort to combat the relative bummer of communism.

I guess it would just be nice if our sense of generosity and camaraderie would extend outside of our blood relatives and immediate friends. Remember how Mary and Joseph were denied room at the Inn? Mr. Innkeeper is always painted as heartless and greedy.

But how many of us would have opened our door? Probably not many. “Let her birth in the barn,” we’d have scoffed; all these transients, slumming our streets and wallowing in filth.

Sometimes, it’s hard to see the kindness in other people. We don’t give much to others because “others” aren’t our business. We are rugged individualists — hardcore members of the rational self-interest club, and hand-outs are in bad taste.

It’s just hard imaging Newt Gingrich lovingly adorning his many illegitimate children with free gifts, considering his record on such things. Get a job, Timmy. Earn your things, like Pappa.

You can’t help but get the feeling that, come Christmas day — when we are all eating and unwrapping, and singing, and talking about the joy of the season — about 90 percent of us are faking it.

Sad, right? Where is the joy, people? I watch television and I own a computer. I don’t see joy in my daily injections of the world. Not a lot of good tidings — some sub-par tidings, maybe, but who needs those?

The world is a bummer — just check the headlines. So let’s just be sincere in our efforts, for once. If we are going to insist on this ritual of buying, giving and receiving, let’s actually mean it. Put a little thought into whatever gift you can afford, and if you can’t afford anything, then give something else.

Let’s be sincere and give some money to a charity, instead of dumping pocket change into the Salvation Army bucket just because the poor Santa bastard must be freezing and you hate pennies. Write a real check and buy one less Blu-ray.

And if we are going to insist on the absurd music and lights, the least we could do is put some effort into the bigger meaning. Don’t go stringing up “Peace on Earth” crap if you’re going to complain about Mexicans or Muslims. And refrain from any “goodwill” of any kind unless you’re going to actually practice it.

Merry Christmas, you beasts.

American Savage is a weekly column written by Journal opinion editor Collin Reischman




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