Being a native Rhode Islander, I can tell you that hailing from the smallest state in the Union gives all of its residents an innate cultural inferiority complex. By which I mean, we are so self conscious about how forgotten we are by the rest of the country that any passing mention of our humble state in the national media, good or bad, usually serves as some cause for celebration. For instance, it’s not uncommon to hear a clearly audible round of cheers from a local bar from two neighborhoods away if the TVs are showing that scene from Dumb and Dumber where Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels drive their shag-dog decorated van past the ‘Big Blue Bug’ in Providence (google it) on their way to Aspen, Colorado.
So how strange is it to suddenly find ourselves as the front lines of Fox News’s five-years-and-counting “War on Christmas”? Well, it may have marked the first time the oft-forgotten state has received some distinctly unwanted attention. Keep in mind, it’s been no more than two years since little Rhody sparked a national debate on the state of education when a local school board (in?)famously fired all the teachers at the worst public school in the state to address their outrageous drop out rate.
Though at least that time ’round, at least one guy in a suit found reason to give us a pat on the back for it.
In case you’re not up on this almost completely pointless and most recent controversy, our newly elected Independent Governor, Lincoln Chaffee, defended his decision to label a Christmas Tree a ‘Holiday Tree’ on invitations to the State House’s yearly lighting ceremony late last month.
Cut to the headquarters of Fox News in mid-November, where a feverishly busy media empire burns in their maddening search for a Republican Presidential nominee who isn’t Mormon, can keep it in their pants, and speak in coherent sentences all at the same time. (Normally, “has only one ex-wife who must have been a cheating, socialist harlot at most” would be a condition here but alas, the drones on 47th street are desperate to dethrone the dark one, so a c-word* must be made.) Suddenly, an intern at The O’Reilly Factor innocently raises his hand and asks “Hey, aren’t we supposed to be fighting that ‘War on Christmas’ soon?”
To which a choir of heavenly angels comprising of none other than Steve Doucey, Papa Bear Bill, and Megyn Kelley reply in a panicked and unplanned unison to the melody of Aud Lang Syne, “Oh Holy shit!… Have we forgot?”
Yes, Bill-O and Fox News’s annual, yuletide piss-and-moan parade that is the “War on Christmas” got to a late start this year, mostly because corporations decided to start using the lord’s good name where it belongs. Yes, that’s right–not liberals, I said corporations, but more on this in a moment.
So somehow, someone (likely, the same poor intern from above) at Fox caught wind of this story from the black hole I call home between Massachusetts and Connecticut just in time for the holiday rush.
Now simply for the sake of humor, let’s assume this intern was a native Ocean Stater who, after making his astute observation on the WOC that earned him two less lashing sessions during his contractually obligated twice-daily visitations to Dick Morris’s secret gay sex dungeon in the basement of NewsCorp, spent his last $9 in his savings he didn’t spend on rent in New York City on a Megabus to visit his family during his Thanksgiving break only to find a curious looking invitation sitting on the family dinner table that reads:
“We Cordially Invite You to the Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Rhode Island State House…”
It didn’t look any different from the invitation his parents received last year from the last Governor, Republican Don Carcieri, but last year the future of his career wasn’t being carelessly cradled like helpless testicles in the calloused hands of Roger Ailes.
He closes his eyes in silent prayer, leaning his eyes skyward underneath the plaster ceiling of his suburban duplex and thanks the God who not only gave him his only son to die on the cross for his sins but also this tiny ticket to maybe-but-in-all-actuality-he-probably-shouldn’t-get-his-hopes-up-for (quick, cue the Pinocchio voice!) finding, sigh, a real job…
Moreover, the following truth is made self evident in the poor, unpaid media slave’s mind: “Man, I will never have to constantly wash the taste of Dick Morris’s man juice out of my mouth while double fact-checking Jerry Sandusky’s win-loss ratio ever again!”
Hey, it’s a really tough road to ESPN and sometimes you have to work some jobs you’re not proud of; and this way maybe some Exec Producers at Fox will actually let him use them as job references at his internshit [sic] next semester. In fact, he can just hear it now: “John Q. Mellenial, Sports Center Production Assistant”. Has a nice ring, don’t it? Take that, 20% unemployment rate for recent college graduates! So why not throw a textbook lefty like Lincoln Chaffee under the bus if only to make one little communications major’s dreams come true?
The trouble is Lincoln Chaffee is hardly your textbook liberal, and more of the worst kind of career politician in a long family line of career politicians. Not only is he the son and grandson of two beloved Rhode Island Governors (and Republicans, no less) but he got his foot in the door to the national stage upon nomination to his father’s Senate seat shortly after his death in 1999.
From there, then-Republican Senator Chafee did what conservatives in this state do best and pretend they’re (sort of) liberal to cater to a heavily left-leaning electorate. As my Regan-loving eighth grade Civics teacher often liked to mope, it’s impossible to run for a congressional office in the state of Rhode Island as an arch conservative. Nancy Pelosi would have better chances in any Texas district by comparison.
So during his tenure as Senator, Chafee railed against the Iraq War, voted against the Bush tax cuts, and opposed pro-life efforts at every turn. When Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse unseated him in the 2006 mid-term elections, Chafee told the Associated Press that his opponent’s tipping of Congress toward the Dems helped the country.
In other words, this guy exemplifies the only kind of politician who could possibly waste their time with the “War on Christmas”, which is not so much due to a political or religious affiliation but more of a personality flaw. I know the real Christian fundamentalists who fight these culture wars will never listen no matter how many times the “other side” of this debate my say so, but real liberals could not possibly care less about Christmas. I know in their heads, the left and Christmas are like Israelites and Palestinians (meanwhile in ours, it’s more like Austrians and Australians) but to chart where a media-baiter like Chafee land in this asinine debate requires some explanation for how the right’s precious ‘War on Christmas’ actually works. Again, the other side will never hear a word of this but go with me here — the following tirade is the reason liberals have mostly nothing to do with why retail outlets advertise “Happy Holidays” and why corporate profits have everything to do with it.
I’m not going to use cited references here because #1.> Damn it, I’m co-director of the editorial department at this website and therefore have the authority to circumvent such needless journalistic procedures if I feel it necessary and #2.> This shit is obvious.
Corporations, by nature, want to sell as much of their product as they can in order to maximize their profits. I’ll concede this is part of what makes America, ahem, “awesome”. However, if they use the words “Merry Christmas” in their advertising, individuals who don’t identify themselves as Christians (notice I didn’t write “American”, feel free re-read that last word a few times if you have to get it straight) will be turned off and not buy their products. Their doing so isn’t so much a conscious act of protest against some ‘moral majority’ as it is their human nature merely gravitating towards where they feel a more welcoming atmosphere.
What I’m saying is, they are repelled by the words “Merry Christmas” in advertising for products for the same complicated, deep-seeded, psychological reasons men are repelled by advertisements that use the words “Feminine Hygiene”. Men see those words, and know that they probably won’t find anything in that isle of Rite Aid that they will find useful. Similarly, those who don’t worship Jesus as their lord and savior see the words “Merry Christmas” and logically conclude that those products are probably not meant for them to purchase. It’s not malicious or personal, no more than it is for me not to walk into Victoria’s Secret right now and buy some panties.
Of course, this group of individuals does not exclusively include only liberals. During the 2000 election, then presidential candidate George W. Bush aggressively courted the Islamic vote back when Muslims were a key voting block for the Republican Party in the closest-of-close races for president. As for the Hebrews, they just wrapped up a love fest between the current circus of GOP candidates and that much-catered to demographic no more than a few weeks ago.
Now I’m sure devotees of these religions and others have written vicious letters in the past to CEOs of retail outlets for not catering to every corner of their lifestyles, outlooks, and religious beliefs. Their doing so does not make these people PC-nazi liberals. This only means (and look at me go! Wow! I’m agreeing with you here!) that, like Governor Chafee, these people have nothing to do with their spare time. The people who write letters to companies complaining that a sign in a retail store said “Merry Christmas” are the same people who bullshit stories about pubes being found in their Oreos so they can scam a lifetime supply of cookies; oh, and atheists — don’t forget atheists! (But who ever listened to them, anyway?) Neither stereotype fits the distinct archetype of a liberal. In fact, they could just as soon be Libertarians — aren’t they still trending these days? Go, Ron Paul!
It is in this exclusive category of general, nonpartisan douche-itude that Governor Chafee’s outspoken defense of his tree lighting invitations truly belongs; though at this point it’s hard to tell who was baiting who more – the Governor or the conservative media. Their rendezvous on the talk show circuits seems long overdue from the days when Chafee first began bucking against the initiatives of the W. Bush administration.
But you know, Christian fundamentalists, let me at least agree with you on this point as well. As an ardent social liberal, if I did give a hoot about this debate, I’d say that I firmly believe Governor Chaffee should under no circumstances be calling this tree a “Holiday Tree”. I say this not for my own Christian upbringing that taught me tolerance and admonished the privacy of religious expression as an act of humility (why would I?), I say this as a genuine PC-nazi liberal which I am to the very core of my being.
Allow me to rework of the classic, ultra-convincing PC argumentative fallacy of “What if we did the same thing to the Jews?” to prove cultural and religious intolerance.
Just think if we were to refer to the menorah or Star of David as anything less than symbols of the Hebrew people and Jewish faith? Could you imagine a Holiday Dradle? Being placed in a Holiday Stocking? Sitting over a smoldering Holiday fireplace on Holiday Eve? I mean, those symbols are mind-boggling. I wouldn’t even know where to place my bets!
* That word is compromise, but can’t be uttered in the same sentence as the conditions for finding the right GOP presidential candidate, that would just jinx everything. What word were you thinking of?