THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 749, December 15, 2013
Whoever controls the Moon controls the
Earth and everything and everybody on it
Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
For the past few years, I have written several essays in response to various conservatives' false claim that America is a "Christian country".
Rather than reiterate what I said, I would ask the curious reader to consult with Thomas Paine or Haym Solomon about that, to remember that Thomas Jefferson's handful of pronouncements on God are clearly metaphorical, and that Benjamin Franklin belonged to an organization whose members dedicated themselves to violating every one of the Ten Commandments.
If you just have to see what I have said, myself, here are some examples:
Conservatives have long whimpered about corporate and goverment policies forbidding employees who make contact with the public to wish said members "Merry Christmas!" at the appropriate time of the year, out of a moronic and purely irrational fear of offending members of the public who don't happen to be Christian, but are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, Rastafarian, Ba'hai, Cthuluites, Wiccans, or worshippers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The politically correct benediction, these employees are instructed, is "Happy Holidays".
As a lifelong atheist, I never take "Merry Christmas" as anything but a cheerful and sincere desire to share the spirit of the happiest time of the year. I enjoy Christmas as the ultimate capitalist celebration. It's a multiple-usage occasion and has been so since the dawn of history. I wish them "Merry Christmas" right back, and I mean it.
Unless I wish them a "Happy Zagmuk", sharing the oldest midwinter festival in our culture I can find any trace of. It's Babylonian, and celebrates the victory of the god-king Marduk over the forces of Chaos.
But as anybody with the merest understanding of history and human nature could have predicted, if you give the Political Correctness Zombies (Marduk needs to get back to work again) an Angstrom unit, they'll demand a parsec. It now appears that for the past couple of years, as soon as the Merry Christmases and Happy Holidayses start getting slung around, a professor (not of Liberal Arts, so he should know better) at a nearby university (to remain unnamed) sends out what he hopes are intimidating e-mails, scolding careless well-wishers, and asserting that these are not holidays ("holy days") to everyone, and that the only politically acceptable greeting is "Happy Midwinter Break".
He signs this exercise in stupidity "A Jewish Faculty Member".
Two responses come immediately to mind, both of them derived from good, basic Anglo-Saxon, which is not originally a Christian language. As soon as the almost overwhelming temptation to use them has been successfully resisted, there are some other matters for profound consideration.
First, what we are seeing here, in both the "Happy Holidays" and "Happy Winter Break" instances, is the yawning gulf of difference between pluralism, on the one hand, and multi-culturalism on the other.
The former accepts and allows everything. Nothing is compulsory and nothing (barring the initiation of physical force) is forbidden. Pluralism is frank and open, and it has standards. It doesn't tolerate priests as child molestors or "honor killings" of errant children. We all get to laugh, and eat each other's food, enjoy each other's music, and dance each other's dances. It's the essential American way. As a nation, we don't always manage to measure up to that standard, but we try.
Pluralism is a good thing. A very good thing.
The latter crouches in xenophobic terror, rejecting everything that might indicate that people are different from one another. or have different opinions. Multi-culturalism allows nothing to be said or done, but locks the world in eternal frozen conflict. It's a sort of pathological isolation in a crowd that is humiliated by its own humanity.
Multi-culturism is a bad thing, trying to disguise itself as pluralism.
My old friend, the late Aaron Zelman, the founder of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, used to observe that some individuals value their victimization so highly, they'll sacrifice anything -- fortune, family, anything -- in order to hold onto it. Look at the way black people often ignore the fact that none of them were ever slaves themselves, and no one living today was ever a slave owner, in order to establish a claim to what they see as infinite entitlement.
My own ancestors were slaughtered in the thousands by their evil conquerors (who posed to the world as benefactors and bringers of civilization), forced at swordpoint and gunpoint to grow, harvest, and ship crops out of the country in record amounts while millions of them starved to death, and were finally captured and sold into slavery overseas.
My ancestors are Irish.
To my knowledge, none represent themselves as social arbiters, prescribing to other folks the right thing to say or the way to say it.
Finally, there is this: if you were to fly all the way to Australia on vacation, would you be grateful or dissappointed if all the Australians you met said "Hello" to you, rather than a hearty "G'dai"?
My then-wife (not Cathy, born and raised in Cheyenne) was deeply embarrassed that I accompanied her to London in 1976 wearing cowboy boots, jeans, and brightly-colored Western shirts. She learned better. Her friends all seemed to love the way I dressed and for the first -- and last -- toime inb my life, I was a sartorial hit. Most people from around the world expect us to be different. That's why they came to see us. Part of that difference is Christmas, which many (especially the Japanese, and, it now appears, the Chinese) have adopted as their own.
Those from foreign parts who have come here to live, and benefit from what freedom has made possible, should learn to practice pluralism, rather than multi-culturalism. As for that professor, an Easterner who'd dearly love to think of himself as a real live cowboy, he should know better by now than to tell Westerners what to say and do.
They're likely to respond by telling him, "Merry Christmas!"
Or "Happy Zagmuk!"