"Open Mike" is the Editorial page of TOP. It appears on Sundays. Sometimes. When I feel like it.
I have to be a little careful here. One way to make writing vivid is to hit things a little too hard. You know. Exaggerate. Overstate.
I could offend people if I hit this too hard, so I gotta keep the reins in hand.
But I just thought someone should state the obvious: America is officially no longer thankful. We're now just greedy.
We probably always were, but, like...like...well, like little kids on Christmas morning, we restrained ourselves a little for the sake of decorum. We waited until the Thankgiving leftovers were in the icebox, figuratively speaking, before we stormed the doors of the Wal-Mart and trampled a few of our less-nimble fellow shoppers underfoot.
(Whoa, boy. Easy.)
I'd like to say that I enjoy Christmas as much as anyone. Unfortunately, that wouldn't be quite honest. It's a Type A holiday, and I'm a Type B personality. Well, maybe Type Z. My goal in life is to have only one thing to do every day, and then put that off until tomorrow. The Type A's, on the other hand, just can't wait to get started charging around hither and yon buying up small mountains of presents for the landfill, dragging trees indoors, slathering the house with blinky lights, and blaring that insanely chipper "holiday music" from every fencepost until every public space in the land has been transformed into some sort of Yuletide North Korea.
I'm personally afflicted by getting songs stuck in my head, so I don't even want to hear the titles of Christmas tunes. It's nothing against the tunes themselves: as Edgar Allan Poe wrote, describing "earworm" in his short story "The Imp of the Perverse," "Nor will we be the less tormented if the song in itself be good, or the opera air meritorious."
Like the rankest conservative, I am in favor of a number of social-engineering laws. Except the laws I would favor would be somewhat different. For example, one would be that no citizen shall under any circumstances be subjected to commercial advertising against his or her will. This would get rid of billboards, television commercials, painted public busses, and about 85% of what makes Christmas so oppressive*. I am also in favor of a law which would forbid exposing citizens to Christmas music against their will. I partly define my freedom in a free country as the right to not listen to any music I don't want to listen to.
A move toward legislation of this sort currently does not have support in Congress, that I've heard.
But look, on a more serious note, speaking of freedoms: it is truly obnoxious—no exaggeration—that businesses are allowed to destroy Thanksgiving for tens of thousands of their employees. The powerless shall forever be persecuted, and the religious will evidently fight with firm resolve and spirited purpose any effort to allow the meek to inherit more than the meagerest share of the earth. That much I understand. But let the little people enjoy their freakin' turkey dinners, you goddamn greedy ogres.
That really should be a law: No shopping till sun-up on Friday.
Meanwhile, I will not be doing any shopping at any store that opens before 12:01 on Friday. After Thanksgiving is over. First, we give thanks.
Of course, my little personal protest will have no actual effect. I already have to scrupulously avoid all retail establishments at this time of year, on account of that little problem I have with the music.
(Photo by Christy of The Daily Dish, used with permission)
[NOTE: TOP will not be updated this coming Thursday, in honor of the quaint and antiquated old holiday of Thanksgiving.
NOTE #2: Six additional paragraphs were sacrificed in the writing of this post. If you think the ones that are left are over the top, you should have seen the ones you're not seeing. :-) —Mike the Ed.
NOTE #3: And bravo to Tim Cook (thanks to Chuck Lavis for this.)]
*As you might expect, I really appreciate the emerging trend in online videos of allowing people to skip ads after the first five seconds. Bravo to that. Of course, since I like it and approve of it, it means the practice will soon be extinct.
Original contents copyright 2013 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Benjamin Marks (partial comment): "Over the years, the holidays from Memorial Day to New Year's have blended together in retail America like the East Coast megalopolis from Bangor to Washington D.C.—one giant smear.
"In the spirit of the holidays, I refrain from more than a glancing reference here to the preferred public punishments and pillories of yesteryear, like the stocks, flogging and liberal application of tar and feathers. Ha-rumph."
Ed Hawco: "I feel ripped off. Give us back the missing six paragraphs! ;-) "
Rob L.: "Amen. I also really love B&H and I believe Adorama, who shut down their web ordering as well as their stores for religious holidays. Although, I think at least one of them is open on Thanksgiving...so ya can't win. :-) "
ADDENDUM in the cold light of Monday morning: Regarding Christmas, I might be guilty of self-referentialism. George Carlin has a great joke about drivers. Ever notice, he asks, why everyone who drives slower than you do is an idiot, while everyone who drives faster than you do is a maniac?
The psychological insight behind the joke is fairly profound. It's the reason everyone approves of their own politics. You drive the speed you do because that's the speed you feel comfortable driving. It stands to reason, then, that you believe that speed is the best balance to choose.
If you make the mistake of being self-referential, then everyone who drives faster or slower is in error. They're either driving slower or faster than the speed you think is best. So they're either idiots (i.e., incompetent, compared to you) or maniacs (i.e., reckless, compared to you).
Except, of course, they might not be. What's needed, of course, is a "theory of mind" of other drivers. That is, you have to set aside your attempt to calibrate everyone else to your own comfort level, and first consider that they simply might be doing exactly what you're doing yourself: driving as fast as is comfortable for them. Maybe a faster driver is not being reckless; maybe she has a better car and better skills, and youthful eyesight and youthful reflexes, so she feels comfortable driving more quickly. And maybe she's absolutely right: that is, she really is driving perfectly safely, for her. Maybe a slower driver is an older person who doesn't drive as often and doesn't see as well, so he thinks it's prudent to drive more cautiously. And maybe, for him, it is. Only after you detach the other person's behavior from your own self-selected norms can you more accurately evaluate whether they're actually acting poorly.
It's usually charitable to assume that others are doing the best they can. At least at first.
So here's why this is relevant: the way my own family celebrates Christmas seems just right to me. We strike the perfect balance, I think. It's neither too much nor too little.
So is everyone who chooses to celebrate more or less somehow wrong?
Only if you're being self-referential, assuming that what you do is the reasonable choice and holding everyone else to that standard.
It's quite possible that some people are idiots and some people are maniacs when it comes to Christmas—it's always entertaining to spot the outliers. But of most people, really, you have to step back and say, well, maybe they're just doing what they think is best...for them, and by their way of thinking, and according to their own family customs and their personal energy and level of enthusiasm.
It's not Christmas that I object to. It's the excessive commercial exploitation of Christmas by businesses and corporations—the worship of Mammon.
I especially object to the asinine notion that it's worth obliterating the Thanksgiving holiday just to give Christmas shoppers half a day more shopping almost a month in advance of Christmas. That really does offend me. And I am absolutely offended by corporate bullies who wantonly ruin the Thanksgiving holiday for their dependent employees. That's just wrong.
Preserving Thanksgiving won't hurt Christmas one iota.
It might hurt businesses; but just a little. And it's not the right of business to destroy an old an honored American holiday just for their own gain. It's not like they're being asked to sacrifice all of their Christmas profit; just a little of it.
I'm not anti-Christmas. I'm becoming pretty militantly pro-Thanksgiving, though. Unfortunately it seems like it might be necessary, these days.
Cyril: "It says a lot about the state of the public debate in North America that a writer has to pre-emptively (and profusely) apologize for writing an opinion piece about...Christmas, of all important things. You should be happy you live south of the border, though. Due to Canada's Thanksgiving being placed in October, the Christmas season here starts on the morning after Halloween, Christmas music and all, making November an even more miserable month than it already is (at least for people who enjoy the sight of a sunny day from time to time)."