Friday, November 29, 2019

The phony war on T-Day is over, the fake war on Xmas begins

The annual late November gratitude day/food orgy that we in the US call Thanksgiving is officially over, and the Christmas/winter holiday season has begun. This Thanksgiving was marked by, among other things, #NotMyPresident Donald J. Trump's declaration, at one of his fascist emotional support pep rallies in Sunrise, Florida on November 26, that there's a radical leftist plot to decimate T-Day by changing its name. And thus did the world learn of a new phony war to join the infamous phony war on Christmas: the war on Thanksgiving.

It's all just part of a larger pattern, of course. As Emily Stewart wrote in the Vox piece I linked to above:

The president has leaned into culture wars often throughout his tenure, aware that it’s a way to rally his base and sow division. Declaring out of the blue that there’s a movement on the left to change the name of Thanksgiving is another example of that. But the episode also highlights the president’s dismissiveness of issues with some real cultural and social weight. While Thanksgiving’s name isn’t particularly controversial, its history is.

But Trump seemed to be making it all about the name. He told the Florida crowd that "some people" don't want to use the term "Thanksgiving," adding, "And that was also true with Christmas. But now everybody's using Christmas again. Remember I said that?" A November 26 piece on
The Hill site cited Trump's long-standing "war on Christmas" narrative, noting that back in 2015 he said, "I'm a good Christian. If I become president, we're going to be saying 'Merry Christmas' at every store."

Though Trump has since declared victory in the war on Christmas, he told the Florida rally attendees, "Now we're going to have to do a little work on Thanksgiving. People have different ideas. Why it shouldn't be called Thanksgiving. But everybody in this room, I know, loves the name Thanksgiving. And we're not changing.”

Naturally, this declaration gave rise to a spate of jeering memes and tweets, but this didn't seem to faze Trump or his followers at all.

Elsewhere on the culture-war battlefield, Donald Trump Jr. boldly marched forward with his own plan to enhance the sacred holiday of Thanksgiving. As you may know, he recently released his first book,
Triggered, about which I wrote a very long post last week (and have added several updates since then). Flush with the early success of that magnum dopus, he used his Instagram page to announce a holiday giveaway: he invited the deplorables to "trigger a liberal" by bringing up politics around the T-Day table. Whoever shared the best photo or vid of the resulting conflict would win a signed copy of Triggered and a MAGA hat. What a deal!

Maybe I'm just too easily triggered myself, but in general I don't think it's funny to encourage people to create disharmony among loved ones, shoot videos of the results, and upload them for the world's amusement. For instance, I am not amused by Jimmy Kimmel's annual Halloween stunt in which he invites parents to tell their kids that the parents ate all of the child's Halloween candy, and then record the almost inevitable tantrum and upload the vid. I think it's pretty crass.

But I also think that Kimmel's stunt pales in comparison to DJTJ's "contest." There's surely enough family stress during the holidaze as it is -- always has been, given the way holiday expectations can amplify existing family dysfunctions. As many folks have learned from first-hand experience, the problem has only become worse in the era of Trump. While Daddy Trump and the GOP are busy blaming the Democrats and liberals for the deep divisiveness in the US, and while the elder Trump has also been bloviating about a spurious war on Thanksgiving, Junior's stunt constitutes more of a "war" on the holiday than anything that the left is allegedly doing. And far from being an attempt to heal divisions, it's only deepening the gap.

But if the responses of that Florida crowd to Junior's daddy are any indication, these finer points are likely to be lost on devoted Trumpians, who will embrace the phony T-Day war as eagerly as they have the Xmas war.


I wish these bogus battles were just comic relief, on the level of the absurd stuff I used to write about so much in Whirled Musings' younger days, like dolphin worship and hollow-earth theories and imaginary naked blondes in Russian forests and phony mystical poets and multidimensional Stick People and magickal water and so forth. In historical context, however, the phony holiday wars may have a more disturbing significance.
 
In
a November 27 piece, Washington Post columnist Max Boot suggested that as silly as the Trumped-up narrative about a "war on Thanksgiving" is, there's also something sinister about it, given the decades-long history of (conservative) complaints about the so-called "war on Christmas." Notorious racist/anti-Semite Henry Ford groused about the secularization of Christmas back in the early 1920s, blaming the Jews for the phenomenon. In the height of the McCarthy era of the 1950s, the far-right John Birch Society claimed that the Commies and the UN were engaged in an operation to take Christ out of Christmas. And infamous conservative mouthpiece Bill O'Reilly claimed in 2004 that Christmas was "under siege" by "secular progressives" who were trying to force gay marriage, partial-birth abortion, legalized drugs, and a host of other "progressive visions" on America. From there, wrote Boot...
It did not take long for Trump — Fox News’s most faithful and credulous viewer — to join the “War on Christmas” as a full-throated combatant. By doing so, he gets to portray himself as a champion of white Christian America against insidious “Others” who, his followers fear, will destroy the country they know and love.
And this year Trump decided to do the same thing for Thanksgiving. It was, I suppose, inevitable. Even though T-Day is a secular rather than a religious holiday, and it's one that happens to be observed by millions people of all faiths in the United States (other countries have their own Thanksgiving holidays too at various times of the year), the last Thursday in November is a natural focal point for the ongoing culture wars that conservatives in the US insist on fighting. Given America's changing demographics, it's only natural to examine historical events -- including that fabled first Thanksgiving -- through lenses other than those of the white European Christians who once constituted the majority of the US populace. Many of these folks are understandably triggered by such "revisionist" histories. Indeed, as Max Boot wrote in the wrap-up to his WaPo piece:
Trump’s white evangelical followers — the core of his base — are terrified that they are fast losing power in a country they once dominated. Hence their fanatical support for Trump as “the chosen one” and their disparagement of his critics as “demonic.” A skilled demagogue, Trump unerringly taps into their anxiety with his risible claims about a war on Christmas and now a war on Thanksgiving.
Even so, as Emily Stewart wrote in the Vox article I linked to at the beginning of this post (here's that link again), it's not unreasonable to invite people to look at Thanksgiving through the eyes of folks for whom the holiday may have meanings that aren't in sync with the traditional happy-feast scenario. To many Native Americans, for instance, the holiday serves as a reminder of the atrocities indigenous peoples suffered when Europeans landed in the "New World." Add to that the fact that the story about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans is not an accurate one, and there's a sound basis for a counter-holiday, the National Day of Mourning, which has been observed for nearly half a century in Plymouth, Massachusetts by indigenous people and their allies. But that's hardly some contemporary liberal plot to destroy Thanksgiving. It's not even an initiative to change the name of Thanksgiving. It's just an alternative and arguably more inclusive holiday.

In addition, some environmental groups are promoting awareness of
the environmental impact of Thanksgiving, including the enormous quantities of food consumed (and wasted), as well as the impact of travel. As painfully PC as these considerations may be to the climate/environmental science denial camp, though, they still don't qualify as a war against T-Day.

Disappointing as it may be to the pearl-clutching culture warriors, there is no actual war against any of our cherished holidays, other than the wars that are playing out in the heads of cynical political opportunists and the frightened, gullible people whom they are stringing along like so many gaudy Christmas lights. Besides, technically Trump didn't really "win" the phony Xmas war anyway. People are still saying, "Happy Holidays," as in fact, they've been saying (and singing) for decades.

May you have joyful holidays, no matter how many of them you do or don't celebrate. I'll be back in December, which is just around the corner. And you won't see any war on Christmas on this Whirled: to the contrary I intend to deck these (recently refurbished) halls with an ever-changing festive background to celebrate the season.

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