December 21, 2006
I’m… dreaming… of a white… Chri—ummm, holidays
(Page 3 - Previous Page)This keeps me honest, and I love the dissonance. As a kid I adored "The Nutcracker Suite," and I finally saw one onstage a few Christmases ago. It was dandy, but as Tchaikovsky's gorgeous music unfolded, all I could think of was what my ancestral Russian brethren had been doing on the night it premiered. Probably not dressing for the ballet, I'm guessing. As the wonderful comic Richard Morris used to say, "My grandfather had a very rare job for a Jew in Russia at the time. He was a liaison between the soldiers' horses and the ground."
Forget calling America Christian for a minute. Forget Christmas, or Snow Time Pagan Fest or The Thing With The Gifts, or whatever you don't want to call it. How many people have to do a thing, or be a thing, or support a thing, or celebrate a thing, before we say they are the thing? Look: Men like to make love to women, right? Not every single man on earth likes to make love to women, but I think it's still fair to say... Men like to make love to women. Yes? No? Kind of? Move on to the multiple choice?
I don't mind being silly, in fact I spend a lot of my life trying to do it, but sometimes we all get a little too silly and need to look at it. One of these days (soon, probably) a major American city is going to have a black mayor, a black police chief, a black fire chief, a black school superintendent, a black city attorney, and a 100 percent black city council at the same time, but if they all came out in favor of something like vouchers, someone will call them racist (and probably someone white). Now, with everyone who runs the city being black, does that make it a black city? Of course not, it's just a city in America.
But some of my black friends call Atlanta a black city, because it has a large black population. (I've worked there at least 50 times, and the only characteristic I've come away with is that their late-night drinking population is huge. Or so I'm told.) Can my friends call it black? Why not? Is it an American city? Sure. Wait, though: What if 2 percent or 6 percent or 10 percent of the people who live there aren't American? Does calling it American offend them? If it's over a certain percentage of noncitizens, should we stop calling it American? Can the noncitizens call it something else if they want? Brussels, maybe? If so, there ought to be another set of stationery with the city seal. This may not reflect every group, though, so why not 10, or 50?
In other words: How dumb are we prepared to be?
By the way, I've been saying "African American" instead of "black" for a long time, but the last two paragraphs just used it too often, and I had to go back to "black." I mean, "African American" has seven syllables. Trust me, if you reread the last half page and replace them all, you'll see what I mean.
I don't need anyone's help knowing what I am, or how to tell my kids what they are. When they asked, "Do we have Santa?" I said no, that's for all our Christian friends who celebrate Christmas.
When they asked if we could put up some lights, too, I said no, Jews don't do that, it's for our Christian friends. Same with a tree. And it provides me the chance to point out that we Jews are only a tiny group in the world, and not everyone is thrilled about us still hanging around popping out Marx Brothers, but that America, Christian America, with all its mistakes and sins of the past (just as we all have) has not only given us the best place in the world to live and grow, but was instrumental in creating Israel and helping it survive.
That no matter what bones I have to pick with Christendom over the last 2,000 years, and there are a few big ones, it wasn't Christian Germany that murdered so many, it was the explicitly, exuberantly, required-to-formally-and-publically-leave-Christianity-and-turn-your-back-on-it-or-you-couldn't-get-ahead Nazis who did; and that the biggest friend Israel has in the world today, by a huge margin, is Christian America.
So far, calling the winter break Christmas vacation, as I do, and watching "It's A Wonderful Life," as we do, and calling the spring break Easter vacation, as I do, and watching "Easter Parade," as we do, doesn't seem to have hurt their baseball games. And believe me, in observance, ritual, schooling, intensity and outlook, it would be difficult to be much more Jewish than we are. (Actually, we only watched "Easter Parade" once, and were bored stiff by it. Truth to tell, it's not one of my favorites, but I figured it was kind of a classic. You know, Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, and the colors and the costumes and the dancing. "On the avenue... Fifth Avenue..." OK, I hate it, too.)
By the way, I don't give them big, fire-hose blasts of this stuff. One of America's blessings is that we can allow our children to be innocent about evil in the world, and to just open their Hot Wheels toys and watch Daddy grumble while trying to put them together. And they're definitely too young to need to know that there's a group of folks in the world, a very, very big group, and a very, very motivated group, who would slaughter every Jew -- and every American, and every Christian -- in an instant, if they could, and dance all day afterward. And that that group, whatever else they may be, sure doesn't celebrate Christmas. No, plenty of time to tell them that in the future.
So Merry Christmas to all the Christians of America and the world, this year and forever. As far as I and my family are concerned, you may say it all you want, wherever you want, whenever you want. In fact, I hope you will. In fact, I insist you do.