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Commentary: War on Thanksgiving, waged by Christmas

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Listen, Sarah Palin is mad as hell and she’s not going to take it anymore. At least, that’s the impression I got from news reports surrounding the roll-out of her latest intellectual treatise, “Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas.”

The book has Mrs. Palin back on the news-talk circuit — was she ever really gone? — defending her right to celebrate the birth of Christ as she sees fit while deploring the secular leftists who defile the occasion by mouthing offensive phrases like “happy holidays” and “season’s greetings.” The bastards…

Needless to say, history’s best-known Alaskan is plowing familiar turf here. It has become axiomatic among the American right that there is a war against Christmas waged by those who would deny the nation’s Christian heritage. The evidence cited usually includes an obscure lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of a few aggrieved citizens of some remote hamlet protesting Nativity displays on public land. Although polls clearly indicate that America is still a predominantly Christian nation, apparently not everyone is a believer.

As I’ve suggested in years past, this state of affairs suggests a simple, non-confrontational solution. Presumably, Mrs. Palin, like most people, has a front lawn. If most Americans are Christians and most of them have front lawns, why not encourage believers to display their own Nativity scenes on their own land?

Figurine manufacturers would be delighted. Instead of selling one display for the public park, they could sell hundreds to the private homes surrounding it. The Christmas message would be everywhere. Driving down the street, you’d be surrounded by mangers and magi.

Further, it would promote peace on earth by reconciling conservatives with the ACLU. If any godless Scrooge tried to interfere with the right of the faithful to express their religious sentiments on their own property, the civil rights group would rush to their defense free of charge.

Alas, this win-win resolution won’t get you face time on cable TV and a fat advance check from HarperCollins. Well, I’ve never been one to begrudge a person for pulling a good scam. In fact, I rather admire the clever souls whose schemes allow them to legally acquire money without the bother of work.

In the spirit of unapologetic imitation, I thus alert the reader to the hazards posed by the emergent War on Thanksgiving. (Here’s hoping the good folks at HarperCollins are paying attention.)

I noted with interest that despite her varied lamentations about the fallen state of modern Christmas, Mrs. Palin failed to include the traditional complaint that the holiday has become too commercialized. Perhaps mindful of business interests within the Republican base, she seemed to suggest that grasping, acquisitive consumerism is all part of the holiday fun.

In fact, she even recommended a gun as the ideal Christmas gift because shooters always need accessories — a fact that makes future shopping expeditions easier. Nothing says Feliz Navidad quite like a .44 magnum…

While I am keenly aware of the plight of the economy and not unsympathetic to the needs of commerce, I can’t help but notice that the hyper-consumerism engendered by Christmas is destroying the less ostentatious holiday that precedes it.

First, the stores started to open at 6 a.m. on Black Friday, which curtailed the traditional card games and bull sessions on Thanksgiving night. People had to turn in early to get to the mall the next morning for the big sales. Then, they started opening at midnight, further limiting post-prandial turkey day activities. This year, major retailers plan to kick off the shopping season at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving itself.

Who ever heard of a legal holiday that ends at 6 o’clock at night? Imagine the delight of gulping down a huge meal and then hurrying to the mall to elbow and gouge flatulent fellow shoppers searching for a good bargain.

Thanksgiving, I suppose, was doomed by its lack of pretension. Its original celebrants were grateful for the harvest — thankful that they would not starve during the harsh winter ahead. The observance was always implicitly religious because who were we thanking if not a higher power? It was an occasion of humble supplication and simple joy where one feasted with loved ones to commemorate the goodness of the earth and the promise of life.

Unfortunately, unless you own a cranberry bog or a turkey farm, it’s hard to exploit the holiday for commercial gain. The pilgrims didn’t exchange flat-screen TVs. So now, the day of feasting is being consumed by Palin’s merry materialists.

Of course, you could light a candle rather than curse the darkness. Like Christians who display their own Nativity scenes, you could observe the Thanksgiving holiday with like-minded family and friends as you see fit, refusing to shop for more until you’ve properly given thanks for what you already have. But that kind of attitude will never get you a book deal.

M.W. Guzy
M.W. (Michael William) Guzy began as a contributor to St. Louis media in 1997 with an article, “Everybody Loves a Dead Cop,” on the Post-Dispatch Commentary page. In addition to the St. Louis Beacon and now St. Louis Public Radio, his work has been featured in the St. Louis Journalism Review, the Arch City Chronicle, In the Line of Duty and on tompaine.com. He has appeared on the Today Show and Hannity & Combs, as well as numerous local radio and television newscasts and discussion programs.