Imagine there’s no religion, it’s easy for The New York Times to do — even in a Christmas Day editorial that somehow forgets that Christmas is about Christ’s birth. In fact, the NYT decided that this Christmas was its opportunity to wallow in worse-than-ever sentiments and to bemoan that this year’s Christmas isn’t as good as it used to be. Oh, they tried to dress it up a bit by saying it is great to have a Christmas that gets us back to basics and also by slipping in some global warming clap trap, but it is still a lament that we all have it so darn bad these days.
The Christmas Day editorial starts off surmising that “you may be wondering about the carbon equation of a Christmas tree,” though it is a bit amusing to see them make such a silly assumption. I’d rather bet that even most environuts weren’t thinking about their Christmas carbon footprint when they awoke that morning! But, not the NYT. They are all worried that those old Christmas lights are going to cause the end of the planet as we know it!
Then the Times lapses into its first lament on these horrible days in which we live.
This may be the Christmas when you wonder, or are forced to find out, just how much of the material Christmas you can leave behind.
It may be the one that redefines Christmas entirely — for better or worse.
Oh, the gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes. It’s rotten out there, dontcha know? Let’s wallow in how tough America has it and lament that things just aren’t so good these days. Worst ever. The pits.
Let’s not make the season bright. That would be too traditional for the Times.
Of course, to accept the Times’ lament we’d have to ignore that for the most part Americans have it better in 2008 than they’ve ever had it in their lives. The things we buy, both necessities and otherwise, are cheaper, taking up less of our daily income than ever before. While prices seem higher, so is our average income. Durable goods are cheaper and often last longer and are easier to replace. Cars need repairs less than before (even though that seems hard to believe). And, even in the midst of a growing economic downturn, we are still employed at a pretty high rate — remembering that the Great Depression saw unemployment rates often above the 20th percentile range. (Also, remember that women and blacks weren’t counted in Great Depression era unemployment numbers, so that number was much higher in reality.)
Anyway, the point is we are NOT in the worst of times. In fact, life in America is pretty darn good for the largest number of its citizens.
Then, The Times waxes nostalgic over Christmases past.
If you look back at the photos of Christmas 50 years ago — not that long a time, really — you can see what a simple place it once was. What you wanted for Christmas was a very short list of possibilities, and what you got was usually the single most possible thing on the list, plus a few of the articles your mother thought you needed. The intent was the same as it is now, more or less, but the means were so much fewer.
The Times seem only vaguely aware that, fifty years ago, this whole world was a lot different. Americans did with less back then because there was less to have! Less medicine, less educational opportunities, less entertainment, less of everything we now take for granted. It wasn’t that Americans were austere out of conscious choice, it was that the plenty we now take for granted did not exist. And even at that rate we had it thousands of times better than peoples of other nations in the 1950s. So, even by comparison then we had it great.
The Times’ economic focus is off base, for sure.
From there the Times goes on to use the “simple place” the USA “once was” to say that today’s tough times will reintroduce “a new and simpler Christmas” like the olden days of fifty years ago. Oh, it’s the end of everything according to the Times. America is done. Talk about a lack of faith in our country!
Lastly the Times introduces us to some maudlin sentiment infused with prosaic philosophizing. Christmas, you see, “won’t save us,” the Times says. We cannot rely on Christmas shopping to save our economy it gravely warns. “The shopping we do this season,” won’t, the Times says, “keep the economy afloat or give us the buoyancy we need for the coming year.”
And then the pop philosophizing…
But, really, Christmas needs no saving. It does not exist apart from what we make of it. And, on its own, it cannot save us, though it contains the gestures of generosity and thankfulness that are halfway to being a better person, a richer community. Christmas is all the better for being a simple place, nothing more, perhaps, than two red cardinals, male and female, against the backdrop of a snowy field. They are there every day. The only difference is that today it feels like Christmas.
First of all, ANY human endeavor is “what we make of it.” Even the most shallow among us know that life is what you make of it. It is no deep philosophical point to state the plainly obvious. But, this entire paragraph of pop philosophy is neither eloquent, nor particularly cogent. I mean, how are cardinals there in a “snowy field” every day? Is there snow every day? Do cardinals stick around with us 365 days a year? The metaphor — what ever it was supposed to be — falls flat.
And, lastly, it cannot escape notice that, as I hinted above, The New York Times does not once mention the person for whom this day was named. Jesus Christ makes no showing at all in the Times piece. Why does Christmas have those “gestures of generosity and thankfulness,” anyway? The Times does not mention why. It is, of course, because of the generosity and thankfulness taught us by Jesus Christ whose birthday we celebrate on December 25th.
It certainly wasn’t for the holiday that Christmas overtook, Saturnalia. That day was a day of debauchery, mean-spirited pranks, drinking and fist fights. It was not the day of peace and love that is Christ’s birthday celebration.
So, for The New York Times, Christmas is not a day to celebrate the birth of Christ. It is a day to calculate a carbon footprint, a day to bemoan how far America has fallen, and a day to contemplate phony sentimentality devoid of its religious moorings.
Yeah. Merry Christmas, New York Times. Merry Christmas, indeed.
Be sure and Visit my Home blog Publius’ Forum. It’s what’s happening NOW!