God's Joystick It's the time of the year when people without a thought in their head, particularly politicians wishing to advance their careers, make a big deal out of things like "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays." What knuckleheads first started this controversy is hard to say, but it's certain that once knuckleheads start up something truly stupid it will catch on like fire. I remember people saying, "Happy Holidays," for years, without anyone assuming that it was another lance wound on the side of Christ. Henry Miller was right: people can share anything except joy. The fact that Christmas or the Winter Holidays or the Day of Wotan, or whatever you choose to call it, is a winter celebration, will not sit with folks who just plain don't like celebrating. A lot, if not most, people have decided that suffering is the only way to go, and that any festivity involving joyous birth, feel-good miracles, or endorphin-producing activities, are bad and should be checked by constant reference to pain, injury, death and an afterlife of all that in triplicate. Well, they can have it. The people who see a dark plot against Christmas don't even go to Midnight Mass because it stops them from going to bed before 10 p.m., which is a sin. Well, lighten up folks. It's Christmas, not Easter: the joy of birth is being trumpeted here, not the agonies of the crucifixion. The Lord put his own joystick into the wonder of creation to come up with Christ.
I was in Havana, Cuba, when Fidel Castro allowed the first Christmas since 1959. These puny Christmas trees covered with tinsel that looked like surplus barbed wire appeared in the windows of downtown hotels, and simultaneously, the blaring loudspeakers that usually transmitted Castro's panic attacks started broadcasting scratch Christmas carols in Spanish. The Cubans on the streets stopped to glare at the window displays in the hotels they weren't allowed to go in because they were only for foreigners. Then they pricked their ears to the carols and took off for the hills. (Because they got the day off.) Something was up, and that something was the visit of Pope John Paul II, a historic visit that resulted in thousands of T-shirts featuring the Pope shaking hands with Castro, the only worthwhile tourist souvenir Cuba ever produced. I have two of them. Outside of that, Christmas didn't do much for Cubans because Santa didn't get a visa.
Anyway, even Fidel Castro called it Christmas, so why doesn't George W. Bush? The greeting cards out of the White House this year said, "Happy Holidays," just in case the Saudi princes got one, and they got five hundred, because that's how many there are. I didn't even get one. Crimminy.
New Orleans, Mon Amour: 20 Years of Writings from the City by Andrei Codrescu (Algonquin Books) is now available.