Friday, January 03, 2014
Mazel Tov, Christians! Most Jews wish you a Merry Christmas
As a Jew, and a religious one at that, I want to wish my fellow Americans a Merry Christmas. Not “Happy Holidays.” Merry Christmas.
I write, “my fellow Americans” because, as reported by the Pew Research poll released just last Wednesday, nine in ten Americans say they celebrate Christmas.
Apparently, many Americans have forgotten that Christmas is not only a Christian holy day, but also an American national holiday. Just as we wish one another a “Happy Thanksgiving” or a “Happy Fourth,” so, too, we should wish fellow Americans a “Merry Christmas.”
It doesn’t matter with which religion or ethnic group you identify; Christmas in America is as American as the proverbial apple pie. That is why some of the most famous and beloved Christmas songs were written by . . . guess who? Jews.
“White Christmas” was written by Irving Berlin (birth name: Israel Isidore Baline).
“Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” — Johnny Marks.
“Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” — composed by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sammy Cahn.
“Silver Bells” — by Jay Livingston (Jacob Harold Levison) and Ray Evans (Raymond Bernard Evans).
“The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” — Mel Tormé and Robert Wells (Robert Levinson), both Jews.
“Sleigh Ride” — lyrics by Mitchell Parish (Michael Hyman Pashelinsky).
There are many others as well.
The notion that non-Christians are excluded is absurd.
Americans who feel “excluded” are not excluded. They have decided to feel excluded. Which is, of course, entirely their right to do; no one forces anyone to celebrate any American holiday. But attempts to remove Christmas from the public sphere are destructive to our society. It would be as if Jehovah’s Witnesses attempted to remove public celebrations and references to the Fourth of July because they don’t celebrate national holidays.
Why are these attempts destructive? Because the entire society — Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists as well as Christians — benefits from the goodness and joy that the Christmas season engenders.
It never occurred to my Orthodox Jewish family not to enjoy this season. It was a tradition in our home to watch the Christmas Mass from the Vatican every Christmas Eve (unless it was a Friday evening, and therefore the Sabbath, when no television watching was allowed). Had you visited our home, you would have seen my mother — and my father, my brother, and me, all wearing our kippot (Jewish skullcaps) — watching Catholics celebrate Christmas.
Nor did it ever occur to my brother, Dr. Kenneth Prager, an Orthodox Jew, not to sing Christmas songs when he was a member of the Columbia University Glee Club. He happily sang not only secular Christmas songs, but religious Christ-centered Christmas songs as well.
So when and why did this pernicious nonsense of non-Christians being “excluded” by public celebrations of Christmas develop?
It is nothing more than another destructive product of the 1960s and 1970s, when the Left came to dominate much of the culture.
One way in which the Left has done this has been through “multiculturalism,” the Left’s way of dividing Americans by religion, ethnicity, race, and national origin.
The other way has been through its aim of secularizing America — which means, first and foremost, the removal of as many Christian references as possible.
The Left regularly mocks the notion that there is a war against Christmas, a description that left-wing writers almost place within quotation marks, as if it were a manufactured falsehood.
The most obvious and ubiquitous example of this war is the substitution of “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas” almost throughout the culture. Employees in most retail operations are told not to say “Merry Christmas.” As a result, in much of America today, wishing a stranger “Merry Christmas” is almost an act of courage.
And, of course, many, if not most, public schools have banned Christmas trees and the singing of any Christmas song that hints of Christianity. Last week, for example, the school choir at a Long Island school, the Ralph J. Osgood Intermediate School, sang Silent Night with the lyrics changed. “Holy infant,” “Christ the savior,” and “Round yon virgin, mother and child” were all deleted.
Let me end where I began: speaking as a Jew.
Overwhelmingly the Jews who are active in the removal of Christmas from society — such as Mikey Weinstein, the anti-Christian activist (with a soft spot for Islamists) who led the campaign to remove the manger scene from Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina — are not religious Jews. They are animated by one or both of two factors: One is Leftism, which serves as a substitute religion for Judaism (and among many non-Jews for Christianity). The other is a psychological need to see Christianity suppressed; many people who have little or no religious identity resent those who do.
According to Fox News, Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation “said they were alerted by an undisclosed number of Airmen who said they were emotionally troubled by the sight of [the nativity scene].” That sentence should be reworded. Those who claim to be emotionally troubled by the sight of a nativity scene are not emotionally troubled by the sight of a nativity scene. They are emotionally troubled.
Vexatious liberal ‘lexicons’
Over the years, as part of the planned ruination of our culture and society the liberal left has endeavored to label and define activity, by use of words they choose and phrases they create. All the while, our side, acquiesces and accepts and even uses those terms and then wonders why they always lose the propaganda battle.
Liberal words and phrases: some examples: "Giving back"
This may be one of the most irritating and misleading liberal slogans being used everyday and accepted by those being targeted by it. The nefarious inference here is that those who have earned or created enough wealth to give charitably, have somehow, by odious or unscrupulousness activity, acquired that wealth from their victims and hence, need to give it back.
Giving back is something one does if caught taking what is not his. What giving actually is, is those working and earning something are taking some of those earnings and giving it to those who have not earned it, nor have they ever had it taken or stolen from them.
Conservatives, by astronomical amounts, give more of what they have earned to those in need than the liberal side of the donation spectrum. This is a fact as well as it is a fact that liberals would much prefer to give to those who have not earned it from the pockets of those who have. Provided of course it comes not from their pockets.
It is time those giving what is theirs, to help those receiving it, cease allowing this term to be used. It not only degrades the giver but also degrades the charitable nature of that which is being given. If the next time you see the term Giving Back on a donation or charity event form, before you send your check, use a maker and x-out the back word. Unless of course you have stolen what you are returning.
Redistribution: Vexatious liberal lexicons
While it may be true that most progressive leftist politicians love this word and its concept, it is also true, they hide from it. Those who espouse Marxism and follow that manifesto, such as the “Forger in the White House”, push policies which confiscate what others have earned and secretly love the term Redistribution of Wealth, even as they publicly deny that is what they are doing.
Why did Marx use that term? It’s quite simple. It is used, as is required to build and hold onto power, to create separation, envy, covetousness and malignity between the so-called classes.
For things such as money, property or other forms of wealth to be re-distributed, it must first have been distributed. Clearly that indicates it wasn’t earned or created. It was distributed to some and not to others. The only recourse then would be to redistribute it, more fairly.
Its time we stopped using this leftist term and began calling it what it is, confiscation and disbursement.
Common sense gun laws
When you hear this term being used by politicians and law makers, you had better check for the latest shredding of our Constitution. As with every bill or law that slithers out of state and national legislative sessions, whatever they name it, for sure, it will represent exactly the opposite. Case in point, “The Affordable Health Care Act”.
These heavy thinkers consider it Common Sense to announce that no one in schools or public places will be armed and able to stop mass killings. And that those who may be planning to slaughter people, will carry out their attack in a location where there are armed defenders. After all, it’s just common sense that if no guns are allowed no one will commit a crime with one. Makes one feel so safe and snugly.
Who could argue that restricting magazine capacity for law-abiding citizens is anything but Common Sense? With these laws working to protect us, no self-respecting terrorist, drug cartel member or homicidal maniac would take advantage of their victims by flouting magazine capacity laws.
These of course a just a few examples of legislative “Common Sense”. It appears that Common Sense is not very Common anymore.
I always considered Barack Obama an empty suit, a coffeehouse communist, doomed to replay the tragic political and economic mistakes of the past because he lacked any sense of history beyond the clichés of fashionable and comfortable college Marxism.
Like the characters and events in his autobiography "Dreams from My Father" written by unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers, Obama is a composite, the manifestation of a liberal fantasy, a man who, like his acolytes, exists in a political "Twilight Zone" somewhere between reality and narcissism.
Obama's political talent is based on his mastery of the platitude; a banal or meaningless statement, generally directed at soothing the social, emotional, or cognitive unease of uninformed, easily misled voters or desperate liberals in search of a Messiah.
His ascension to the Presidency can largely be attributed to a combination of corruption and cowardice.
Since 2008, pressured by a biased, left-leaning media, a spineless Republican Party leadership joined the Democrats in refusing to vet Obama in violation of the Constitution and common sense. Out of fear or complicity, a conspiracy of silence has descended upon the public discourse regarding all questions related to Obama's background and fitness for office. Despite the enormous historical and Constitutional implications, the politicians and the media, not only have remained silent, but have actively suppressed legitimate inquiry.
When the truth is eventually told, the chronicles of the Obama years will represent the most sordid in American history.
Having been granted immunity from any uncomfortable questions about his personal history, Obama has established lying as an instrument of government policy e.g. Fast and Furious, Benghazi, IRS, NSA and Obamacare. He has also attempted to render Congress powerless by unlawfully assuming executive authority not granted under the Constitution in order to continue, unobstructed, his fundamental transformation of the United States.
Left unimpeded, the inevitable result of Obama's policies will be a dystopia, characterized by a cataclysmic decline of society, in which a totalitarian government enforces ruthless egalitarianism by suppressing or denouncing ability and accomplishment, or even competence, as forms of inequality. Obama aims to create dependency on the state and will continue efforts to prevent the family from reestablishing itself as America's primary social institution.
Like "Nineteen Eighty-Four," Obama's dystopia will be a world of perpetual crisis, omnipresent government surveillance, misinformation and manipulation by state-controlled media; all governed by a privileged and oppressive political elite led by a quasi-divine party leader who enjoys an intense cult of personality and considers personal liberty as a source of unhappiness.
In his article, "Why Americans Are Not Taught History," Christopher Hitchens, identified the vulnerability of America's present-tense culture to the utopian myth.
That is, for the truly blissed-out and vacant servitude required by the Obama strategy, you need an otherwise sophisticated society to lose any sense of its own history and traditions. Using media deception and historical revisionism, the low-information voter will slouch towards Obama's utopia by a combination of governmental coercion as in George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" and the hedonist nihilism of a painless, amusement-sodden, and stress-free consensus managed by the nanny-state found in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World."
In the book "Amusing Ourselves to Death," Neil Postman notes that in "Nineteen Eighty-Four," people are controlled by inflicting pain; in "Brave New World," they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture. Obama plans to do both.
Ultimately, when the government is ruled by individuals unconstrained by law, there are few things that power cannot do. It can make political allies rich or paupers of political enemies. It can waste billions of dollars without accountability and destroy an economy without responsibility. It can make incompetent men high officials or make extraordinary men corpses.
The accumulation of excessive power in the federal government transforms it into a dysfunctional super-state dedicated to maintaining its own power irrespective of truth or the well-being of the country. The bureaucrats can ignore both morality and the lessons of history, in order to protect their appetite for and the use of raw power. Under such circumstances, the government need not fear that any of its agencies will intervene on behalf of the people, nor will it hear any protests from their elected representatives, nor anything but polite questions from the national media.
We now have a government and media of perfidious men and women, who are willing to risk the survival of the country rather than risk the truth.
There is a Cold Civil War underway in the United States to determine who should control the federal government. It is not a contest between the Democrat and Republican ideologies, but a battle between the entrenched power of the bipartisan political establishment versus the rights and liberties of the American people.
Representative and responsible government will not return to America simply by removing Obama. It will only be restored when Americans feel empowered by their political institutions, not misled or oppressed by them.
Rather than serve the country, many in the federal government have succumbed to political expediency and avarice, thereby perpetuating an atmosphere of permanent corruption in Washington, D.C.
Clearly, those who are a fundamental part of the problem can no longer be considered as potential participants in a solution.
Ordinary Americans must now take a stand against the political-media elite to restore the Constitution and the rule of law, to establish political and fiscal sanity and to return the government to the people
50 years ago a new elite came to power in Britain. We're still paying the price for their contempt for ordinary people
Just imagine that when you woke up this morning, you found yourself catapulted back in time exactly 50 years, to Britain in the first days of 1964.
At first, you might well be surprised how different things were half a century ago.
This was a world in which shops closed on Sundays, pubs shut at 10.30 pm and homosexuality was a criminal offence.
Britain in January 1964 had just two television channels, with BBC 2 arriving only in April that year.
In the industrial North, thousands of families still made do with an outside toilet.
Computers were virtually unknown, and even the currency was very different, with heavy two-shilling and half-crown coins instead of today’s homogenised (and soon-to-be plastic) bank notes.
Yet there are also striking similarities. This was a country falling in love with consumerism, liberalism and the cult of youth. It is often claimed that the Sixties really began in 1963.
Indeed, the poet Philip Larkin famously claimed that the sexual revolution began in 1963 ‘between the end of the Chatterley ban / and the Beatles’ first LP’.
But I think the real dividing line fell during the following year, and that 1964 was the watershed that marked the birth of a new Britain.
This was the year that saw The Beatles, the Kinks and the Rolling Stones break through to become international icons. It saw the birth of Terence Conran’s household store Habitat, the boutique Biba and Radio Caroline, as well as the advent of a reforming new Labour government.
Perhaps, above all, it saw the rise of a new kind of permissive liberalism, which was meant to set us free from the disciplines of the past but had consequences that its architects had never imagined — and that we are still grappling with today.
Looking back, the extraordinary thing about life in Britain in 1964 was the sharpness of the juxtaposition between old and new.
It is bizarre to think that when the Rolling Stones were celebrating their first Number One hit single, the man in Number 10 was Sir Alec Douglas-Home, a tweedy Conservative aristocrat who had been born in 1903 and had given up his peerage to become prime minister.
Although Sir Alec was tirelessly ridiculed by the newly-fashionable Oxbridge satirists — launching a trend for irreverent mockery that continues to this day — he was a decent, serious and dutiful man.
Even so, he was a ridiculous choice to lead Britain into the mid-1960s. Not only was Home a member of the House of Lords, but the Tory MPs had not even been allowed to choose their own leader. Instead, Home had been parachuted into the premiership by a ‘magic circle’ of Old Etonians.
That made him an easy target for Labour’s Harold Wilson, who in October 1964 ended 13 years of Conservative rule and entered Downing Street as the youngest prime minister of the century.
The first modern prime minister to make a virtue of his modest, grammar-school background, Wilson ostentatiously presented himself as the champion of the common man, even boasting: ‘If I had the choice between smoked salmon and tinned salmon, I’d have it tinned. With vinegar.’
In reality, Harold Wilson was a master of spin. Like Tony Blair, who borrowed heavily from his predecessor’s repertoire, he wanted to be seen as youthful, classless and, above all, modern.
He promised to forge a new Britain in the ‘white heat’ of the scientific revolution, sweeping away tradition and turning us into a technological superpower.
Alas, Wilson’s ambitions turned to dust. By the time he finally left office 12 years later, Britain’s economic star had fallen lower than ever. But, at the time, his infatuation with modernity struck a chord.
But in 1964, by which time the British Empire had almost totally disintegrated, 20 years of affluence had given ordinary families their first cars, TV sets and washing machines, while free healthcare and state education had created a generation of youngsters who were literally bigger, more adventurous and more assertive than ever.
To the leading lights of this new generation — a metropolitan elite who would go on to dominate the arts, universities and the BBC in the decades to come — the past was an unwelcome legacy.
Across the country, planners were misguidedly tearing down Victorian town centres to make way for dual carriageways, tower blocks and multi-storey car parks. Not even the Luftwaffe had wreaked such havoc on Britain’s architectural heritage.
Perhaps the worst crime was the transformation of Birmingham, which in 1964 resembled a gigantic building site. Already work was underway to destroy the Victorian core of England’s second city, turning it into something more like a particularly unsightly East German power station.
Yet when the travel writer Geoffrey Moorhouse visited Birmingham in 1964, he bubbled with enthusiasm for its ‘forward movement’. One day, he predicted, developments like the concrete Bull Ring would ‘show up’ more conservative towns.
Birmingham, he said, needed only to demolish the Victorian streets at the fringes of the city centre: then it could ‘start talking about itself with justification as the most go-ahead city in Europe’.
In its way, that last sentence absolutely captures the spirit of the Sixties — a combination of high-minded optimism and utterly disastrous naivety.
Even the painful term ‘go-ahead’, which people at the time used completely without irony, now smacks of the most dreadful hubris, shortly to be punished by total catastrophe.
But to the new liberals of 1964, the idea of redevelopment — whether architectural, social or moral — seemed to be automatically a good thing.
A classic example was Labour’s rising star Anthony Crosland, who became Education Secretary in January 1965. For Crosland, as for so many of his friends, the immediate priority was to tear down the legacy of the past.
He was determined to impose comprehensive schools in every corner of Britain, whether parents wanted them or not. ‘If it’s the last thing I do,’ Crosland notoriously told his wife, ‘I’m going to destroy every f***ing grammar school in England.’
Then there was his friend Roy Jenkins, who entered the government in 1964, became Home Secretary in 1965 and gave a crucial impetus to the reform of the homosexuality, abortion and divorce laws a few years later. This was the birth of what we now call the permissive society.
Indeed, 1964 was a key milestone in Britain’s journey towards greater moral liberalism.
For it was at 8am on August 13, 1964, that two unemployed petty criminals called Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans, who had murdered a van driver in Cumberland, became the last men to be executed in the United Kingdom.
They were hanged simultaneously: Allen in Walton, Liverpool, and Evans in Strangeways, Manchester.
A year later the death penalty was suspended for a trial period of five years, and in 1969 it was abolished completely.
I am no fan of the death penalty; indeed, I would be horrified to see it return. But even I have to admit this was a classic example of the new elite completely ignoring public opinion. The plain fact is that just 23 per cent of the British people wanted capital punishment to be scrapped, while support for it never fell below 60 per cent.
For the liberals, however, public opinion was neither here nor there. In this respect they were just like the planners busy ripping up our town centres.
One anecdote captures the wider story. One day in the mid-1960s, the prestigious Architectural Review was planning a special issue on housing. One of the staff suggested that they should try to find out what sort of homes ordinary people wanted.
The journal’s editor, the idealistic Hubert de Cronin Hastings, stared at him in astonishment. ‘But we know what should be done!’ he said in disbelief. For Hastings, as for his contemporaries in other fields, ordinary people were there to be improved — whether they liked it or not.
There was, I can see, an admirable dimension to the liberals’ commitment to building a better world.
We often forget that one of their principal motives was the determination to prove that Western capitalism could deliver a kinder, fairer way of life than the Communists’ brutally repressive alternative.
But all too often — as in the dreadful tower blocks that still disfigure so many of our cities — their idealism did great harm.
'Indeed, 1964 was a key milestone in Britain’s journey towards greater moral liberalism'
Even in 1964, there were premonitions of disaster. I always enjoy the story of the first (and now largely forgotten) incarnation of the original Sun newspaper, which was launched as a Leftish paper for the middle-classes by the Mirror Group in October 1964, to replace the working-class Daily Herald.
The paper’s owners thought the Herald had a lamentably cloth-capped image. They wanted a new paper — metropolitan, classless and liberal-minded — to match their dream of ‘society tomorrow’.
The Sun’s first edition, which banged on at great length about young people and computers, sold more than three million copies. But then sales began to fall, and within a few months it was doing worse than the old Herald.
Eventually, its chastened owners sold it to a young man called Rupert Murdoch. And whatever you think of him, he had a rather better idea of what people wanted.
Yet the Sun’s infatuation with youth was absolutely typical of the age. For much of 1964, newspaper headlines were dominated by teenagers, from the screaming fans who drowned out Beatles concerts to the mods and rockers who fought pitched battles on the beaches of the South Coast.
A few brave souls dared to question the cult of youth. In February 1964, the columnist Paul Johnson produced an infamous piece attacking Sixties teenagers: ‘huge faces bloated with cheap confectionery and smeared with chain store make-up, the open, sagging mouths and glazed eyes, the hands mindlessly drumming in time to the music, the broken stiletto heels, the shoddy, stereotyped, “with-it” clothes’.
Perhaps he was being a bit unfair to the youngsters of 1964 — most of whom, after all, are now perfectly respectable pensioners. But in his dissection of the ruthlessly commercialised cult of the teenager, Johnson was onto something.
Rampant commercialism was already changing the face of British life. It was in 1964, for example, that the Conservatives abolished Resale Price Maintenance — the law that had prevented supermarkets undercutting small, independent shops, by compelling them to charge the same price for the same goods.
Its abolition was meant to benefit the consumer. In the long run, though, it dealt our High Streets a blow from which they have never recovered, eventually turning them into abandoned ghost towns.
Behind so many of these changes was the politicians’ obsession with appearing modern. During the October 1964 election campaign, party leaders felt compelled, for the first time, to worship at the altar of youth. Harold Wilson famously associated himself with The Beatles, even awarding them MBEs a year later.
What was really revealing, though, was that even stuffy Sir Alec Douglas-Home tried to jump on the bandwagon. His book of collected speeches even boasted a section entitled ‘I Call on British Youth’, which opened with the laughably untrue sentence: ‘Few subjects fascinate the Prime Minister more than youth.’
It was little wonder that older voters felt abandoned.
‘Governments! What do they care about us? We don’t belong to the great future. We’re not teenagers,’ mutters an elderly character in Angus Wilson’s excellent novel Late Call, published in 1964. ‘We ought to be bloody dead.’
Half a century on, things have hardly changed. Many cities never recovered from the disastrous experiments of the 1960s, while our politicians are keener than ever to present themselves as young, fashionable and forward-looking, typified by their embarrassing enthusiasm for Twitter and ‘selfies’.
Yes, the Sixties made us a more open and tolerant country. Who would want to return to the years when gay men lived in fear of the law, or when landladies put up ‘No Coloureds’ signs?
But those colourful times have been absurdly over-romanticised. Looking back, there was often something fundamentally commercialised, superficial and selfish about them.
In the rush to embrace the new, Britain too often lost sight of the value of the old. Fifty years on, it is time we learned our lesson.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.