Ho,ho,ho, Who’s Really Waging the War on Christmas?

Christmas Warriors

Once again tis the season to be jolly, and once again, tis the season for the annual “War on Christmas” conspiracy drivel. With Bill O’ Reilly out of the picture it was anyone’s guess on who would pick up the battle cry this year. No, I’m joking. We all knew it would be none other than the deranged orange clown himself.

At a speech Wednesday in Missouri to publicize the GOP tax overhaul, Trump kicked off his remarks by saying: “I told you that we would be saying Merry Christmas again, right?”. To quote the idiot-in-chief, WRONG!

There has never been a time in modern history in which we the people of the United States of America have been prohibited from saying the phrase “Merry Christmas”. Hell, there is nothing stopping you from yelling from the rooftop on Easter! You can say it any time you like for as long as you like. In fact the magazine Mother Jones reported a few days ago that since 1970 the use of the the word “Christmas” has gone up by 50%, while the use of the word “Holiday” has only gone up by 33%. If there is a war on Christmas, the other side is losing.

If by “Christmas” you mean the holiday that includes garish decorations and a sea of presents (followed closely by a mountain of debt) then, no there is no war on Christmas. We can point to the facts to prove it.

Fact: In the last decade the Christmas season has made its way into November, starting with Thanksgiving evening. For you die-hard Christmas warriors, malls across America are opening their doors earlier and earlier just for you. No longer do you have to wait in dark of night to storm the gates to plunder and pillage for bargain prices! The doors open at 6pm and stay open almost all-damn night. If you don’t want to battle for your Christmas spoils you now have the convenience of shopping Black Friday (now Gray Area Thursday) online. Missed it? Don’t worry, you get a second chance the following Monday, now called “Cyber Monday”.

Fact: During the Christmas season consumer sales damn near double what they are for the rest of the year. CNN Money reports that this year’s online sales hit 5 billion dollars. That’s right folks, in less than 24 hours, 5 billion dollars was spent on Christmas gifts (I have no doubt some of that money was spent for other reasons, but not as much as it was on Christmas). So to say there is a war on Christmas is laughable.

I know, I know. Some of you are still not convinced. You cling to the argument that the store clerks no longer say “Merry Christmas” and Starbucks sell “Holiday” cups and for some reason I cannot fathom, this offends you; all I can say is that if this is the worse thing that happens to you this season, count yourself blessed.

While you may not hear “Merry Christmas” from the clerk who waits on you, do you know what you do hear throughout the store? CHRISTMAS music! You can’t get way from the fucking noise! You hear it in the bathroom, in the food court, in the dressing rooms, and at the check out station. You are hearing the words “Merry Christmas” over and over again. Can someone please come up with some new Christmas music?! How many times can we hear Jingle Bells without going crazy?

Just because the clerk doesn’t say it, doesn’t mean the store is boycotting Christmas, it simply means the clerk is being inclusive and sensitive to all the December holidays even if you and the damn music are not. I know it may be hard for you to conceive, but there are other winter holidays besides Christmas; yet is Christmas music all season long! Remember our religious freedoms? They extend to all religions, not just yours.

Speaking of religion, let’s get the heart of the conspiracy. It’s not the consumer driven Christmas that Christian conservatives are worried about. They know good and well that capitalistic Christmas is under no attack. It’s the idea that Christian values are under attack. Again, WRONG!

According the World Atlas.com, The United States tops the list of Christian nations with 226,886,418 Christian living in the country. While other Western countries are believing less and less in a deity who cares about our daily lives and who wins the Superbowl, America is holding steady at 70% of those who do. As of 9am this Sunday morning no one is stopping you from going to church or praying for that big win. In fact here in America you can even start your own brand of Christianity. Joseph Smith started Mormonism, and Mary Baker Eddy started Christian Science. Both were very unconventional Christians. True, Smith was killed, but lets face it, he pushed a lot of people for a lot of reasons to the breaking point. The fact remains, Mormonism is proof that anyone can start a church. John Oliver the host of Last Week Tonight, did just that last year in order to prove this point.

If we are talking about a war on Christianity then I have to agree that there is a grain of truth to the argument. But I would argue that the war is being waged by the vary people, like you, who demand everyone say “Merry Christmas” as you ride store to store seeking the best possible deals in order to cram as many presents under the tree as you can. How Christian like is this behavior? Lets see what Jesus has to say about your shopping habits shall we?

So, the next item on my Christmas list is..

John 2 15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Luke 14 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Mark 10 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Do I have to go on? Because I can. It seems he has a lot to say about possessions and worldly delights.

In other words Jesus, the Savior of Christians, wants you to give up your worldly goods. Let me say that again- Jesus is quoted as saying that having and loving worldly goods, is the opposite of loving God.

There is nothing in the Bible that has Jesus demanding that you gather up your family under a well-lit carcass of a dead tree in order to pay tribute to your materialist needs. Again he is preaching the very opposite of what has become known as the “Christmas Christian Season”.

Can you imagine what he would think if he ever did return and it just happen to fall on his birthday? I doubt he’d be impressed.  Heck, tt may well even give him a heart-attack! And he’s gone again..

So the next time you find yourself faced with a store clerk who doesn’t say Merry Christmas, or outraged that your local Starbucks has dared given you a cup that says “Happy Holidays”, ask yourself who is being less of a Christian, you the greedy consumer or the person who is patiently serving you?

Works Cited

The Bible, English Standard version Print.

Works Referenced

CNN Money Black Friday Holiday Shopping 217

Mother Jones War On Christmashttp://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/11/war-on-christmas-update/

World Atlas.com Christian Nations

Shakespeare, Conspiracies & Boycotts, oh my!

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, led me your ears.

(Note, this is a corrected update)

This has been a crazy (and I mean it in the literal sense) week regarding Shakespeare & conspiracies. I’ve been meaning to write this blog post since last Tuesday, after what I was sure would be a calming of the storm, but the crazy is spiraling out of control. Someone is going to get hurt, all because of a Shakespeare play.

In case you have been blissfully unaware, this year the New York Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production is Julius Caesar; a very modern production, with Caesar having blond hair, a blue suit, and long tie. The play is aimed at a modern audience who just happens to have a sitting president that has dyed blond hair, and seems to only wear blue suites and long ties.

This is not the first time a Shakespeare theater company has depicted a sitting president as Julius Caesar. My friend Jason reminded that in 2012, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis also produced a modern retelling of the story, this time with a black man in a dark suit as Caesar. I’m sure if we were to go back in time, we’d find other theaters doing the same thing to other leaders. Modernizing Shakespeare is nothing new. What is new is the outrage this particular production has sparked.

The outrage, the distorted news stories, and silly boycotts are all clear examples of something I have talked about in the past; the dumbing down of America. Though I cannot now think of a better example than this one. It seems everyone is getting this play wrong, and asserting things that are not true, simply because the have not bothered to read the play. Hell if they had bothered to read this cliff notes we’d all be better off. So before we get into the conspiracy and boycott, let’s talk about Julius Caesar, the play.

Julius Caesar is thought to be one of Shakespeare’s first plays to be performed at the newly constructed Globe Theater. Shakespeare’s audience would have been fully aware of the history of Rome, and the controversy surrounding the emperor’s murder. It was a subject of debate at the time and continued to be debated up to the early 17th century. Dante put both Brutus and Cassius, the two main co- conspirators, in the 9th circle of hell as traitors, but by the 16th century, philosophers like Philip Sidney thought Brutus was brave by trying to save the republic (spoiler, he didn’t). Shakespeare seemed to weigh in by giving his audience a play that showed the assassination and its aftermath; both bloody, and both seemingly pointless.

Here is a mini version of the cliff notes version of Julius Caesar:

Several members of the senate, fearing Caesar has become too powerful, decides the only course of action is to assassinate him. They think they will be “greeted like liberators” to quote anther modern politician, but they are not. Anthony, horrified by what they have done, gives a moving speech in which repeatedly calls Brutus “honorable” but clearly means the opposite. The speech works, and results in its intended effect; the crowd calls for the blood of those who killed Caesar. The conspirers, now fearing for their lives ,flee Italy only to be hunted down by Anthony and Caesar’s nephew, Octavius. Realizing they cannot win, Brutus and Cassius kill themselves. In the end all of the conspirers are dead and Roman order is restored.

There are several lesson this play gives us, all of which seem to be lost this week. The first is the error of the lust for power. The Senate, fearing they are losing their collective power of privilege, decides to take it upon themselves to grab it back. And in doing so, act worse than the leader they all fear. The second, is assuming the end justifies the means, or assuming you are in the right. The conspirers are so determined to “save” the republic they assume all will agree with their actions, even if it means getting rid of a beloved emperor. The people turned on them because they miscalculate how the deed is taken by the masses. Thirdly, this play shows what happens when there is a loss of balance of power. When one part of any government becomes too strong, the other side pushes back. Julius Caesar demonstrates this cycle with no defined winners. I could do a whole post about this one topic alone, but we will skip the analysis for another day. My main point to this brief outline is to assert that this particular play is not about the assassination of a leader; rather it is an argument against the assassination of a leader. Anthony’s moving and often-cited speech, along with the death scenes of Brutus and Cassius, are proof of this claim. Anyone who tells you differently has not read the play. And here my friends, is where my ranting begins, or in the words of one of my favorite podcasts, Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know, “here is where it gets crazy”.

Last weekend Fox Faux News reported that New York’s Public Theater was hosting a play depicting the murder of Donald Trump. Clearly knowing nothing about the play, or the history of modernizing Shakespeare, the news site reported this as part of an alarming trend of how the left is disrespecting the president. How they did this straight faced is beyond my comprehension. They seemed to forget this happened to Obama in 2012, and clearly have selective amnesia when it comes remembering that many on the left put up public signs with illustrations of nooses that read “Hang in there Obama”. Where was Fox’s outrage then?

But, it gets even crazier. Last week’s Twitter hashtag game #ShakespeareSunday’s theme coincidentally was ‘Rebellion”. For those who don’t know what I may be talking about, every Sunday hundreds of people engage in a Twitter hashtag (#) game hosted by a an amazing lady (not several as noted before) with the Twitter handle, @HollowCrownFans. This game was started when the first of the BBC Hollow Crowns series aired, and we’ve been playing ever since. The rules are simple. Each week a theme is picked and players use the theme to quote Shakespeare; more often than not, accompanied by a picture that links the quote to our modern world. This is our way of demonstrating Shakespeare’s relevance to the modern world. Because last week’s them was “Rebellion”, Twitter was overrun with bard quotes and Star Wars pictures and memes.

Luke
Henry IV, Part 1 Act 5

But, because of the dumbing down of America, Trump supporters smelled a conspiracy between the players and the Public Theater. A call to boycott the hashtag rose up among them. Some even tried to warn New York taxpayers that their money was being used by a group that sought to undermine our democracy by disrespecting our president. Let me put this another way, there are some some on Twitter who think @HollowCrownFans, a private Twitter handle, is owned by unknown left leaning public entity. That’s how fucking crazy this is getting! And now, these same people are trying to connect anything from a playwright, who has been dead for over 400 years, to the anti-Trump movement. This is how insane and ignorant this is getting.

Shakespeare in the park is not only being disrupted and boycotted by Trump supporters, Delta Airline and Bank of America have pulled their support of the theater, even though the play is not a celebration of the death of a leader. Nor is it a call to assassinate the president of the United States. If anyone at Delta or B of A had bothered to see the play they’d know this.

The media is not helping. The News Week’s author, on writing about the production, admits he has not viewed the play. He quotes the director as saying “ Julius Caesar is a warning parable to those who try to fight for democracy by undemocratic means”. Yet this quote is lost on the author who ignores it and goes on to talk about how the critics have a point. No. They. Do. Not. The director, by choosing to Trump as a stand-in is warning us that, no matter who is in charge, we must always let democracy rule. How much more clearer can this message get?? Yet the author goes on to talk about his own reading and understanding of the play, but his later message is hollow because of his argument against the production of a modernized version of the play. This author claims to have taught Shakespeare, yet he is ignorant of the history of modernizing the plays and worse, shows his ignorance of why plays are often modernized. We modernize them in order to show how relevant Shakespeare’s work is even today, and historically human behavior has not changed much over time. By modernizing Shakespeare we keep him close to us and allow him to continue to teaching us many much needed lesson.

There is no doubt that America is divided today and any little spark tends to result in a firestorm. I get it. But this catering to the dumbing down of America by the media and big businesses is only adding fuel to the fires. I cannot help but laugh at those who are boycotting Shakespeare as they are allowing their own ignorance and hate to shine for all to see. Yet, by the same hand, I fear for our country, as episodes like these are further dividing our country.

No there is no big conspiracy. Shakespeare doesn’t hate Trump, #ShakespeareSunday is a just game for fans of Shakespeare to enjoy, and Julius Caesar is not a celebration of murder. Oh, and I have a new game for you. Its called, #GetoffTwitter&GoReadaBook.