NPR legal correspondent Nina Totenberg reached the front lines in the perennial “Christmas Wars” with an odd comment during a roundtable discussion about the federal budget, and how government agencies are having difficulty planning for next year because they don’t know what their budgets will be yet. (That is, incidentally, a fair point, and one of the reasons Totenberg’s beloved Democrat Party was criminally negligent in putting off budget decisions until the lame-duck session – an inexcusable attempt to whistle past the graveyard of the 2010 midterms.)
What got Totenberg into the headlines was her comment that “I was at – forgive the expression – a ‘Christmas party’ at the Department of Justice, and people were really worried about this.” She didn’t make air quotes around “Christmas party,” but it sounds like she was tempted. She looks like she’s apologizing for enjoying the naughty thrill of using low-class language at a high-toned cocktail party: “I recently found myself, through no fault of my own, at one of these dreadful motor sports events – what you’d call a ‘NASCAR rally’, if you’ll forgive the expression…”
The comment was shocking, and highly amusing, because it so neatly confirmed the stereotypes conservatives occasionally feel guilty about holding, with regard to out-of-touch NPR liberals. You mouth-breathing Jesus freaks out in flyover country are cows to be milked for tax funding, but otherwise ignored as much as possible. It’s a damn shame that necessity forced the elegant Lady Totenberg to attend one of your primitive rituals. What was she supposed to do? It was a government function. She simply had to attend, and we’re so fortunate she returned alive, to share what she learned around those melancholy bowls of Justice Department eggnog.
Totenberg’s remark was not just a slip of the tongue, granting a peek into her unlovely taxpayer-subsidized psyche. We had one of those back in 1995, when she wished the late Senator Jesse Helms would get “AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandkids would get it.” Joy to the world, and AIDS to Jesse Helms’ grandchildren!
No, Totenberg and her ilk talk this way because they practice talking this way. They are making a conscious and deliberate effort to scrub the religious meaning from the winter holidays, because Christmas instills confidence in a particular religious movement they fear and despise. Could you imagine Totenberg saying, “I was at – forgive the expression – a ‘Kwanzaa party’ at the Department of Justice…?” She’s very carefully trained herself never to say something like that, and if she did, she would never be forgiven for it.
A Canadian university recently published a study purporting to find non-Christians felt “less self-assured” and had “fewer positive feelings” when interviewed in a room that contained a Christmas tree. This tells us the effort to airbrush Christ out of Christmas has failed, but it has distorted public understanding of the holiday. Christmas trees are not religious symbols, as Linus explained so memorably in the “Charlie Brown” Christmas special. They are a secular extension of the most inclusive religious holiday observed by mankind.
Christmas is the celebration of an event with profound significance to Christians… but everyone else is invited to the party, without reservation or obligation. Peace on Earth is not a gift that can be given to only half the human race. What came into the world, on the day we celebrate, was meant to be shared, not hoarded.
No church door is locked on the silent night. There may not be room at the inn, but there is always room in the manger, and there is no charge for staying until morning. In fact, the revelers are disappointed if anyone leaves early. No one cares if you come empty-handed, but they would be delighted if you didn’t leave that way. What Christian means “Merry Christmas” as a command, or interprets it as an insult when spoken by those of any other faith, or none at all?
It slanders the spirit of this holiday to suppose its name is a burden non-believers must carry, or a vulgarity sophisticates must apologize for using. The bitter Left understands little about the cultures it venerates… and absolutely nothing about the one it despises. Their own lack of confidence in their hollow statist and environmentalist religions is marked by their doomed crusade to extinguish something that will forever burn beyond their power or contempt. They are trying to deny something that makes no demands.
“Christmas party” is not a vulgar term for an unpleasant ritual, which exasperated liberals are forced to waste their time on. You can measure the joyous power of the season by understanding that Nina Totenberg will be welcomed at the next Christmas party she chooses to attend… even if the Star of Bethlehem rises to find her in North Carolina, at the same church attended by the grandchildren of Jesse Helms.