Saturnalia

Published January 28, 2021
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There is no cultural “debate” or position I personally find more absurd and trivial than the alleged “War On Christmas” within the United States, my current and native residence. It was obtusely packed to the brim with the now sadly familiar demagoguery and misinformation we’ve come to expect daily. I feel it really reached its peak and actually piqued my interest again with a 2015 “viral” video starring Joshua Feuerstein (more on him in a moment). Joshua proclaimed that Starbucks had “caved” to “political correctness” and virtually eliminated the mention and celebration of Christmas from its demesne and forbade employees from wishing anyone a “Merry Christmas!”

This was a sign of things to come and was a development that didn’t escape my attention. Many people ignored it, laughed at it as dumb, and thought these types of yahoos were just as frivolous as the very grievances they were making up. Undoubtedly it was foolish; with war, famine, slavery, and other tragedies occurring worldwide, we’re worried about a Starbucks cup? However, as I had been trying to point out to those who would listen from approximately 2002 onward, this controversy really should’ve been opening people’s eyes.

Context

I want to put this in a retrospective context.

In approximately 2002, I attempted to establish a private organization dedicated to individual freedom. Political in nature, it had great potential, but the timing wasn’t right. It suffered from a tiny membership, a small reach, and branding and messaging problems. I have always valued individual freedom but being gay, an atheist, and a slew of other things, you can imagine I was pretty fed up and not at all in line with the religious and faith-based aspects of the Republican Party. In my efforts to flesh out this organization’s philosophy and structure, I started doing field research on nations and their design, the feasibility of micro-nations, which led me to sovereign citizens, which quickly led me down the devolving intellectual rabbit hole of conspiracy theories. I concluded something dire from the attitudes and philosophies many of those who allegedly leaned towards freedom openly professed, projecting their reasoning and thought processes to their logical and emotional conclusions. Earnestly sharing this with my husband, I warned, “The phenomenon of people being drawn to and supporting these conspiracy theories is very important and dangerous.”

In my eyes, I could see the right, much like Ayn Rand before me, becoming utterly twisted, corrupt, and ultimately destroyed (with collateral damage) by its inner working spirit known as the Religious Right or Moral Majority. My husband thought I was overdramatizing, losing perspective, and that nobody would ever take any of these ridiculous claims and very freaky people seriously enough to cause any real harm. Over the next twenty years, Rand’s prediction, and my own vision, have slowly and definitely come to fruition. Now that the passion play is just about to hopefully implode upon itself, as a coup fails to emerge, as Trump is rallied against, and as people finally see the effects of their antics, I can only hope that people might listen to me now to understand what I’ve always seen. It started with a “Culture War,” and at the center of that war in 2015 was Joshua Feuerstein.

The War

Joshua Feuerstein is a former Christian pastor who rose to fame in the mid-2010s with his unsurprisingly hateful (and often spurious) politico-religious rhetoric. He used to have a website at joshuafeuerstein.com. I say “used to” tentatively, as I couldn’t access it today, timing out on even PING requests. Simultaneously, people who supposedly abide by his type of pseudo-philosophy are storming the State Capitol in D.C. Yes, this is how far people like Feuerstein have been able to reach in just five years. His Instagram account is currently trying to celebrate these terrorists ambiguously. At the same time, his followers do his dirty work by armchair pinning it on the “other side” with about as much accuracy as they might pin a tail on a donkey. By my research, the zenith of Joshua’s boastful career in social influencing was bringing to the forefront in the minds of Americans everywhere the indisputably essential (and made up) issue of the “Culture War”: the “War On Christmas.” Almost pitiable, if it weren’t so vicious.

Of course, his stance was patently false. As a then almost daily consumer, I observed the winter holiday most celebrated by Starbucks and its products was Christmas. Not only did Starbucks continue to carry products that bore the word Christmas, but they also sold advent calendars counting down to Christmas. This did not stop the outrage machine that now frames all American politics and collectivism, declaring Starbucks morally bankrupt and supposedly boycotting the company. It didn’t matter one bit to many if it was true or false. It didn’t matter if it was real, just that they could do something to reaffirm their biases and fears. This was happening in 2015.

None of this is new, just more loud.

Looking In

Anyone who’s ever spent any time on what I call the “outside,” and with half an intellect can tell you with certainty that the only people waging any war, from the publication of O’Reilly’s book Culture Warrior to the domestic terrorist acts of today, are the people who don’t want to lose their power. Their distinguishing characteristics are not their religion, race, or creed, but rather their projected sense of severe entitlement, fragility, and ignorance. On a side note, it’s no wonder then that trying to defend against their onslaughts with equal amounts of entitlement, fragility, and ignorance hasn’t worked.

For so long, those who have been in the majority in America have consistently flexed their influence to keep themselves in the majority, calling such appeals a myriad of names from “social norms” to “family values.” Anything that didn’t resemble a white bread world full of their own pet beliefs and prejudices such as homosexuality, atheism, ethnicity, and any culture outside of white fundamentalist Christianity, was shunned and proactively castigated. They’ve enjoyed this ability to wreak havoc on everyone else’s lives, including me, via the Defense Of Marriage Act, by the grace of democracy: the rule of the majority. In the past, there had always been just enough of them and just enough of their traditions so ingrained in our culture and psyche that they always came out on top: establishing their culture and their values to rule over the rest of us.

I believe the non-existent “War On Christmas” is the telling centerpiece to this entire social entity. What is more decidedly Christian, more culturally powerful and widespread, than the package of Christmas? In America, just about everybody is touched in some way by Christmas, and so, logically, just about everyone is touched or influenced or implicitly “agrees” with (in their eyes) Christianity. One day long ago, however, someone decided that maybe they shouldn’t assume everyone celebrated Christmas or believed in Christ, someone like me, and so they said, “Happy Holidays.”

I label the “War On Christmas” as non-existent because nobody is actually against Christmas. There is no significant or influential body of people trying to suppress or erase Christianity. No rational person really cares if you celebrate Christmas or not, just as no secure atheist really cares if you believe in God or not. Literally, no one cares or is doing anything malicious except the people screaming that their arbitrary traditions are being forgotten by society (which they aren’t.)

Happy Holidays

I’ve watched as “Happy Holidays” has cheerfully and inadvertently marched across the truly absurd no man’s land of rigid hate and ignorance with great amusement. It is this very phrase that has served as a barometer for the advancement of social progress. A phrase born out of the idea that maybe we should be more open in our culture to other values and other beliefs that are not traditional has wreaked so much havoc, anger, and fear in so many people’s deserving minds. Outcasts and “social misfits” began their systematized production in the 1950s and very slowly but very steadily fought against this underhanded and unspoken system. Victims of racism, bigotry, and prejudice have gradually assembled and now have reached a tipping point where they can finally overthrow this morally bankrupt regime.

In light of all this failure and eventual domestic terrorism, I hope that people will realize that the idea of justifying any enforceable values and culture was an error. The “Culture War,” if we suppose it’s real, shouldn’t be about replacing one culture with another, one system of values for another, but about destroying the idea that those kinds of values were to be dictated in the first place. That we should all be free to choose who we want to be, what we want to value, what we want to support, in essence, our culture, but be unable to demand our personal choices and beliefs be expected of everyone.

I am continuously disappointed. We get the incredibly predictable and short-sighted blowback: the prevailing notion that it should be illegal to choose any meaningful actions based on any now unpopular values. My fellow affected outcasts trumpet this all the time as if it’s some radical new agenda and not anything at all like what they’re fighting against. Many people turn in desperation and anger at this perceived slight to people like Trump and will continue to do so to wage their “Culture War.” And the cycle will eventually repeat, as long as we continue to believe the majority should be able to potentially tell us how to live our lives in every respect.

Better Ideas

Even though there have been incredible twists and turns even I couldn’t forecast, such as Trump becoming President, I’ve seen all this coming for two decades. I’ve just been relatively silent because, honestly, I felt like nobody really listened to me or cared. My insights, when rarely shared with others beyond my husband, have consistently met with dismissal.

I’m not alone. My insight didn’t originate from me but began with the insights I gained from my father. Before Trump even ran for President, my father made it a point to illustrate how people like Trump, specifically Trump, were crooks. At one point, he said that he was afraid some cataclysmic events, such as war, were coming. I know they are coming. I could see the war drums beating with every episode of O’Reilly my father used to watch. By the time Hannity came around to replace him, he couldn’t even bear to watch anymore; it was so bad. And it will get worse if we don’t figure out individually how to straighten ourselves and our society out.

Here’s an idea, maybe we should strive for our ideas to be better than the ideas we’re fighting against, not just variations on the same thing that satisfy our own prejudices. From my point of view, I’m entirely unsurprised that the Capitol has been overrun. No one seems to be trying to straighten anything out with better ideas, just their own pet goals, and feelings. How long do we have to battle back and forth, decade after decade, the same bullshit before we realize that, for example, partisan tribalism isn’t the answer?

I’m not holding my breath.

Featured Image Graphic Based On A Photo by Ibrahim Boran on Unsplash

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