So, I was on the el yesterday, and at one of the stops a woman shambled toward the seats in front of me, causing her potential seat-mate to instinctively scoot away. Understandably: she was singing and laughing to herself, dressed in baggy rags, with that particular human odor of neglect proceeding and enveloping her.
She sat in front of me, so for the next 10 minutes I had a one-man audience to her songs, a garbled mix of half-remembered hymns and “Frosty the Snowman”, interspersed with high-pitched laughing when the robotic voice announced the stop. She incorporated the name of the station in her tunes in a way that I found delightful.
When I got to my stop, I walked past her and sort of half-smiled, and she looked at me, burst into laughter, and said “MERRY CHRISTMAS, FROSTY!”
And I thought: well, she must be crazy. It’s only November 30th.
In his later remarks, the president told the crowd how long he’d been waiting to say “Merry Christmas,” a nod to his 2016 campaign promises that Americans would be “saying Merry Christmas again.”
“Today is a day that I’ve been looking very much forward to all year long,” the president said. “It’s one that we’ve heard and we speak about and we dream about and now, as the president of the United States, it’s my tremendous honor to now wish America and the world a very Merry Christmas.”
This was one of the main talking points our dumbest possible candidate had during the campaign, before he transitioned into the idiot President: that people would be saying Merry Christmas again, because of him. It wasn’t very subtle. He sort of understood the War on Christmas talking points and, but doesn’t understand (and indeed rejects) anything like subtlety or nuance.
What he does have a genius for is how to turn the lingering scars of resentments, both real and imagined, into gaping, suppurating wounds. And, due to his overwhelming ego, he convinced people that he would be the one to change it. So he ratcheted the rhetoric up to 11.
In Trump’s telling, absolutely no one said “Merry Christmas” during the Obama years. It never came up. December was a grim and joyless slog toward an undefined date where we gathered, in a foggish trance, driven only by the sense-memory that Dec 25th used to mean something, and exchanged practical gifts and bowls of oatmeal around a fake gingko tree.
It was basically this grim. Check out what he said in St. Louis the other day, in a speech about the “tax plan” (he didn’t talk much about the tax plan, because he certainly doesn’t understand it, and isn’t smart enough to pretend it is something other than the class warfare Gotterdammerung).
“Remember, I was the one when I was here the last time, I said, ‘We’re going to have Christmas again,’ ’’ Trump said. “I was the one that said, you go to the department stores and you see ‘Happy New Year’ and you see red and you see snow and you see all these things. You don’t see ‘Merry Christmas’ anymore. With Trump as your president, we are going to be celebrating ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
In Trump’s telling, having red and having snow and all those things is somehow not celebrating Christmas, which comes as a surprise to anyone who has been to any store since Thanksgiving and been assaulted by “The Little Drummer Boy”. He is right, though, that people don’t say “Merry Christmas”, but there is a reason for that: it isn’t fucking Christmas until December 25th.
Think of how insane their proposition is. They think that when you walk into a store this evening the person checking you out should say “Merry Christmas”, 24 days before the holiday. It would be like the dude at Target saying “Happy 4th of July!” in mid-June. I mean, we have the American flag paper plates on display, so why not say it?
The thing is, everybody says Merry Christmas on Christmas. And usually for the few days before. If you’re going on vacation on like, the 18th, you say “have a Merry Christmas” to your co-workers as you leave. That’s normal. What isn’t normal is to say a day’s salutations literally weeks in advance, with numbing repetition.
And they obviously know all of this, and you know all of this. Their whole point isn’t to celebrate Christmas; the point is aggressive identity politics. The snarling, combatitive “Merry Christmas” is to make anyone who isn’t celebrating uncomfortable, unwelcome, excluded.
And it isn’t even just anyone who isn’t celebrating; it’s anyone who isn’t celebrating the right way. Hell, I love Christmas, and I’m as secular and liberal as you can get. My bride and I are decorating this weekend. We go nuts. Lights illuminating the every nook and cranny, a real tree, fake fluffy snow bringing memories of frost to every windowsill. It’s a goddamn wonderland. But that’s not enough.
It’s not enough because they have an extremely exclusionary and bigoted vision of what America should be, one that isn’t close enough to encompass a general holiday season, where you can be happy about a lot of things for a whole month. That’s how small and petty and terrified they are. And their avatar is in power.
We see this narrow bigotry in so many places, in so many ways. It manifests itself in the cruelty of the border wall. It manifests itself in the repeated Muslim bans. It manifests itself in Jeff Session’s daily racism. It clearly manifests itself when Trump tweets out fascist propaganda in order to incite violence (alientating our primary ally). It even comes to fore in our nuclear terror with North Korea, where the President preens and blusters and has to show he’s a bigger man than some stunted Asiatic.
It’s beyond argument that bigotry (which is broader than racism, and sometimes less cruel, though they are related) is at the heart of Trumpism. The insane tax plan, which will solidify the plutocracy’s power-and-money-grab for a generation, puts paid that this was at all about helping Johhny Blacklung.
There are people who thought Trump could help the overcome their economic straits, for sure. A lot of people genuinely thought he was a good businessman, with the evidence being: he was on TV. A lot of people were just crying out against change, in some ways an understandable thing.
But at the end, Trump was taking the pain of change and promising not salvation, but retribution. He didn’t promise to make things better; he was the promise of getting even. He promised to bring the rest of us down to size, so we can all be miserable together. He would give the disposssed not any real hope or opportunity, but a chacne to jab the flag of final surrender right into the spine of a fallen enemy. We might all be in the trash heap, but someone’s trash heap has a few gnarled and flickering strings of Christmas lights and the blood of the fallen to brighten their hovel.