Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An Open Letter to Ben Stein, et al

Another year, another version of that obnoxious Frankenstein quote that people are so fond of posting. I hadn't thought about it since last December, but there it was in my Facebook feed again yesterday. Normally I would ignore the whole thing and move on with my life, but this year I am particularly offended by so much of what is in there. I had to pause, and pick a fight. 

Is it a feminist issue? Not explicitly. But I am a feminist and I have issues with it. So there you go.

Here'e the thing, it's not enough that the current posting of stupid Ben Stein's stupid face is predicated on the  myth that Obama decided the call the Christmas Trees in the White House "Holiday Trees" (spoiler alert: he didn't). Nor is it the point that this statement is not even really from Ben Stein but is actually a conglomeration of statements,  including elements from Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham. Forgetting then that this is built on a mountain of falsity (because hey, I am a fan of fiction) let us examine the content of this odious post.

BEN STEIN: I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejewelled trees, Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are, Christmas trees.

Come on. Is this really a thing? Because you know what? I am with you on this. But really? Who is walking around threatened that people call Christmas Trees by their name? Who feels discriminated against because they're not called Holiday trees? I mean, listen I'm a Jew too. And every single one of my ancestors was Jewish too (I think anyway. Actually, now that I think of it, this is a ridiculous and un-provable claim to make, but whatevs.) And let me tell you, having grown up around Jews, nobody over the age of 11 cares all that much about being included in the whole tree thing. A lot people think its kind of stupid. And those that have trees in their house might call them holiday trees in their own home. What the fuck do you care?

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year.

Um...what? Actually, this shows that people assume that you celebrate the same holiday as they do. It shows that in fact, they have no interest or sensitivity to the fact that not only aren't you brothers and sisters, but that you come from a whole other line of people (all of your ancestors are JEWISH Ben!) and you DON'T celebrate Christmas. And gee, golly, gosh, shouldn't that be OK too?

The thing is, I really, truly, honestly don't care if people wish me Merry Christmas either, but not for this stupid, broke-ass reason. Life is hectic and busy, and maybe you don't know I'm a Jew from looking at me, and whatever, it's not like my skin melts when you wish me Merry Christmas. But it sure as hell doesn't make me feel closer to anyone. And thanks for speaking for all us Jews Ben! (Oh, but not. And like, not ever.) Because like you, I too never felt left out. I was lucky to grow up with a strong cultural identity, ties to the Jewish community and a family that surrounded me with holiday cheer about our own holiday (which you fail to mention once. It's called Hannukah. Here, I looked it up for you!) and an appreciation for other's holidays too. We went to see the Macy's windows. Then we went for chinese food. We went to the movies. Bam. Perfect. Jewish. Christmas.

But you know what? Not every Jew feels that way! (I bet not EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOUR ANCESTORS even felt that way.) Some Jews really struggle to feel a part of American culture, and for them, this time of year and its constant reminders of their "otherness" can be kind of a bummer.

And also, Ben, I don't want to upset you, but Christians and Jews are not the only people in America. There are people of many other religions and cultures who don't celebrate Christmas. People who might like to feel included in the holiday that dominates television, radio, the newspaper, the shopping mall, our work schedules, and everything else in our society for the entire month of December

And does wishing someone Happy Holidays or calling something a Holiday Tree really put someone out so much that they can't bear to do it? Does it really dillute your holiday experience so much. Because if so... that's just...pathetic. As John Stewart illustrated perfectly on the Daily Show Christmas is doing JUST FINE, so relax. I make room in my life (and my waistline) for endless Christmas parties, packed mall shopping, obligatory holiday gifts because I am living in America, and I partake in elements of popular culture, and it is often enjoyable. Is this tiny gesture to make room for me and others like me (or nothing like me) in our society really such a terrible sacrifice? Or is it in fact, the least you can do? LITERALLY?

Phew. Let's pause for a minute here to catch our breath.

OK, still with me? Because here is where (in this most recent version anyway) Billy Graham's daughter kicks into the conversation (although it is not clearly stated that way in the Facebook post). And I will state that if you thought I seemed pissed before....

In light of recent events... terrorist attacks, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

What? I can't even...this is so...wow. There is so much here I am not sure where to begin. It's so obvious that the line "In light of recent events...terrorist attacks, school shootings etc." was tagged on either in this or a previous go around, considering that it is not even a sentence. But, that said, IN LIGHT OF RECENT EVENTS, HOLY SHIT, KEEP IT TO YOURSELF.

And then there's the dig at Madeleine Murray O'Hare and mentioning causally that she was murdered, as though one thing has anything to do with the other. And if you do think being an atheist will lead to your death (um, I don't remember hearing a lot about that from the Christians by the way. I mean, where you go after you die maybe, but actually hastening one's death?) what about all those atheists who live to 100? Or young Christians who die at 40 from cancer? What were they doing wrong in your estimation? Do I really have to point out this incredibly simplistic hypocrisy to you, you sanctimonious pricks?

Also I love this idea that because we're not reading the bible we don't know not to kill, steal etc. This is so absurd. If you fail to mention these basic rules to your kid because there is no bible reading going on, you are kind of shitty parent. Sorry (not sorry).

Also, that whole argument, "How can you be moral without God?" Ugh. I think the better question is, "Why do you need God to be moral?" Doesn't your stomach flip at the report of a murder? Doesn't your heart break when a child or animal is abused? Doesn't a bell go off in your head when you are doing something that will harm another person. Whether you believe in God or not, do you NEED him to tell you what you are doing is wrong? If so, check yourself. You might be a sociopath. 

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said okay.

WHAT. THE FUCK. DOES THIS HAVE TO DO. WITH CHRISTMAS TREES.  Also, as though it was Dr. Spock and him alone who decided spanking was bad, and not all of society and countless studies and years of proof that corporal punishment is a disaster

And by the way, his son did NOT commit suicide. Sensitive in bringing that up though. Maybe you want to go hang out with these guys. They too are all about sensitivity, appropriate responses, and loving thy neighbor.

OK, there's more but I think you get the point. This whole thing is just exhausting. And ironically, it is posts like this that make me, actually hate Christmas, when I wasn't feeling so angry about it before.

I might piss some people off with this one. But that's what I'm here to do, no?

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