What I am most thankful for during the holiday of Thanksgiving is always the thing I dare not name until after its completion: my son’s visit. Now that he has safely landed back in Denver, I may say that I’m greatly relieved at his having secured a good job—paying half again as much as I ever earned, and no thanks to his costly Bachelor’s degree—and that I am deeply grateful that he traveled safely. This species of “gratitude”, to be sure, has more than a little of the heathen about it. Solon lectured Croesus a long time ago on the risks of declaring any man happy before his span on earth is finished; and the Irish have a saying, Mol an lá um trathnóna (“Praise the day at sundown”) which speaks to the same point.
As Ruth Finnegan says, we’re all pretty much the same underneath our thin veneer of literate conditioning: still a bunch of nervous primates watching out for the next tawny pair of predator’s ears in the tall grass. And our civilized surfaces grow thinner by the hour, it seems. If there’s one habit my beloved boy brings home with him that I would as soon see left at the airport, it’s his taste in television fare. I’m not being theatrical or “snowflakey” when I declare that the level of grotesque violence in movies—and these, to boot, advertised as “comedies”—offends me almost to the boiling point. Mayhem is not a source of amusement; it was not so even for our caveman progenitors. Perhaps I am particularly irritable on this subject because of the self-righteous outcry against private possession of firearms that issues from Hollywood as steadily as smog from the streets of LA. If there are indeed governable influences in play behind most of our mass-shootings, then the desensitization to the pain of others purveyed by the film industry’s blood-porn must rank at the top of the list. Seldom can this brutality be squeezed behind the fig leaf of realism. It is a luridly stylized and highly staged orgy, rather, of mauling and maiming, with all the human agony removed.
I know of no words adequate to describe the spiritual squalor of the anomic parasites who grind out such utterly debased and irredeemable “amusement”. In their company, whores are saints.
On a related but less oppressive note, I was also somewhat dumbfounded by the volume of wholly “pagan” advertising that has clustered around the approach of Christmas. Yes, I well know that I am naive to be thus surprised. My wife and I consume perhaps an hour of TV daily (much of it divided between couples flipping houses and the Weather Channel). Football, a game I now despise for more reasons than ever before, has an attraction for my lad and turns out to be an ideal vehicle for commercial breaks numerous and lengthy (Reason 28 for why I hate the game). I won’t bore you—or torment myself—by trying to give a full account of all the car ads (speaking of vehicles), electronics ads, and home-improvement ads that washed over my eardrums this past weekend. I will say as follows: a visitor from another world might be forgiven for supposing that Black Friday and the adipose graybeard belching out, “Ho, ho, ho!” are integrally related and fundamental to some impending celebration.
Or let me put it this way, very bluntly—for I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else volunteering an insight quite the same as the one that at last settled upon me. The degree of commercialism in our Christmas season has grown obscene: no originality in that observation. The counter-cultural forces in Hollywood, academe, the news room, and the board room have made the time look almost as grotesque as do those blood-red “comedies” aired abundantly over the same weeks. One might have supposed that the board room, at least, would have an interest in sparing capitalism the bludgeoning it receives from other quarters… but capitalist marketers have taken almost to parodying the “greed” drive of consumerism (in the same way that bullet-riddled bodies are now so cliché as to be comic). A few of us realize, as well, that big business is no friend to free enterprise—that the corporatism mingling the DNA of Big Auto and Big Com Tech with Big Government is probably happy enough to hear college professors trashing fair, open competition.
So here’s my climatic insight for the morning. As our counter-cultural progressive elite has systematically purged Thanksgiving and Christmas of their religious significance, it has of necessity driven those occasions deeper and deeper into an unsavory secularist pit of loud hucksterism. In other words, the thing most hated by the political Left about our major Christian holidays is a quality largely generated by its own “demystifying” of them. The more we take Christ out of Christmas, the more we see of Ho-Ho steering his red BMW with the help of a GPS on his smartphone.
To the young, a plea… or a warning: you won’t reduce the vulgarity in our moribund culture by turning your back on religious holidays. You will, on the contrary, enhance that terminal vulgarity by forgetting that the holidays have a religious foundation. Don’t let the producers, the professors, the broadcasters, and the marketers fool you: the coarseness lies in their neutering of a mystical time, not in the time’s primitive, outdated mystery.