Alan Zendell, December 24, 2021
Being neither a Christian nor a fan of organized religion, I’m not fond of Christmas, either. My idea of celebrating is to avoid its associated hypocrisy as much as possible. Growing up in New York City, most people I knew celebrated “Jewish Christmases:” Chinese food and a first run movie on a night when there were no lines. One of my Catholic daughters-in-law called me to say she and my son were planning a Jewish Christmas this year. They found a great Chinese restaurant, but Omicron convinced them to watch a movie at home.
There used to be a lot of signs and bumper stickers saying, “Put Christ Back in Christmas,” though not this year. At least the church hierarchy, corrupt as it is, agrees with me on one thing. Christmas is either a celebration of Christ or it isn’t. Either celebrate it with that in mind, or change what it’s about. Or, my preferred solution: send it to the holiday graveyard along with Columbus Day, where it belongs.
However, when in Rome…I give my grandkids Christmas presents and acknowledge that most people want messages of hope on Christ’s birthday, though apparently, even that was faked by the church, which preferred to celebrate Christianity by co-opting pagan festivals that occur in late December. Most historians believe that if he existed at all, Christ was probably born around 5 B. C. in the Spring. But I digress. On Christmas Eve, I’m hopeful about three things, which is unfortunate, because we currently face more than three existential threats, COVID, for example, which is likely to remain an annual celebration of American ignorance. But on three fronts, there’s a faint light in the distance.
Most Americans are waking up to the reality of climate change. I’m in central Florida today, which expects to see temperatures in the 80s for most of the last week in December. If you live in the Midwest, you’ve noticed that deadly tornadoes are no longer restricted to summertime, and if you live near New Orleans, Galveston, or Tampa, you see the Gulf of Mexico inching closer to your front door every day. We’re buying electric cars, approaching energy sufficiency with a smaller carbon footprint, and building more solar panels and wind turbines. Is it enough? For now, it’s a ray of hope.
Our most immediate and dangerous threat is Donald Trump. Many may disagree, but I believe that like most charismatic movements – despicable as he is, Trump is a charismatic leader – his will die the moment its head is cut off. That means when Trump is either indicted for a serious crime or bankrupted by the many lawsuits he’s facing. His hotel empire suffered staggering losses due to the pandemic which his own negligence and malfeasance exacerbated. Ironic justice, or just a sad end to a tragic tale of lies and corruption?
Americans who are accustomed to instant gratification don’t realize that the Special House Committee investigating the events of January 6th is moving inexorably toward a not-too-distant decision about referring Trump to the Justice Department for prosecution over dereliction of duty. There is mounting evidence that he delayed calling off his dogs that day for more than three hours, hoping the insurrection would reverse his election loss to Joe Biden. Who cares if Congress and the Vice President faced their worst physical threats since the War of 1812? Who cares if police died and the nation came very close to a far more serious catastrophe? Clearly, Donald Trump didn’t.
Other actions are moving forward in the courts. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in January over Trump’s claim of Executive Privilege over materials subpoenaed by the January 6th Committee from the National Archives and Records Administration. If the appeals court ruling that his claim is invalid stands, the Committee will be inundated with data incriminating Trump and his closest supporters. Investigations of possible corrupt business practices (money laundering, fraud, racketeering) are proceeding in New York City and Albany. Georgia is investigating whether Trump is guilty of election tampering, and Georgia poll workers filed suit against Rudy Guiliani for libelous accusations of election fraud.
Finally, there’s West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. Whether he’s a brilliant negotiator standing off against his more progressive colleagues to protect our deficit or a man drunk on power as the swing vote in the Senate on all of President Biden’s agenda, the United Mine Workers of America got his attention when they came out against his threat to scuttle Biden’s Build Back Better Plan. Whether he was cowed by his need for their support or looking for cover to do the right thing, he now suggests that some version of that bill will make it through the Senate.
That’s a good thing, but far more important, is that it sets the stage for Manchin to go along with a filibuster suspension that will enable Democrats to pass a strong voting rights bill. Make no mistake – that is the most critical task facing Congress. The fate of our Constitution depends on it.
A few years ago, I worked with an Israeli who was amused by how a lot of American Jews made such a big deal of Chanukah, a fairly minor holiday in Israel. Perhaps this is due to assimilation. Christmas is such a huge deal in the US, many American Jews want to join in on the fun via Chanukah. This upsets some of the Orthodox, but what’s the use?