For many years, I’ve written about “Merry Christmas,” and the sensitivity to that phrase, not to say hostility to it. It has been all but rendered verboten. I wrote a piece on this subject ten years ago: “December’s C-Word” (that would be “Christmas”).
You know whom this semi-verbotenization is most insulting of? Non-Christians. Because the implication is they will get the heebie-jeebies if they hear the word “Christmas” — which is ridiculous (as well as insulting).
We celebrate Christmas with you. We know the importance you attach to our common heritage, to the State of Israel, and to the City of Jerusalem, where so much of our common history was forged.
We have a great past, we have common values, we have the desire to seize a common future of security, prosperity, and peace. So, from the city of peace, Jerusalem, I extend the warmest Christmas greetings to all of you. Merry Christmas.
That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Merry Christmas to you, too, Dennis and Bibi. (Dennis, I know a bit. Netanyahu, I merely affect familiarity with.)
‐From the sublime to the — less so. I was reading an interview by the Daily Caller of Bill Press, the Democratic broadcaster. They asked him, “Who is your celebrity crush?” He said Kirsten Gillibrand, the junior senator from New York (Democrat, of course).
I remembered what Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, said about her, at a fundraiser: “We in the Senate refer to Senator Gillibrand as the ‘hottest member.’”
Yowww. I have to wonder how Gillibrand feels about this: being the objet de désir of septuagenarian Democrats.
‐A news story out of Paris:
Horse riders and trainers are demonstrating against a plan to nearly triple the tax on riding schools in France.
Enthusiasts fear the higher tax will make lessons too expensive, and force many schools to close. And they worry it will further chip away at rural traditions already struggling in a stagnant economy.
I reflected for a moment on left-wing hostility to horse-riding. I thought of the derision Ann Romney faced when it was learned that she worked with horses. (Apparently, she does this as a way of coping with multiple sclerosis. At least, that’s one reason she does it, I believe.) I further thought of Tip O’Neill’s pronouncement on Ronald Reagan:
“The evil is in the White House at the present time. And that evil is a man who has no care and no concern for the working class of America and the future generations of America, and who likes to ride a horse. He’s cold. He’s mean. He’s got ice water for blood.”
Yes. And did he mention he likes to ride a horse?
‐The New York Times published an interesting obit of Kalashnikov, the gun guy. I would like to make two points on it. Consider this excerpt: “The weapon, he said, was designed to protect his motherland, not to be used by terrorists or thugs. ‘This is a weapon of defense,’ he said. ‘It is not a weapon for offense.’”
Needless to say, Mikhail Kalashnikov knew much more about guns than I ever will. But I have always thought of a gun as a neutral instrument: used for offense or defense. Used to attack a man or to defend oneself against him (by attacking him).
Next, Kalashnikov appears to have been a great admirer of Stalin: “I never knew him personally, and I regret this.”
There are a thousand things to say about Stalin — but let me quote an article by Daniel Hannan, which I read shortly after I read the Kalashnikov obit: “Josef Stalin . . . arrested virtually the entire Russian Orthodox priesthood — 130,000 men, of whom 95,000 were shot.”
‐We’d better have something a little less serious. Last week, I had a strange item on Germany — having to do with a Germany “whole and free” (as we used to say), rather than divided between East and West. I spoke of having addressed a Christmas card to “Frankfurt, Germany.”
And several readers said, “Jay, you doofus!” (Actually, they were much nicer than this.) “There are two Frankfurts in Germany. You should have put ‘Frankfurt am Main’ or ‘Frankfurt an der Oder.’” Well and good — but the truth is, I didn’t address my card to Frankfurt at all. I addressed it to Hamburg. I simply forgot, when writing my column.
I guess I can’t keep my hot dogs, wieners, and hamburgers straight. I probably knew the city had something to do with picnic or ballpark or Fourth of July food.
‐A little music? Well, I have a story or two about music, in a post at The New Criterion. See what you think.
‐A little language now? Language mixed with music, actually? In a podcast with Mona Charen, I mentioned “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” — the punctuation of the title, in particular. Many people don’t know where the comma goes. They hear “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” (which is wrong).
Well, I have another one for you — another “situation.” It arises in “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” There are different versions of this great, immortal poem. But I believe the follow punctuation is correct: “Where meek souls [or meekness] will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.”
Most people sing, and write, “Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ …” — because that’s the way the music falls. That’s what the musical cadences lead you to sing.
But I believe the correct line is “Where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.”
Commas are important. Someone once told Bill Buckley, “Never depend for your meaning on the placement of a comma.” I can’t think, just now, who the someone was — but someone will remind me, a second or two after this column is published. For which, thank you in advance!
‐Okay, let’s have some notes from Ann Arbor. I was in my dear old hometown over “Christmas break.” (It has been a long time since I was a student, but I’m still prone to thinking in those terms.)
I see, now, that there’s a hookah lounge. We always had hookers, but not hookahs, to the best of my knowledge.
Speaking of hookers, there is a Safe Sex Store — which is very Ann Arbor, except for the “safe.”
There is a store that says, “American Apparel. Made in the U.S.A. Sweat Shop Free.” (I believe I have copied that correctly.) I think sweatshops are abhorrent. But I can’t help thinking of what a friend likes to quip: “I wonder what those poor Third World souls would do instead of work in sweatshops. Put on blazers and go to Groton? Start tech firms?”
Also, it occurs to me that I’ve never seen a sign that says “Laogai-Free” — i.e., free of slave labor from China (whose gulag is called “laogai”). Walmart, for one, could not put up such a sign. But who could?
Back in A2 (Ann Arbor), there’s a store called “My Urban Toddler.” I’m pretty sure that’s the most pretentious store-name I have seen in ages.
But what to my wondering eyes did appear? In the middle of the University of Michigan campus, there was a sign advertising “God and Brotherhood Together — a Christian Fraternity.” In Ann Arbor? Blow me down.
One more thing: I’d rented a black Ford Fiesta — a hatchback. When I returned to a parking garage, there was another black hatchback, parked right next to it. The back of that car said “Porsche.” I had to rub my eyes a little. Underneath “Porsche” was “Cayenne.”
I’ve been out of the car world for a while — am I the last to know that Porsche makes a hatchback?
Instantly, I thought of a good-news-bad-news joke: The good news is, you own a Porsche. The bad news is — it’s a hatchback.
Have I committed “hate speech”? Believe me, I’d happily accept a Porsche hatchback. Even a Fiesta.
Have a good one.