The Occasional Muse
My humble opinion on current events
November 25, 2002
As I was wheeling the garbage can to the
curb last night, a home down the block was lit up for Christmas, with
icicle lights lining the eaves and a giant, inflatable, lit Santa Claus
standing in the front yard. The house across the street has matched that
with more icicle lights and raised it with an giant, inflatable, lit
I probably shouldn't have been surprised.
The Christmas season starts the day after Halloween in drug and retail
stores all over the nation. Halloween masks, candy, and pumpkin carving
kits are replaced with cheap garlands, ornaments, and fake wreaths. Old
Christmas CDs are on sale for $5.99 in your local supermarket, and new
releases are in Best Buy and Circuit City. Mailboxes are stuffed with
Christmas catalogs from L.L. Bean and Eddie Bauer, among many others. TV
stations show more and more Christmas commercials every week, beginning before
Halloween. Malls are decked with Christmas greenery and decorations and
already advertising Christmas sales.
I realize this trend has been happening for
some time now, but it seems worse this year. I think the last straw for me
was when a local radio station began playing nothing but Christmas music
this past weekend, nearly a week before Thanksgiving. The station usually
begins its Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving, but this year that
was just too late. It couldn't wait five extra days. Why not?
In the rush to attract Christmas shoppers
and wring out every last dime out of already strapped consumers, are we
This is not an idle question. Unlike
Halloween and Christmas, Thanksgiving offers few chances to make money.
Supermarkets are emptied out, of course, but there's no Thanksgiving
industry, no interest group or association dedicated to promoting and
profiting from Thanksgiving. Even the one venerable Thanksgiving
tradition, the Macy's parade, ends with Santa Claus and his sleigh, thus
ushering in the Christmas shopping season before most Americans have
consumed a bite of turkey. So it's only natural that businesses start
bombarding us with sales pitches before the jack-o-lanterns are pitched in
the trash. There's no cash to be made from Thanksgiving, so let's pretend
it doesn't exist and get right to promoting the next gotta-have toy or
All year, we are consumed with acquiring
more stuff, rushing from store to store, buying books and CDs off the
Internet, buying a bigger home, a better car, a boat, or jet skis, racking
up mountains of credit card debt in the process. Thanksgiving is the one
time of year when we can relax for just a moment and reflect on and give
thanks for what we have. We help those who don't have as much as we do, so
they too can count their blessings. We also realize that all the stuff we
have to have is just that - stuff. We could do without virtually all of it
and still live happy lives. Thanksgiving gives us the chance to pause from
the rat race - and the inevitable frenzy to come that is the Christmas
shopping season - and appreciate the intangibles that life offers, like
our loved ones and our country.
Look, I love Christmas and look forward to
it all year. But it has its proper time and place. So please, put away the
tinsel, leave the fake tree in its box, and let's remember - and celebrate
News and Notes
Harvard Law School is considering a ban to
free speech after some students and a professor made comments that other
students didn't like. The school may impose a ban on whatever it defines
as offensive speech. Harvard wouldn't be the first school to limit First
Amendment rights - may universities, which often puff themselves full of
pride for offering a free exchange of ideas, force students and faculty to
toe the party line and avoid any comments or speech that someone, anyone,
might find offensive. Let's hope Harvard continues to distinguish itself
by protecting freedom on its campus.
The National Geographic Society released
the results of a geography survey, and they are abysmal. The organization
polled Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 on a variety of fairly
simple geographical questions. The survey asked 56 questions about
geography and current events, and the Americans answered an average of
only 23 correctly. Twenty-nine percent could not locate the Pacific Ocean
and ten percent couldn't even locate America on a blank map of the world.
Public school system, be proud.
Finally, Tom Daschle accused Rush Limbaugh
of inciting his listeners to violence. The soon-to-be minority leader in
the Senate lamented the number of threats against he and his family, and
essentially blamed talk radio listeners, who get so riled up when Limbaugh
and other hosts "attack" Daschle and other Democrats. Naturally,
Limbaugh has made hay over the issue. It's interesting that when
conservatives criticize leftists, particularly those in academia, they
whine and cry about it, accusing conservatives of trying to stifle debate.
I wonder what they would call Tom Daschle's comments.