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Friday, December 23, 2005

Irving Berlin's White Christmas = American Christmas

Love this thoughtful, push-back-at-the-faux-news-demagogues column by WaPo's Harold Myerson on 12/21 about (Jewish, immigrant, American) songwriter/artist Irving Berlin's "achingly nostalgic ballad" -- arguably the contemporary American standard of the holiday season: the 64 year-old, still-meaningful White Christmas.

...the American Christmas song was about staying warm in winter, about staying connected to loved ones and traditions. It also practiced separation of church and song.

...the message of this musical [the film Holiday Inn] is that we are all Americans and these are our holidays. ...Christmas belongs to all of us. ...the composer of "God Bless America" preferred to celebrate a common national identity, complete with common holidays that had nonsectarian meanings. ...

Berlin kept Christmas in the public square and, more than anyone before or since, sent it out over the public airwaves. But it was an American, not a Christian, Christmas.

...Now the Fox News demagogues want to impose a more sectarian Christmas on us, supplanting the distinctly American holiday we have celebrated lo these threescore years with a holiday that divides us along religious lines. Bill O'Reilly can blaspheme all he wants, but like millions of my countrymen, I take attacks on Irving Berlin's America personally. If O'Reilly doesn't like it here, why doesn't he go back to where he came from?

So there!

I love how he turns one of the radical right's typical demagogic cries -- anyone who doesn't believe exactly the same, behave in the approved ways, anyone who isn't 'with us is agin' us' -- back on the jerk -who-shall-remain-nameless-in-my-writings.

Myerson (also of the LAWeekly) is a breath of fresh courage!

Even so, I continue to (mostly) love the diverse holiday music of the season -- even the traditional hymns and classical cantatas I was raised with in the Southern (and Southern Baptist) systems of fundamentalist indoctrination (and from which I am still recovering). Happy Holiday Music to all!




PS: HILARIOUS Holiday Humor Plus If you're also in the mood for unrivaled Holiday Humor, you can't beat David Sedaris' classic, (first heard on NPR) SantaLand Diaries, part of a greatest hits compilation:

The Christmas-themed Holidays on Ice is the gem of the collection. It has his greatest hit, "SantaLand Diaries," a chronicle of his stint as an elf at Macy's, covering everything from the preliminary group lectures ("You are not a dancer. If you were a real dancer you wouldn't be here. You're an elf and you're going to wear panties like an elf.") to the perils of inter-elf flirtation. Other hits feature the crazed newsletter "Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!" and the prostitute coworker his sister brought home one Yuletide, giving "the phrase 'ho, ho, ho' whole different meaning."

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