Happy Holidays vs Merry Christmas — feedback

Two reader responses to the angry rant from a utility customer who objected to receiving generic holiday greetings at Christmastime.

Jeffrey Shallit writes:

Jewish-ChristmasThis guy represents everything that is bad about Christian North America. He doesn’t understand freedom of religion; he feels so threatened by non-Christians he wants to resort to violence; and he assumes everyone who is Canadian is necessarily Christian (forget about all those damned, Jews, I suppose, not to mention native Canadians who might follow traditional native religions).

Although not Jewish myself, I grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia that was predominantly Jewish. Many lost members of their family in the Holocaust at the hands of Christian Germans, Poles, Ukrainians and Russians. (And please, do not object with a version of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. Their murderers often called themselves Christians, and the long history of Christian anti-Semitism cannot be denied.) These Jews did not always celebrate Christmas, even the secular version, and many objected strongly to the presumption that everyone did.

In such an environment, if you did not know what people celebrated, it was simply rude to assume one way or another. Thus, I grew up wishing people “Happy Holidays” unless I was sure. Most people I knew did the same. I still do so.

David Major counters:

Unless I am awfully mistaken, the notion of the neutralized nomenclature is a thoroughly urban myth.

The idea was born in a corporate manger fearing the tag of presumptiveness.

Mind, there are situations where the gathering is fairly intimate where a good host might fairly be as inclusive as possible.


Fidel, Israel, and Iran

Do not miss Jeffrey Goldberg’s continuing posts about his surprise command audience with Fidel Castro last week. First instalment here; second here.

fidel and goldberg-300Goldberg is a perplexing figure, a former member of the IDF, quick to call anti-semitism against anyone who balks at his lockstep advocacy of troubling Israeli policies. He caused a stir recently with an Atlantic cover story speculating about an impending Israeli nuclear strike against Iran. Many regarded the article as thinly disguised tub-thumping for such an attack (see here and here), while others demurred. In the end, the Atlantic held an extensive, online print debate about the issue — which may turn out to be the most important of the decade.

Turns out Castro was reading, and two weeks ago, Goldberg got a phone call from Jorge Bolanos, head of the US State Department’s Cuban Interest Section.

“I have a message for you from Fidel,” Bolanos said. “He has read your Atlantic article about Iran and Israel. He invites you to Havana on Sunday to discuss the article.”

Goldberg and Castro, who is clearly worried about the prospect of war in the Middle East, chatted for three days, and while he might not be my choice for an interlocutor, he was Fidel’s, and the results are fascinating.