“They took Christ out of Christmas. We’re not shopping there.”
These were the words out of my mother’s mouth one December when I was around seven or eight as we passed a small family-owned grocery store off Route 611 near our house in Scotrun, PA. You see, the owners had committed the cardinal sin of writing “Merry Xmas” in their storefront window panes instead of the full, godly “Merry Christmas,” and therefore were clearly consorting with the devil to ruin Jesus’ birthday party. As I grew older, I noticed, “Wait. There were only 10 windows. How were they supposed- ah, fuck it,” then filed it away between the times my best friend/neighbor brought a demon into our house with his Metallica T-shirt, and Magic: The Gathering made me lure my little brother into witchcraft. (In her defense, she’s since apologized for getting rid of my He-Mans because God is the only Master of the Universe.) Careful readers of similar childhoods who researched the bullshit they waded out of, and promptly had their heads exploded, will also probably know that “Xmas” was an acceptable, religious abbreviation of Christmas for centuries until American Christians decided to lose their shit leading us into the post-911, nationalism-orgy when Bill O’Reilly stoked the flames into a full blown “War on Christmas.” Ironically, this happened as two actual, real live wars with thousands of actual, real no-longer-live casualties were going on by order of a president who was simply following orders from the birthday boy’s dad. Which is kind of funny if you think about it except, no, not at all. We suck. America sucks.
Which brings me exactly to Sarah Palin.
Two weeks ago, Sarah Palin released her new book Good Tidings and Great Joy which was originally titled “A Happy Holidays IS A Merry Christmas” because fuck you, Hanukkah. Here’s how her ghostwriter describes it on Sarah’s Facebook page:
This book is not about isolated trivialities. It’s not really just about gingerbread cookies, or stockings hung by the chimney with care, or the big fat man with the long white beard. It’s not about one holiday at all. It’s about that little baby wrapped in swaddling clothes who arrived long before hope and change became political manipulations. It’s about Christ and our ability to worship Him freely. It’s about America, and what liberty truly means in our day-to-day lives…
Except here’s the much shorter synopsis I would’ve written because my words are awesome and have been known to smell of frankincense and myrrh:
Celebrate Christmas the Christian conservative way, or the government will shoot you in the dick.
Yup, that’s right. Sarah Palin somehow filled 232 thankfully small pages by boiling the War on Christmas down to its purest, ideological liquid form and shooting it all over the face a government-funded Nativity scene. (Plus recipes!) And for those of you wondering why I’m even wasting my time writing about it, let alone reading it in the first place, when Sarah Palin is nothing more than a national punchline to Republicans as much as Democrats, it’s simple: There are an alarming amount of people who think exactly like her. They shut down the government just last month! On top of that, later today – assuming you’re reading this on Thanksgiving – some of you are going to be sitting at a dinner table trying not to fashion a shiv out of a turkey leg while eyeing up jugulars. And really that’s who this production is for along with satisfying my love of squeezing the moose-juice out of low-hanging fruit. Because, holy shit, the ridiculousness is palpable, so let’s get to it.
I’ve actually read Going Rogue, so I can safely say that if there’s one thing Sarah Palin loves more than stringing random words together in an attempt to form a coherent thought, it’s making her ghostwriter write about how much more awesome her life is than your because she lives in Alaska. So naturally she spends the introduction judging anyone not named Sarah Palin for the following things:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
Whoops, my bad. Those are commie verses from the book of Matthew. I don’t know how they got in there. Where was I? Oh, right, Sarah Palin judging some tits off:
Don’t have a white Christmas? JUDGED!
Live in a town that cancels school if it actually does snow? JUDGED!
Don’t bake from mid-November to New Year’s? JUDGED!
Drink coffee on Christmas morning instead of creating elaborate scavenger hunts every single year? JUDGED!
Eat non-moose-based chili from a crock pot that hasn’t been on for two weeks? JUDGED!
Receive gifts from your husband that aren’t lures, firearms, or chopped wood? JUDGED IN THE CLIT, SISTER!
And that last one is where it gets just – *kisses fingers* – c’est magnifique because here’s how Sarah describes finding her manly man of a husband Todd just the perfect present last Christmas. Christmas 2012:
Last year, however, I think I was able to pull off a good one for him. To combat the anti-gun chatter coming from Washington, I surprised him with a nice, needed, powerful gun. I then asked him for a metal gun holder for my four-wheeler. Not only was this small act of civil disobedience fun, it allowed me to finally live out one of my favorite lines from a country song: “He’s got the rifle, I got the rack.”
Gee, I wonder what could’ve happened just 11 days before Christmas last year to get everybody from both political parties all riled up about guns? It seems like they’re always getting their panties in a bunch about somet- Sandy Hook. It was Sandy Hook. An event where a mentally unstable Adam Lanza got a hold of his survivalist mom’s arsenal and killed her with it before making his way to an elementary school where he shot to death four teachers and 20 defenseless children then turned a gun on himself in the most shocking mass murder on American soil since 9/11. And what is Sarah Palin’s reaction to first graders being mowed down while their parents were at home wrapping their Christmas presents? “Yeehaw! Guns and tits.” This is the person’s who lecturing you on spirituality.
From there, it’s more talk about how Christmas is such a magical time for children because apparently now is when it’s time to “please, think of the children” and not when, oh I dunno, they’re being shot in the face before recess. They like that. Anyway, Christmas is wonderful and beautiful for everyone, so Sarah can’t understand why a few, if there’s even more than one, “thin-skinned, litigious” atheists want to ruin it for everybody by bringing up the Establishment Clause and effectively winning court cases with it because America kind of went crazy forgetting it existed during the Cold War. Which naturally dovetails into the age-old, white conservative trope of “people get offended too easily” that’s especially rich considering this entire book is Sarah Palin being offended that public institutions are following the Constitution and wanting big government to tell everyone which religion is awesome because it’s Christianity. Christianity is awesome. Because if it doesn’t, then this is just the “tip of the spear” of Christmas being illegal and everyone drinking eggnog under the cover of darkness. “What’s the password?” they’ll ask at the Candy Cane Speakeasy provided the Atheist Terminators don’t spot the Santa hat under your coat with their infrared sensors first. NO ONE IS SAFE.
1. ANGRY ATHEISTS WITH LAWYERS
Welcome to the first chapter in Good Tidings and Great Joy, a place few will make it to because I had to stop myself from lighting this book on fire and salting the earth where the ashes fall halfway through the introduction. What follows in this chapter is a passage I’ve included in it’s entirety at the end. (Dear HarperCollins lawyers, SPLADOW.) that proves Sarah Palin’s ghostwriter is either pulling the greatest troll in the history of publishing or is a fucking robot because no person alive could’ve wrote any of this seriously without shoving their face into a wolf’s mouth. Because essentially what it spells out is that Sarah Palin’s ideal America is small towns where everyone drives pickup trucks down strip mall-laden streets to a capitalist mecca, Walmart to you layfolk, where they’re free to smoke Marlboros inside before sending their children off to public school to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. It’s literally that ridiculous that it’s its own commentary which is why I transcribed the whole thing, and so I’m not the only one who’ll bet cash money that there’s an early draft where Joe McScrooge sees a pregnant woman and tries to abort her baby with a copy of The God Delusion.
It was too cold, the wind was too strong, and his rental car smelled vaguely of cigarette smoke. His plane had been thirty minutes late, and Joe McScrooge was angry. While he waited for his car to heat up, he turned on the satellite radio, which was thankfully already tuned to NPR. The host was interviewing a man who was helping underprivileged children overcome their religious superstition, intolerance, and bullying tendencies.
He glanced at the clock: 6:35. The airport was at least twenty minutes from Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, according to his GPS, so he had no time to waste to get to his son’s Winter program.
It was his first visit to this small Pennsylvania town since his ex-wife gained custody and moved almost two thousand miles away from the warm sands of New Mexico. He turned up the radio and listened to the host’s calming voice. He needed to hear some reasonable conversation before the forced sentimentality of the school program.
It was dusk, but he could still check out the town through the glass of his windshield. Shabby. Low-class. A strip mall here, a strip mall there—no apparent zoning rules or urban planning. And, of course, there it was, the inevitable Wal-Mart Supercenter. He snorted to himself as he passed a fast-food restaurant with a sign that read,
What the heck does religion have to do with french fries?
At a stop sign, a man walked his huge unpedigreed dog in front of Joe’s car into a small park that had a sign:
There, across the field, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a cross next to a statue of a soldier kneeling in prayer. His grip tightened on the steering wheel. “As if only Christians have died for their country,” he said to himself as he watched the sweaterless dog shake free of his master’s grip on the leash. “Our wars aren’t holy wars, our soldiers aren’t holy men, and that’s a government park.”
He pushed it from his mind as he drove into the center of town. Wreaths were hanging from every storefront. Christmas lights wrapped around the light poles were blinking relentlessly. Red ribbons flapped sloppily in the breeze, Joe noticed. The lights were multicolored and garish, and Joe was annoyed at their distraction. As he drove closer to the court square, however, his jaw dropped.
There, right next to the courthouse—between a metal newspaper box and a ridiculously oversized menorah—was the unmistakable outline of a Nativity scene. It included the baby Jesus, the “virgin” Mary, and her gullible fiancé, Joseph. The only miracle in that story was the fact that Joseph apparently fell for Mary’s story of a divine insemination.
The Bible’s no better than The Jerry Springer Show, Joe thought. How on earth do these people believe such drivel? He took the turn slowly, checking out the cheap plastic baby Jesus doll nestled in hay.
He could almost feel his blood pressure rise. The doctor had warned him. “Avoid stress,” he had said. “Stay away from difficult situations.” Joe actually laughed out loud as he remembered that conversation in the doctor’s office. He was going to see his son for the first time in six months, visit with his ex-wife, and meet her new boyfriend. That was stressful enough.
“Now I have to be reminded I’m an outsider in my own country?”
He took one last glance at the public display, and mumbled to himself, “Namaste,” as he drove through town.
The school parking lot was almost full, and he had to drive near the football stadium, weaving through minivans and SUVs. He parked between two pickup trucks, one sporting a red-and-gold Semper Fi window decal, the other a faded, peeling McCain/Palin ’08 bumper sticker. Joe audibly gagged. As he walked by the older buildings, he noticed the school wasn’t as new and shiny as the more modern Cesar Chavez School his son used to attend. Before his ex-wife got custody and moved to this dump of a town. The school’s sign read, in slightly crooked black letters:
“Do only Christians attend this school?” he asked the teenage girl handing out programs.
“Excuse me?” she asked, smiling through her braces and fumbling with her WELCOME. MY NAME IS: REBECCA name tag. Joe reminded himself that it wasn’t her fault. She was just a kid. He doubted that school even taught about the separation of church and state.
“Never mind,” he said, taking the program and hoping he wouldn’t run into his ex before the show started.”
“Merry Christmas,” Rebecca chirped as he walked away.
He stopped in his tracks, turned around slowly, and curtly respond, “A happy holiday to you, too.” She smiled and continued to hand out programs, completely oblivious to how insensitive she was acting. He found a seat in the back row and tried to relax. But when he opened the program and glanced over the songs, his hands began to tremble. Three of the ten songs were definitely religious carols: “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” and “Little Drummer Boy.” He exhaled to calm his nerves. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was back in that old dusty church of his childhood. When the lights finally went down, the principal bounded up the steps and strode across the stage. She was slightly overweight, Joe couldn’t help but notice, and her goofy green reindeer-adorned sweater looked as shabby as the rest of the town.
“Merry Christmas, everyone,” she sang. “Thank you so much for coming out on this cold night for our program.” As soon as her religion-specific greeting faded from the echo of the cheap public-address system, children standing on bleachers began singing the most dreary of all songs: “Silent Night.” Joe plastered a smile on his face, and scanned the rows of children to find his son. They all looked the same from his back-row seat. Finally, his eyes focused on his boy, and he found himself scooting forward and waving and grinning at him in spite of his bad mood. His son looked taller than he remembered, and so handsome standing there in the second row, fifth young man from the left. Joe could tell his son was singing the words happily, not even realizing the offensive silliness of the whole production.
At that, all his joy faded.
Joe sighed, got out his iPhone, and tried to shield its glow with his hand. “You seriously won’t believe where I am,” he tapped out on his phone. He hadn’t talked to this lawyer since the divorce proceedings, but he knew he’d get a kick out of this one. “I’ve seen more constitutional violations with my own eyes in just the past hour than a prison guard at Abu Ghraib.” He pressed send, slid the phone into his pocket, and tried to focus. The children had thankfully transitioned to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Still ridiculous, but not as … well, illegal. He couldn’t believe he’d come all this way just to be marginalized. He’d been marginalized in his family, and now he’d been marginalized by his country.
Just a few seconds later, his phone beeped. Joe ran his hands over the side to turn off the volume. The text was from his lawyer, and it simply said: