Sunday, December 04, 2005

"May The Merry Bells Keep Ringing ..."

After experiencing some catharsis from my previous editorial on the ridiculous controversy between the adjectives "holiday" and "christmas" used to describe a tree, I let go and went on about my weekend not intending to give the matter more attention than it was due. However, my comments seem to have kicked up some dust at a couple of other blogs, especially with those who consider my perceptions "overly emphatic" and "exaggerated." So, here's some postscript.

Now, I've never claimed that my editorial observations about what I see in the media are anything other than that: my own subjective opinions based on my own perspectival perceptions. I never asked any other blogger to assume anything more. Hence, I interpreted Bob Mueller's comment that News 2 would be choosing "Christmas" over "Holiday" at the end of the report on the semantic culture war as "somewhat smug." That's a subjective call on my part. As WKRN's President, Mike Sechrist (whose knack for yoking diplomacy and backbone ranks with the best of them, in my subjective opinion) concluded, I called it like I saw it.

But just because I saw something subjectively, does not mean that my perception of it was unreasonable. One of the tests of reason is to put it up against the subjective judgments of others who saw the report Friday evening. If there is a profound disjunction between my take and someone else's take, then charges like "exaggerated" may stick to my interpretation. Kay Brooks, who also saw the broadcast, disagrees with my view, but she characterizes Mueller's presentation as "an attempt at humor." I don't question that Kay is being much more charitable toward the News 2 anchor than I was. And I acknowledge without hesitation that Kay's take is as worth a look as mine is.

However, I learned a long time ago that humor in public speaking is one of the more risky affairs, because unless your audience is on your page, your message may be misinterpreted to mean something more or less than you intend. If Bob Mueller (and his writers and editors) was making an attempt at humor, then it is not unreasonable that I might fail to understand the joke. Within the context of the entire story, especially with the VJ's wishing a "blessed Christmas" (and I do not see the connection that Mike Sechrist does between the VJ's blessing and the Dickensonian "God bless us, everyone"), Mueller's comments came across to me as "somewhat smug." And attempts at humor may be interpreted as self-satisfaction precisely because there is a very fine line between a presentation that lacks gravitas and the perception of complacency. So, even if Kay Brooks' take is more believable than my own, my initial conclusion about the story was not unreasonable.

But I also admit that as Friday's post went on, I eventually crossed over myself to satire of all of the bile-churning concern about a tree. The political correctness of clutching one adjective over another as if the very fabric of the season was knit by what we name things rather than how we treat others is sheer foolishness to me. I saw an example of such foolishness early Saturday morning on the midnight rebroadcast of Channel 5's 10:00 news, which interviewed a tree salesperson who said that one of her customers asked her if the trees she was selling were "holiday trees," because he only wanted a "Christmas tree" and he would never ever buy a "holiday tree." By all means. As I told friend and fellow Salemtown bard, John H., on Saturday morning--despite the fact that my Christmas tree was already up--that story nearly motivated me to hit the local tree sellers and to ask for exactly the kind of tree that the ancient Egyptians and Romans would have put up in their pagan celebrations at the winter solstice or to go out buy an artificial tree produced only by the local Saturnalia plant, feigning opposition to buying any tree connected to Christmas or even to the pre-Christian Scandanavian pagan kings.

It does not tarnish my tinsel if Metro refers to one tree with one religious adjective instead of another. It does not diminish my Christian faith one iota. It would not have even bothered me if News 2 had just started without flourish slipping "Christmas tree" instead of "Holiday tree" into its reports. But past that, bowing to the political correctness of what we name trees is simply a ridiculous slippery slope, which I attempted to show satirically as I approached the end of my editorial on WKRN's salvation of Christmas; and I concede at this point that in satire, editorial becomes exaggeration. I don't really believe that the people at News 2 are trying to take the "holiness" out of "holidays," but I do believe that in the story that ran Friday night they unnecessarily took a side in this regrettable culture war and that the VJ unnecessarily lobbed a Christmas blessing at the audience for good measure.

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