PAT NEAL: Merry Christmas anyway

THIS HAS BEEN a controversial Christmas season in the controversial year where everything is offensive if you think about it long and hard enough and believe me, with the rivers high and unfishable for days on end, I’ve had plenty of time to think about it.

Of course, who could argue with the original Christmas theme of peace on Earth and goodwill to men.

Then Charles Dickens gave us Christmas enlightenment where a cheapskate boss is haunted by ghosts to the point where he coughs up a raise and a turkey for his downtrodden employees, thereby making the assumption that Christmas is a pro-union holiday, which could be offensive to many.

Never mind, there are many bones to pick with the Christmas holiday season.

With so many holidays packed into such a short period of the traditional pagan solstice celebration, it would be hard to throw a candy cane in any direction without offending someone, so here goes.

For example, I find it offensive when Christmas advertising starts, as it did this year, in August. A condition which leaves one in December with a case of Christmas carol aversion.

It is a known fact that after 100 or so years of singing them, many of our Christmas carols have become offensive due to the fact that their lyrics do not reflect the cultural sensitivity of our age.

Personally, I habitually cringe at the first hint of “Jingle Bells” with its casual reference to a “one horse open sleigh.”

This is a textbook example glorifying a shameful episode of what animal rights advocates would call animal slavery where we celebrate forcing a sentient fellow traveler on our planet to drag us through the snow in a selfish attempt at personal amusement.

How many times have we all been forced to listen to “Der Bingle” crooning his way through a child’s Christmas demands for “a pair of Hopalong boots and a gun that shoots,” which would in effect celebrate the genocidal treatment of Native Americans on the North American continent while glorifying the ongoing crisis of gun violence in our modern society.

Despite this cultural insensitivity, we are instructed through the words of these Christmas carols to “have ourselves a merry little Christmas.”

Excuse me, but in this free and open society in which we live no one has the right to tell me what kind of Christmas to have.

Especially when describing “folks dressed up like Eskimos.”

This in itself is a grotesque example of cultural appropriation where the power members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed.

It’s a shoddy example of cultural larceny that cheapens our understanding of indigenous cultures around the world.

We need look no further than Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer where he is subjected to bullying and exclusion by not being allowed to play through free association in any reindeer games.

It is a familiar holiday theme further reinforced by the most popular Christmas carol of all, “White Christmas,” which fails to celebrate the diversity of colors with which Christmas can be celebrated, particularly by those of us who have no snow.

Which leads us to the biggest Christmas controversy of all: the Christmas tree. What started as a pagan fertility symbol has been transformed into a multi-million-dollar industry that forces us to choose between a real or fake specimen. Cutting a live tree robs our planet of its ability to deal with climate change. A fake tree increases our dependence on fossil fuels. Whatever you do will be wrong.

Have a merry Christmas anyway.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patnealwild

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