pageok
pageok
pageok
Happy Generic Holiday

"Happy Holidays" irritates Eugene. He says that the generic quality of the greeting gets under his skin; "Merry Christmas" is fine with him. But why should the generic quality of a greeting bother him? What could be more generic than "Hello"? But I bet that "Hello" does not bother Eugene.

I suspect that what annoys Eugene is that the person who says "Happy Holidays" to him is afraid of offending him. The person knows or suspects that Eugene is Jewish and worries that "Merry Christmas" would offend a Jew. Odd to think that you can irritate a person by trying not to offend him! But the key here is the presumption that Eugene is religious and, more to the point, thin-skinned about his religion. The person who says "Happy Holidays" to Eugene reveals that he believes that Eugene is thin-skinned and priggish and presumes that Eugene is religious when Eugene in fact is a relaxed and good-natured fellow and not religious at all (or so I assume). No wonder Eugene is annoyed.

The problem for the interlocutor who perhaps does not know Eugene well is that some people would be offended by "Merry Christmas." That greeting also presumes a great deal—namely, that the addressee is Christian or relaxed about religion or thinks of Christmas as a secular holiday. When that presumption turns out to be wrong, offense occurs. There is no doubt that "Happy Holidays" is a lower risk greeting than "Merry Christmas. The flight to generality occurs when people know each other less well and thus know less about their religious views and overall temperament. All in all, "Happy Holidays" is less presumptuous than "Merry Christmas;" so why does it annoy Eugene?

The answer is that more generic greetings (and other practices such as gift-giving) reflect social distance (as Eugene, says a way to "play it safe"); generic greetings should really only annoy when they are conveyed by people who are close to us. If a person who celebrates Christmas receives a greeting of "Happy Holidays" from his spouse or child or friends, the greeting would seem a bit chilly, and one would suspect that something is wrong. And if you celebrate and care about Christmas, a hearty "Merry Christmas" from a stranger sounds warmer than "Happy Holidays" because, it turns out, the stranger has something more in common with you than the stranger who says "Happy Holidays." The stranger is engaging in a high-risk, high-return strategy; a generic "Happy Holidays" is less likely to offend a non-Christian even if it sounds chilly.

Eugene might have had in mind someone who knew him well when complaining about "Happy Holidays," perhaps a colleague or student. Otherwise, he's being a bit hard on people. Or perhaps he is annoyed by the general tendency for people to adopt increasingly bland and, sometimes, euphemistic terms in order to avoid the risk of offense in all circumstances. The fear of giving offense—especially to ethnic and religious minorities, and people who do poorly for various reasons (uneducated, lower class, disabled, and so forth)—is ubiquitous in our society, but we should be used to it by now. Social distance is the price we pay for diversity. We avoid excluding some people by being remote to everyone.

Reader5000:
>Social distance is the price we pay for diversity.

The problem is humans are cultural beings. A society without a dominant culture is a society without a culture. Cultural minorities should be, and I think generally are, aware of this. As an anglophone I don't move to Japan and expect the locals to indulge my urge for big sweaty handshakes and to drive 4-ton SUVs in the city.

The more significant issue is that of ethnic identity. On geological timescales humans just are organisms that band together, reproduce within a group, and kill outsider groups. Inasmuch as culture is tied to biological ethnicity, holiday greetings are an embarrassing reminder of our latent but ever present xenophobically violent psychological tendencies. In America humans are all supposed to be happy independent consumers, dutifully repaying their student loans, mortgages, and taxes. This super-societal directive is counter to the biological directive of humanity which is of course xenophobic violence which economically speaking generally does not result in lucrative tax/credit bases. The solution is spiking the water supplies with psychoactive compounds.
12.27.2008 11:41am
Mitchell J. Freedman (mail) (www):
I thought Eugene's post was strange. I guess he doesn't realize that the origin of "happy holidays" was about the season of holidays, starting with not only Christmas but New Year's. The way I recall life in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I recall people saying "have a happy holiday season" and "season's greetings" which later morphed into "happy holidays."

Eugene, who correctly tells us the First Amendment includes the right to offend, Eugene's beef with "happy holidays" as a greeting, is being uncharacteristically thin skinned. I refuse to believe Eugene is truly bothered by that innocuous phrase.
12.27.2008 11:42am
nvs (mail):
I can't believe I read this post all the way to the end.
12.27.2008 11:42am
Mitchell J. Freedman (mail) (www):
Sorry for the last paragraph being messed up in my above comment. I hit post when I wanted to edit. The paragraph should read:

Eugene correctly tells us the First Amendment includes the right to offend. Eugene's beef with "happy holidays" as a greeting is uncharacteristically thin-skinned. I refuse to believe Eugene is truly bothered by that innocuous phrase.
12.27.2008 11:45am
David Warner:
"There is no doubt that “Happy Holidays” is a lower risk greeting than “Merry Christmas. The flight to generality occurs when people know each other less well and thus know less about their religious views and overall temperament. All in all, “Happy Holidays” is less presumptuous than “Merry Christmas;” so why does it annoy Eugene?"

Bullshit. Who are you to presume to tell the Restivus which days are Holy? The flight to generality is exactly the problem. Here's hoping that the 21st century is less afraid of the particular in all its sundry forms than the 20th.
12.27.2008 11:46am
einhverfr (mail) (www):

What could be more generic than “Hello”?


Interestingly in most other Germanic languages, greetings with sounds similar to "Hello" tend to be well-wishes of health (a word which also shares an etymological root with "holy"). Here in English the roots are not the same.... Some part of me wonders if the development of Hello could have been related to a confusion with these other greetings:

Mod. Eng: Hail
NHG: Heill
ON: Heilse

Not sure if we have an equivalent recorded from Gothic...
12.27.2008 12:02pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
David Warner:

Bullshit. Who are you to presume to tell the Restivus which days are Holy? The flight to generality is exactly the problem. Here's hoping that the 21st century is less afraid of the particular in all its sundry forms than the 20th.


I would think that a very large number of cultures around the world have celebrations which roughly coincide with the Winter Solstice. For example, Mithra's Birthday was 4 days after the solstice, Yule as an intercalary period began roughly at the solstice and lasted 12 days (each day corresponding to a month in the next year), and so forth.

Interestingly, there are minor celebrations in China, but nothing I can find in India. Also it is NOT clear whether old Ireland had celebrations at that time of year prior to Christianity.

So I would consider such holidays to be semi-universal.
12.27.2008 12:06pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I think his point was that the use of the alternate greeting suggests that the speaker fears the listener is so sensitive or insecure about his own religion that you have to be careful even in giving him your best wishes.
12.27.2008 12:13pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
I always think of "Happy Holidays" as simply another way of saying "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year," and that Hanukkah, Saturnalia, Cthulhumas, Mithra's day, the solstice itself, and the celebration of Frosty the Ever-melting (who said he would return on Christmas Day) happen to fall about the same time is a bonus.

Maybe we should wish Eugene Happy New Year around the autumnal equinox.
12.27.2008 12:16pm
frankcross (mail):
Eric seems exactly right. The only rational reason for annoyance would seem to be the feeling that the speaker "doesn't care enough about me to bother to know my feelings about being greeted in this way." Sort of like when someone gives you an inoccuous present but one that doesn't suit your personality. You might feel as if they don't care enough to understand who you are.

One more thing, you should consider the greeter's feelings. If the speaking person is saying "happy holidays," not out of fear of causing offense to the listener but because that is their personal outlook on the season, it seems awfully churlish to be annoyed at that.
12.27.2008 12:19pm
Festooned with Christmas tree ornaments:
Although Eric's analysis is insightful, the underlying debate is inane. I bet Eugene never even thought about this issue until right-wing media started blathering about it a few years ago. Besides, I can only wish someone Merry Christmas one day out of the year, whereas I can wish someone Happy Holidays for at least a couple weeks.
12.27.2008 12:21pm
speedwell (mail):
This whole thing has always mystified me. I thought that if you said "Merry Christmas," you did so because you celebrated Christmas. If you were Jewish, you said "Happy Hanukkah," and if you were Pagan, you might say "Good Yule" (to which I occasionally have the urge to respond "Good, I'll what?"), and if you were Muslim, you might say "Happy Muharram," and so forth. As the one addressed, you could say it back if you were a fellow-traveler, or according to the way you celebrated if you weren't, or simply "Happy New Year" or even "Thank you" if you had nothing better to say.

In my family, atheist-Jewish on one side and agnostic-but-churchgoing Christian on the other, with the occational something-else, we always followed this rule. It worked and nobody thought there was a "war" on anything.
12.27.2008 12:25pm
Mike in Rainy Boston:
I dont know why there are two posts about this. But I hope that everyone had a very merry Christmas and is enjoying some time with their families. I would also like to wish everyone a Happy New Year.
12.27.2008 12:28pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Speedwell:

The Arabic Calendar is not squared with the solar, and hence there are no corresponding Islamic holidays which occur every year.
12.27.2008 12:32pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Saying "happy holidays" (when you're not being forced to) is a way of communicating your adherence to the dogma of multiculturalism-- the operating orthodoxy of modern liberalism. That's why one evokes such vituperation when you threaten the dogma as it hits at the foundation of a world view.
12.27.2008 12:33pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Dave Hardy:

I think his point was that the use of the alternate greeting suggests that the speaker fears the listener is so sensitive or insecure about his own religion that you have to be careful even in giving him your best wishes.


I think another point is simple business practices. Ideally you want your customers to feel like you are on their side. Hence a more inclusive "Happy Holidays" is useful from a retail perspective. This isn't a matter of PC but rather Retail Marketing.....

Personally, if someone says "Merry Christmas" to me, I usually reply "Merry Christmas to you too." I would do the same with any other holidays people bring up even when I don't celebrate them.*

* Christmas is a strange one in my family. My Quaker parents tend to celebrate it as a secular holiday for the simple reason that Quakers don't believe that any days are holier than any others. I am a Norse neopagan who celebrates Yule, and my wife is a more devout Christian who celebrates Christmas, however her ideas regarding Chinese views tend to be very much in line with mine so even there we have a lot of religious common ground).

It seems to me no different that certain Christian groups should feel there is a War on Christmas by the Left and the idea that certain Imams believe that The Satanic Verses constitute a war on Islam......
12.27.2008 12:41pm
lucklucky (mail):
This is the disease that progressive, political correct Anglo-Saxon mind spreads.
Most of this crap happens only in Anglo-Saxon world.
The sanitized Anglo-Saxon world and the grievance bussiness.

Below is a Portuguese post from a person that lives currently in Dubai, Middle East
short description

Short translation: In country with Sharia(a mild flavour one) the malls are full with christmas decorations, Muslims,Hundus and Christians put they children to take pictures with Santa Claus and the person that wrote that post received some Christmas greetings messages from Hindus and Muslims. End.

That is why a pork store in a muslim neigborood in England is "offensive" but in Lebanon no one cares except some nutcase that probably listened to the BBC.
12.27.2008 12:45pm
loki13 (mail):

Saying "happy holidays" (when you're not being forced to) is a way of communicating your adherence to the dogma of multiculturalism-- the operating orthodoxy of modern liberalism. That's why one evokes such vituperation when you threaten the dogma as it hits at the foundation of a world view.


No, this is close to 100% wrong. As I posted in the other thread, this greeting (Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays) is only fraught because people today are looking to take offense. If you speak of multiculturalism being the culprit, I can raise you thin-skinned Christians who listen to talk radio.

Having worked retail in the (somewhat distant) past, I hated this time of year. I genuinely enjoyed extending some sort of season's greetings, but there were always idiots who would be offended no matter what was said. Personally, I don't mind if someone wishes me a "Merry Christmas" a "Happy Holidays" an "Exciting Eid" a "Chappening Chanukkah" a "Kwaazy Kwanzaa" or a "Funkadelic Frosty Return" so long as it is genuine and cheery.

Those who take offense at the good wishes of others really need to get a life.
12.27.2008 12:49pm
Latinist:
A. Zarkov:
I'm not sure what "vituperation" you're referring to, or who's being "forced"; but basically, I think you have the right idea. Saying "Happy Holidays" reflects a certain worldview -- specifically the view that includes celebrators of Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, etc. as all essentially taking part in a set of connected celebrations. Thus, seasonal feelings of goodwill, holiday cards, gifts, and so forth are shared without regard to religious differences. It's a way of expressing unity among different religious and cultural communities.

Of course, the celebration of a secular Christmas (shared by Christians and non-Christians alike) is another way of getting at a cross-cultural unity, so "Merry Christmas" isn't really necessarily all that different. But there really are people who have problems with this: a lot of religious (and some non-religious) Jews refuse to celebrate what is still to a large extent a Christian holiday, and a lot of religious Christians object to having their sacred day turned into a festival of unspecific secular niceness. (And I imagine there are members of other religions who have their own problems with the idea, though I have not yet run into them.) So referring to "Holidays" is a bit more inclusive.

Of course, there are still people who don't take part in any winter celebration at all, and are thus left out of "Holidays" as well as "Christmas"; but in the end, you can't include people who don't want to be included.
12.27.2008 12:52pm
MarkField (mail):
I never thought I'd say this, but I think Prof. Posner got it right and Prof. Volokh got it wrong.
12.27.2008 1:15pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Latinist:

I thought Cristes mæsse was specifically a Catholic celebration....

Hope everyone had a great X'temmas ;-)
12.27.2008 1:21pm
trad and anon (mail):
If being annoyed by "Merry Christmas" is a sign of being thin-skinned about your religion, isn't being annoyed by "Happy Holidays" because people "should" be saying "Merry Christmas" equally thin-skinned? Get over it, folks.

I don't think all uses of "holiday" are acceptable though. "Holiday trees" are really stupid, because they're Christmas trees and everybody knows they're Christmas trees. Is there anybody who's offended by a Christmas tree but is appeased by a change of name?
12.27.2008 1:22pm
whit:
what could be more generic than goodbye? except it comes from God Be With Ye/you... goodbye.


No doubt more than one reader has wondered exactly how goodbye is derived from the phrase “God be with you.” To understand this, it is helpful to see earlier forms of the expression, such as God be wy you, god b'w'y, godbwye, god buy' ye, and good-b'wy. The first word of the expression is now good and not God, for good replaced God by analogy with such expressions as good day, perhaps after people no longer had a clear idea of the original sense of the expression. A letter of 1573 written by Gabriel Harvey contains the first recorded use of goodbye: “To requite your gallonde [gallon] of godbwyes, I regive you a pottle of howdyes,” recalling another contraction that is still used.



The problem for the interlocutor who perhaps does not know Eugene well is that some people would be offended by “Merry Christmas


the problem is with them, the people who would be offended, not the "interlocuter"

seriously. anybody who is offended by a wish of merry christmas sucks, and we shouldn't care what they think.
12.27.2008 1:23pm
loki13 (mail):

the problem is with them, the people who would be offended, not the "interlocuter"

seriously. anybody who is offended by a wish of merry christmas sucks, and we shouldn't care what they think.


Again, a failure at basic civility. Just as people should not go around looking to be offended, people should not go around looking to offend.

If I *know* that (for whatever idiosyncratic reason) someone is offended by "Merry Christmas" (orthodox jew, die-hard atheist et al), I won't say it. Not because they suck- rather, because I don't. And because the whole idea of "Merry Christmas" (or Happy Holidays or whatever) is to spread cheer, not to use it as a verbal weapon against the easily offended.
12.27.2008 1:37pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Trad and Anon:

I don't think all uses of "holiday" are acceptable though. "Holiday trees" are really stupid, because they're Christmas trees and everybody knows they're Christmas trees. Is there anybody who's offended by a Christmas tree but is appeased by a change of name?


Except that Christmas Trees probably have very little to do with Christianity? Even if you accept the St Boniface story as the beginning, the fact is that the practice was more or less confined to Germanic areas until the early 20th century, and was widely controversial there......

I call them Yule Trees simply because I don't see any real reason to associate them with Christian holidays.
12.27.2008 1:49pm
Bad (mail) (www):
"Odd to think that you can irritate a person by trying not to offend him!"

It's not odd. It's just an unexamined issue Eugene has. He want's to be prickly and intolerant about someone simply wishing him well while whining that others are the ones doing so.
12.27.2008 1:51pm
whit:

people should not go around looking to offend.



nice strawman. there is a difference between going around LOOKING TO OFFEND, and what i suggested, which is to not care if we offend the hypersensitive. iow, we should not let them affect our behavior due to their issues.

those are entirely different things.

if i suggested one wishes people merry christmas in order to offend, your comment might make sense.

what i suggested is that if there are some people (who suck) who are offended by merry christmas, that's just too bad for them, but one need not modify behavior in deference to them

\
12.27.2008 2:03pm
speedwell (mail):
einhverfr, Hanukkah and Easter and Chinese New Year are also lunar holidays, AFAIK. But they seem to always come at approximately the same time of year each year.
12.27.2008 2:06pm
Stevie Miller (mail):
or maybe... Eugene really is thin skinned? Meaning some types seem to think it is all about them (you should title this post: All About Eugene) and will take offense at a Happy Holidays, just as others will take offense at Merry Christmas.

Some types, you really can't win. So best to avoid any greetings whatsoever?
12.27.2008 2:10pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
Uhh, I say happy holidays occasionally for the same reason I suspect most people who use the phrase do: because that's simply what people said to me in stores and in phone calls to companies and I never gave it a second thought. So no, it's simply an outright falsehood that wishing someone happy holidays indicates some particular political or religious affinity. Some people don't feel it's particularly important what well wishing phrase they use and just go with the flow.

Ohh, and the Christians who complain about Christmas being secularized need to get off their damn high horse or change the date and apologize to the cult of Mythras or whatever pagan feast they stole the celebration date from.
12.27.2008 2:11pm
Fub:
loki13 wrote at 12.27.2008 1:37pm:
[quoting whit:]
seriously. anybody who is offended by a wish of merry christmas sucks, and we shouldn't care what they think.
Again, a failure at basic civility. Just as people should not go around looking to be offended, people should not go around looking to offend.
I think you're both right.

The funniest Christmas card I ever got was from a black friend back in the Black Panther Party daze. The picture was a black Santa Claus holding a double barrel shotgun. The caption was "HO HO HO, Muthaf**ker!"

This year a friend made a Santa Claus outfit from camo cloth. He made a card from a pic of himself wearing it with the caption "Another recruit in the War on Christmas."

These are definitely not things to send to easily offended people. But to some they are warm wishes of good cheer.
12.27.2008 2:13pm
LN (mail):
1. We shouldn't be so worried about offending people. Let's not be so thin-skinned and politically correct. People who get offended by "Merry Christmas" are hypersensitive and silly.

2. Interestingly enough, I get pretty offended when people say "Happy Holidays." It's almost as if my criticism of hypersensitive people reveals that I myself am hypersensitive in my own way.
12.27.2008 2:18pm
Cornellian (mail):
I'd think it odd if someone wished me a Happy Hannukah. I'd wonder why they (apparently) thought I was Jewish. I wouldn't be offended.
12.27.2008 2:20pm
Hannah:
Me, I just like it when people greet me nicely.
12.27.2008 2:22pm
loki13 (mail):
Whit,

Not a strawman. You are not distinguishing between what should be behind the message (the desire to spread good cheer) when used with strangers* which is part of the civility of the public sphere with your desire to enforce your preferences (everyone better use my words, dammit, and they'll like it) which is the antithesis of civility.

*I am an exempting the occasion when you can tailor a specific religious message for close friends and co-religionists.

In short, the message doesn't matter. While we should not allow the heckler's veto to win, the idea that people who think any differently than we do "suck" and we shouldn't even "think about them" is the type of obnoxious attitude that is the hallmark of the boor, and an indication of a total lack of civility.

In an ideal world, we have nice people who wish others a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or whatever. Other nice people would accept it in the spirit it is given. That is the civility we would want in the public sphere. Unfortunately, we have people who use this as a litmus test. So we have one set of people who take offense at the non-offensive (how dare you say Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays) and we have another set like you that is deploying "Merry Christmas" as a weapon to make the 'other' feel uncomfortable, because the 'other' sucks, and you don't care what they think. It's all about respect. If someone wishes me a Happy Eid, I say thank you, even though I'm not observing it. If I run across a group of Hasidim, I don't go out of my way to wish them a Merry Christmas.

Feel free to put in your personal anecdote about when you were undercover, or on highway patrol, or special liaison to the DEA, or working with the FBI, or whatever it is today to enlighten us as to why that is not the case.
12.27.2008 2:36pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
Eugene, its not all about you. I don't say 'happy holidays' because I am afraid of what the listener will feel but because it is the easiest most likely accurate greeting. Poor Eugene, I really don't care which holiday you celebrate if I haven't been invited over for its celebratory feast (if it has one)-which ever one it is have a good time unless you are just set on not having a good time as your irritation about not being the center of everyone's universe seems to indicate.
12.27.2008 2:47pm
D.M.:
As a Jew I too am irked by "happy holidays". It just seems disingenuous. You're saying it because it's Christmas so just say "Merry Christmas". If you're worried about offending me, just greet me like any other day of the year. What's wrong with a simple hello?

The people who wish me "Happy Holidays" never seem to do so during Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, or Purim.
12.27.2008 2:50pm
trad and anon (mail):
Except that Christmas Trees probably have very little to do with Christianity?
Well, they have a lot to do with Christmas, which the last time I checked was a Christian holiday. Though I'll concede that they are not a Christian religious symbol.

Still, people who get their panties in a wad over people wishing them "Happy Holidays" need to get over it.
12.27.2008 2:50pm
Perseus (mail):
Or perhaps he is annoyed by the general tendency for people to adopt increasingly bland and, sometimes, euphemistic terms in order to avoid the risk of offense in all circumstances. The fear of giving offense—especially to ethnic and religious minorities, and people who do poorly for various reasons (uneducated, lower class, disabled, and so forth)—is ubiquitous in our society, but we should be used to it by now. Social distance is the price we pay for diversity. We avoid excluding some people by being remote to everyone.

It is only because of an excessive democratic ethos that we are expected to be so inclusive in our language. Count me among those annoyed by the resulting bland and euphemistic language.
12.27.2008 2:52pm
Kevin Forrester (mail) (www):
This august blog has generated no fewer that two posts on whether either the wishing of “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” during the Holiday Season is more or less offensive than the other. (And we can probably have a separate post on whether “Holiday Season” is more or less offensive than “holiday season.”)

If it is without controversy that we freely wish “happy birthday” to others on days that are not “our” actual birthday, why is it somehow borderline radical to wish “Merry Christmas” to those who may not have accepted Christ as their savior, may not have considered the question, or may not even speak our language? Have we advanced so far in this Country, where the free exercise of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution, that the free exercise of one’s own religion is considered an impingement on the freedoms of others to exercise theirs? I think not.

When I say hello to a stranger I have no greater expectation that they share my language that that they share my religion, yet I say hello nonetheless. It is extending a hand of friendship, not a proposal of marriage. If there is a language barrier, the conversation will be short, but the offer no less important.

We will, I expect, have a similar exchange around the 4th of July, about whether it is appropriate to even call it “Independence Day.”

Until then, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.
12.27.2008 2:54pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):

In short, the message doesn't matter. While we should not allow the heckler's veto to win, the idea that people who think any differently than we do "suck" and we shouldn't even "think about them" is the type of obnoxious attitude that is the hallmark of the boor, and an indication of a total lack of civility.


Agreed. But you fail to recognize that it at least equally applies to the people who forced "Happy Holidays" into the public sphere in the first place.

How you feel about either "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" depends on weather you feel one of those terms is being forced onto you by an interest group you disagree with, weather it be whining Christians or whining atheists.
12.27.2008 2:55pm
MCM (mail):
Silly me, I always just took "Happy Holidays" to mean "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year", since both are holidays. The idea that anyone would take "Happy Holidays" to mean anything else is downright idiotic.
12.27.2008 2:56pm
GeneralObvious:
As a cultural Christian (I don't know what else to call it when you're sorta kinda but not really raised Christian, and don't currently believe/practice) I admit I would be a little taken off guard if someone were to wish me a Happy Hannukah. I'd wonder if they thought I was Jewish. I'd wonder if they thought I should become Jewish. And then I'd probably just conclude that they are happy about their own holiday and want to share that happiness with those they greet. I'd get over it in a matter of seconds and wish them a Happy Hannukah right back. All the same, it would cause a brief moment of wonderment and perhaps some awkardness.

I don't see why it should be any different were a Christian to wish a Jew "Merry Christmas." The long-term effect of such a greeting would likely be nothing, but I can see where some would just like to avoid any confusion or awkardness. Distant? Whatever. A superficial greeting of 'happy this' or 'merry that' is not exactly the most substantive thing in the first place. Closeness or any sort of meaningful connection is neither attained or exhibited through such greetings. They're perfunctory. They may have genuine meaning behind them, but no more so than "good morning" or "drive safely." I really hope the people I greet with "good morning" do have a good morning, but it's certainly not a meaningful thing for me to say "good morning" to someone. And most people are aware of this.

Come to think of it, why don't we spend dozens of posts overthinking "drive safely"? Does it imply that the speaker is telling his intended recipient that he thinks said recipient is usually a bad driver, or so dumb that he doesn't know he should be driving safely unless he is reminded, or is unaware of the traffic conditions on certain nights (when drunk driving increases)? Rather insulting I would think! Far more insulting than someone offering to include you in their festive holiday. But "drive safely" has no cross-cultural implications, and so we don't get neurotic about it. We see it for what it is: A trite custom with very little meaning behind it.

The actual phrase being used, be it "Happy Hannukah," "Merry Christmas," or "Happy Holiday," really, for the overwhelming majority of people, means exactly the same thing across all variations: "Hello or goodbye to you, I hope you have a good time with whatever it is you'll be doing over this Holiday season." Overanalyzing it means the terrorists win.
12.27.2008 3:01pm
David Warner:
EP,

"So I would consider such holidays to be semi-universal."

Just because they're winter solticey doesn't make 'em holy. Look, say whatever you want, but don't buy the PC hype that "Happy Holidays" is somehow more "sensitive". The problem is the quickness to take offense and the consequent fleeing to the meaningless general, not the sensitivity or lack thereof.

The "War on Christmas" stuff grew out of hyper-sensitive/lawsuit-fearing school admins purging their schools of any reference to Christmas, thereby offending (by the purge: multiculti is fine, meaningless generality and thus anti-culti is problematic) a significant portion of their tax base.

BTW, the "War on Christmas" folks are the ones who started the whole public school thing in the first place (and not always out of the purest of motives), if you want to pass levies, it might be wise not to entirely dismiss their concerns.
12.27.2008 3:19pm
Hutz:

If it is without controversy that we freely wish “happy birthday” to others on days that are not “our” actual birthday, why is it somehow borderline radical to wish “Merry Christmas” to those who may not have accepted Christ as their savior, may not have considered the question, or may not even speak our language?


Isn't this entirely backward? It would be very odd for me to wish others happy birthday on my own (and not their) birthday. If I think someone celebrates a particular day, I'll wish them a happy one.

If I don't know or suspect that you celebrate Christmas or another particular religious observance, I'll wish you happy holidays (or just greet you normally) this time of year. After all, chances are you have a few days off work. And, guess what, "holiday" also means time off of work.


Silly me, I always just took "Happy Holidays" to mean "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year", since both are holidays. The idea that anyone would take "Happy Holidays" to mean anything else is downright idiotic.


Idiotic to take a phrase to mean what the combination of its component words mean? Really?
12.27.2008 3:38pm
Barry P. (mail):
"felices fiestas" has been a common Spanish Christmas greeting for years, going back to the days when the country was a autocratic Catholic-fascist monoculture.

So the idea that the phrase is some sort of PC newspeak is plainly stupid.
12.27.2008 3:50pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
David Warner:

Just because they're winter solticey doesn't make 'em holy.


Are you saying my religions holy days are not holy? Which holidays I mentioned aren't holy to the people celebrating them? Or are you saying "not holy" as in "not holy in my religion?"


Look, say whatever you want, but don't buy the PC hype that "Happy Holidays" is somehow more "sensitive". The problem is the quickness to take offense and the consequent fleeing to the meaningless general, not the sensitivity or lack thereof.


No it is intended to be something which is helpful in terms of being inclusive in a retail market. I.e. if I say "Merry Christmas" and the other guy says "Happy Hannukah" too, he might get all the Jewish customers. If I add "Feliz Navidad" maybe the Mexican-Americans may be more inclined to come to my shop. Etc.

Maybe if I put up a big sign saying "Happy Holidays" and include a large list of season's greetings (above plus many others), maybe everyone would be happy. Or then the War on Christmas folks would see this as recognizing many other holidays as on an equal footing to Christ's Mass.

The fact is that multiculturalism is a very useful concept in trying to build a successful retail business. It is simply a matter of reaching out to the customer whoever he/she is and not expecting him/her to fit into someone else's culture for the purpose of commercial transactions with you.


The "War on Christmas" stuff grew out of hyper-sensitive/lawsuit-fearing school admins purging their schools of any reference to Christmas, thereby offending (by the purge: multiculti is fine, meaningless generality and thus anti-culti is problematic) a significant portion of their tax base.


Sure. But I wonder if the alternative (listing a bunch of holidays, and pointing out that some people celebrate Christmas as a non-religious holiday, while Jehovahs Witness groups feel it is too pagan to celebrate would inflame the same resentment. Personally I think it is ALWAYS better to teach the controversy but a lot of people can't stand that.
12.27.2008 4:03pm
SupremacyClaus (mail) (www):
What none of the criminal cult enterprise members here will say is that all PC is case. All such cases are pretextual claims to intimidate and plunder productive parties. Judges enable false, bad faith discrimination cases to proceed, in order to reward the plaintiff and defense bars that give to their campaigns or to justify their no-work, worthless federal employee jobs.

Judges are the cause of PC. They refuse to dismiss ridiculous cases. They refuse to sanction lawyers bringing them. One cannot even make a stupid joke at work without setting off a ruinous case for the employer, the one with the money, but not for the bad joker.

The bad faith of the lawyer, the lack of legal recourse against the hierarchy of the criminal cult enterprise that is the lawyer profession, both justify, morally and intellectually, community self-help against the lawyer hierarchy.

It should start with total shunning and loud denunciations in all their social groups. Judges should be expelled from all clubs.

If they do not change, increasing pressure should apply on them to leave town. Never pass a judge on the street without spitting and denouncing their decisions tearing down our community to enrich lawyers. A boycott by all service and product providers should follow. No shop should allow them. No service technician should take their call. These judges are trying to destroy their jobs and to plunder their assets. Crime victims should loudly picket their homes and follow them, loudly denouncing their criminal lover bias.

There is nothing lower than a lawyer robed buffoon on a bench. As they show no mercy to the American people, so should they get none.
12.27.2008 4:03pm
R Nebblesworth:
Couldn't renew the Rx this Christmas, eh SC?
12.27.2008 4:39pm
Guest12345:
Anybody know the plural of holiday? Cause I'm always mildly fussed by trying to think of a quick off the cuff way to tell the people in passing "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year." I wish there was just a quick, two word phrase that would capture all that. I'm thinking that maybe the plural form might help me out.
12.27.2008 4:43pm
SupremacyClaus (mail) (www):
RN: Personal attack is cult.
12.27.2008 4:49pm
New Pseudonym:
After reading two posts, I have decided to be offended by all those people saying, "Happy New Year" this time of year. It's obviously religious (either because a Pope decided to start the year then, instead of in the spring, or because we're about to honor a two faced Roman god with an entire month). All should know that our official, governmental 2009 began nearly three months ago, on October 1. I'm not sure "happy" is the appropriate commemoration for the fiscal year, though.

And @Stevie.Miller, Easter is not a lunar holiday (although that is one factor in its calculation). The starting point is the Vernal Equinox (solar), then on to the lunar factor (phase of the moon), then to two man-made factors (a day beginning at midnight, rather than at the more natural dusk or dawn, and a seven day week). The result is that, although the date varies, Easter can only fall in a 36 day period from late March to late April.
12.27.2008 4:49pm
R Nebblesworth:
SC: my board is fast and danger.
12.27.2008 4:57pm
whit:

I'd think it odd if someone wished me a Happy Hannukah. I'd wonder why they (apparently) thought I was Jewish. I wouldn't be offended


you are making the erroneous assumption that being wished a "happy hannukah" means that the person believes you are jewish.

similarly, being wished a merry christmas even more certainly doesn't mean people think you are christian, or that they are telling you that "jesus is the son of god bla bla bla"

first of all, christmas is a national holiday. banks are closed. the stock market is closed. most employees get it off of work. they don't have to prove they are christian to get the holiday off. it's a default holiday, so to speak.

cultural things such as "a christmas carol" enhance the concept of christmas as meaning "goodwill towards men" and other such stuff. does "a christmas carol" even mention jesus? (can't recall offhand).

people who are offended by merry christmas need to get over their thin skinned, hypersensitive, wanky selves and get a frigging life.
12.27.2008 5:20pm
sdfsdf (mail):
Nobody has addressed Prof. Posner's empirical claim, which is that more people are likely to be offended by "Merry Christmas" than "Happy Holidays". I could well be wrong, but my guess is the opposite of his. Who besides some fraction of the already tiny fraction of the population that is secular Jewish or intellectual atheist would be offended by Merry Christmas? On the other side are religious and secular Christians who believe that Happy Holidays is an attempt to eliminate Christmas or, like Prof. Volokh, feel insulted by it as a patronizing attempt to be multicultural.
12.27.2008 5:22pm
LM (mail):
A. Zarkov:

Saying "happy holidays" (when you're not being forced to) is a way of communicating your adherence to the dogma of multiculturalism-- the operating orthodoxy of modern liberalism. That's why one evokes such vituperation when you threaten the dogma as it hits at the foundation of a world view.

The ironic certainty of your comment is what's behind both sides of this petty food fight.
12.27.2008 5:40pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
sdfsdf:

Nobody has addressed Prof. Posner's empirical claim, which is that more people are likely to be offended by "Merry Christmas" than "Happy Holidays". I could well be wrong, but my guess is the opposite of his. Who besides some fraction of the already tiny fraction of the population that is secular Jewish or intellectual atheist would be offended by Merry Christmas? On the other side are religious and secular Christians who believe that Happy Holidays is an attempt to eliminate Christmas or, like Prof. Volokh, feel insulted by it as a patronizing attempt to be multicultural.


Actually, I thought it was a very small minority of Christians who were offended by "Happy Holidays."

Personally I am not offended by any of it. Well wishes are well wishes.

However, why aren't Protestants offended when people wish them a Merry Christ's Mass?
12.27.2008 5:48pm
loki13 (mail):
Slightly revised Whit:

similarly, being wished "Happy Holidays" even more certainly doesn't mean people are trying to eliminate Christmas, or that they are telling you that "jesus isn't the son of god bla bla bla", but let me tell you something!

first of all, christmas is one of several holidays, some national holidays (New Year's Day??? heck, Thanksgiving???) that follow closely together. banks are closed. the stock market is closed. most employees get it off of work. they don't have to prove they are christian to get the holiday off -- in fact, if they are jewish they get the day off anyway, even though the little baby jesus would cry if he knew. But christmas is cooler with bigger sales, and we want to make sure people don't confuse it with pagan champagne fests like New Years, so better make sure they say "Good Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas (and/or enjoyable lesser relgious observation, you worthless non-believer), and a Happy New Year!"

cultural things such as "a christmas carol" enhance the concept of christmas as meaning "goodwill towards men" and other such stuff. does "a christmas carol" even mention jesus? (can't recall offhand). Of course, it was a victorian book, and they often used "Season's Greetings", so maybe they needed to watch "a christmas story" and get BB guns and leglamps and stuff, because christmas is really about materialism. Materialism, and goodwill towards men. Oh, and making sure everyone says "Merry Christmas" whether they want to or not, because if they don't, they suck, and I don't need to listen to them.

people who are offended by Happy Holidays need to get over their thin skinned, hypersensitive, wanky selves and get a frigging life. Since I choose not to do so, I will take out my resentment by making people around me feel miserable. After all, without my constant vigilance and berating of overstressed, underpaid retail workers, it would be really hard to notice that it is Christmas in America.



Is that better?
12.27.2008 5:52pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
When I wish people Merry Christmas, I am celebrating Christmas by letting them know I am enjoying the season and hope they do too.

Spreading Joy and Peace through a greeting during the Christmas season is a risk, of course. But if you sincerely believe you are carrying on a (maybe now) quaint tradition to proclaim your wish to all of Peace on Earth, Good Will to men that risk is minimal, IMO.

60 years ago, our northeastern Pennsylvania neighborhood was made up of about 20-30 middle class Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and unreligious families. Each Christmas, all of these family's kids got together and went from house to house singing Christmas carols. It was a time of great fun and celebration, and I don't remember anyone complaining or being offended. Although all were perfectly free not to participate, everyone did. And no one asked us to skip their houses.
12.27.2008 5:59pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
What is really funny is I have seen people complain that "Xmas" as a label is part of the attack on Christmas. Funny that.... Only been in use in one form or another for a bit over 400 years.....
12.27.2008 6:12pm
PC:
Was Irving Berlin a victim of the PC brigade when he composed Happy Holiday in 1942?
12.27.2008 6:18pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
I am reminded that the original lyrics of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" had a different last verse (Judy Garland, in Leaving St Louis, insisted that the lyrics be changed):

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last
Next time we may all be living in the past.....
12.27.2008 6:28pm
whit:

is that better?


not really, since you very thoroughly misstated my points.

here are some


Oh, and making sure everyone says "Merry Christmas" whether they want to or not, because if they don't, they suck, and I don't need to listen to them.


the issue is not making sure everyone says "merry christmas". the issue is that people shouldn't feel compelled NOT to say merry christmas in order to appease a tiny minority of wanky whining hypersensitive ninnies.

so, you completely misstated that point. let's move on.


Since I choose not to do so, I will take out my resentment by making people around me feel miserable.


which again completely misstates my point. first of all, i see no evidence that saying "merry christmas" (or happy channukah) makes (more) people feel miserable than saying "happy holidays". as other posters have posited, it is quite likely that the opposite is the case, that more people are annoyed by "happy holidays" than by "merry christmas" or for that matter "happy channukah". neither of the latter two annoy ME, and i personally don't know anybody who is annoyed by either, but i know several people who are annoyed by "happy holidays". do you have any evidence that MORE are annoyed by merry christmas than "happy holidays". it's an unsupported assertion at best, and most likely - it's false.

i also have no resentment. it makes me feel GOOD to say "merry christmas" and "happy channukah" fwiw, and i have said both, to numerous people.

this is simply about encouraging people feel good about saying merry christmas vs. the idea that there is something wrong with merry christmas and that "happy holidays" is preferred as more "sensitive", and that we don't need a tyranny of the minority imposing on others to feel guilty if they wish somebody a merry christmas.

fwiw, i had a good time reading numerous posts over at democraticunderground where some (whiny wankers) complained about disliking being wished a merry christmas.

i find it telling that this is NOT limited to christians. prof. volokh and other people who aren't christians are also annoyed by "happy holidays".
12.27.2008 6:40pm
whit:

Oh, and making sure everyone says "Merry Christmas" whether they want to or not, because if they don't, they suck, and I don't need to listen to them.



to clarify, since you so thoroughly misstated my points. i most definitely did not say that people who don't say merry christmas suck. i said people who are OFFENDED when others wish them merry christmas suck.

your reading comprehension, btw... sucks
12.27.2008 6:42pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Trad and Anon:

Well, [christmas trees] have a lot to do with Christmas, which the last time I checked was a Christian holiday.


Are Yule and Christmas synonymous?

If I celebrate Yule as a Germanic pagan holiday, and evergreen trees really are one of our religious images, does this bother you?

I would like to sincerely thank you for worshipping our heathen customs on your holy days.
12.27.2008 6:43pm
LM (mail):
whit:

i said people who are OFFENDED when others wish them merry christmas suck.

Do people who are offended when others wish them "Happy Holidays" suck?
12.27.2008 6:52pm
whit:

Do people who are offended when others wish them "Happy Holidays" suck?



no. being annoyed/offended by pc'ness is almost never in the realm of suckitude .
12.27.2008 6:58pm
LM (mail):
whit:

no. being annoyed/offended by pc'ness is almost never in the realm of suckitude .

I see. So we can accurately infer the mental state of everyone who uses or is offended by one greeting, but no one who uses or is offended by the other?
12.27.2008 7:05pm
LM (mail):
Sorry, make that "almost everyone" in both cases.
12.27.2008 7:07pm
loki13 (mail):
Whit,

I would engage with you further, but I know where this is going- the unassailable personal anecdote-

This just like the case I had in Washington/Oregon/Hawaii/Illinois/Massachusetts when I was a state trooper/patrol cop/undercover/working with the FBI/part of the DEA task force and I can amazingly enough throw light on this issue. Or the website that you frequent so often that is filled with examples you can use. This is despite the fact that some of your anecdotes can be debunked (and have been) by a quick trip to snopes (remember the DEA taskforce you worked on that found all that LSD on marijuana... yeah, me neither).

I am assured you go to DU regularly. You seem like the type.

And if you're curious, I did not misstate your points- I mocked the point of view from which they originated. Your belief that only you can be privileged enough to be annoyed is such a crass combination of arrogance and victimhood I don't even know where to start. The problem with this country isn't isn't a mythical PC police- it's obnoxious boors who feel the need to be uncivil just to show how 'un-PC' they are. Here's a note- you're not rebels, you're not funny; you're just jackasses. While there's no need for a heckler's veto, there's nothing 'cool' about being disrepectful to other people just to show how un-PC you are.One person's 'PC' is another person's politeness. Since when did common decency and respect for others become wrong, and it become acceptable to be annoyed at politeness?

Happy Holiday (there being only New Year's Day left).
12.27.2008 7:08pm
whit:
you most definitely did misstate the points.

satire loses its effectiveness when it has no accuracy.
12.27.2008 7:18pm
whit:
also noted you keep missing the point. my target was not those that say "happy holidays". my target was those that are offended when people say "merry christmas"

spare me the common respect and decency crap. PC hides itself as such, when in fact it dilutes and evades the truth. look at the larry summers flap for a perfect example of that.

the VAST majority of people in this country celebrate christmas. and it's a swimmingly tiny minority that are offended by being wished a "merry christmas". that people should feel obligated to bow to those who are offended, is the travesty.
12.27.2008 7:22pm
CDR D (mail):
Posner sez: >>>Social distance is the price we pay for diversity. We avoid excluding some people by being remote to everyone.


<<<


Bingo.

I'm not prejudiced against anyone. I've just been conditioned to despise everyone.
12.27.2008 7:26pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
whit:

Personally I think that people who get offended over "Happy Holidays" are equally thin-skinned and weak ninnies.....

However, I DO sincerely thank them for honoring my heathen religious practices in their celebration of Christmas. Perhaps if we are conscious of the old (pre-Christian) religious ideas surrounding trees, evergreens, winter, etc. we can all get along better. Though I suppose than pointing out that police dogs help protect Muslim neighborhoods too helps the most vocal minorities there feel more at ease.....
12.27.2008 7:27pm
whit:
the early christians were smart about incorporating the pagan stuff going on in europe to make it more palatable. we saw (see) the same thing in south america too.

we can agree to disagree on who the ninnies are.
12.27.2008 7:35pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Whit:

I think all of the thin-skinned people going around making a big deal about how we wish others well are the ninnies.
12.27.2008 7:37pm
whit:
ein, you do realize the first salvos were thrown from the side encouraging people NOT to say merry christmas, but to substitute it with "happy holidays".

we had a dept.-wide email go out (a few years back) saying exactly that - suggesting that employees use the term "happy holidays" so not as to offend others. after suffering immense derision in the press and amongst officers and civilian employees, an email was sent out basically saying "nevermind".

again, we were actually told that we should NOT say merry christmas in the workplace. there has naturally been a backlash to the PC police.
12.27.2008 7:45pm
loki13 (mail):

I would engage with you further, but I know where this is going- the unassailable personal anecdote-
***********

we had a dept.-wide email go out (a few years back) saying exactly that - suggesting that employees use the term "happy holidays" so not as to offend others. after suffering immense derision in the press and amongst officers and civilian employees, an email was sent out basically saying "nevermind".

again, we were actually told that we should NOT say merry christmas in the workplace. there has naturally been a backlash to the PC police.


....ahem.
12.27.2008 7:57pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
whit:

That is one context where your points make sense.

One context where they make less sense in in retail environments, where the goal is to provide something that a wider range of customers can identify with. The attack on what come down to a business decision of this sort is something I have a big problem with, just as I have a problem with A. Zarkov's idea that all businesses should do all transactions in English.
12.27.2008 8:23pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
whit:

I think the common ground (that we can probably agree with) is that the ninnies around telling us what we can't say in terms of well-wishing because they are offended. In your experience those ninnies were saying "don't say Merry Christmas in the workplace." However, this doesn't there aren't ninnies on the other side.
12.27.2008 8:28pm
John Fee (mail):
In think some people have misread Eugene's post -- as if to suggest he is offended or seriously bothered by the use of "Happy Holidays" and that he wants people to be more careful in what they say to him. Rather, he only said "a bit annoyed," followed by reasons why there is no good reason to take offense at that phrase either. This comment is in the fifth paragraph of a post that is about welcoming people to greet him with a phrase that they might otherwise feel a social obligation to avoid. So why are people commenting as if Eugene is representing a thin-skinned position? (Both Eric Posner and Ilya Somin imply this, and other commentators say it explicitly.)

Perhaps some wonder why anyone who is Jewish should feel even a little annoyed at "Happy Holidays"? This does not seem to require a rational explanation. Doesn't everyone experience small annoyances everyday that defy rational explanation? Aren't all religious beliefs, irreligious beliefs, and social preferences at least partly irrational?

Or perhaps some wonder why anyone would feel inclined to mention a slight annoyance in a blog, even if it is a passing comment. Here I think there is a good reason for Eugene's comment which supports Eric's, Ilya's, and Eugene's point that we shouldn't be too critical of people over whether they choose to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." Eugene's comment reminds people that no matter how they choose to greet others, it won't always suit every listener's preference, and that we can't always predict a listers' preferences by whether they are Christian. So let's not assume that all who are Jewish prefer to hear "Happy Holidays"; just as we shouldn't assume that all who are Christian prefer to hear "Merry Christmas." This suggests that there is not any "correct," "proper" or perfectly safe choice in such matters.

I believe that Eugene's post correctly implies that we should all relax a little about such matters, as both speakers and listeners. Perhaps we should all feel a little more welcome to say "Merry Christmas," "Happy Holidays, or "Happy Hanukkah" to people of all religions, and recognize that if the listener is offended it is that person's problem.
12.27.2008 8:50pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
John Fee:

Perhaps some wonder why anyone who is Jewish should feel even a little annoyed at "Happy Holidays"? This does not seem to require a rational explanation. Doesn't everyone experience small annoyances everyday that defy rational explanation? Aren't all religious beliefs, irreligious beliefs, and social preferences at least partly irrational?


This is pretty much it. Our society, with strong secular humanist overtones, expects religion to be rational. As Rudolf Otto pointed out long ago, there are important non-rational categories of thought in religious teaching.

The thing is..... humans are social creatures. We band together, form group identities, and go after and oppose what the group dislikes. This is normal human group behavior.

However, Happy Holidays vs Marry Christmas has become a bit like VIM vs. EMACS.* People argue because they like to argue and because they like to belong to one of the two groups, not because they have a lot of substance to their arguments.

* These are two industrial-strength and free-of-charge text editors, frequently used in software development, document processing, and other tasks. Both feature user interfaces aimed at the professional user, and require a bit of a learning curve. People who like EMACS like it for what functionality it comes with (the kitchen sink). People who like VIM like it for what functionality it DOESN'T come with (Tetris, for example).
12.27.2008 10:22pm
whit:
i think the word irrational is poorly chosen.

religion is not necessarily irrational. it is extra-rational.

pascal's wager, and all other stuff aside, it's simply a matter of faith. it does not go against rational thought (imo), which would make it Irrational. instead it is generally outside the scientific method, our earthly experience, in general. it's extra-rational. whether it's true or not is another question entirely.

and loki, since you were claiming that i always use anecdotes, etc. i felt the need to prove you right, so i used one. wow. yer like totally prophetic.

cause i'm a nice guy like that. wouldn't want to offend you, after all. cause you said that's like not nice n stuff
12.27.2008 10:51pm
LM (mail):
whit:

religion is not necessarily irrational. it is extra-rational.

That accurately describes believing in God(s). But I don't think you can get very far into a sacred text without switching those labels.
12.27.2008 11:31pm
loki13 (mail):
Whit,

I will be completely honest with you. I do not doubt that you have a good-faith belief in the validity of your arguments. I have found it surprising to the point of incredulity that you always manage to have an anecdote from your (anonymous) personal life that manages to so-perfectly illustrate the point you need, and that you always use at that point in the thread when you are asked for some form of evidence. For example, here, when called out on who might be more thin-skinned, you suddenly remember this anecdote about being forced to use happy holidays (never mentioned previously). Plausible? Maybe. Convenient? Definitely.

I have worked with LEO a fair amount. I don't doubt that you either are LEO or have experience dealing with them. But having seen you post here for quite some time, I also doubt that you have the depth and breadth you have claimed at various times, because it just doesn't ring true with what I know, and, moreover, you have said somethings that are verifiable urban legends. I am convinced that, like a fisherman, you have decided to take a minnow and turn it into the biggest bass ever. In short, every story you have ever heard is now a personal anecdote, experienced by you.

Maybe this happened to your department. Maybe this happened at a friend's police department. Maybe this happened at a retail store you heard about on the radio. I have no way of knowing. But you should know that it is noticed. In an anonymous world, all you have is your credibility.

I do appreciate that you have stopped posting the annoying ALL-CAPS thing, though.
12.27.2008 11:55pm
Ken Arromdee:
Come to think of it, why don't we spend dozens of posts overthinking "drive safely"?

Because the nuances of holiday greetings are affected by religion and ethnicity. The nuances of "drive safely" aren't. And offense related to religion and ethnicity is in a special category in which offense about one's driving skills isn't.
12.28.2008 12:05am
whit:
loki, i really don't care what you think, since those that know me, know i speaks the truth. I have an open invitation to Prof. Volokh, Kerr, etc. any time they come to the seattle area to do a ride-along with me. That invitation remains open.

also, i don't recall ever posting in all caps,as a matter of habit.
here's a link to a story about the no merry christmas email we got from our county executive.
so now you know what agency i work for. does that make you warm and fuzzy?

http://www.komonews.com/news/archive/4028591.html

i generally post on stuff i HAVE experience with. fwiw, we once had a dept. leader send out an email saying we couldn't use the term "white out" but instead must use correction fluid, because "white out" was politically incorrect and racially insensitive. cops know PC cause we deal with it in our agencies.

regardless, i again have a standing offer to any blogger of substance (e.g. prof. volokh, etc.) to do a ride along with me when and if they are in the seattle area.

that should be proof enough.

i have been a cop over 20 years, and that gives one a fair amount of experiences compared to people in most jobs. in general, i have found cops have tons of anecdotes because cops simply have way more experiences than "normal people". ER doc's and nurses, firefighters do too, ime, to some extent.

I also choose to generally post on stuff i have experience with, and thus naturally have anecdotes. i haven't been to law school, so my insight generally comes from experience (and to an extent- training).

i don't post on MOST threads and in most threads i wouldn't have anecdotes.
12.28.2008 12:58am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
LM:

That accurately describes believing in God(s). But I don't think you can get very far into a sacred text without switching those labels.


You will note in my posts I tend to use the word "non-rational."

The real problem is that people don't tend to approach religion in a way which provides a balance of due proportion (rational) and hence tend to substitute blind belief for a balanced approach.

I personally think that religion and mythology has always bee a way for us to organize our lives into ways which take on greater social meaning (yes, secular humanism fills this role too, for the religious atheists out there) by providing a set of exemplary models. Prior to the advent of writing, this was the ONLY viable way of organizing human knowledge as well, so this provides a great deal of the basis for the conflict between science and religion.

Sacred texts make a great deal of sense if you approach them from the experience of the human life-world. The Bible tells us the sun and moon go around the earth because that is what we perceive with our senses.

Myths are meant to be LIVED, not merely celebrated. My religion teaches this. My reading of the Bible teaches this too (Christ's insistence that all who follow him are capable of all the miracles he does and more), and so forth.

We should not confuse that teaching with the callings of human arrogance however.
12.28.2008 1:24am
whit:
iirc, cs lewis speaks this way too, speaking of the "true myths" of christianity so to speak.

or was it tolkien? pretty sure it was lewis. it's late .
12.28.2008 1:29am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
whit:

Probably Lewis. I am not aware of any particularly Christian elements of Tolkein's career. Lewis OTOH wrote extensively on the subject.
12.28.2008 2:07am
LM (mail):
einhverfr,

And on that basis, as far as I'm concerned they're perfectly legitimate. I only meant their literal accuracy as historical and factual narratives that fail rational scrutiny.
12.28.2008 2:22am
whit:
ooh. thanks google. it WAS tolkien, in response to Lewis...

"Tolkien saw myth as the exact opposite. His great friend C. S. Lewis once objected to Tolkien that, “...myths are lies, though lies breathed through silver.” “No,” said Tolkien, “they are not.”

There are truths, Tolkien said, that are beyond us, transcendent truths, about beauty, truth, honor, etc. There are truths that man knows exist, but they cannot be seen - they are immaterial, but no less real, to us. It is only through the language of myth that we can speak of these truths. We have come from God, Tolkien said, and only through myth, through story telling, can we aspire to the life we were made for with God. To write and/or read myth, Tolkien believed, was to meditate on the most important truths of life.

...It was Tolkien’s view of myth that that most aided C. S. Lewis in his pilgrimage to accept Christianity. All the other myths of the world, Tolkien said, are a mixture of truth and error - truth because they are written by those made by and for God - error because written by those alienated by God. But the Bible is the one true myth. It is a true accounting of truth, while everything else we do is mimicking. This perspective was decisive in Lewis’ conversion to Christianity.

....Tolkien and Lewis ... were together at least three times per week: on Tuesday mornings and Thursday evenings with the other “Inklings” (a literary circle of friends), and at least one other day for lunch. Tolkien wrote, “Friendship with Lewis compensates for much, and besides giving constant pleasure and comfort has done me much good from the contact with a man at once honest, brave, intellectual - a scholar, a poet, and a philosopher - and a lover, at least after a long pilgrimage, of Our Lord.”... "
12.28.2008 2:26am
loki13 (mail):
Whit,

The usual refuge of someone called out is to seek refuge in another authority. I never doubted that you are someone with a little LEO experience that lives in the northwest; that Prof. Volokh has agreed to go motorcycling with you (after another anonymous post) is no big surprise; he is a pleasant man, as I found out when I met him (I preferred to keep my anonymity). None of this changes the basic point that you have a habit of making stuff up, then doubling down the nonsense when called on it.

But since this gets us nowhere, I will propose the same basic wager I made with the Ace; remember
this thread?

If you can provide any sort of evidence to back up your claim that you saw hundreds of lab results of LSD-tainted marijuana, I will never again doubt your integrity- I will, in fact sing your praises.

If you can't, I don't want to see any more convenient 'plucked from the headlines' and 'I'm a cop, dontchaknow' anecdotes.

Since
12.28.2008 10:39am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
LM:

And on that basis, as far as I'm concerned they're perfectly legitimate. I only meant their literal accuracy as historical and factual narratives that fail rational scrutiny.


A crescent wrench makes a bad hammer too, and any tool can be misused.

When all you have are nails, every tool looks like a hammer ;-)
12.28.2008 12:26pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
And when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
12.28.2008 12:30pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
My major point is that everyone expects all problems to have logical solutions by themselves. Consequently, we tend to expect religious teachings to be applicable in the same way as scientific theories. Hence people see faith as a matter of whether to believe that the world was literally created in seven days.

The only problem is, religious teachings don't work that way. Instead they provide a conceptual framework for addressing events. Every creation myth provides a template for future acts of creation (see Eliade, Myth and Reality). Every eschatology provides a template for any act of destruction (see Eliade, The Myth of Eternal Return). Hence we find patterns we can use in our lives. It is possible to reconcile many of these teachings with science (for a Jewish perspective, see Aryeh Kaplan's translation and commentary on the Sepher Yetzirah. Hinduism has produced groups which have also done this), but to my mind this is nothing more than an interesting mental exercise.

Religion (even secular humanism) provides mythology. Mythology provides patterns we can use to provide meaning in our lives, and develop wisdom.

I can remember my childhood as a Quaker. Most Quaker children are fundamentally incapable of grasping the religion for a while. One of the most common questions asked to adults is "Do you believe in the Bible?" Despite the fact that there is no official creed, the answer I have ALWAYS heard is "I believe there is wisdom in it."
12.28.2008 12:49pm
whit:
loki, i provided a link to an exact incident in my jurisdiction. that should be enough to anybody but a naysayer. you called bullshit on it, and i provided the link. i hope your crow is tasty.

also, fwiw, i doubt your LEO associative cred, since you clearly don't know what a RIDE ALONG is.

it has nothing to do with motorcycles.

anybody in, or associated with law enforcement knows that a ride along is when a civilian RIDES ALONG *in* a police car (not a motorcycle) with an on duty law enforcement officer.

duh

heck, assuming you have a clear criminal record (no felonies and no outstanding warrants), i might even invite you for a ride along. if you are good, i will let you sit in the front even.

do you have a clear record and no outstanding warrants?


then, you can see how real cops do it.

hth
12.28.2008 2:10pm
whit:
oh, and loki. btw, i will continue to provide personal experiences, as well as brilliant legal analysis ;p , as i see fit. if you don't like it, try the romper room blog which may be more your speed.

hth
12.28.2008 2:12pm
LM (mail):
jukeboxgrad:

And when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

For that matter, when all you have is a crescent wrench you think is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
12.28.2008 2:28pm
loki13 (mail):
Whit,

The short version of everything you just wrote is:

No, I can't possibly provide any basis for that claim, or other false claims people have pointed out in the past, because I have a habit of making things up or appropriating stories I've heard as my own anecdotes to make them more colorful. Unfortunately, I cannot acknowledge this so I will refuse to address the issue and blather on about other issues and hope no one else notices. Perhaps I will throw in some personal attacks (romper room?) and try to drag things down a level so instead of this being a rational discussion about my horrible habit of prevaricating, it will just turn into mudslinging.

My answer: not going to bite. There have been so many times you've been called on your falsehoods and your changing stories. So I'm giving you an opportunity to show me how wrong I am. You have claimed, unequivocally, that you have PERSONALLY seen HUNDREDS of lab results showing LSD-tainted marijuana (while working undercover and/or with a Federal task force, except you've never worked with the Feds, either in Illinois or Washington, perhaps Hawaii, maybe Oregon, or Mass.) -- so, prove it. If you've seen it HUNDREDS of times, surely you can find some evidence. One case charged, even? In the entire nation?

Again, I might believe that you are a small-time cop in Washington, except you've told so many lies, and so many convenient anecdotes, that I'd have trouble believing you if you told me it was raining when I saw water on the ground.
12.28.2008 3:00pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Loki13:

Please take my advice and stop acting like your namesake ;-)
12.28.2008 4:10pm
loki13 (mail):
Naw. My pro team was eliminated from the playoffs today. I lost a friendly wager on a college team last night. So at least I get some small enjoyment at reading whit's increasingly bathetic (b intended) posts.

Look, maybe I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday, as I give most people a pass for the occasional tall tale or choice to make an anecdote 'personal' (how else would we get our urban legends?). But nobody is as serial a violator as whit (just google any thread that he has multiple posts on) and it gets a little grating sometimes.

Heck, I'll even up the ante (I'm bored). If whit can can show that the is LSD on mary jane such that as a small time cop in WA (or Fed cop in Illinois or undercover cop in Mass or DEA cop in Hawaii or whatever) he would have seen hundreds of lab results indicating that, I will BAN MYSELF!

Word is bond. Even for a minor deity of deception.

C'mon whit... you can BAN ME and show you're not full of it in one fell stroke.
12.28.2008 4:42pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
loki13:

Read Lokasenna.
12.28.2008 4:57pm
loki13 (mail):
It's always a good read, but I'm not as concerned about mjollnir as my namesake was. Besides, while mad art I, false be not my tongue.
12.28.2008 5:24pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Who ever said that what Loki said in Lokasenna was false?

Besides mjollnir was not to be Loki's fate. Rather having his children killed and being tied to a rock with their intestines while a venomous serpent drips poison on him was closer to the mark.
12.28.2008 6:51pm
loki13 (mail):
Eh- the rock was a waystation to Heimdall. I was referring more to the obnoxious way Thor used to bluster around. Give a hotheaded moron a mjollnir and soon every Loki looks like a nail.

Hmmm... still waiting for whit. Interesting, that. Brevity, apparently, is not the soul of whit- perhaps braggadocio?
12.28.2008 7:28pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
I have found it surprising to the point of incredulity that you always manage to have an anecdote from your (anonymous) personal life that manages to so-perfectly illustrate the point you need...


You find it surprising to the point of incredulity that a police department might send a email much like thousands of others that have been already sent nationwide?

Mayhaps your credulousness is directly related to weather you want to believe or to discredit something, and not related at all to its actual likelihood...
12.29.2008 8:47am
Yankev (mail):

specifically the view that includes celebrators of Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, etc. as all essentially taking part in a set of connected celebrations.
Now you have me trying to figure out the connection between specifically the view that includes celebrators of Christmas and Hannukah. I am having a tough time, but here are the ones that occur.

1. Both occur during the winter, though Hannukah can occur as early as November.

2. In the US, both have been distorted, diluted and perverted by materialism and an emphasis on gifts.

3. If there had been no Hanukkah, there would have been no Christmas, as the Hellenists would have succeeded in wiping our Jews, Judaism and monotheism by a combination of murder, persecution, and assimilation.

4. Christians tend to think that both are major holidays to their respective religions.

Have I missed any? Hanukkah, after all, is particularist, not universalist, and commemorates G-d's aid to a dedicated band of Jews who violently resisted assimilation (although the assimilationists as well certainly used violence as well as enticement)and who today would be called a bunch of intolerant ultra-Orthodox fanatics.
12.29.2008 10:14am
Yankev (mail):

the issue is not making sure everyone says "merry christmas". the issue is that people shouldn't feel compelled NOT to say merry christmas in order to appease a tiny minority of wanky whining hypersensitive ninnies.
Agreed. But the issue is also making sure not to become a wanky whining hypersensitive ninny yourself if someone who is not Christian declines to say it.
12.29.2008 10:16am
Yankev (mail):

The people who wish me "Happy Holidays" never seem to do so during Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, or Purim.
I've noticed the same thing, DM. But how important can those days be if they don't fall near any major non-Jewish holidays? Sure, you and I may think that each of those days (not to mention Passover and Shavuos) are more important than Hannukah, but remember that there is an entire religion based on the belief that non-Jews know more about the Jewish religion than Jews do.
12.29.2008 10:20am
Yankev (mail):

I don't see why it should be any different were a Christian to wish a Jew "Merry Christmas." The long-term effect of such a greeting would likely be nothing, but I can see where some would just like to avoid any confusion or awkardness.
Amazingly, different Jews would take in in different ways. Depending on how well I knew you, I would probably assume either that:
1. You did not know that I was Jewish, or
2. You did not know that Jews do not believe in that certain man, or
3. You did not know that it is less and less common for any Jews but the most assimilated to celebrate Dec. 25 as a secular holiday, or
4. You did not know that I am not assimilated to that degree, or
5. You were operating in default mode, and simply extend those wishes to everyone at this time of year.
and do not celebrate his generally accepted birthday.
3.
12.29.2008 10:25am
Yankev (mail):
DM,

The people who wish me "Happy Holidays" never seem to do so during Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, or Purim.

I have noticed the same with most non-Jews who wish me Happy Hannukkah. Even those who wish it to me before it's ended.
12.29.2008 10:27am
loki13 (mail):

You find it surprising to the point of incredulity that a police department might send a email much like thousands of others that have been already sent nationwide?

Mayhaps your credulousness is directly related to weather you want to believe or to discredit something, and not related at all to its actual likelihood...


Ryan,

What I find surprising is that these things always happen to Whit. For instance, in this case, there was a memo (not an email) circulated to some people in King County -- and then was leaked and widely mocked on talk radio. Now, it becomes an email that he received in his department. And instead of mentioning the anecdote, oh, in the introduction to this topic when it was truly germane, it suddenly comes out when his credibility is questioned.

That is his modus operandi. He will make a bogus assertion, then back it up with his "I am a cop and here is my personal anecdote" when questioned, then he will double down with increasingly bizarre statements of personal experience (undercover, DEA, federal task force, Supreme Ruler of Zargon, worked in whatever state is necessary to prove point etc.) and disappear when it is pointed out that he is lying. Feel free to google his previous posts.

Again, I pointed out one particular thread where it was obvious he was making stuff up and claiming he personally witnessed it. He is more than welcome to prove me wrong and I will eat crow and post that he is a supercop who never lies and I am a sniveling little lawyer-type before disappearing from volokh.

Just prove that he could possibly have seen HUNDREDS of lab results of LSD-tainted marijuana. I would be surprised/impressed with one. But HUNDREDS? He's a liar.
12.29.2008 10:31am
Ryan Waxx (mail):
If you want to question OTHER claims he made in OTHER threads, do it there. You haven't even attempted to show that it is unlikely that he received such an email, which would seem to indicate that such a view is indefensible, and hence you are taking the ages-old tack of attacking the speaker instead of his speech.
12.29.2008 11:18am
Yankev (mail):
Whoops. Reply to General Obvious should have read as follows:


I don't see why it should be any different were a Christian to wish a Jew "Merry Christmas." The long-term effect of such a greeting would likely be nothing, but I can see where some would just like to avoid any confusion or awkardness.


Amazingly, different Jews would take in in different ways. Depending on how well I knew you, I would probably assume either that:
1. You did not know that I was Jewish, or
2. You did not know that Jews do not believe in that certain man and do not celebrate his generally accepted birthday, or
3. You did not know that it is less and less common for any Jews but the most assimilated to celebrate Dec. 25 as a secular holiday, or
4. You did not know that I am not assimilated to that degree, or
5. You were operating in default mode, and simply extend those wishes to everyone at this time of year.
12.29.2008 11:25am
loki13 (mail):
Ryan,

Okay, I will break this down slowly for you. I don't really care about Whit's "personal" anecdote -- if he had said "Here's something I heard about" that would have been fine. But he has a history of making this stuff up. So, I'm calling him on it.
12.29.2008 11:52am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
ryan:

you are taking the ages-old tack of attacking the speaker instead of his speech


If someone has wrecked their credibility by making bogus statements in other threads, it's relevant to take that into account when trying to decide whether to take seriously their statements ("his speech") in this thread. Especially to the extent that statements are presented without proof.
12.29.2008 12:25pm
LM (mail):
Not to add fuel to the fire, I'm just curious, but can LSD be effectively smoked?
12.29.2008 4:32pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
A little googling seems to indicate that LSD is a fragile chemical that is destroyed by heat.
12.29.2008 11:00pm
LM (mail):
That's interesting. So if that's right, if I ever had a lot of LSD I was looking for a way to get rid of, but I was too lazy to walk it over to the nearest sink or toilet, I could just spray it on some pot, knowing that eventually someone would smoke the pot, disposing of the LSD in the process (unless of course they were busted with it and it ended up in a police evidence lab).

That must have occurred to a lot of people with that problem.
12.30.2008 12:38am

Post as: [Register] [Log In]

Account:
Password:
Remember info?

If you have a comment about spelling, typos, or format errors, please e-mail the poster directly rather than posting a comment.

Comment Policy: We reserve the right to edit or delete comments, and in extreme cases to ban commenters, at our discretion. Comments must be relevant and civil (and, especially, free of name-calling). We think of comment threads like dinner parties at our homes. If you make the party unpleasant for us or for others, we'd rather you went elsewhere. We're happy to see a wide range of viewpoints, but we want all of them to be expressed as politely as possible.

We realize that such a comment policy can never be evenly enforced, because we can't possibly monitor every comment equally well. Hundreds of comments are posted every day here, and we don't read them all. Those we read, we read with different degrees of attention, and in different moods. We try to be fair, but we make no promises.

And remember, it's a big Internet. If you think we were mistaken in removing your post (or, in extreme cases, in removing you) -- or if you prefer a more free-for-all approach -- there are surely plenty of ways you can still get your views out.