Waging cheer

By CLIF GARBODEN  |  December 6, 2006
The war on Kwanzaa
There are those who might uncharitably say that a war on this celebration of African-American positivism isn’t necessary since most Americans don’t know when it happens (mid-December through New Year’s Eve) or how to spell it (the third and final “a” was added artificially to set the word one letter apart from its African/Kiswahili root).

And indeed, Kwanzaa, to the extent that it is embraced today (which is by an estimated 20 million), had a difficult climb to visibility. The holiday, a ritualized celebration of seven principles covering as many virtues of good living, was invented, in 1966, by Dr. Maulana Karenga, born Ron Everett. Karenga came up with Kwanzaa as a cultural-identity reference point during his involvement with the mid-1960s Black Power movement. If court records are to be believed (and a lot of litigation against the Black Panthers et al. is somewhat suspect), Karenga didn’t exactly practice what he preached. He ended up going off the deep end and spending time in jail on assault/torture charges. From this experience, he emerged a dedicated Marxist and went on to become a respected black-studies scholar at California State.

All that aside, Kwanzaa practitioners bend over backwards to claim the life-affirming annual festival is neither political nor religious and represents no substitution for Christmas, Hanukkah, or Ramadan. In other words, Kwanzaa is a holiday that doesn’t choose to fight for cultural turf — just to claim a few fallow square feet.

With idiots like Bill O’Reilly on the defensive, keeping one’s holiday’s head down is an excellent tactic. The last thing African-Americans need is for the Fox-TV crowd to group them with abortionists, liberals, drug pushers, assisted-suicide advocates, and homosexuals. The “founded by a Commie” rap is just too conveniently close for comfort. So the faithful choose to pursue a Christmas truce.

The war on Hanukkah
One treads boggy ground when discussing this conflict, which, long before Democrats were identified as the real enemies of Jesus, represented the central American holiday conflict. A lot of ugly things were said by both sides, and it was all pretty stupid. But somewhere between the era of mainstream acceptance of the existence of an international Jewish conspiracy and whatever more-enlightened views folks hold today, the bigots decided to play both ends against the middle and now, the War on Christmas often “allies” itself with Judaic values, which, the rabid doomsayers contend, are equally under attack. Exactly how an insistence on store clerks saying “Merry Christmas” in so many words supports the interests of Bill O’Reilly’s Jewish brethren is somewhat unexplained. But think of it as a counter-conspiracy of convenience. These people are nuts anyway; why expect them to make sense at all?

If, by chance, the conservative braying about the War on Christmas (and Judaic values) does manage to drive Jews and Christians closer — united against the right-wing extremists who would misrepresent and misuse either set of beliefs — then at least one good thing will come out of this charade.

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