Suicide used to be considered a criminal act. Naturally, once you’ve offed yourself and the authorities have your corpse in hand, there is not much in the way of punishment that they can mete out, save to deny you the kind of burial you might have desired.
They also have first dibs on the remains of your wallet, assuming the manner in which you voluntarily journeyed to the Great Beyond left anything worth salvaging. We can only wonder how the spoils of the once great American culture will be divvied up by those gathered around its body.
At least the cause of death won’t be wondered over: it will obviously be asphyxiation. And the noose that will do the deed, in place for the last forty or so years, always draws a little tighter this time of year. The latest cinching is from the 14th Street McBurney Young Men’s Christian Association, which has fired Santa Claus lest someone be “offended”.
In St. Nick’s place will appear a “talking snowman and his sidekick, an anonymous penguin.” Said the walking-dead John Rappaport, executive director of the McBurney YMCA, Santa’s being given the sack in the favor of a non-religious mascot “wasn’t replacing; it was transitioning…We realized that change is sometimes good, and that Frosty is a great winter character who would appeal to a broader number of kids.”
The 14th Street McBurney Young Men’s Christian Association is also in the midst of a—I struggle with a rising nausea as I write the next—“rebranding”, in which it seeks to be known merely as “The Y.” This abuse of the English language, and disassociation with any taint of Christianity, McBurney feels will also appeal to a broader number, appealing to broad numbers being the only measure of relevance fathomable to those deprived of oxygen.
It is the McBurney’s among us who account for the rise of nativity scene bans, regulations forbidding the utterance “Merry Christmas”, and are the cause of “Happy Holiday” on everybody’s lips. Incidentally, when somebody asks you to have a “Happy Holiday” always ask, “Which holiday is that?” The replies you receive will be interesting.
There is no note with this suicide, but plenty of speeches about purity and good intentions not to offend, offense being the highest possible crime imaginable. Notice that it is offense towards a mysterious “other”, and not offense towards the culture’s own. For example, a member of our culture might take offense at being forbidden to display its cultural artifacts. But this attitude is not defined as “being offended”, for only those who are not part of the culture by definition can be offended.
It is a simple truism to say that the culture we have accounts for the allowable behavior of its members, and so what is interesting about this mad rush away from overt symbols of Christianity is that the rush is to no particular direction except “away”. Abandoning the culture’s roots must lead to changes at a fundamental level, perhaps to the point where the freedom to act petulantly, as the McBurney’s among us do, will be forbidden.
Those wanting to rid themselves of the past have no idea what the future might bring, trusting only that what exists here and now must be the worst and that any change must be good. But since all history shows abrupt change is almost never good, and since everybody knows this, the passion for change must be a kind of suicide.
Many think that by proscribing Christian displays they will eliminate Christianity—that religion being obviously false and harmful—and so advance mankind into a more mature phase, but in so thinking they forget how steeped they are in Christian culture. They forget that our devotion to hospitals, charity, philanthropy, love of learning, forgiveness and many other desirable institutions are there because Christianity was. Will these less overt displays of Christianity disappear when the overt ones are outlawed?
Nobody can know for certain, but we do have clues in the great social experiments of the 20th century. Times when deep customs were overthrown and cultures committed suicide in the name of progress and perfection of mankind. The staggering body count only subsided when these cultures returned grudgingly to their roots.
Not that it’s a fix, not that it’s going to stop the McBurney’s among us to loosen their grip on the rope, but Merry Christmas all.