Donald Trump in a MAGA hat by the Forward

‘Merry Christmas’ Does Double Duty as Innocuous Greeting and Dog-Whistle

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The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, tweeted its holiday well-wishes, and by “holiday well-wishes” I mean Christmastime message of exclusion. “We’re going to start saying ‘Merry Christmas again,’” the message reads, with a photo of a camouflage MAGA-hat-wearing Trumpster giving a thumbs up. This is indeed something Trump said at a recent rally in Michigan:

Watching this was, I thought, quite chilling. (Yes, we all know the refrain: Even by Trump standards.) Getting wished a Merry Christmas isn’t generally intended as a religious-minority-slighting microaggression, but is simply small talk in a majority-Christian country. You just return the greeting (or some variant of it) and move on with your day. Insistence on “Christmas,” however — that is, the politicized backlash against a War on Christmas that never was — isn’t an inadvertent insensitivity. It’s intentional, and it summons in me the twin desires to wish the recipient various happy non-Christian holidays and to say things to them that are, shall we say, more direct.

The only thing that makes me panic slightly less, oddly enough, is the context, namely Trump’s anti-PC victory tour. In an Iowa installment, the president-elect graciously reacted to being named Time magazine’s Person of the Year by whining about how it’s now “Person” as opposed to “Man of the Year.”

Why, you may ask, would I find the fact that Trump’s being casually sexist in addition to casually anti-religious-minority at his rallies these days (slightly, I mean very slightly) comforting? Because put together, they tell us that he’s still in Archie Bunker mode. This sort of anti-‘PC’ is familiar. It’s bigoted and unacceptable and all that, yes, but isn’t Phase One of a fascist project.

Please, then, let it be that. Let the regime set us back 30 years, if it must. Not 80.

‘Merry Christmas’ Just Got Sinister

‘Merry Christmas’ Just Got Sinister

Phoebe Maltz Bovy edits the Sisterhood, and can be reached at Her book, The Perils of “Privilege”, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in March 2017.

Happy Chrismukkah, Heritage Foundation!


Phoebe Maltz Bovy

Phoebe Maltz Bovy is a former editor of the Sisterhood blog at the Forward. Her writing has appeared in several publications, including The New Republic and The Atlantic. Her book, “The Perils of ‘Privilege,’” was published by St. Martin’s Press in March 2017. She has a PhD in French and French Studies from New York University, and has read a lot of 19th century French Jewish newspapers for a 21st century American.

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‘Merry Christmas’ Does Double Duty as Innocuous Greeting and Dog-Whistle

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