Hope you had a Merry Christmas -- or something else -- and have a Happy New Year
By Gary Abernathy
Hope you had a Merry Christmas — or something else
Here’s hoping everyone had a Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a Happy New Year.
Speaking of holiday greetings, I’m not into the controversy over whether wishing someone “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” is that big of a deal, from either side of the debate. I tend to say “Merry Christmas” to everyone, and most people return that greeting, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re Christians who celebrate Christmas. It could be that they’re just being nice. If someone says, “Happy Hanukkah” to me, I’ll say “Happy Hanukkah” back to them, even though I’m not Jewish.
Personally, I seldom say “Happy Holidays” to anyone, because it sounds so wishy-washy. But as an evangelical Christian, I know that nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to annually celebrate the birth of Christ. Christians should always celebrate the birth of Christ, and especially his resurrection, every single day, right? In fact, there’s only one instance where Jesus instructs us to carry out a ceremony in his honor — found in the description of what is commonly called the “last supper,” as in “communion.” “Do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus told us. (Luke 22:19-20).
I love Christmas, but I love the whole “Santa Claus,” gift-giving (and receiving) part of it as much as anything related to the birth of Christ — which, of course, happened nowhere near Dec. 25. Scholars peg Jesus’ birth happening anywhere from springtime to September, as discussed in this article.
But here’s another point of view by Washington Post contributing columnist Kate Cohen: “When I wish strangers ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas,’ it’s a battle cry. I’m not waging a war on Christmas. I like Christmas. But I am declaring my allegiance to one idea of America that opposes another: inclusive vs. exclusive.” You can check out her line of thinking here.
Meanwhile, with the dawn of a new year, I enjoyed participating with a few other WaPo columnists in coming up with short blurbs describing reasons to be optimistic about 2023. It was interesting to see what different writers focused on. My reason for hope was based on medical miracles that we seem on the verge of achieving. Others focused more on political or cultural events. Check it all out here.
On ‘Talkline’ this week, discussing language to avoid
Hoppy Kercheval invited me on his “Talkline” show Tuesday to discuss my recent column on how to have conversations on hot-button issues without using language that serves only as conversation stoppers. I’m not being the “thought police,” suggesting that we all need to be politically correct. I’m against that. But if we really want to have constructive conversations — as opposed to just insulting each other — we really need to learn how to talk to each other with respect.
“Talkline” — thanks to Hoppy’s approach — has always been a show that serves as a good example of how to address hot-button issues without demonizing people, left or right, for their beliefs. It was a fun discussion, check it out above.
‘Ageism’ is a form of bigotry that never seems to get old
I don’t mind getting older. In fact, I’m enjoying it overall. What can be jarring is experiencing the various prejudices, assumptions and stereotypes that go along with getting older. The fact is, “ageism” is the last acceptable form of bigotry, which is the topic of my new WaPo column.
Here are a few points I make:
For decades, living in the United States as a relatively healthy White Protestant man isolated me from the bigotry — as well as the benefits (i.e., programs and services) — reserved for minorities or members of special interest groups.
Eventually, though, something happened that landed me in a special interest category: I woke up one day to find myself “old.” Things changed. I was flooded with mail from Medicare, Social Security, private insurers and other businesses targeting me with offers, alerts and warnings. My digital feeds cautioned me to avoid “senior citizen scams” and offered endless services to enhance my “golden years.” Those developments were mostly positive, if sometimes annoying.
But then came the negatives, especially in the past couple of years, when I arrived in my mid-60s. I sometimes notice younger people in social settings looking past me or through me, as though I’m almost invisible. Clerks and servers ask more often whether I’m eligible for senior discounts — a savings, for sure, but sometimes they apply it automatically. Ouch. People meeting me for the first time will sometimes casually inquire, “So, are you retired?” Why would you assume that?…
I discuss examples of how women in their 70s who were crime victims were described in news stories as “grandmothers,” even though that had nothing to do with the events, and they may well have had life experiences more pertinent than whether their children had borne children. And I note how comments on President Biden’s age often turn quickly into cruel memes and jokes. I add:
How should we respectfully refer to old people? I’ve seen people 60-plus still refer to themselves as “middle aged,” but let’s be a little more realistic and cut that off at least by 59. The word “old,” however, is such a pejorative that it should not be used alone. “Older person” is preferable. I hesitate to use “elderly” at all, which implies not just old age but a feeble condition. I’ve always despised “senior citizen” and references to the “golden years.” How ‘bout “best people ever?” That’s good.
But more important than terminology is how we regard older Americans in general. We should all be able to take a good-natured joke, whether about our age, our appearance, our background or our beliefs. But the rampant practice of ageist bigotry should join all the other “isms” and “phobias” as unacceptable, especially when it crosses the line from friendly ribbing to cruel attacks.
You can read the whole column here.
In addition to the more than 4,400 (so far) comments people have posted online (which I seldom read) I’ve received a ton of email responses, which I do read (and often respond to), most of them thoughtful, although there have been the usual number of lazy, “OK, Boomer,” replies. Seriously? Can’t get more creative than that?
One reader shared the story of needing a kidney transplant, but having trouble finding someone willing to donate a kidney to someone his age. He had written a column about it a couple of years ago, which I recommend reading. You can find it here.
A younger reader shared this thought: “Being born & raised in the south, my parents taught me to always respect others- regardless of their age, gender, color, nationality, etc. I was taught that ‘Yes ma’am’ or ‘Yes sir’ was not only polite, but also respectful. However, in today’s world of oversensitivity, please don’t say that to the clerk behind the counter at your favorite supermarket or store. They become offended because they perceive a ‘ma’am’ or ‘sir’ as a slight….and that I’m calling them old!!”
Another: “At 67, I too am struck by the ageist behavior … On a social policy level, ageism is a problem that should be addressed to the same extent other isms are. On an individual level, it’s not so bad because, as I’m sure you know, one of the great things about growing old is that, with each passing day, you tend to give less of a rip what other people think.”
One reader noted that it would be regarded as bigoted — rightfully so — to send a greeting card mocking people for their race or religion, but it’s completely acceptable to send a card saying, “Wow, you’re sure old!”
Indeed, for some reason society finds it completely acceptable to mock people for their age. I suspect that most people creating such greeting cards are still young.
From a retiree in his 70s: “Those who treat me poorly are still treated respectfully by me, which is all I ask of them. Many do the same, but some are like the young lady who told an elderly lady … shopping next to me in an aisle at Kroger’s ‘Why don’t you old people just get out of the way!!’ … Let me share with you what I came to believe is true, derived from decades of working with people of all ages: People do not change so much as they just get more concentrated in the way they already are!”
I also addressed this issue back in May in a column about those calling for older leaders in Washington to step aside. Even when I was young, it never occurred to me to mock older people, probably because I grew up with so many older relatives. As I wrote in that column:
Growing up in rural Ohio, though, I was fortunate to have many older relatives as positive influences. My paternal grandparents were an almost daily presence on our small farm, which had originally been theirs. In his mid-80s, not long before he died, “Papaw” insisted on climbing on the tractor. He’d navigate it across the rough earth as it pulled a plow, his frail frame bouncing up and down. We could have insisted that he forgo the more physical aspects of farming for his own safety. But the decision was his, and he proved he could continue to contribute and teach by example. I’m glad he did.
The next generation of leaders will take the wheel soon enough. In the meantime, let’s take full advantage of those with age and experience — even if they occasionally need some help hanging on through the bumpy ride.
In a vendetta, Democrats release Trump’s tax returns
Democrats on Friday released former president Donald Trump’s tax returns. It’s a vindictive move that they will likely come to regret, as both parties will now use tax returns as a political weapon. It’s a shame.
Say what you want about Trump — and I’ve had plenty of negative things to say about him — but as some others have pointed out, Trump may well have left the presidency poorer than when he entered it. Most presidents somehow manage to get richer while in office, or shortly after leaving it, thanks to investments that always seem to grow and, upon stepping out of the White House, big book and public appearance deals. Trump, in fact, donated his annual presidential salary to charity each year.
People have asked me, “Don’t you think it’s right that Trump’s tax returns be made public? Don’t you think all candidates for president should have to release their tax returns?”
No, I don’t. I think candidates for president should have to do what the Constitution requires, no more, no less — be a natural born citizen, at least 35 years old, having lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years. That’s it.
Happy New Year!
Sign up or share this newsletter
Please sign up to receive this newsletter directly into your inbox or, if you are already a subscriber and reading this by email, share with a friend using the convenient button below. Thank you.
What I dislike most about 78 yrs is my body not being able to do things I still would like to do! I have pretty much traveled around the world - some continents many times, like EU 25+ times. Of the 7 wonders of the world, I still have not viewed The Tag Macha (sp) in India.. Victoria Falls in Africa & Machu Pichu in S. America were last 2 trips. Call me anything you’d like, I could care less. I am old, but have lived a great God fearing life.