Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Good Tidings and Great Joy: Bad Rhetoric but not a bad Person

I am pretty close to the militant secular atheist that the Governor speaks of in this book.  

From the media portrayal of her in 2008 and beyond, I have had a pretty low opinion of her.  I even had a  “Palin 2012” shirt made up as a joke.  I may have been a little too hasty in judging her.  I watched the documentary featuring her, “The Undefeated,” and realized that someone who had been elected to the city council and to the mayoralty of a city is not someone to be ridiculed.  

In this vein, I thought I would look at her most recent work, “Good Tidings and Great Joy”.  It is nominally an argument to reclaim Christmas from the creeping secular atheists, but sometimes it diverges from that argument, and uses straw men to attack the author’s ideological opponents. For example, in three different places she lapses into fiction to draw a hypothetical which exaggerates what she sees as the worst aspects of her opponents.  

I, for one, though an atheist believe that some of the organized atheist groups go too far in limiting people’s celebration of holidays.  Where I agree with the atheists is that celebrations shouldn’t be exclusionary for people of other faiths or of no faith.  It is in the public sphere where this is most contentious, and I think there can be pluralism.  It was here where I was surprised that Ms. Palin and I are in agreement.  One of her bits of advice to keep the celebration of Christmas was to bring in the secular totems of the holiday, such as snowmen and Santa Claus. 

Where I think Ms Palin errs though is that there are basically three separate realms she covers where Christmas is under attack, but she conflates all three into one unified front against Christmas.  There is the previously identified sphere.  There is also the private realm: as far as I know, no one is trying to limit the celebration of anyone’s holiday in their churches and homes.  This is the section of the book that really helped me feel sympathy towards the Governor. Her family’s traditions are nice and familiar and fine with me.  

The last section is the public realm.  Ms. Palin doesn’t like the pluralism of some companies, where they have made their employees substitute “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas.” She even celebrates occasions where those companies  have relented and brought back Christmas.  Again, that is fine.  There is a marketplace where companies avoid controversy.  In the system we have, that is understandable.

So basically, I can agree with here on two out of three realms, which is two more than I was suspecting that I would find. I thought that reading this book would be one of those gleeful-hate reads, but it was nothing of the sort.  I like Sarah Palin more than I thought I did.