Saturday, December 19, 2015

Liberal Fascism Watch: War on Christmas edition

Orthodox icon of Saints Sergius and Bacchus (Sergios and Vachos), by Theophanis the Cretan (1545), Monastery of Dionysiou Mount Athos, via Paracletos.

Jay Nordlinger for National Review writes,
I was interested to read an article by Thomas V. DiBacco in the Wall Street Journal. (By the way, it would be interesting if Professor DiBacco disliked wine — as his name means “of Bacchus.”) The article begins...
Sadly, no. I mean, it doesn't mean "of Bacchus" in the sense of the wine god, most likely, as the Italian personal naming system didn't really get going until paganism was pretty dead, though it could conceivably be after the Saint Bacchus who was martyred at Barbalissos in Syria around the beginning of the 4th century, after being paraded in drag around town with his companion Saint Sergius, who appeared to Sergius after his death, encouraging him to face martyrdom as well so that they could be together for eternity, which Sergius did. Their vita describes them as erastai, which could be translated "lovers", and some scholars have thought of them as Christianity's prototype example same-sex marriage, united in the ritual of adelphopoiesis, though this is of course widely disputed.

But the origin of Bacco/di Bacco/de Bacco as a surname of the Veneto region is more likely a truncation of a nickname "Iacobacco" or "bad James". So that (since "Jay" is a pet name for English names beginning with J) maybe we should be asking whether Nordlinger dislikes wine, or same-sex unions, too. Because when a National Review staffer makes this meaningless crack for no reason but to display his fucking erudition, or what he fondly thinks is his erudition (there must be tens of millions of Americans who know that Bacco is "Bacchus") you just have to look it up and see if he's wrong.

The article he references (not behind the WSJ paywall!) is about an early battle in the progressive War on Christmas, when Theodore Roosevelt attempted to ban the annual holiday fir from the White House in 1902, on environmentalist grounds that he did not wish to contribute to deforestation. Odd, but sweet to my mind, that TR should have had so much more reluctance to kill trees than animals.

In the event, young Archibald and Quentin (8 and 5 respectively) wouldn't put up with it and got the White House staff to help them smuggle a little Christmas tree into the house, and Teddy had to put up with it, after which Gifford Pinchot educated him into the understanding that a restrained culling was actually good for forests, and it all turned out well except for Jay, who wants to sell a similar story about Mussolini, also apparently an opponent of Christmas trees, as Nordlinger learned from his research on Alessandra Mussolini in the course of writing his new book about dictators' children, I'm not making this up. In her first parliamentary election campaign, in 1992, Nordlinger writes,
she described her grandfather as “very modern, one of the first ecologically minded politicians.” Mussolini did not even want “a real tree at Christmas,” said Alessandra, “because it hurt him so much to chop it down.”
And Nordlinger adds,
Kinder to trees than to Jews and other people — as many people have been, true.
Because there you are, all environmentally concerned people are basically Fascists, of course. Even Republican TR, in his own way. And I suppose Dr. Ben Carson must be a Nazi, because Hitler was a vegetarian.

Only here too he is completely wrong. Because while TR may have thought to use his bully pulpit and eliminate the Christmas tree from his own residence to make a leaderly point, technically an incorrect one as he soon learned (he didn't accept the official tree until 1905, actually, but he did get there), the Duce wanted something quite different, as we learn from a report in the Chicago Tribune of December 18 1925: it had nothing to do with his love for trees, and everything to do with what you might call Italian exceptionalism, the view of Italy as a one-language, one-ethnicity society to which non-Italians would have to assimilate, and his object was to remove the Christmas tree not from his residence, where he wouldn't have thought of having one, whatever Alessandra Mussolini may have grown up believing, but from a province whose loyal italianità was under suspicion.

Christmas trees, you see, are not Italian. They are German ("O Tannenbaum!"). And they were not in those days found in Italy, except among the German-speaking population of South Tyrol, now known as Trentino–Alto Adige, the rich region Italy acquired as a prize for being on the winning side in World War I. And Mussolini couldn't stand its non-assimilating Germanness.

He had closed German-language schools, forbidden German-language church sermons, and ordered Tirolese police to stop singing German songs. The ban on Christmas trees was part of the program to force the citizens of the Tyrol to be Italian, the way some American politicians want to do something about the Spanishness of people in territories that were Spanish in the 16th century but now belong to the United States.
"We should not have a multicultural society," Bush said, before beginning a longer explanation of his views of what comprises culture in the U.S. (AP)
That was the excessively "moderate" one.

If you know what I mean, and I'm sure you do. Progressives are not the real fascists, fascists are the real fascists. That just makes sense, when you think about it.


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