Tuesday, December 04, 2007

quit yer hitchin

Happy Hannukah, everyone! You know, that harmless, minor Jewish holiday that exists in America as this country's paltry companion piece to Christmas, like a kid playing a kazoo on the sidelines as a confetti strewn marching band in full regalia, with cheerleaders and baton twirlers and gymnasts and everything, spends a month slowly parading by.

Don't think I bear Christmas any ill will. Sure, I used to; but we're cool now, we're cool. I've gotten to celebrate a secular version a couple times with Mr. Ben's dad's family. I've done it all, in fact: the evening service as St. Marks, a stocking filled with stuff hanging on the mantle for me, wrapped boxes glistening under the tree. I can understand how, if you grew up with that -- or, that plus some heartfelt religious traditions -- you'd long for it every year.

It's just not my holiday. All the same, you'd never see me go on a tirade like this about Christmas, let alone about poor, miserable, homely Hannukah! What is Christopher Hitchens thinking?

His rant, which I've read now twice and concluded makes not a speck of sense, seems to be saying that Hannukah is bad because it celebrates the triumph (for about fifteen minutes, once) of the ancient Hebrews over the Greeks. And who were the Greeks, asks Hitch? A culture that
had weaned many people away from the sacrifices, the circumcisions, the belief in a special relationship with God, and the other reactionary manifestations of an ancient and cruel faith.
Some religious Jews were annoyed that their countrymen were assimilating, so they rebelled against the imperial powers of the day and WON -- which, by the way, didn't happen often in Jewish history, so I'm sure it came as quite a shock to Judah the Maccabee; like my mother when she was convinced I wouldn't get into Swarthmore, Judah probably gave away his bottle of champagne.

And why does Hitch have a bee in his bonnet about this? Because to him it's a turning point. If the Jews hadn't won, we wouldn't have those pesky spin-off religions, Christianity (centered around, in his elegant phrase, the "alleged birth of the supposed Jesus of Nazareth") and Islam. No monotheistic religion would exist! Think of it! We'd all be wearing togas and drinking wine touched up with water and having sex with little boys, just like the pagan gods intended.

There is little more irritating to me than sloppy history, especially in combination with nostalgia for the imaginary utopias of earlier eras, "before the development of the whole of humanity was terribly retarded." (Wow, right?) I mean, yes, when I was 12, I did want to inhabit the world of Mists of Avalon, but even then I understood that it was *fiction* and anyway I was 12! There's no point in wishing ancient Greece back. No matter how much Hitch yearns for the homosocial, toga-wearing, gymasium-dwelling, slave-holding, vomitorium-scented days of a couple thousand years ago, that empire was sacked by the Romans. The ancient Hebrew did not kill Athens; and if Athens was able to fall, on any level, to a guerilla band of hammer-wielding mountain men, it certainly could not have been very stable to begin with. So lay off, would you, Hitch? Christ. You're putting me off my latkes.


Rebecca said...

holy supposed jesus of nazareth!

christopher hitchens has the twistingest set of knickers this side of mahmoud ahmedinejad.

what a cranky whiny shlub. someone give him a plate of latkes.

reading his stuff i get the feeling that this is what british men have to do these days instead of, you know, colonizing shit. it's the new White Man's Burden: knowing everything, and gawd, how contemptible are the rest of us slackjawed saps, what with our goggling at miraculous oil puddles!

you're right on about the sloppy history, Es, i for one am not longing for the jolly times of Athens. i think only those with a British public school education still see it all in that shining D'Aulaires'n'democracy glow...

Andrew Ironwood said...

Somewhat OT, but I thought you might wanna see this: