Fat Steve's Blatherings

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Strib bashing

      When it comes to bad newspapers, I know of nothing quite like the Minneapolis Star-Tribune for sheer, fatuous stupidity.  And for really intense stupidity, count on columnist Nick Coleman.

      For instance, take the current 'Christmas Wars.'  Please.  I think this issue is way overblown, though to the extent I have an opinion, it's in favor of forthrightly saying "Merry Christmas!" than this "Happy Holidays!" crap where we try to pretend we've forgotten what the holiday in question is.  Still, I recognize that there are intelligent arguments on the other side, and as I said, I don't think it's really that important.

      E. J. Dionne recently did a column on this issue, one that Jim Geraghty judged "PERHAPS THIS YEAR'S WORST HOLIDAY-CHRISTMAS COLUMN."

      This just shows Mr. Geraghty ignores the Strib, which makes a lot of sense.  The Strib is eminently ignorable.  But since it's my town's paper, and since my wife K. insists on getting the comics on hard copy, I sometimes flip through it.  If Mr. Geraghty had read Nick Coleman's column on the 'Christmas Wars,' he'd have cut Dionne some slack.

      Dionne, for all his faults, at least stuck to the subject.  There's a controversy over "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" and he takes sides and makes an argument for his position.

      Coleman has a different tactic.  He titles his column Something magnificent, and starts out:
On the day before the day before Christmas, I sat next to a Muslim during mass in a Catholic church that was started by an Irishman who wanted to convert Scandinavians. Naturally, the priest was from Africa.

Just what I wanted for Christmas.

The world has changed since St. Olaf Catholic Church was begun in downtown Minneapolis by Father James Coleman, my grandfather's brother, as a way to lure unsuspecting Lutherans into a Catholic church. These days, Lutherans don't give us much trouble. But Christmas has never seemed more urgently necessary.

As it happens, the complicated math of family obligations and holiday get-togethers will keep me from attending a candlelight Christmas Eve service tonight. So I dropped into St. Olaf for the noon mass on Thursday in the hopes of jump-starting Christmas.

St. Olaf sits on the most expensive real estate of any church I know. It draws all kinds: businessmen and street people, American Indians and the newest Americans. There was a homeless woman named Lucille who was wearing a red Santa coat and stocking cap and looking for bus fare to Duluth. And a guy so deep in reverie that each time the rest of us said, "Thanks be to God," he offered a personalized response that meant the same thing:

"Sweet," he proclaimed. "Sweet!"

      Very nice, looks like someone will try to put the whole trivial mess in perspective, and celebrate some of the many things that make us one country.  Nope.  That was just the start of a bait-and-switch.  He continues:
This year, it's been hard to enter a church without looking over your shoulder. Our religious beliefs have become contentious in public, and our public disputes have entered our temples. Twice lately, I picked up a newspaper and read about somebody lying down in a church aisle, blocking someone else from taking communion. This is the kind of thing that makes me wish I had been in church so that I might have popped someone in the nose while quoting scripture: "Judge not, lest ye be judged, sucker!"

Now comes this contentious nativity after weeks of arguing whether a reluctance to shout "Merry Christmas" loud enough that Muslims, Jews and nonbelievers know exactly who owns this country makes you not just a bad Christian but a bad American as well.

      Yeah, we've all seen those stories about Communion, right?  No, wait, I didn't.  Why not provide a source, Coleman?

      But the bit about making sure "Muslims, Jews and nonbelievers know exactly who owns this country" slanders people who, rightly or wrongly, feel their faith is under attack.  It's like going over to a new homeowner, saying you'd like to welcome them to the neighborhood, then throwing up all over their living room carpet.  Deliberately.

      Still, in all fairness, there is something good to say about Coleman and his bile, which is that it makes my job as a right winger so much easier.  People like James Lileks, who also writes for the Strib, do columns like this one expressing their concerns in a polite, witty way.  Coleman preaches to the converted, and may well irritate them.  The Coleman's have been driving the country right for decades, and I thank them, sincerely, for the free ride I'm enjoying.  Keep up the dumb work.

      Don't think, though, that the Strib's stupidity is confined to Nick Coleman.  There's lots more extraordinarily foolish stuff in it.  More in an upcoming post.


      Update: James Wolcott, best know in the blogosphere for hoping that hurricanes devestate Florida more often (Google it yourself, I'm too tired), comments on Lileks's "Fear of Merry Christmas" column.  In the best liberal tradition, he ignores almost everything Lileks said, assumes that what Lileks personally observed about Christmas in Minnesota must be false (because he says it isn't that way in his NYC neighborhood), ascribes attitudes to Lileks that Lileks didn't express, and generally makes an ass of himself.  Oh, he also doesn't know how to form a possessive in English when the word ends in 's'.Lileks's reply gives details rather well, so I'll just say "Hey, Wolcott, if you ever have hard luck in NYC, there's a job waiting for you on the Strib."

T. S. M. B. D.


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