The war over the War on Christmas has flared up again. Slate’s Aisha Harris fired the latest salvo with her piece last week, “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore,” prompting a famously confused response from Fox News host Megyn Kelly that “Santa Claus just is white” and “Jesus was a white man, too. He was a historical figure, I mean, that’s verifiable fact—as is Santa.” Every single living being on the Internet weighed in. Kelly later defended herself in the usual manner of someone who regrets having said something: “Humor is a part of what we try to bring to this show, but sometimes that is lost on the humorless.”
She was not joking, of course. To conservatives—of which she is one—the War on Christmas is a very real and serious thing, and the holiday’s two most revered figures, Jesus and Santa, must be defended at all costs from liberals who would dare make the holiday more inclusive. What's even weirder than the insistence that Santa is white, though, is that conservatives dare to defend of him in the first place. He's a conservative’s worst nightmare, actually.
Consider the lyrics to “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”:
He's making a list / Checking it twice / Gonna find out who's naughty or nice / Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you're sleeping / He knows when you're awake / He knows if you've been bad or good / So be good for goodness sake
That he’s “making a list” sounds more than vaguely McCarthyistic, I’ll admit, but this is 2013, not 1954. You know who makes lists these days? The National Security Agency—for the express purpose of finding out who has been, or may one day be, naughty. By monitoring your emails and cell phone metadata, the NSA also has a pretty good idea of when you’re sleeping or awake. (Another agency that likes lists: the Internal Revenue Service.)
Santa invades our privacy in more literal ways, too. He breaks into everyone’s homes in the middle of the night—a crime that no one of any political persuasion, except perhaps anarchists, should endorse—and once inside, what does he do? He leaves presents totaling hundreds or thousands of dollars under your tree. You know who else gives Americans free stuff simply for being alive, rather than making recipients work for it? The bloated federal government and its social safety net. Every day, millions of Americans open unearned gifts in the form of Medicaid, unemployment insurance, TANF, and food stamps.
Santa's home address further complicates matters. Eventually the North Pole will become the equivalent of a Caribbean beach, converting Santa into the world’s most famous and influential climate-change activist—at which point the only coal being mined in America will end up in presents beneath conservatives' Christmas trees.
And as longtime Santa actor Jonathan Meath points out, "Santa is really the only cultural icon we have who’s male, doesn’t carry a gun, and is all about peace, joy, giving, and caring for other people." Sure sounds like a bleeding-heart liberal to me.
Note: Humor is a part of what we try to bring to this website, but sometimes that is lost on the humorless.
Ryan Kearney is a story editor at The New Republic.