My heart skips when I see Mimi Swartz's byline on a New York Times Op-Ed article. Swartz, who lives in Houston and writes for Texas Monthly magazine, raises the quality of work on the page with her finely crafted pieces. Swartz's latest, in Thursday's paper, poignantly evokes the family connections at the heart of Christmas joy. In the tradition of E.B. White and Russell Baker, she displays a poetic precision of language. Rooted in her Texas home, she like them finds a universality in local customs and personal ties.
I give little credence to the conservatives' claims of a war on Christmas. However, I found convincing Wall Street Journal writer Daniel Henninger's piece Thursday about the secularization of window displays at department stores along New York's Fifth Avenue. Department stores like Saks have even banished Santa, Henninger says, resulting in appalling, artistically banal tableaus. Although Henninger sledgehammers his points, the column did make me believe that the business world is seeking to remove all religious content from Christmas. This year, I've cringed a couple of times at retail workers telling me "happy holidays," obviously scripted by a corporate customer relations campaign.
Another outstanding Christmas piece came from an unexpected source: Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi. Taibbi, always excellent on politics and the economy, turns his sights toward the holiday's advertising-induced consumerism. He connects that to political and media efforts to induce a climate of fear among Americans. Despite his contempt for Christmas consumerism, Taibbi says his young son's love for the season has softened him a bit. Taibbi advises readers to turn off the TV and enjoy the reality that Americans are really the safest and most blessed people on the earth.