What was Garrison Keillor thinking exactly? From his Baltimore Sun column on the secularization of Christmas:
If you don’t believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn “Silent Night” and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism, and we Christians have stood for it long enough. And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write “Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we’ll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah”? No, we didn’t.
Christmas is a Christian holiday – if you’re not in the club, then buzz off.
At first I thought they were over-reacting and didn’t appreciate Keillor’s irony. I suspect he was joking, and after listening to Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion every Saturday night for like 20 years, I’m pretty sure he thinks he was joking. That being said, he did a piss-poor job of it, and if you’re not attuned to his sensibility it sounded not amusingly curmudgeonly, but churlish and nasty.
(Keillor, who often books the Klezmatics during his December shows, tends to incorporate gentle religious stereotypes in his humor, ribbing Lutherans, Catholics and Unitarians. I once heard him joke, more successfully: “To my Jewish friends who volunteer to cover our shifts on Christmas and Easter? Butt out — some of us don’t want to be with our families in the first place.”)
Unless the guy is a closet bigot or off his meds, I think his offense here is not anti-Semitism, but awful execution of a joke. It reminds me of Michael Richards’ racist rant at the night club — he was trying for something funny and edgy, but lost control of the joke … and his career. Interesting to see if Keillor gets any blowback.
(For an antidote to Keillor, read Michael Feinstein’s sweet oped on ecumenism and the Jews who penned Christmas carols.)