Mercifully, the country seems less paralyzed than formerly by the cancer of political correctness, so I’ll unapologetically wish anyone reading, a Merry Christmas.
As someone of Jewish heritage, you might find that sentiment rather odd. However, as a passionate defender of Western Civilization, a patriotic American and a scholar on the Anglo-American special relationship, I can’t imagine extending any more meaningful greeting this season.
With global anti-Semitism and persecution of Christians on the rise, Christmas is the ideal reminder that much unites Christians and Jews. Jesus Christ was, of course, himself a Jew and grew up following the traditional customs and beliefs of that religion. Both religions share the spirit of the Old Testament and the hope of redemption and salvation that naturally leads into the Christian New Testament. Both share the ethics and values that are the basis for Western Civilization — the values of the most compassionate and inspiring of world views.
It is important that we participate in shared aspects of our values and culture that remind us of the similarities among our family of fellow human beings. In the United States, we no longer seem to have a dominant agreed-upon culture, but instead, our friends on the left have made it necessary to celebrate, in a forced way, our diversity rather than that what draws us together. Christmas is an excellent reminder of the best fellowship of Americans, and indeed all mankind, notwithstanding our differences.
The United Kingdom seems to have a more widely-accepted national culture than the United States. British traditions penetrate more corners of society in a way that American ones do not. Queen Elizabeth’s annual Christmas message is an event that continues to unite Britons across demographics. Audiences get a sense that they are tuning in, united with fellow Britons and a greater Commonwealth family. While viewership has fallen over the years, the queen’s speech was the most-watched broadcast in the U.K. last year with 6.4 million tuning in (deceptive because many more now watch online, as I do every year).
Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather, King George V, made the first radio version of the broadcast in 1932, timed at 3 p.m. to accommodate reaching most of the then-empire. Respecting tradition, the now-televised broadcast still appears at 3 p.m. The king began the first broadcast: “I speak now from my home and from my heart to you all.” He spoke intimately of his and his people’s joys and sorrows as though addressing his own family.
The queen’s father, King George VI, took the opportunity of the outbreak of war to re-establish the Christmas broadcast. His stirring words were aimed to boost national morale and rally citizens behind a common purpose: “A new year is at hand. We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall all be. If it brings us continued struggle we shall remain undaunted.”
Queen Elizabeth broadcast her first Christmas message in 1957 from the same desk and chair used by her father and grandfather, striving to continue the traditions of her ancestors to: “unite our peoples ever more closely.” She has done so every year except 1969, when the message was superseded by the broadcast of a royal documentary.
Her majesty’s messages are always inspirational and personal. She never neglects to discuss her Christian faith. Indeed, as the head of the Church of England, she should be congratulated for upholding its importance in the national character in times that find religious affiliation declining.
The Royal Family’s official website reports: “Over the years, the Broadcasts have chronicled both the life of the nation and of The Monarchy; the Broadcast is one of the rare occasions when the Queen does not speak on Government advice. Instead, The Queen gives her own views on events and developments which are of concern both to Her Majesty and her public, in the UK and wider afield in the Commonwealth.”
In the United States, we have no special and enduring head of state who sits above politics and focuses our national attention for non-political inspiration and reflection on Christmas. While some attend church, we lack an event, like the queen’s message, that unites Americans en masse. These moments of community, imagined, or real are important for national social cohesion, and, to healing division such as the internal political gulfs that divide citizens both here and in the U.K.
With so much in the news about anti-Semitism and persecuted Christians around the world, we should take the occasion of Christmas to focus on the joy of the holiday season and the common heritage and compassionate American values that we share. We have much to feel positive about in 2020. Peace on Earth and good will toward mankind is a message that needs broadcasting no matter one’s faith, ethnicity or nationality.
Borrowing from Queen Elizabeth, who concludes all of her Christmas Day messages similarly: “A very happy Christmas to you all.”
• Lee Cohen is a writer, commentator and fellow of the Danube Institute. He was adviser on Europe to the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.
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