December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas from Chris Hitchens

I showed up to LAX way too early for my flight last week to new york. The plane was delayed, so I spent four hours in the terminal, plenty of time to read. But The airport was playing christmas songs. Loud. Nonstop. These weren't choral renditions, either; they were R&B stylings by the likes of phantasia and kelly clarkson. Concentrating on anything was near-impossible, so I went to the men's bathroom for a moment of quiet sanctuary. But a grown man was standing next to me at the urinal, passive-aggressively singing along with "jingle bell rock". New York was no better - JFK airport was playing the same fascist music. What is happening? Can't people be left with their own thoughts or goals in public spaces anymore? Are we living in a theocracy now? I was reminded of this when John Carpenter's "They Live" was on cable a couple nights ago (a risible, but appropriate, film for the holiday season) and also by today's interview with Chris Hitchens on the onion's website: "After Halloween, more or less, you can't go into a shop, or across a railway-station concourse, or even an airport, without this crap. And I'm serious: To me, it does feel like living in a one-party state." He's sort-of an asshole, but more than once his articles and insights have convinced me that I'm not losing my mind; that people deserve their personal freedom from religious oppression. Read the rest here. And look at his slate article on the origins of hanukkah. UPDATE! I don't mean to step on your toes, Stexe, but Eno's take on the subject would fit in nicely here. -Lance


Lance Ehlers said...

I've been thinking about creating an additional blog which deals something along these lines. Perhaps it's just me getting older, but it seems like there is more music in more places, and almost all of it is being played way too loud, and almost 100% of that loud music sucks a donkey's dick. The immediate example of this which comes to mind is a new burger place in Union Square called Goodburger. The food is really good, the decor is pleasant and suggests a sort of Olde Tyme-y-ness witout being too heavy handed, but the sound design is fucking PUTRID! It's a constant mix of very fast, very aggressive house music played at about 7 on the volume dial. I refer to the place as Club Burger. I watched an older couple try to enjoy their food, but the sound was simply too overwhelming. They eventually got it to go. If this was an isolated incident, I could excuse it, but interior sound design is apparently a booming business and is perceived as one way to prop up dwindling music sales. If you pay attention, you soon notice that it is VERY difficult to go into ANY private space and not hear music. The DMV and the library are the only places left.

I'm tempted to gripe about a related unpleasantness, the cancerous plague of DJ culture in which it is believed that now EVERYONE can and should be a DJ, but I'll channel that energy into something more positive.

stexe said...

I don't like the idea, but I'm prepared to live in a world in which music is playing everywhere. But I had a specific problem with christian music being played in a public environment, which I consider to be unconstitutional propagada. If Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee are going to make such a big issue out of the right to practice their backwoods-crackpot religions, then the right to not have the religion of others forced upon you should be remembered as well.

Unknown said...

And where in the constitution does it restrict religon from the public domain?

stexe said...

You're right, I shouldn't have said "unconstitutional". The first amendment is largely about giving people the right to practice whatever crazy religion they want, after all. I was referencing the separation of church and state, but I realize airports are private property, not public. Okay, so there's nothing illegal about it, but I still consider all that christian music playing everywhere to be a violation of human rights and an assault on decency.

Unknown said...

I've found no statement of "seperation of church and state" in the U.S. Constitution, where did you find it and what is its context?
And how is christian music a violation of human rights?

Lance Ehlers said...

The First Amendment is the one which draws the line:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

But, really, the conversation is going off track. Stexe is arguing for common sense and common courtesy when it comes to public broadcasts, especially when it comes to public broadcasts which occur in notoriously unpleasant spaces such as airports where people are often condemned to await a flight for hours. Christian or not, the forced agitation of a human brain via Johnny Mathias' rendition of "We Three Kings" blasted every 20 minutes through the echoey concourse is certainly not going to deter home-grown terrorism.

stexe said...

The exact words "separation of church and state" are not in the first amendment, but they are affiliated with it, and have been used as legal precedent:

"The phrase "separation of church and state", which does not appear in the Constitution itself, is generally traced to an 1802 letter by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists, where Jefferson spoke of the combined effect of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. It has since been quoted in several opinions handed down by the United States Supreme Court". (wikipedia)

But like I already said, I'm using it out of context; it was written to give people the right to practice religion without government interference. But I was expressing my opinion, you see. My personal concept of human rights (which might differ from yours) feels violated when I can't go to a public space without this stuff playing everywhere. It's a simple enough statement that isn't even worth repeating. I won't post anything about it again. At least not until november 2008.

Unknown said...

Yes, the incessant playing of music/ commercials over the holidays becomes annoying. Try working in retail 8 days straight and having to listen to Steve Harvey's commercial for his morning talk show (the clips from which only show him making noises.) on a once every 5 min cycle for 45 min. every hour.
But to bastardize the U.S. Constitution so you can indict a person or group of people for an offense they are not guilty of makes you the "crazy" "fascist". Somehow, I don't see christians making the descion to play the music at the airports or malls (nearly half of which is not christian at all). More likely there is some corporate gimick to make money behind it. Possible example: "Kelly Clarkson (not a christian artist) makes a christmas recording, her label cuts a deal with some other company(s) to push her album or just promote her and you get the shaft while waiting at the airport, lucky you."
But to blame christians for corporate businesses abusing thier holiday is the same as blaming Lance for someone using his artwork to promote something he does not support or is otherwise ignorant of.
If thats really your opinion of christians, why not just admit you're a hate monger who will say or do anything to make christians look bad?
Or are you like the rest of us who from time to time speek before really considered what we're saying?

stexe said...

For the fourth time: the separation of church and state is constitutional law. I'm not making it up or bastardizing anything. It was taught in every sixth-grade civics class (or at least, the ones that weren't taught by nuns). And it has been upheld by the supreme court, in cases similar to what I'm talking about: They recently ruled that a courthouse is not allowed to display a nativity scene on their front lawn. This is not only based on the political and moral foundation of our country, it's also common sense; how can a government institution, which promises unbiased treatment to all of its citizens, display a preference for one religion over another?

I would argue that christmas carols in the airport are similar to the Islamic call to prayer, broadcast five times a day over loudspeakers throughout many muslim cities. However, an airport, like I already admitted, is a privately owned space. They're free to broadcast religious messages. There's nothing I can do about it. But that doesn't mean I have to appreciate it. Just like I don't appreciate how mel gibson made 400 million off a vindictive movie that blames the jews for the death of christ. Or the "faith based initiative", which awards tens of billions to private religious schools of our president's choosing (none of which are non-christian), while federal education funds are being cut.

We're currently living closer to a theocracy than at any point in this country's history. But we're 75% christian, so many people are cool with it. I'm not. Neither are, (I hope), some devoutly christian people who respect the different religious beliefs of others, and support personal freedom. It's a political issue with me, not a religious one. Sure I'm an athiest, but I'm not contemptuous of ALL christians. Just the disrespectful ones who enforce their beliefs on others. And the ones running the country.

But really, is a happy place for creativity and entertainment. And it isn't even my blog. I'm just visiting. It isn't right for this site to get bogged down in malice. I call an end to this thread, but feel too strongly about this to call an end to the issue. Kindly direct all hate mail to