It’s that time of year when earnest greetings arrive on every puff of air and cloud extending heartfelt wishes of good cheer and universal joy without reserve. Who could object? Who, indeed, could take offense? You’re no dummy: you’re thinking, almost anyone. Say “Happy Holidays” and parochial rabble-rousers from one corner will accuse you of vile conformity to a community-corroding agenda. Say “Merry Christmas” and straitlaced grim and grave agitators from across the room will excoriate you for divisiveness and narrow exclusivity. What’s a poor soul (inner essence, gender-proportioned self-conscious human entity at one with all humanity through their God-bestowed evolutionarily-derived individualism) to do?
That’s why I was delighted when a few days ago a friend sent along an offense-proof, pervasively inclusionary “Seasons’s Greetings” intended to skirt all disagreeable verbal pratfalls in this, our age of moral scruple and hard-fought arcadian righteousness. For your edification, I offer the Greetings as template, exactly as received. And then, in the spirit of the season (and reason), I tack on a few words of commentary to vent the rage and lessen the anxiety suffered by a retired professor (asserting thereby no intention to express any hint of knowledge, wisdom, experience, or skill superior to enrollees, despite my years of it and their lack of it) who has suffered these past many seasons from the loss of student outlets on whom to fasten the oddments of editorial improvement).
Herewith, the original Greetings in full:
At this time of year, it’s difficult to know what to say without offending someone, so I’ve checked with my legal adviser and on their advice, I wish to say the following to all my friends and relatives: –
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced with the most enjoyable traditions of religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.
I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2022, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make our country great (not to imply that the USA is necessarily greater than any other country) and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.
By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms: –
This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.
After this bravura performance, I hope you do not think me churlish in mentioning that the “Season’s Greetings” misses its own mark in gesturing toward a broad inclusivity instead of renouncing an intention to neither affirm nor deny the recipient’s desire to be part of the community of human creatures rather than understood as a self-made liberty-bearing personhood. It thus fails to affirmatively commit to an indomitable desire to end discrimination in all its forms, including non-neutrality, and misses the opportunity to repudiate Unconscious Hegemonic Impulses. In particular:
It fails to acknowledge the genderedness of its recipients, referring to each as a “friend” or “relative.” Does it thus seek, by negative implication, to override the individual expression of identity under the banner of a universalist cis-heterodoxianness or gender conventionality?
Moreover, in committing Season’s Greetings only to one’s acquaintances, does the Wisher not slap the faces of the vast numbers of personkind who are unrelated strangers? Why not target everyone on the globe, not excluding sentient beings off globe throughout the universe, as Wishees? Email makes blanketing at least the globe part cheap.
The third paragraph makes a stab at (but see the Brandeis suggested word list for my phrasing) embracing the usual set of what were once called “immutable characteristics,” like race and physical ability, but it omits any whisper of concern for a recipient’s mental abilities: is everyone neurotypical? Likewise, the Greetings gestures at sex in the form of “sexual preference.” But these days, as is well known and uncontroverted (except by those who miss the point entirely), the real action is not at the giving but the receiving end (and I apologize for the possible obscurity of the phrase): Is the recipient a female, male, neither, binary, trans, or “genderfluid,” or one or all of the other more subtle variations of gendericity, of which nongenderedness is but one flavor?
The Season’s Greetings also altogether omits recognition of the suffering of our Animal cousins. (I’ve read this to Smitty, our dog, who concurs.)
The foregoing commentary is predicated on its intent to inform and enlighten, by an investigator in the emergent field of Critical Offensiveness Studies, and should be taken neither as a comment on the shortcomings or comprehensiveness of the statement at issue or the intentions of the original author nor as elusive, semi-permanent, or conclusive appraisal. No sarcasm or tincture of sardonic essence should be inferred, since none is implied (and stop carping about my use of the passive, which serves valuable semantic purposes when properly deployed, a word perhaps to be discarded because of its military rootedness).
Finally, for space is limited (though physicists may suppose otherwise), permit me simply to ask why these Greetings are being tendered only now, at this season. Are they seasonally biased? And should we care?
Anyway, happy new year, dear readers (you who choose me, not I you)!
Note: I would ordinarily credit the author of the Greetings, but I am stymied by not only my ignorance of who they are but also that of those from whom I obtained it. Unfortunately, the author to whom credit is due is unknown to my informants. The text came to me by a friend in New York City who received it from a friend who in turn had it from a friend whose friend in London sent it to her. How many others are yoked in the great Internet chain without end is by now without reckoning. Thanks to whoever it is, unless it was cobbled together by some form of AI to whom it is not (yet) necessary to tender gratitude.