Now that Thanksgiving is done and the shopping frenzy of Black Friday has passed, we are well and truly into the Christmas season.
At this time of loving, giving and maniacal consumption, let's not forget that there are some people for whom this time of year is particularly difficult. I'm speaking, of course, about people who suffer from SWORS: Spasmodic Wingnut Outrage Syndrome.
People with SWORS have it tough during the holiday season. Even the mention of the word "holiday," however innocent, can trigger an attack of SWORS:
NORMAL PERSON: Happy Holidays, Mr. Gundermeyer!SWORS SUFFERER: You mean "Merry Christmas."
NORMAL PERSON: Oh. Sure.
SWORS SUFFERER: Say it! Say Merry Christmas! SAY IT! SAY IT!
NORMAL PERSON: OK! OK! Merry Christmas! Just don't hit me, please!
Good will toward men, indeed.
Like the shopping season, the SWORS season seems to begin earlier every year. This year, the first company to be attacked was that mainstay of the American shopping mall, The Gap. The American Family Association, a hotbed of SWORS infection if ever there was one, got cranky about not seeing any mentions of "Christmas" in Gap advertising. Perhaps the fact that it was early November may have had something to do with it, but nevertheless, the AFA called for a boycott.
A few days later, The Gap responded by releasing one of those ads that seems destined to go down as one of the most annoying ever, the kind of ad that makes you dive for the remote and fumble for the "Mute" button. "Go Christmas!" chirps an insanely peppy group of dancing teenagers, dressed, of course, in Gap clothing.
Now, you'd think that mentioning Christmas right up from there would serve to soothe the riled-up nerves of the SWORS-afflicted. A SWORS sufferer, however, looks at every olive branch as if it contains a nest of tarantulas. And in this case, the fact that the group also chants "Go Hanukkah, Go Kwanzaa, go solstice!" seems to have nullified whatever palliative effect was intended. "It seems like a desperate attempt to get every possible demographic to shop in their stores," sniffed The Dallas Republican Examiner.
Now, to the non-SWORS-infected, it would seem obvious that the whole point of having a store would be to get as many people as possible in the door. And most normal people realize that when they hit the stores to do their shopping, they'll be right there alongside "every possible demographic," including Jews, African-Americans and the sort of person who likes to go on and on about "solstice."
One of the tragic things about SWORS, however, is the feeling of deep resentment and bitterness that its victims experience at the very thought that someone may look, feel, or believe differently than they do, coupled with a paranoid certainty that those "other people" are getting more of life's goodies than they are.
While it's certainly easy for a nonsufferer to be annoyed by people with SWORS, it's important to keep in mind that these are people with an illness. They just can't help themselves, and the problem is only made worse by the plethora of high-profile wingnut media figures who, like crack dealers, make themselves fat and rich by feeding other peoples' disease.
It is a shame that SWORS spoils people's appreciation of the things that all people, whatever their beliefs, celebrate during this season. Things like peace, hope, good will, generosity and reflection on what's really important in life.
It seems even more a shame that they have to inflict their lunacy on the rest of us. But in this time of comfort and joy, take a moment to talk to someone who suffers from SWORS. Put your arm around them, look into their angry, troubled eyes, and say those simple words that mean so much at this time of year:
"Lighten the hell up, will ya?"
Happy Holidays to you and yours.