I was standing near the bar at the company Christmas party (Quel surprise!), when a co-worker sidled up and wished me Merry Christmas. Then he smirked and said, "Or should I say Happy Holidays?" We both shook our heads, marveling at the absurdity of such a thing becoming controversial. The fact is, it just doesn't matter, no matter what Bill O'Reilly might tell you. If someone wishes you Happiness or Merriness, it's a good thing. Just smile and say thanks. And shut up about it.
That specious non-issue was the last (I hope) of many specious non-issues foisted upon us in 2004. To name just a few others: the flap over John Kerry's medals; Trent Lott's so-called racist comments; the Scott Peterson trial; Howard Dean's scream; Janet Jackson's nipple; anything to do with The Apprentice; Paris Hilton's sex tape; The Passion of the Christ; Martha Stewart's trial; Howard Stern... . The list goes on and on, but I won't. Well, maybe I will.
Mostly, this stuff just got in the way, providing distraction from other more serious matters. But maybe that was the point. Whether or not Kerry was a "flip-flopper" trumped the issue of the missing WMD. Coverage of Dean's now-infamous scream obliterated the courage he showed in initially calling the president's bluff on Iraq. The flap over Jackson's breast obscured the question of why the FCC has a censorship policy in the first place. Gay marriage became the pivotal election issue for many Christians, who didn't seem at all troubled by the wholesale breaking of the Sixth Commandment, Thou Shalt Not Kill (which also presumably covers Thou Shalt Not Torture), in the name of patriotism.
How many times did "news" about the absurdly overcovered Peterson trial supplant the very real horrors of war being endured by our servicemen and women and by innocent civilians in Iraq? Too many to count. And how did "Supporting the troops" come to mean "Don't criticize the Bush administration"? It's beyond me.
Let's do better in 2005. Let's say goodbye to a year which brought us the image of "a man running around with his hair on fire" and a young American woman holding a cigarette and laughing at a naked prisoner. Let's bid adieu to concerns about Bill O'Reilly's "falafel"problem, John Kerry's wind-surfing troubles, and the Olsen twins. Let's say farewell to a year when Superman and the Gipper died and Rodney Dangerfield finally got some respect.
And let's hope that in 2005 Sean Hannity learns some humility (a stint serving in Iraq in that war he so loves might do it) and that Alan Colmes retires and is replaced by a progressive thinker with at least two cojones, preferably large ones. (Jon Stewart comes to mind. I'd pay to watch that show.)
And let us fervently pray that we never hear these names or phrases again: Omarosa, Jayson Blair, girly-men, death tax, William Hung, the richest 1 percent of Americans, Ron Artest, steroids, Hurricane Ivan, Britney, Ashley, Lindsay, or any other dimwit teenstar-of-the-moment. And, oh yeah, Madonna and every other celebrity who has decided they should write children's books: Just stop it. Now.
Enough about "oil for food." Ditto Bernard Kerik, you sleazebag. Speaking of sleazebags: Adios, R. Kelly.
Goodbye, Tom Ridge. Thanks for the color chart. Nice work. And see ya, John Ashcroft. Don't let the door smack your tight white ass on the way out. (We're uncovering that statue now.)
Whew. This is hard work. It's hard. Did I say it was hard work? Wait, let me finish. I've got a plan for that. Go to my Web site. (Needless to say, let's be eternally thankful there will be no presidential debates this year.)
I think that's about enough of a walk down memory lane for now. It goes without saying that we here at the Flyer eagerly anticipate the follies to come in 2005 and hope to be around to comment sarcastically upon them this time next year. We wish you all a happy and healthy new year and that you never have to hear another friend say those dreaded words: "Hey, you should check out my blog."
-- Bruce VanWyngarden
I'm writing this column later than usual on Tuesday morning, because I had more important things to do earlier — namely, filling out my March Madness brackets for the Flyer's office pool ...