Slovaks Learn To Ballroom Dance Young

Vencek

December 7, 2016

Allan Stevo

On a whited-out December night in Bratislava, in an off-the-beaten-path part of town is a gathering of hundreds of parents and students celebrating what amounts to a dance-school graduation.

I walk through the doors of an old Dom Kultúry (click the link to learn more about a Dom Kultury) stopping first at an old coat check woman who’s worked two of these dances a year for time immemorial. This event is called a “Venček” and she knows them well. Leaving my coat and boots with her, I proceed deeper into the “Dom Kultúry,” beyond its heavy stone exterior, it’s heavy stone cloak room, its heavy stone foyer, past its heavy stone bathrooms. This building was built by the communists to be functional, not pretty.

Through a padded door, I begin to hear a tune that was likely most popular in this region 200 years ago, as ball room dancing grew in popularity, with nearby Vienna as the center of Europe, and the center of this popular trend of dancing not as a group, but face-to-face and intimately close. Along with much other criticism, this style of dancing was denounced as anti-social.

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Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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The Unofficial Poet Laureate Of Slovakia

Milan Rufus | Photo: old.nadaciatatrabanky.sk

Milan Rufus | Photo: old.nadaciatatrabanky.sk


The Unofficial Poet Laureate of Slovakia

December 6, 2016

Allan Stevo

Since the June release of In Poems, we have run a weekly post from the translation of the work of Milan Rufus. For the next month we will continue the focus on Rufus each Friday with excerpts from my translators notes of In Poems. Below, I explain why I call Milan Rufus the Unofficial Poet Laureate of Slovakia.
 

The importance of official recognition has much to do with the history of Slovakia over the second half of the last century. The nature by which Slovak culture developed through the Communist Era (1948-1989) created an official culture that was state recognized and supported. As one might be able to imagine, it was not hard to convince Czechoslovakia’s artistic community that more government recognition and more government funding for the arts was just. Shortsighted artists everywhere seem to always be clamoring for such programs.

As the aphorism says, “He who has the gold makes the rules.” Once it was established that the state should support artists, the process of influencing art easily followed. It can be surprisingly easy to influence an artist once an artist is convinced that all funding for artists should come from the state.

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Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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The Post-Election Progressive Protests Were A Sad Distraction In America – Here’s Why

Photo: Ted S. Warren

Photo: Ted S. Warren


Electoral College Protests

December 2, 2016

Allan Stevo

This piece first appeared on November 17, 2016 in The Buffalo News as “Another Voice: Public protests hurt the progressive movement”

As everyone turns to the “Not My President” protests, an important window of opportunity is closing.

Donald Trump came along as an independent candidate and smashed the two-party system. Sure, he hijacked one of the two major parties to do it, so he seems “Republican,” but the guy is a lot like a Bill Clinton Democrat circa 1996.

Something special happened, though, during these last 17 months of Trump. He smashed the dominance of both of the parties’ establishments and he smashed the established media’s dominance. There is a giant power vacuum waiting to be occupied across the political spectrum.

Trump is moving on to other things. No more campaigning for him. He’s got administrative responsibilities in Washington to worry about now.

As people protest the Trump presidency, time and energy is being wasted by the left. I might even wonder if it’s being intentionally redirected in order to distract from the important issues at hand.

Large funders of the Democratic Party use the party to do their bidding. One such funder, George Soros, met with his group, Democracy Alliance, in Washington for a three-day conference, working through strategy and making funding promises.

These same people are funding the organizations that provide leadership for at least some of the current protests happening and are in some cases also funding a portion of the protesters present. Using some paid protesters helps to “seed” a group of people and to ensure a robust protest. It’s a common and effective technique that helps attract passionate party activists to a protest.

Those passionate party activists are on the streets – doing nothing of consequence, but tiring themselves out. They are releasing lots of pent-up energy, which is a good thing, but that energy can be better directed. While the activists are kept busy on the streets, screaming about something that’s never going to change, the party insiders are busy scrambling to pick up the pieces of the post-Hillary Clinton Democratic Party and shore up their power.

A tremendous blow has been dealt to the Democratic Party establishment. Trump’s victory has opened up an amazing window of opportunity – a power vacuum in both of the parties. Those who truly desire to see change are focusing on that power vacuum and how to fill it. Those insiders who desire to maintain control of their broken party are meanwhile distracting their most passionate supporters with street protests about trifling matters.

Two years from now, four years from now, maybe six years from now, America has a chance to see two revitalized national parties, rebuilt from the ground up.

With the current protests, I am almost certain that only one of those parties will go through the hard work of a rebuild. The progressives are busy yelling, while the neo-liberals are laying out plans for three more decades of Democratic Party control.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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Make One Of These Treats With A Loved One This Weekend


Christmas Market

December 1, 2016

Allan Stevo

In mid-November, the usual vendors are cleared out of the Main Square in Bratislava and carpenters spend a few days preparing it for its new seasonal look. They carefully lay out wooden foundations. Slowly over the next few days these foundations take shape and become the 100+ booths that will cover the Main Square and two adjacent squares for the next month. From these small booths, the citizens of Bratislava and all their visitors will buy the tastes of the season, the delicacies that characterize Central Europe at this time of year.

Vianočné trhy (or “Christmas markets”) the Slovaks call it, Christkindlmarkt say the Viennese, Karácsonyi vásár say the Hungarians of Budapest, and Vánoční trhy say the Czechs – words for the same thing – a big square filled with vendors selling delicacies of the season.

In Slovakia a Christmas market looks a little different than in the places mentioned above, but just like any other situation in Central Europe, traditions, foods, and happenings are not dependent on which side of a border you’re standing on. With little tweaks, you can’t be entirely sure whose city’s Christmas market you are in, only that you’re in Central Europe.

In Bratislava, the fact that it’s advent means that for the next three and a half weeks, text messages will pop up on your phone from friends you haven’t spoken to in months saying “let’s go for a varene vino at the Christmas Market tonight – 6ish?” And you’ll be excited to receive this message, because you were just wondering to yourself “should I stop by the Christmas Market at 6 or at 8 tonight?”

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Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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The Electoral College Can Be Stolen, But It Won’t

Electoral College

November 30, 2016

Allan Stevo

This piece first appeared at LewRockwell.com.

If there’s ever a year that the centuries old Electoral College might crumble, it’s this one. America had two candidates running for President with incredibly high unfavorable ratings, the official campaigns, and their surrogates were emotionally manipulative and negative in their campaigning, and we exist in a society that has forgotten how to win or lose – for participation ribbons go to everyone. This is a fine recipe for taking down a cherished institution that is so based on trust that it has long been considered a rubber-stamp, as certain of outcome and as devoid of human input or error as if it were a machine.

That would be it if Hillary Clinton had won, but Donald Trump won – the outsider who made it his daily hobby to poke at virtually every powerful establishment institution on the globe – from the State Department to the European Union to the Soros family. It would be foolish for the established interests in American society and the world to feel at ease in Trumpland.

No one, including Trump, knows what may come next. As such, the establishment interests have continued their fight, going so far as to undermine what has been deemed a legitimate election by both sides. The last few nights in New York City protests were held that specifically referenced December 19 as the true Election Day. That’s the day by which electors are supposed to meet in the state capitals and cast their rubber stamp votes for President and Vice President, ultimately upholding the popular vote that took place in that state on Election Day.

We have ALWAYS been able to trust these electors – except for 157 of them over the course of US History. We know nothing would go wrong because some states have BIG fines – like $1,000 for not casting a vote accurately. There’s no way the electors would EVER betray the popular votes of their states – because they are generally establishment Democratic Party and Republican Party hacks who would not want to ruin their political futures by going against their party’s nominee.

All this tells me how easy it is to upend the Electoral College this year. After 18 months of Trump being treated like garbage by the establishment of the Republican Party, you mean to tell me there aren’t a few dozen “Never Trump” electors who would step up and unite against Trump? You better damn well believe there are.

They don’t need to choose Hillary either. If neither candidate receives more than 269 Electoral College votes, then the decision goes to the US House of Representatives in early January to choose a President. Rather than the current President Elect, certainly a more amenable candidate to the establishment, a less oppositional candidate to the establishment, who everyone in the establishment can get more comfortable with would be chosen. We would all be told it is for the best.

All of that can happen, and the stage is being set for that to happen. There have been so many passive moments throughout US history where the populace was pushed around, and this can easily be another one of them. There can be a big Kumbayah-style coming together, a bipartisan cleansing of Trump and his ilk from DC, and it wouldn’t be that hard to do under the rules laid out in the US Constitution and in the laws of the various states. Trump’s victory hangs by a string and anyone with a shred of insight on the deceitfulness present where politics and power converge should be well aware of that precarious situation.

Except, that’s not going to happen.

Anti-establishment protestors are curiously in the streets doing the bidding of the establishment. A colleague of mine watched those anti-establishment protestors get “bussed in” the other evening. The protests I’ve attended in New York City are coordinated and the well-organized leadership of the protests are almost certainly funded. A little bit of a ruckus has been raised by those protestors and some media attention has been garnered.

Some comment that Republicans don’t protest, which isn’t true. Their protests are just far lamer than the protests from the left, which tend to have so much boisterous energy and rhythm, so much so that on the left it feels like it could erupt at any moment in frenzied passion. The protests on the left are far more enjoyable affairs, for they often resemble a party.

A friend of mine who is a long-time pro-gun activist wrote the other day as he left Portland, a reminder to those in Portland and across the country.

“Understand that if you turn violent or start destroying property that A) The left is mostly anti-gun. B) The right is mostly pro-gun. C) Act like an idiot, you might get shot by another idiot. Stay safe, friends.”

That points to an important distinction between the far more enjoyable and generally effete civil disobedience on the left, and what civil disobedience ultimately means in the American tradition on the present-day right.

If the Electoral College does not support Trump on December 19, it will not just have been something that dishonors an elector’s name, or makes one’s reputation “not so great” for a while in the party until the elector is redeemed. It won’t be a loss of money as a Secretary of State fines an elector for insubordination.

It will be on an entirely different level than that. It will be a betrayal of public trust in that system of rubber stamp electors.

You see the electors are public servants as they vote. As such, they have a special place in the American milieu. They are given considerable responsibility and in exchange have to live up to a different standard in the execution of their public duties. This isn’t just private life that they’ve signed up for. This is public life. The distinction between the two has become increasingly blurred in recent years, but a distinction nonetheless remains. In private life, one may mostly do as one wishes. In public life, there are some limits to what one can get away with. A public servant in America will not successfully betray such a trusted confidence as the Electoral College, and get away with it.

Maybe one or two electors defect and no one bats an eye.

If more defected, enough to change the outcome of the election, a protest from the right would almost certainly take place. It wouldn’t be about crying on YouTube or knocking over garbage cans. It wouldn’t be about property destruction, melees with police, or Molotov cocktails. It wouldn’t be about pithy slogans, rhythmic drums, or empty threats loosely thrown around.

No. Nothing like that. No one will see the protest coming from the right when the right stands up. The faithless electors in that situation won’t survive through Christmas. That’s how protests on the right really look. These are people who are well-armed, well-trained and don’t need to cause a big scene to feel good about themselves. A protest on the right would be one where a faithless elector is reminded who he serves when he steps into public office, and in which case all other electors realize the importance of upholding the public trust. “Then we’ll make it a secret ballot,” you say. Well, hiding behind secret ballots will only incriminate an even greater number of electors. No elector should want to bind himself in the union to a faithless elector through a secret ballot.

I’m not one to do such a thing, but I wholeheartedly believe that exactly that would happen, and in all likelihood no one would ever know who killed those few dozen faithless electors.

These are people who read revolutionary war books for fun, who rattle off slogans like “come and get it” or “the soap box, the ballot box, or the bullet box” and these are people who pray that in their lifetime they will never have to shoot a man, but know that if it comes to it, that they are armed, well-trained, and prepared to do exactly that.

Any public servant who thinks they will cross a person like that and live long, does not know his own country well. I most certainly know the primary reason for the 2nd Amendment is for a threat like that to be ever-present.

Hearing the protestors gathering this week and talking about swaying the Electoral College worried me a little, because of the obvious crisis that would result. That’s an obvious technique that could be used to prevent a President from taking office and to chip away at the Constitution. Then the reality of the situation occurred to me: no elector is stupid enough. No elector is stupid enough to trade his life in order to participate in an organized attempt to disregard the will of his state’s voters. No elector is stupid enough to create the crisis required to try preventing the President Elect from taking office.

I slept well last night because I knew the Electoral College would uphold the votes of the states. If it didn’t, a crisis would ensue and men and women who cast their votes unfaithfully would not see another Christmas with their families.

This is the reality of life in a free society. Those who severely betray public trust are guaranteed to be punished and made an example of. Where the government does not do its job of keeping public servants honest, vigilantes step in. The political right is full of people who have trained all their lives for a moment like that, for a moment where public trust is severely, publicly, and pointedly betrayed.

The electoral college can be stolen, quite easily in fact, but it won’t.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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Mailbag – What’s Your Opinion Of Trump ?

image1
Trump

November 30, 2016

Allan Stevo

Allan,

What’s your opinion of Mr Trump?

Kim

Kim,

Thanks for writing.

Donald Trump was not my first choice, but he’s now the president elect of the US. As a free thinking person, I expect that I will find myself showing support at times and opposition at times.

Trump is an outsider who took over one of the two parties to make it into the Oval Office. This is a huge coup of the American political system that he pulled off – for an independent to become a US president in the entrenched partisan political system. I love some of his policies. I love how aware he is of the corruption in DC. I love that he pulls us back from the stupid brinksmanship with Russia. I’ve marked my calendar for April 29, 2017, the day that he reaches his 100th day of office. He’s promised a great deal in those first hundred days. I really don’t know what will come of his presidency.

I spend a great deal of time analyzing language and would like to turn my attention there a bit. If I were to categorize some of the notable ways Trump speaks, “chunking up” would be the top characteristic. Chunking up is the opposite of chunking down. Chunking up means taking a step back and handling broad ideas. Chunking down means zooming in the microscope and handling small details. One is tending toward the general, the other is tending toward specifics.

People have speaking habits that allow one to gather information about their internal thought process. Trump is a very big-picture speaker and usually that translates to being a big-picture thinker. Generally someone like that is terrible at handling minutia and excellent at broad strokes. That makes sense and if you pick apart details of Trump, you find something unpleasant. If you stay big-picture he is more palatable. I understand some of the benefits of being like that and some of the limitations. There’s no perfection when it comes to humans, and no ideal state. Trump chunks up quite a bit and to a very high level and it says a lot about him. I’m certainly going to let the man take office before I start to demonize him or praise him and I’m going to try my best to give him at least 100 days before I start analyzing his policy moves.

It is no surprise that the candidate who chunked up was abhorred by the self-proclaimed intellectual elite in America. So much of their training focuses on chunking down, often to the detriment of all else.

Especially in academia, but also in the many areas tangential to academia, the extreme intellectualism to which Americans are currently forced into demands that a person dig deep, in a focused way, and intentionally pigeonhole their own mind and thought process. It is referred to as specialization but it goes far beyond mere specialization and the incentives strongly discourage inter-disciplinary studies. The system of specialization is so antithetical to inter-disciplinary studies that there actually is something called inter-disciplinary studies that mimics the timeless virtues of unbounded creativity and curiosity that has long been the ultimate hallmark of a thinking person.

At the same time, it is no surprise that the candidate who chunked up appealed to intelligent people who were removed from academia. It takes quite a bit of practice to be comfortable with big picture ideas and vast upheaval and change.

This points to an intellectual divide in America between those who are heavily academically trained and those whose intellectual training comes from elsewhere.

Nassim Taleb illustrates this divide by calling the former “IYI,” or “Intellectual Yet Idiot.” While that is a clever marketing ploy, I’m not sure this moniker is that accurate of a description. It is reactionary, which might be expected coming from Taleb, a man who has spent so much time on the intellectual fringes while being more effective at wealth creation that almost certainly 99% of the many professors and writers on the topic. Being the vastly superior person who is constantly badmouthed by the establishment and academics could obviously leave a reactionary chip on Taleb’s shoulder. No one is good or bad or stupid or smart in the situation of chunking up or chunking down. It is simply a difference of perspective and not something that should require vilifying others. For me the ideal is to be as comfortable chunking up as in chunking down and to be able to control those tendencies.

If Trump actually does some of the things he says he will do, I expect him to have a very hard job ahead. I have watched with joy as he has dismantled the America political order and has laid waste to the mainstream media’s virtual monopoly over the content of America’s national political discussions.

Less centralization of thought is always better and makes a society more anti-fragile, diverse, and effective at thinking through concerns.

What do I think of Trump? He ran a strong winning campaign against tough odds and while breaking many rules that political consultants like myself insist their candidate follow, he has already altered the American political landscape for the better, and now he is going to have a chance to govern. He may turn out to be terrible, mediocre, or excellent as a president. As a candidate he passed the most important test – he won. As a president he has not even taken office so I have no data on which to base any judgment of him, so I just have to wait and see.

Thanks for writing Kim.

If you’d like to submit a question for the mailbag section of 52 Weeks in Slovakia, simply write 52WeeksInSlovakia@gmail.com

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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“The Little Great Ones” / “Malí velikáni” by Milan Rufus

Children | Photo: chaobuoisang.net

Children | Photo: chaobuoisang.net


 

Rufus – The Little Great Ones

November 29, 2016

Allan Stevo

Each Friday, another poem appears on 52 Weeks in Slovakia from Slovak Nobel Prize nominee Milan Rufus (1928-2009). These poems come from a translation excerpted from his final book Ako stopy v snehu (Like Footprints in the Snow) and appear in the book In Poems released in June 2015, written by Rufus, translated by me, and published by our team at 52 Weeks in Slovakia.

After last week’s poem, which happened to fall on September 11, “Mrs. Jorgenson, Stevie Miller Kissed a Froooooog”, we move into a topic a bit more sinister: the image of innocent children behaving like adults. Almost a mini-Lord of the Flies, it begs the question “What would children grow up to be like if they did as we did instead of paying attention to what we say?” It raises fascinating questions like “Do children have agency?” “Are adults entirely to blame for how a child acts?” “If the child acts a certain way and adults are to blame, then how hard is it to be mindful of that and reform?” “Is it good to live ones life as if a child is always watching and taking notes on how to live his own life?” In this simple poem, I find a damning condemnation of society.

Without any further ado I present to you “The Little Great Ones” by the writer who more than any other at the time of his death was deserving of the title “the unofficial poet laureate of Slovakia” – Milan Rufus.

 

The Little Great Ones

Once there was a cemetery here.

Its nostalgic fame forgotten
already for centuries.
And the depressions left by the graves
testify that even a hill
can be curly.

Hidden by Mother Nature
in her combinations of mountain moss
and slender blades of meadow grass.

At the top of this hill,
unknown,
from where she could have gotten them,
as if to make a point,
she built two cliffs.

Into one of the two,
we, the little great ones
(a few years after we’d left nursery school)
into one of the cliffs, at that time, we had
installed a memorial document alleging to
be “from the cultural society.”

We sang an anthem there.
To which a pretty folk song lent her tune.
That little group of little greats
stood next to her at attention.

Mind your kids
you biguns.
They are gathering your pollen
those little bees from God.
They will seal it into their little bodies.
They imitate you.
They are the most exact living
little mirrors of you.

Their shape is from your anvils.
They live from your bread.
One day they will be exactly like you.
So be humane to each other.

 

*  *  *

 

Malí velikáni

Kedysi bol tu cintorín.

No storočia už zabudli
čas jeho clivej slávy.
A priehlbinky po hroboch
svedčia len o tom, že aj kopec
môže byť kučeravý.

Mať príroda to zakryla
kombináciou machu z hôr
a štíhlej lúčnej trávy.

Na vrchol toho kopčeka
– nevedno, kde ich vzala –
akoby jeho pointu
postavila dve bralá.

Do jedného z nich
my, velikáni malí
(pár rokov, čo sme opustili škôlku),
do jedného z tých brál sme vtedy zamúrali
Pamätnú listinu vraj Kultúrneho spolku.

Aj hymna pri tom zaznela.
Sobotienka ide jej nápev požičala.
Tá hŕstka malých velikánov
v pozore pri nej stála.

Dajte si pozor na deti,
vy veľkí.
To zbierajú váš peľ
tie drobné Božie včielky.
Zaviečkujú si ho do zvedavého tielka.
Napodobňujú vás.
Sú to o vás tie najpresnejšie
žijúce zrkadielka.

Ich tvar je z vašej nákovy.
Žijú na vašom chlebe.

Raz budú také ako vy.
Tak buďte ľudskí k sebe.
 

Old Military Cemetery | Photo: Hans, pixabay.com

Old Military Cemetery | Photo: Hans, pixabay.com



 
Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

Milan Rufus (December 10, 1928 – January 11, 2009) was the unofficial poet laureate of Slovakia. This Nobel Prize nominee has the uncommon distinction of being a poet who has regularly outsold trade paper and mass market fiction. A collection of Rufus’s poems translated by Stevo entitled “In Poems” is now available. 

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I Always Respond Merry Christmas, 7 Reasons Why You Should Too

Photo: skyhdwallpaper.com

Photo: skyhdwallpaper.com


Merry Christmas

November 28, 2016

Allan Stevo

Living in a very specific American big city (New York) in a very specific industry (commercial real estate), a good percentage of the people I encounter in my day to day are not celebrants of Christmas. I understand the necessity of the phrase “happy holidays” in that situation for some people who want to say something nice but are too awkward to otherwise covey a message of religion without insulting.

I understand how uncomfortable discussions on religion can be if you make them that way. Everything can be at ease even on the complicated topic of religion if you allow them to be at ease. Sometimes I initiate “Happy Chanukah” to someone I know to be a practicing Jew. Sometimes I say happy holidays. Sometimes I say nothing in initiation – it’s easier to say nothing sometimes than to risk offending someone who walks through life looking for reasons to be offended.

Most of the people I encounter in my day to day are either a Christian celebrant of Christmas or a celebrant of secular Christmas. (1) As much as the two concepts may offend a member of the religious right, Secular Thanksgiving and Secular Christmas are realities in America, and healthy expressions of a culture that welcomes assimilation and the sincretic blending and shifting of a culture.(2)

If I am in Slovakia or virtually anywhere else in the U.S. or virtually anywhere else in the west Merry Christmas or its local equivalent gets the job done just fine.

In an effort to not offend, we in America have watered down culture to the extent that there’s hesitation in saying Merry Christmas. I understand the complex situation corporations are in. They seek to provide for a customer and to give them as little friction in the buying process as possible. Workers are therefore carefully trained to say “happy holidays.”

If at work one must be an automaton, it certainly does not mean at home one must be an automaton, nor does it mean one must be an automaton through ones life. (3) There is always risk of automaton creep though in which an automaton style job and its automaton style thinking creeps into other aspects of your own life or the lives of others.

If you celebrate secular Christmas, but more importantly if you identify as Christian, I encourage you to always respond “Merry Christmas” as much as you can. The religious views of Christ helped shape the successful experiment of the West over the past two millennia or so. The man was a thinker who has had untold positive effects on the world. There is no shame in celebrating the man’s birth when you live in western culture. (4) I’d go so far as to wonder if anyone who doesn’t pay respect to that prophet as at least a great thinker and leader of men has a little something wrong with them, but that is a discussion I leave for jovial moments, perhaps over a beer with a soon to be friend rather than as a piece of demagoguery – which is a direction this piece could easily go.

I’m lucky to have been raised in a mainline Christian denomination. The values that upbringing has provided me are perfect for success in the modern world and to foster in me a healthy sense of individualism as someone living in the west. Instead of rejecting them at some difficult crisis moment between childhood and now, I am proud to have taken the time and energy to have nurtured those values in myself, (5) often through hard periods with lots of questioning and struggling. I live in a country where maintaining those mainline Christian values through life is true for the vast majority of people.

I have many more positive things to say about Christianity, but just this small part is enough for me to understand and keep in mind each time I respond Merry Christmas. I hope you too can think over what the celebration of Christmas means to you, whether that be secular or religious, and to make yourself a vow to always respond Merry Christmas from this point forward.

While life as an automaton is easy, it’s nice to give a little cultural reinforcement to the ideas you believe in and to challenge the automatons a little by telling them something they don’t expect to hear (6) – Merry Christmas – and making them and their programmers a little more comfortable with the statement of shared cultural value that is at the heart of American culture and the West. (7)

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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