November 28, 2017
Good Tidings from a president who wrestles badly with morality
As the Donald Trump era bumps and grinds toward its first Christmas and New Year’s, the season of giving has degenerated into the season of groping. For all intents and purposes, Trump – an alleged, as well as self-described, sexual predator – just endorsed Judge Roy Moore, an alleged child molester, in the Alabama special election for the US Senate. No one should be surprised. On Fox & Friends, that great and grand Irish-American Kelly Ann Conway telegraphed the early Yuletide gift coming from her boss to the embattled Moore. “I’m telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through,” she asserted. “And if the media were really concerned about all these allegations [against Moore] and that’s what this was truly about … Al Franken would be on the ash heap of bygone, half-funny comedians. He wouldn’t be here on Capitol Hill.”
First and foremost, sexual harassment is, or should always be, apolitical and nonpartisan. Whether it’s Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., or any member of the Senate, the House, or legislative body or workplace in the nation, sexual harassment and worse should be eradicated. It should matter not one whit whether one’s name is followed by a “D” or an “R.” Unfortunately, Trump has no more standing than did Bill Clinton. So what are we to make of a president and his allies who urge voters to ignore a credible accusation that Moore sexually assaulted a 14-year-old? Thanks to Trump and Conway and their ilk, we have an answer: It’s better to support an alleged Republican child molester than a Democrat. In this case that means Roy Moore, an attorney who is said to have lured teenage Alabama girls to go out on “dates” with him when he was in his early 30s, against Doug Jones, who successfully prosecuted Klansmen who killed four young girls in a church bombing.
Speaking for Trump a week or so earlier than her Fox & Friends appearance, Conway pontificated about the Moore story: “Whatever the facts end up being, the premises, of course, the principle, the incontrovertible principle, is that there is no Senate seat worth more than a child. And we all want to put that forward.
In his defense of the British soldiers on trial for the infamous Boston Massacre (1770), John Adams argued, “Facts are stubborn things.” Even though those words appeared long before he used them with telling effect, they remain stubborn. The fact is that the current president believes that an accused child molester “trumps” a Democrat.
Again, when it comes to sexual predators, all that should matter is the letter “S.” That, not “D” or “R,” should be the scarlet letter label for both parties. Given his own accuser coterie, Trump would have been well advised simply to say nothing about Moore. Of course, he seems to have no control over what comes out of his mouth or his Twitter feed. That’s not partisan; it’s simply fact. As the saying goes, those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. That message has not reached the white house on Pennsylvania Avenue.
“Bah, Humbug” – Christmas
for the early Boston Irish
From 1800 to 1850, Irish immigrants could scarcely have picked a worse place than Boston to celebrate Christmas. The Puritans had loathed “Popish” Yuletide rituals so much that, in 1659, the Massachusetts General Court enacted laws against honoring the day. Anyone caught toasting the occasion suffered a five-shilling fine. Above all, for the Mathers and other Puritan luminaries, Christmas celebrations symbolized “Papists” and their church. So entrenched did Bostonians’ antipathy toward Catholicism become that the city’s public schools were open on Christmas Day until 1870.
In such a climate, Boston’s Irish celebrated the holiday in muted fashion until their political clout swelled in the late 1800s. On the “old sod,” the holiday had largely revolved around Mass and family, not the raucous celebrations of any feverish Puritan and Yankee imaginations, so the early Irish of Boston noted the holiday simply, with many families keeping children home from schools later in the century.
Christmas Masses were held in the opening decades of the 19th century at St. Augustine’s in South Boston, and later at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End, under the watch of suspicious local Yankees. As German Catholic immigrants arrived and began attending the local “Irish churches,” the newcomers introduced their hosts to Christmas trees and greeting cards as a thaw in the region’s traditional, Puritan-steeped antipathy to the holy day was slowly emerging.
By the 1880s, Boston’s Irish were a genuine community, slowly amassing clout at the ballot box and bucking Yankee strangleholds on business and the courts. As the 19th century drew to a close, Boston’s Irish could celebrate Christmas as openly as they wanted, with family parties and dinners, church socials and midnight Mass in the process turning the Yuletide season into a genuine holiday.
As the historian Thomas H. O’Connor writes in “Boston Catholics,” they “participated in a perpetual calendar of familiar religious devotions that…bound them more firmly together as members of their own distinctive parishes.
“During the period of Advent in late November and early December, for example, persons of all ages prepared for the coming of the Christmas season by attending daily Mass. They then enjoyed the celebration of midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, often followed by festive and early morning breakfasts with friends and relatives.”
Those scenes would have been unthinkable for Boston’s earliest Irish immigrants. But through religion, reflection, and revelry, their children and grandchildren finally came to celebrate Christmas in the city in “grand fashion.”