Jayne: Hide the children; there's shocking news about Santa

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

Published:

 
photoGreg Jayne, Opinion page editor

Spoiler alert: Don't let your children read this column.

Oh, I'm sure they are eager to read an opinion piece on the Editorial page of the newspaper. Kids these days! But don't let them, lest they risk a devastating blow to their fragile innocence.

You see, we're going to talk about the most pressing issue of this holiday season: Santa's race. No, Santa's not entering his reindeer in the Iditarod or anything like that. Santa's race — as in whether Santa is white or black.

This, as those of us who sit at work all day with cable news on the TV can tell you, is a matter of national importance. It has been an unending time filler for the talking heads; it has launched a thousand commentaries; it has challenged all previous records for cable TV vapidness, which already was at an atmospheric level.

For this, we can thank Megyn Kelly of Fox News. Reacting to an item in which Slate blogger Aisha Harris suggested that fat-white-guy Santa should be replaced by a penguin or something more inclusive, Kelly held a panel discussion during which she said, "For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white." And, she added, "Santa is what he is. Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change."

As if all of this didn't carry enough metaphysical weight, Fox commentator Monica Crowley added: "First of all, the penguin would never work, Megyn, because a penguin cannot lug all of those gifts around the world." That, undoubtedly, will make Crowley a frontrunner for the Nobel Prize in physics.

For now, however, the brilliant minds at Fox will have to be content with a bit of a maelstrom. And that brings us to the reason for the spoiler alert. Are you ready? Did you send the kids into the other room? Good. Because, you see, Santa isn't real.

Sure, he's based upon Saint Nicholas, who lived during the third century in what is now Turkey and reputedly gave gifts to children. But as for a guy traveling around the world in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer … um, not so much.

Saint Nicholas was, indeed, white. Or probably as white as you would expect somebody born in that part of the world in the third century would be. Which brings us to the real thesis from Kelly's anthropological dissertation.

Not content to settle the question about Santa Claus' race, she added, "You know, I mean, Jesus was a white man, too." We know this is true because, well, centuries worth of paintings and stained glass depicting a blue-eyed Jesus can't be wrong, can they? Jesus, I would imagine, was exactly as light-skinned as you would expect a Jew living in the Middle East 2,000 years ago to be.

Jesus spoke English?

Which reminds of a story that long has made the rounds in newspaper circles. I don't know if it's true; it's probably apocryphal. But somebody at some point supposedly wrote a letter to the editor at some paper suggesting that English should be the official language of the United States. "I believe that if English was good enough for Jesus Christ," they wrote, "then it's good enough for me."

That's enough to make you think that Jesus must have been extremely frustrated being the only person who spoke English in Nazareth; it might have hampered the effectiveness of his preaching. But it also makes you think about the notion of icons and the role they play in our culture.

Jesus was a very real person, but still he means different things to different people. To some, he is the son of God; to others, he was a prophet if not a deity; to others, he was simply a man.

Santa Claus, on the other hand, is an entirely mythical figure and, believe it or not, mythical figures should mean different things to different people. He's neither white nor black; he transcends race. He resides in the heart and the soul as a personification of the Christmas spirit, and any argument that attempts to humanize him is pointless and absurd.

Santa could be blue or purple for all we know, and it really wouldn't make a bit of difference. Even if that fact spoils it for some people.