All I Want for Christmas is Apathy
Be not the Grinch this Christmas season. If we wish to get along peacefully, we must disregard our differences.
We’ve made it through Thanksgiving. Next stop, Christmas. And as we prepare for the last big family gathering of the year, it’s important to remember the often-neglected virtue of apathy.
At first glance, “apathy” doesn’t quite ring festive, particularly in contrast to the Fahoo Fores Dahoo Dores strain of holiday tunes about togetherness and love. However, if your family is like many American families—a mottled patchwork of cultural and ideological diversity—there is virtue in saying, “I love you so much to care not.”
This unconditional love, the kind we certainly ought to practice during the holidays, necessitates a quiet indifference about your loved one’s political ideas or beliefs. It means that regardless of whether your uncle’s Christmas-themed hat, replete with twinkling lights and ornaments, reads MAGA or MALARKY, you’ll love him either way—not in spite of his beliefs—but with no regard for them whatsoever.
The difficulty here is an obvious one. Call-outs, as they’re called, are today’s currency of social signaling. And so some may have profound difficulty ignoring such a hat. But such is the nature of unconditional love. And it is apathy that creates the conditions by which such affinity may flourish.
It is unfortunate, then, that Unity is the word of this Christmas season, belted again and again by projected-President-elect Joe Biden. But unity is not a far cry from uniformity. Unity requires compromise and concession—something or someone has to give. But where can the unity be between people who want to move on with this election and those who think it illegitimate and worth fighting?
So whereas unconditional love transcends any apparent political difference, unity—that is to say, a demand for political uniformity—makes love and affection a condition of political concession. Even in our most appallingly polarized time, that should be entirely unacceptable.
Besides, it’s a recipe for conflict. If no one is willing to budge (as I suspect the case this year), then all that’s left is to fight or separate from one another entirely. And then, like a child of divorce, we’ll have a red Christmas and a blue Christmas.
As much as we may like hearing the word, after this exhausting year, I don’t think it’s unity we really want this Christmas. It’s peace. And peaceful pluralism is a product of apathy. If we can’t agree on something, the best we can do is drop it.
Difference requires indifference.
To many, this fact may seem far too heartless for the holiday season. But we should remember, the opposite of apathy is often not empathy, but antipathy. It was antipathy that brought the Grinch into Whoville to ruin their Christmas. Were he motivated by apathy, he would’ve stayed up on Mount Crumpit.
The difference between this analogy and reality is no-one thinks they’re the Grinch. But the truth is that he who wears the MAGA hat is the Grinch to he who wears the MALARKY hat, and vice versa. And in contrast to the plot of what is obviously my favorite Christmas movie, there will be no great concessions given this year.
And so, if we wish to get along peacefully, we must disregard our differences. This fact is true of any kind of diverse pluralistic system, be it a family dinner, the American Republic, or Whoville. If we want to maintain some semblance of peace and (if we’re lucky) affinity for one another, we must reject any desire to change others into our own image. If we can first look past our differences, perhaps then we can love past them.
Here’s to apathy.
Shaun Cammack (@shaunjcammack) analyzes political narratives at NarrativesProject.com. He’s a recent MA graduate from the University of Chicago, and an associate contributor with Young Voices.