There is much to criticize about the International Olympic Committee and the global party it throws every two years: the domination of industrialized nations, corporate greed and flagrant bouts of political fence-sitting, whether with Nazi policies in Germany in the 1930s or the recent homophobic legislation in Russia. However, the IOC has not just paid lip service to the ancient idea of an Olympic truce.
If you know about only one event in American Indian history, it’s probably Custer’s Last Stand at the Little Bighorn in 1876. Lakota and Cheyenne Indians repelled Custer’s surprise attack, killing more than 250 American soldiers. If you know any other event, it’s probably the massacre at Wounded Knee in late December 1890.
Jahi McMath is dead. Or, Jahi McMath is alive. Each statement is true—depending upon the person you ask. Thirteen-year-old Jahi had complications after surgery in Oakland, California. Doctors later pronounced her brain dead; there was no brain activity. Yet to her family, she remains alive.
Little did tennis star Andre Agassi know that he was speaking prophetically when he declared in 1990s Canon camera commercials that “image is everything.” The truth of his marketing statement seems everywhere today. Pope Francis was not only Time’s “person of the year.” He was also Esquire’s “best dressed man of 2013.” The new pope is what he says, does and wears.
In Chicago Christmas begins in November, with the revealing of Marshall Field’s (now Macy’s) Christmas windows and the hanging of golden trumpets on the façade of the grand old department store. Inside, for more than 100 years the Walnut Room restaurant has glistened in its holiday glory with its centerpiece: a stunning Christmas tree. On the fifth floor, Santa awaits his eager fans in Santaland. The store buzzes with shoppers in a crush of shopping bags from Macy’s and other stores up and down the historic State Street shopping district.
Tis the season of Jesus, Santa and Pope Francis. It’s too early to place Francis in the pantheon of church reformers alongside Gregory VII or Adrian VI—or even next to John XXIII, who memorably announced the Second Vatican Council by saying that it was time to “open the windows and let some fresh air in.” But the early returns on the first Latin American pontiff suggest that his will be anything but a caretaker papacy.
I am a historian of the prosperity gospel. My dad is a historian of Christmas. Yes, the apple basically fell straight down beside the tree. About this time every year we have something fun to argue about: has Christmas become just another reflection of the North American cult of consumerism?