“Elaine: I sent this card to hundreds of people! My parents. My boss. Uh, Nana and Papa.
Jerry: Didn't you look at the picture?”
— From the “Seinfeld” episode “The Pick,” broadcast Dec. 16, 1992
On any given Saturday afternoon, you just might find my husband and me leaning against a wall in a store on Duckworth Street, weak with laughter from reading the politically incorrect greeting cards.
We’re not easily offended.
One of the Christmas cards we sent this year features the scene of Jesus’ birth with a wise man proclaiming, “It’s a girl!”
Another shows a nativity scene where those gathered around the manger use a variation of “The Banana Song” to send up Jesus’ name:
Jesus, Jesus, Bo-Besus
That may not be to everyone’s taste.
As for me? This may sound presumptuous, but I happen to think the Son of God has more important things to contend with than a little harmless silliness.
And I’m not alone. There are scads of websites dedicated to tasteless, tacky, racy and politically incorrect Christmas cards. One I found showed a black-and-white photo of hunters posing with dead reindeer with the headline: “Rudolph slain, Christmas cancelled!”
OK, so I didn’t laugh at that one.
The point is, different people have different sensibilities.
One woman’s joke is another’s tasteless gaffe.
Don’t send me the reindeer card and I won’t send you “Bo-Besus.”
The trick is choosing the right card for the right recipient.
It got noticed
Which brings us to the myriad of reactions Danny Williams’ 2010 Christmas card is getting. If you haven’t seen it yet, it features a smiling Williams in the lobby of Confederation Building with the words “Lest we forget” on the wall behind him.
Now, the problem with unleashing a carpet-bomb of Christmas cards is that your card will strike the right note with some folks, while others won’t appreciate it.
This is where choosing the right card comes in.
In the case of Williams — an astute former politician — it should’ve been obvious to him or someone on his staff that controversial Christmas cards and public office just don’t mix. Anyone who advised him that this card was a great idea was not thinking clearly at that particular moment.
You don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to realize that using a phrase that has gained sanctity as a motto for Remembrance Day, and at other times when soldiers’ sacrifices are called to mind, is probably not a wise choice as a backdrop for anything except perhaps laying a wreath or observing a moment of silence at a cenotaph.
It may not offend everyone, but it will certainly offend someone.
And, sure enough, opinion about the card was lighting up media websites as soon as it surfaced.
Comments ranged from “What’s the big deal? … Leave Danny alone,” to “Narcissistic, vain, self-centred” to “this affront to Legionnaires everywhere is just another example of Danny's bloated ego as he begs us to remember him” to “Totally inappropriate,” to the kind of thunderous outrage felt by those who think the card cheapens the real sacrifices made by soldiers and veterans. (See Bob Wakeham’s column from The Weekend Telegram for Dec. 11).
Wherever you stand, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the card has overshadowed both Danny’s departure and Kathy Dunderdale’s debut as the province’s first female premier.
Surely that’s not the kind of reaction Williams was going for.
Which is what makes the ill-chosen Christmas card so puzzling.
If Danny Williams was hell-bent on “leaving them on a high note,” as my old friend George Costanza liked to say, then why tarnish your sterling legacy with a dubious parting gift?
I can’t believe that Williams was thumbing his nose at fallen soldiers, but I am at a loss as to how to explain the poor choice of backdrop for his card.
One thing’s for certain: the former premier is smart enough to realize that this card has gone over like a lead balloon, and you can’t blame some people for seeing it as anything but: a) thoughtless, b) insulting, c) disrespectful, d) tacky, or e) incredibly pompous.
I’m going with a), even though it seems out of character, but none of them are great choices.
The former premier may not be a public official any longer, but he was when those cards were created and distributed.
I can understand him wanting to be remembered, but surely not for this.
Even former premiers should exercise damage control now and then.
Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s story editor. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.