Reporting live on the War on Christmas, we bring you news of what appears to be a holly-jolly instance of friendly fire, sorta.
Now, those of us who
shun the idea of sectarian strangleholds on human-rights, education, and science policy assuredly want nothing more than to dash about incinerating every church, Bible and crucifix in existence are a little perturbed at some of the aspects of how the war is being fought. Specifically, it seems that we aren’t actually playing a recognizable participatory role.
You may have heard about the fiasco at Seattle-Tacoma Airport, where a rabbi who has not yet disclosed what rock he’s been living under for the past few years became genuinely surprised when his request to display an eight-foot-tall menorah alongside some Christmas trees (come on, admit it, I know most of y’all’ve bought, transported, and even decorated a few) resulted in a massive scramble on the part of the Port of Seattle braines trust to get rid of the trees posthaste.
The rabbi can perhaps be excused for not foreseeing the magnitude of the anaphylactic shock that shook the airport in the wake of his motion; his intent was to have something positive and symbolic added to the public admixture of cheer and glitz, not for everyone’s holiday toys to be picked up and carted away. But he had to have an inkling of what might happen when his representatives uncorked in increasingly potent allergen of the season: the threat (possibly indirect, but real) of a First Amendment lawsuit.
Well, as the article notes, the trees are back up at Sea-Tac. (I wonder what the maintenance workers there are thinking about various religious holidays right about now.) The rabbi is pleased not to have ultimately grinchified the place, but he still hopes the airport will put up a menorah before the advent of Hannukah on Friday evening. Meanwhile, the local ADL reports that a dozen or more Jewish organizations and leaders have received hate mail, although in all fairness to the nutballs of society, they — ever consistent and reliable — doggedly maintain the flow of anti-Semitic correspondence throughout the rest of the year as well.
Jesus Pickled Christ in a jar of borscht! Don’t you people realize this is our war? This is looking more and more like religion A versus religion B versus religion C versus the lawyers, not the faithless against the holy. God Himself (in all of Its guises) seems silent on the matter as always, preferring to watch His children scamper around in funny hats, groggy on ‘nog and waggling fingers, legal documents and worse.
Post-Intelligencer columnist Robert Jamieson has a nice editorial about the mess. I heard the same basic sentiment last night in, of all places, Wal-Mart, where a gentleman holding forth for the benefit of his wife remarked: “All these people are yellin’ about each other’s symbols and that, but you know what? It’s all the same f*ckin’ holiday. Why can’t they just agree?” (If that’s not an exact quote, it’s close, because I wanted to recall it precisely for the purpose of quoting this cut-to-the-chase fellow.)
Jamieson makes a meaningful distinction between a tree and a nativity display. He has a point, but that’s for the lawyers to work out. I personally don’t care who puts up what in public. One of the most joyful sights to a kid, including me at one time, has to be a newly decorated Christmas tree (or other designated party-down element) in his or her house, even if this is chiefly because of school vacation and an incipient windfall of gift-swag.
Had I discovered a nativity scene on my lawn as a youngster, I wouldn’t have known what it was. In fact, I might have cleared away a patch of frozen ground, arranged the figures into compromising sexual positons, and set the whole thing on fire along with my sister’s Dressy Bessy doll, all owing not to irreverence but to basic pranksterism. One year I asked for a Stretch Armstrong doll because I had to know what was inside it that made it so pliable. I waited for a couple of months, and when I finally had my hands on it I cut it open to find it filled with red, tasteless, odorless goo. I was pleased, but not everyone around me was. Stretch himself was irreparably harmed, but in the name of science.
Well, the holidays don’t mean so much to me anymore, but this is a natural and perfectly acceptable transition. Nothing resonates for us adults with the kind of giddiness reserved for the younger set, but the holiday season is still an excuse to exchange some presents, visit with people I don’t see much, and let some others know I’m there. Surprises are far more pleasant than not.
If I have a point, it’s that I don’t get offended by anyone’s crosses or religious symbols and really wish it wasn’t necessary to release the legal beagles every time someone isn’t getting equal time and space. But it is, thanks to the greater problem of sectarian faith itself. The trogs at pits like Stop the ACLU lay the blame for the War on Christmas squarely at the feet of atheists, but as usual they’re just singing the same song anyone from a given religion can sing as long as other religions exist. Atheists, I’m sorry to say, simply do not give a shit. If quiet symbols suddenly were to constitute the entirety of religion’s threat to the godless, we’d all wail to high heaven in relieved delight.
Here’s the weird part: I can’t say with conviction that religion has brought us the Christmas we typically celebrate here, its name notwithstanding. But as with too many things, religion and its obligatory interfaith squabbles are the surest route to ruining it.