Friday, December 16, 2005
Is There a War Against Christmas?
Hello all 1.5 of you still reading this blog! After a fall 2005 hiatus I'm back. Sorry to have been gone so long. With the holiday season upon us, I've stumbled onto a strange phenomenon that apparently I'd been ignorant of. On my wanderings through the Web and flipping past those 24-hour news channels on TV, I've heard mention of a war against Christmas. Some notable media personalities, such as Bill O'Reilly from Fox News, claim that there is a movement to drive Christmas out of the public square, as the first step in getting rid of Christianity and religion from public discourse in America. The first sign of this war is that department stores use "Happy Holidays" and "Seasons Greetings" in their displays instead of "Merry Chritsmas."
Naturally, this assertion perplexed me. I've seen no sign of the Christmas holiday being stifled. All the decorations, TV specials, and sales have been all over the place for the past month, with no indications that things have been put on hold. You can buy any kind of Christmas decoration you want at any department store in the country. Is it really an issue what's written on their signage when you can buy any Christmas icon you want in the store, and they're piping in Chritsmas music all day?
But maybe I just hadn't been paying attention. Perhaps I was an unwitting pawn in the "Struggle for Christmas" and didn't realize how bad things are. Sometimes I'm late picking up on current events. So I thought I'd ask my wife if she'd heard anything about this. This morning the conversation went something like this:
Me: "Honey, have you heard about the war against Christmas?"
Her: "No, what's that?"
Me: "Apparently people are saying there's a war against Christmas because some people want to force public displays to have messages like 'Happy Holidays' or 'Seasons Greetings' instead of 'Merry Christmas' and they're trying to get rid of overt mention of Christmas."
Her: "Well, I've never said 'Seasons Greetings' in my life!"
Me: "Yeah, but apprently some people think this is a big problem..."
Her: "Where'd you hear about this?"
Me: "I read a story on the Internet. I think it came from Bill O'Reilly."
Her: <Dismissively> "You can't trust anything *he* says. He's a jerk."
Well, I do have to agree with her sentiments. I find myself disagreeing with 90% of what Bill O'Reilly says. Anyway, my wife was just as oblivious as I was to the whole issue. However, I can't come to a conclusion by only asking one person (even if she is my lovely, intelligent wife) so I needed to do more research. Of course, I turned to the one place where all of the answers to life's great mysteries can be found (though they're usually wrong answers): Let's go Google! I typed in "war on christmas" into the search engine and got over 58 million hits. Whoa! Here's a sample:
- Media Matters Story - This has a debunking of Bill O'Reilly's thesis and quotes directly from his program when he interviewed John Gibson, author of The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought. The statements O'Reilly and Gibson make seem pretty silly. And the conspiracy theory seems a bit over the top. However, a few of their anecdotes about removing public Christmas dispays are a bit chilling. I needed to look further.
- War On Christmas Fraud Exposed - Well, apparently (are you counting how many times I use the word "apparently" in this post?) this little anecdote was a complete distortion of the truth. This "War on Christmas" is looking a lot less credible. Still digging...
- A conservative journalist blogger is charting the "war" - She links to another blog charting the complicity of the US Post Office refusing to issue religous-themed Christmas stamps. We have conflicting reports, but it seems the Post Office is primarily concerned with selling all of its stamp inventory, not destroying Christmas. Is this the whole story? Let's look a little further...
- In a follow up post from that same blog, it looks like the USPS hasn't changed its policy it all, and will continue to issue religious-themed stamps. It just so happens there weren't any produced this year, but another stamp is planned for 2006. No big deal.
- Finally, I find this Salon.com article about the non-war on Christmas, and I've made up my mind. If you think Salon has a "liberal bias" go read the article anyway and check their sources if you think their reporting is inaccurate (you have to watch an advertisement first if you don't have a subscription to the website). Their conclusion: there are a few anecdotal cases of people trying to be ultra-politically correct and oversensitive by removing public Christmas displays, but it is far from a vast liberal conspiracy to reject Christmas. Ironically, the article asserts that some public officials may be spooked into overreacting by the media warning them that they'll be sued by the ACLU boogeymen, when in fact the ACLU has no agenda to force the removal of all public Christmas displays left and right. So this "war on Christmas" myth is a self-reinforcing, self-fulfilling prophecy. In fact, according to the article, the "war on Christmas" is not a new phenomenon. In 1921, Henry Ford blamed Jews for trying to steal Christmas, and in 1959, the John Birch Society blamed Communists and the UN for ploting to undermine American values, with the first step being to destroy Christmas. Now, in 2005, we have folks led by Bill O'Reilly claiming "secular progressives" are out to get rid of Christmas as the first step toward the removal of all religion from public discourse. The "bad guys" change, but the conspiracy theory stays the same. And, like most conspiracy theories, it's a load of crap.
Bottom-line: The first amendment works both ways. The US government is prohibited from promoting or endorsing any religion. The US governement is also prohibited from preventing any private citizens from expressing their religious beliefs, including school kids. Public Christmas displays are fine as long as any citizen can contribute to the display. Christmas ain't going anyware, and no one's trying to take it away from you. Whew! That was a close one! (Well, not really. It seems to be an overblown media myth that has little basis in reality. But now I'm just quibbling)
So, in the spirit of the season:
Happy New Year!
And, yes, even Happy Holidays and Seasons Greetings!