Thursday, December 14, 2006

Maybe PC Should Take a Holiday This Christmas

Count me in as one holiday celebrant who's tired of the Scroogeness of the political-correctness crowd; can't we find some remote island to send these people to until the season is over? (Maybe we could call it "The Island of Misfit Thoughts.') Here are two stories making headlines these days:

Exhibit A: The Sea-Tac "holiday tree" flap. This story could be about either 1) another politically-correct attack on Christmas, 2) a public-relations blunder from both sides of an issue, or 3) both: The "holiday trees" in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac in all future references) were temporarily removed last week after a local rabbi threatened to sue the airport for not allowing him to construct and light an 8-foot menorah in the same place. The airport officials decided to punt, by taking the trees away completely.

The locals didn't take this lying down, of course; calls and emails to the airport ran 99-1 against the decision to remove the trees. After a day of nonstop questions from reporters, the rabbi backed down on his threat to sue, and the airport returned the trees to their original positions on Monday.

Now, it could be said that the rabbi has a point; here's a quote:
"Everyone should have their spirit of the holiday. For many people the trees are the spirit of the holidays, and adding a menorah adds light to the season," said [Rabbi Elazar] Bogomilsky with Chabad Lubavitch, a Jewish education foundation headquartered in Seattle's University District.

"People should have their Christmas trees back up and we should have a menorah standing in the airport," said Bogomilsky.
But it's also somewhat understandable that the airport officials saw a "slippery slope" and feared that if they allowed the menorah to be erected, they'd also have to accommodate every other religious group who made such a request.

Still, there's one small technicailty here: A Christmas tree isn't a religious symbol. Yes, Christmas is at its core a religious holiday, and it has its own special symbol: the Nativity scene. Notice that this was not the symbol that had been displayed at Sea-Tac. The Christmas tree has its roots (pun not intended, I swear) in things like pagan celbrations and the winter solstice, and many people of all faiths, or no faith at all, have co-opted this symbol for this holiday. Let's face it, there are a lot of people who celebrate Christmas without giving much or any consideration to the Christ portion; call it "Xmas" if you wish. ( I'm not saying this is a good thing, mind you, but it does show how the Spirit of the season can reach out and touch those who don't believe.) Even the fact that the airport had called them "holiday trees" should have been a dead giveaway that they weren't trying to emphasize one religion over another.

Here's the bottom line: A bunch of people overreacted, but now, cooler heads have prevailed. The rabbi will work with airport officials to have a menorah included next year; I hope nobody else decides to sue for not being included, or the lesson will not have been learned.

There's lots of good discussion of this story at Althouse and Captain's Quarters. I'll let Captain Ed have the last word here:
Is this a lesson for those who insist on stripping Christmas from the holiday season? Of course it is. It shows how the attempts to dilute the religious nature of Christmas have given rise to widespread frustration and offense among customers and constituents. However, this particular case is more of a lesson about customer service and bureaucratic overreaction. Had someone just talked to Bogomilsky in the first place, this never would have happened -- and how difficult would it have been to include a lighted Menorah to honor Chanukah, anyway?
Exhibt B: The "half-offensive" Yuletide carols being sung by a choir: This one also comes from the Left Coast, where ice skater Sasha Cohen was signing autographs at a holiday show. Among the performers was a local high school choir, who must have been rather taken aback when a city official accompanied by a police officer (!) ordered the choir to stop singing Christmas carols because Cohen is half-Jewish and "might be offended" by the carols.

Of course, Cohen herself was shocked to find out about the officials' action:
Cohen, who is half-Christian and "celebrates everything" during the holidays, learned only through news reports that the choir had been cut off on her account, the 22-year-old skater's mother and manager said.

"Sasha was stunned. We both thought the voices were just lovely, they were doing such a wonderful job," Galina Cohen told Reuters. "Christmas carols are part of celebrating the holiday season."
The mayor has since apologized to the choir, but to those of us on the outside, the whole thing is just another example of excessive political correctness, the so-called "War on Christmas" and all that. (Oh, and the inherent idiocy of bureaucrats, of course. Is it any wonder that the city official took a cop along with him when he had the students stop singing? They probably would have laughed in his face otherwise.)

As I said earlier, the forces of commercialism have co-opted Christmas into a holiday that can be celebrated by anyone, regardless of religion. Anyone who's offended by a reference to Christmas, or a purely secular symbol thereof, should remember that, here in the U.S., we don't have a Constitutional right not to be offended...as well it should be.

Judge make benefit for Borat: Speaking of people named Sacha Cohen, a judge has denied the request of two college students to have their scene in the movie, in which they made drunken and sometimes racist comments, deleted.

One more about eveyone's favorite Kazakh: Who would pay more for car insurance--James Bond or Borat? A company specializing in "insuring the uninsurable" does the math.

But this kid's insurance will now be more than either of theirs: A teenager in Indiana was clocked by police at 142 mph on the highway; he said he was hurrying home so his parents wouldn't be mad at him. Umm, I bet they're pretty mad now...

1 comment:

Gary P. said...

call it "Xmas" if you wish. ( I'm not saying this is a good thing, mind you, but it does show how the Spirit of the season can reach out and touch those who don't believe.)

My most favorite Catholic priest I've ever met, Fr. Joe Horn in Orange County, CA, (no relation to WR Joe Horn of the New Orleans Saints!) has a former homily of his online about trying to separate all aspects of Christianity from everyday life. In it, he asserts even the neo-secular "Xmas" has its origins in Christianity!

First of all, you say that you avoid being religious by sending cards that say “Happy Holidays”. The word “holiday” comes from “holy day”. Sorry. And even if your cards say nothing, and show only a picture of Santa Claus... well, guess what, the name “Santa Claus” is from “Saint Nicholas”, so I guess you’ll suggest that we rename Santa Claus too. And he is always shown wearing a red suit because bishops wear red. I guess it’s time to redesign his wardrobe so as not to offend anybody, or how about a mint-green polyester leisure suit so that everybody is equally offended? And what would you suggest we rename Christmas to? Xmas? Hah! Did you know that Xmas is a Christian designation, with the X standing for the Greek letter CHI which is early-Christian shorthand for “Christ”? Hah! Even “Xmas” is Christian in origin!

Fr. Joe rocks!