Monday, December 12, 2005

The Great Christmas Battle: Why This Really Isn't Funny

Responding to my Good Manners Don’t Constitute a War post, writer Eileen Gunn* reminded me about what’s frightening and dangerous about the Great Christmas Battle of 2005.

This is far more than a joke, or a story about a grumpy group of people. It’s about domination. And, in case you hadn’t guessed, the people who are supposed to be ground down under this form of domination are you, me and anyone else who doesn’t believe in one, narrow kind of Christianity.

I want to bump up Eileen Gunn’s comment in an attempt to highlight the point. She wrote:
This isn't a matter of some people being a little techy. It's a well-organized campaign to subvert the separation of church and state mandated in the Constitution.

The campaign starts with the unvoiced assumption that the official POV of the White House's seasonal greetings, and of government-sponsored holiday displays and of publically held department stores, is Christian, and that these are Christmas greetings that have been perverted, rather than that they are greetings *from a diversity of people* (even in the Bush White House!) celebrating divers holidays *to a diversity of people* ditto.

The Constitution prohibits the establishment of a state religion. This campaign is intended to establish the US as a "Christian nation," and to enforce coded speech to that effect on everyone (department stores? GMFB!), whether they are Christian or not.
What makes this debate over the use of the word “Christmas” complicated is fact that some folks have become excessively, let’s say, goofy in their efforts to be polite. That impulse has lead a few people, for example, to rename that familiar decorated evergreen as a “holiday tree.” Sorry, but it’s never been used as anything but a Christmas tree. Why call it anything else?

In other words, a reasonable person might agree with the silliness of using the term “holiday tree.” That makes it easy to fall into the trap of thinking that this whole “war on Christmas” argument has some merit. It doesn’t.

As Eileen notes, the entire argument is based on the assumption that we are not a diverse nation, or perhaps more chillingly, that we should not be a diverse nation. The assumption is that the rest of us who don’t agree with their narrow brand of Christianity should either pack our bags and get out of the country, or keep our mouths shut about believing anything else. In other words, they want to destroy any respect for the idea of diversity.

What’s funny, or maybe even more frightening, is the fact that the radical right appears to be targeting moderate and progressive Christians along with everyone else.

I read what I just wrote and wonder if I’m overreacting. Is this really their plan? Are they really this cruel? It seems absurd to think that any group of Americans would want to play Thought Police, and yet, everything they say leads me to that conclusion. I hope I’m missing something, or that I misunderstand.

*Welcome Eileen Gunn! Eileen is a favorite writer and editor. Check out her incredible book of short stories, Stable Strategies and Others (with afterwards by William Gibson and Howard Waldrop.) She also edits the fascinating online magazine, Infinite Matrix.

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