Christmas Greetings, and the World Is Insane
Last year at about this time I ranted about attempts to eliminate the vestiges of Christmas from Western society lest the easily offended be offended. I am an agnostic and these efforts and their successes then offended me; they still do. The long Judeo-Christian history and culture of the United States have contributed greatly to our heritage and behavior. As they are progressively diminished we all suffer.
As Americans crowd stores nationwide, most still prefer being greeted by signs that say “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays.” According to the latest Rasmussen Reports survey, just one-out-of-four Adults (24%) like “Happy Holidays” instead. Sixty-nine percent (69%) prefer that stores use signs that say “Merry Christmas.”
Nina Totenberg recently apologized on NPR for referring to a Christmas party.
Last year, I began the article with a quote from a piece of satire. This time that seems unnecessary.
Here is an anti-Christmas sampler for 2010 -- but first a word from our sponsors Abu Dhabi:
An Abu Dhabi luxury hotel that boasted an $11 million Christmas tree decorated with gold and gems admitted Sunday it may have taken the holiday spirit a bit too far.
A statement from the Emirates Palace hotel said it regretted "attempts to overload" the Christmas tree tradition by adorning it with premium bling including gold, rubies, diamonds and other precious stones from a hotel jeweler.
Returning to the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has warned school officials in Tennessee that wishing folks "Merry Christmas" is bad and that they should instead wish them "Happy Holidays." It apparently did so in response to "a number of complaints" about school party activities. A secret amendment to the First Amendment prohibiting offensive speech has apparently been disclosed by WikiLeaks. Happy Saturnalia, ACLU. Commerce Claus Santa Claus has some pretty coal lumps wrapped up for you in plain brown paper; don't burn them, they emit carbon dioxide. But you already knew that.
A bank in Texas affiliated with JP Morgan/Chase was directed by corporate officials to remove a Christmas tree from the lobby. The tree had been donated by a friend of the bank manager:
[To] ensure that everyone who visits Chase branches feels welcome and comfortable, the bank's policy is to use only decorations supplied by the company.
"We appreciate the thoughtful gesture from [the donor] ... " Hassell said. "Unfortunately, we're unable to keep it [the tree] on display for the remainder of the holiday season." JPMorgan Chase ensures that decorations are "something everyone is comfortable with, regardless of how they celebrate the season," Hassell said.
Nor are Christmas trees permitted in Orlando, Florida, toll booths:
Holiday decorations of any kind have been banned from all toll booths along the 460 miles of toll highways run by the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, which is part of the Florida Department of Transportation, a local spokeswoman said. ... The ban was put in place several months ago after some motorists complained about decorations. ... "Some Christian organizations complained about Halloween decorations," said spokeswoman Christa Deason.
Turnpike leaders have now decided to ban holiday decorations of any kind, she said. The Florida Turnpike does not spend any money on decorations for any holiday.
An examiner for the Federal Reserve Board ordered a bank in Perkins, Oklahoma, to remove all "religious signs and symbols."
And, in Once Merry Old England, the Red Cross has banned Christmas stuff -- other than merchandise which it sells -- from its four hundred and thirty shops:
Staff have been ordered to take down decorations and to remove any other signs of the Christian festival because they could offend Moslems. ... The charity's politically-correct move triggered an avalanche of criticism and mockery last night -- from Christians and Moslems.
Christine Banks, a volunteer at a Red Cross shop in New Romney, Kent, said: "We put up a nativity scene in the window and were told to take it out. It seems we can't have anything that means Christmas. We're allowed to have some tinsel but that's it.
"When we send cards they have to say season's greetings or best wishes. They must not be linked directly to Christmas.
"When we asked we were told it is because we must not upset Muslims." ... Mrs Banks added: "We have been instructed that we can't say anything about Christmas and we certainly can't have a Christmas tree."
One of the country's most prominent Muslim politicians said: "It is stupid to think Muslims would be offended." Despite their multiculturally sensitive piety:
British Red Cross leaders have ... not extended the ban to their own profitable products. Items currently on sale include Christmas cards featuring angels and wise men and Advent calendars with nativity scenes.
The spokesman said: "The Red Cross is trying to be inclusive and we recognise there are lots of people who want to buy Christmas cards which they know will benefit us."
Strangely, the Young Men's' Christian Association has failed to fall in line. Indeed, in Savannah, Georgia, it probably seems a bit like Christmas:
[T]he Islands YMCA has placed angels on the Christmas tree with the name of a child and the child's Christmas wish list. Islands YMCA members choose an angel and buy a gift for the child.
"It is an important part of the YMCA's Christian [GASP!] mission. It gives our members an opportunity to give back to deserving children and help families that need help during this Christmas season," said Mark Simons, executive director of the Islands branch of the YMCA.
In Leesburg, Virginia, something of a compromise has been reached. Ten spots on the lawn of the historic county courthouse were reserved for Christians and atheists:
Selection is done strictly on a first-come, first-served basis. This year, the atheists grabbed an early lead. They submitted four applications in July, before the Christians realized they were behind and finally put in for a creche in August.
The atheists ended up with six out of 10 positions on the lawn, including the most visible location at King and Market streets. A weather-beaten Nativity scene has filled that spot for at least four decades. This year, it'll be occupied instead by a banner reading, "Celebrating our Constitution: Keeping Church and State Separate since 1787."
The problem arose strangely:
The controversy initially had nothing to do with atheists. It began two years ago when an interfaith organization recommended including Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh symbols along with Christian ones in the December displays. ... Christian groups immediately protested, and some say they thought atheists secretly influenced the committee. Regardless of whether that's true, the public clamor then galvanized the atheists, as well. They insisted that if the creche were reinstated, then nonbelievers' statements needed to be accommodated.
The article does not say whether any Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh symbols are being displayed. Still, many folks seem somewhat happy.
Even things like this strangely bother me: some folks who boarded their dingy and used the oars to break through the ice in a Maryland river to rescue a stranded deer -- it may have been a distant relative of Rudolph -- were fined by the Natural Resources Police for not wearing life jackets.
Much of the world seems to be getting certifiably insane. Perhaps I have been paying too much attention to the ongoing efforts of the lunatics in North Korea to remain in charge of their asylum and have gone nuts myself. Freedom? What would Speaker "Are you serious? Are you serious?" Pelosi say? If I could focus more on life here in Panamá, where political correctness has barely raised its head, it might be better. Still, in the spirit of Xmas Christmas, I retain a bit of hope that at least in some parts of America and Europe where sanity seems to be vanishing it may eventually prevail. Maybe by January of 2012?