I Want Some Peace and Goodwill for Christmas

Poor Innocent Conifer

This is not the kind of post I like to write, but sometimes the personal and political are so intertwined it’s not possible to stay on the lofty perch that We at Kmareka feel most comfortable perching on. So We are just going to put it out there.

It’s something most of us are now going through, or will. This week I got a 5am call that my mother was in the Emergency Room. She’s having a hard time adjusting to the loss of my father, and I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a spouse of over fifty years. All went well, medically. Otherwise it’s clear that we kids will have to call regularly, because our mother needs us.

Today I went by to visit her, and things were good until I left the room for a bit and came back to the sound of the radio. My mother listens to some religious station that always sounds angry. She was all of a sudden very worked up about whether Governor Lincoln Chafee lights a Christmas Tree or a Holiday Tree. She said that The Jews would never call a Menorah a candlestick, would they? I said that I had not seen any giant Menorah on the State House lawn, but we could drive on over there and look. I was trying to get her out of the house. I argued with her for too long, I could not get her to understand the difference between public and private space and finally she told me that I hate Christ.

Readers, you know that earlier this morning I posted a verse from the King James Bible. Unitarians are free, skeptical and tolerant– that’s Tolerant with a capital ‘T’. And me and Jesus have an understanding.

This would just be TMI, except that on the way home I stopped at a Dollar Store, and there was a woman in the checkout line who was talking loudly to all around about how Christmas isn’t Christmas any more. And that Governor Chafee is going to light a Holiday Tree. And The Jews would never call a Menorah a candlestick, would they? And you can’t give presents to children. And people are all bad these days, nothing is good anymore. I wished her peace and goodwill and got out of there.

Clearly this is a talking point going around. Since Christians are about 78% of the population and Jews less than 2% I doubt this tree crisis has anything to do with Hanukkah.

It’s got a lot to do with politics, finding some ammunition against the Governor, and the fun of a symbolic war that doesn’t cost blood or treasure, and stokes a satisfying sense of grievance. When 78% of the population feels dissed, all us non-Christians had better watch our step.

The funny part is that there’s nothing in the Bible about bringing trees indoors. The evergreen and lighting candles at the time of the winter solstice is a custom with Pagan origins. That’s why some Christian denominations ban these observances. And our Pilgrim forebears had no sense of fun at all…

It is not surprising that, like many other festive Christmas customs, the tree was adopted so late in America. To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred. The pilgrims’s second governor, William Bradford, wrote that he tried hard to stamp out “pagan mockery” of the observance, penalizing any frivolity. The influential Oliver Cromwell preached against “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event.” In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense; people were fined for hanging decorations. That stern solemnity continued until the 19th century, when the influx of German and Irish immigrants undermined the Puritan legacy.

I haven’t seen the State House tree yet, but I was downtown and City Hall has the grandest most extravagantly lit tree I’ve ever seen–it’s like a giant redwood. As a taxpayer I can probably claim a few needles and bulbs as my own contribution. Public art and beauty matters. You can call it a Christmas tree and I won’t get too excited. I appreciate the intent of calling it a Holiday tree, though, because I like being included in my own home state. All the people who can’t miss a chance to stamp a cross on a season that includes holidays of several religions and serious shopping should try extending peace and goodwill instead. It would be the Christian thing to do.

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22 thoughts on “I Want Some Peace and Goodwill for Christmas

  1. I,as a non-Christian,am not offended by any religious display.I’m only Jewish by background because I don’t follow the religion(or any other)and I like the fact that some Pagan observances were preserved in our modern holidays.
    After all,the Pagans worshipped what could be observed-and still do in many places-I’d be okay with a Solstice display.
    I have studied Pagan religions from various regions and have a nice little library on the subject.
    I’m a Deist and I wouldn’t know what to display for that-I don’t think we can conceive an image of the Creator.
    In the UK and Scandinavia old Pagan holidays are still observed pretty much in their original forms by quite a few people.

  2. i think we should just change the name of Dec 25 to Winter Solstice, and everyone can celebrate it any way they like. It’s too bad it’s so hard for some folks to grasp the separation of church and state concept.. I’m afraid it’s one of those things that some people are just never going to get.

    hang in there, nancy!! hope it gets better.

    • I’m thinking here-when have any of you been denied the right to practice your religion?
      Short of human sacrifice and sexual abuse of minors there seem to be almost no restrictions.
      The ban on handling poisonous snakes is something I never heard of.I don’t know what to thnk about that.
      I guess if an adult wants to knowingly take that risk,who are we to prevent it?
      We are also free not to believe in anything.
      What we don’t have and shouldn’t have is a right not to be offended-it’s just too bad if someone is offended.
      You can beef about it,but banning the offensive thing is not the right thing to do in a free society.
      I think the SCOTUS flag burning decision said as much.

      • I guess the nanny-state of Kentucky had a problem with snake ritual fatalities and had to do something about it. Maybe Rand Paul will strike down that restrictive law and start a for-profit snakebite clinic.
        Seriously, as a former Pentecostal I know that group pressure can make otherwise rational adults do things that are detrimental to themselves. Group psychology is part of all religions, I’m not just picking on Pentecostals, but they are the ones I know.

  3. Read the Constitution-try to find the term separation of Church and State-it isn’t there.
    Putting up a display on public property isn’t establishing a state religion.
    Chafee served in the US Senate which is opened each day with a prayer and he never uttered a peep.??

  4. It is distressing that so many religious people are so full of anger becuase, though they are free to put up Christmas decor in every church, house, private business, and store, and call it what they want, are nevertheless so determined to rub it in on non-believers on public property, not just in this case but the Cranston school banner, and many other situations. Kudos to Governor Chafee, who always seems to act on principle, for not pandering to these zealots.

    • thanks, I didn’t have time to mention that there’s a church adjacent to the State House, a Catholic School a block away and the lovely Episcopal church on Westminster St.– all of which can decorate their buildings for thousands of people who pass by every day.
      Last night Downtown was hosting figure skating to Christmas music– it’s not as if we’re putting Christians in the skating rink and releasing the lions, but you’d never know that from talk radio.

      • Barry-Chafee acting on principle??Like trying to raise taxes on the plebians like you and I while cheating out loud on his house and auto taxes?I can assure you I paid my taxes the same day I got my bills and didin’t cheat on a lousy cent.He does it and people like you want to kiss his rump.Wake up my friend(not said sarcastically either).

    • Barry-what is “Christian”about the school banner that has been there so long not bothering anyone?
      Do you wake up every day waiting to be offended?
      BTW I think a Menorah ceremony on the heels of Chafee’s action regarding the Christmas tree is REALLY rubbing it in.
      And the Jews will take the heat through no fault of their own.
      Are you OK with that?Chafee is a meddling nitwit.

  5. Thanks for this post. Like you, I appreciate Governor Chafee’s intention in calling the tree a holiday tree. But I’ve gotta say, it’s a pretty lame term. Mayor Teveras’s office navigated the same path more gracefully when his office called the tree-lighting festivities a “holiday” celebration, but the tree itself a Christmas tree. The government has no business sponsoring celebrations or decorations that promote any particular religion — or, for that matter, religion at all. But if you’re going to do it, why beat around the, um, bush?

    • Awesome?Nancy never addresses the real problem of Chafee recognizing Hannukah publicly,it being a religious holiday,and snubbing the mention of Christmas.Consistency in approaching this season is certainly better than a cafeteria style method.
      Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday and thus not part of the conversation.

      • Kwanzaa is the only truly American holiday we have this time of year, being made in America. But Christmas has nothing to worry about in a popularity contest.
        I have a modest proposal for next year.
        1. religious people refrain from attacking unbelievers in honor of the season.
        2. forget the tree, Menorah or whatever and instead–
        DECK THE HALLS WITH BOUGHS OF HOLLY
        string lights around everywhere and make the State House
        JOLLY.
        Have an interfaith, multicultural home-made cookie party with eggnog and hot cider.
        I’ll bring cider if they do that next year.

  6. Kwanzaa is not a truly American holiday-it was invented for exclusivly Black people by Ron Maulana Karenga,formerly the founder and leader of US(United Slaves)a Black nationalist organization and Black Panther rival of the late 60’s/early 70’s -as a matter of fact Karenga’s group at UCLA was used by the FBI(without their actual knowledge)as part of COINTELPRO to attack the Panthers resulting in a double homicide(one victim was Alprentice Carter,forgt the other’s name)engineered by the FBI.Karenga’s followers weren’t exactly unwilling to resort to murder for their purposes.
    I saw Karenga on TV some years ago-he is a professor at a state college in California and he has no more use for White people than David Duke has for Blacks or Jews.
    I know my son’s in laws pay no attention to Kwanzaa(they’re Black)and seem to have no idea what it’s all about-they celebrate Christmas-my grandaughter(and her sister due any day)won’t be celebrating it either.
    The origins of this “holiday’have been tainted irrevocably by the hateful nature of the originator himself.

  7. Excuuse me. The last time I went to an organized Kwanzaa celebration I was welcomed and included, and I could never pass for Black.
    I know there are Black people who are hateful, but I haven’t encountered them at Kwanzaa parties or at Black churches, in the workplace or the beauty salon, so I don’t think they are as numerous or as organized as you seem to imagine they are.

    • Sadly, I have often heard white people say awful things, thinking they are safe around me because they don’t know my family.

      • If this comment was aimed at me,you are really out of your mind.
        I know you’re married to a Black man.
        And part of my family is Black.Big deal-I don’t have two faces-I am glad you weren’t snubbed at the Kwanzaa events-that doesn’t change who Ron Karenga is and what he supports.He is a segregationist,if you want to be honest.
        Fact is,you and I are both comfortable with interracial marriage,etc,the whole bit.I always have been.I just don’t like phony hypocrite liberals(probably includes people you trust)and I give NO ONE a pass on racism.
        I could tell you a story here,but it’s too long and the hell with it.
        Anyhow-I hope your Solstice season is nice.Really.
        I’m on baby arrival watch,and excuse my foul mood,but I can’t stand for more than a few minutes right now.
        It might get a little better when the Rehab section at the VA gets me the gear I need.
        I like arguing with you-neither of us gives in.

    • You ever watch a Louis Farrakhan rally?
      Lotsa people there who are filled with hate and anger.
      You can’t pretty it up.
      There are Klan rallies that are the same but for the color,however,Klan rallies are less tolerated by far than in the past.
      I see what I see,and it saddens me sometimes because I think left to their own devices,most people can get along fine.
      There’s a lot of manipulation going on with culprits from every corner of the political world.

      • Honestly, I was not referring to you when I mentioned that people have said racist things to me thinking it’s safe. This mostly happened in the workplace.
        When you consider that my workplace has been health care for almost 30 years, and people with those attitudes have power over the sick and vulnerable, you can see why it’s important to educate our fellow ‘white’ people about how destructive racism is.
        One advantage of being a white woman is that no one assumes that Ann Coulter speaks for me, loud as she is. Louis Farrakhan is not well regarded by most black people, but he’s a self-promoter and gets press. I can only speak of my experiences in Rhode Island and Kentucky, where I have not had any trouble when I’ve been in the minority.

  8. Blame the media for Farrakhan-the late Warith Deen Muhammad was the spiritual leader of most Black American Muslims and he had dignity,knowledge,and was a very modest man in his personal life-no phalanx of thugs in bowties-he just drove himself around-who would want to bother him?
    He actually made a lot of sense and was brutally honest(not a bad thing)about himself as well as others.He didn’t preach hate.
    But if you asked a hundred White people who he was maybe two would know.If you asked them about Farrakhan maybe 60(my guess).
    Some other people here(“klaus”,Kevin Schmidt)come on to me like I’m some ignorant Limbaugh dittophead-I’d love to take a general knowledge against them(no math).

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