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.

This is Just Wrong

I hate Christmas as much as anyone, but this is taking the war too far. What about the truce in that Snoopy song? Is there any justification for starting and getting personal on Christmas Eve?

Radio hosts Matt Fox and A.J. Rice created a racist parody of Jose Feliciano’s ‘Feliz Navidad’ called ‘Illegals in my Yard’ that was posted on conservative website ‘Human Events’. Conservatives love this stuff I guess. Jose Feliciano didn’t love it so much…

“When I wrote and composed ‘Feliz Navidad,’ I chose to sing in both English and Spanish in order to create a bridge between two wonderful cultures during the time of year in which we hope for goodwill toward all,” the Puerto Rico-born singer said.

You can’t have goodwill getting started at Christmas. You have to be pumped up to bark at teenage store clerks who are probably wondering by now what it is safe to wish you. Holiday, Christmas, Hanukkah, Epiphany, Festivus… Perhaps it is better to keep silent.

A soft answer turneth away wrath, says an old book. A graceful apology can do much to repair social damage says Miss Manners. But what on earth is this?

“We regret any offense that Mr. Feliciano may have taken from this parody,” [web site editor Jed] Babbin said in an e-mail sent to The Associated Press.

That’s not an apology. For younger readers who have never heard an actual apology, let me clarify. Babbin never apologized. He did not say to Mr. Feliciano, “I’m sorry we trashed your song”. He sent an email to a third party, Associated Press, regretting that they couldn’t have their joke uninterrupted by the guy whose song they stole and violated. I think that Miss Manners would have smiled serenely and slipped the latch on the mastiff pen.

I don’t know anything about Messrs Fox, Rice or Babbin. What little I know makes me wonder if they were raised by ignorant and incompetent parents or were just unteachable. No offense intended. Sensitive, aren’t they?

It must feel pretty safe from where they are. They can throw gratuitous and unprovoked insults at random groups of people who just might vote in 2010.

Don’t take anything for granted. Remember Florida in 2000, when Americans came to the polls and were turned away because a corrupt Secretary of State hired a consulting firm to purge the voting list. This is not Selma in 1965 but the battle is not won. The price of Liberty is eternal vigilance. Secure your vote, and then use it. Voting is not just a right, it’s a duty.

Historical Context: Via Talk to Action– The Calvinist Scots knew how to fight the irreligious decadents who would profane the sacred meaning of Christmas. They’d use your tree for kindling and toss you in jail while they fed your plum pudding to the pigs. You’d spend the holy day sitting on a hard wooden pew in an unheated church and learn to like it.

Stop the Presses

Radical Christian ministers are encouraging their congregations to dial down the materialism and take some time to give to charity and appreciate their friends and families.

This sort of thing has to be stopped. What would Bill O’Reilly’s sponsors do? I’m waiting to see the mud fly and the ministers libeled as anti-Christian. After all, the right-wing gang did a great job of convincing Christians that providing health care for all Americans, rich or poor, is evil and that letting thousands of Americans die needlessly every year is God’s will.

Beyond Scrooge

And I thought I had a bad attitude. In this Christmastide Garrison Keillor tries to pick a fight with the Unitarians.

You’re lucky we’re tolerant, Keillor. If you tried that with the Catholics they would forgive you in such a martyred way that you would know you had just given the Borg more energy with your photon torpedoes. They would be so ‘disappointed’ in you.

But we’re Unitarians. We can take it. We have a sense of humor, really, I can prove it. Here’s a tolerant chuckle for you, Garrison Keillor. Heh, heh.

I’m not bothered. I survived the Mall parking garage without running over one of those ticket robots. I can face anything.

Why Settle for Peace and Goodwill?

When you can hammer your point home with a CHRIST-mas Tree? It really demonstrates the meaning of the crucifixion. The war on Christmas will be more than a slogan if this thing falls on anyone, because casualties will result. It looks like a telephone pole that a tree grew around. Daily Kos has a picture of it here.

But I think it’s a hoax. I went on Boss Creations site to see the price– probably expensive considering the amount of lumber. To my disappointment, all they have on sale is a wreath that looks like a few scrawny pine twigs on 2 crossed sticks for sixty bucks.

The church down my street sells regular Christmas trees as a fund-raiser. I buy from them.

THE MORNING AFTER: It occurs to me that someone must have trolled the net for something to snark at and lighted on Boss Creations. If people want to buy home decor with a Christian theme, then certainly someone will run a business selling it. Boss Creations isn’t exactly WalMart. Merry Christmas to them, and a happy and prosperous New Year.

‘Happy Holidays’ is Fightin’ Words

WARNING–DON’T CLICK ON JESUS’ GENERAL IF YOU ARE AT WORK OR AT YOUR MOM’S HOUSE UNLESS YOUR MOM IS AN OLD HIPPY, THEN SHE WOULD JUST LAUGH. Jesus’ General has more on the controversy caused by a holiday greeting. Best Buy put a tiny ‘Happy Eid’ in a corner of a page of one of its advertising inserts and that made some people seriously unhappy. I had not been aware, until reading Jesus’ General, that the Muslim holiday caused a rush on a facility that was used both for slaughtering goats and dressing deer.

Well, you know how it is around this time of year. Tempers get short with the waiting in line and congestion. You can’t always get what you want, as a great American once said. But sometimes, if you try, you can get what you need.

We are just past Thanksgiving. Being chronically late I want to give tardy thanks to Roger Williams, who built our foundation right. Religious freedom is not always convenient, and sometimes uncomfortable, but we owe a lot to the founders who knew that a free conscience is a good worth sacrificing for.

Happy Holidays

Merchants, who are in the business of selling things, like to extend a general expression of goodwill and Season’s Greetings, hoping to get people into a good and buying mood. There are several religious holidays that fall around the Winter Solstice. You’d think it would be safe to wish your customers a happy one, but a Best Buy store is catching heat for acknowledging its Muslim customers …

Oh my Allah. Now right-wingers are up in vociferously-defended arms because Best Buy’s vast and stuff-packed Thanksgiving flyer included a little-bitty ad wishing Muslims “Happy Eid al-Adha,” a holiday that 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide mark by giving to charity.

I guess Best Buy didn’t get the memo from War on Christmas, Inc. that we are a Judeo-Christian nation. Although no one is crusading for Hanukkah, because Christians aren’t sure how to spell it, or when it starts or ends. It’s Christmas that brings out the belligerence in the red-blooded real American. If that cashier dares to wish them a Happy Holiday they are in for a tongue-lashing, if not a boycott.

And the nerve of people expecting to be wished a happy Eid al-Adha. That’s not on the list of state-approved religious holidays.

If you get kind of cranky when the days are short, and you want to yell at some store clerks, the Christmas Legion is recruiting now.

Or you can use the season as an excuse to drink eggnog (good thing we only do that once a year) and ask yourself, What Would Miss Manners Do?

She’d wish everyone comfort and joy. That works.