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It's beginning to look a lot like a ploy to distract our attention

December 11, 2005|By Tim Rowland

Oh holiday tree,

Oh holiday tree...

Just doesn't have the same ring, does it? Neither does Merry Holiday. Scrooge didn't get a visit from the ghosts of Holiday Past, Holiday Present and Holiday Future. And what is Santa supposed to do, slide down the chimney on Holiday Eve?

I have a friend named Christopher. From now on, maybe I should start calling him Holidaypher. And washing the name of Christ from American society is going to be a crippling blow to profanity. What am I supposed to say to my mentally challenged dog, "Oh for Holiday's sake, just fetch the stupid ball already."

You can argue whether or not we are in fact a nation founded on Christian principles. It's probably more accurate to say that we were a nation founded on economic principles, with Christianity coming along for the ride as the spoon full of sugar to help the federal medicine go down.

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But there is no denying that Christianity is a huge part of who we are. And trying to deny it through token name changes is not only dishonest, it patently unnecessary.

If a non-Christian school child grows up to be an ax murderer because he suffered feelings of inferiority and exclusion over his class celebrating Dec. 25, I dare say some other issues were in play that would have produced a bad result, Christmas or no.

It might be one thing if Christmas were being used as a tool to trample the beliefs, or nonbeliefs, of others. But it's not. In fact, Christmas is the exact time when Christians are at their most inclusive, welcoming everyone, no questions asked. The fundamental message of Christmas - peace on earth, good will toward men - is the ultimate message of unity.

So successful and welcoming is this message, that I don't know anyone who has a problem with the universal greeting "Merry Christmas."

Which makes me smell a rat in this whole "Christmas Under Siege" campaign led by the likes of Bill O'Reilly and the American Family Association.

To be sure, groups such as the ACLU have set themselves up for this by being just as intolerant as those they accuse of intolerance. When you try to censor the most influential book ever written from the classrooms, you are building yourself a classic glass house.

Though they would howl to the moon over the comparison, there really isn't a hat's worth of difference between the ACLU and Bill O'Reilly. They may believe different things, but in practice they are the same. They take their views to the extreme and attempt to steamroll those who disagree.

We tend to look at politics as a straight line with the far right miles away from the far left. More accurately, politics is not a line, but a circle; the two "opposite ends" in theory are actually very close in practice. Stalin's Soviet Union was far left, Hitler's Germany was far right. But a citizen living under either regime might have been hard pressed to tell the difference.

But the real problem over the whole Christmas debate is not the Christmas part, it's the debate part. In fact, I seriously doubt this controversy has anything to do with Christmas at all. Rather, it's a clever way to distract public attention from some rather distressing issues that matter.

We have a mess in the Middle East. We have a mess in the federal budget and a mess in our entitlement programs. Employee raises are gobbled up by health care costs. The federal government waded into education with a massive program that it now appears hasn't worked. Corporations take massive government handouts while moving jobs overseas. Energy costs are skyrocketing. Pensions are disappearing. Major bribery scandals are blooming in Washington.

And we're worried about what to call Dec. 25?

Nice try. If government and its mouthpieces can distract us with some infantile argument over Christmas, it diverts attention from the matters that actually affect our lives.

And the public is always more than willing to fall for these distractions, especially over issues that are simple and easy to understand as Christmas or flag burning. If we can call the Democrats "soft on crime" or say the Republicans are out to "gut Social Security," we can dust off our hands and walk away, content that three little words have sliced through a sea of complexity that we don't want to take the time and trouble to understand.

As a rough guess, I'd say 99 percent of the American public has no problem at all with the word "Christmas." Yet there are those who would have you believe that the 1 percent who do are about to strip our children from our breasts and our values from our souls.

This isn't a siege, this is snake oil. It's a simple trick. You take something that everyone already believes anyway, and act as if you and you alone are righteously defending it against hopeless odds. Defending Christmas. Boy, there's a tough stand. Sure you want to go out on that limb, Bill?

Somewhere there will always be some group to haplessly stoke the fires by acting as if the Ten Commandments or a nativity scene will destroy life as we know it. These two fringes feed off each other, and there's no real harm in it unless the rest of us allow ourselves to be suckered into the fray.

With no reservations, I will heartily wish you a Merry Christmas this year. But I might also wish you the wisdom to know what's a big deal and what's not.

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