Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Holiday Greetings

Earlier this week, during a discussion of the 'War on Christmas' controversy, a dear friend said to me, "It's amazing that we all managed to get along before the PC police came along." That statement made me stop and think about how we did get along all by ourselves with no one looking over our shoulders and telling us that it was 'not so nice to do, say, act' the way we did. Now with all the brouhaha over the holidays and what to say and when to say it and whom to say it to, it seemed to be a bit overwhelming. I resolved to pay attention in the days leading up to Christmas to see exactly how people were behaving.

We have had some strict guidelines laid down by the likes of Jerry Falwell and Bill O'Reilly...something to the effect that one should say Merry Christmas (read: all others be damned!!) or else! Or else what? An or else, in their eyes, probably constitutes leaving the country, as you are obviously a godless heathen. So on my wanderings this week, I tried to be more aware of just how people were addressing the season to me when the occasion arose. I did not, however, resolve to make a list to send off to the Christmas Police (see names mentioned above) so that they might take appropriate action.

The girl at the bank said she hoped I had a "good holiday". She would be very aware of just how good my holiday would be as she is in the unique position of knowing how close to bankruptcy I can come this time of year. Most of the internet greeting cards I have received touted the same Happy Holiday theme, although several did wish me a Merry Christmas. I guess this is supposed to show me who the good Christians are in my circle of friends and acquaintances. While some have always been religiously based, and I am sure those are the sentiments of the sender, I now stop and wonder if they are also feeling a bit smug believing that no one can accuse them of being a foot soldier in the War on Christmas!

So far, most people I have encountered are anxious to see me have a happy or good, holiday. Television has been a mix of all sorts of glad tidings from the traditional Merry Christmas to Season's Greetings and Happy Holidays. Many have made a point of saying all three in some form or other. I seriously doubt that until the Messrs. Robertson and O'Reilly started waging their war against all of us ( the exception of course, being those who buy into their blathering), many of us stopped to think about what we were saying at this time of year.

My parent's Christmas card list consisted of several hundred names, and how clearly I remember my mother, seated at the card table amidst stacks of cards, envelopes and stamps, addressing and writing a short note on each and every one. In the late 1950's, Chanukkah cards made their debut. Mom no longer agonized over finding just the right generic greeting card to send to some or sending Christmas cards to those on her list whom she knew did not celebrate Christmas. If I had said she was being politically correct she would have looked at me, as if I had three heads, and explained to me that it was "no such thing" she was just showing respect. Her enthusiasm over this newly found trove of holiday cards sprang from a sense of doing what she considered to be morally right. She recognized diversity and respected the lives and traditions of those who differed from ours.

At some point we have lost that respect. Someone left the door ajar and the creeping fungus called bigotry oozed in, in the form of those who would hold themselves up as the moralists in our society. The United States is not a Christian Nation, although it may be a predominantly Christian one. Rather, it is one that has, for the most part, prided itself on being tolerant, and respectful and inclusive of all those differences. The agenda of the Robertsons, Falwells and O'Reilly's of this world is not one of tolerance and respect but rather seeks to drive a wedge between one faction of our country and all the rest. They seek to make it one way and one way only—intolerant.

So I will take this opportunity to wish you all, our valued and varied readership, a love filled and peaceful holiday, encompassing all your treasured traditions and celebrated in the manner which means the most to you and your family.

Susan B. Goodwin