Something I wrote for The WRIToracle in 2006
I Love the Smell of Eggnog in the Morning
(artwork by Amy Frissore)
The term “culture war” has grown increasingly popular in America over the last twenty-five years. Battleground issues such as abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, and the separation of church and state are just a handful of the hot-button topics in this so-called war. Political bickering, however, has become so out of control in this country that throughout December, for the last few years, a legitimate topic on many news and talk programs was – The War on Christmas.
The War on Christmas gets more intense every year. Last October Fox News’s John Gibson even released a book titled The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought. The main battle in the war is the saying of “Happy Holidays” in lieu of “Merry Christmas,” which, to some, is not only offensive to Christians, but it slaps baby Jesus right in the face. The term “Happy Holidays,” however, includes the entire holiday season, Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s, and also includes Chanukah. There are a cornucopia of holidays at the end of the year; so, “Happy Holidays” seems like the right thing to say.
There are other aspects of the war, but first let’s look at the combatants in the war. On one side is what radio host and Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly calls “the secular progressive” movement, which, according to O’Reilly, consists of liberals, atheists, the ACLU, The New York Times, The Washington Post and every other newspaper and magazine O’Reilly deems as “ideologues.” On the other side are O’Reilly himself, John Gibson, Jerry Falwell, the American Family Association, and many other conservative groups.
The defense of the War on Christmas has not been getting help from some of its conservative allies. FoxNews.com sold “Holiday Ornaments” on their site this year, including one for The O’Reilly Factor; the Republican National Committee posted “Happy Holidays” at its message on its home page; and George and Laura Bush sent out “holiday cards” this year that made no mention of the word “Christmas,” an oversight criticized by the heads of both the conservative WorldNetDaily and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
This war, or “jihad,” as O’Reilly often calls it, is the year-end battle in the overall culture war. O’Reilly says abolishing Christmas is part of the secular agenda, which also includes enacting “secular progressive programs like legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, (and) gay marriage.”
Throughout December of 2005, O’Reilly hyperbolized daily on his television and radio shows about how serious the war on Christmas is. He accused both the town of Saginaw, Michigan and the Plano Independent School District in Plano, Texas of opposing “red and green clothing on anyone”; he stated that the U.S Postal Service had stopped issuing spiritual Christmas stamps; and he claimed that Ridgewood Elementary School in Dodgeville, Wisconsin changed the lyrics to “Silent Night,” forcing students to sing a secularized version. Each of these statements was later proven incorrect. It was cupcakes and napkins, and not clothing, that were not to be red and green; the USPS continued selling religious Christmas stamps, but did not print new ones for 2005 due to the planned stamp price increase; and, while the lyrics to “Silent Night” were changed in a school play, the main character, a Christmas tree, sung about his loneliness to the tune of the song.
O’Reilly also pressed his viewers and listeners not to shop at stores such as Wal-Mart, Target and Circuit City because they “refuse to acknowledge Christmas,” even saying that Circuit City doesn’t acknowledge Christmas because, “I think people from India own” the store. This statement was also proven incorrect.
O’Reilly went so far as to state that Catholic leaders were “MIA in the Christmas controversy,” just as they had been during the sex abuse scandal, adding, “If you don’t stick up for the baby Jesus, who are you going to stick up for?” If O’Reilly doesn’t see the great difference between the Church sex abuse scandal and his yuletide war, he is as crazy as many people think he is. In 2004, on his radio program, O’Reilly said to a Jewish caller who complained because “Christmas (was) going into school,” that “if you are really offended , you gotta go to Israel.”
Meanwhile, this Christmas, as in every year, I was constantly surrounded by Christmas songs, from “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” to “Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey.” I amazingly escaped hearing Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah Song” and that “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel” song, the only two Chanukah songs I can think of. And every advertisement on television, while maybe never saying the word “Christmas,” was chockfull of happy little Gentiles wearing Santa hats and dancing around trees and nutcrackers while “Joy to the World” was playing in the background.
The issue has even gone to the U.S. House of Representatives, as on December 15, the House voted 401 to 22 for a resolution saying it “strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas.'' For, as Rep. John T. Doolittle of California said in his December 15 In The Know column on the House’s Web site, “The overwhelming percentage of Americans who celebrate this special time, which is after all a national holiday, should be allowed to do so without persecution by the self-appointed political correctness police.”
Wow! Persecution! Christians are being persecuted, all in the name of political correctness, a terribly trite 1990s term. And imagine, a resolution that “strongly disapproves” of something. That’s one powerful resolution.
Truthfully, it is absurd for anyone to expect a predominantly Christian country to not celebrate its biggest holiday. There are some people who have a problem with it. That doesn’t make it war. If a school decides to change the lyrics to a popular Christmas song to fit a character, or a store tells their employees to say “Happy Holidays” so as not to exclude any of their customers, it’s not war. It’s a creative decision in the former, and a business decision in the latter.
The O’Reillys of the culture war are very good at making mountains out of molehills. They take one small instance, sometimes a company or school, as in the case of the Christmas war, and turn it into a national story. Other times, as in the cases with former unknowns like Cindy Sheehan, Michael Newdow and Ward Churchill, one person can make a statement in favor of the “secular progressive” side of the culture war, and, overnight, become as much of a threat as Michael Moore. The best way to immediately make your name in politics today is to say something to one reporter that will wreak havoc with American conservatives.
But, while Christmas is over, there’s still more to be milked from the War on Christmas. Certainly other holidays can and will come under attack. We just celebrated New Year’s Day. Well, the Chinese celebrate a completely different New Year. Are they living on a different planet than the rest of us? O’Reilly, one of many who pushed for a boycott on France, might have enough reason to boycott China as well if we didn’t owe them so much money. We should at least boycott Chinese food.
What about Thanksgiving? The Pilgrims came to America in 1620 on the Mayflower to escape religious persecution, just like Christians are being persecuted in this country today, according to the Falwells and Doolittles. Some people call it “Turkey Day.” Maybe some people aren’t thankful to be living in the greatest country in the world. We don’t celebrate a turkey. We eat a turkey. Why don’t we boycott the country of Turkey? Perhaps Turkish prisons and Turkish taffy as well.
The same thing goes for Easter (Or perhaps it should be called “Ham Day.”). There must be schools across the country that aren’t having Easter egg hunts and are banning chocolate bunnies. When you refuse to acknowledge Easter, then you either worship Satan or you’re one of those secular atheists.
Halloween is a day everyone should like. It’s a pagan holiday, but it also has Christian connotations. Halloween is also known as “All Hallows Eve,” while November 1st is “All Hallows Day,” or “All Saints Day.” There are anti-Halloween people every year who turn their lights off all night and hide in the basement, while some give the kids crap like Necco Wafers, candy corn and pennies. If you don’t like Halloween, you’re just un-American. Move to a country that doesn’t have Halloween. There are plenty of Muslim and Central American countries that would welcome you.
Not a lot of companies give their employees Martin Luther King Day off. Some people call it MLK Day. Folks, it’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And if you’re not celebrating it, you’re as bad as the guy that shot him. And remember when “President’s Day” was called George Washington’s Birthday and Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday? You don’t celebrate Zachary Taylor or that philandering Bill Clinton. It’s about the father of our country, the cherry tree and “I cannot tell a lie,” and it’s about Lincoln freeing the slaves and wrestling bears and whatever else he did. And everyone should buy a car on this day. Those folks know what “President’s Day” is all about.
The patriotic holidays are surely vulnerable to war-like aggression. Memorial Day comes and some people don’t visit a cemetery like every American should. They don’t fly their flags at half-staff, but instead burn those flags. Why? Do they hate their country that much? The same thing goes for Independence Day. Let’s boycott everything British on the 4th! We don’t speak English on that day. We speak Freedom. We read Freedom literature. Eat Freedom muffins. And put a little Freedom on it when we play pinball.
I can only stomach writing like O’Reilly speaks for five paragraphs so now I must stop.
The war on Christmas 2005 was thwarted once again. But next year, when Generals O’Reilly and Gibson lead the fight again, and a junior high school in New Mexico doesn’t have a Christmas Yankee swap; or a community college in South Carolina goes on “Winter Break,” rather than “Christmas Vacation”; or a company in California bans mistletoe and eggnog, and O’Reilly claims the war is on, when what really happened was that a temp got so drunk on the eggnog that he accidentally ate some of the mistletoe and died, you’ll hear about every little incident.