“Do not say ‘Happy Holidays’ to the people coming in, we say ‘Merry Christmas’ around here.” That was my dad, a couple Decembers ago, taking a stand, unironically, for the biggest, most over-the-top holiday of the Western World. You’d think it was dying like Tinkerbell because people weren’t clapping their hands hard enough.
For my dad, basically unreligious and a political independent, it’s not so much a question of fundamental Christianity versus liberal atheists as common sense versus political correctness. To him, “The War on Christmas” is people telling him what holiday greeting to use and he doesn’t like it. For some American conservatives, however, there’s a full-blown conspiracy against Jesus, under the guise of the first amendment.
There’s too much to unpack there for one article, but let’s put things in perspective by considering some wars that really matter. In no particular order, because who wants to figure out rankings for these?
1) The War on Women: it’s not just a tag or catch-phrase. There is a major resurgence of old-school, even Biblical misogyny rearing its ugly head in the United States today. One one side are ordinary women trying to enjoy some of the freedoms a previous generation has managed to dig out for their gender, while moving a little closer to equality themselves. On the other side are men who publicly malign rape survivors and think female employees should take sexual comments as a compliment.
2) The War on the Poor: Occupy continues. Though the ultra-rich and their political allies characterize the people with all the money as job creators, Warren Buffett, bless his heart, assures us this is a lie. When all the world’s money ends up sitting, inert, in Scrooge McDuck’s pile, the economy will eventually grind to a halt. As the income gap continues to widen, the process gains more and more momentum, to the point where different economic groups look more like immobile castes than socially-mobile classes.
Even slowing this process seems akin to pushing two tectonic plates back together, and achieving actual income equity without a socialist revolution à la Stalinist Russia even less likely (and we all remember how that worked out). Add in that the political and economic juggernauts of our society have a personal interest in maintaining the status quo. But it’s an important battle, and ultimately better for not 99 but 100 percent of us, at least in the long run.
3) The War on Science: The phrase comes from a book by science advocate, Chris Mooney, and is a Bush-era title. Unfortunately, the siege did not end with Obama’s inaugaration. Attacks on public science education by fundamental Christians and budgetary pot-shots at basic research by grandstanding politicians have one thing in common: the mistaken belief that science is an ideology or conspiracy when it’s simply a collection of the most accurate, proven methods for figuring out how the world really works.
A dozen centuries ago, the Nation of Islam was a centre for scholarship and knowledge in the Old World. Then a certain caliph took power and forced the religion to become insular and distrustful of outside scholarship and innovation of all kinds, retreating to the Koran. Soon the world left them behind. Falling away from our enlightenment heritage will ultimately ruin us. The short-sighted, the extreme, they cannot be allowed to marginalize our most critical human tool: systematic and clear thinking.
4) The War on the Environment: This might also be called the war on accountability, where big companies and the politicians in their pockets try to strip every last dollar from the Earth they can. They battle against legal protections for the resources they exploit. They battle against providing reparations for the damage they cause. Ultimately, the goal isn’t to actually destroy the world we’re living in. That’s just an incidental result of wanting to make as much money as possible at everybody else’s expense. That’s cold comfort as the world’s climate destabilizes and species after species disappears.
5) Every physical war ever: I could have started with this and the article would have been over before it began. But the so-called War on Christmas is a spiritual and political war. A war of ideas and words and emotions. Sometimes those kinds of wars are important, and I’ve given four previous examples of them. The War on Christmas isn’t one.
Real wars have real consequences. The War on Christmas is built on hypocrisy and a complete misunderstanding of several constitutional amendments. And what’s at stake is a slight decrease in the number of plastic Baby Jesus figures. Whatever the result, the world will continue to turn.
Photo credit: CrazyPhunk