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The War Against Christmas 2010: Denial—And A Developing "Diversity" Rationale
The 2010 Christmas season brought confirmation that more and more Americans have decided to push back against the attempt to transform Christmas into "Holiday" and that their resolve is having an impact. According to the American Family Association, the percentage of retailers with the decency to acknowledge the holy day to which they owe their good fortune has gone from 20% to 80% over the last five years. [In 'The War on Christmas,' Christmas is winning |For increasing number of retailers this year, no more 'Happy holidays', Advertising Age, November 22, 2010]
I have also been wished "Merry Christmas" while shopping more often than in the recent past, and friends tell me they've seen more signs of Christmas while shopping, too. Along with the return of "Merry Christmas" I've also noticed a return of carolers to shopping areas, marking the revival of a lovely tradition that had been widespread before the War on Christmas began but that seemed in danger of disappearing once the focus shifted from celebrating Christmas to observing an unnamed "holiday."
But despite the optimism of Bill O'Reilly, this doesn't mean that the War on Christmas has been won. It does, however, suggest that the War on Christmas is no longer being lost—which is significant since the forces of "diversity" and "inclusion" are by now used to getting what they want simply by invoking those magic words.
Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton [email her] recently opined this that "The 'war on Christmas' rhetoric is in reality a barely cloaked war on diversity." Professor Hamilton has it exactly backward: this year brought fresh confirmation that invoking "diversity" and "inclusion" is a favorite weapon of those seeking to exclude from all public places the formerly splendid and multifaceted celebration of Christmas.
Thus in Philadelphia, the word "Christmas" was taken down from a sign advertising a German Christmas Village, so that the only word remaining was "Village." The plan was to rename it a "Holiday Village," a move defended by Philadelphia Managing Director Richard Negrin, [Message him on Twitter]: "This is not about taking Christmas out of the holiday; this is about being more inclusive, in keeping with what this holiday is all about." (This Philadelphia story has a happy ending: public outcry forced the city to call the Christmas Village by its proper name).
The notion that what Americans should be celebrating at this time of year is "diversity" is surprisingly widespread among government officials and the like. I recently received an invitation to a "Holiday Celebration of Cleveland's Diversity" hosted by the City of Cleveland. It promised "culturally diverse dance music" but made no mention of the plethora of music actually inspired by the event celebrated at this time of year.
It is true, of course, that there are diverse ways of celebrating Christmas, but diversity is not what is actually being celebrated by the overwhelming majority of Americans on December 25.
Perhaps recognizing that invocations of "diversity" and "inclusion" don't work as well as they once did in suppressing Christmas, most liberal commentators addressing the War on Christmas this year made two related arguments: 1) there is no War on Christmas, and consequently 2) any ill will is the result of thin-skinned Christians eager to take offense at nothing.
The December 15 issue of the Scene, Cleveland's leftist alternative weekly, featured one cartoon, "The City", decrying "The Imaginary War on Christmas," and another, "This Modern World", defending the replacement of "Merry Christmas" by "Happy Holidays" by arguing that "generic holiday greetings are a gesture of basic inclusiveness" and that "maybe more to the point—there are two major holidays coming up—Christmas and New Year's! Get it? Holidays—Plural!"
Intrigued by finding two instances of War on Christmas denial in the same paper, I glanced through the rest of the issue and found a full page ad inviting readers to join the Scene "in celebrating our 5 year anniversary Holiday Party," an ad for a "Handmade Holiday Shoppe" stating that "no matter what holiday you celebrate you can find all the handmade goodness you can handle for everyone on your list", and an ad from a local park district featuring a photograph of what used to be called a Christmas tree and asking readers to "Vote for Your Favorite Decorated Holiday Tree!"
The use of "holiday" in each of these ads had nothing to do with conflating Christmas and New Year's (which in turn of course was specifically mentioned by name in the plethora of ads for parties on December 31.) Instead, "holiday" was obviously used in each ad to avoid any mention of Christmas. War on Christmas denial would be a lot more convincing if newspapers in the 1950s regularly referred to "Christmas trees" as "decorated holiday trees."
America's most popular liberal commentator, Jon Stewart, made a similar argument on The Daily Show on December 6, in a much-discussed segment titled "The Gretch Who Saved the War on Christmas". Stewart mocked Gretchen Carlson of FOX News for aggressively questioning why Tulsa renamed its "Christmas Parade of Lights" the "Holiday Parade of Lights." He said of Carlson and her FOX News colleagues that "the holiday season wouldn't feel the same without people going out of their way to be offended by nothing," and the segment cunningly spliced together animation inspired by the popular children's Christmas specials of the 1960s to suggest that any problems over Christmas have been caused solely by those objecting to the War on Christmas.
Actually, it is a big deal whether America celebrates Christmas or "holiday". Even apart from its great religious significance, Christmas has been the principal festival of the world's most creative civilization for over a millennium. It has inspired an unmatched profusion of art and music. The overwhelming majority of Americans enjoy Christmas, and we have contributed to the many beautiful traditions surrounding it. Replacing the celebration of this real holiday with an ersatz "holiday" would mark the triumph of the new religion of multiculturalism over both Christianity and the authentic traditions of the American people.
Stewart is also wrong to suggest that there was peace and amity before people began complaining about the War on Christmas. What there was at first was bewildered acquiescence in an unpopular effort to diminish a popular celebration. Most people certainly did not want to see crèches disappear from public squares or Christmas carols disappear from public schools or Christmas to become so toxic that even its very mention was considered controversial. This acquiescence was rooted in part in fear of offending against the strictures of Political Correctness.
As more and more Americans have started to express their displeasure at the War being waged on Christmas, that fear has diminished and resistance has become widespread, leading to that fourfold increase in the number of retailers acknowledging Christmas over the last five years.
As heartening as these developments are, there is still a long way to go. For example, as FOX News has reported, the Tennessee ACLU marked this Christmas by sending a letter to public school superintendents in that state warning that
"We believe . . . that holiday celebrations that focus primarily on one religious holiday can result in indoctrination as well as a sense within students who do not share that religion of being outsiders to the school." [ACLU cautions TN schools about observing "one religious holiday", WRCBtv.com, Chattanooga, December 15, 2010]
The Tennessee ACLU [Contact them] is right about one thing: schools are crucial to propagating a culture. Back when American schools had Christmas plays of the type featured in A Charlie Brown Christmas, students learned that Christmas was an important part of our cultural heritage. Now that schools have "Winter Break" and "Holiday Concerts" instead, students learn that Christmas is somehow suspect.
Retailers wishing middle-aged shoppers "Merry Christmas" is far less important to the preservation of our culture than what goes on in our schools—and our schools have become quite adept at indoctrination in multiculturalism over the last few decades.
The War on Christmas will not be over until Christmas plays of the type depicted in A Charlie Brown Christmas are again as widespread and non-controversial as they once were—until Americans, in fact, have reclaimed their country.