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« My accident, part I: Lessons learned | Main | Raymond Poulidor: A working class hero »
Wednesday
Dec192007

Correctness

Is it just me, or has the whole “Political Correctness” issue regarding Christmas, now become a non-issue or in many ways a huge joke?

All my life this time of year has been Christmas, then a few years ago I found I couldn’t refer to the season as Christmas, I had to say “Happy Holidays.”

I am not a practicing Christian, neither do I subscribe to any other religion or set of rules, so at first it didn’t bother me one way or another.

Then some seven or eight years ago, I was living in Eugene, Oregon. The city council decided they couldn’t put up a Christmas Tree outside City Hall because it went against the Church and State issue.

That pissed me off. Maybe I’m just a big kid but I liked seeing the decorated tree and all the lights and other stuff that went with it. To me, I didn’t have to be a practicing Christian to enjoy the spirit of the season.

A time of giving, goodwill to all men and all that goes with it; a time to celebrate life. Taking away the tree, and the lights, and decorations somehow took away from that.

What annoyed me even further was when I read in the local paper that firefighters in Eugene, who had to work Christmas Day, couldn’t have a tree at the fire station.

Traditionally, their families and children would come to the station to be with them, because they could not be at home. One of the men put a Christmas Tree in the back of his truck, to get around the ban, and everyone went down to the parking lot to exchange gifts.

Out of pure cussedness, I went back to wishing everyone a "Merry Christmas." As I see it, December 25th is Christmas Day, (It says so on my calendar.) and therefore the weeks leading up to that day is the Christmas Season.

My attitude is, they can take away my tree, but they can’t take away my right to say whatever I please. If others are offended, it is their choice to take offence, and not my intention to offend by uttering the words.

Now most people I speak to are of a similar opinion and are saying and doing whatever suits them.

What happens in America has a way of spreading to the rest of the world, and it usually takes a year or two. I recently had a WTF moment when I read that a certain town in England had decided to go with a “Harry Potter” theme for the holiday season, instead of the usual Christmas one.

If there is any political correctness left out there, just think about wishing someone a “Happy Harry Potter-mas,” and laugh about it, otherwise we will all go insane.

Reader Comments (18)

There is something very perverse about the way many people go about handling Christmas and I feel this will turn around just a bit once more.

There is nothing particularly Christian about being so pushy in emphasizing the root word, but I guess that makes sense, since the story of Christmas is based on astrology, and the date on pagan tradition.
December 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter Champs
The biggest problem with over-correctness is that, when taken to its logical extreme, you end up with a dystopian cultural "grey goo" scenario where no one is allowed to celebrate or feel special about anything that speaks of home or family out of fear it may offend someone else's sense of home or family.

And we all end up equally miserable.

That was the take-home point from Kurt Vonnegut's classic short story Harrison Bergeron - saying that everything is equally important is just another way of saying that nothing is important.
December 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter jaz
Here...Here! Merry Christmas to all.
December 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter Icky
I'm with you on the kid thing. I like the trees, lights, cookies, special flavoring for my coffee, music--basically all the sights and sounds of Christmas. It's Christmas to me and not just a Holiday.
December 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter BlondeonBlonde
Ha, this post made me recall that Vonnegut story as well, Jaz.

I'm not a Christian, yet I celebrate Christmas. Because anything that promotes peace on earth is great by me. And because my Christian family celebrated it, it's become a tradition for me.

But here's the deal about seasons greetings: if a Christian wishes me a merry Christmas, I wish them a merry Christmas right back, because I know that's what they value. If someone is a non-Christian, I wish them a happy holiday or happy new year. Blanket policies just wouldn't work in this area.
December 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter db
For what it's worth, the tradition of bringing a tree inside the house, or decorating a tree wherever, is associated with the much more ancient celebration of Yule, and was co-opted by the Christians along with the timing of the holiday. The whole thing is historically a Solstice observance, with the Christian veneer added very recently. Celebrate to your heart's content, I say. Val
December 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter Anonymous
Right on Dave! You put my feelings into words very nicely! I am a fairly new reader/lurker (having discovered your site just recently from the Velo News listing). I send out CHRISTMAS CARDS every year to my friends and family! And YES, they even SAY "Merry Christmas" right on them! My card, my words (I make them myself w/ Microsoft Publisher). I feel like such a rebel sometimes! This political correctness crap has gotten WAY out of hand. So anyway, Merry Christmas!
December 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter Matt
Dave - You're in the majority, so, of course, you have an issue with people calling Christmas parties, "Holiday Parties". It is somewhat inconvenient to you and you have no history of being discriminated against or left out because of your religion, apparently. Christmas is "Christ Mass" and is as religious as Easter or, for that matter, Ramadan or Yom Kippur. This country has an amendment to its Constitution that separates church and state, something which has been beneficial for the development of this country. It is not a mere matter of "political correctness", any more than it is a matter of "political correctness" not to use vicious slurs to identify African-Americans or homosexuals.

It is somewhat amusing to see people who have never been in the minority playing the victim and pretending that there is a "War on Christmas" because some people have adopted the Constitutional model in separating their corporate parties from religious parties and using the term "Holiday". Even more amusing is that "holiday" means "Holy Day", so what's the big deal with having some sensitivity and not shoving your religious beliefs and culture down the throats of others? Saying "Merry Christmas" to a Christian is not offensive. Saying it to a non-Christian is not really offensive, but it's meaningless and shows that you don't really give a care about who the other person is that you are talking to - you're just assuming that he/she is like you, even if their ancestors have been subject to centuries of Christian discrimination, murder, torture and other attrocities (even if the discrimination was as "mild" as not being allowed to purchase a house due to deed restrictions).

I have a suggestion. Next year during the two months prior to May 12th, start saying Happy Buddha's Birthday to everyone you meet - at the grocery store, etc. - and put up a big idol on your front lawn - or better yet - in front of the federally funded courthouse - and see if you get any strange looks. Next, start getting irate that other people aren't saying "Happy Bhudda's Birthday" to you during that 2 month period and that some monotheists or trinitarian's aren't in support of public funds being used to pay for a fat pagan idol on public property and that some nasty people don't approve of Holy Buddha carols being sung in the school play about Buddha's birthday. Then, thank your lucky stars that you live in the United States where the government doesn't require that you subjugate your belief in Buddha to the "cultural correctness" of those who can't stand that this is a multi-cultural country and long for the Klan of old.
December 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter Harry
Happy Festivus to all, and to all a good night!

Tiny Tim
December 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter Tim
Straight white Christian males in the US might not have the perspective to really appreciate what it means to see religious iconography in government buildings, but at least you can acknowledge that the church's involvement in politics has a checkered history at best.

Dave, what I wonder is whether anyone has actually got offended, in your presence, because you said "Merry Christmas". Or, is this just a straw man? I mean, non-Christians in this country are mostly used to being in the minority.

I don't see anything wrong with political correctness - the idea that certain values are embedded in the language you use, and that you should think about that language, and what it really means, before you speak.

If you've done that and still feel like saying "Merry Christmas", I'm not getting offended.
December 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter Hi, I'm Rags
Some would say Christmas is not based on any pagan holiday, but rather we celebrate it during that time since back in the day you were killed if you were caught celebrating Christ's birth. "Naw Mr. Roman Soldier, we are just celebrating the Soltice!"
Luckily nobody is getting killed over it today in the U.S.
December 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter Anonymous
I'm sympathetic to Harry's position here. But I will add that Christmas festivities bring us beauty, love, and light -- at a time when we need them most.
December 20, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter HRlaughed
My town found a good solution: they put a Christmas tree, a menorah, and a "tree of knowledge" (a tree decorated with books on atheist theory and other free thought topics) in front of our county court house. It's great to walk past it and see the pretty Christmas lights (I'm in the same boat as you: big kid who loves Christmas lights), and the free thought tree standing side by side.
December 20, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter Alex L
I was brought up with Christmas, and it is the Christmas Season. Why should I change what I've always said in Merry Christmas?
One thing I love about Europe is that they keep with their traditions in Christmas.

I am sick of the over commercialization of Christmas though.
December 20, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter Ryan aka the.green.ryder
I'm with Harry to a degree. I am not religious and deeply afraid of those who would treat me as less than or subbordinate because of my beliefs. My family (wife kids etc.) celebrate Xmas and my Dad celebrates Chanuka (sp?). Those are all meaningless to me. I quietly, on my own, celebrate the solstice because the sun has reached its lowest point and the days will start getting longer so I will have more daylight to ride my bike.

I don't give a rip if you wish me a happy chirstmas. It is another day so it is like wishing me a happy day. Thanks. Happy Christmas to you too.

I dont like state sponsored religion and it is becoming more and more and more prevelant in the form of the tyranny of the Chistian Right.

I dont care however if some firefighters want to decorate their station for Xmas or Ground Hog day.
But where do you draw the line?
December 20, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter Sorelegs
I would like to point out a couple of things.

1. The question of "political correctness" is only arising because of the thin-skinned sensitivities of those who obliviously wish "Merry Christmas" to everyone and get outrageously offended when someone offers "Happy Holidays" in return. No one is banning the statement "Merry Christmas" or forcing "Merry Christmassers" to say "Happy Holidays" - it's just that many people now say "Happy Holidays" because they are either thinking of the feelings of the person who they are saying it to, recognize that our society is now a multicultural one or simply prefer the generality of "Holidays" to the singularity of the one day of "Christmas". (If you wanted to be factually correct, you would say "Merry Christmas Season"). Retailers and television stations and business firms have adopted the word "Holiday" because they are thinking of other people and their diversity; there is no law that says private entities have to avoid the use of the word "Christmas". So the objection to use of "Happy Holidays" is really an assault by the "Merry Christmassers" on the First Amendment right of others to say Happy Holidays or it is a neat new way to claim "victimhood" by those who have never had to think about real discrimination. And then, there are the people that get over-annoyed by the use of the term "Xmas". Again, it is not the "Happy Holidayers" who are in an uproar or who are forcing anyone to abbreviate "Christmas" to "Xmas", it is the "Merry Christmassers", sour as the Grinch, who whine and wail about the atrocity of abbreviation and "what have we come to" when "we" are being "forced" to take the "Christ" out of "Christmas". I'm sorry if my only response to their existential issue is "Bah Humbug!"

2. You write: "My attitude is, they can take away my tree, but they can’t take away my right to say whatever I please. If others are offended, it is their choice to take offence, and not my intention to offend by uttering the words." Again, no one is taking away anyone's rights. By making this statement, Dave, you are inventing an issue that there is actually someone out there who is ordering you, upon penalty of who knows what, not to say "Merry Christmas". Do you really feel that way?

Also, you say "they can take away MY tree". THEY are not taking away YOUR tree that you paid for in front of your house or in your living room or in your store or anywhere else that is private property. In most cases, THEY are not even taking it away from the public square. However, the elected officials of some states have decided not to use public funds (not your personal funds) to put religious symbols on public property (not your personal property). It's nice that some municipalities take money from nonbelieving or non-Christian taxpayers to pay for the religious displays of Christians; but you shouldn't expect it as a right, nor, neccesarily should a firefighter expect the government to buy him a tree or allow him to put anything he wants in a public firehouse. Some people have objected to kegs and racy pictures being removed from firehouses - but do firefighters have the right to have kegs and racy pictures on public property?

Finally, as cyclists, we should understand and empathize with any movement that wants to protect the minority in our society, because, on the roads, cyclists are certainly the minority. How would you feel if the car-driving majority was incredibly vocal about how their road rights had to be shared with these slow moving two wheeled jobs and that lycra cyclers should be off the roads. Oh, wait. They do. The car-drivers are the "Merry Christmassers" who are whining and complaining about the slings and arrows they are suffering from the "Happy Holidaying" cyclists.

Peace unto you and Merry Holidays!!
December 20, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter HolidayHarry
Dave,
Who ever told you that you couldn't say "Merry Christmas"? The only rant I heard about that was from the talking toys of Fox News, who repeated it as news for months in an attempt to make into news as some kind of attack on the American way.
Merry Christmas!
JBar
December 21, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter Anonymous
Words words words merging cultures and seventy world languages. Contrary to this a contemporary beer commercials script reads "dude, dude, dude, dude, dude, dude, dude, dude" and communicates with inflection and context. Just say anyting with joy and love. I adopt Merry Cristmas.
celeritas
December 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter Anonymous
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