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Letter: Whatever the Religion, Respect the Holidays

I have Christian, Jewish, Moslem, agnostic and atheist friends. (I do get around). Around this time of year, they say “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah,” “Joyous Ramadan,” and “Happy Holidays.”

Each of these things represents one human being expressing - in his/her respective tradition, custom, faith, or frame of mind - a sense of well-wishing to another human being and to the rest of humanity. It requires, I believe, someone with a profound mental illness to find that offensive. Expunging the symbols of these cultural traditions (Christmas trees, Menorahs, etc.) from the classroom does children a great intellectual disservice as well. Human society is determined by ethnicity, language, religion, and civic tradition - not merely economics and legal mechanisms as both capitalist and socialist believe with equal fervor and folly. To remove the instruments of these cultural expressions in the name of abstract legalism or multicultural ideology is antithetical to the very reason educational institutions exist in the first place.

Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ - a man who is worshiped by

Christians as the Son of God, revered by Moslems and Jews as a holy man, and respected by the rest of the world’s peoples. To see Christmas reduced to retail sales, advertisement gimmicks, and corporate earnings is what’s offensive. It speaks volumes to the rest of the world about a country where Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now more significant dates on the calendar than December twenty-fifth. It speaks much, indeed, about a nation that has reduced the sacred, the revered, and the respected to greed, crassness, material excess, and joylessness in the name of joy. I know of what I speak firsthand for, you see, between 1981 and 2001, I worked in the retail field. In those 20 years, I saw more than my share of America’s greatest national holiday: fist fights and shoving matches over parking spaces and that year’s hottest toy, the verbal and physical abuse of sales clerks, and the sordid behind-the-scenes doings of unscrupulous merchants. It was difficult to reconcile that holiday with the other Christmas: the Christmas where my family decorated our tree, feasted, and enjoyed fine memories and thought about family members and friends who are no longer with us in this life. What kind of perverted nation, I still ask myself, could take something so beautiful and make it into something so ugly?

Christmas angst is symptomatic of the phenomenon called “the culture war.” But this can be misleading if we think of it, as many do, as between “religious traditionalists” and “secular progressives.” You don’t have to be a devoted Moslem to see that drunken doxies like Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan are unclean things in the eyes of Allah. You don’t have to be an evangelical Christian or Kosher-observant Jew to see that cyber porn, gangsta rap, and the whole NAMBLA/ACLU complex are depraved in the eyes of Moses or Christ. You can hail from a secular, science-oriented, humanistic intellectual tradition and still be appalled as one sees centuries of art, literature, history, science, religion, philosophy, and tradition dumbed-down by egalitarian educrats, trivialized by mindless consumerism, vilified by the willful ignorance of political correctness, or bulldozed by developers.

If preserving traditions like Christmas, Hanukkah, and Ramadan is about preserving the heritage of civilized peoples, then endeavors to expunge or dilute them is surely the promotion of savagery.

Paul Manton