Fox News has already launched its first counter-offensive on the "War on Christmas." Some people mock Bill O'Reilly and his cohorts for their annual misguided persecution complex. Not me. I look forward to their yearly ranting. It's my Shark Week.
It should be noted that the Fox News battle against the War on Christmas comes earlier and earlier each year. Since before Thanksgiving, O'Reilly viewers have been able to go on-line and purchase "battle against the War on Christmas" merchandise. Personally, I'm concerned about the over-commercialization of the battle against the War on Christmas. I fear that children are missing out on the true meaning of the battle against the War on Christmas- to feed Bill O'Reilly's ego.
The profits from Bill O'Reilly's merchandise sales go to charity, which is quite honorable. However, I'm not sure if the best gift to celebrate the birth of Jesus is O'Reilly's bestseller Killing Jesus. That would be like celebrating the grand opening of your friend's new store by presenting him with a "going out of business" sign.
A few years ago, as part of the strategy, O'Reilly launched a campaign against department stores that required their employees to greet customers with "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas." Because nothing speaks to peace on earth and goodwill towards men like eighteen dollars off a blu-ray player at Wal-Mart. Nevertheless, now cashiers are once allowed to say "Merry Christmas", though I wonder if the Wal-Mart pharmacy falls under the same jurisdiction. I'm not sure if a hearty "Merry Christmas" is the appropriate way to interact with a customer waiting on line to fill his gonorrhea medication prescription.
Actually, I always assumed "Happy Holidays" was not a secular way to refer to Christmas. Rather, it was just a shorter, simpler way of saying "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year." There are two holidays. Hence, we use the plural. And while Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, New Year's Eve is the date by which we record Christ's birthday... which seems a bit redundant. There's nothing worse than when someone makes his or her birthday into an entire week-long celebration. Heck, why did I have to pay for my buddy Ashton's beers on Saturday night when his birthday was Wednesday? Regardless, to say "Happy Holidays" is really no less religious than "Merry Christmas."
The folks at Fox News are angered when religious displays are not allowed on public property, or when atheist displays are set up next to Christmas trees and nativity scenes. Last year, I got a kick out of Fox News' Gretchen Carlson exclaiming, "Why do I have to drive around with my kids to look for a nativity scene (and see atheist displays)?" This is at the four-minute mark of the clip. Which begs the question... why are you driving around with your kids looking for a nativity scene? Just go to church. Is driving around with your kids looking for a nativity scene a sane holiday tradition? If so, now I feel less weird about my family's insistence on smelling the Christmas lights.
That some people feel strongly about separating church and state does not denote a "war" on Christmas. Nobody is opposed to religious displays on private property. Everybody expects religious displays at places of worship. But for a courthouse to establish any sort of religious favoritism on its front yard is certainly, at the very least, questionable. Though ironically, in my town, religious conservatives are fighting to remove a nativity scene in front of the local strip club.
Personally, I don't care if store clerks wish me a Merry Christmas or if there's an evergreen with ornaments in the lobby of a government building. Nor do I care if giant profit-driven corporations are taking the "Christ" out of Christmas or the X out of X-mas or even the X out of Ron Jeremy movies. (Hardcore Hillbilly Sluts, rated PG-13) Nobody is stopping anyone from celebrating or not celebrating Christmas in whatever way they want.
Admittedly, I like Fox News. Just like Santa Claus, the channel's reporting is bloated, made-up, and meant for kids. And who doesn't love Santa? And if the Fox pundits feel that Christmas traditions are being attacked, it's most certainly their right to express these beliefs. Heck, the knee-jerk liberals at MSNBC are already waging a counter-attack against the War On Festivus.
But for a news network so concerned about semantics, I'm not sure if war is the proper word to use.
After the 9-11 terrorist attacks, we were told it was no longer appropriate to use military vocabulary when describing life's mundane activities. Remember that? It was supposed to be insensitive to refer to a football coach's firing as "collateral damage." Or to call the broken pinky that Kanye West suffers during a concert a "battle scar." When real soldiers put their lives on the line in violent conflict, these comparisons ring a bit hollow and insulting.
Similarly, even if Bill O'Reilly doesn't approve of an atheist billboard, does it really qualify as a war?
Wars are waged between two engaged opponents of relatively equal power. The vast majority of Americans celebrate Christmas. Most Americans define themselves as some form of Christianity. These are the people with social power. That a small percentage of Americans don't want to hear Jingle Bells over the mall loudspeakers hardly qualifies as a war. And, Kirk Cameron aside, most Americans don't care that a small percentage of Americans oppose religious imagery in public places.
Fox News is confusing war with the term debate. These atheists that Bill O'Reilly speaks about are not violent, threatening, or even vocally aggressive. Nothing is being blown up. People aren't dying. Nobody is getting hurt. So that people have the freedom to express a different point-of-view is why we fight wars.
I'm not a fan of Taylor Swift. I don't want to hear her music everywhere I go. But I wouldn't say I'm engaged in a war on Taylor Swift... though I wouldn't be opposed to more troops on the ground... fighting to stop her from dancing in the front row of awards shows.
Arguing about whether Santa is white or the Hanukkah Man is Asian or if Kmart greeters should say "Merry Christmas" instead of "check out our sale on sweat pants" is an enjoyable diversion. But to compare this silly nonsense with the real tragedies of war denigrates important moments in history that actually affected people in actual, real ways.
There's no war here. War is violent. There's just disagreement. Disagreement is simply the sharing of ideas. We have different ideas about what should be on the front lawn of a courthouse. And I think everyone would be okay if Bill O'Reilly rallied against the "Disagreement on Christmas."
Actually, the real conflict is not that people put up religious Christmas decorations. It's when people take down their decorations, which, in the case of my neighbors, is usually around mid-March. And can we all agree that's too late?