Criticism. Essay. Fiction. Science. Weather.
This year the people who care deeply
about how the clerk at Wal-Mart greets them in December are more vociferous than ever. "Happy Holidays" is a travesty. "Merry Christmas" a birthright and an American obligation.
It is a mark of their success that they've managed to put "Happy Holidays" and "Seasons Greetings" on trial. The use of phrases designed to be innocuous and inoffensive doesn't need to be debated. "Merry Christmas." That's the loaded term. That's the one some retailers hesitate to spring on everyone who comes through their doors. That's the one that means something.
I don't have a problem with "Merry Christmas." Defined by the majority, America is a Christian country. There's nothing to be done about that and there's nothing to be done about religion's tendency to proselytize and missionize. So long as the government gives no preference to one religion, the one with the most people is going to be the most vocal. Not their fault. And if they want to assume I'm with 'em and wish me a Merry Christmas, well, that's fine.
Since it's a futile enterprise to legislate or regulate religion or speech in this country folks will say "Merry Christmas" in December. Other folks, looking to say something a little more meaningless, will say "Happy Holidays". Fine. But neither side should really care as much as they do about the other one. Since when has some stranger's innocuous greeting
mattered so much to the nation's spiritual well being?
You're correct to say that this argument is of minor importance, but I disagree with the notion that there's no problem with "Merry Christmas" acting as the default national generic greeting between November and January. The harm of Merry Christmas is that many crazed "Christians" already feel a sense of entitlement over every damn thing in this society. Christians are a majority, and they do have a right to be represented as such. However, I'm not really worried about prosecution of that particular people at this particular people at this particular juncture. Signs and words directly relating to their personal beliefs, hung and shouted all over public, isolate non-Christians and confirm ideas about Christian ownership of the world.
I feel this way because in America religion often is viewed as a source of pride. Pretty ridiculous. If you believe in a God how can that God make you feel prideful, rather than granting you a sense of humility
There are bumper stickers about how real men believe in Jesus
. There are threatening passages from the bible on roadside signs
. There are gigantic crosses on farms. This sort of Christianity is already fairly dominant. Must we extend it to verbal exchanges between secular people for two months a year?
And really, I must ask, what exactly is wrong with expressing your sentiments with the phrase "Happy Holidays?" Why be so specific and LESS encompassing?
Who benefits from hiding religion away from the public eye? If this country is full of religious people, what benefit is there in asking them to secret away their faith, even when it is obnoxious?
Christian friends meet for coffee, are saying goodbye on the street, one of them runs to catch a train. He yells "Merry Christmas" to his friend as he goes underground. Problem? It's loud and on the street, but it's consensual, so to speak. Still, other people will overhear them. Is this harmful in some way? Does it differ at all from the
Or some middle aged woman who gets knocked down in the hustle and bustle and is helped by a kind boy young man and she, lost in the moment, and unaware of her helper's religion, says "Bless you, son. Merry Christmas."
What about a priest? He may well say "God bless you" all year long but is his oppressive effect on atheists noted? Not to my knowledge. He's clearly marked as a man of faith. So, what, does he get a pass? He can talk about faith where others should stay mum?
And what about "bless you" for sneezes
? "Damn you" (with its implications of a Hell) for cursing? You're an angel" for thanking? "Somebody up there likes me" for being annoying at work? All these phrases, with "Merry Christmas", slide along some cultural/religious spectrum. Deciding which point on that spectrum is suddenly oppressive to people who don't share all the meaning and faith behind one's language is an impossible task, akin to knowing indecency when you see it. We can be free of all these subjective, untenable judgment calls by just heaping less meaning
on hollow pleasantries.
I would not ask that religion be "shield(ed) from the public eye." Are the people who are so ferociously defending the phrase (and attacking "Happy Holidays"
) seeking public discussion about religion and theology? Are they seeking to cultivate a nation where various religious' practices are embraced by the populace? I don't feel that they are. I feel that they seek dominance, which they've already achieved.
Judd, I hate to say it, but I think your old lady, yes, is indeed in error.
I don't wish ill upon her, I don't think she's done anything mean-spirited, but because of the evolution of our society, I hope that when we are old people in need of help crossing the street we, along with our peers, can just avoid presumption and say, "Happy Holidays." My question remains: What is wrong with that?
I'm not a huge advocate of priests blessing strangers who may have no desire to be blessed or angry people damning others, either. Yeah, it is noted. And frowned upon. Gesundheit.
The friends leaving the bar and going to the train station is beautiful. (Were they leaving a bar? Or is that my own thirst working?) That is a marvelous thing. I love it. I just don't like the idea of a phrase based upon a religious holiday, from a religion that I feel has been particularly aggressive in this country and is working its way more and more into government, should be tossed carelessly about as a generic expression of goodwill, without the slightest bit of questioning from anyone.