Friday, December 05, 2008

The Wars We Wage In Our Own Minds: Rated PG-13

Christmas gift suggestions...
To your enemy, forgiveness
To an opponent, tolerance
To a friend, your heart
To a customer, service
To all, charity
To every child, a good example
To yourself, respect

-Oren Arnold

EGADS! Here we go again! I am not sure where to begin, except to say, that it shocks me that anyone could possible believe that there is some sort of war Christmas! Where does this kind of thinking begin? Go back in your memory to about 20 years ago. Do you remember hearing anything about a war on Christmas at that time? Probably not. Let me tell you what I honestly believe here. I believe that some in America have traded their holiday spirit for selfishness. I see commentators such as Bill O'Reilly insist that there is some kind of war on Christmas, because most retailers choose to display a Happy Holiday's sign as opposed to the more specific Merry Christmas. All of a sudden, Happy Holidays has been twisted into FUCK YOU GOD!

Baby Bill, as Keith Olbermann calls him, is waging a war in his own mind. But that's his problem, our problem is the fact that some folks are willing to follow him into battle, and that is what he counts on. The Bush years caused a lot of separation in this country, and imaginary wars on God was one of the religious right's greatest weapons. Speaking as a Christian woman, who found out when she was 37 that she was also Jewish by heritage, I don't offend easily anyway. If someone wishes me a HAPPY HOLIDAY, I smile because someone has just wished me well. If someone wishes me a MERRY CHRISTMAS, I smile, because someone has just wished me well. If I happen to hear a HAPPY HANUKKAH, I smile because someone has just wished me well. GET THE POINT! Wishing someone well is just that... WISHING SOMEONE WELL!

Yesterday I decided to take part in the Blogger's Community Photo Challenge, the topic was Christmas. Sigh. Marie and Vicki are the hosts of the challenge, and it is up to their discretion to decide the topics, just as it is my decision to decide what the Monday Photo Shoot topics will be, and every three weeks it is up to me to pick a Round Robin topic. What happens on my blog, is my business. Period. Photo Challenge memes are voluntary. If someone doesn't want to do a challenge I come up with, for any reason, it's ok with me. As I said from the beginning, participation is appreciated, but voluntary. I feel the same way about other folks blogs as well. If someone wants to celebrate a specific part of the holiday season, I don't really see the harm, because after all, participation is voluntary. If you are offended on some level, sit it out.

I took part in her challenge, because I enjoy Christmas. I am Jewish by heritage, and Methodist by choice. I study about the Jewish faith to find out what I might have missed, and Alan and I celebrate that part of my life by recognizing and celebrating the holidays together. We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in our house to learn about each other. Even after 18 years of marriage, we are still taking the time to learn about each other. While I don't speak about my faith much on my blog, make no mistake about it, it is important to me, and guides me in many of my decisions. I don't speak about it because my faith is a personal part of my life that I consider just one more part of myself that simply makes up the whole of me. I don't care for labels, but if you really need to know, I am a, Christian, Jewish, Methodist, Democrat, Liberal, FemiNazi, Photographer, Wife, Fur Baby Mama, Woman, and hopefully friend who tries her best.

There are real wars being waged, with real men and women dying. Why do we need to insist that there is an imaginary one on Christmas as well? There is no war. It all reminds me of Salem, and the witch trials, where one person pointed a finger, and all of a sudden some bored folks who couldn't think for themselves caused an fashionable uproar. A deadly one. Think about it for a minute... do you see a parallel? As for Christmas being commercialized, well, that is also baloney. Look, it's all up to you, the individual, to decide how commercial Christmas is. It doesn't have to be if you don't let it be. You don't have to buy ornaments every year, or loads of presents, or partake in any commercial exercise at all. That decision is one of the easiest to make. Christmas is only as commercial as you decide to let it be.

When I dropped by the Blogger's Community Photo Challenge yesterday, it was to support some friends, and have some fun, and take a little time off from the cares of the world for a little bit, which if I am not mistaken, is the point of Internet memes. What I found in the comment thread was some sniping, and swiping, that really left me feeling a bit sad. I decided to not put my two cents in there, out of respect to those who run the challenge, and those who disagree with the topic. I don't believe it was my place. A question was asked of the hosts, and the hosts offered an answer. End of story. This, however, is my blog, and I felt like I wanted to say a little bit about the general subject, because I do so nearly every year, because nearly every year, the subject of the WAR ON CHRISTMAS comes up.

Sometimes it feels like we haven't really experienced the holiday spirit since 9/11. Remember how it was for a few weeks after that awful day? People looked you in the eye and said "thank you" and "please." They let you cut into traffic, and if you had less items then them at the grocery store, they let you go ahead of them. We weren't taking each other for granted, or wasting time on worrying about who was being politically correct. Suddenly, we were a little less selfish. We were all in the darkest moment of our lives as Americans, after the unthinkable happened, and we were all wondering, could it happen again? One of the most poignant stories to come out of that horrible day, was when two men were running away from the wreckage of a building that had just came tumbling down, one of the men stopped to help a man who had just fallen. One of those men was an Arab, the other man a Jew. "Brother," said the man, "will you run with me?" It doesn't matter who said it first. So I ask you, do we really need to embrace made up wars?

Here is my wish this holiday season. I am hoping folks will get a collective grip. I am hoping that friends will remember their friendships first. I am hoping that as we more forward in this country, we will remember that commercialism of holidays has more to do with your own values the anything else. I am hoping for tolerance and understanding, especially when someone has gotten on your last nerve. I am hoping that I can write from the heart and it would be understood, and if it isn't, then I hope that you will ask me... and not just come to whatever conclusion best suits your mood. As for me, well, I am going to celebrate the holidays and be happy, how you choose to feel is up to you.


If I have offended anyone, let me know. If you have something to say, say it! I invite respectful dialog, tell me what you are thinking. Opinions, opinions.

"Happy Holidays"
Holiday Fantasy In The Woods
Tilden Park
Berkeley, California
December 4th, 2008


Nancy said...

Though I agree with the point which I think you are making....the "spirit of Christmas" or the "season"...or the "holidays" is lacking. The spirit is love. Anyone can make a request about a blog challenge, as I did. But I feel that my request was just that...a request. Not an attack and not disrespectful.
I do however, feel that reply deeply lacked any kind spirit at all. I am more put off by the tone of the reaction than the answer. I do not need to "get my way" nor do I ever want to take anybody's holidays or beliefs away from them. I believe in unity.
But mostly, I believe in respect.

On a side note, perhaps one of the reasons you do not feel offended on this issue (when you're wished a "Happy something" because you can find a way to identify with it all.
I believe that if the people that gripe about those complaining about "Merry Christmas"...lived in a world where everyone said "Hey..Happy Kwanza" all the time...or..."What are you doing for Hannukah"? ...or heard on the radios and tvs...."It's Hannukah time for all..." they might not care for it. Trust me.
I grew up with it and am fairly used to it.
But as I said, I just made a request and did not deserve to be beaten down. My request had NOTHING to do with politics or being a liberal.
Let there be peace on earth...and let it begin....


Carly said...

Well said m'dear! Respect must be our first inclination. In speaking, as well as hearing.


Cluckin' "A" Critter Farm, LLC said...

Hi Carly, You go girl.... Vicki and I read your post with great interest and we agree with you. I'm 57 years old which easily allows me to go back 40 years and tell you that nothing except the media coverage has changed since then. Communications is now capable of giving news instantly....back then things were sometime over before you ever heard they happened. Now you can go along on a military strike in another country. I don't like what has happened in my 57 years, but it was caused by people that don't know how to mind their own business and kick ass when someone doesn't mind theirs. Perhaps if we remembered that the other persons business is not ours....we could smile at them and say hello and probably have them reply with a hello also. Stick you nose where it shouldn't be and you'll most always get it punched! The trouble is, that these little pimples of topics, have turned into a punched and squeezed boil which is now very painful when touched upon. Maybe we should again mind our own business and let things heal a little. Unfortunately, everyone acts like flies swarming over the sore spot, causing more problems.
Can't we just all learn to get along and be kind to each other?

Terri said...

Great post, Carly. I share your hopes, we have enough divisiveness in this country without adding the made up wars.

I do disagree with one thing you said about the commercialization. I can try really hard not to commercialize it myself, but it is all around me and impossible to avoid unless I become a hermit between Hallowe'en and New Years (tempting!).

We celebrate Hanukah and Solstice with a little bit of Christmas mixed in. I like our simple meaningful traditions.

The Cheshire Cat said...

A 'Wishing Well' contains 'water' for everyone.
On Visual Counterpoint I reflect in my songs what I see and hear. They do not necessarily represent my own personal beliefs.
I always try not to offend anyone but no one can please all the people all of the time.
Tolerance and understanding is required for knowledge to lead to wisdom.
Let us all drink from The Wishing Well during our journey:)Liz

Karen Funk Blocher said...

It all comes down to that whole Us and Them dynamic I'm always railing against. If you see the world that way, "They" are a threat. It doesn't matter what distinguishes the Us from the Them - religion, ethnicity, sexuality, politics, etc., or which side of the divide you fall on. If you think They are getting in the way of the life you want, and that They are inherently wrong and inferior and scary, you lash out. So intolerant Christians and intolerant atheists (to name just one set of combatants) snipe at each other over real or imagined slights, and carry on their battle until everyone in between is miserable as well.

I thought through the Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas greeting options decades ago, long before Fox News existed. Syracuse University had a large Jewish contingent, and there were lots of other religions and non-religions represented as well. I figure if I know the person is likely to be celebrating Christmas, "Merry Christmas" is probably the best thing to say. If Jewish, Happy Hanukkah. And so on. And if you don't know, then Happy Holidays is a respectful and inclusive way of wishing someone joy and peace. I resent Bill-O and friends for devaluing that courteous expression, making the world that much less kind. How dare we promulgate peace on Earth, good will toward men?

One of my favorite expressions of a reasonable approach to Someone Else's Holiday comes from aa rabbi on NOR a few years ago. He likened Christmas to a friend's birthday. "It's not my birthday," he explained, "but I still want my friend to enjoy the celebration." Or something like that.

And by the way, my atheist husband celebrates Christmas, not for religious reasons but for cultural ones.

Steven said...


Merry Christmas :-)