|Not Dead Yet
||[Nov. 19th, 2008|10:14 am]
|||||"Sweet Emotion", Aerosmith||]|
... I've just been terribly distracted lately. A broken metatarsal bone will do that, as will ruminating about the political fallout from the latest election, dealing with my own incipient flakiness, dealing with the flakiness of others, playing an online MMO, and dealing with some internal conflict and general ennui and lassitude.
The odd part is, I haven't felt like writing about much of this stuff, even under lock and key. It's just been kinda swirling around, waiting for something to spark the urge to pound on a keyboard for a while. And what was the straw that finally broke this particular camel's back?
A story in the Colorado Independent about the annual Christmas Boycott that Focus on the Family's flack engage in. Sigh. Of all the stupid things...
But sometimes it's much easier to focus on a stupid little thing than it is to deal with what's really bothering me, and this is a perfect example, since it's a symptom of the same condition on a grander scale. Certain sects of Christianity love to play the victim card and pontificate about how they're being 'persecuted' for their beliefs (just like the Martyrs! Except, of course, that nobody actually gets crucified or thrown to lions, or even fired from a job, although they know this guy whose brother's uncle's second cousin once removed...). And this is the stupid little thing that has gotten under my skin already, even though it's not even Thanksgiving yet. The so-called "War on Christmas" is a classic red herring, designed to play up the victim angle and allow wealthy suburban Christians to feel a little frisson of combativeness over something utterly trivial. And conversely, it allows those of us on the other end of the stick to feel much the same thing. In a season that is allegedly about family, community, rebirth, the promise of life returning (or Life Eternal, if you're Christian), we've got a lovely little border war over social niceties that leaves everyone feeling just a little more smug and self-righteous than they did before, when simply being polite would have left everyone feeling much better.
I have no objection to Christians wishing each other a Merry Christmas. I have no objection to secular folks using the phrase, either. I likewise have no problem with holiday wishes that specifically mention Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Ramadan, Agnostica, or Wintereenmas. What I do have a problem with is people demanding that their specific festival be recognized above all others. For those who work with the public, a generic "Happy Holidays" is the safest route when wishing a complete stranger well. It's classic Utilitarianism - the greatest good for the greatest number of people is the proper ethical path to take, and proffering an inoffensive holiday greeting to every random stranger is a safer bet than trying to guess who's Christian, who's Pagan, who's a video gamer, a Seinfeld fan, or a Muslim, and tailoring one's response (and taking the chance of getting it wrong).
Most minority religions recognize that few people in the mainstream recognize their particular festivals, and don't expect to be greeted with a hearty "Blessed Solstice" or "Glad Yule" whenever they go shopping (well, maybe the latter at IKEA).Similarly, most of us recognize that the bulk of the U.S. is culturally Christian (leaving aside the question of actual belief), and most people grow up saying "Merry Christmas". Depending on the circumstance, I'm likely to simply reply with the same greeting, or if I'm feeling more open about things, I'll reply with something Heathen-specific in reply (in a sort of "since you've offered me the blessings of your God, I'll reciprocate by offering you the blessings of mine...). But I'm not about to demand that the greeters at Wal-Mart recognize the historical significance of Yule, and greet all of their culturally diverse customer base with a greeting that's only significant to a tiny fraction of the populace.
What we're seeing here is a microcosm of a much larger perceived "war" on cultural hegemony. The majority is starting to realize that it's only holding on to its majority status by a narrow margin anymore, and those margins shift at an alarming rate. We see it with the national debate over immigration (both legal and non), with language arts educaion (immersion? ESL?), with science education, with population demographics (gentrification? Sinister plot to disenfranchise? Reconquista? Yuppification/Stepfordization?), and so on and so forth. I don't have answers for any of these questions (except to point out that I remain an unrepentant pluralist with muliculturalist leanings) (damn pinkos...), but I do know that I appreciate the effort made by some companies to be a little more inclusive at the holiday season.
Especially since they're still using decorations that have symbolic meaning in my particular minority religion, even if they don't realize it.