Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Putting the "mental" in Fundamentalism

Apparently there is a move afoot in the fundamentalist Christian community to put "the Christ back into Christmas."

After complaining (with some merit) about intolerance regarding the mentioning of Christmas in public life, they have decided to go tit for tat. Now right-wing bible-thumpers are petitioning government buildings to hang "merry Christmas" signs. They are advocating only spending money at stores that specifically say "Merry Christmas" in their ads. And they are even boycotting Macy's because they have the gall to say "Seasons Greetings" or "Happy Holidays."

And the reason for this movement? George W. Bush's mandate, of course!

Now, as I said, I think there is some merit to their complaint. Schools have banned the signing Christmas carols. Businesses have banned music and decoration from cublicles. This is intolerant and stupid. As a country, we should be able to accept the simple truth that the vast, VAST majority of people in this country celebrate Christmas and the Christmas season.

Just as we need to accept that there are a substantial number of people who celebrate Christmas as a time of peace and giving, without the religious overtones. And there are a substantial number of people who celebrate Hannukah, or Kwanza, or some other religious observance.

The City Hall lawn should have a nativity. And a minorah. And sheaves of wheat. We should be able to sing Jingle Bells in school right alongside "the Dreidel song."

What we should NOT do is engage in an intolerant movement to jam Jesus down the throats of eveyone and enforce a certain vision of Christmas. I have a feeling He wouldn't be for that.

It's ironic that these groups cannot see the fact that they are mirroring the very tactics and beliefs that anger them so much. They meet intolerance with intolerance and convince themselves that it is the right thing to do.

Perhaps the best thing for them to do is move the celebration of Christ's birth. After all, it's common knowledge that we celebrate Christmas in December b/c the Catholic Church co-opted the pagan feast of Saturnalia hundreds of years ago to make converting the heathens easier. And historians estimate it is most likely Jesus was born in the spring rather than the winter.

So, to all the fundamentalists out there, I suggest tacking on a celebration after Easter if you want to enforce your vision. Meanwhile, I'm going to sip an eggnog, sing "O Tannenbaum" by a roaring fire, and wish everyone out there a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Kwazy Kwanza, and a solemn, dignified Ramadan.

The Simpsons, people. Let's keep up...

Happy Holidays, to one and all.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

One of these things is not like the other...

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the greatest honor the US Government can bestow on a civilian. The list of recipients over the years is astounding. In 1964 alone, you had Aaron Copland, John L. Lewis, Carl Sandburg and John Steinbeck. Other recipients have been great figures in history, such as Jonas Salk, Anwar el Sadat, Vaclav Havel and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

But this year, the bar for earning the medal seems to have been set lower. And the reasons a little more political. President Bush has decided to award the medal to Gen. Tommy Franks, former CIA Director George Tenet and former Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer. Or, "three guys who helped set the debacle known as Iraq into motion."

This can't be seen as anything more that a cheap political ploy. Saying that these men earned this by playing "pivotal roles in great events" is akin to saying Custer deserves one as well since he played a "pivotal role" in a "great event," results be damned.

Which, of course, is the mantra of the Bush Administration when it comes to Iraq. "Results be damned." Since those are under the purvue of the "reality-based community," they simply tend to ignore the results. So even though they invaded with too few men, even though they based their intelligence solely on the single, massively unreliable source of Chalabi, even though they have made Iraq more of a hotbed of violence that thought possible, Bush is rewarding them with an award given to men like Nelson Mandela and Carl Sandburg.

Wow. That's simply stunning. Perhaps we should give Rumsfeld the Congressional Medal of Honor for under-supplying our troops while we're at it.

Yes, I know this pales in comparison to the vote-rigging alllegations surrounding Ohio and Florida (check out the BRAD BLOG for an amazingly exhaustive, detailed breakdown of the issue). But even these little things matter. When we debase the value of honor, we debase the foundations of our nation. And while we cannot stop this particular action, we can at least register our disapproval and let them know we are watching.

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