The Dangers of Saying “Happy Holidays”18 December, 2009
Today, while in uniform (National Park Service), I (not on the clock at the time (I was out to lunch (physically, not just mentally))) wished someone “Happy holidays.” And got a rash of shit.
“I guess Obama’s making everyone in the government deny Christmas now.” This was said by the person behind me in line. I was not talking to this person, I was talking to the young lady handing me my plate of Hunan chicken and fried rice. Now, I have to admit that I was impressed that he recognized the NPS uniform (I am sick and tired of questions about Pennsylvania hunting or fishing seasons (not even close to part of my job)). I was not impressed by the theocratic idiocy.
I turned to the older man and said, “No. We don’t get any guidance at all regarding which of the many holiday greetings to use. I use happy holidays because I’m not a Christian, and I have no idea whether the person I’m talking to is, or not.”
He frowned. Then said, “Well, happy Hanukkah.”
He then informed me that he would write his congressman to complain about atheists in the government and that it was atheist’s fault that the government cost so much and did so little. He was not, however, nearly that erudite. He was irate and getting redder and redder in the face. Apparently, the thought that an atheist could work for our Christian nation (yes, he actually said that) blew his mind. And temper. And blood pressure.
His wife (I assume (though since he is a right wing religio-political nut, she may have been a really old prostitute)) dragged him away muttering about his blood pressure. He continued frothing as his woman pulled him away.
The young lady behind the counter smiled at me and, gesturing toward the frother, said, “What an asshole. Happy holidays, sir. And enjoy your meal.”
I have come to the conclusion that there really is a War on Christmas. This WoC is not, however, being waged by liberals, atheists, free thinkers, Jews, Muslims, Democrats, the ACLU or the AU. The WoC is being waged by the very people who think that they are protecting the holiday Christmas season. By enforcing a narrow ideological interpretation of the celebration, the Christian right is alienating cultural Christians like me. They are forcing people to make a choice — a choice between each family’s traditions and the narrowly focused evangelical interpretation. The built-in authoritarianism of radical conservative Christianity does not tolerate heterodoxy. Differing traditions are viewed as a threat, not a strength.
Will the radical Christians destroy Christmas in their attempt to keep it ideologically and theologically pure? If the asshat I met today is a representative example of the radical wing of Christianity, the answer may be yes.