Wednesday, December 13, 2006
What's In A Name?
It's time once again for homes and offices and parking lots and landscapes of ever shape and size to be adorned with Christmas lights. Where I stand on this usually depends on my mood when you ask. Those of you who know my moods know that my opinion could change daily.
Overall, I really don't care about lights. I don't care until someone else tries to make an issue out of them. And because that issue is usually pretty stupid, I get angry and the stupidity of people and how easily it is to hide behind the curtain of "it's Christmas, be nice."
As I said, I really don't care about lights. I live in a secular society that is predominantly Christian so I've come to accept years ago that I will be surrounded by Christmas lights. Most of the time, they're actually quite nice. Then some time when I was in high school, the issue of lights and trees on government property became a big thing. Jews were demanding equal time and I suddenly had an opinion. But I only had that opinion if the request for a menorah (actually, a Hanukkiah to be precise) was denied. I couldn't see the reason for putting up Christmas trees and wreaths and garlands and stuff but not plugging in a little menorah. And then came the big rationalization:
"It's not a Christmas tree, it's a holiday tree."
Holy fucking crap, you have got to be kidding me. This symbol of Christmas which has been around for centuries suddenly lost it's identity? Sorry, no way. You'll never convince me that for the sake of convenience, you can just change the name of it and make everything kosher. This is done often. Remember when Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC in order to keep the public from focusing on the word "fried"? Jeez, I do. So now I'm supposed to believe that these evergreen trees with lights all over them are actually holiday lights? It's almost insulting.
This transformation of names and symbols has grown steadily over the years and I've accepted it with a roll of the eyes or tongue firmly planted in cheek. I only get angry when, without a hint of irony, someone refers to the symbols as sign s of the season. If you take a large tree, put colored lights all over it and show it to 100 people, 100 people will say it's a Christmas tree. Let's not pretend we're all PC and everything. Most of the songs you hear this time of the year have no religious base at all. "Jingle Bells" and the like are just cheesy songs. But they're cheesy Christmas songs. Yes, they don't mention Christmas at all (as far as I know. I don't know every verse). But they've taken on the identity of a Christmas song.
Why am I angry? Hanukkah songs suck. The only decent ones are parodies like the Adam Sandler Hanukkah Song which has gone from funny take on Jews to annoying musical interlude. But I digress.
Maybe more people believe in this euphemism that I think. The proliferation of plain white lights that look like icicles are hung on many houses in order to celebrate the season. But I still don't buy it. If they were just winter lights or something, you'd have them up for the whole season, not just in December. What really gets me is Jews who have a Christmas tree because "it's pretty" or "it's not religious". Here's the thing: while it's not religious in nature, it's a symbol of a religious celebration. So make up your minds. You can't have it both ways.
Again, I accept my place in society and ask for equal time when it seems necessary. A recent event in Seattle has awakened (awoke?) my anger at the stupidity of some people. You've probably heard the one about the airport in the Northwest which took down a bunch of Christmas trees instead of putting up a menorah.
The story goes that SeaTac International Airport has always had a hallway with between 9 and 15 Christmas trees (depending on which newspaper you read). Back in October, a local rabbi. Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky, asked that an 8-foot menorah be placed there as well. Instead of agreeing or at least looking into it, The Port Authority of Seattle removed all the trees claiming that an agreement could not be reached in time (according to a Port spokeswoman named Rachel Garson). And the area went nuts. While the rabbi said that he never intended for the trees to be taken down (thus giving people another reason to hate Jews), the Seattle Times called it a "war on Christmas". Bill O'Reilly would be proud.
At first, I was embarrassed to be a Jew. I figured people were going to start getting angry once the request for a menorah was made. But then I learned that the request was made in October. And there were no discussions about it. But then came the icing on the latke. Terri-Ann Betancourt, a spokeswoman for SeaTac, said that a religious object like a menorah could not be displayed amongst all of the "holiday trees." So now these trees that have been in the airport every year are actually holiday trees? Or are they holiday trees because someone is making some noise about it?
Other moronic comments include one from an airport employee named Jim who said that those trees or not Christmas trees. Nor are they holiday trees. Washington is the evergreen state so it shouldn't be offensive to put lights on them. Hey Jim? First of all you mouth-breathing jackass, no one is offended by Christmas trees. They just want equal time. Secondly, are you actually claiming that this display of trees which appears around Christmastime every year is actually a celebration of Washington State?
So while skimming the Washington newspapers, I decided to check out a readers' forum to see what the public thought. And amongst the intelligent comments were several postings from people claiming this is part of some Jewish conspiracy. One poster wondered when the Jews would start oppressing Americans in the same way they oppress Palestinians. There should be an IQ test that has to be passed before idiots can use the Internet. It's too easy for stupidity to make it to the public.
Well, as of a couple of days ago, the trees have been replaced at the airport. Apologies have been made. The Port Authority promises to look into the issue for next year. No lawsuits will be filed. And several commissioners openly admitted that they overreacted to the whole thing. It looks like the Christmas, or Holiday, spirit lives on.
Posted by Michael Liebowitz