Just in case you might not have noticed, a war which we were fighting ended last week. Okay, technically it didn’t end, but our country’s involvement in it ended. There was a ceremony marking the handing over of democracy or some semblance of political stability from us to the people of Iraq, or at least those people of Iraq who still actually live in Iraq and didn’t become part of the largest international refugee crisis in recent memory.
And oh yeah, no one really expects the enemy to stop fighting, because they didn’t show up for the ceremony. When the war ended in the old days, there was one side who declared themselves victorious while the other side admitted defeat and negotiated a treaty with lots of concessions to the winners, but at least guaranteed them the dignity of not being annihilated. Like now, there would have been a ceremony, a lot of joy expressed by all relieved that the conflict was ended, a lot of parades, and pretty nurses getting grabbed and kissed in the middle of busy urban intersections.
I repeat, these were all signs of how wars ended in the past. We didn’t see any of these events happen this time. There will be no parades, no hoopla, and good luck stealing a smooch from uniformed pretties without getting a pair of cuffs slapped on your wrists for fourth degree sexual assault!
The ceremony in Iraq tried to capture the pomp of a past ceremony, like the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay in 1945 but, let’s face it, we aren’t total victors this time around. Yes, we enabled an environment for democracy to flourish, but democracy can be a tricky bitch. You may believe she will always act benevolent towards all those who believe in her, but she can just as easily choose to sleep with a dictator.
So our ceremony seemed to say, “Hey we came, we saw, we didn’t get the rose petals strewn in our path, we realized too late that it would not be a slam dunk, and our end result makes our involvement in Vietnam look like America’s greatest triumph. What we’re really trying to say Iraq is, ‘Sorry we screwed up! You’re on your own! Adios! We’re out of here!!!!'"
The end of that war leaves a big hole in our schedule for conflict. Fortunately, we Christians can still fight over other things, like the holiest day on the Christian calendar: Christmas! Those on the right side of Christianity have insisted with growing ferocity that there is a war on Christmas. In this regard, a number of Christians have become overly fearful that their holy celebration is in danger of being subverted.
In recent years, many Christians have registered their disdain for any movement which takes the religion out of the most religious holiday of the year. Many municipalities have restricted nativity scenes in public squares lest non-Christians be offended. This is within local government’s right and it satisfies the Constitutional guarantee separating church and state. Otherwise, what are they thinking?
They’re probably thinking that the real message of Christmas — namely, peace and good will towards all — transcends the normal labels of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhism religions and has a universality that appeals to all humanity. Showing a preference for one group over all the others reflects an ethnocentrism which can grow into bigotry and prejudice which can lead to all sorts of nasty things. Christians do have the right to grumble that their icons aren’t as prevalent as they used to be, but they shouldn’t fear that the true meaning of the holiday isn’t shared by everyone. I don’t want to necessarily second guess Christ’s philosophy, but I feel comfortable believing that this is the way he would want us to celebrate his birthday.
We shouldn’t be so fearful if someone uses the term “Happy Holidays" instead of “Merry Christmas”. It’s just a matter of semantics, not a threat against our beliefs. There is no war; there is no conspiracy. There’s no reason to be offended when the greeter expresses the same sentiment, but uses different terms than those to which we are accustomed. (Are you listening, Sarah Palin?)
Or, to put it another way, if you’re a Christian and you have your heart set on being offended by something, then be offended by the fact that there are still starving people in the world. Be offended by the fact that millions of people are still without jobs and maybe without homes before too long. Be offended by the fact that those in whom we place our trust to remedy these situations are more interested in preserving their own opportunities and don’t give a damn about the less fortunate. There many more offensive things than just hearing the words “Happy Holidays”.
So, fellow Christians, calm down and enjoy all of the holiday observances. We do have a lot to be grateful for, even in these days of economic woes. After all, we’re not actively fighting a war any longer, and the fighters are coming home to their families. So, Happy Holidays — whatever you choose to call them - with peace and good will to all.*This could be titled War and Peace, but someone already took that title. A pox on your house, Tolstoy!(Thank you for reading! “…and what have we done? Another year over, a new one just begun”. What more can be said?)