Sunday, November 23, 2014

It's That Time of Year Again: The PWoC Returns

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Yes, it’s November, folks, and we all know what that means. It means it’s time for Christmas decorations to start appearing on the shelves and in the streets. It’s time for Christmas commercials to begin showing up on TV. And it’s time for loud (and ultimately useless) grousing about how awful it is that all this is happening when it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.

All of this is followed, as the night follows the day, by the annual Phony War on Christmas (PWOC), that yearly ritual in which the most privileged class of people (white, straight Christians) in the most privileged country on Earth get to whine about how they’re being oppressed because someone wished them “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

As always, the first cries of woe came from our old friends at the Resentment Channel, aka Fox “News.” Bill O’Reilly, whose platoons of researchers apparently comb the Interwebs looking for stories to spin up into new occasions for right-wing butthurt, announced, in his words, “the first salvo in the war on Christmas.”

In one school district in Maryland, O’Reilly said indignantly, “there will be no mention of Christmas or any other religious holiday on the school calendars going forward. That’s because a Muslim did something!”

Now, you may be thinking, “Doggone those Muslims! Now they’ve gotten Christmas banned! Is there no end to their perfidy?” Not so fast. What “a Muslim” (actually several local Muslim leaders) did in Montgomery County, Maryland, was ask for a day off for one of their own religious holidays, known as Eid al-Adha or “feast of the sacrifice.” They were certainly not asking that there be no Christmas.
I imagine they didn’t expect the school board’s reaction, which was to totally punt on the issue and remove all religious designations from the school holidays, both Christian and Jewish. It was a decision which satisfied no one.

Note well that the Christian and Jewish holidays themselves are still there: Everyone still gets the same time off for Christmas and Easter, as well as the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It’s just that Christmas vacation happens over what’s now called “winter break.” Easter vacation is where it’s always been, during “spring break.” As for the Jewish holidays, they’re
designated as days of “no school for students and teachers,” according to a report in the Washington Post. So the kids still have the same holidays they had before, to celebrate in any way they and their families see fit. 

You’d think that would placate Mr. O’Reilly and his colleagues. You’d think that, that is, if you’d been living in a cave without TV for the last 20 years and were unfamiliar with Mr. O’Reilly’s shtick. This board decision, he groused, was “wiping out” all our traditions. “They’re wiping out — you know Christmas and Easter and Passover, these have a Judeo-Christian tradition in our country,” he said. “So they just wiped out all our traditions for these people.”

Actually, “they’ve” done no such thing. While calling the break at the end of the year “Christmas break” is something we may have gotten used to over the years, I seriously doubt that anyone regards how it’s designated on the written school calendar crumpled up in the bottom of Junior’s backpack as one of their fondly embraced traditions.

In any case, I strongly suspect that students and parents will still refer to the holidays as “Christmas break” and “Easter break,” and no one will try to stop them. All will still be allowed to participate in their real traditional observances of the season, such as trampling their fellow celebrants on Black Friday so as to snag the last of the “door buster” 50-inch TVs for $199 at Best Buy.

I’ve noticed that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of outcry from Jewish people over the Montgomery County School Board decision, even though their holidays got the same treatment as the Christian ones. Perhaps this is because Jewish folks, having actually been the recent targets of horrific and genocidal persecution, are less inclined to get their knickers in a twist over what some school board calls a holiday.

It’s a lesson some people could stand to learn. If the thing that makes you indignant is a faraway school board calling the end-of-the-year vacation the “winter” rather than the “Christmas” break, or the thing you feel the burning need to protest is someone using “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” then I submit that you’ve actually got life pretty good and should just be thankful for that, it being the season for thanksgiving and all.