For a few years now, various pundits have chronicled the War on Christmas, a phrase used to describe the continuing secularization of Christianity's holiest day, with John Gibson and Bill O'Reilly of Fox News being perhaps the most vocal pro-Christmas warriors. This season there also appears to be a backlash, or a War on the War on Christmas, where pundits like MSNBC's Keith Olbermann or even WTMA's Richard Todd have accused Gibson, O'Reilly, and others of making much ado about nothing.
Both sides have a point. Men like Gibson or even Mr. "No Spin" himself who shamelessly use their own influence to shill for their corporate masters come off as cheap and exploitative when they bash other corporations for employing the same type of manipulation. That stores like Wal-Mart and Target have banned employees from using the phrase "Merry Christmas" in the past, no doubt represents a triumph of political correctness over American values.
But despite the duplicity of some, there exists not only a war on Christmas, but more importantly, American culture as a whole.
There was a time in this country when American identity was unassailable, when holidays like Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, or Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter didn't cause controversy. A Jewish man like Irving Berlin wrote songs like "White Christmas" along with "God Bless America" not as an affirmation of Christ, but as a patriot who understood that celebrating the holiday was as American as it was Christian. This was no different from Southerners who had never been to Plymouth Rock celebrating Thanksgiving or black Americans celebrating the Fourth of July. Collectively, these religious and historic holidays represent our national cultural fabric.
The so-called War on Christmas is but one battlefront on the overall war on America itself. Whether in the guise of political correctness, or multiculturalism, or diversity — all under the auspices of fairness — every aspect of traditional American identity can now be challenged and discarded using criteria without parallel in history. Those who denounce Christmas celebrations as religious chauvinism will readily celebrate the "diversity" represented by American Islam. Those who consider Christopher Columbus and the Pilgrims genocidal murderers will readily celebrate the cultural achievements and positive symbolism of Africa, a continent soaked in the blood of tribal warfare. And those who consider our Founding Fathers racist slave-owners and imperialists will never measure non-Western cultures by their own histories of migration, conquest, and subjugation.
As poet Robert Frost once said, "A liberal is a man too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel," and this is exactly where America is today. That it is now controversial to merely say "Christmas" or to display nativity scenes, whether public or private, or even to display religious symbols associated with the yuletide season is not the cause but merely a symptom of a country that has begun to lose its identity. Irving Berlin, hardly a right-wing fanatic, wouldn't know what to make of an America that would reject the most crucial portions of its heritage — particularly Christmas and Christianity — in the name of broad-mindedness. And normal, patriotic Americans, those who rightly take offense to attacks on Christmas or any of the other traditions they grew up with, are looked down upon as not being "progressive" enough for refusing to hasten their cultural demise.
As Olbermann and Todd have pointed out, the actual degree to which the War on Christmas actually exists is arguable, and make no doubt, some overstate the problem for dubious reasons. However, that the War on Christmas exists at all is disheartening.
It was T.S. Eliot who believed that culture is that "which makes life worth living." As with Christmas and our entire American heritage, what kind of nation we live in will be decided by whether we continue to accept and protect the gifts of our ancestors — or take the advice of those who hate them.
Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the "Morning Buzz with Richard Todd" on 1250 AM WTMA.