Of all the despicable, self-serving stunts pulled by Bill O’Reilly over his long career in television, for my money the most egregious is still his annual touting of the War on Christmas. This conflict between good-hearted Christians who merely want to celebrate the birth of Jesus in dignity and peace, and the unscrupulous secular interests of governments and corporations who would deny them their god-given right to decorate every square inch of public space with cheap plastic replicas of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus and sundry livestock, has been raging for the last several years, if only in the minds of O’Reilly and his easily outraged Fox News Channel audience. O’Reilly’s War on Christmas charge has been picked up by other conservative shit-throwers, particularly Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck, who takes shameless attention whoring to such depths that he makes O’Reilly look like the respected old school newsman he has always fancied himself but never actually been.
The other day Ashley spoke with a very sweet woman who was wearing a button on her sweater announcing “It’s Okay to Tell Me ‘Merry Christmas’”. Since that got me to thinking about all this War on Christmas bullshit again, I wanted today to set the record straight:
It’s okay to tell me “Merry Christmas” too. I couldn’t give less of a shit about the baby Jesus, but I do happily celebrate a secular Christmas, with lighted trees and brightly wrapped presents and Santa and snowmen and all that bit. Oooh! — and flying reindeer. I’ll put up the secular Christmas stories I cherish against the religious myths of sacred Christmas any day you want. What’s the nativity got to compare with flying reindeer? That’s what I thought.
But if you don’t want to tell me “Merry Christmas” — if you’re trying to be inclusive, or you aren’t sure what my religious views are, or you just don’t like the way “Merry Christmas” sounds coming out of your mouth, I’ll be glad to accept your wish of “Happy Holidays!” with a smile, and return it to you in the spirit it was offered. Same goes for “Season’s Greetings!” Know what I say when someone wishes me a happy holiday? I say thank you, and I wish them the same. It doesn’t matter what words they chose to express the sentiment — it’s the sentiment that counts.
Wishing someone Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays, or whatever, should not be a political statement. A few years ago O’Reilly started selling “We Say ‘Merry Christmas’” bumper stickers on his website. What a prick. As though the holidays we celebrate — no, not even that — the ways we choose to share that celebration with others — must function not only as well-wishes to our fellow human beings, but as pronouncements of political positions. It’s paranoid, it’s sectarian, it’s divisive — in other words, it’s exactly the opposite of what Christmas is supposed to engender in the people that celebrate it.