Hey there, Mr. Hinduist!
Just when you thought we as a collective nation had bigger things to worry about this holiday season, new lines have been drawn in the artificial snow over the mythical “War on Christmas.” For those of you who tend to avoid watching or reading about such nonsense, the “War on Christmas” is a made-up conflict created by people like James Dobson and Bill O’Reilly, who are convinced that liberal atheists are trying to take the “Christ” out of Christmas by forcing Americans to acknowledge that there are other holidays celebrated in December. This year, Dobson’s Christian watchdog group “Focus on the Family” has released a report card of sorts rating retail chains on their recognition that Christmas is the only holiday that matters, rating such stores as Banana Republic and Old Navy as “Christmas offensive” (meaning the word isn’t used is all), Best Buy and Toys R Us as “Christmas negligent” (meaning the word is usually occasionally but not enough for their liking) and Target and Wal-Mart as “Christmas friendly” (you get the idea). Focus on the Family rather unconvincingly insists the report isn’t meant to encourage boycotts; apparently it’s just to let you know the best places to go if you want to hear “Merry Christmas” repeated ad infinitum by surly, underpaid cashiers.
Utah Senator Chris Buttars wants to go one step further by passing a state resolution that would make it mandatory for retailers to use ‘Merry Christmas’ as a greeting to customers.
”I’m sick of the Christmas wars,” Buttars told the Salt Lake Tribune. “We’re a Christian nation and ought to use the word.”
You know, I always wonder how people make it all the way to Congress seemingly without possessing the smallest crumb of knowledge of the Constitution, or really American history in general. You say “melting pot” to these people and they think “fondue restaurant,” and probably a faggy French fondue restaurant at that. Not only do they know nothing about American history, they also know nothing about the history of Christmas itself. There is absolutely no historical evidence that Jesus Christ was born on December 25th, that particular date was chosen by the Romans to coincide with the Winter Solstice. This isn’t a recent development, Isaac Newton was the first to suggest the connection to the Solstice. The celebration of Christmas as we know it, with Christmas trees (originally a pagan symbol, by the way) and Santa Claus, didn’t begin until the 19th century; in fact it wasn’t even declared a federal holiday until 1870. Hanukkah, which does actually have basis in Biblical history, had already been celebrated several centuries prior. How Christmas went from being essentially a made-up holiday to the only holiday Americans should be celebrating in December is truly baffling.
However, though less vocal the individuals who don’t like being told to have a Merry Christmas by retailers are equally annoying.
In another city, at another mall, wherever Michelle Hesse encountered Christmas music or “Merry Christmas” greetings at certain stores, she privately cringed and vowed not to return.
“I just oppose people saying that their God is better or the only one. And I get that mostly at Christmas,” said Hesse, a stay-at-home mom from Lake Charles, La. “I have noticed (I get) looks when I do not reply with ‘Merry Christmas.’”
My guess is that she’s getting looks because she’s being a rude asshole, no better than Erin Nash, who claims she “challenges” cashiers to reply to her ‘Merry Christmas’ greetings and questions them about their employers’ holiday policies (and who also feels the need to mention that her husband is serving in Iraq, even though it doesn’t have a goddamn thing to do with how stores choose to handle the winter buying season). Funny, I didn’t know that wishing someone a Merry Christmas is forcing your religion on them, much in the same way that wishing them “Season’s Greetings” is like telling them God is dead. Then again, I don’t expect much from cashiers, if they can raise their voices over a mutter to say “Thank you” or “Have a nice day” I’m impressed. I’m not making fun of cashiers, mind you, I’ve done my time in Retail Hell and know what a thankless, miserable job it can be, even without having to worry about offending someone with an innocuous, largely empty greeting. I had no vested interest in my customers actually having a happy holiday, as with most people I expect it’s something you say when you want to sound polite, and while it’s nice to hear as a customer I suspect that if immediately after leaving the store I was hit by a bus and killed, Randy at Best Buy’s life wouldn’t be any poorer for it.
Perhaps my belief that, even during the holidays, the customer-clerk relationship is brief and meaningless, its sole purpose being exchanging monies for goods or services rather than spreading goodwill, is cynical. I certainly don’t have the time or the interest in keeping mental checklists of what stores use which greetings, and I wonder how blissfully bereft of real problems the lives of people who do must be. I’m not religious, but the religion I don’t practice is Catholicism, so I can go either way with the greetings. You want to wish me a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Yule, go right ahead, I’ll accept all the good tidings I can get. Granted, wishing me a ‘Happy Festivus’ might result in an eyeroll from me, but that’s mainly because I’m not a fan of Seinfeld, and again, making a point of finding every opportunity to mention how much you don’t celebrate the holidays rates about as high on the Obnoxious-o-meter as mentioning how much you do.
In the spirit of hypocrisy and self-contradiction unique to Americans, cries of discrimination and oppression are taken out on those least equipped to do anything about it. Clearly, the best way to get your message across about the “proper” holiday greeting is by either ignoring or berating a teenager pulling in $7 per hour until they get it right. What’s so fucking hard about just saying “Thank you” or “You too” and walking away? I wish a real, tangible Santa Claus really did exist, so he could bestow upon these people lumps of coal, as well as gaily colored Christmas socks they can cram in their damn mouths.