Dec 12, 2005 at 8:00 am

So presumably we liberals have declared war on Christmas. Funny, I missed the memo. I’ve gone back and checked every e-mail from and the Center for American Progress for the past six months. Not one about Christmas. Or should I say, “The Holidays”?

How can you wage a war if you don’t inform your troops? Here I’ve just been cruising around since Thanksgiving, smiling whenever someone offered me a “Merry Christmas” greeting even though I’m not a Christian, and even though Christmas is many days away. Apparently I am not doing my liberal job; I should demand that these nice people bid me the politically correct “Happy Holidays” and rebuke them for trying to impose their religion on society.

I know, we liberals don’t have enough really important issues to worry about. There just aren’t that many hungry people, Americans without health care, threats to the environment or mega-corporations destroying free markets. With everything going so well — as President Bush keeps telling us — there’s only one thing left for us liberals to do: Take Christ out of Christmas.

The lesson of Christmas vs. Happy Holidays is that one should never underestimate the ingenuity of the American advocacy industry. With no Terri Schiavo lingering in a comatose state, where can Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and their pseudo-pious opportunists find a better publicity — aka fundraising — opportunity? Sure, attack Wal-Mart and Target for not commercializing Christ. Makes sense to me.

In a way, it’s hard to blame the Falwell Frauds for making a federal case of how we express good wishes to each other. They know the American news media is ready and willing to elevate the “War on Christmas” to a life-and-death proposition. Even though there aren’t nearly as many interesting visuals to display, a war is a war, and a victim is a victim. And by golly, if the victim is the country’s most important holiday, the news shows can use this non-controversy to fill five minutes an hour every day, at least until another pretty girl is missing on a tropical island.

Fortunately, most everybody I know doesn’t seem to take this national emergency as seriously as Falwell and Bill O’Reilly, who for once in his life was accurate when he said this whole thing was insane. Of course, he thinks it is insane that some people choose to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” but at least he came up with the right word to describe the alleged war on Christmas.

By way of background, the whole episode seems to have begun when U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert proclaimed that the tree outside the U.S. Capitol would be called a “Christmas Tree” rather than a “Holiday Tree.” Far as I can tell, not one person made a big deal out of this name change except the religious exploiters who saw another chance to cry about how the nation’s majority religion is being discriminated against. This is a logical impossibility, I believe, but one that is constantly used to generate more contributions and votes from radical religious interests.

The strangest thing about the whole brouhaha is that Falwell and the other nuts decided to pick a fight after the other side (if there actually is another side) surrendered. With few exceptions, everybody who was asked said they didn’t care what anybody called the tree. Louisville’s Jewish mayor Jerry Abramson had it absolutely right when he said, “People can call the tree whatever they want.”

Well, Mr. Falwell and Mr. O’Reilly, as one of those devilish liberals, I believe any tree that is decorated at this time of year should be called a ”Christmas” tree, because there’s nothing in other religious traditions that mandates decorated trees. I would think most non-Christians would object to the implication that they are subsuming their religious identities to yours.

Like many Christians and non-Christians, I am one of those people who have decorated trees in their houses because they like the spirit of a holiday season that focuses on goodwill toward people of all faiths and ideologies, and not because they think a tree with lights and candy canes has some spiritual significance.

We liberals and other members of the sane majority know there is nothing holy about the American holiday season except what goes on in the hearts of the devout.

We know that 99 percent of all season’s greetings, whether they be “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas,” are simply people being friendly to each other.

We know that people say “Happy Holidays” not because they are trying to take Christ out of Christmas, but because it doesn’t make sense to say Merry Christmas when it is only one day and it is a month away.

We suspect Falwell, O’Reilly and company have too many sugarplums dancing in their heads.

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