By Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis
Scripps Howard News Service
The holidays are here, and with them a new tradition: The ``war on Christmas."
Battle has commenced. The American Family Association this month called for a boycott of Gap Inc. ― owner of The Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic ― because the retailer allegedly failed to use the word ``Christmas" in holiday advertisements.
In fact, one Gap commercial featured dancers urging viewers to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other winter holidays.
Why can't we put aside partisan bickering during the holidays? Or does this debate actually signify something important in American life? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, consider the question.
Let's not mince words here. The ``war on Christmas" is just plain dumb. It's an insult to the intelligence of every American. It's a trumped-up controversy to insert Bill O'Reilly and the American Family Association into the headlines during the slowest news days of the year. And we're falling for it. We always fall for it.
And that's the kind interpretation of this ``war on Christmas" business.
The less-kind interpretation is that some ― not all or even most ― Christians are so insecure about their place in American culture that they are demanding the rest of the culture pander to them.
Never mind that there are a whole host of holidays celebrated by Americans this time of year: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice.
A simple greeting of ``happy holidays" is a gesture of inclusion. But it's clear that the ``war on Christmas" folks don't care for inclusiveness, don't want to be polite to people who don't share their faith, don't want to share at all. They just want to win.
Their attitude is ugly, arrogant and has nothing whatsoever to do with the birth of a baby born in the most humble of circumstances. If it's the meek who are blessed ― as that baby reportedly went on to say as an adult ― then the ``war on Christmas" folks stand zero chance of inheriting Earth.
Of course, pointing all of this out means the ``war on Christmas" folks have won. They created controversy where there was none; every liberal who gets vocally irritated with the culture-war nonsense plays right into their hands. So we're doomed. A time of year that's meant to be joyous is now irrevocably infected with the pettiness of our year-round debates. Happy holidays, indeed.
All most people want is to say ``Merry Christmas" without a bunch of politically correct Grinches and litigious Scrooges getting bent out of shape. We've traveled a long way to reach this absurd point in American life.
Instead of being a joyful occasion, Christmas has turned into the season of walking on eggshells ― with sales! Of course, it didn't start that way, and it didn't have to be this way.
The road to a bland, nondescript, politically correct ``holiday season" began about 30 years ago, when the American Civil Liberties Union began suing to have Nativity scenes removed from town squares and courthouse lawns.
At the risk of gross overgeneralization, those lawsuits led inexorably to this strange period in which politicians light ``holiday trees" and school districts such as the one in Chelmsford, Mass., hand down edicts proclaiming ``No Christmas, Hanukkah or religious items" and ``No Santa, candy canes or stockings." What a bunch of killjoys.
America's devotion to religious liberty sets us apart from much of the world. But why should that make Christmas controversial? Not long ago, people lamented that the spirituality of Christmas had been drained away by too much commercialism. Now the day is too spiritual to bear mention by the state or schoolchildren.
Look, Dec. 25 is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Lots of people celebrate it. Some don't. Fine. You might spend the day unwrapping gifts under a garishly decorated tree or you might spend it at a Chinese restaurant and the multiplex. The expression ``Merry Christmas" isn't an insult or negation of your reason for living. It's a courtesy.
Holidays ― religious and secular, such as Thanksgiving ― matter because they celebrate the very ideals and traditions that inspire people to affirm their common humanity. So this year, let's stress the positives, try to put aside our grievances and have a Merry Christmas.
Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis blog daily at www.infinitemonkeysblog.com and joelmathis.blogspot.com.