Friday, December 12, 2008

We Wish You a Merry Euphemism

If you insist on saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” it doesn’t mean you’re a bigot – but it helps. Whether you’re a government type who declares that the arboreal splendour in the public square is, in fact, a “Holiday Tree” or a corporate whiz who calculates that “Season’s Greetings” will offend the fewest number of customers, you know who you are and what you’re doing. It’s Christmas and you know it. Clap your hands.

In this cold world, a kind word is always welcome, so if one person genuinely hopes for another to enjoy his or her holiday, or wishes to greet that person in the spirit of the season, far be it from me to cast a stone. But, in the weeks leading up to December 25, if you make a conscious choice to avoid saying “Merry Christmas,” there’s a good chance you have decided that a divine gift that was meant for all mankind, and in which billions of people rejoice each year, is too offensive a notion to cross your lips.

Yes, yes, I know – folks say “Happy Holidays” and other insipid nonsense because not everyone is Christian, so this is a way to be inclusive. But there is no inclusion to be had by euphemising the warmest wish of a particular religion, presuming it to be objectionable to non-believers.

Of course, there are many different religions and faiths in the world. This is something folks are taught by the age of, say, 4 or 5. So, if you are older than this, yet you eschew “Merry Christmas,” what you are putting forward is that one of the world’s religions is uniquely unsuitable for public acknowledgement.

No one frets about being ‘inclusive’ during Passover or Ramadan, nor should they. Ironically, the purported inclusiveness of the “Season’s Greetings” Stasi is actually about exclusion. To wit, it’s about excluding just one religion, Christianity, from any rightful place in modern society.

Showerless know-nothings of the Left have long since extrapolated their vague, fashionable notions of history – from the horrors of the Crusades to the dull intolerance of the 1950s – to name Christianity the culprit for all the world’s evil. This is the stupidest concept to achieve mass acceptance since acid-wash jeans, but here we are.

And so, budding iconoclasts can tee off on the faith, or inflict their petty “Holiday Tree” policies with impunity. And well they might, for it is a riskless proposition. The worst that will happen is they may stumble across a column like this one, calling courage-free conformity by its name. Indeed, those politically correct storm troopers who browbeat Christians in movies and television, classrooms and print, would be much more credible if, just once, they decided to try their censorious tactics on one of those religions where the practitioners react, shall we say, stringently to being muzzled or criticized.

Christians, their antagonists point out, are in the majority, and so their holidays do not merit the same exclusive attention and protection as those of other religions. The reasonable reply to this, of course, is “So bloody what?” Is tolerance a numbers game? Is courtesy quantifiable? Is the respect a religion merits inversely proportional to its number of believers? If so, how do we tally just how blessed rude we can be to the faithful? Is it calculated like a marginal tax rate, off the last adherent rather than the last dollar earned?

Folks may say that a contentious column like this one is inconsistent with the Christmas spirit, and so detracts from its purpose. But Christmas is not just about hand-holding and bad sweaters. I will gamble the false comity of a Sears catalogue photo to stick up for my religion. Too often, folks assume turning the other cheek means rolling over.

Christmas is about Jesus Christ, Son of God, coming down to Earth to show us how a proper life should be lived, then dying unpleasantly for our sins. Believe it or don’t. I am arguably the worst Christian in the world, but we do one another no favours by pretending this Happiest of Holidays is about anything but Him.

Theo Caldwell, President of Caldwell Asset Management, Inc., is an investment advisor in the United States and Canada.