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Wed Dec 25, 2019, 09:38 PM

Suppose they had a War on Christmas and nobody came. [View all]

I wanted to wait for Christmas to wind down before discussing an encounter I had on Tuesday at a local hobby shop.

My primary hobby is birding, but if I can’t get out for whatever reason, I also like to build model aircraft. Right now, I’m building a 1:48 P-47D Thunderbolt, and I plan on printing decals to match the markings of a plane my grandfather was photographed flying in 1945. He was a flight instructor and would presumably have flown trainers most of the time, but flew a Jug at least once. I want to make this as accurate as possible, which meant getting the right shade of yellow-green for the wheel wells. That, in turn, meant going to the hobby shop to buy a small jar of it because yes, I’m that picky. (I’m not the only one. They sell paint that precisely, or so we’re told, matches the interiors of the fighters for pretty much every nation involved in WW2 and, if appropriate, each branch that operated aircraft.)

So, anyway –

Somebody to my right said something. That’s the side where my ear doesn’t work very well, so I didn’t know if he was talking to me. Evidently, he was, because he repeated it, loudly and, I could sense, with some annoyance – “Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas,” I responded.

Evidently, he was one of two people in that hobby shop who considered themselves front-line infantry in the imaginary “War on Christmas,” and that this particular hobby shop was going to be a new front.

“It’s the liberal left that won’t let us say ‘Merry Christmas’ anymore! We have to say ‘Happy Holidays!’ What a bunch of politically correct bullshit!”

The other fellow sat nearby, nodding along with his friend’s tirade.

I’m serious about this whole “War on Christmas” thing being imaginary. I’m constantly reminded of the Vietnam-era peacenik slogan, “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came.” That nobody burst into the hobby shop to drag this enemy of PC off to a FEMA camp should have revealed to this particular culture warrior that he was the only one there fighting some sort of pretend “war,” but it didn’t. He kept yammering on about it. About how people who don’t celebrate Christmas should just get over it. About how “Happy Holidays” is actually offensive to Jewish people – or should be, if they’d pay attention to their own traditions – because Hanukkah is a season, not a holiday. About how this run-amok political correctness is destroying America. And so on.

I kept my mouth shut through this. I really just wanted my jar of Tamiya XF-4 Yellow Green, and maybe a few minutes to browse the aircraft kits for sale.

Then he said something that called for a response: “You know, teachers and professors aren’t allowed to say ‘Merry Christmas’ anymore. Not that it matters, since they’re all a bunch of liberal Marxists who want to destroy America from within.”

I'm a professor at a public university. I do say “Have a good holiday” when responding to a student at this time of year, but it’s not university policy, and it’s not a sense of moral arrogance. It’s a matter of courtesy. Yes, most of my students celebrate Christmas, but not all of them. Some celebrate Hanukkah. Others may celebrate something else. I don’t want to presume to guess which one. So I say “have a good holiday” on the theory that the student will either be celebrating some sort of holiday or enjoying winter break, and that my statement will be understood not as political correctness, but a wish that the student has a good holiday.”

So I spoke up. “Actually, we’re not forbidden to say ‘Merry Christmas.’ Many of us do prefer to say ‘have a good holiday…’”

“Because you’re worried you’re gonna get sued,” he said.

“No,” I replied. “I’m not afraid of getting a nasty email, either. But I think it’s polite to be as inclusive as possible. Don’t you?”

He started back on his list of reasons for wanting to be offended. People need to lighten up! It’s meant as a good thing, don’t they know! Pretty soon, we won’t even be allowed to celebrate Christmas!

I didn’t say anything after that.

I would have told him some people actually do find “Merry Christmas” somewhat offensive, and that they have a legitimate reason to feel that way – they dislike the assumption that the majority applies to all, especially when there’s been a long history of their traditions being suppressed. We could brush it off with “don’t be so sensitive,” or we could try to understand why some people might feel strongly about this.

I would then have told him that I had a choice – I could decide to make my holiday wish into a political statement, knowing that I might offend some people and feel offended when the other person expresses offense (or even has the audacity to respond with “Happy Hanukkah” or whatever). Or I could express a genuine wish that someone have a nice holiday, whichever holiday is involved. Which wouldn’t offend anyone and would actually reflect the spirit of goodwill and kindness this season is supposed to embody.

But the best part came as he left the store. “I’m still going to say “Merry Christmas!” And it’s my Second Amendment right to say it!”

Anyway – I got the paint.

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