America is often confused by its own diversity and this becomes painfully clear during the month of December as Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa approach and people start panicking either because their holiday is being attacked, excluded or diluted.
We are often left with Christmas trees next to menorahs next to kinaras and people fighting over whether or not certain symbols should or should not be displayed, but the conversations almost always demonstrate our general difficulties with meaningfully discussing diversity. It's time to reorganize the conversation.
On one side of these conversations there are those who believe concerns for multiculturalism are waging a "war on Christmas." Since people say "happy holidays," rather than "Merry Christmas," the reasoning goes they are degrading the spiritual well-being of the country by diluting our Christian values in an effort to be politically correct.
To them we'd like to say: Are you serious? Just because we say "happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" doesn't mean we are trying to destroy Christmas; it does mean that we are trying to keep in mind the diversity of our population and understand that when we talk with a stranger, we by definition don't know whether or not they celebrate Christmas or another holiday, so rather than assume, we have an easy catch-all phrase. If you happen to know that the person with whom you are talking celebrates Christmas then by all means give them a "Merry Christmas," nobody from the secular police society is going to intercept your conversation and correct you.
On the other side, there are those who go out of their way to put the aforementioned tree – which is called a holiday tree as opposed to a Christmas tree, menorah and kinara in the same holiday display in an effort to include a symbol representative of each of the "three major December holidays." Of course attention to diversity is a good thing but the reasoning articulated and actions taken by people on this side often scream of tokenism.
To them we'd like to say: Stop with the shallow bumper-sticker diversity. This side happens to be closer to getting it right but what often happens is that the focus is simply on ensuring every possible holiday is included in public spaces. If you want to get at the heart of the issue, you have to ask why. Why is it important to include symbols from different holidays?
The complex issues surrounding the diversity of identities in America cannot be captured by decorating your Christmas tree with a menorah and putting a kinara on your dinner table. You have to sit down with your family and have a conversation.
And that's always true, no matter which holiday you do or do not celebrate.