Frankel: “War on Christmas” mistakes common decency for aggression

The holiday season is upon us. The signs are all around: Christmas music blares from station to station, Starbucks is serving chemically infused cheer serum and Bill O’Reilly is reporting from the frontlines of the war on the holiday. As the holidays draw nearer, the pushback against sensitivity and respect, or “PC culture” as the right puts it, invariably grows more intense.

The “War on Christmas” is predicated upon the notion that gestures such as renaming government sponsored Christmas displays “holiday displays” amounts to an assault on traditional Christian values. Many of those who oppose “holiday displays” believe that they are symptomatic of a culture that is too politically correct and overly sensitive.

Some go even further, claiming that there’s nothing religious about Christmas, a holiday celebrating the birth of the Christian messiah Jesus Christ. Bill O’Reilly recently wrote, “No one tells you a person could possibly see a secular display of Christmas as an imposition of religion.” In this instance, O’Reilly is referring to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. It’s a fair point. The Rockefeller Christmas tree is not an overwhelmingly religious symbol. The hundreds of nativity scenes outside government buildings across the country, however, are pretty religious.

That the Christian right would even call what they’re facing a “war” is laughable. Religious wars are real, and they aren’t fought between people wearing suits on cable news. They’re being fought right now, as you read this, in the Middle East, between soldiers, with guns and bombs.

Personally, I don’t find anything wrong with calling a Christmas tree a Christmas tree. The term “holiday tree” is ineffective to begin with. The tree in question remains exactly the same, with only the name changing. It’s a silly euphemism. My issue is with demonizing political correctness.

When did sensitivity and political correctness become a bad thing? It speaks to the weakness of the right’s argument that they would attack the left for wanting to respect the feelings of non-Christians. That’s what sensitivity and political correctness is about. It is not about attacking one group’s traditions. Rather, it’s about being kind and respectful to those who may not want to take part in them.

According to former Southern Baptist Minister Pat Robertson, “The nation comes together, we sing Christmas carols, we give gifts to each other … Atheists don’t like our happiness … they’re miserable, so they want you to be miserable.” What troubles me about this quote, among other things, is what Robertson means by “we.” If he means Christians, then he marginalizes the many Americans that have a stake in this issue, but who don’t identify as Christian. If he means people of all faiths, then he’s implying that Christmas is something that everyone loves and takes part in.

Some people just aren’t interested in Christmas. They could be Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, agnostic, whatever the case may be. They’re not trying to ruin Christmas for everyone else; they’re just trying to make it through the holiday season without having something they don’t believe in shoved down their throats. Their nonparticipation is not an outright disapproval; it’s just apathy.

No one is waging a “War on Christmas.” There is no reason to fear people who are just trying to minimize exposure of a religious holiday to those who do not believe in it. Political correctness is not a threat to the global hegemony Christmas enjoys. If “holiday trees” or hearing “Happy holidays!” instead of “Merry Christmas!” still offends you, maybe you should stop being so sensitive.