Friday, December 21, 2007

Have yourself a politically-correct Christmas!

I'm very much afraid the world has developed a serious case of politically-correct madness. Just the other day I was told that in some mall in some city (okay, so details and accuracy were pretty much sacrificed in the telling)the Santas on staff were no longer allowed to say ho-ho-ho because it might have an offensive interpretation in "street" language. Now, really! What is going on when we're censoring Santa's vocabulary in such a ridiculous way? "Ho-ho-ho, merry Christmas!" was a cheery greeting from Santa Claus long before it had any other interpretation that I'm aware of. I'm hereby re-claiming it for its originally-intended meaning.

This incident, assuming it actually did happen as reported, is just the latest in an attempt to tone down the holiday season in a way that makes it almost unrecognizable from what it was when I was a kid. Back then -- w-a-y back then -- we still had Christmas pageants in school. We sang carols. I'm pretty sure we had plenty of kids from other faiths who did not celebrate Christmas, but who enjoyed the traditions as much as the rest of us. Was it insensitive? Perhaps just a bit. Is it right that we've toned it down in our schools? More than likely. But I can't help thinking that we've lost something in our desire not to offend anyone at anytime.

Why can't we, instead, celebrate all traditions in our schools and in our communities? Isn't that the perfect way to teach understanding and tolerance of all religions and beliefs? No one is a greater defender of the separation of church and state than I am. Nor does anyone believe more strongly that religious freedom is one of the most basic tenets of our society. Doesn't that mean that we should learn about other faiths, respect them and especially teach tolerance of them to our children? My church youth group, w-a-y back when, studied other religions. We went to services in other churches. We were taught to embrace the similarities and to understand the differences. Isn't that the real lesson our kids should be taught, rather than stripping away all mention of religion and faith in our schools? Children have such open minds and hearts. Wouldn't the world be a better place if we worried less about being politically-correct and more about instilling values and respect for others and their beliefs and traditions? Perhaps, then, there'd be fewer hate crimes based on religious differences.

This seems like the ideal season to dream of such things. And I'll do it with carols playing. I'll wish people happy holidays or merry Christmas, as appropriate. And, by heaven, I'll expect all the Santas whose paths I cross to bellow cheerfully, "Ho-ho-ho, merry Christmas!"

In the meantime, I wish all of you joy, the happiest of holiday seasons and, for those of you who share my faith, a very merry Christmas.

Sherryl Woods

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