Monday, December 1, 2008


Lo, the holiday season arriveth, which means the annual rituals of resentment are already in full flower, profuse poinsettia. Like candies at the check-out counter, offense is easily taken. "There's a war on Christmas," we are told, sulum annus, right on schedule. More than mistletoe and mulled wine, it's ubiquitous, indignation polluting the air like spray-on snow. Irate letters fill the op-ed pages, red-faced radio ranters and television talkers spew their righteous anger. There's war, alright. The liberals, the atheists, the Jews, the infidels, rolled into an all-purpose receptacle of rage, are vilified as threats to life itself. Killers, once again, of Christ. Sodomizers of Santa.

What bunch of caterwauling crap!

As surely as the earth has found its way anew around the sun, as predictable as Christmas sales before the turkey is cold, on cue we hear, rising and shrill, in high dudgeon, voices of those demanding Nativity scenes on courthouse lawns, at City Hall. Nothing is of higher import; society is at no greater risk -- our very existence is at stake! -- than from those who think creches and churches are a perfect match. May the joy of Christmas be upon us: Jab the Jews! Mash the Muslims! Bash the Buddhists! Heck with the Hindi! They'll hijack our holiday!!!

What a load of fabricated fury!

Where's the problem? The US has more churches per capita, and a lower percentage of atheists than any other Western country. Christmas is everywhere this time of year: can anyone deny it? So there are some merchants who -- because they think it's good business!! -- prefer to say "Happy Holidays" to their customers. So what? For that matter, what does all the selling and buying have to do with the birth of Jesus anyway? And in what way does the substitution of a phrase in your local mall prevent anyone from celebrating Christmas? Are there more churches in 2008 than there were in 1958? Do they have Christmas services? Is the Pope in the woods? If there's a war, who's winning?

If every church in every city in every state had a Nativity scene on its lawn, you couldn't drive five blocks without seeing one. They're everywhere. So why is it that some expect their governments to provide them as well? Well, as it turns out that's actually an easy one: those who demand it do NOT believe in religious freedom; they simply REFUSE to make the connection between respecting religion and keeping it separate from government. They don't get -- and they never will -- that separation is the greatest protection of religious freedom that there can be. Not to mention that it's generous towards one's fellow man. But they're not interested in that -- couldn't care less, matter of fact. What they ARE interested in is having THEIR religion prevail, officially, over all others. For some reason I'll never understand, it's not enough for them to be able to say "Merry Christmas" to whomever they want, to decorate their own houses and strew wise men over their lawns like fertilizer, to cradle the baby on the grounds of their church, in their homes, dangle him from their rear-view mirrors, slap him on their bumpers. They demand to see it in the public square, state buildings, stuck in the faces of everyone. Not only do they have no concern for those who believe differently, they'd like them to go straight to hell, thank you very much. Toss 'em down the hole themselves. O'er the coals we go, laughing all the way.

There's no war on Christmas. What there is, among some people, is sensitivity to diversity of thought. If there's any degradation of the significance of Christmas, it's by those who seek to cash in on it, whether commercially or by their circumsolarcyclical and well-compensated rants. Those who don't celebrate it -- let's pretend I speak for them all -- have no problem with others who do. Hell, I like seeing nativity scenes on church lawns. If someone merrychristmasses me, I merrychristmas 'em right back. And I can harmonize on Christmas carols better than anyone I know. But Jesus people! Where's the harm in drawing a line? Just for this four weeks, pretend you give a damn about the rest of us. Make like you not only love America, but the people in it. Have your Christmas; pray it, sing it, spend it. Fall on your knees and hear the angels' voices. Jingle all the way. But:

In the spirit of the season, wish everyone well. If a merchant wants to make his money by refraining from exclusivity, let him. Go shop somewhere else if you must. Don't scream bloody myrrhder. Use a little common frankincense. You have your church, your home, your friends' homes; you have your Christmas Tree Lanes. Carols are in the elevators, on the radio; Charlie Brown and everyone else has a Christmas special. Twenty four hours a day you even have your own Christian cable. Several of them. Hell, you can even pray online! So when you look at your city hall and don't see a creche, be glad you live in America. Consider it a gift to yourself, from all the rest of us.

Open it any time you want.

And Merry Christmas!

[Update, 12/3: this should make at least one of my commenters happy!]

[Maybe this, too.]


  1. Happy December 1st Sid! and happy Holidays! Jeez, did you wake up on the wrong side of the month or what? Admit it, don't you get a little tear in your eye when Charlie Brown brings in that little skinny Christ-mas tree?? How about those pitiful has-been toys on that "Frosty the Snowman"?? C'mon...admit it you love the 6 million "A Christmas Story" reruns...I know I do. And I'll bet a months social security taxes old Barak Hussein says "So Help me God" when he takes the oath next month. And why doesn't the Congress quit sayin the Pledge of Allegiance like a sullen class of 5th graders before opening every session, they WON for criminy's sakes. And are you sure you didn't forget something with this post? Not a single mention of the greatest President of the 21st century, George "W" Bush,

    Merry Christ-mas,


  2. Frankie: unlikely as it might be, you seem to have missed my point: I DO like that stuff. My point is there's plenty of it, so where's the so-called war? Why the need for creches on state property? Xmas is everyfrickinwhere.

  3. Phil Plait would be proud of those puns.

  4. Sid, you are spot on! Thanks so much for this post!

    All one has to do is spend about an hour or to using the NEXT BLOG feature of Practically every blog belongs to a person or people of different religions -- covered headed women and friends in Malaysia, Portuguese folks practicing Christianity or whatever religion they have decided is theirs (I don't read Portuguese), humble pie from the Brethrens in Pennsylvania, etc. etc.

    I did have a little problem with an LDS follower in our area. She posted a photo of an aborted fetus which appears to be a black baby with its head torn off. I responded that NO ONE LIKES LATE TERM ABORTION, but I respected her choice, and she should respect mine. I do not want her to make MY CHOICE.

    That isn't what happened, however. She posted a big fat diatribe at the bottom of my movie review, which I promptly deleted. Then, I went back to delete MY POST on her blog. (What the hell was I thinking... that she would UNDERSTAND my position, much less support it?)

    Ah, well. Fundies unite to keep their ideas going. Did you hear Sarah Palin's crapola from Georgia about the second amendment?

    Heck, the crucified son of God sure left a lot of work for Himself when he comes back, didn't he? Or, maybe he never actually made it here... that's what the Rabbi told me when I was 13 years old.

    Anyway, seasonal wishes for the coming Winter Solstice from the Profane Jewess of Portland...

    We're going to California to visit the sun and contemplate our navels (oranges, that is).


  5. Oh Dr S. - You amuse me with this one. :)

    When you describe the Christians you are not accurate in your assessment because I don't wish ill will for anyone, for any reason and certainly because they don't share the same belief system.

    But I have to tell is sad, disconcerting frustrating and annoying that I have to worry if it is PC to say Merry Christmas. Mind you... I am 53 and grew up saying Merry Christmas my entire life. Then in the 90s we had to get all inclusive and include other faiths. Okay.. no problem there.. but then the school Christmas program had to change to the holiday program that you had before Christmas break.

    Places that previously had Christmas decorations had to include other religions or take them down. people all got offended.

    Didn't the people that came here do so to escape religious persecution and didn't they celebrate Christmas? actually my husbands family goes all the way back to the French Huguenots and have been here since the 1600s... but I digress.

    People are AFRAID of OFFENDING someone with Merry Christmas. I am glad to hear that doesn't offend you. Personally I think people overreact. I have no problem wishing my Jewish friends Happy Hannukka nor do they saying Merry Christmas. And if someone assigned me to the wrong what..they are still wishing me well.

    I will tell you what I do have a problem with and it does irritate me and... I don't want anyone ever to go to hell because they grieve me.

    I abhor how some stores, who sell Christmas decorations, trees, etc., decided that they will no longer dell Christmas trees but that they now sell holiday trees. They don't want to offend anyone with the word Christmas.

    Give me a break! They didn't care about offending the people who celebrate Christmas, who come in to THEIR store to buy CHRISTMAS items.

    As far as I am concerned... any store that doesn't want to acknowledge that a Christmas item IS a CHRISTMAS item...does not want my CHRISTMAS money. It's pure logic really. They want the Holiday people but not the people that celebrate Christmas.

    And I have to tell you... I do not remember anybody being offended by Christmas until all the PC stuff started. I mean it is the best profit time of the year for sales.

    I'll tell you how crazy it is with some people. I think I posted briefly on it a couple of years ago.

    A local pharmacist that I dealt with for years decided to get out of the business and focused on the retail stores he owned. He has a local Hallmark store.

    I have gone to his stores for 33 years. We are always happy to see each other and I was so disappointed when he wasn't going to be the family pharmacist anymore. he's Jewish. i have always wished him a Happy Hanukka and he wishes me a Merry Christmas. But I digress.

    A couple of years ago, I was in his store making a purchase. I was the last person in the store and they were about to close. After getting my Christmas items, I said Merry Christmas. The 2 woman didn't answer me. Not a word. I thought that perhaps they didn't hear me. So I repeated it. Nothing. Silence. So I just left. It was totally awkward. I mean not even a Happy Holidays.

    I ran into the owner a couple of weeks later in the parking lot. I asked him if he had instituted some politically correct policy where the employees couldn't say Merry Christmas. ? He said "No,not at all!" he seemed concerned. I told him what I said here about the stores selling Christmas items not wanting my Christmas money if they were taking Christmas out of it. He said he understood. He said he didn't care if they said Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. Btw...these were two older adult women.

    It wasn't that they didn't say Merry Christmas..they didn't say anything. I think sales people are representing the company and should be amiable. Happy Holidays would have been fine..even Good night or you too.

    Last year they responded with Merry Christmas.

    I feel like there has been a reverse discrimination.

    I don't have any problem with putting a mennorah up, being inclusive.. saying Happy Kwanzaa.

    I do have a problem with trying to remove Christmas from Christmas.

    I love the end of It's a Wonderful Life where Jimmy Stewart is running through the streets of Bedford Falls shouting Merry Christmas and wishing everyone well! I guess that movie isn't PC either and the town shouldn't have been decorated.

    I heard Jackie Mason (Jewish) talk about how he was never offended by the Christmas celebration. He said if he went to Israel... he'd expect to celebrate whatever they celebrate or if he went to another country to celebrate what they celebrate and he wouldn't be offended.

    I am sorry... but I really don't get all this offense stuff.

    I don't happen to celebrate Halloween... ever since I learned it was the high holy day for satanists and also I don't happen to like how grizzly and macabre some people decorate. So instead... I decorate for harvest with pumpkins, cornstalks and the like. I even let my kids trick or treat but they couldn't be gruesome.

    I hate the creepy decorations in the stores.

    So ... my point is...I am not offended by the stores putting this stuff up.

    I don't expect the stores to change the name of any item because "I" don't like Halloween.

    I don't make a fuss at school for celebrating a religious day with the kids even though I don't agree with it.

    I think people get all crazy with this pc stuff.

    And actually...I told my kids Santa wasn't real.

    I decided to do that because of a Donahue program I had seen before I ever had our sons.

    The show was about lying. One of the couples said we teach our children not to lie... but then we tell them Santa Clause is real and the Easter Bunny etc. then we expect them to believe us when we tell them other things and also not to lie.

    I don't remember anything else but that stayed with me. My husband didn't care either way and so went along with me when our 1st son was born.

    By then I also decided that I wanted them to believe God was real and not like some fictitious holiday Character.

    Interestingly, some people looked at me like I was the anti-christ because in their mind I ruined Christmas for our kids. Fine... but Christmas is about the birth of the Savior and I wanted them to know THAT was real. When our 2nd son was born, my mother wanted to know if I was going to ruin Christmas for him like I did the 1st son. ?

    And we still had their pics with Santa Clause, the tree and they knew the presents came from us.

    Once a Jehova's Witness stopped by and asked me how I could say I was a Christian and yet have a pagan symbol - the Christmas tree in my front window. Sigh... I am not legalistic and frankly... I look at all the commercialization as one heck of a birthday celebration for Jesus. :) (Who they believe was really born in March)

    So those are the first 2 reasons. the 3rd reason is that I felt bad for any children that hear about Santa Clause but because they are poor... won't get any presents.

    One night ( I was tired) asked a Jewish ED doc if he told his kids about Santa Clause and he shot me a are you kidding me look. Anyway...that comforted me because I knew I wasn't the only parent to not go along with the myth.

    Allll that being said... I don't know what I would do now. My granddaughter does believe in Santa and I go along with it.

    I also don't know anyone who is messed up in their adult life because they believed in Santa... is disappointing when kids find out.

    So in all that wordage... my offense is when they try to remove Christmas from Christmas. Or that people would sue or fuss over things that have been traditions in this country from the beginning.

    Years ago, while shopping in Macy's..I wrestled with should I say Merry Christmas if they are saying Happy Holidays? Am I being horribly politically incorrect/ So something that had been a happy festive time was now being challenged and I felt uncomfortable which saddened me and then became annoyed as I heard more about this.

    Maybe no one agrees with me but those have been my sincere thoughts.

    And I promise you...that I don't want anyone who doesn't agree with me going to hell. I am not at all mean spirited and wish everyone well... Christmas or not.

  6. seaspray: I'm sorry you feel shy about saying merry christmas. I don't. Nor did I imply every Christian wants me to go to hell; just the ones that want to make America a Christian theocracy. It's a big country. It includes people who are concerned about offending, people who want to offend; merchants who try to be inclusive, others who don't.

    Christmas is everywhere, from well before Thanksgiving, to the last 50% off sale. In what way it's mouthed in a particular mall is hardly relevant to the celebration of the holiday by those who wish to celebrate it in whatever way they choose. Why some people equate the holy day with one form of merchandizing or another, when the day is about something else entirely, escapes me. And what does believing in Santa have to do with the birth of Christ, anyway? Hell, I believed in Santa!!

    For every person who is "afraid" of offending, there are ten who aren't. For every person who takes offense, there are ten who don't. Every year we hear the same crap about "THEY" who are ruining Christmas. Even as Christianity is an ever increasing political force, as creationism is on the rise in our schools, as Christianity is more and more a necessity for national office, Christians complain about how "THEY" are ruining Christmas. How persecuted they are.

    Ever since they closed the colliseum to lions, Christians have been in persecution withdrawal.

    No offense.

  7. Sid:

    I never thought this word would exist my mouth (or fingers), but "Amem"! Great post.
    RE: Fiddler- Thanks for the comment. It's a testiment to the power of music. I'll raise a glass to your Mom and "Poppa".

  8. Dr S - you made it clear in your post that you aren't offended by the actual holiday or songs and even like them.

    Even if you didn't like these things..I would not be offended.

    I am offended that having grown up in our country.. a culture that openly has celebrated the holiday with honor and capitalizing on see over the last decade or so the reducing it to a "winter program" because "Christmas" is Politically incorrect has just seemed so wrong. It is denying our heritage. And all the people who didn't celebrate it...still don't have to any more than I have to celebrate Halloween.

    Dr S... it just got all weird and there are so many more important things to focus on.

    Last year..some town in out west decided to take down their red and green lights and replace them with white lights because it was more PC. Gee... I decorate with all white lights inside and out at home and love them.

    But it is the principal operating there. They always celebrated Christmas and now they felt they had to neutralize it.

    It's just wrong and ridiculous and offensive. Not that people don't want to celebrate it the way they did...but that they are afraid and so neutralize/sanitize the holiday so that CHRISTmas isn't acknowledged.

    When they began singing the the Jewish songs in the children's Christmas program...I loved it!

    I don't have a problem with is the taking away that of traditions that have been around for decades - centuries in this country that is offensive.

    "Christmas" is a national holiday. We aren't celebrating "Holiday" with a day off. Easter, July 4th, New Years, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day. They ARE the actual celebrated days. baffles me... perplexes me... when I see stores state they only sell holiday trees, etc.

    Maybe the government needs to banish the "Christmas" holiday because surely taking that day off when we don't acknowledge other celebrated holidays is offensive and totally not pc with today's standards.

    I am not looking to banish Halloween or ruin anyone else's fun. I just celebrate my way.

    Where is the ACLU when it comes to sticking up for Christian rights?

    And you know what?

    I have never looked at other faiths as offensive. I am grateful we live in a country where we can all celebrate whatever we want or choose not to.

    I was floored when I saw these various challenges and changes come up.

    This country has always celebrated Christmas openly. is greatly commercialized and that keeps people working and putting food on the table.

    But the real meaning, the birth of Christ brings a message of hope to the world, peace and love.

    Yes...that message through human divisiveness has put man against man at times... but the true meaning..the one God about love for people.

    I am not meaning to offend any one who does not believe this or in God... but just stating... that the real message is a pure and good message. And people sure do give a lot at this time of year. It is not a bad holiday.

    Actually...Christians do still get killed for their faith today in certain countries.

    Wasn't Santa a St Nicholas or something? We just have the fun of him but like I said..I kept him the fable he was. And I honestly don't know if I was right or wrong. I may have over thought that one. :)

    A cute story... relatives of ours trained horses and so on Christmas eve after their 5 yr old daughter went to bed... they placed horse sleigh bells on the sidewalk. When their daughter woke up they said "Look heather... Rudolph left his sleigh bells outside!"
    So cute! :)

  9. The ACLU has defended Christian rights often, and tthen some!.

    And I'd add this: making the argument about what's "pc" and what isn't greatly belittles the significance. It's about way more than that. But my point was, in fact, smaller in a sense, and I'll repeat it for the last time: nothing prevents anyone from celebrating Christmas in what every way s/he wants, at home, in church, with their friends. Isn't that enough? Isn't that the whole darn point?

  10. Sid, as ever, your observations are spot on. I would just add a Christian comment (a holdover from the Day) that the most devout Christians do not suffer fools gladly. By which I mean that were I to wear my Christian hat, I would be screaming bloody murder that Sarah Palin's invocation of the A-mighty is chilul hashem. (I was an especially odd brand of Christian before I decided to dump the humbug and find a religion that actually works--and I do not mean Scientology.)

    Now, the real question is, since you have "really" retired now, when are you going to take the seat in Congress that waits for you as surely as the Siege Perilous awaited Sir Gawain?

  11. cybersharque: Coming from a family containing a couple of politicians, it's always been a fantasy of mine; but I'm not sure I could stand the idiocy.

    I also come from a family of lawyers, of which I note you are one. The law has always appealed as well, and I loved to talk about it with my dad, who was on the Oregon Supreme Court -- pro tem, for a year -- before becoming the Chief Judge of the Oregon Court of Appeals. Nominated by Johnson to the ninth circuit, got embroiled indirectly in the Abe Fortas fiasco... My brother was a partner at Heller Ehrman for forty years, spent much time in NYC. As you must know, things have changed dramatically.... Now, having looked forward to a pleasant few years "of counsel," has joined with a few other Heller pals to open an office in SF for Hogan and Hartson.

    Whatever else is true, these are not uninteresting times!

  12. The first lawyer I worked for after passing the bar was on his second career, having begun his worklife as an ophthalmic surgeon. The MD/JD combination is especially powerful as a hospital risk manager, which led to my reading all the medical texts we had in the library and then accompanying rounds as often as I could (about twice a month)...because if I was going to advise physicians on risks, and defend them from their bad outcomes, I had to have an understanding of the kinds of things that make MDs lose sleep at night. Ultimately, I was offered entry to med school with advanced standing, but I crashed in A&P (I had to Ace that and biochem before taking a mini-comp before matriculating as a third-year) when I discovered that I have a phobia with respect to the deep thenar space. (And as luck would have it, I'm going to trial next month over a surgeon whose career was abridged by a massive infection seated squarely in the carpal tunnel; my chief says that I present the horrific nature of the injury (including neuropraxis of the median nerve) with such authenticity that I will definitely be handling the trial.)

    Sid Schwab with a law degree would be a terror on wheels :-) and a wonder to behold. But "Hon. Sidney Schwab, Member of Congress" has much more panache. And could benefit many more people.

    When I was a Clintonisto, the mantra was "It's the ECONOMY, stupid," but your campaign mantra could be built around "It's the KARMA, silly child." A few terms in the House, jump to the Senate, and then, who knows, Cabinet Secretary seems too confining for you.

  13. CS: one of my colleagues, who's now president of the state medical association, got her law degree several years into medical practice. Planned to take up med/mal, defending doctors. But although she passed the bar, she never practiced law. Said she preferred the company of doctors!

    During training in SF, nearly all my friends were lawyers, including one who was co-counsel on the losing end of the biggest malpractice judgment in history (can't recall if it was US history, or Cal); in any case, it wasn't too long after that that he switched to the plaintiff's side. Didn't see him as much after that...

    By "Clintonisto" are you implying an actual insider status in the administration?

  14. I was never appointed to a position in the Clinton Administration, but in 1992 I was the chair of the campaign in New York's 4th Congressional District, and in 96 I was Co-chair of New York Lawyers for Clinton. I still have the PowerBook and FileMaker 4.0 to "prove" it, and I still think the main reason why we lost to W was the failure of both campaigns to adopt the technology that was developed for the Clinton run. O did not repeat the mistake, and in fact improved on it substantially though unrelenting emphasis on personal contact between each worker and a constituency of from ten to 200 likely voters. Of course, what O & Co. did was not terribly significant: an Elbonian Gypsy with multiple social diseases could have turned back McPalin. On an even happier note, it does appear that the GOP is fixin' to run the one visible candidate who essentially guarantees O's re-election. For those of us who subscribe to an Illuminated View of History, the nomination of Palin was the conclusive proof that Obama was going to be the next president, and her continued prominence (and wardrobe) augurs well for the next run.


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