Monday, January 02, 2006

The War on Inclusion, Pt. 1.

Happy Birthday Everyone

Oh, it’s not everybody’s birthday? That’s kind of awkward. Not bad, of course. But just silly, really, to be saying happy Birthday to someone not celebrating a birthday. So let me try again.

Have a nice day, everyone.

There that should be fine. What’s that? Oh sure, it’s someone’s birthday. No doubt. But the birthday girl/boy wouldn’t be offended by that would they? I mean, it’s not like I said “Have a nice day unless it’s your birthday in which case screw you.”

They are offended? Whatever for?

This last leap is, of course, the crux of the War on Christmas® meme that Fox News and others on the Right have been fomenting the last few holid– sorry, Christma- . . . oh just screw it – seasons.

The War on Christmas, in the eyes of people who believe in such things, exists on a couple of fronts. One is the extent of Christmas observance in public schools, about which more anon. Another is an apparent trend among retailers to greet shoppers with “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

Fretting about this second front is uncommon silliness, even for the likes of Bill O’Reilly. After all, “Happy Holidays” encompasses all the holidays. Christmas first and foremost, but also Hanukah, Kwanza. Chinese New Year and Tet are coming up, some years Ramadon is around this time, Western New Year for rigid secularists among us. . . it’s just a holiday time of year. It’s not like stores are saying – as I did recently – Blessed Winter Solstice, or something else patently exclusionary. The point isn’t to favor non-Christians but simply to include everybody.

It’s worth remembering that the entities making this decision are large profit-making corporations. These companies don’t pick a wall color without focus-grouping it to death. I’m sure piles of corporate research exist showing, not that non-Christians are offended by “Merry Christmas,” but that they like being included with a “Happy Holidays” greeting.

I decided to blog on this subject when my family stopped at a doll store in Amish country on our way out east last week. The proprietors of this independent small business wear their Christian faith proudly, from the contemporary Christian music piped through the store to the “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from the Bible” poster dominating the wall behind the counter. The family and I are – trust me on this – indistinguishable as non-Christains. Yet the owner said as we were leaving “have a nice holiday.”

Had she suddenly turned? Was she attempting to unravel Western Civilization? I think not. Instead, whe was being inclusive instead of assuming that we were Christian and bing exclusive. In other words, she was being polite.

It that’s not a Christian act, what is?

Some LINKS added after the fact:

If you happen to be in Lancaster, PA with a hankering for doll paraphernalia, check out Aimee and Dalia's Doll Outlet. Despite the overtly religious bent of their enterprise and despite the boycott led by the Pro-Life Action League, they still stock American Girl clothes and books.

After I started drafting this post using the "Happy Birthday" hook, I found this contra post using a similar framing device from occasional poster (and imminent SummitCo blogrollee) judeandelise. Great minds think differently in like ways, apparently.

A couple of "chill out already" pieces have emerged on the Right. This one from the National Review and this one from Micheal Meckler. It's great to hear some cooler heads on this. This was also about the closest to real criticism of Fox News I've ever heard from a house organ like Natty R, and monkeys very nearly flew out of my butt as a result.

If perhaps you doubt the significance of Chanukah to Jewish life, check out the Chanuka posts by Jill Miller Zimon. The post for the final night of Chanukah is here. I've read these a bit wistfully since the Jewish family with whom we celebrated Chanuka has given up on NEO and I miss them. Regardless of your personal connection, bear in mind that folks who object to saying "Happy Holidays," object to including people like Jill into the conversation.


Jim Eastman said...

Kind of tangential, but I find it terribly amusing that you're traversing my hometown of Lancaster, PA. :-D

As to the meat of your post, I couldn't agree more.

My take on it has always been "Happy Holidays" is better for business than "Merry Christmas." There's virtually no cost of using the first instead of the second (except if Bill O'Reilly is shopping in your store), whereas there is the potential cost of making a customer feel awkward, offended, or something else by using the second and diminishing their experience as a customer in the process. Economically, it's a no brainer.

Jill said...

And Happy Everything to you too, Pho. I really enjoy writing about our observances - I'm into that "once you get to know the unfamiliar, how can you dislike it" thing. But I also just enjoy going over for myself and my family how we've chosen to do Jew. (Oy!)

Sounds like the doll store was a trip! I've actually kept American Girl dolls out of the reach of my daughter for a long time. I'm working on forever. :) (Just an expense and commercialization thing, nothing against them from a political perspective.)

Anonymous said...

good to have you back Pho.

Now, we succumbed to American Girls this year. I hate the price, but at least they aren't, um, trampy like the Bratz junk. Oh well, grandma swept in and bought some of those.

This whole "merry christmas" thing has me confused. I seem to remember many greeters/cashiers saying this for years, not just in 2005 as O'Reilly and crew would have you believe. Just my faulty memory.