Hillsboro’s War on Christmas

A demonstrator dressed as a Santa Claus is arrested by riot policemen during clashes with students in Santiago

Two things burrow their way under my skin every year at Christmas, two sides of an ugly coin. The first and generally loudest are the inevitable cries about “a war on Christmas” that, at some point each year, generally when ratings are ebbing, are spewed by right wing trolls and other despicable human beings gleefully exploiting the fears of the waning evangelicals. Bill O’Reilly, the particularly cynical and slimy Fox provocateur, is one of the worst of the breed, but he is by no means alone; any right wing loudmouth looking to grab a ratings point or two can play the game.

Just as bad, and sometimes worse, are the hyper-sensitive knee-jerk liberals determined to protect the huddling masses from the onslaught of what they perceive as sectarian propaganda—the loudly mewing left who, if they could, would prove the spastic fears of the overwrought right to be absolutely on target—the delicate flowers who would indeed wage war against Christmas, if they could.

All those bastards, left and right, drive me crazy—worse than Donner went when he saw Rudolph’s Vegas-strip nose. We don’t have a War on Christmas. We don’t need a War on Christmas. Stop pretending there is one. Stop plotting to begin one. I mean, it’s Christmas, for chrissakes! Lighten up.

Santa under arrestAnd that brings us to the most ludicrous story from last week: officials in the Hillsboro, Oregon (a suburb of Portland, which should explain a lot) issued a memo instructing teachers and staff not to include Santa Claus in their seasonal decorations. Specifically:

“You may still decorate your door or office if you like, but we ask that you be respectful and sensitive to the diverse perspectives and beliefs of our community and refrain from using religious-themed decorations or images like Santa Claus,” the Hillsboro School District said in a letter to staff, television station KATU reported.

Full disclosure, lest you think me a stealth Christmas Warrior—I’m actually a fire-breathing atheist, deeply resentful of the intrusions of Christianity into my life, my children’s education, every level of our government, and so forth. I understand the compulsion to liberate children from the perpetuation of bronze-age superstition as a guiding force in our culture, but I’m also as deeply concerned with power structures that would force blind secularism on our day to day life. Christianity is deeply embedded in our culture and our children should not be shielded from it. Indeed, I believe that we are doing a great disservice to those children when we shroud them from one of the dominant streams of our culture by not preparing them to function in a reality that is filled with people who identify as Christian. This is not the place to be ostrich-heading.

But, but, but…I hear a dozen of my friends sputtering over being “forced” to face Christianity when they shouldn’t have to, if they don’t want to, and I’m truly sorry about that. I even understand: I had to spend a few days in Baltimore several years ago, something no good western Pennsylvanian wishes upon even the worst of enemies. I saw Ravens jerseys and ball caps everywhere, and I survived. My children did not become Ravens fans because of the exposure. We may even have developed a grudging sort of respect for them and their strange beliefs—we understand them a little bit better. Nothing leads to anger, resentment, and conflict faster than ignorance.

It is utter madness to ban Santa—Santa!—who ceased to be a primarily religious icon decades ago. If anything, Santa represents generosity, kindness, fair play and morality—values I believe to be universal. He also stands for marketing and commercialism, but not ever icon is perfect. Still, I’m okay with being a little more sensitive to overtly religious icons—crosses, angels, manger scenes—but I’m stuck on this idea that maybe instead of all this fear of offending we reach further for some real understanding. Instead of throwing Rudolph and Santa and all that stuff out of school, instead of banning stuff we—drum roll—practice inclusion. Give me Santa. Hell, give me shepherds guarding their flocks by night but let’s hear about the Maccabees, let’s hear about Ramadan.

I know there is an adamant mass of folks who stridently cling to the conviction that America is about white people sitting around and sternly respecting our Hebrew god, but the America I see—even in my corner of northern Appalachia—is generously populated with Hindis, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and others in mind-bending subsects, diversity within diversity, and I don’t think it is overly idealistic to believe that a lot of our domestic problems—and eventually our international problems—could be mitigated if we actually knew who the people we’re always so eager to dislike actually are.

In the meantime, let’s skip the war on Christmas, both the perceived and the proposed.

11 responses to “Hillsboro’s War on Christmas”

  1. I hear ya, but once you include one…you include them all (as you just said so much better than I can). But then that means… breaks for multiple daily prayer to mecca, kosher food offered in the cafeteria, time off for various fasts, etc etc. I bet, if you included the top 10 major religions of this country in our schools, they’d be out on holiday most of the year. I’m in the camp of leave it at home. School is not the place for ANY religion. Yeah, kids can learn about all the different religions, but observing those religions should be done outside of the school.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I”m not talking about observing the holidays–just recognizing them. My opinion might be swayed, I’ll admit, by the fact that my interest in religions and holiday is purely anthropological, as I don’t believe in any of that mystical crap–but ignorance has passed from distraction to potentially destabilizing force in some communities, and it seems to me that it is a lot more easier to hate what you don’t understand, and easier still when it comes to what you don’t even see. Of course, proselytizing becomes a concern, but we need to turn away from the cultural trend of protecting ourselves and our children from things we think we’re ignorant or afraid of, suck it up, and embrace our diversity.

      Liked by 1 person


    Not blinded
    Nor stupefied
    Beyond belief

    There is nonetheless
    A beauty and a truth
    Buried beneath the dross

    And perhaps our chore
    This and every year
    Is to disinter it

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I like that quite a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s good to read. Thanks. 🙂 Have a good one.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice post, I totally agree! Seriously if someone gets that distraught over having to look at Santa Clause, that person has much bigger issues to deal with than worrying about Christmas decorations.

    And honestly, I don’t think most non religious people are bothered by Christmasy things. It’s the stupid pointy nosed bureaucrats we’ve somehow given the keys to over running our lives. Come to think of it they remind me of little elves….oh never mind! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You went to Baltimore!? How could you!? I’m shocked and appalled!


    Seriously, though, I think you have the right mentality. The world would be a lot better off if people opened their minds and hearts to the idea that other people may have different beliefs than you and that’s okay, too. Instead, we treat people with different beliefs as an enemy to be crushed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. …and it was a terrible visit. Our dinner was awful, the hotel had no hot water and double-charged us for a valet fee that they never refunded, the water taxi skipped our stop and left us stranded at eerily empty Fort McHenry…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The older I get the less interest such holidays hold.
    It’s like having to turn up for a wedding of someone you don’t really know or don’t like.
    Too much booze drunk, too many deaths on the roads, too much money spent and too much nonsense about … nonsense.

    And after all that there is always a shit load of dishes to wash up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m very nostalgic, which helps. I think the big thing is that folks actually prioritize relatiohships, even if it is out of some strange sense of obligation, and it is easy to get folks together. And I don’t mind the dishes.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post! I share your sentiments, and particularly liked your analogy of your trip to Baltimore and the Ravens paraphernalia not turning your kids into Ravens fans! There are lessons here for us all. Thank you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: