Happy You-Name-It! Merry Something-or-Other! Why We STILL Need to be Careful What We Say

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PLEASE
NOTE: For your protection and owing to the new religiously-correct
guidelines, potentially offensive words will be bleeped from this
piece.

Well
the XXX's are upon us, and as we greet friends and fellow shoppers
we're getting a little taste of our own medicine. Well I should
qualify that word "our" – the medicine of which I speak
is the castor oil of caution administered by the Bush administration
and its many religious advisors.

As
Ari Fleischer told us back in 2001, "Americans
need to watch what they say."
And careful we are. In fact,
we're getting carefuller every day.

Considering
all
the hoopla
about XXX greetings, whether for the Christian XXX
season or the Jewish XXX season or the African-American XXX season,
or the agnostic XXX season, I wouldn't be surprised if by next XXX
we stop greeting one another altogether, communicating with smiley
or frowney faces instead.

Of
course that leaves the problem of the written word, which is pestering
me at the moment because I can't seem to sign my emails properly.
If I write, "Merry XXX," I might offend someone who's
not Christian. If I want to be respectful of the possibility that
my correspondent may not be Christian, I can type, "Happy XXX,"
but that would inspire the wrath of Jerry Falwell and his
fearsome Moral Majority
.

All
morning I've been typing greetings and then deleting them, or settling
for the banal and unmerry "Best Regards."

And
as for my XXX cards? I'm sure to land in hot water no matter what
I do, so my solution at this point is to leave them sitting in their
box. It's a shame, because they're awfully cute with blue glitter
designs, but…well we need to be careful what we say.

Maybe
I'm overreacting. After all, we're not that
far gone
yet…

"Bill
O’Reilly warned viewers that store clerks no longer saying ‘Merry
Christmas’ foretold the imminence of ‘a brave new progressive world’
where gay marriage, partial birth abortion and legalized drugs run
rampant."

Who
knew our humble little words could tip the scales of civilization?
There's much to fear, as Mr. O'Reilly reminds us – though he forgot
to mention nuclear war, biological terrorism, and the end of the
world as we know it.

'Tis
the Season for Persecution Complexes and Legal
Battles

Americans
have been primed for three years solid to worry endlessly about
color-coded terror alerts, dark-skinned
Satanic boogymen
, and scary happenings of all kinds. But there's
no better way to turn us into hysterical jitterbugs than to tell
us we're on the verge of being persecuted into extinction.

Despite
the fact that there's a church on every corner and a born-again
Christian manning the White House, American Christians have gotten
in the habit of feeling victimized at every turn; the unspoken sentiment
is that democracy and Christianity just don't mix.

Conservative
pundits, talk show hosts, televangelists and politicians have
sounded the alarm:
Traditional American principles like the
separation of church and state will destroy our religion! If we
can't put our 10 Commandments or our nativity scene in the public
schools or on the steps of the Supreme Court, then by jingles we
have no religious liberty! We'll soon be thrown to the lions by
our heathen countrymen!

Of
course there are some, like Charlie
Reese
, who don't share this exhilarating panic: "I don’t
think nativity scenes belong on courthouse lawns and or other government
properties." Well that's no fun. Mr. Reese seems to feel calm
about the whole thing, as if American principles are fine as they
are. One might even say he doesn't see the need to rewrite the Constitution!

In
the midst of this civil war of words and symbols, I feel a certain
nostalgia for days of yore when people were merry at this time of
year. Perhaps I should get all worked up and join a furious emailing
campaign to get my religious symbols installed at the IRS building,
but right now I'd rather sip hot chocolate and listen to my Boston
Boys Choir CD.

On
this cold wintry morning, staring at my still-unsigned XXX cards,
I can't help wishing for the days when Americans weren't so doggoned
uptight, always looking for reasons to argue and fuss.

Just
Reminiscing…

I
remember when Christians were filled with the joy of celebrating
Christ's birth – the
point of the whole thing.
We had our hands full, what with directing
the squirming kids in the nativity scenes on the church lawn, or
lighting the XXX displays in our front yards. In those blissful
pre-Bush days, we had neither the time nor the inclination to war
with our neighbors about courthouses and greetings and Harry Potter
and Halloween and the Pledge of Allegiance and such.

When
I was a kid, our neighbors weren't so fed up with us, nor we with
them. I remember when the words "tolerance" and "acceptance"
didn't
mean something bad
, they meant something
good.
To be tolerant and accepting meant that we were neighborly – good
American citizens.

But
times have changed and I'd better be careful what I say. So I'll
wish you a Merry Something or Other. Or, if you prefer, Happy You-Name-It.
J

December
22, 2004

Dr. Teresa Whitehurst [send
her mail
] is a clinical psychologist and the author of Jesus
on Parenting: 10 Essential Principles That Will Transform Your Family

(2004). She offers parenting workshops and writes the column, "Democracy,
Faith and Values." Visit her website.

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