Living in the greatest country in the world has its obvious advantages, but sometimes it's difficult living with the utter intolerance of some of its citizens. This is most evident during the holiday season.
The assault on good cheer and fellowship usually begins right after Thanksgiving as opposing sides begin the ridiculous debate over whether we should say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." Folks have created bumper stickers, T-shirts and Web sites, and FOX's Bill O'Reilly debates the issue constantly. Apparently the term "Happy Holidays" was created by the Antichrist to claim our souls for Hades. Anyone who doesn't conform is un-American and must consort with terrorists, right?
We have a lot more things we could be focusing on this time of yearlike charity, compassion, love. Remember those? Frankly, controversies like these always make the United States look like the arrogant, intolerant tyrants that some of our neighbors think we are. Are we not supposed to be a melting pot? Is this not the country that once said, "Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free"? At times it seems we don't mind different cultures taking up residence hereas long as they act, worship or say things the way we expect them to. That's probably the most un-American thing you can do, not to mention the most un-holiday like.
I grew up celebrating Christmas, and I still do. I was reared in a Southern Baptist household that celebrated Christmas as the anniversary of the birth of Christ. Recently, as my family has grown, I've begun to observe Kwanzaa. During school, I was introduced to Hanukkah and to folks who didn't observe the holiday at all. It made me a more well-rounded person.
There are millions of people in this country. All of them don't celebrate Christmas as we know it. Deal with it! Consequently, people shouldn't require, encourage or urge them to say "Merry Christmas" anymore than someone could urge you to say "Happy Kwanzaa" or "Happy Hanukkah."
In that same vein, even atheists and agnostics have the right to celebrate (or not celebrate) in any way they wish. Freedom is this country's foundation, the premise of our many differences. Or at least that's what I thought. But we have the tendency to fear and loathe that which we don't understand. So for me, saying "Happy Holidays" is fine if it doesn't offend or alienate anyone. It's painless, and I don't feel any less "American" by saying it. You shouldn't, either.
It's about goodwill; being with family; giving to those less fortunate; reflecting on all our many blessings. Whether you're Christian, Jewish, Muslim or someone who observes Kwanzaa, your intentions should all be the same. And two mere words simply don't change what your actions should be.
And that's the truth ... sho-nuff.