Sunday, December 10, 2006

Oppressive, Discriminatory Symbol

[Posted by reader_iam]

Sea-Tac removes the Christmas trees from its terminals. What a victory for tolerance and diversity!--not to mention the power of ultimatums, peremptory deadlines, and threatened litigation.

The video version of the story is better. Interesting how the complainer is never named, nor is he interviewed. No doubt he's too proud to comment publicly. Or maybe it's just that bullies are generally cowards.

You know, personally I don't care whether airports are decorated or not for whatever reason or whatever season. Mostly I don't buy into the War on Christmas meme (and it's well within people's rights to stage that war, anyway). But I do care about the fact that one person gets to play trump and decide for everyone what is or is not a religious symbol, just like that, cutting off public debate via threatened lawsuit.

And, yes, I'll say it bluntly: I think that in this day and age, to view the Christmas tree as a religious rather than mostly secular symbol of a holiday season that, as such, is celebrated publicly more in secular terms than religious ones, is the mark of a nitpicking, axe-grinding, self-centered hysteric. I don't care what courts have said. I don't care how torturously people want to tease out a threatening message of oppression from a form of decoration that long ago lost any exclusively religious meaning. Christmas Trees are not manger scenes. They are not equivalent to menorahs, though I don't personally object to the public display of the latter, or any other similar items. For myself, I find such displays interesting and a wonderful expression of diversity, generally speaking, and those I don't I--wait for it--ignore.

Committed atheists and/or secularists can and do celebrate Christmas as a, well, strictly secular holiday. I know a whole bunch who even--gasp!--put up trees. Because they're pretty. They're festive. It's fun. On the other hand, there are those among my circle of friends who don't put up manger scenes, because those are religious symbols. Other people don't celebrate Christmas even from a secular standpoint, or due to their own religious tradition and beliefs. That's perfectly fine, too. What's not fine is to, in effect, cheapen the meaning of oppression or discrimination by defining them as being exposed to other people celebrating seasons that you don't personally celebrate.

I think protesting Christmas trees is a silly, mean-spirited, off-message endeavor, pursued mostly by querulous killjoys who can't see the forest for the trees. I think this unnamed protestor's actions encourages more stereotyping and intolerance and less diversity.

Should Sea-Tac have allowed the guy to put up an 8-foot menorah and stage a public lighting, out of fairness, a sense of balance or respect for diversity? Maybe, maybe not. I don't know what the practical considerations were, or if there was even time to arrange such a ceremony justlikethat. And, since the menorah, at least to my knowledge, isn't also a secular decoration, other questions likely come into play.

But I think it's a sure bet that this rabbi wasn't really interested in doing any such thing, anyway. It's the symbolic gesture(s) that matter to him, after all.

(Hat tip.)

Updated: Sea-Tac is putting the trees back up after the rabbi says he won't file suit this year because, as his lawyer put it, "We are not going to be the instrument by which the port holds Christmas hostage."

Let the negotiations for next year begin. Anyone suggestions for the perfect decorations for Holiday Season 2007?

Update, 9:03 P.M. Central, 12/14/2006: Now, wait a sec. I just noticed, all of a sudden, a (trickle, but a) series of hits coming into this post by referral which seems to connect this post and this blog with another post at another blog which, upon checking, provides contact information--e-mail, phone numbers, you know the drill--for the rabbi with what, in my view, is a clear call to bombard, if not harass him. I'd have thought this is a dead story--and this post is most certainly a dead post, or should be--except that, a number of days later, these links are showing up.

Perhaps these few will be all. But in case not, let me myself perfectly clear: I do not condone putting out such contact information with the express intention of calling out the troops. In fact, as familiar as I have become with what that means in our far-less-than-civil-and-reasonable blogosphere, I must say that I oppose it.

It is true that I noted and condemned the lack of identification of the rabbi in the initial news stories. It is true that I believe that if you're going to set deadlines and threaten lawsuits in this sort of circumstance, you should do so publicly and comment on the record. But that does not translate, in any way, to my supporting concerted actions to bombard individuals with e-mails etc. via internet campaign. I know where that leads, when orchestrated and encouraged by the bombosphere.

And I want no part of any such thing, even by tangential association.

(Note: There was no particular reason for me to note in my original post or the update that I'm against such organized blogosphere bombs, since I didn't call for any such thing in this post, nor did I link anywhere encouraging such a thing.

You'll note that, even now, I have not linked ... and that is deliberate. I'll sacrifice clarity rather than encourage that behavior.)