November 28, 2011

On Tolerance

I don't often use this blog as an outlet to delve into politics, religion, or other taboo dinner table subjects. In general I tend to take an academic approach to such topics: I prefer to stay well-informed but to keep my mouth shut. While I certainly have opinions, I truly enjoy hearing what others have to say and don't ever want to come across as offensive, so unless someone is grossly misinformed or blatantly lying, I tend to stay quiet and hesitate when it comes to sharing my own views. Today, however, I am digging around for my soapbox in the back corner of the attic, dusting it off a bit, and hopping on. Do bear with me, I promise to keep this little rant brief.

In the past few weeks, I have seen several messages floating around a certain social media site (ahem) relating to the upcoming December holidays and what some see as an attempt to secularize the celebration. These statuses are of the "copy and repost if you agree" variety, which are always so poorly written they make me cringe anyway, and they make sweeping accusations about those who are out to "steal the meaning of the holiday." They lambaste anyone who dares to say "Happy Holidays," melodramatically declare that they will continue to wish everyone a "Merry Christmas," and imply that anyone who is offended by this should be deported, offering to "help them pack." They proclaim (always in all capital letters) that they are PROUD AMERICAN CITIZENS and that those who would like to "take the Christ out of Christmas" cannot claim such a distinction. And, without exception, these messages make. me. furious.
Lest you confuse me with Scrooge or the Grinch, let's first provide a disclaimer: I absolutely celebrate Christmas. I decorate like crazy, watch holiday movies on repeat throughout the month of December, and enjoy more than my fair share of egg nog. Without getting into my personal religious beliefs (did I mention that I'm not a fan of sharing those?), I have no problem with wishing someone a Merry Christmas (I do it often), singing The First Noel alongside Jingle Bells, and calling that overgrown evergreen that sheds pine needles all over my floor a Christmas tree (holiday bush just doesn't have the right ring). While I do not personally participate in nativity celebrations, I stand by the fact that everyone who wants to should feel free and welcomed to do so. 
I do, however, have a rather large problem when it comes to narrow-minded people forcing their beliefs on others. I have a problem with the idea that one's own views are the only correct ones, and that those who do not share them are ignorant and inferior. I have a problem with the statement that people who do not celebrate a certain way should not be allowed to live in our country. I have a problem with those who flagrantly refuse to treat others with dignity... or even decency.
While most polls reveal that ninety-something percent of Americans celebrate Christmas (take that, late-night hours spent perfecting legal citation skills), the fact is that some American citizens do not. They choose to celebrate Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Dong Zhi, or Festivus. They choose not to celebrate at all. Thankfully, we live in a country where they are free to do exactly this: choose. It is entirely and unarguably within their rights, as American citizens, to elect to sit at home on December 25th and not do a damn thing. But the biggest thing that these non-Christmas celebrators have in common? They generally refrain from posting snide messages about the superiority of their own holiday and how irrational and un-American it would be to celebrate any differently.
In the end, it comes down to tolerance: a trait which seems to be in short supply among so many Americans these days. I am shocked at how self-absorbed people act these days, how unwilling they are to even consider another's point of view. I wish those who repost such contemptuous messages could have the experience of living in the minority for a change -- I wonder if they would feel so strongly were they constantly accosted by Chanukah music, expected to display a menorah instead of a tree, and surrounded by a population of ninety-something percent pushy people of a different faith. How would they feel if they were wished a "Happy Kwanzaa" at every turn, and then were insulted for ruining Kwanzaa when they revealed themselves as a Christmas believer. I would love to help a few (former) "friends" pack... for a country where their belief system is dictated by a tyrannical king. I have a feeling that it wouldn't be long before "Happy Holidays" sounded like a safe and comprehensive December greeting.
I hate to sound judgmental or critical, but I have such a hard time understanding why, especially at such a warm and happy time of year, people can't be bothered to show a little kindness. We are all so lucky to live in a country that embraces diversity in every aspect of life, a place where all kinds of traditions are not just allowed, but encouraged. It's just heartbreaking that some Americans can't see the beauty in this.
So with that, Happy Holidays to you and yours -- no matter how you celebrate!



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