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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Merry Christmas... Or Else!

Every year at this time, we hear tales of political correctness run amok as symbols of Christmas come under fire. Now, there's a new and equally distressing trend in the opposite direction.

A group in California is organizing a boycott of Federated Department Stores -- the parent company of Macy's and Bloomingdale's -- because it uses phrases like "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" in its advertising and store decorations. Many have interpreted this as a sign that conservative Christian evangelicals, emboldened by the results of the recent elections, are embarking on a new wave of activism.

Of course, people have the right to shop where they wish, and the "invisible hand" of consumer preference will always decide which businesses thrive and which fail. But it's no better to bully someone into celebrating a holiday than to bully them into ignoring it. Since when did wishing happiness to others, regardless of verbage, become such a nasty thing to do? If someone is going to wish me a merry Christmas, I want them to mean it; otherwise, feel free to wish me a happy holiday. Wish me a happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Yule; I respect your convictions enough to be honored by your good intentions. And if I wish you a happy Christmas, I would hope you would accept it in kind.

We've reached a point where it's not only offensive to hope for a merry Christmas, it's offensive not to as well. You can't win.

This most recent controversy underscores our poor understanding of our diverse society... not just in the US, but globally. As the "global village" contines to shrink, this challenge is only going to grow. Bloggers, whose work has exposed them to cultures they wouldn't have been aware of otherwise, are doing their part to use their tools and knowledge to increase multicultural cooperation. Yes, it's a baby step, but that's how anything worth doing gets started.

Sources: Boston Herald, Personaldemocracy.com