Monday, December 11, 2006

Barking Up the Wrong (Christmas) Tree

Ah, it's Christmas time again...or is it? You wouldn't know it if you flew into Seattle Tacoma airport in Seattle, thanks to a local rabbi.

Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky saw that Sea-Tac had up Christmas trees and wanted the airport to install an 8-foot menorah. He went so far as to threaten legal action if the menorah wasn't put up and told the airport to take down the trees within 2 days. The airport complied with the latter request, removing all holiday decorations. The reason given: if they put up the menorah and the Christmas trees, they would have to make considerations for all religions.

After this, Rabbi Bogomilsky said he was appalled at the airport's decision. He said, "Everyone should have their spirit of the holiday. For many people, the trees are the spirit of the holidays, and adding a menorah adds lighto the season." Well, let me tell you, Rabbi, you should have thought of that before you told the airport to remove the Christmas trees.

Of course, the airport isn't out of the woods in my book. They punted in a situation where they could have easily stood their ground and made a statement. First off, why not put up a menorah? It's Hanukkah as well as Christmas this time of year. And don't give me that "if we do it for one, we have to do it for all" crap. How many cultures have a true holiday this time of year? Well, there's Christmas and Hanukkah. Heck, throw in a Kwanzaa bush if you want. Beyond that, I don't think there are any. And if there are, include them. Simple as that.

The problem I see is that we've become conditioned to go out of our ways not to offend that we've compromised our way right out of the holiday season pretty much. We're so paranoid that 1 person out of 1000 is going to take offense that we censor ourselves as to avoid confrontation. In the airport's case, they removed Christmas trees to avoid offending Jews...but they offended Christians in the process. Brilliant!

The only way we're going to change this situation is to realize that there is a good likelihood that something we say or do is going to offend someone at some point. Sorry, folks, but we're not perfect. And both the rabbi and the airport have shown us just how imperfect we can be. Neither one is in the right in this case because they've both fallen victim to the "me first" mentality. The rabbi wanting to erect a menorah out of being offended by seeing the Christmas trees gave into his egotism and pushed his single point of view on the masses. The airport wanting to avoid litigation caved in and removed all holiday decorations until well after Hanukkah and Chrsitmas would be over. I call this the tyranny of the minority, meaning that we have single people or small groups of people dictating to the majority how things are going to be.

Well, I'm tired of it. It's as much Christmas as it is Hanukkah, so let's get one thing crystal clear: if you want me to respect your faith, respect mine. And part of that includes allowing symbols of my faith to appear in public, such as an airport. And if you're offended by a Christmas tree or a menorah, remember this. We live in a country where religious freedom abounds. You think a rabbi could get a menorrah put up anywhere near Saudi Arabia? I don't, but he could get it here. That's a signal of how open we are with our freedom of religion. And it's something that doesn't work if we're divided along religious lines.

So, next time you see a story like this where somebody's complaining about a religious symbol in public or a community or industry caving in to the demands of one such minority group, yell three words to them.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is a Christmas tree a religious symbol? It's the number one holiday poll on this site: So far 135 people voted on it, and most are saying no.