There are no holy wars. Never have been. Cultural conflicts that lead to sectarian violence? Yes. And certainly, many a political and economic war has been fought by troops convinced they were killing or dying for some article of faith, when in fact they’d just been sold a bill of goods by greedy bosses cultivating cannon fodder. But no ruler ever drained the national treasury just to keep his or her God on top. There was always an ulterior motive. And the thus-far-bloodless War on Christmas is no exception.
This bogus conflict’s most famous proponent, of course, is Fox-TV blabbermouth Bill O’Reilly. According to Bill, there’s a lot more than holiday cheer riding on the ability to say “Merry Christmas” in retail stores. This ass actually said, and we quote, “[I]f you look at what happened in Western Europe and Canada — if you can get religion out, then you can pass secular progressive programs, like legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage ...”
In his cynical instigation, O’Reilly is aided by fellow Foxian John Gibson, who wrote a book about this imaginary war in which he claims it’s part of a well-orchestrated plot led by the ACLU. What else he has to say is so far beneath contempt that we’ll leave it to you to imagine the worst, nevertheless knowing that you’ll never imagine anything as stupid as what Gibson actually wrote. What a sanctimonious hypocritical piece of shit he is.
Anyway, O’Reilly and his ilk got this particularly slimy ball rolling as yet another way to vilify everybody with any sense, and the mouth-breathers of America happily joined in the game. These folks even complain that President Bush must be a man of questionable faith because the official White House Christmas card he sent them read, “Happy Holidays.” (They expected maybe “Peace on Earth; Death to Infidels!”)
And now, though even the Red State press has widely discredited the War on Christmas notion, we’re stuck hearing about it. Every once in a while some horror story surfaces with hinterland headlines like SCHOOL BANS CHRISTMAS CAROLS, only to have it turn out that the glee club was decimated by flu and they had to cancel their annual ecumenical concert.
Fighting over our holidays is itself a long-standing holiday tradition, dating back to well before the 165 BC temple tiff between the Syrians and the Maccabees or the Roman persecutions. (Feed Bill O’Reilly to the lions? Now, there’s an idea to boost ratings that could out-draw the cancelled O.J. interview.) So here’s a summary of seasonal squabbles ancient and modern, large and small. Whatever your religious or cultural persuasion, look deep inside. Somewhere at the core there’s probably an admonition of peace. Take that part seriously.
The war on the solstice
Today, people who believe in the solstice are primarily astronomers, who are the best equipped to tell us when the earth is tilted exactly 23 degrees/27 minutes off perpendicular (20 minutes after midnight on December 22, in 2006, universal time). But astronomers don’t party much. Way back in the day, though, you didn’t need a degree from MIT to notice that on a certain day every year, the night was unbearably long. How the scholars of megalithic cultures who hadn’t necessarily mastered counting past 10 were able to pinpoint and predict a fairly subtle annual celestial event is a matter of some conjecture. But judging from all the ancient ruins that light up reliably on the winter and summer solstices (Stonehenge and Newgrange being prime examples), they had it pinned down pretty good.