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Bah, Humbug!

By Diane Wahto
Opinion | December 17, 2009

WICHITA, Kan. - Bah Humbug

I realize, given that the U. S. is involved in two wars, that health care reform is pretty much down the tubes, that the economy has put many people into poverty, and that the Democrats can't find a viable candidate for governor, what one says as a holiday greeting is small potatoes. However, because I live in Wichita and subscribe to the Wichita Eagle, I do read the Opinion Line. According to Opinion Line callers, the War on Christmas has already begun, with people calling for boycotts of stores in which clerks say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." It has occurred to me that this "war" is symptomatic of something larger in the scheme of things in this country. It indicates to me a lack of civility among people who are simply trying to make life easier as they deal with each other in everyday life.

Since I almost never shop, except for groceries and the occasional bottle of white wine, what I greet people with during the holidays is not a problem for me most of the time. However, recently I found myself in a shoe store. I had bought a pair of shoes there last year that fit me and didn't hurt my feet, so I decided to splurge on a second pair in a different color after I unexpectedly got a part time job and earned some extra money.

A knowledgeable, efficient young woman waited on me and got me into the shoes I wanted in record time. I heard a slight accent when she spoke, leading me to wonder where she came from. After she checked me out and had the shoes boxed up, we both stood there for a few seconds, the air hanging heavy between us. I wanted to say, "Happy holidays," but I hesitated. What if she was a Christian who didn't think that greeting was appropriate? Or, if I said "Merry Christmas," what if she followed another religion, one that didn't give any credence to the tenets of Christianity? Worse, what if she was an Atheist, who didn't celebrate anything at all during the winter season?

I intuited that she also wanted to say something, but she didn't. Finally, after the seconds turned into an eternity, she said thank you, I said thanks, and I walked out into the cold Wichita winter.

I may be reading more into this inconsequential exchange than I should. I doubt if I'll face that problem again during his holiday season. I don't spend a lot of time shopping, having decided a few years ago to go the gift card route for my hard-to-buy for family members. The check-out people in the grocery store where I shop never say much at all and whatever they do say, I respond in kind.

If I remember correctly, this War on Christmas hysteria started with Fox News. Since I never watch Fox News, I'm not sure what the War has mutated into this year, but it seems a strange thing for the Fox-ers, capitalists that they are, to be in a tizzy about. If the biblical accounts of Jesus' life are anywhere near accurate, he didn't seem to be much of a capitalist. Of course, he did give the gift of the loaves and the fishes to that crowd of people who gathered to hear him preach, but I don't think that took place around Christmas time. Bill O'Reilly, Glen Beck, and the other moaners and groaners about the hypothetical War on Christmas seem to have their messages mixed. Are we supposed to go out and spend, spend, spend at Christmastime to keep the economy afloat, or are we supposed to follow Jesus' example of depending on the kindness of strangers for our daily bread, wine, foot washing, and what ever else we need to get by? Very confusing, that's all I can say.

Worse, it's sad that some of us feel too intimidated to give even the most innocent of civil greetings during this season. I suppose a warm smile will have to suffice.


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