As we move towards New Year's, I'm happy that we can put the Great Issue of The Day behind us — the proper way to phrase holiday greetings. Some people were irate that on President Bush's official Christmas card, the word "Christmas" was absent. He and Mrs. Bush wished everybody a "Happy Holiday." People don't get mad at him over the war, the economy, or the response to Katrina, but they're upset about "Happy Holiday?"
Personally, I'm pleased to receive any good wishes from anybody. I'm not offended if someone wishes me a specific or a generic happy holiday. Also, here's one thing the "Great Includer" does that is actually inclusive, and instead of everybody congratulating him, some people are angry. I like that he didn't single out one religion. I like that he was sensitive to the fact that some of the recipients of the card who don't celebrate Christmas might enjoy feeling more included in the greeting.
But Bill O'Reilly, Jerry Falwell, and some other non-inclusivites don't see it that way. They see it as an "assault on Christmas." O'Reilly warned that "Christmas is under siege," and Falwell said that Americans who celebrate Christmas are "facing persecution." Do you think this could be a tad bit of an overreaction to a greeting card?
The other day, I saw a bumper sticker on a car that read, "It's OK to say, 'Merry Christmas.'" I agree. It's also OK not to say, "Merry Christmas." If this woman keeps her sticker on the car all year, will she be offended if I don't say, "Merry Christmas" to her in July?
Some on the Far Right organized boycotts of stores that dropped the word "Christmas" from their holiday advertising. This seems a bit ironic since usually people complain about the over-commercialization of Christmas, and now these people want businesses more involved with a religious holiday.
The second irony in all this is to somehow feel that the omission of the C-word means that President Bush is anti-Christmas, and therefore anti-Christian. Has there ever been a president who has talked more about his religious philosophy? Has there ever been a president who has courted the religious right more vigorously? President Bush, anti-Christmas? Humbug!
On the Bush card, there were two dogs and a cat on the White House lawn. Why the discrepancy? Why only one cat? Is Mr. Bush ashamed to admit that he's a cat owner? Is this part of the general assault against cat owners? Because of the insidious pressure of dog owners, will cats be eliminated from the card altogether next year?
It's hard not to laugh at all this, but there's a serious side, too. Some extremists are blaming the alleged attack on Christmas on liberals, Jews, and Jewish liberals. There's more than a hint of anti-Semitism (and probably some anti-Muslim feelings as well) in these people's tirades. And, as usual, it's baseless. Jews or liberals certainly don't control the courts that decide what's OK and what's not in terms of public displays. They don't control the big corporations that own the stores that are trying to draw customers of all faiths, either. Liberals telling Wal-Mart what to do? Double Humbug!
So, the biggest irony is the spreading of all this venom by those who claim to love Christmas. I'm far from an expert on Christmas, but I've seen all the old movies. And I can't imagine anything less Christmassy than feeling anger and hatred towards those who are different from you or disagree with you.
So, there is no "attack on Christmas." Oh, sure, political correctness sometimes goes too far, but when it does, maybe you can just laugh at it rather than getting mad. I'm still going to call an evergreen decorated with ornaments and a star on top a "Christmas tree" even if some people don't want me to.
Christmas wasn't ruined this year by any anti-Christmas forces. Nobody stopped people from celebrating it in their church, in their home, or wherever they wanted to celebrate it. Nobody stopped those neighbors of yours from putting up too many ornaments. Nobody stopped anyone from spending more than they had planned on gifts. And certainly, nobody stopped the joy on a child's face as he saw the gifts under the tree Christmas morning.
My only objection to the Bush card is this: he sent out over 1.4 million of them, and I didn't get one. Considering how often I mention him in this column, you'd think the least he could have done was send me a card.
And now, I hope I'm not being too generic when I say, "Happy New Year to everybody."
Lloyd Garver writes a weekly column for SportsLine.com. He has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver
Copyright 2005 CBS. All rights reserved.