Very Very Merry

What would any Christmas season be -- or any week, for that matter -- without bitching and moaning from political right-wingers about some vast liberal plot to eradicate their very way of life? It'

What would any Christmas season be — or any week, for that matter — without bitching and moaning from political right-wingers about some vast liberal plot to eradicate their very way of life? It's always something, and this time it's Wal-Mart that's the killjoy.

Yes, Wal-Mart, the world's largest corporation run by one of the most conservative families in the United States. The pro-gun, anti-union company is the complete opposite of liberal.

But why let facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory, right? As the right-wingers would say, we're not paranoid — it's just that everyone's out to get us.

This particular battle started last month when some intrepid shopper figured out that Wal-Mart employees were greeting customers with "Happy holidays!" instead of "Merry Christmas!" One thing led to another, and the ultra-conservative Catholic League called for 126 religious organizations to organize a full-scale boycott of Wal-Mart, which was deemed to be "banning Christmas."

What Wal-Mart was actually doing, according to a response its spokesperson sent to the Catholic League, was "recogniz(ing) some of our customers may be shopping for Chanukah or Kwanza gifts during this time of year and we certainly want these customers in our stores and to feel welcome, just as we do those buying for Christmas." In other words, the retail chain was being tolerant and open-minded — qualities no one knew it possessed.

What really seemed to rile the folks at the Catholic League — more than the store employees' greetings — was the fact that the search engine on the Wal-Mart corporate Web site slowed them down in accessing the 7,939 products there with the word "Christmas" in their title. (Meanwhile, when you type in "Hanukkah" on the Wal-Mart search engine, you get 205 products; enter "Kwanza" and you get 77 products, while "solstice" yields 68.)

Threatened with the boycott, Wal-Mart cleaned up its search engine. The religious groups called off the dogs and apparently went back to ordering Kodak 4-megapixel digital cameras (with printer dock!) for $198.88 at walmart.com.

But publicity about this episode fed into many conservatives' fear that a greater conspiracy is afoot to ruin their enjoyment of Christmas. That fear is seized upon in a new book by Fox News anchor John Gibson, The War on Christmas: How the Conspiracy to Subvert Our Most Sacred Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought.

Gibson, as amazon.com tells us, "has been digging up evidence about the liberal activists, lawyers, politicians, educators and media people who are leading the war on Christmas. And he reveals that the situation is worse than you can imagine."

Well, isn't the world always worse than you can imagine when you imagine yourself an ongoing victim of others' conniving? And now that those liberals have gotten to Wal-Mart, man, the world is going to hell.

Actually, no. The world is changing constantly, and some people deal well with change and others fight it.

There's no doubt that the holiday season in the U.S. has become more secular and multi-cultural and less Christian-centered. For decades people have rallied to "put Christ back in Christmas" and make the season less commercial, but it ain't happening.

When conservative corporate giant Wal-Mart starts wishing you "Happy holidays," they're not looking to make a political statement. They just want to sell lots of things to lots of people, and that's their way of adjusting to the prevailing marketplace. It's called capitalism.

Yet some folks feel that their Christmas isn't what it used to be, that today's holiday season doesn't live up to their memories of the good old days. The change couldn't be a natural occurence, of course, or anything they brought upon themselves, so they look for something else (or someone else) to blame.

Once again, right-wingers have taken advantage of people's dissatisfaction with their lot in life and turned it to their political purposes. "Let's blame the liberals for ruining Christmas," they say. "And while you're at it, vote for me."

That strategy has worked before, as we all know. Your marriage not working out that well? Blame it on gays wanting to get married. Your kids unhappy and dysfunctional? Blame it on Hollywood movies and Rock music. The kids not doing well in school? Blame it on the public schools' godless agenda. Anything else not working out in your life? Blame it on abortion.

George W. Bush has successfully tapped that blame game to twice win the presidency, but what has he really delivered to beleaguered right-wingers? There's no federal anti-gay marriage amendment, movies and music continue to be violent and coarse, charter schools aren't doing well and abortion remains legal. And now Wal-Mart is banning Christmas.

Like charity and happy, well-adjusted children, happiness begins at home. If you want to celebrate Christ's birth just like your grandparents did, look inward and make it happen. Don't curse the darkness.

Happy holidays!



Contact john fox: jfox(a)citybeat.com

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