The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s that time again… sigh.  It’s not even Halloween and it’s already starting.  I’m not talking about the early Christmas displays in the stores, or the TV commercials urging us to buy, buy, buy… I’m talking about the silly, pointless, ongoing dispute about what words we are supposed to use to wish someone well during the holiday season.  The ongoing battle between “Happy Holidays” and “Merry Christmas.” 

I feel silly even writing about it (again), but I’m taking a stand on how I feel about this issue, because I know by Christmas, Facebook and everywhere will be deluged with people very upset about which words people choose to be nice to one another.

Here's the way I look at it.  I have dear friends, who are wonderful people, who don't celebrate Christmas.  They may be Jehovah's Witness, or Jewish, or another belief system that doesn't observe this particular holiday, but have their own holiday traditions.  Or they may be Atheists.  Either way, wishing them a Merry Christmas would be like wishing you a happy birthday when it isn’t your birthday; it doesn't make sense.  It also assumes that everyone is a Christian, when everyone isn't.

Here's how I handle it: since most of my friends celebrate Christmas, I wish them Merry Christmas.  If they don't, I say Happy Holidays.  If I'm not sure if someone celebrates it or not, I wish them Happy Holidays out of respect for whatever their spiritual belief is.  To me it's less about political correctness than common sense and respect. 

I also have friends who are really hurting this year; maybe they just lost a precious loved one or for some other reason are going through a horrible holiday season.  They may not want to hear a cheery, "Merry Christmas!"  It may be one more reminder that this particular Christmas is really going to suck.  I don't have a big investment in saying it to everyone.  My goal is to wish others well, not prove a point.

Back in 1941, when Irving Berlin wrote the song, “Happy Holidays,” where were these outraged people?  Nobody was accusing him of anything.  People just enjoyed the happiness and cheer behind the song.  Nowadays everything is a big fight.  If someone wants to be outraged about something on Christmas, it just seems we have better things to be outraged about like, oh I don’t know, kids who go hungry on Christmas, or the fact that our troops are spending Christmas away from their families to kill other people and their children, or those who are abandoned by their loved ones and are lonely and sad on Christmas, or elderly people with no heat.

Christianity has gotten a bad rap over the years because people have forgotten what being a Christian was actually supposed to mean. I’m not even going to get into the fact that Christmas has its roots in Paganism, or the widely held and scientifically supported belief that Christ would have been born in the autumn, not in December, because most educated people know that.  I’m just talking about “Christian values.”  I had always believed that the spirit of Christ embodied tolerance, trust, caring for the sick and elderly, gentleness, and meekness.  It would not be in the spirit of Christ to demand that people use a certain phrase to avoid being considered “less than.”  Christ was a guy who hung out with thieves and prostitutes, and talked about forgiveness and not judging.  What would he think of this silly pettiness?  I personally believe that he would be mortified at this twisting of his values, and in his name, and ashamed to see people judging others based solely on semantics.  Christmas is supposed to be about love, not picking fights.

As for my friends who celebrate other religious traditions, or none at all, I am defensive of them.  This attitude insinuates that they are not as righteous and good as the people who say Merry Christmas.  Not a very “Christiany” attitude, if you ask me.  I am secure enough in my spiritual beliefs that I don’t feel a need to put others down for theirs, and don’t expect the rest of the world to conform to mine. 

And I personally don't care if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, a Happy Holiday, or Holiday Season, a Joyous Yuletide, an Advantageous Advent, Seasons Greetings, or simply a beautiful day.  If someone takes the time to give me a kind word, I’m just grateful for the love and sentiment behind it.  I don’t assume they are a godless heathen.  Who really cares as long as we are kind to one another?

So regardless of your faith belief, what God you worship, or don’t, where you live, or what words you choose, I wish all who read this joy, peace, and love.

Vanquishing Columbus

It’s funny, but not so funny… how the victors write history.  If I were to believe the history books, Columbus, like so many other powerful historical figures, was a hero.  A great conqueror who “discovered” America; apparently, the people already living here didn’t know it existed.  One of the legacies left by the great historian Howard Zinn is that he gave us all a new perspective: history written by the conquered, the marginalized, the trampled, the disenfranchised.  In other words, the truth.  No need for propaganda to rally the masses, just the unvarnished and very ugly truth about some of the people our history teachers taught us to worship and adore.

None of us are perfect.  But the varnish on some of these despots and villains is so thick, it takes a while to get through it.  Then it’s pretty embarrassing to realize that we once thought so highly of them.  And once you’ve seen the truth, you’re no longer in the mood for a good shellacking by the spin doctors who have peddled our history books.  A good example of this is Christopher Columbus.

His name is so hallowed that books that are critical of him are still banned from schools.  In January 2012, Tucson schools banned Rethinking Columbus by Bob Peterson and Bill Bigelow.  The only people who would undertake to silence truth are those who would benefit greatly from lies.  And if we are compelled to believe those lies, we are complicit in the very sorts of human rights abuses they are trying to hide, that Columbus committed, and that our nation has continued to commit, against people of color and other cultures. 

It’s an effective way to keep those people invisible – those people with faces, names, families – who were raped, tortured, murdered, and enslaved by Columbus and his men.

I am ashamed that we were never taught as children the perspective of Native Americans, who rightfully view Columbus’s arrival as an invasion that resulted in genocide.  It was only the beginning of hell for an entire continent of human beings, resulting in untold human agony.  How can we, in good conscience, celebrate this man?  To do so is to perpetuate that very harmful myth of American imperialism, and the notion that there is glory in being a bully.

This Monday is Columbus Day, and instead of honoring a murderous slave trader, let’s honor the people who deserve it.  Let’s do the right thing, and tell the truth… about the Tainos, who were raped and enslaved.  If they failed to deliver the quota of gold Columbus demanded, he had their hands cut off or had them chased down and attacked by vicious dogs.  He reveled in the sale of young Native girls as sexual slaves for his personal profit.  He was not a “brave adventurer.”  He was a rapacious terrorist with no regard for human life or dignity.

Others who feel like I do have renamed Columbus Day as Indigenous People’s Day.  This Monday, I hope you will join me in celebrating Indigenous People’s Day, by committing to learn the truth about Columbus, and vowing to support indigenous peoples all over the world, who continue to be terrorized.

The Zinn Education Project ( has some great articles about Columbus.  To learn more about the experience of the Tainos under Columbus, visit  There are many other informative websites as well.

Let’s remove the varnish and uncover the truth.  Let’s work together to create a world where perpetrators of violence are held accountable instead of glorified.  We may not be able to change past history, but let’s not forget that we are responsible for the history our children and grandchildren will be taught.

Father's Day

I spent this last Father’s Day in silent, burning rage at my dad, and it’s taken me three months to sort it out enough to write.