At the end of yesterday’s post I promised a follow-up concernig one of the arguments I’ve heard against the use of happy holidays vs. Merry Christmas that has nothing to do with religion. There seems to be a feeling that happy holidays is trying too hard to be politically correct and is being shoved down our throats in an attempt not to offend anyone. These efforts are viewed as liberal weakness and pandering and therefore unacceptable and something to fight. Again, I call bullshit.
Happy holidays has been around for a very long time- this is not the invention of a new idea. As my friend M pointed out in the comments of my post yesterday, often when we say happy holidays we are referring to everything from Thanksgiving to the New Year and sincerely wish that ALL of these holidays are happy for the people we encounter. Yes, it has also come to mean a whole host of other holidays that take place during this time of year including Chanukah, Solstice and Kwanza, but the original intent and meaning still co-exist with the new ones. I really don’t understand getting bent out of shape over expanding the meaning of something.
I also think that so called “political correctness” has it’s place (I know, I know, you are all SHOCKED by this revelation). Political correctness has been twisted into a derogatory idea and is used to imply weakness in the face of opposition. I say nothing could be further from the truth. It is true that at times we need to stand up and speak the truth regardless of whom we might offend. But it is equally true that we must for the respect and equality of our fellow human beings. At times demands of the use of respectful language are strongly opposed. It is not a weakness to make these demands- it is often quite brave and requires a great deal of strength.
The words and language we use when referring to other people and other cultures matter. Insisting that we not hide behind political correctness when calling out wrong doing is not the same as a movement toward respect. I can’t imagine that we’d ever have a “negro” or “colored” president but we can have an African-American one. I can’t image that we’d ever have a “chick” or a “broad” as Secretary of State but a woman, absolutely. Such is the case with phrases like happy holidays. This is not an issue of an evil that must be called out- it is an issue of respect for those with beliefs different from our own.
Merry Christmas is supposed to be a greeting of love and good will, not a weapon to be used against each other. I have never had the phrase happy holidays used in an attempt to put me in my place but that is what Merry Christmas is growing to feel like more and more (much like those derogatory racial and gender slurs I mentioned above have been used). I’ve had people combatively and aggressively growl, “Merry CHRISTMAS!” back to me when I wished them happy holidays. It is to the point that I don’t know if a greeting of Merry Christmas is sincere or a pointed message.
It seems analogous of a man hunkered down is his house shooting passersby because they are a threat to his home. Eventually people start shooting back and his home is destroyed- not because of the imagined threat but because of his own aggression. This imagined war on Christmas is in danger of the same self-destruction.
I’m sure some of you are chomping at the bit by now shouting, “Free speech,” at your computer screen. Free speech simply means that you can say whatever disrespectful, uninformed thing you want without fear of legal action. It doesn’t mean you won’t be called out for it.