December 20, 2005
Merry You-Know-What

By Thomas Sowell

It was just a small thing but I was taken aback when I received a memo saying that the offices at work would be shut down during "winter closure." Then it dawned on me that "winter closure" was what we used to call "Christmas vacation."

Various colleges and universities have long since stopped calling it the Christmas vacation. A large shopping mall in San Francisco was decked out in all sorts of holiday decorations, including a huge tree, with Santa Claus sitting next to it -- but nowhere was there that now-controversial phrase, "Merry Christmas."

The idea is that any mention of Christmas might offend people who are not Christians -- and that this should be avoided at all costs.

As someone who does not keep track of my friends' religions, I have undoubtedly over the years sent out Christmas cards to people who were Jewish or non-religious. Yet none has protested or seemed to be traumatized.

Christmas is now one of many things that make us walk on eggshells during this supposedly liberated era. Are we all wimps?

Over the years, we have gotten used to the American Civil Liberties Union launching legalistic jihads against recognitions of Christmas, in between coming to the rescue of murderers and terrorists.

The ACLU invokes that famous phrase about a "wall of separation between church and state" -- a phrase found nowhere in the Constitution but somehow considered to be part of Constitutional law.

The Constitution forbad Congress from creating "an establishment of religion" but this was no mysterious concept known only to deep thinking legal scholars.

The people who wrote the Constitution all knew exactly what an establishment of religion was because they had all lived under one -- the established Church of England.

Being established meant that everyone had to pay taxes to support that church, whether they belonged to it or not, and that people who didn't belong to the established church could not be admitted to various institutions or be appointed to certain official positions.

This had nothing to do with Christmas, merry or otherwise.

It is one of the sad signs of our times that we allow the ACLU to bamboozle us, or bully us with lawsuits, over something for which no one ever passed a law.

The ACLU gets away with this not only because of liberal judges who create their own laws out of thin air and call it "Constitutional" law. The ACLU and others get away with spooking us on all sorts of things, even when they don't threaten us with lawsuits, but only with not being in step with the latest politically correct notions.

It is not just on religious issues that the media and the intelligentsia seem determined to suppress the symbols of Western civilization. American flags can be seen on homes in working class communities but seldom on elite college campuses.

Those who banish the symbols of a civilization often undermine that civilization in other ways as well. People who warn us against being "Eurocentric" are often totally Eurocentric when it comes to condemning the sins of the human race as if they were peculiarities of "our society."

These are not just isolated foibles that we can laugh at. No society can survive in the long run without the allegiance of its people. Undermining a sense of the worthiness of a society undermines that allegiance -- and, without allegiance, there is no defense.

In the international jungle, made more dangerous by terrorist networks that circle the globe, anything that it is not defended is in jeopardy -- which means we are all in jeopardy, and so are our children and our children's children.

Those who wage war against the symbols of American society and Western civilization may do so for no wider purpose than moral exhibitionism or just a desire to be in step with fashionable trends. But silliness can be a prelude to tragedy.

Hope you enjoy your winter closure, your merry you-know-what, and -- before it becomes taboo -- a Happy New Year.

Copyright 2005 Creators Syndicate

Thomas Sowell

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