Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Veteran Survivors and the War on Christmas

Yesterday as I stood in line at the pharmacy, I noticed that the elderly man in front of me was wearing a hat that read, "WWII Veteran."  I leaned forward and said, "Excuse me, sir.  Where did you serve?"

He smiled gently.  "In the Pacific on the aircraft carrier Yorktown," he replied. 

The pharmacy tech, overhearing, said, "The Yorktown!  I've been on the Yorktown."  (She stands decommissioned in Charleston harbor.  I've been on her, too.)

The man said, "I was seventeen.  I spent three years on that ship.  I grew up on her."

I tried to imagine my son, who is nearly nineteen, sailing into a world of torpedoes and kamikaze attacks.  The pharmacy tech must have had similar thoughts, because she said, "Did you have to lie about your age, to join up at seventeen?"

"Oh, no," the man said.  "You could enlist at seventeen. At sixteen you had to lie."  Then he shook his head at us and said firmly, "I wasn't a hero.  I was a survivor, that's all.  A bomb hit my battery, all the men died but me.  I survived.  I'm eighty-nine years old now, there aren't many of us left."

Which brings me to the War on Christmas.  Which, I'd like to say, Is. Not. A. War.

Honestly?  People are using the same word that sent boys off in metal boats, or wading into fire on the shores of Omaha Beach, or that sent unnamed millions into the death camps, to describe being wished a polite seasonal greeting in words not precisely of their choice?  Spare me. 

Let's review.

 The word "holiday" is derived from "holy day." 

The 'X' that changes "Christmas" into "XMas" is not removing Christ.  The letter 'X', depicting the cross, was used in ancient times to mean Christ.  It's the same word. 

No elementary schools are banning red and green decorations.  That's an internet myth.

And then there's all the mess on Fox News about Santa being a white guy.  I really thought (hoped) it was an Internet myth, too, but I just looked up the video clips.  Alas.  The idiot anchorwoman, who later tried to say she didn't really mean it, emphatically declared that both Santa and Jesus were white.

Santa is fictional.  He could be green and red.  He could be polka-dotted.  He could be make of smoke.  Or, he could be black.  Still fictional.  If all-white all-th- time Santa makes a small black child feel marginalized, let's get rid of him and have a sometimes-black Santa.  Try this at home, white people:  imagine a world in which every public depiction of Santa showed him as a black man.  Would your kids feel a little marginalized?  And yet, doing this wouldn't tell you how black children feel, because in this country whites are the majority.  We're always mainstream; everyone else is always not.  (See my previous rant on "white privilege.")  Most of all, let's stop trying to tell other people how to feel.  If a black person says that white Santas make her feel oppressed, accept that.  It is how she feels.  However you feel Santa should look does not change how another person feels.  

Historically, of course, the myth of Santa is based, very loosely and without reindeer, on St. Nicholas, an ancient Catholic bishop.  He lived in Turkey, which means that, while not precisely black, he was also not precisely white. 

Ditto Jesus.  I hope that I'm preaching to the choir here, but it seems pretty self-evident that Jesus Christ, God on earth, who lived and died near the sea of Galilee, and grew up speaking Aramaic, did not look like a Northern European.  He was dark-skinned.  Black haired.  But He was also God, so really, if He so chose, He could have been polka-dotted. 

This should not be an issue.  Someone tell Fox News: There is no War.