Thursday, President Donald Trump participated in a venerable ceremony than harkens back to the Calvin Coolidge Administration in the 1920s – the annual lighting of the national Christmas Tree.
At a speech in Missouri Wednesday, the president opened his remarks by saying, “I told you we would be saying Merry Christmas, again right?”
The president apparently wants to contrast the manner in which he celebrates Christmas with the way the holiday was celebrated under President Barack Obama. Obama used the phrase “Merry Christmas” many, many times over the course of his presidency. In fact, in his weekly radio address on Christmas Eve of 2016, the first words out of Mr. Obama’s mouth were literally: “Merry Christmas everybody.”
At Christmas in 2015, then-President Obama tweeted, “Merry Christmas, and happy holidays to you and yours.”
Unfortunately, this season of peace and good will to all has in recent years been suffused with the divisions that infect too much of our nation. Too many on the political right spend the season arguing that liberals have foisted a “War on Christmas” upon the nation. This has become an annual trope from the fertile imaginations of Fox News commentators.
Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. The shopping frenzy begins seconds after the Halloween pumpkins and witches disappear from the store aisles. Radio stations play Christmas tunes and hymns almost non-stop from Thanksgiving on. It seems shopping begins earlier every year.
That’s the case this year. A National Retail Federation survey released earlier this week showed that 174 million Americans made purchases over the five-day weekend that included Thanksgiving – about 10 million more than had been predicted.
Tinsel, Christmas trees festooned with ornaments and religious displays, including Nativity scenes, are allowed even on government property so long as such displays mix Christian and secular symbols. This was decided years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving the famous Pawtucket crèche.
The churches where we worship during the Advent season and honor the birth of Christ are all tax-exempt. Unlike Thanksgiving, all the major retailers are closed on Christmas. And nothing much else is open, except for a few Chinese restaurants. That led to Elena Kagan’s quip during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings when she was asked what she does for Christmas. “Like many Jews, go to a Chinese restaurant.”
No government official is trying to stop anyone from enjoying or celebrating Christmas. Corporations don’t force employees to work on Christmas, which isn’t the case for Thanksgiving. No elected official who wants to keep his or her seat is promoting legislation that would eliminate the tax exemption from Christian churches.
There is no war on Christmas. The only people who bring up this canard are those trying to divide Americans along lines of creed and national origin. Last year, Rhode Island State Rep. Patricia Morgan, R_West Warwick, who is now running for governor, actually filed legislation to allow teachers to say "Merry Christmas.'
Hopefully, she won't bother this year; the bill went nowhere last year.
At this time of reflection and peace to all, let’s all be wary of the bozos among us who prattle about the “War on Christmas.’ If ever there was fake news, this is it.