Most of all, I love the spirit of good will associated with Christmas -- smiles from strangers, charitable giving and other acts of kindness. We Jews have a holiday called Purim for spreading joy and charity, but Purim also involves raucously cheering the murder of 75,000 Persians, which is somewhat low on the good will meter.
In recent years, however, I've been dismayed that the Christmas spirit I admire has come under attack. Angry people have been exploiting the holiday as an opportunity to vilify their opponents. Vilifying opponents is also low on the good will meter, albeit not as low as murdering Persians.
In 2004, Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly launched the war on Christmas spirit when he declared that bad people whom he called "secular-progressives" were pressuring retail stores to use generic holiday greetings in their marketing campaigns. I can understand how O'Reilly might have been disturbed by the de-Christmastizing of Christmas, and I don't begrudge him his indignation, but the way he attacked those secular-progressives seemed very un-Christmas-like to a nice Jewish boy like me.
He kept raging about how billionaires George Soros and Peter Lewis, both of whom are Jewish, had a "secret plan" to destroy Christmas in order to fulfill their dreams of legalizing drugs, gay marriage, euthanasia and partial-birth abortion. With all that fury about evil plots and devious enemies, O'Reilly's version of Christmas almost seemed like Purim.
In 2007, O'Reilly announced victory in the war on Christmas, claiming that the "forces of darkness" had lost. Yet Fox News continues to produce annual installments of anti-Christmas atrocities as if they were reruns of "It's a Wonderful Life."
This year, O'Reilly accused the Tennessee ACLU of bullying schools over Christmas. And commentator Gretchen Carlson nearly bit the head off a parade organizer from Tulsa, Oklahoma because the organizing committee renamed its Christmas parade a holiday parade. Who knew that Tulsa had secular-progressives?
I remain hopeful, however, that despite the withering war on Christmas spirit in the airwaves, Americans still haven't forgotten how to show good will this December. For instance, in Kansas City, Kansas, an anonymous benefactor continues to dress as Santa Claus and hand out $100 bills to the needy. In Washington, our senators are selflessly sacrificing their vacation time to finish their work before the end of the year.
Well, most of them. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, is very upset to be stuck in Washington. He complained that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has been "disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians and the families of all of the Senate" by making him work up until Christmas Eve.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, called the schedule "sacrilegious and disrespectful." "What's going on here is just wrong," he added, "This is the most sacred holiday for Christians." I appreciate that DeMint would like to get home early for his sacred holiday, but I wonder how sincere his Christmas spirit is, since he had previously told Fox News, "I'm just trying to run out the clock on this bad legislation so that they can't do any more damage before the reinforcements get here in January."
I don't believe in Santa, but if I did, I'd sit on his lap and beg for a gift of my own this Christmas: Santa, would you please relieve the politicians and pundits of their self-appointed duty to defend Christmas from enemies? Perhaps you could explain that they would do more for the Save Christmas campaign if they tried a little harder to embody the Christmas spirit rather than fight on its behalf? Oh, and while you're at it, could you please give us a little peace on Earth and good will toward men? And I'll take an iPad.