It raises an interesting question, doesn't it?
I mean, the story that's been all over the Internet this past week, about the Seattle/Tacoma International Airport (SEATAC) taking down all its Christmas trees.
It seems there were eight of them up. Something like that. They had all been decorated with twinkling lights, red ribbons and bows. Then a Jewish rabbi came along and said he wanted a giant menorah also put up next to at least one of them. But he didn't just ask. He went to a lawyer and threatened a lawsuit demanding it. I believe he felt it was about inclusiveness. (Chanukah, as you may know, began at sundown on Friday.)
The airport authority did not honor his request. Instead, it took all its Christmas trees down in the middle of the night. (If workers had done it during the middle of the day, the authority apparently reasoned, they would be verbally attacked.) The next morning, all the trees were gone.
The rabbi, a man named Elazar Bogomilsky, had been finessed. And also, in the eyes of some, made to look pretty bad. Kind of like, the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. But Mr. Bogomilsky himself has protested the airport's actions, saying that he never wanted the trees to be taken down, only the menorah to go up. He has asked the airport authority to put the trees back up. He said he never meant to "steal" Christmas, or ban the Christmas spirit from the airport. He just wanted to add to it, to expand it, to include in this public display the sentiments and traditions of Chanukah.
The airport authority said, well, you see, there's this problem. If we add displays surrounding Chanukah, then our lawyers tell us we have to add displays surrounding all our society's December traditions. How about Kwanzaa? How about the pagan ritual of the Winter Solstice? What about Muslim December traditions? Or those of other cultures or faiths? How shall we accommodate them all?
So they took the trees down. Since there is not time or money for us to do all, they said, we'll do none. And just like that -- phffffft -- there went Christmas.
All of which brings up an interesting question. Does a society have a "right" to celebrate the rituals or observances of the vast majority of its members without including in the same celebration the rituals and observances of every minority member? More to the point, is it appropriate for a society to do so?
On the 9th day of the 12th month of each year, Muslims observe the Day of Hajj , commemorating the concluding revelation to the prophet Muhammad. This day is observed by those on pilgrimage. The 10th of December is Eid-ul-Adha , the Festival of Sacrifice. This is the climax of the period of the Hajj (pilgrimage) and is celebrated by both those who have and have not made the pilgrimage that year. What are we to do about this? In a pluralistic society, what are we to do?
And what about Ghambar Maidyarem (December 31), which on the Zoroastrian calendar begins the 5 day festival celebrating the creation of animals and is a time for sharing of food with those less fortunate? There are many Zoroastrians living in the U.S. And what about Karrtika-Purnima (December), which in Jainism celebrates the end of the rainy season? There are thousands of Jains living in America. And how shall we celebrate the observance of Martydom of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji (December), which commemorates the martyrdom of the 9th Sikh Guru (1621-1675) who stood up in defense of religious liberty for both Sikh and Hindu faiths against Muslim power in India at the time? And we cannot forget our Buddhist friends, can we? In December of each year Buddhists worldwide observe Bodhi Day , a celebration of the enlightenment of the Buddha.
And what about legal holidays? Christmas is a legal holiday in the United States, by Congressional decree. Will the next demand be that we make national holidays of Kwanzaa, Chanukah, the Winter Solstice, Eid-ul-Adha, and Bodhi Day? Should we make holidays of every festival or observance of every culture represented in American society? Or will the U.S. Government be required to do what the Seattle Port Authority says it had to do -- namely, if you can't please 'em all, please none?
Keith Ellison is bringing up a lot of "stuff" for some people because he is a Muslim and has just been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota's Fifth District -- the first person of his faith to ever serve in Congress -- and he wishes to take the oath of office at his swearing-in ceremony with his hand on the Qur'an rather than the Bible. The Bible is not his Holy Book. The Qur'an is. Can you blame him? Should we stop him, should we tell him he just can't do that?
Christmas is a time in which we speak of "peace on Earth, goodwill to men." In a pluralistic society, what, exactly, does "goodwill" mean? Does it mean treating everybody -- and everybody's traditions and belief system -- equally? That is the question we must now consider.
And, for now, have a very merry and happy ChristmasChanukahEid-ul- AdhaGhambarKwanaaBodhiDayMaidyaremKarrtika- PurnimaMartydomofGuruTeghBahadurJi.
And may all your Whatever's be bright. - NDW
Copyright © Neale Donald Walsch. All rights reserved.