Jayne: Hey, wait, I thought the 'War on Christmas' was over

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

Published:

 
photoGreg Jayne, Opinion page editor

Sarah Palin, apparently, didn't get the memo.

Last spring, you see, Bill O'Reilly declared victory against the scurrilous factions who were waging war on Christmas. Or, as O'Reilly and his ilk frame it, The War on Christmas.

"If you watch the 'Factor,' you know that we won The War on Christmas battle …," O'Reilly said on his Fox News talking-head show. "Power to the people."

Yes, power to the people. Power to those defenders of Christmas. Power to the acolytes who feel a need to see ghosts and goblins and bogeymen in every shadow and every corner.

Palin is one of those. So, despite O'Reilly's triumphant declaration several months ago, she recently released a book — "Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas." In the wake of O'Reilly's victory speech, it's hard to figure the need for such a book at this time. Maybe it was already at the printer when the armistice was signed, or maybe Palin just needed to generate some TV appearances and speaking engagements.

On the other hand, Palin does deserve some credit. At least her treatise has a more subtle title than John Gibson's effort — "The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought." By the way, a hardcover version of Gibson's book can be had on Amazon.com these days for 1 cent; I hear it makes a good Christmas gift.

Anyway, this constant war against The War on Christmas has grown tiresome and gauche, an overwrought and overly paranoid pandering to those would-be fighters of bogeymen. As columnist Daniel Luzer recently wrote, "If Christmas is really under attack, this is news to most Americans, who celebrate the holiday to ridiculous excess."

That's not good enough for Palin. In her book, she writes, "There are many people who haven't merely lost, misplaced, or forgotten the true meaning of Christmas, they're trying to actively target it to destroy it. And these true Scrooges have a frightening amount of power."

Maybe not as frightening as a metric ton worth of empty rhetoric, but frightening in its own way, I guess. Sure, there are some who would rather refer to a Holiday Tree instead of a Christmas Tree; and there are some who think religious symbols have no place in public spaces; and there are some who prefer "Happy Holidays" to "Merry Christmas" as a salutation.

But it's not as though vast numbers of Americans are celebrating Festivus from "Seinfeld." It's not as though the Airing of Grievances and Feats of Strength have replaced the traditional celebration of the birth of Christ.

'War' is contrived

That is the problem I have with this wholly contrived notion that there is some War on Christmas. According to Media Matters, in the early weeks of December 2012, O'Reilly spent 55 minutes on his show taking about the War on Christmas and 15 minutes talking about real, actual wars in which people are dying. Or, as Cynthia Tucker of PennLive.com, writes: "Is Palin sick of the commercialization that has wrenched the season from its roots? … Ah, not so much."

I guess I would just be more impressed if O'Reilly gave a portion of his salary to Christmas charities, or if Palin donated her book proceeds to such charities. Wouldn't that help preserve the meaning of Christmas? Wouldn't that be more meaningful than profiting off the unfounded fears of your followers? And those unfounded fears can be contagious. Not long ago, a commenter on Columbian.com asserted that the government is plotting to prevent people from praying in their churches.

Despite this allegedly nefarious War on Christmas, millions upon millions of Americans will spend much of the next few weeks reflecting upon the meaning of the holiday, upon the birth of Christ, upon their belief that He delivered the hope of salvation to the world.

You might believe that, or you might not. You might celebrate Christmas, or you might not. Either way, that is your right as an American. But whether or not you believe in Christ as a savior, you don't have to believe in the bogeyman.