December 12, 2010
The Assault on Christmas and Other American NormsBy George Scaggs
Over the last several decades, government's sanctioning of secular fundamentalism has emboldened its proponents, aiding a slow but sure erosion of our societal norms. Nothing escapes its wake. Ultimately, Christmas, right along with everything else, is swept up in it.
Sadly, our most basic time-honored expressions of Christian faith and celebration have become contentious issues. Today, it wouldn't be Christmas season without someone being offended by it. Previously unthinkable assaults on the cherished holiday that an estimated 91% of Americans celebrate now occur all too routinely.
Last week, one such incident took place right here in Texas. A Chase Bank branch in Southlake ordered a Christmas tree be removed from their lobby after several complaints by customers who found the tree offensive. The tree had been donated and assembled by local businessman Antonio Morales.
As reported by the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram last Thursday, JP Morgan Chase spokesman Greg Hassell explained that Chase ensures decorations are "something everyone is comfortable with, regardless of how they celebrate the season."
Going viral, the Star-Telegram's online version of the story stirred a fiery backlash, garnering a staggering 1,500 comments within 24 hours. The vast majority of those who weighed in took offense at Chase's stance, vowing to close their bank and credit card accounts with the institution.
Apparently, such efforts had a profound impact. By Friday, JP Morgan Chase reversed course, trotting out the same spokesman to proclaim, "We have a policy of not accepting gifts from customers, but we are applying common sense here and putting the tree back up at our own expense. We are thankful for Mr. Morales' nice gesture."
Here, we have an interesting twist on civic duty, expanding from holding the public to the private sector accountable. Clearly, the Chase outcome was driven largely by the same dynamics that we find being used to challenge business as usual in government. As has recently come to light in the political realm, an increasingly engaged populace is utilizing digital technology and social media to change the debate and effect outcomes.
Meanwhile, halfway across the country, another interesting development continues to unfold, one sharing common threads in a larger fabric.
The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. is currently featuring a homoerotic exhibit entitled "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture." The curiously timed exhibition is rife with graphic obscenity, including portraits of incestuous homosexuality, bondage, and other images that a vast majority of Americans would likely find offensive.
One of the more controversial features, a video entitled "A Fire in My Belly" which includes an ant-covered image of Christ on the cross, has already been removed due to public objection. Still, opposition to the exhibit continues to mount. According to CNS News, Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) is leading a call for the entire exhibit to be closed.
Though taxpayers have been unwittingly subjected to funding the promotion of pornography and blasphemy in the name of "art" before, this is the Smithsonian, among our most public of institutions. Such an exhibition in this locale is another telling example that nothing is sacred -- not anymore.
Both scenarios, one public and one private, are tiny examples of that constant drip of erosion, constantly wearing away the boundaries of what is or is not culturally acceptable in America.
Always designed to accommodate the lowest common denominator -- assuaging in one instance two to three people determined to be offended by Christmas, and in the other an "in your face!" radical gay community -- today's government and corporate policy "shifts" result in a continual downward spiral.
Our population is effectively being terrorized by a pesky subculture coming to be commonly known as "The Elite Ruling Class." Long steering us away from the beliefs of most Americans, this tiny minority dominates our discourse from all angles (government, media, academia, and corporate), ultimately creating a pervasive illusion of "conventional wisdom."
Often, the purveyors in both realms are the same people, jumping back and forth from public office to university or high-powered corporate and law offices.
Still, there is an important distinction between the two in that only government can codify changing the norms by creating law or, in many instances, to put it more accurately, simply granting themselves authority.
The federal government's continual and insistent assault on the First Amendment's establishment clause provides a perfect illustration of how the process works. Misinterpreting it as a freedom "from religion" rather than the freedom "of religion" it was intended to secure, our public squares have long since been stripped of nativity scenes, and the very word "Christmas" is taboo in many of America's school systems.
The individual's ability to resist or push back against government, while seemingly more popular, is relatively limited in many ways. In the public sector, we must depend on our representatives to not only do the right thing themselves, but to hold others properly accountable. When they do not, our primary remedy is to wait and eventually replace them at the polls.
Meanwhile, government can legally confiscate our money and use it in pretty much any way they like. As has been proven time and again, even with the best of intentions, the entire concept is fraught with potential for abuse. It is, after all, much too easy to spend other people's money.
Not so when it comes to the private sector. As the Chase Bank episode reminds us, when private-sector parties act counter to our own beliefs, we have a relatively immediate and effective solution at our disposal -- we have the freedom to simply refuse to do business with them.
Unfortunately, it is a lesson too oft forgotten. Concerned citizens would be well served to be more cognizant of whom we give our dollars to in the private sector.
We rail against corporate bailouts, questionable practices, or jobs being shipped overseas, but then we blindly do business with or invest in the very same conglomerates that torment us. We decry politicians and causes that we disagree with but likewise may be inadvertently funding them because we don't follow where the dollars we spend ultimately end up.
Today, it seems that everything we once took for granted must be actively defended. While howling into the wind is popular sport, ensuring that we are not funding those who effectively work against us will prove necessary to maintain what we hold dear.
George Scaggs is a writer, commentator, voice actor, and audio-video producer based in Austin, TX. More of his work can be found at Ramparts360.com, TexasInsider.org, and Bargain Citizen Media.