Look out for the wall!

It’s the time of year when everybody is full of holiday spirits, or just using the holiday as an excuse to be full of spirits. With the holiday spirit in mind, I recieved a couple of recent emails that I thought were worthy of comment. They were both humorous, but I thought that each could also provide a more serious message.

An honest man was being tailgated by a stressed out woman on a busy boulevard. Suddenly, the light turned yellow, just in front of him. He did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.

The tailgating woman hit the roof, and the horn, screaming in frustration as she missed her chance to get through the intersection. As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up. He took her to the police station where she was searched, finger printed, photographed and placed in a holding cell.

After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.

He said, “I’m very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him. “I noticed the ‘Choose Life’ license plate holder, the ‘What Would Jesus Do’ bumper sticker, the ‘Follow Me to Sunday-School’ bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk. Naturally, I assumed you had stolen the car.”

I don’t want this to seem like an assault on my right-wing Christian friends. The villain in this story could just as easily have been in a car with bumper stickers like “Make Love, not War”, “Visualize World Peace”, and “Hate is not a Family Value”. I’ll confess that I’ve done my own share of swearing at mindless morons in traffic (although I can claim not to be hypocrtical because my own bumperstickers don’t preach love and tolerance). As the holiday approaches, and schedules get tight, and traffic gets atrocious, and nerves get frazzled, it’s easy for all of us to temporarily forget about compassion for our fellow humans, even the idiotic ones. But let’s make an effort to keep the holiday spirit in mind all year, and try to flip off at least one less person next year.

And let’s all try to accept greetings and good wishes in the spirit in which they are offered. In the great “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” debate, I’m militantly neutral. I’m somewhere between atheist and agnostic, and I am highly pissed off at some of the religious fundamentalists insisting that this is a Christian nation and trying to force their religion on everyone else. But when someone wishes me “Merry Christmas”, I don’t interpret that as part of the vast right-wing conspiracy. I can accept it as a friendly greeting, and appreciate it, and even say it myself.

On the other hand, all the folks who are offended by the politically correct “Happy Holidays” and rant about “taking Christ out of Christmas” need to get over it. When someone wishes you “Happy Holidays”, assume that they mean the best, and smile and return whatever pleasant greeting you choose.

And finally, that brings us to the second email, and the explanation for the title. Someone sent Dave Barry’s observation on the holiday greeting issue.

In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it ‘Christmas’ and went to church; the Jews called it ‘Hanukkah’ and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah!’ or (to the atheists) ‘Look out for the wall!’ –Dave Barry, “Christmas Shopping: A Survivor’s Guide”

To all my Christian friends, feel free to wish me a Merry Christmas. I will not be the least bit offended. But don’t be surprised, or offended, if I reply to your greeting with “Look out for the wall!” (or maybe “Look out for the ditch” for some of my hunting buddies). I certainly don’t mean to imply that you’re drunk, any more than you mean to imply that I’m Christian.

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