Stu Bykofsky: The (Nothing) Village catered to haters

Posted: December 02, 2010

THE MOST famous editorial of all time, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus," maybe wouldn't be published today.

Too much "Santa," not "inclusive" enough. If some people don't like Santa, he has to go.

The editorial was published in the Sept. 21, 1897, New York Sun, in response to a letter from 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon, who asked if there was a Santa Claus. The answer then was "yes."

Today, maybe not.

Monday, the entrance arches to the "Christmas Village" on Dilworth Plaza were transformed to the (Nothing) Village. Ah, that's better.

The change was made by the Village operator, German American Marketing, after a meeting with (translation: pressure from) city Managing Director Richard Negrin, who told me that "some" people had complained about how it made them "uncomfortable," especially those who had to view it on their way to their jobs in City Hall or the Municipal Services Building.

I asked Negrin, rhetorically, if the "offended" would go to work on Christmas.

They can't, of course, because the Hall and the MSB are always closed on Dec. 25 because it is a federal holiday. Christmas is a legal (thus secular) holiday in the USA.

If the words "Christmas Village" offend you, what is the basis of your offense? Are you anti-Christian? Remember those offended by the "Ground Zero mosque"? Their feelings didn't win out.

Oh, that's different. Islam is a minority religion here, but it's OK to disrespect a majority religious belief.

Last evening, the city came to its senses when Mayor Nutter ordered "Christmas" restored to the village. Score one for common sense and common decency.

In earlier developments, the city got complaints from an infinitesimal few, be they atheists, Jews, Zoroastrians, Rastafarians or Muslims, although since Islam regards Jesus as a prophet, I don't understand why they'd have a beef.

Yes, Dilworth is public property, which means that it should be available to all the public. I'd also defend displays celebrating Hanukkah, Ramadan or Three Kings Day. Isn't that inclusion, how you celebrate diversity? Whether they admit it or not, whether they even know it or not, the anti-Christmas crowd are haters.

To the Christmas-haters, how about letting the vast majority enjoy themselves? Be a little - dare I say it? - tolerant. If a "Christmas Village" offends you, why not stick a candy cane in your mouth and look the other way?

Jesus was not only a religious figure, but also he had secular importance as a teacher and philosopher. Would we rename Martin Luther King Jr. Day to "Some Random Black Guy Day" because MLK makes some people "uncomfortable"?

The city claimed that it had received a few dozen complaints. Since I can get the city 200 complaints about carriage horses working around Independence Mall, I asked Negrin how many complaints it takes to get the city to jump.

It's not that way at all, he said.

It's about being inclusive, and common sense, he said.

That is nonsense, not common sense. It sounds as if being "inclusive" means excluding Christians.

The rights of the minority have to be respected, but somehow this concept has been pretzeled into denying rights to the majority. Happily, the city agreed.

I don't know why I was so worked up about this. Maybe I'm just tired of groveling at the feet of political correctness. I'm not even a Christian, but I know I live in a (and here's where a few of you will go nuts) Christian nation.

Not a Christian nation by law, because by law America is neutral on religion. Neutral, not hostile, as some would like.

With 76 percent of Americans self-described as Christians, this is a "Christian nation." I say that as a Jew, happily living in this tolerant "Christian nation."

Negrin related a story to the press about a little Jewish child - a boy in the Daily News, a girl in the Inquirer - who supposedly saw "Christmas Village" and asked his or her father, "Dad, don't we get a village?"

A teaching moment. Here's how I would have answered:

"No, but we get a big-ass menorah at 6th and Market, for all the world to see. That's what's great about America - we all get to celebrate our holidays."

Christmas is as American as apple pie, hummus and collard greens. Even while lighting Hanukkah candles last night, I still love Christmas. Only a Grinch would not.

If you are "offended" by a celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, you are a hater.

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