Originally, as a nod to those seasonal gripers who feel threatened by the whole idea of the Nativity, the city was going to change the display to read "Holiday Village" (a bit too Club Med for me). But organizers of what is actually an old-world replica of a German Christmas village decided to scrap the arch altogether.
When I heard that "some people" were offended by the idea of Christmas (Yes, Virginia, there really is a Negrinch), I did my own impromptu investigation.
As an immigration attorney, I deal with a lot of non-Christians, and I wanted to see if the ones I knew were upset at the Christmas display. They were not. "Mohammed" from Pakistan was particularly happy that, unlike the holiday displays in his hometown, it was not in danger of being bombed by the Taliban. "Ziva" from Israel said she liked the idea that all this fuss was being made about a little Jewish boy. "Chiang" from China was thrilled that he could say the word "Christmas" in public and not be sent to a re-education camp. So when I told him the City of Brotherly Love was stripping the word from a public display, he shook his head in disgust.
People who come from countries that know what true religious intolerance is can't understand the pettiness of the bureaucrats. Neither can I. Apparently, we have to accept that the word "Christmas" conjures up the same sort of nefarious images as swastikas, so we need to protect the quaking Quaker-flavored populace from the yearly plunge into the horror of the season.
The Daily News reported that one of the reasons the city decided to erase "Christmas" was that a little Jewish boy (or was it a girl?) walked by the display with his father and asked, "Dad, don't we get a village?" If I were that father, my answer would have been, "Son, this village belongs to everyone."
But that apparently is not the way the mayor's office thinks. The minute anyone hints that he might be feeling excluded, even if it's unjustifiable, it snaps into action.
I didn't think that Philadelphia's warped experiment with diversity could sink any lower than the subterranean depths it reached with the crusade against the Boy Scouts. Was I ever wrong. The City of Brotherly Love had decided to show a little less love toward the roughly 75 percent of its citizens who celebrate a holiday that has, at its core, the principle of peace. I'm sure that made the remaining 25 percent happy, but was it really worth it?
This sad excuse for a metropolis has completely misread the Constitution if it believes that having a "Christmas" Village on public property violates the establishment clause. (Thought experiment: What would have happened to the sign over a "Ramadan" Village? Answer: Check out the response to the proposed mosque at Ground Zero.) For a guy who got his education from the Jesuits at the Prep, Nutter didn't show much smarts. Those 15 years in City Council must have dulled his analytical abilities.
I've spent Christmases all over the world - Paris, Rome and London. There was never a sense of exclusion, only an open embrace for all comers. The crèche in Piazza Navona, the lights at Notre Dame and the bells of St. Paul that are heard through the streets of London are for everyone, including those who don't worship anything.
N UTTER and his narrow-minded crew may have thought that by removing the word "Christmas" from the public square they were advancing the rights of all Philadelphians: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Rastafarians, atheists and even Republicans (a cult they usually have a problem with). But what they have ended up doing is show themselves to be slaves of the God of Political Correctness (and Feeble Thinking).
I pity them.
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer.