This means war (uh … no it doesn’t)

I said, war, huh

Good God, y’all

What is it good for

Absolutely nothing

Say it again

—Edwin Starr, “War”


Persecution does exist, and it sometimes looks like this.  Image found on The Layman.

Persecution does exist, and it sometimes looks like this.
Image found on The Layman.

As I write this, I’ve yet to receive the first of the letters I expect every year, the ones detailing the horrible persecution inflicted on some of our citizens.

That’s right—the War on Christmas (gasp!). Then there’s the War on Coal, the War on Women, War on Traditional Marriage, War on Religion, War on the Middle Class, War on Science …

The only war obvious to me is the War on Common Sense and Reality.

Most of us haven’t been through a war, but just about everybody probably knows someone who has. And what’s been going on in politics and the U.S. in general … it ain’t war, not by a long shot.

 Flames leap from the deck of the USS Bunker Hill, after it was hit by two Kamikazes in 30 seconds on May 11, 1945 off Kyushu. 346 aboard were killed, another 264 wounded. (U.S. Navy) Image found on The Atlantic.

Flames leap from the deck of the USS Bunker Hill, after it was hit by two Kamikazes in 30 seconds on May 11, 1945, off Kyushu. 346 aboard were killed, another 264 wounded.
Image from the U.S. Navy found on The Atlantic.

In the U.S., we’ve been extraordinarily lucky in that we haven’t had to live and die under totalitarian genocidal regimes. We have the freedom to worship—or not—as we want, and can get our news from a wide array of sources that are not vetted by the state (or even to get our “news” from nonsources … I think we know the kind of places I mean). We have an astonishing amount of freedom, especially in comparison to nations that have been torn by war for decades or where citizens have eked out an existence under the thumb of the state.

And yet we’re not happy and must classify everything against our interests as a war. Why?

No, Bill, there's still no war on Christmas, but don't factor that into your decisions.

No, Bill, there’s still no war on Christmas, but don’t factor that into your decisions.

For example, is it really a war on Christmas if public funds aren’t to be used for religious displays on public property, and is that persecution of U.S. Christians? No, it’s law put in place to not only ensure separation of church and state, but to also avoid playing favorites among religions or denominations of the same religion. In some instances, private displays on public property are allowed, but equal access must be given to all groups to place displays.

I haven't said it lately, but I really love Nick Anderson.

I haven’t said it lately, but I really love Nick Anderson.

And claiming persecution minimizes the experience of Christians elsewhere in the world who are being tortured and killed for their beliefs. Not getting to do everything you want to do whenever and wherever you want is not persecution … it’s just reality.

And no, Montgomery County School District in Maryland is not the latest front in the nonexistent war, either … unless it’s also waging war on all religious holidays.

No, kids, they're not canceling Christmas ... or Rosh Hashana ... or Eid ... UPI photo found on gopusa.

No, kids, they’re not canceling Christmas … or Rosh Hashanah … or Eid …
UPI photo found on gopusa.

Its board of education voted last week to strike mention of all religious holidays on the published 2015-2016 school calendar after a community group petitioned to have at least one of the two major Muslim holidays added. The board said kids would still be off for the Christian and Jewish holidays that coincide with state-mandated school closures. Those who are absent for other religious holidays during the year will still have excused absences—they just won’t be mentioned by name on the calendar (and all the religious holidays are on the calendars issued to staff). The board said on its site that the change was made to recognize that, under state and federal law, closures must be for secular or operational reasons, not religious reasons. Nothing in the law, though, says religious holidays should be stripped from school calendars; it’s just how some school districts have decided to handle it.

War on Christmas? Nah, more just a not-so-bright decision with the intent of being non-offensive. But as Saqib Ali, a former Maryland state delegate and co-chair of the Equality for Eid Coalition, told the Washington Post, “By stripping the names Christmas, Easter, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, they have alienated other communities now, and we are no closer to equality.”


Cartoon by Joel Pett, Lexington Herald-Leader.

Cartoon by Joel Pett, Lexington Herald-Leader.

In the midst of last year’s “war on coal” (not to be confused with previous wars on coal, because the president apparently really, really hates coal), Carl M. Cannon of RealClearPolitics noted, before asking for a moratorium on rhetorical war: “In modern American politics, this tiresome ‘war on [fill in the blank]’ formulation has its roots in an admirable cause: Lyndon Johnson’s ‘war on poverty,’ ” declared in his 1964 State of the Union address as the nation was still mourning the death of John F. Kennedy less than two months earlier.

President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a War on Poverty in his first State of the Union address in 1964.  AP Photo found on The Nation.

President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a War on Poverty in his first State of the Union address in 1964.
AP Photo found on The Nation.

Regardless of how admirable that cause may have been, it unleashed a fusillade of rhetoric relating just about everything to war, and I and more than a few people are tired of it. I can think of no better reasoning than that from Bale Dalton, a veteran of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, in a Kennedy School Review blog piece in May:

iStock_000003512648XSmall“Primarily, war has no place as the known in such metaphors because the violence of war is decidedly unknown to the vast majority of Americans. Comparing the campaigns of elections to the campaigns of war represents the utmost disrespect to the family that waits every night on the other end of a phone, fearing not a call asking for contributions to swell a candidate’s war chest, but a carefully rehearsed voice on the other end of the line explaining that their loved one is coming home with a medal pinned to a chest that will swell no more.”

That by itself is enough for me, and not just because I dislike the misuse of words. We devalue the experience of veterans and those who’ve grown up in war-torn parts of the world when we compare attacks on civil rights or even criticism of things such as Cheerios (really, people?) to war.

Yes, Rush Limbaugh decided that Barack Obama declared war on Cheerios because the FDA sent General Mills a warning letter about their advertising. Must have been a slow "news" day. Image from RushLimbaugh.com.

Yes, Rush Limbaugh decided that Barack Obama declared war on Cheerios because the FDA sent General Mills a warning letter about their advertising. Must have been a slow “news” day.
Image from RushLimbaugh.com.

They, and we, deserve better than that. Besides that, constant framing of everything as war creates enemies of all of us, and just increases distrust.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight injustice; we just shouldn’t call it a war unless we want to not only disrespect war veterans but for it also to become a joke.

So cool it, okay? Don’t make me call in the peacekeepers.

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4 thoughts on “This means war (uh … no it doesn’t)

  1. Thank you for such a great perspective on what war is and is not. I’m already dreading the “War on Christmas” Facebook posts along with the “Like if you will say Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays,” etc. I lived near Fort Hood for six years before moving to Little Rock, and many of my friends’ husbands were deployed multiple times. Every phone call put them on edge. I’ve cried with them, listened to them, and prayed for the safety of their spouses. The “War on Christmas” is fake, and people should be ashamed of making such a big deal about something that isn’t a matter of life or death. In fact, I will probably send out holiday cards because I have Jewish and Muslim friends and Christian friends. (My card will also include a newsletter written from the perspective of our cat. I don’t do “my kid is an honor student” newsletters.)

    I really appreciate the section about overusing words. How many Americans know about war first hand? I know a fine group of soldiers and their families in Texas who do.

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    • Thank you! Too many people lose perspective on issues they think are important (some are, some aren’t), and when they go to the war rhetoric, I tend to tune them out.

      My grandpa rarely, if ever, talked about his experiences during World War II, and none of us pressed him on it. After he died, we found a little journal he kept during his deployment in the Pacific on a hospital ship, and the few words in there are really the most we know about that time. His generation didn’t really want to talk about it, and I’m sure part of that is that they knew no one but people who’d been through it would really understand. I can only imagine what my grandma went through every day that he was on that ship.

      I always have a variety of cards so that I can respect the traditions of my friends as much as I can. I’ve never done a newsletter, but if I did, it would probably be from Luke’s perspective (I’m messing with him right now as he’s being exceptionally paranoid at the moment). 😀

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  2. Your grandpa’s WWII journal must be a treasure! My grandfathers didn’t talk about WWII. I remember going with my mom to clean out her dad’s house, and she found his purple heart and silver star. We never knew he had those awards until after his death.

    Keeping a variety of cards is a great idea. I haven’t mailed Christmas cards in three or so years. I never really mailed traditional cards before then either. When my kids were little, I did Christmas card photos (usually funny candid shots, not the “we all match at the beach” photos.) Later I started incorporating photos and funny stories into a one page newsletter. One year I asked the kids for their New Year’s resolutions, and I included the dog (“I will quit escaping from the backyard).

    I think Luke might enjoy writing a holiday letter for you.

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    • We found the notebook (and it was just a little one) when my brothers and I were dividing up the money he’d collected during the war (from Japan, Australia and a few other places), and it was a bit of a surprise. We had plenty of photos of him from every time he was stateside, but I don’t think any of us had heard him say much about that time. I have a necklace and ring that he and my grandma wore while they were apart (the necklace has his picture and the ring has hers), and they make me feel closer to them.

      I don’t think I mailed any cards out last year … I’ve just been too busy, so Luke may HAVE to do it. 😀

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