I said, war, huh
Good God, y’all
What is it good for
Say it again
—Edwin Starr, “War”
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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:
“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.
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.