Monday, December 27, 2004

and how was your Christmas?

Mine was quiet. Saturday, Christmas Day, was spent doing almost nothing except staying indoors, reading William Gibson's cyberpunk classic Neuromancer (for the first time; it's the book that gave us the terms "the matrix" and "cyberspace," if I'm not mistaken), and feasting on Alice Springs Chicken at the local Outback Steakhouse. I've noticed that the servers at Outback tend not to approach me unless I call out to them. Maybe they're afraid I can't speak Korean. Whatever their fears, they need to get over them and give me some decent customer service. I don't bite-- yet. I speak Korean well enough to handle ordering Outback items, and I'd rather not be forced to wait ten minutes to have my order taken when the place isn't even that busy.

I spoke with my parents in the evening when I got back home; Mom and Dad seemed to be fine, if a bit lonely, what with no kids in the house. Both of my brothers were off doing separate gigs (one as a bartender; the other as a professional cellist). I gorged myself on chocolate. My limbs were aching. Incipient diabetes?

Oh, yeah-- I Photoshopped that monks-and-Christmas-tree pic. Yes, I'm easily amused. Some commenter on Andi's blog wrote, "Yo, ditch the tree." I assume he was joshing, making a pun out of Andi's blog's name, "Ditch the Raft." If he was being serious, then Heaven help him and his attachments to name and form. I've talked about Buddhists who can't escape the tight-sphinctered Jesus meme here-- Buddhists looking for an excuse to act just as doctrinaire as they did back when they were Christians. Some people never learn.

[Of course, I'm sure none of this applies to the commenter at Andi's place!]

Sunday was laundry and French teaching day, as per usual. My socks were actually stuck-- frozen-- to the metal laundry rack when I retrieved my clothes from the 5th-floor balcony this evening. I love it.

Spent part of the evening IMing with the Maximum Leader. He and his kiddies are rather sick; send him your get-well wishes.

If I get up early enough tomorrow, I might try and see a matinee before work. Preferably "The Incredibles," but who knows? It's going to be a hellish week, because one of our staff is on vacation, so we have to cover her classes. This means a more crowded schedule than usual, as well as a day or two working longer-than-normal hours. Another reason to seek greener pastures.

Bloggers and other pundits have been debating about how politicized the phrase "Merry Christmas" has become. The whole argument is asinine. For the liberal take, see Brian's entry on the subject. He's got some good points. For the conservative take, see this Scrappleface entry. Also some good points, mockingly made (though some of the extreme conservative commenters made me cringe).

I've blogged on this before: liberals need to remember that freedom of religion isn't the same as freedom from religion, which seems to be what some folks on the left want. That's neither realistic nor healthy. People are going to be religious, like it or not. Religions are too complex to earn the label "inherently evil," so I don't buy the social engineering argument that the world would automatically be a better place without religion. Religions do bring out the shittiest in us, but they also bring out what's good and noble. Don't go imposing simplistic analysis on complex questions.

The best answer for Americans is to lean on our tradition of tolerance and secularism, to give each other room to say our "Merry Christmas"es and "Happy Kwanzaa"s and "Happy Hannukah"s without being offended. There's no reason to assume that I, as a Christian, am trying to convert you or oppress you when I wish you a Merry Christmas. Such an assumption-- made without talking to me first-- only indicates your own arrogance and closed-mindedness.

At the same time, conservatives need to remember that there's no reason for me, as a Christian, to feel oppressed or offended by a Jew wishing me a Happy Hannukah, or by an atheist who prefers to wish me Happy Holidays. And then there's the issue of respect: if I know a Jew who prefers not to be wished a Merry Christmas at Christmastime, then I should honor his wish, instead of stubbornly insisting on wishing him a Merry Christmas, anyway. I'm not "dumbing down" the holiday when I respect a non-Christian's wishes.

It's possible to find a middle way through all of this. We don't have to snap automatically to the extremes. Life is lived in the muddle of the ordinary; our stupid polemics often mislead us into thinking the world is only black and white when in fact it's full of color. Religious conservatives who feel the "reason for the season" is being lost in a wave of materialism and secularism have a point, but religious liberals also have a point when they urge caution and mutual respect. Each side can offer the other its best wishes without acrimony. That's the whole point of living out and benefitting from pluralism.


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