You know how when someone says to you, “No offense, but …,” you know they are about to say something offensive enough to need a disclaimer.
And when someone says, “I’m not a racist, but …,” you’d might as well get out of the way because you know they’re about to let loose with a humdinger.
In the same spirit, “I don’t mean to tell you how to run your religion, but … .”
Why are you taking down your Christmas tree when Christmas is just getting started? Until recently, I would not have even discussed religion publicly much less dare to tell someone they were doing it wrong, but smug certainty is such a popular local sport I decided to give it a try. I never knew what I was missing.
Let’s get back to Christmas trees and their premature disposal. If you’ve ever found yourself dragging your empty decoration storage boxes down from the attic before the last batch of discarded gift wrap is in the trash, then yes, I’m talking to you. You know who you are.
Do you really detest that tree so much that after only one or two days of a twelve day holiday, you’re shoving a prime symbol of that holiday out the door? Which my recently acquired superiority finds a little hard to believe since you’ve had the bloody thing in your living room since September.
As perplexing and annoying as I find this behavior, in the past I have usually managed to keep my mouth zipped about it. But that’s about to change. My self-restraint reached its breaking point when I arrived for a Christmas visit at two in the afternoon on Christmas Day, only to find our hostess stripping the last of the decorations off the tree.
By the time welcoming hugs were exchanged and everybody had sat down for a little holiday cheer, she had finished her task and her boyfriend hoisted the Christmas tree up on his shoulders, headed for the front door with it. The dead tree passed over our heads, scraping the ceiling and raining dry balsam needles on us while the tree stand managed to knock a few folks in the eye. It was very festive.
I managed with great difficulty to keep my distaste to myself. But since that day, I have come to the conclusion that this sort of behavior needs to be taken to task. What a sorry state of affairs we have reached when Christmas trees are being tossed on the trash heap a mere 14 hours after the holiday begins. With 11 and a half days of Christmas left, it was painful to look out the front window of that house and see that pathetic dried-up tree lying by the curb, alone and unloved.
To add to the nuttiness of this already surreal situation, the people who were kicking Christmas to the curb on Christmas Day are some of the same folks who get all bent out of shape if you don’t wish them a “Merry Christmas” as soon as Walmart stocks the Christmas merch – in other words, September.
I should have said something. Depriving them of my superior knowledge did them no favors. I have to do better in the future.
In the days that have followed, I have ranted about these folks who failed so miserably to celebrate their religious holiday in a way I find acceptable.
Some of the friends I ranted to have offered excuses for the offending parties of Christmas present. “The trees were really dry this year,” I heard more than once. Personally, I don’t think safety was a prime concern but most of my friends are nicer than I am and look for the best in people. They have no idea how exhilarating arrogance and intolerance can be.
One friend confided that her new puppy kept drinking the tree water and then peeing and pooping on the tree skirt so she had already taken her tree down, more for reasons of sanitation than theology. See what I mean about being nice? Here she was trying to get me to ease up on the premature Christmas tree tossers and find some common ground with them. I know the challenge of an untrained puppy as well as anyone.
But I’ve wasted far too many years looking for common ground when I could have been experiencing the joys of judgmental arrogance. As so many have said to me over the years, “My way is not just the best way. It is the only way.”
What took me so long to get to this unambiguous place of pure certainty? The moral high ground may turn out to be a lonely place but it looks like a very satisfying one. Much more satisfying than all that inclusiveness and empathy.
Reach Bill at 336-415-4699.