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Monday, December 11, 2006

Mondays are Rough

That'll Teach Ya...

I just read an Associated Press story that made me sad. Seems Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky was in the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport a week or two ago and noticed several Christmas trees displayed in the terminal. Rabbi Bogomilsky threatened to sue the airport unless they added an eight-foot Jewish menorah to the display.

So the airport took the trees down.

"We decided to take the trees down because we didn't want to be exclusive," said airport spokeswoman Terri-Ann Betancourt. "We're trying to be thoughtful and respectful, and will review policies after the first of the year." source

Ms. Betancourt continued to say that the holidays are the busiest season at the airport, and they didn't have time to play cultural anthropologist. They felt that adding the menorah would have required adding symbols for all other religions and cultures as well.

So, by wanting his religion recognized, Rabbi Bogomilsky made sure that the holidays are not acknowledged at all at the airport. According to the Associated Press article, the Rabbi was appalled by the decision. "Everyone should have their spirit of the holiday. For many people the trees are the spirit of the holidays, and adding a menorah adds light to the season."

This kind of stuff is tricky, ain't it? Wouldn't it have been better if the Rabbi had, instead of threatening the airport with a lawsuit, simply asked them if HE could place a menorah on display in the airport? That would have given the airport people the chance to leave the trees in place, and given them a big clue that they might want to review their holiday policy sometime in the next year... (Seems to me the simplest policy would be to have an area of the terminal available to local religious groups to display their own particular cultural icons without the airport interfering. But then you've gotta give space to the local cult of devil-worshippers to display their, well, whatever it is they'd want to display, too.)

By threatening to sue, the Rabbi merely got the Jewish community lumped in with the Grinch as far as the holidays are concerned. I think that the best policy of all would be TOLERANCE. I haven't looked up any statistics to back this statement up, but I'm reasonably sure that the majority of people in the Seattle area are Christians. So what harm does it do to let the airport put up Christmas trees? If I ever go to Israel, I'd expect to see plenty of Jewish symbols around, and I certainly wouldn't demand that they give my religion equal treatment. (Well, I guess Israel is a questionable example as the state is founded on the religion, but you get my drift. When in Rome, expect to see Catholicism. When in Turkey, expect to see Muslim symbols. When in America, expect to see Christmas trees.)

Oddly enough, Christmas trees aren't even a Christian symbol. According to Wikipedia, the Christmas tree may have roots in early pagan rituals, but the modern custom dates back to the 1570's, when a few Germans started putting apples and nuts on trees to make the children happy. According to tradition, Christmas trees aren't supposed to be put up or decorated until Christmas Eve anyway, else you'll have bad luck. Commercialism changed that tradition in a heartbeat...

So... Was the airport right in putting up trees? Was the rabbi right in threatening to sue? Was the airport right in taking the trees down?

I think the airport, being (I assume) privately owned, should be able to do what it wants as far as decoration goes. They probably thought that Christmas trees were a pretty vague and non-religious symbol of the season, and I guess I agree with them. The rabbi shouldn't have threatened to sue. Instead he should have either accepted the fact that the majority of the people around him like Christmas trees and realized that Christmas does not diminish Hanukkah any more than Kwaanza threatens Easter. Unfortunately, the rabbi gave the airport no choice but to take the trees down; I agree with their decision and their reasoning. Maybe next year they'll put up snowmen or something instead.

This brings up a whole kettle of issues that I'm not gonna delve into (the "War on Christmas," separation of church and state, etc.) but I will mention that many people tease the Democrats for trying to be politically correct. Looks to me like if you're not politically correct, you'll run the chance of getting sued. Ain't that sad?

So, the next time you see a cultural or religious symbol you don't agree with, please remember tolerance. Isn't that what our religion teaches us anyway?


Worrisome Times

I have several relatives that are battling cancer, and a member of my family is having back surgery later today. I'm having a hard time concentrating. We're all getting older, and I don't like it much.


Yeesh!

I just read (oddly enough in the Seattle Times) that it costs $6.65 (five euros) to buy a can of cola at the Louvre in France. The article said, "The $9 soda, the $5 espresso and the $30 taxi ride are commonplace," and talks about dinner for four at a pizza joint costing $100. I guess the dollar isn't holding up well in the international market these days... We may be headed for rough times. In 2002 you could buy one euro for 89 cents - now it costs $1.36 to buy that same euro.

I've never studied economics (as can be seen with a quick glance at my checking account) but whatever happened to the gold standard? Seems we went off it sometime during World War II as an emergency measure, and have never gone back to it. Maybe it's time...?

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