Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Let it Go

My corporate overlords have summoned me back to New York for a couple of days. Walking into the lobby of our downtown office building, I see the usual array of Christmas decorations, including a semi-massive tree. And right next to the tree is a semi-massive Chanukah menorah, all lit up. Now, I'm no master of the Jewish calendar, but I know damn well that Chanukah ended a week ago last night. I counted out the gifties to Things 1 and 2 perfectly, and when #8 got unwrapped, I knew we were done. So why is there a lit-up menorah in our lobby?

Well, obviously it's there because the building managers don't want Our Jewish Friends to feel slighted or offended duing the Christmas season. Which is fine, up to a point. I mean, there should certainly be a menorah in the lobby during Chanukah. It's New York City, after all--the Tribe does have a certain gravitational weight that should be acknowledged. I always appreciated the inclusion.

But when the holiday is over, the holiday is over, no? If Chanukah ends two weeks before Christmas, as it did this year, I don't really need people to give me the "Happy Holidays" greeting. They can say "Merry Christmas." It's fine. Because it is Christmas now, whether I celebrate it or not. It is, after all, a federal holiday. And when people smile at me and say it to me, I know they don't really mean, "accept Christ as your personal savior or burn in hell." (all right, maybe some of them do, but most don't).

This whole over-sensitivity thing is insane. I'm part of a very small minority in this country, and as such, I have to learn how to navigate among people who are, in some way, different from me. That's what it means to be part of a minority. I see it more than they do; I live with it more than they do. That's just part of life. I certainly expect some sensitivity and inclusiveness and tolerance of difference on the part of the majority--I think that's my due, and right and proper in a large and diverse nation. But I don't expect the majority to pretend it doesn't exist as a majority, or to stop practicing its religion or its culture or anything else. By what right could I make such a demand? "Stop using the word Christmas in public, because it makes me feel bad"? Seriously? That's absurd. If I'm offended by the fact of Christmas, well, guess what? That's my problem.

You know, the fun part about being a member of a minority group is that you get to be different. You get to know things and see things that the majority, perhaps, doesn't. You get a unique perspective. There is value in that--not only for us, but for the majority, as well. That's why members of minority groups have been essential artists in our country--not just because they shine a light on their own lives, for everyone else to see, but also because they provide a new perspective on the majority, for the majority. The majority gets to see itself from the outside, for once. That's important.

So my holiday message to fellow landsmen, and members of other tribes across the country is, Let it go. You know who you are. Be happy with who you are. Accept good will when it's offered to you, however it's offered, without strings or qualifications. And stop caring what other people think. You probably don't know what they think, anyway.

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