I blogged a few days ago about my friend’s decision to remove a Christmas tree from the school where she recently became principal. The letters to the editor in the local newspaper have been overwhelmingly nasty, and mostly not worthy of rebuttal. A few would be entertaining, if only they weren’t so darned depressing. Here’s one, apparently penned by the guy recently featured in The Onion, under the headline “Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines The Constutition To Be.”
Michelle Zundel, you are a disgrace to your school, community, our state and our country. The U.S. is a country of freedom of speech and religion. You are breaking the law! I, as well as many of my coworkers agree you are violating our Constitution and our freedom in the name of public education.
I also liked this one, whose author reminded me of a cross between Ed Anger and Lazlo Toth:
…those offended by the innocuous tree display …can either “suffer in silence” or they can find themselves a place to live that does not bother their sensitivities. I remind them that the United States was founded as a Christian nation with our freedoms, and especially with freedom of religion, as principle rights. We do not compromise their rights to worship as they choose, nor are they free to compromise our rights therein. That is what freedom means! The giving tree display is simply a symbol of our charity. Making it otherwise, and making us bow in acquiescence to their request to remove it, is disgustingly short-sighted. Even worse, it is wrong!
(It does bring up an interesting philosophical question, though. Is “wrong” actually worse than “disgustingly short-sighted”? Talk amongst yourselves.)
Apparently, the tree went back up today. I haven’t read more about it or spoken to Michelle. But I did write my own letter to the paper, since the Jewish community in Ashland seems to be holding its collective tongue so far. Here it is:
There’s No Such Thing As A Holiday Tree
As a former Ashland resident and employee of the Ashland School District, I’ve been following the debate at Bellview with great interest. Christmas is a beautiful holiday with many wonderful traditions. As a parent of a Jewish family, I welcome invitations to the homes of friends and extended family who celebrate the birth of Jesus so that my young daughters can learn more about other religions. I understand that living in a country with a Christian majority also means that my daughters will see Christmas celebrated in malls, grocery stores, and almost every other private institution we visit, and I have no problem explaining to them why this is the case. However, I do expect that when they enter a public school or other government building, they should find an environment that reflects all, not just some, of the American people. Why dilute our rich religious traditions? Let’s display our beautiful menorahs, Christmas trees, Diwali lights, and all the other observances in our melting pot with pride and joy – in our homes, our places of worship, and our private institutions. And to those who believe that generosity can only be symbolized by a tree, I suggest it’s time the public schools teach more about why giving to those in need is an American tradition, not limited to one culture, or one time of year.