Another holiday season is upon us, and the battle is joined.
For most of our young nation's life December has been all about Christmas, the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Christ. In my youth, I was not aware of other holidays sharing the same space - and only vaguely aware of other religions. It was a time to think of others less fortunate, giving our time to those in need and being kinder to my brothers as well as strangers.
I lived in a country that welcomed everyone seeking a better life than the one they had in their country. We were called the "melting pot," and I was taught to be very proud that fact. Religious freedom was the foundation on which we build our great country.
What happened? I studied American history. My world expanded past my neighborhood, and I found out a few things.
We starved and almost killed off the Native Americans. We brought other humans by the boatload to be slaves. We burned and tortured humans for being "witches." The immigrants that were the labor force for industrialization were not treated much better.
I discovered that it is OK to worship as you please - but keep it quiet if you are not a Christian. Even different Christ-based faiths don't get along, I learned.
I grew into a young adult studying world history and discovered more. The world was huge and full of different people and faiths. I found that other countries treated their people just as badly for religious reasons, and coming to America meant freedom for them. I found that change is slow and often hard on the people seeking it.
I became a mother. I wanted my child to know where we came from and that there is hope for the future. I taught him to not judge someone because they looked different or practiced a different faith. Different does not mean wrong, and he could learn about and from those differences. While he might not always agree with or understand the differences, he would respect them. He learned, when he saw conflict, to attempt to find a way resolve it with peace and understanding.
I am now 50, and thanks to the Internet, the world is at my fingertips. I am more aware of differences and changes. I know the struggles of so many and that our melting pot has become even more diverse.
There are those who do not see that we are a country full of different faiths whose members want to celebrate their holidays as proudly as Christians do. Christmas is only one day and not the only holiday - or the oldest.
I am offended when I see a sign in front of a church that says the "Christ is the ONLY reason for the season" or e-mail that shows me a picture of a Christmas tree and says "This is not a Hanukkah bush." I am just as offended when a person gets angry when they are wished a "Merry Christmas" or sent a Christmas card when they are not Christian.
I think it is a shame that our kids are part of a war on the holiday season. Schools now have an all-or-nothing policy - with most choosing to do nothing. Most schools have adopted a no-bully policy and teach diversity and tolerance in hope that our society will be better, but too often such efforts are canceled out by bigotry and hate at home. It is so sad when some are compelled to vandalize decorations or openly disrespect others just because they have faith in something different.
The month of December has become a stress-filled, commercialized and depressing time for Americans. We have not grown past the hate, discrimination and bigotry of our history.
Is it really so hard to be understanding, gracious and respectful of the differences that make up our great nation? I thought that was what this season was for.
Happy holidays, everyone.
B.J. Lincoln is a resident of Middle River. Her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.