What do you call an evergreen tree adorned with decorations and lights? Is it:
A) A Christmas tree;
B) A Holiday tree; or
C) A Hanukkah bush?
The answer, it seems, may depend on where you live.
Over in the great state of Rhode Island, Gov. Lincoln Chaffee (I) has decided that the Statehouse evergreen tree, which will be illuminated Tuesday evening, is a generic “holiday tree.”
Tell that to Rhode Island’s John Leyden, whose “Big John Leyden’s Christmas Tree Farm” provided the 17-foot Colorado blue spruce. Is the governor going to insist on changing the name of the tree farm as well?
Surely the good governor knows that the word “holiday” is derived from the term “holy day,” meaning religious celebration. To avoid offending any atheists, why not refer to the tree simply as the “festive shrub”?
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not one of those people who object to the use of the phrase “Happy Holidays” in seasonal cards sent to folks of various (or unknown) religious beliefs. Although 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, 5 percent do not — and some who do celebrate Christmas also celebrate other holidays at this time of year. Having separate cards made up for Christmas, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Hanukkah and/or the Winter Solstice is simply too complicated and expensive. I get that.
But the aversion to the word “Christmas” to describe something that is closely associated with the Christian holiday is outright hostile. The fact is that Jews don’t decorate large evergreens to commemorate Hanukkah, and Muslims don’t light up trees to celebrate Ramadan (which sometimes falls at this time of year). Tree decorating is something that is done by people who celebrate Christmas. So why pretend otherwise?
Should we also rename Easter eggs “spring spheres” — as was demanded by one third-grade teacher in Seattle last April? Renaming a Christmas tree a “holiday tree” or an Easter egg a “spring sphere” isn’t inclusive; it’s just stupid. It’s also an Orwellian lie.
Unfortunately, euphemisms for items associated with religious celebrations are only part of the problem. Note, for example, these other liberal linguistic distortions:
Illegal aliens are now called “undocumented immigrants”; swamps are called “wetlands”; schools don’t teach sex education, they teach “health”; and racial preferences, once euphemistically called “affirmative action”, are now even more cryptically referred to as “diversity initiatives.”
Things have even gone so far that in some Massachusetts schools kids are not allowed to refer to the card game “War,” but instead must call it “Compare.” What’s more, at the conclusion of the game, kids are not allowed to say “I win” — instead the winner (what else can you possibly call it?) must simply say, “Me.”
Most people would agree that changing this simple children’s card game in the name of political correctness is absurd. But few are willing to spend time and energy to do anything about it. This is unfortunate, for as the conservative economist Friedrich Hayek once noted, such a “complete perversion” of the language is often an early hallmark of totalitarianism.
It’s time we stood up to political correctness — in schools and in the public square.
We must tell Gov. Grinch that despite his use of Orwellian Newspeak, a Christmas tree by any other name is still a Christmas tree. And a display of eight candles plus one extra taller candle is a menorah. So please don’t call it a “holiday candelabra.”