Monday, February 27, 2006

Memories from the War on the War on Christmas

This is really a relic, but worth it, a CNN transcript of some sort of odd debate between Sam Seder and Bob Knight.

PHILLIPS: Alright, Tony. Thanks.

Merry Christmas or happy holidays, a Christmas tree or a holiday tree, Which should it be? It depends on whom you ask. We've seen controversy, most notably prompted by the White House. It sent out cards, this card as a matter of fact, wishing a holiday season of hope and happiness. No mention of Christmas.

Some thoughts now on the subject. Sam Seder hosts the show "Majority Report" on Air America Radio. Bob Knight is the director of the Culture and Family Institute, it's affiliated with the Christian conservative organization, Concerned Women for America.

Gentleman, great to have you with me.

SAM SEDER, HOST, "MAJORITY REPORT": Thanks for having us on.

PHILLIPS: Let's start with the holiday card. What do you think, Sam?

SEDER: Listen, as far as the war on Christmas goes, I feel like we should be waging a war on Christmas. I mean, I believe that Christmas, it's almost proven that Christmas has nuclear weapons, can be an imminent threat to this country, that they have operative ties with terrorists and I believe that we should sacrifice thousands of American lives in pursuit of this war on Christmas. And hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money.

PHILLIPS: Is it a war on Christmas, a war Christians, a war on over-political correctness or just a lot of people with way too much time on their hands?

SEDER: I would say probably, if I was to be serious about it, too much time on their hands, but I'd like to get back to the operational ties between Santa Claus and al Qaeda.

PHILLIPS: I don't think that exists. Bob? Help me out here.

SEDER: We have intelligence, we have intelligence.

PHILLIPS: You have intel. Where exactly does your intel come from?

SEDER: Well, we have tortured an elf and it's actually how we got the same information from Al Libbi. It's exactly the same way the Bush administration got this info about the operational ties between al Qaeda and Saddam.

PHILLIPS: Okay, Bob Knight, Sam is tying in now the lack of information regarding weapons of mass destruction and somehow moving that into Santa Claus. Help me out here. What's going on? Is this a war on Christians, a war on Christmas? Is this too much political correctness?

BOB KNIGHT, CULTURE AND FAMILY INSTITUTE: Well, first I want to compliment him on his dry humor, but this is actually a very serious subject, because a lot of people are waking up to realize that the war on Christmas is really the culmination of a war on faith and the idea that the public square has to be cleansed of any religious expression, particularly Christian religious expression.

At one time "happy holidays" was a welcome addition to "Merry Christmas," so you wouldn't say the same thing over and over again, but a lot of people now see it as a substitute, and it's very gratuitous at times.

And it's actually insulting when you're talking about Christmas day or a Christmas tree and you can't bring yourself to use the word for fear of offending someone. In the name of diversity we're a less free country when that happens.

PHILLIPS: It's interesting, Sam, because this is a time where, if anything, we want to be even more sensitive to diversity considering everything that's happening with regard to war on terror, we're learning so much more about different religions, different ethnicities and trying to become more of one, versus being segregated.

KNIGHT: Yes, well, Kyra, I mean, listen, I would like Bob to tell me who is the person who has been offended by someone saying Merry Christmas to them? I've never met that person.

I don't celebrate Christmas. But if someone says "Merry Christmas" to me, I either think, well, it's a little bit odd, it's like me saying happy birthday to you on my birthday, but no one cares.

But I will tell you this, as we wage the war on the war on the war on the war on Christmas on our radio show. News Corp., Fox News, those people who have started this entire war on Christmas mean, fake war, they're having a holiday party.

President Bush saying "Happy Holidays." Tokyo Rose, Laura Bush, saying "Happy Holidays" to her dogs in the video, I'm sure you've seen it. I mean, these are the things that we should be talking about when we are waging this war in Iraq, we should be equating it to the war on Christmas.

What else would Bob Knight have an opportunity to do, how else would he get on television if he wasn't pretending to be attacked.

KINGHT: This would be funny except it is serious to a lot of people who have seen their faith cleansed from the public square systemically.

SEDER: Are you suggesting, Bob, that someone can't celebrate Christmas in America? Tell me about the person who can escape the celebration.

KNIGHT: Can I get a word in here?

PHILLIPS: Go ahead, Bob.

KNIGHT: I'm talking about things like in Ridgeway, Wisconsin, where the school children in the public school were told they couldn't sing "Silent Night," so they substituted "Oh, Cold Night." When you take Jesus out of anything it gets pretty cold, so it's apt.

But it's outrageous, they had children actually singing a bastardized version of "Silent Night."


SEDER: This may come as a shock to you, Bob, but I don't consider Jesus the messiah. If you're going to ask me to praise Jesus, I'm going to be a little offended. I don't think the singing of the song, you can find other songs to sing, so what about "Silent Night."

KNIGHT: Because you're offended none of those other kids can celebrate the great heritage of Christmas carols.

SEDER: I'm not the one who said they couldn't do that.

KNIGHT: You're a grinch, sir, that's all you are.

SEDER: Why are you trying to force conversions on people?

KNIGHT: I'm not forcing conversions by singing a Christmas carol.

SEDER: You are, absolutely.

PHILLIPS: Let me ask you guys about the pressure that's been put on stores, for example.

American Family Association called for the boycott of Target stores the weekend after Thanksgiving, accusing the chain of banning the phrase "Merry Christmas" from its stores, a charge that Target denies.

Pressure from conservative groups, looks like it has an impact here. Complaints from the Catholic League, Wal-Mart agreed to create a Christmas page on its Web site, rather than a holiday page. Macy's, which is perhaps more closely associated with Christmas than any other retailers, sent activists a letter touting its use of "Merry Christmas" in ads and store windows after it was the target of a small scale boycott last year.

This is pretty amazing, all these boycotts of pressuring all these stores, these businesses, Bob.

KNIGHT: These businesses are taking millions and millions of dollars in from Christians, in particular, and others who celebrate Christmas, giving gifts in the name of the Christmas season, and yet they're so worried about offending people like my opponent here that they don't want to mention the word Christmas. People are sick and tired.

SEDER: Bob, it's the holiday time, I'm not your opponent.

KNIGHT: Yes, you are. Yes, you are.

SEDER: I do agree with Bob. I think what should happen is companies should calculate how much money they're getting from people who are celebrating Christmas and provide exactly that much amount of Merry Christmas, because that is exactly how I would want any type of religious holiday to be celebrated.

KNIGHT: Can I mention something that puts it in perspective?

PHILLIPS: Would we be having the same argument about Hanukkah, I'm curious?

SEDER: Would we have the same argument about Hanukkah?

KNIGHT: Hanukkah is not the same as Christmas. It's not a major holiday, for one thing.


KNIGHT: This is the Christmas season, that's why billions of dollars are really being spent.

SEDER: It's also the winter solstice, too.

PHILLIPS: People might argue that Hanukkah is just as big as Christmas.

SEDER: I'd have to agree with Bob. I would have to agree with Bob on that.

KNIGHT: I have some Jewish friends and none of them say Hanukkah is as big as Christmas.

SEDER: Hannukah is not a high holiday. Our high holidays are Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur, which I'm sure Bob has been protesting why there are not more Yom Kippur sales or Rosh Hashanah sales during those holidays. Why shouldn't there be, right Bob?

KNIGHT: If that was associated with that holiday, then maybe I would join you. But it never has been.

SEDER: Bob, have you ever protested Martin Luther King Day not being celebrated. Do you resent when people don't say "Happy Martin Luther King Day" a month out in advance?

KNIGHT: Let's put this in perspective.

PHILLIPS: Bob, I want you to be able to respond. What's interesting is a CNN U.S.A. Today Gallup poll, the question was "Is it okay for people to say Merry Christmas, 88 percent said yes, 11 percent said no."

KNIGHT: 96 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. Why would we care about offending the four percent that get offended by it?


PHILLIPS: Why do we care? Why are we making all the changes, Bob?

SEDER: Bob's where is the war, where are the battle lines, you can tell me "Silent Night" can't be sung in one school in Wisconsin.

KNIGHT: That's just one example, that's not the totality, so don't create that straw man.

SEDER: What is the totality?

The totality is -- you brought it up. The totality is 88 percent of the American population has no problem with it.

You don't care about the people who don't celebrate Christmas, fine. But I don't celebrate Christmas and I don't care. So, why are we wasting everybody's time? It's so that you can fund raise, that's why Bob. And I think you know that's true.

PHILLIPS: Bob, I'm going to let you have the final thought.

KNIGHT: OK. You know, when the Nazis moved into Austria in 1936...

SEDER: Oh, that's offensive, Bob, to raise Nazis. KNIGHT: They immediately removed from the schools. You can read about it in...

PHILLIPS: Hold on, Sam. Let Bob make his point. Let Bob make his point. Go ahead, Bob.

KNIGHT: You can't even let me speak. Can you? You're so...

Maria Trapp wrote the story of the Trapp singers that's in "The Sound of Music," and she said she sent her kids to school after the Nazis took over. And they came home and said mama, we can't say the word Christmas anymore. It's now winter holiday.

I think that ought to disturb people...

SEDER: Kyra, that's offensive.

KNIGHT: ...that we're moving toward that kind of attitude in this country.

SEDER: The Puritans also outlawed Christmas. The founding fathers of this country would fine you in Massachusetts if you celebrated Christmas in the beginning. So don't talk about Nazis, Bob. I think that's really inappropriate.

Why do you have to bring hate to this Christmas and holiday season? That's so sad, Bob.

KNIGHT: Well, let's go to the Soviet Union then too. They had grandfather frost.

Well, it's the truth. You ought to read the book yourself, and maybe you'll change your mind.

SEDER: It's just sad that you have to raise Nazis when you're talking about Christmas and the holiday season. And we all know that Christmas actually, Tannenbaum, it's a German holiday. Bob, I'm really, really disappointed in you.

KNIGHT: I'm sorry to disappoint you, but if you can't understand the force of history...

SEDER: To bring up Nazis, Bob.

KNIGHT: I'm not calling you a Nazi.

SEDER: Oh, who you calling Nazi? Who are you calling a Nazi, sir?

KNIGHT: I'm not.

PHILLIPS: Gentlemen, we got to let it there. We could probably...

SEDER: You are, sir.

PHILLIPS: Sam Seder...

SEDER: I'm offended.

PHILLIPS: ..."Majority Report."

SEDER: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Bob Knight director of Culture and Family Institute.

Gentlemen, hey it's a discussion. Everyone is talking about it, that is for sure. A lot of people are talking about it I should say. Now, I'm just curious do I say Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, which...

KNIGHT: Well, I'd like to say Merry Christmas if I have the opportunity.

SEDER: Don't cut and run from the war on Christmas.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, gentlemen, talk to you later.

KNIGHT: Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Every year Christmas is the largest propaganda campaign in history. Yet people complain that it is not even larger. An uncle of mine complained at a Christmas gathering that "the separation between church and state is getting out of hand." Meaning that there is now more of a separation between church and state than there was in the past and that it is too much.
This is 100% the opposite of reality. Propaganda works that way.

Anonymous said...

From Kos (not DKos - this is an excerpt from a frontpage post by Markos):

"Longtime readers are well aware of my disdain for protest marches. They are useless, obsolete artifacts of a bygone era. How much money and energy expended in that march could've been used for more effective forms of organizing? As Jane says:

It shows just how behind the times these organizations are that they would put so much energy into something like the "March for Women's Lives" in this day and age when the impact of an action like that depends on the media's willingness to cover it, something they quite obviously haven't been willing to do for a good long while.

20 million single women did not vote in 2004, a demographic that is amongst the most solidly Democratic in the nation. If NARAL, Planned Parenthood, NOW, and others want to protect the important rights they're trying to safeguard, they need to start finding ways to reach these women and other friendly voters. Marches ain't the way to do it. "