My job requires that I talk to a lot of people that I will never meet in person. Before Christmas everyone was wishing me Happy Holidays. Unlike many who believe that this term is an assault on Christianity, I believe it is a very useful expression that encompasses everything from Thanksgiving to New Years, whether you choose to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, or Kwanzaa in between. What I find humorous though, is that many of the people that I talk to in the course of the day want to express the holiday sentiment, but aren’t quite sure how. Much like the news commentator a few years ago, when Bishop Desmond Tutu visited the United States, who referred to him as a non-American-African-American. It was the most absurd thing I had heard, but it was the only way she could think of to describe his race. I am sure she knew what she wanted to say but was more worried about using the acceptable term, that she ended up sounding absurd. So too, many of the people I talk to have wanted to wish me a Merry Christmas but reluctantly used Happy Holidays instead for fear of offending me. Many fumble for the right holiday greeting while refusing to mention a specific holiday. Even though Christmas has passed, people awkwardly wish me Happy Holidays, even though wishing me a Happy New Year would be perfectly appropriate for everyone in the Western Industrialized world.
I am not one to see this as the death knell for free society, but it does seem to be quite debilitating to individual expression.