Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Keep government out of holidays

Keep government out of holidays

(My Clovis News Journal column for December 23, 2011. I notice the paper bizarrely hyphenated Christmas as "Christ-mas" once in the article. Not my doing- and I double-checked to make sure.)

Merry Christmas! I hope you can take some time to appreciate all you have, and that you can spend the holiday however it brings you the most joy. I also hope you'll allow others the same liberty.

The winter solstice probably gave our prehistoric ancestors hope because the days which had been growing shorter finally stabilized. They knew from past observations that soon the days would begin to grow longer once again. It gave them reason to celebrate that spring would eventually arrive. The winter solstice was their light at the end of the tunnel. Throughout history different cultures stitched
their own celebrations, especially their own versions of "the light at the end of the tunnel" celebration, on this time of the year. The earliest recorded version of this holiday, from around 4- or 5000 years ago, was called "Zagmuk".

At this time in history "Christmas" is the name most commonly given to the holiday celebrated near the winter solstice. That's why most people use the word no matter what their personal beliefs may happen to be. Unless they have a specific reason to prefer a different celebration, or just want to be contentious.

Personally, I love Christmas. I don't care what words people use when they express good wishes for the holiday. Just as long as they are happy and friendly when they say it. I enjoy the interpersonal warmth around the holidays. I love the songs, the stories, and the decorations. I love the feeling of specialness. I love the light at the end of the tunnel, and I think celebrations are important, especially in the face of the encroaching winter.

That doesn't mean I think governments should sponsor Christmas displays, nor displays of any kind- religious or secular, since any money governments spend was taken by force from people who were given no choice, and it shouldn't be frittered away on things that some people don't consent to. Let the people celebrate unhindered; keep government dark and silent on the subject- neither endorsing nor obstructing any religion.

You have to make a real effort to be disagreeable at this time of year. Don't be twitchy if people say "Merry Christmas", or if they fail to do so and wish you "Happy Holidays" (or "Happy Zagmuk") instead. Just take it in the spirit in which it's offered and smile while you offer the greeting of your choice in return.


Pleasure haters

I saw a quote in an issue of Reason Magazine that just kept coming back to my mind. It was in reference to Prohibition (both the old one and the current one):

"The eternal temptation to ban things that give people pleasure"

I think it could also be expressed as "The eternal temptation to get pleasure from preventing the pleasure of others".

Either way, there are an awful lot of awful people who seem determined to try to make sure no one is having any fun. That's fine if they stick to being annoying pains in the rear. Unfortunately, the illegitimate institution of The State gives these perverts a way to exert power over others. What a messed up shame.