Sunday, December 25, 2011

Manning Up

It's time for us to retire the term "man up."  It's become a very popular phrase (along with the many versions of "grow a pair") and the more I hear it, the more the implications of it irritate me.

Perhaps I'm being too picky.  Perhaps the implications are so hidden that it doesn't matter.  The thing is, they're there.

What are the implications?  People usually use the term when they want a man to be brave and responsible.  "Grow a pair" is very much about gaining courage.  And yes, to act responsibly very often takes a great deal of bravery.  Which gender, however, has the pair to grow?  What this implies is that anyone who can't "man up" or "grow a pair" is unable to be brave and responsible.  Which means that such traits are the pervue of males alone.

Again, perhaps I'm being too picky.  But the implications are there and let's not forget it wasn't that long ago that women weren't allowed to vote because they "couldn't be trusted" to make wise decisions (or so men thought).  The head of the households were men and a man's house was his castle (and the woman should be thankful that he was allowing her to live there so she should be quiet and get his slippers).

This was the pervailing attitude in various degrees for centuries and in some cultures around the world, it still is.  We have women forced to walk around in burkas and women forced to marry their rapist (and if they don't, they're imprisoned for crimes against morality) because some countries still believe in the superiority of men.

Even in America, if a woman in charge makes a powerful decision she's said to have "grown a pair" over night (or very often stolen her husband's).

I'll admit, I grew up in a household where my father could not be counted on to act responsibly.  I learned how strong a woman could be by watching my mother be stronger than she gave herself credit for.  She was the one who worried about the bills being paid.  She was the one who worried about getting the kids to school.  She was the one who went to pack staples at night so she could supplement the meager allowance her husband gave her (you're not assured of child support when you're married) so that we weren't sitting on furniture that was torn and falling apart (my dad once told me that he had refused to buy new furniture because he was "teaching my mom a lesson."  I guess she decided to just go and get it for herself).  My parents were far too complicated to paint my father as completely worthless, but he was not the sort of father a father should be, nor was he the sort of husband a husband should be.  So I grew up believing that a woman should not necessarily expect to be taken care of because one day, she might not be. 

Bravery and responsibility wasn't and shouldn't be the sole commodity of the male gender alone.  It's something that all people should aspire to so referring to the acquisition of these traits as "manning up" is disrespectful to that other gender that is just as capable of those traits and has fought for centuries to be recognized for such.

My mom didn't need testosterone raging through her to fill in the gaps left by my father's disinterest in his family.  She did what needed to be do.  And there are a lot of women, married, single, mom's or not, doing the same thing.  Finding that inner core of bravery and responsibility that we all should possess to help make this world a better place. 

So let's retire the silly little phrase.  I know it sounds cool and tough, but it also sounds stupid when we bear in mind the implications, unconcious or not, surrounding it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Happy Holidays

No Virginia, there is no war on Christmas.  It was something invented by fools like Bill O’Reilly to…well, who knows why.  Why would someone look for problems where none exist?  To bolster weak positions?  To bolster weak egos?  The people behind the War on Christmas talk a big game about the greatness of this country then completely trounce upon one of the core principles that make it great.
Semantically yes, they have a point when they say Christmas is about Christ.  That’s where the “Christ” in “Christmas” comes from.  What they conveniently forget, however, is that the people who made up the holiday Christmas (oh let’s call them Christians) did so by hijacking other celebrations, such as the Roman celebration of Saturnalia and the Germanic celebration of Yule, and slapping the Christmas label on this time of year by claiming that Christ was born on Dec. 25.  Now the time of year wasn’t the only thing said Christians hijacked to create their tradition and the fact is that this follows in a long line of religions “borrowing” from each other (though none stole a tradition and made it their own as well as Christianity did).  But to insist that this time of year must remain sacred for one dogma is an insult to that good portion of the world who doesn’t believe in that dogma yet also holds this time of year dear.
This brings me back to one of the things that make this country great.  The Founders, in their far sighted wisdom and perhaps having witnessed their share of religious squirmishes, decided that everyone should have the right to worship (or not to worship) as they pleased.  So strongly did they believe in this that they put it in our Bill of Rights.
That’s a scary thing for Christians for in their philosophy, it’s not only sinful but dangerous not to acknowledge the glory of the Christian God.  And I must point out in all this that I refer only to intolerant Christians for I know there are Christians out there who couldn’t care less if someone wished them a “Happy Holiday.”  No, to intolerant Christians, turning our collective back on God could cause all sorts of calamities to befall the country.  It’s a fear that makes them pine for “one nation under God” and helps them forget how important a freedom of religion is (because without religious freedom, they might be the ones persecuted one day.  I mean actually persecuted as opposed to the persecution they’re imagining because FOX told them to). 
The term in question seems to be the insidious “holidays” as in “Happy Holidays” (though I’m sure “Seasons Greetings” is considered just as powerful a weapon in the non-existent War on Christmas).  These are two harmless sayings that I remember in cards and decorations as a child. 
It is true that the term “Happy Holidays” has been replacing “Merry Christmas” with increasing frequency over the years and here’s why: Because we have a vibrant country with a variety of religious philosophies (including those people who hold no religious views).  These people work hard, play by the rules, and pay their taxes.  Why then is it so terrible to honor the diversity, include everyone, and call it a “Holiday Tree”?
To whine about this is akin to the fools in the United States House of Representatives wasting time in November voting to make “In God We Trust” our national motto despite the fact that a good portion of tax paying citizens don’t trust in the Christian god (or any god for that matter).  We had a perfectly good motto, e pluribus unum, “Out of many, one,” that honored the country and the diversity of its people, but those who would vote to change that motto and disenfranchise a portion of this country aren’t interested in honoring their fellow citizens.  They’re only interested in proving a point:  God rules and unless you can get on board the Christian train you’re not invited to the party.  The irony there is that Saturnalia, the festival appropriated by Christians for the purpose of Christmas, was a festival where everyone was invited to take part no matter what they’re religion was.
To put it on a personal level, I was raised a Catholic (left the faith when I was 14) so calling this season Christmas is a very ingrained thing even though I no longer believe in Christianity.  Having worked in public service for years however, I’m aware that while not everyone celebrates Christmas, they may celebrate a particular tradition at this time of year.  Plus, I appreciate that this time of year could be important even to those who don’t celebrate a religious tradition.  After all, the secular New Year’s isn’t far away.  So when I send someone on their way, I am more likely to wish them “Happy Holidays” because I don’t want to assume what creed the people follow.  That to me is more respectful to fellow Americans.
The word "Christmas" in this song is not going to stop me from loving it.
Stores have taken this tack the past few years and their attempt to be respectful to their customers is grist for the mill for the pea brains trying to pump up this mythological idea that there’s a War on Christmas.  It’s the stores business to make a welcoming and comfortable environment for every customer not just a small minded sect who has decided their god is being dissed because the store is trying to be all inclusive.
Yet now there’s a list made up by the American Family Association (AFA) that grades stores on what it feels is the aiding and abetting the enemy in the War on Christmas based on how often they use the term Christmas (not that the stores have stated that they’re against Christmas, just that they haven’t used the Big C in their advertising and such).  Even if the store sells Christmas items, if it doesn’t blast out the term Christmas in all its advertising, it’s on the AFA list of stores censoring Christmas.  In the economy we’re struggling with now, these intolerant fools are going to slash at a store because its managers had the audacity to want to make everyone feel comfortable.  This doesn’t sound like a war on Christmas.  This sounds like a war on tolerance.  A war on the very philosophy our Founders believed in.  You are not supposed to be punished because you don’t bow down to a particular creed.
I’ve had people wish me “Merry Christmas.”  I’ve had people give me religious gifts.  And I could be petty and become insulted over these people assuming I am of a particular faith.  But how stupid would that be?  These are tokens of someone’s affection.  No matter what god they believe will bestow it, they’re wishing me peace.  How could I be so rude as to throw that back in their face?
But this is a concept very foreign to those actually waging a war at this time of year.
And I can imagine after being in charge for so long, that it must be tough for some Christians to give a little when it comes to tradition.  After all, I’m sure there were faithful celebrants of Saturnalia who didn’t appreciate it being swiped by Christianity (we won’t even go into festivals like Easter or Halloween).
But it’s 2012. We need to start growing up.  No one is denying anyone’s right to celebrate Christmas.  Those who use the term “holidays” are merely trying to honor the fact that this time of year does and should have resonance with a variety of beliefs and we can all enjoy it if we can just freakin’ learn to get along!