By Gail Collins
Published: December 10, 2010
Well, here’s some good news for a change. The Holiday Parade of Lights in Tulsa, Okla., has been saved!
I know you’ve been worried.
The Tulsa City Council has voted to allow the parade to go forward Saturday night, despite protests against the disappearance of the word “Christmas” from its name.
It’s not entirely clear that the council actually could have stopped it, or even whether the parade ever officially had Christmas in its name. But Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma is outraged.
Inhofe was away from home last December, stuck in Washington trying to kill off health care reform. Now he’s back, and he’s noted a dwindling in the parade’s religious angle. “I just don’t like what’s going on in America today, all over the country, with the aversion some people seem to have toward Christ,” he said in one of his many interviews explaining that he will no longer ride his horse in any holiday event that isn’t named for Christmas.
Go to it, Senator Inhofe! I love this controversy, and only in part because it diverts Oklahoma’s senior senator from his normal day job of trying to convince the world that global warming doesn’t exist.
We live in a time of so many terrifying, insurmountable problems. It’s comforting to return to arguing about whether the nation’s moral fiber is endangered if Tulsa downplays the religious aspects of a parade full of Santa Clauses that is currently sponsored by a popular downtown pub.
Actually, the “war on Christmas” controversy has been a little muted this year, and I’ve missed it. Even the public hearing in Tulsa looked thinly attended, as if the issue at hand was charter revision instead of the preservation of the Christian half of our Judeo-Christian heritage.
The American Family Association is still checking up on major retailers and informing us that while Bed Bath & Beyond is “for Christmas,” Foot Locker is “against.” And a coalition of concerned clergy in Fort Worth is calling residents to boycott the transit system because someone purchased ads on four buses that say “Millions of Americans Are Good Without God.”
It is my impression that people who ride buses in Texas don’t have a whole lot of other options. Really, concerned clergy, do you think they’re doing it to cut their carbon footprints?But until Tulsa, the biggest conflict was here in the New York area, where a billboard war erupted after the American Atheists forked over $20,000 for a sign that showed a picture of a Nativity scene and the message: “You know it’s a myth. This Season, Celebrate Reason!” The Catholic League then erected one on the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel that retorts: “You Know It’s Real. This Season, Celebrate Jesus.”
In this battle for the hearts and minds of commuters, the atheists seem to have been overly belligerent, although it is understandable that they get a little testy this time of year. If you complain about Christmas overkill because you are, say, a Muslim or a Jew, the general response is a quick hug and a nervous affirmation that all faiths deserve respect. But atheists do not get that many hugs, and perhaps it is beginning to tell on them.
We are still enjoying the continuing fights about What To Call The Tree. In one of the most notable screeds of the season, Gary Bauer, the former Republican presidential candidate and social conservative, appeared to be saying that officials in Portland, Ore., who named the annual tree-lighting ceremony “Tree Lighting” were doing the work of the would-be Christmas tree bomber. “Radical Islam’s secular enablers have been driving Christianity from the public square for decades,” he wrote.
Bauer said in a phone interview that he was not suggesting that trying to blow up downtown Portland and secularizing the tree lighting were equivalent.
“To me, it was just a nice rhetorical way to get people to read the column,” he said.
I am in sympathy with such sentiments since I would do just about everything short of bomb threats to get people to read a column. I also have a soft spot in my heart for Bauer and I am sorry he is not planning to run for president again in 2012 because the moment he fell off the platform during a preprimary pancake flipping contest in New Hampshire was one of my personal campaign high points.
But about Tulsa. For years the parade was sponsored by the American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma, which is mercifully known as P.S.O. “We always referred to it as the P.S.O. Parade of Lights,” a spokesman for the utility told The Tulsa World. When P.S.O. backed out, a downtown pub named McNellie’s agreed to underwrite the Holiday Parade of Lights. You’d think people would be grateful that the new sponsor didn’t want to call it the Happy Hour Parade of Lights, or Atomic Chicken Wings Special. But no.
Keep fighting. I haven’t thought about the Bush tax cuts for hours.