17 December 2007

Glenn Grothman: wrong for putting Christmas back in Christmans trees?!

Hi folks,

My Google Alerts picked off a nice letter from one of our neighbors up in Oostburg, a constituent of Glenn's. Strangely, it appeared in the Tomah Journal rather than one of our own, local, news outlets. I'm startled that Mr. Flatoff had to go all the way to Tomah to be heard.

From Sunday, 16 December. Here's some of it:

Letter: Bring Christmas tree bill to vote

Thank you, Wisconsin assembly, for voting to bring back the "Christmas Tree" to our state capital. Opponents of the bill tried to make fun of it, minimize it, or say they didn't want to offend anyone. But the people’s voice won’t be muzzled by the PC bully brigade anymore. The silent majority who DO care are waking up and speaking up.

The tree issue has captured people’s passions because, obviously, the principle behind it goes well beyond simply what we call the tree. Me, my family, friends and people in my community and the majority of our elected state assembly care because we are tired of quietly allowing nasty, mean-spirited groups like “Freedom From Religion” to erode our freedom OF religion. And we are tired of being offended by those who claim to not want to offend.


My senator, Glenn Grothman, personally called last night to say he would vote FOR the bill, representing the voice of the tens of thousands in his district. But he may not even get to express our opinion for us, simply because Russ Decker doesn’t want it to be expressed.

Senator Decker, let the people speak!

Brad Flatoff, Oostburg

I love the idea of there being a PC Bully Brigade -- although I admit to having as much trouble with knee jerk liberals as I do with knee jerk conservatives... except that the knee jerk liberals tend to spend my tax money on me, and knee jerk conservatives spend my tax money on themselves.

Of the tens of thousands of us who live in the Kettle Moraine, most have a favorite Oostburg story. Mine is about some friends of friends who moved up there, bought an old house and got busy fixing it up: painting, mowing, sweeping -- until, one Sunday, one of their neighbors stopped their car in the middle of the street and shouted at them to stop working on the Sabbath.

Not an orthodox Jew in the bunch, apparently.

Note to Glenn -- if we spend taxpayers money on religious symbols for Christians, eventually you'll have to spend taxpayers money on religious symbols for people you *don't* like as well. Fair's fair. There's that whole "sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander business." What makes that so hard to figure out?

Tax money for religious education sounds great, so long as its for Christians. What if people wanted to start Wahabist education camps in, say, Oostburg.

I'm not sure I'm ready for a Festivus Tree yet, but maybe it'd be a better compromise.



Brad said...

Thanks for posting my letter-

Note that the letter originally appeared in the Sheboygan Press, my local paper.I am pleased it is getting such widespread pick-up beyond that, including the Tomah newspaper and your blog.

Y\I feel your stereotype of Oostburg is a cute way of minimizing the value of my opinion.I live in Oostburg but lived in Madison for 13 years and have a Masters degree from U.W. Madison. I was an alternate delegate to the State Democratic convention, a student senator, and also a former intellectual athiest. I also mow my lawn on Sunday with no problem. Apparantly stereotyping and intolerance are not reserved only for the religious right.

Mpeterson said...

Thank you for writing your letter Brad.

I had neither reason nor desire to minimize the value of your opinion, and certainly not on the grounds that you live in Oostburg. I just thought it was amusingly apropos of your current context. I lived in Mobile, Alabama for many years and occasionally the drawl returns to my pattern of speech. People tend to chuckle when that happens, and this includes people from both sides and edges of the political spectrum. I do not take it personally, but am amused by the irony of being laughed at by my good neighbors, natives of the Kettle Moraine, who have accents you could cut with a chainsaw.

So, I meant nothing personal about it, except to counter your contention regarding the PC Bullies. You might have noted my negative comments regarding reflexive thinking across the spectrum of our stunted political landscape.

Christmas trees, you might remember, are pagan symbols Christianity borrowed for marketing value and to celebrate a date chosen not because it was the birth of Jesus, but because it landed on the big Roman end of the year Solstice Party, Saturnalia -- another marketing technique to undercut their religious competition from all those Mithraists and Orphic cult members.

Last month, the City of Green Bay tore down a decorative wreath some stealthy pagans had set up behind the city's Manger scene. In the interests of fairness, shouldn't celebrating the original holiday that early Christianity appropriated have some sort of legal warrant as well?

Or do you think only Christianity counts in America?

I'm thinking no. If not, then how do feel about the use of tax dollars for funding the religious observances of people who aren't you? As a former intellectual myself, I'd like to hear your view.


Brad said...


Apology accepted on the Oostburg thing.

The PC bully comment is directed at militant secularists such as "Freedom From Religion" and the ACLU (who recently went to bat for the idea that sex in public toilets should be legal).

I feel reasonable people understand the intent of the first amendment is to guarantee freedom of religion, and a key part of protecting religious freedom is to not have a formally established Government religion (like the Anglican Church in Britain at the time, or current Islamic governments).That did not mean that any reference or recognition of religion's role in the establishment of our nation or in our culture be eliminated.There is ample historical evidence that the founding fathers used their religious principles in building the framework for our country, including basing the the rationale for declaring our independence from Britain on the soverignty of God and the rights "endowed by their creator" (see Declaration of Independence).The inclusion of God ("in God we Trust") and the Ten Commandments is found throughout our governments documents, buildings and memorials, and the fact that first Americans (The Puritans) and our founding Fathers were Christians is indistputable, so it is part of our history and fabric.

The official Government Holidays we celebrate are a reflection of that heritage and culture. Christmas and Easter are Christian holidays - celebrating the birth of Christ and his resurection. They are also official government holidays where all government employees (including university professors and politicians) get a paid day off. So we are already spending taxpayer money on Christian religion.Clearly the government and courts have not found observing Christmas is equivalent to establishing a government religion.And the cost of a few Christmas trees pales to the paid vacation days, so my answer to your question is, no, I don't mind if the government spends a few dollars on Christmas Trees or Christmas decorations.

Sure, Christmas Trees have Pagan roots -- in fact everything has pagan roots, because nearly everyone was pagan prior to the birth of Christ. The cross has pagan roots - it was a pagan instrument of death used by the Romans to send a clear message (they were good marketers too!)

However, just because the cross has pagan roots does not mean that today it has a pagan meaning - it is clearly the recognized symbol of Christianity. Similiarly, the Christmas tree has been established as a tradition of the Christian celebration of Christ's birth well before anyone ever thought of the United States, beginning in 16th century Germany (1539 Strassborg Cathedral).So when the Tree came to the the United States two centuries later, its clear meaning was established as a Christian symbol.

Reasonably there should be no reason why we can't recognize our heritage, history and frankly reflect the general make-up of our country through celebration of religious holidays, while still ensuring that there is no formally established government religion.

"Freedom From Religion" is a bully, in my opinion because by their very name they actually go AGAINST the first ammendment which establishes "Freedom OF Religion". The state Christmas tree was a Christmas Tree before Freedom From Religion made it an issue.Also, until these aggressive groups were formed saying they wanted to make sure people of other religions were not "offended", I believe we would have been hard pressed to find anyone who was actually offended - However, there is little concern for the large number of people who are Christians who are being offended by these tactics.

So all I am saying is lets go back to the first amendment, be reasonable people and also not ignore our history, heritage and culture. I think we should continue to find ways to celebrate other religions and heritages also,especially given the increasingly diverse make-up of our country, not in replacement of Christmas,but in addition to it.

Always a pleasure to have a sharing of ideas.


Mpeterson said...

People have been pagan since the birth of JC, too. ;^)

I like your argument that we're already spending tax money on Christianity in the form of paid days away from work for government employees. I think it shows up one of the ambiguities (if not a contradiction) in the Founder's intentions to try to keep the government out of religion... it might also be applied to the whole issue of government recognition of marriage among persons of the same sex -- marriage, seems to me, is already a religious sanctioned relationship and, maybe, something the state should keep out of unless, of course, we want to say that the sanctioned relations of any religion should be compensated as well. Hmm...

On the historical dance of European culture interacting with and paganizing Christianity as Christianity tried to Christianize the northern European pagans (eg. Beowolf and then Parzifal, say) let's leave that to another thread.